"Hold your arm out. No, the other one... a little higher... that's right."
This was completely embarrassing.
"Turn to the side... not quite so far... good. Hold your arm in the light."
"That's wonderful, Ed—now, lean back, okay? Just a little—"
"Sorry, what was that?"
"Can I take my arm down? If I'm, um, going to lean—"
"Oh, of course. Don't be so nervous, Edward, you're doing fine."
Fine, Ed thought a little resentfully. That was easy for Hughes to say. He was the one getting to indulge his favorite pastime—photography—with an all new and blackmailable victim. Er, model. He'd enthused over Ed's automail and made wistful noises about a portfolio, until Ed finally caved in and agreed to model for him. He was the one behind the camera.
Ed was the one currently sitting under a spotlight on a couch, shirt off, in front of his secret crush. Every time the camera clicked, he jumped a little, and every time that familiar, affectionate voice came out of the half-dimness, his heart beat a little faster, and he had to desperately repress inappropriate thoughts.
"Good, Edward, good. You're a natural at this, just like I thought you would be."
Repress, repress, Ed thought frantically. He cleared his throat and fought his blush with a grumble. "I bet you don't give detailed instructions like this when you take pictures of Alicia," he challenged. It served a dual purpose; reminding Hughes that he owed Ed big time for this, and reminding himself that Hughes was off-limits.
"Of course not," Hughes chuckled. "Those are candids. For this project I want something a little more refined."
"Very good... very good. Now, Edward, kindly take off your pants."
Ed came bolt upright at those words – in more ways than one. Repress! he screamed to his lower half. "What?" he squawked aloud.
In the shadows, Hughes looked surprised that Ed even had to ask. "So I can get your leg as well, Edward. Surely you didn't think when I said I was interested in your automail, I just meant your arm?"
"Oh... well..." Actually, he had. But it seemed unsporting to back out now. Especially when Hughes was giving him... yes, puppy eyes. Damn. This would be so much easier if he could just refuse the man to his face. But instead, he took a deep breath and a stern warning to his body, then hopped off the couch and began to fumble with his belt.
And thank God he'd worn underwear today.
"Stand up... stretch your leg out... now put your right hand on your hip."
At least the studio was slightly chilly, empty save for the two of them. He could blame it on the draft.
"Now sit on the couch... turn to your right... and put your legs up on the couch. Yes, like that... pull up your knees."
Oh God, he was going to die.
"Don't be so tense, Edward. There's nothing to be afraid of."
Why did Hughes' voice have to be so – so sexy when it was soft and encouraging? There was no fighting back his blush now. He shifted around on the couch, trying to conceal his lap from view.
"Now face me."
He did. His eyes met Hughes, over the top rim of the camera. The light flashed and glittered off his glasses.
"Take your hair down."
He froze. "Wh-what?" he choked out. There was no way that could have to do with automail—but then—"Why?" he croaked.
The camera lowered, and Hughes smiled at him, in a way that made his pulse increase even faster. "Because I would like to see that, Edward," he said seriously, softly. "You have a beauty that was meant to be appreciated. If no-one else is willing to do it, then I certainly will."
He couldn't move. Or breathe. He thought he was going to spontaneously combust. What happened to off-limits? he asked himself frantically. There was no response.
"Only if you want to, Edward," Hughes added, more gently. "I don't have the power—or the desire—to force you to do anything."
It was up to him? Oh God, it really was. This was – this was serious. He didn't think he could force a squeak out of his throat if he tried, so he did the only other thing he could. Slowly, he reached up, and tugged the band off his braid, then combed it out.
"Good," Hughes breathed. Ed's knees turned to water.
"Pull your hair over your shoulder."
This was really happening...
"Now, lie down on the couch. Stretch your arm over your head."
It was still hard to breathe, under the stifling heat of the spotlight. He was nervous enough that he thought he'd fly to pieces, and very grateful for Hughes' continued direction; as embarrassing as it was to admit it, he had absolutely no idea how to do this.
"Put your hand on your stomach."
"Now move it down... slowly..."
Okay, maybe he had some idea of where this was going.
"Touch yourself. Outside your shorts, first. Yes, like that."
"Now, hook your thumb in the waistband. Slide it down. Perfect."
"Beautiful... perfect, Edward. Now—"
He smiled. "Call me Maas, Ed."
"Maas." He emphasized the word. "Put that damn camera down and get over here."
With a laugh, Hughes did. Despite his assertive tone, Ed couldn't help but clench his fist nervously on the edge of the couch as the older man approached. He didn't quite dare move, as Hughes sat on the edge of the couch beside him, and took off his glasses, setting them on the small table beside the couch.
With that one difference, he looked... ten years younger? No, not younger; there was still the beauty of adulthood in his face, strong, mature bones, with a scruff of a beard only adding to the picture of dignity and quiet strength. What he looked was suddenly approachable, suddenly compelling, like the glasses and the camera were only there to shield the world from his magnetism, to keep hapless passersby from falling head over heels for him.
And just like that, the limits were off.
Much later, tangled on the couch, Ed fought his way out of post-coital lassitude to glance over to the table where the camera sat, and then back at his lover.
"If so much of a hint of those photos turns up at Central," he grumbled, "Gracia's gonna be a widow, you hear?"
Hughes managed to look affronted, though it was spoiled by the heated spark in his eyes. "I'll have you know I have some discretion," he said mildly. "I'm not in Intelligence for nothing, you know."
"Mmm." Satisfied with that, Ed closed his eyes and snuggled again. Hughes leaned back against the couch arm, grinning at the blurry ceiling.
Of course, he'd promised nothing about East City.