In the desert there are no rivers; it's a plain of baking heat, empty of relief and landmark. There tempers flare, and voices snap, and not all the brotherly love in the world can keep them from cursing the heat, and each other, each wishing he could just be alone.
In the city there are no mountains, the city is built on a flood plain riddled with old aqueducts, and it is all level and flat as an inland sea of urban hubbub. There they can wander for days and be lost in that ocean of humanity, where nobody knows them at all, nobody cares, and be more alone than ever.
Someday, and he swears this to a God he doesn't believe in, someday he and Al will live again in a place that has mountains, that has rivers. Even if Al only needs them to get away from him.
Ed figured, if Mustang didn't want him to dismantle idiot officers in these towns, he shouldn't have sent him there anyway.
Mustang certainly couldn't expect Ed to keep his cool in the face of this smirking, officious bastard who'd thought he could save in his budget by quartering his troops in the town's private residences, while setting himself up in the most luxurious, high-towered mansion in town.
"You don't intimidate me, boy," the man blustered. "This is my town, under my command, and I can run things howevIIIEEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAaaaaaaaa..."
Lucky for him, Ed figured, that the manure cart had been there.
It wasn't terribly unusual to find a crowd gathered around Alphone. He was a very... distinctive figure, after all. No, the only thing that was unusual was to find Alphonse actually enjoying the attention for once.
"Tell another!" Fury demanded, leaning forward. Alphonse gave a sort of nervous chuckle, and rubbed the back of his helmet, but at the urging of Farman and Havoc, eventually gave in.
"There was a young lady named Bates," Al began, "who impressed every one of her dates—"
Who would have thought such a shy young man would have such a command of dirty limericks?
He couldn't see much besides grass.
Edward, just now two years old, didn't much like autumn. The grass on the hillside had grown out, and when he went out there to play, he nearly drowned in the long, brown-green stalks, chasing after a dragonfly. Mother was watching, he knew, and he had to get it for her, to show to Alphonse. If only he could see—
Suddenly, hands closed around his waist, and boosted him up until he was tall on his father's shoulder. Face stretched wide in a laugh, Ed reached for the dragonfly again. He could see everything.
Spring was the best time of year for the grass, in Edward's opinion; it was still short and fine, a soft cushion under him, but all the stalks were new and green, practically translucent from the bright sunlight pouring through them.
Ed stretched out on the hillside, eyes focused on the so familiar houses and hills rolling away beneath. Beside him sprawled his brother, older now, changed, but human and real and there, resting peacefully in the grass beside him.
Ed ran the fingers of his left hand through the green grass, and felt like he could drown in it.
Ed played games not for the sake of playing, but because he liked to win. Al, the nearest target, often found himself caught in challenges without ever actually having agreed.
It embarrassed Al almost as much as Ed that he often won these challenges without even trying.
Al sighed. The room buzzed and dipped around him, but at least he could still sit up straight. "Nii-san," he tried, "why don't we call it a draw?"
"NEVER!" Ed slammed his glass down approximately on the counter. "Immmnotgonnagiveuptillya... admitthatI'vewon!"
And the Fullmetal Alchemist slipped off the barstool to the floor, dead drunk.
"I told you so, Nii-san," Al reproached his sibling, plodding patiently towards their dorm room with his brother draped over his back. "Alcohol tolerance is proportional to bodymass, and with you missing a good 20% of yours to automail, you won't be able to drink as much before you get drunk."
His brother stirred and groaned, burying his face in Al's shoulder. "Who are you calling a midget pipsqueak micro chibi hyper bean runt little..."
Ed seemed to have forgotten that proper sentences had ends. Al sighed, hitched his brother up a little higher over his back, and kept going.
Get this straight: Being a hero of the people doesn't necessarily mean there's a wine and roses reception waiting for you everywhere you go. As a matter of fact, being a hero of the people usually means that somebody's going to end up pretty mad. And believe you me, these people all tend to be really bad losers. 'S not exactly good for your peace of mind.
But the really nice thing about being a hero of the people is that you don't have to stick around, and once you leave, you never have to deal with them again.
The Amestrian trains were the finest product of centralization, in Ed's opinion. With the train system, you could travel from one point within the country to almost anywhere within the borders in under a week. The trains were always the same; the same model of steam engine pulled the same style of passenger and cargo cars. In every train, you found the same wooden seats, the same singsong announcers, the same rhythm and rumble of the beating tracks.
It was true, he thought. They had no place to go back to.
But that didn't mean he didn't have a home.
Roy was beginning to regret inviting the Elrics to lunch. Bad enough Al's awkwardness, Ed's terrible manners, and constant stream of abraisive conversation, but halfway through Ed suddenly choked and began to turn blue.
Roy sat, momentarily paralyzed with surprise and panic, but Al did not. With a tiny little sigh, the younger Elric stood up, got his arms around Ed's waist from behind, and pushed. Three quick jerks, and Ed suddenly coughed up the offending bone onto the tablecloth.
Ed coughed again, said "Thanks, Al," and went back to eating.
"This happens at least once a week," Al confided.
Mustang tried to keep the smirk off his face. Fullmetal was daydreaming again, and given the direction of Ed's stare and his blush, it was obvious what about. He wouldn't have guessed Ed swung that way, but it seemed he was just that sexy.
"Brother," Al hissed, almost-but-not-quite too quiet to hear, "stop staring at the Colonel, let's go."
"Have a pleasant day, Fullmetal," Mustang said, and Ed's blush deepened. Al sighed, shepherding Ed out, and Mustang smirked.
He lost the smirk, however, at the next words from the office. "Brother! Stop staring at Lieutenant Hawkeye's breasts and let's go!"
He was just a little late; he walked into the office just as Fullmetal was coming out of his.
"Fullmetal," he greeted him. "I see you're back. How did your mission go? Weather not a problem, I hope."
"Oh, fine," Ed caroled, sounding strangely cheerful. "I brought you a souvenir. Well, I'm going to breakfast bye!"
Mustang shook his head, heading into his office. He didn't want to know.
He came back out less than five minutes later, tugging at his newly frayed jacket cuff. "Lieutenant," he said in a bemused voice, "please call Maintenance to come remove the goat."
Maybe it was a game to Mustang, Ed thought, as the small figure in red dived at the one in blue. But not to him.
It was all he could do to duck and weave, dive under his opponent's deadly blows and stay on his feet, until finally—There! An opening—he went for it furiously, without hesitation.
The look on Roy's face was almost funny as he connected, with a resounding crack. The figure in blue slumped, head lolling on his neck—
"THERE!" Ed leapt up from the gaming table, hand outstretched. "SEE THAT, BASTARD? I WIN!"
Al could be so damned unselfish sometimes, it was good for him remember that what he felt and wanted were important too. Ed just wished he'd picked another way of showing it than punching him and jumping off the hospital roof.
Al was brooding about it still, legs pulled up on the train seat; already he was pulling himself together, struggling to return to his usual unselfish state. "Niisan, I just realized," Al said. "Yesterday was your birthday, wasn't it? I'm sorry! I didn't give you anything!"
...don't hate you.
Ed smiled. "You did, Al," he said. "Thanks."
She wore a long, lacy red dress that would have trailed on the ground but for the tall black stilletto heels that she walked on. She moved with a hunter's grace, a small smile on her ruby lips and a dangerous look in her amber eyes.
Every man in Central stared longingly as the blond vision passed them by, and wished she would approach them. All except Colonel Mustang, who put his head down behind a stack of papers and tried to hide.
"Fullmetal," he muttered. "What have I told you already about going through my closets?"
Ed just smirked.
"I'm sure it's a violation of regulations somehow," Hawkeye murmured disapprovingly.
Hughes grinned. "You won't find it written down in any of the books. I checked."
"You checked?" Roy raised an eyebrow.
"On request," Hughes admitted. "The rules are very strict, but they don't provide for something which isn't even physical."
"You must admit it's effective," Roy said, bemused. "Half of HQ lives in terror of him."
"I don't doubt the psychological advantage of an effective aura," Hawkeye said in a tone that said she did doubt but was too polite to say it.
"But... pink sparkles?"
Lust slumped on the floor of the warehouse, staring sightlessly at the ceiling. Wrath loomed above her, a cruel smile on his face. His right arm, a threatening shape, wavered in her vision.
"Isn't this what you wished for?" he asked harshly. "Isn't this why you wanted to become human?"
"Yes," Lust murmured, drained to the point of honesty. "That's how it is."
"You wanted to become human so that you could eat bananas again, didn't you?" His words mocked her, but at the same time, he understood.
"Yes..." she sighed. "Somehow... somehow it's just not the same any more..."
"...Roy... Havoc... Roy... you... Greed... Major Armstrong? The hell..."
Al sighed, and tugged on Edward's coat. "Brother, let's just go," he pleaded.
"NOT YET!" Ed snapped back, a crazed glint in his eye. He pulled his sleeve out of Al's hand and returned to attacking the pile. "Not until I find it! It's gotta be in here somewhere! Roy... you... Winry... Winry?"
"Look, it doesn't mean anything," Al tried reason. He wasn't hopeful. "It's all just make-believe..."
"Somewhere in this stack there has got to be a story where I top!" Ed insisted frantically, pawing through the piles of doujinshi.
This had to be the greatest coup he'd ever counted, and all Roy could think was that he wasn't going to be able to boast.
Of course, there were other things he should be thinking about. Like his impending death.
"Don't look so glum, dear Lieutenant," the soft female voice came from behind him "You weren't drunk enough for regrets. Or am I too old and ugly for a handsome young man?"
"Of course not," Roy managed with long-ingrained charm. He turned, and managed a weak smile. "You are as entrancing as ever you were in your youth, Anna Bradley."
Edward Elric is quite attractive, but that's no novelty. Roy knows many beautiful people, including the one in his mirror, but he's long since learned that this beauty is as shallow as the skin it's built on.
It's only Edward who's stopped him, held his attention. Because every time he thinks he's memorized every facet of Edward's beauty, his mood changes, and there's another one to study. It seems there's no end of them.
Edward Elric has many expressions, and Roy's made it his goal in life to learn every. Last. One.
It pleased Roy more than he cared to admit—at least aloud—that only when he and Ed slept together did Ed's automail warm up to anything close to body temperature.
There'd been a few late nights where he crawled bleary into the sheets long after Ed fell asleep, sheets that were still cold. Only when two people shared the space, Roy cuddling close around Ed, did the metal finally warm. Roy smiled, and leaned down to kiss his lover.
And spat out a mouthful of hair. Really, he ought to have made sure Ed had been facing him first.
"You're a pervert," Ed told him with conviction.
"I'm a pervert?" Roy murmured, bemused, as his lips drifted down the line of Ed's jaw. "This was your idea."
"Yeah, but—ah-ahh... you taught me everything I—ah!—knew," Ed gasped out. He twisted, back arching as he thrust up against Roy, both hands gripping the kitchen counter so hard it cracked under his right hand. His head rolled back and he let out a heartfeltedly appreciative groan. "Oh, yeah..."
"Ready?" Roy kissed Ed's chest, and grinned like a cat when Ed nodded vigorously. "Good. Now pass me the turkey baster."
"Niisan," Al said with trepidation. "Are you, uh, really sure about this?"
"Course I am," Ed said, dusting his hands as the light of reaction faded. He was already breathing rapidly, either from lust or anticipation wasn't clear.
Al couldn't help but stare down at his own newly transmuted crotch. "Niisan," he said again, "I know you like to transmute really elaborate stuff, but I really think a plain one would work better."
"What's wrong with it?" Ed said with a note of injured pride.
"I... ah..." Al sighed. "Fine. But we're using PLENTY of lube. Those spikes look painful."
Winry knew Ed's automail inside and out, which was only fair.
Arms and legs wrapped around Ed, she muffled her gasps in Ed's shoulder as he devoured her skin with kisses, metal hand a hard cold contrast to warm and willing flesh.
He pushed her back, and she went willingly. She bit back on a scream of delight as automail fingers penetrated her, moving skillfully in and out, unerringly seeking the sensitive nerves at the front of her canal.
Winry knew Ed's automail inside and out, which was only fair, because Ed's automail knew her inside and out.