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mikkeneko & velvet mace

Manifest


If someone had told Edward a year ago that he would be living underground—like a mole, like a corpse—of his own free will, he would have laughed in their face. But rent prices in Prague were going up, and up, at the same time that income and employment were going through the floor; nowadays desperate city homeowners were reduced to renting out sub-basement apartments to people even more desperate than themselves.

If he were being honest with himself, it wasn't as big of a problem as Edward would have thought it would be. His work kept him away from home through most of the daylight hours, and even those were waning and fading as winter came on. The thick, dirty air swallowed up twilight and dawn until there wouldn't have been much to see out of windows even if they'd had them. And at least being underground meant that the space wasn't difficult to heat.

Rent, heat, and food enough for one. Ed supposed that in this city, this country, this town, he should count himself lucky to afford that much.

Especially now that he didn't have checks coming in from his bastard father any more. Now that he didn't have... Ed wrapped his prosthetic arm around the bar of the streetcar, and leaned forward to press his forehead against it. The cold metal felt good against his aching head, helped to disguise the aching coldness of his chest. It still ambushed him sometimes, that hurt, that feeling of loss.

He'd lived without his father all his life, after all, or close enough to it; he didn't know why knowing that he was gone should bother him so much. Maybe it was knowing that this time, there was never any way that Hohenheim could come back, no childhood-age fantasy of having a family whole, complete, once again.

But at least, Ed thought, he'd seen his father enough times before he died to get to know him, at least a little, as an adult. At least they'd had some chance at reconciliation, even if he'd never been able to get over all the bitterness he'd felt over the past. Living in Munich together had forced him to soften, forced them to stick together as the only ones of their kind in the world, and he was more grateful now for that time than he had ever thought he'd be.

And at least he'd had a chance to say good bye—at least he'd been there when his father died, and as much as the nightmare image haunted him, he would not have wished it away, he would not have wanted to turn his back and left his father to die without him there, without the chance to exchange just one more word...

The streetcar jounced and juddered as it went around a corner; the shock passed through the metal frame and Ed bit his tongue. Involuntarily he swore, but it was more weary than sincere, and a couple of the other silent passengers chuckled at his outburst. He glared at them angrily, but then his stop was coming up fast and he had to get ready to step down at the right angle and speed for his prosthetic leg not to buckle under him.

It was a ten minute walk from the streetcar stop to the house where he was lodging. It had once been a good part of town—still was, compared to most of the rest of the city, but the signs of decay were inexorable. Facades peeling, gardens going wild with the lack of the time or the money—or the spirit—to keep them up.

Still, Ed let his eyes rove over the bushes and trees and to the subdued blue-and-purple tones of the last sight of the sunset in the sky. He catalogued them like a data table and stored them away in his mind, to get him through the rest of the night and the day.

His boots crunched over gravel, and he stopped in front of his lodger's house. According to their rental agreement, he could choose to go in through the front door, maybe say hello to the landlady and get a bite to eat... but he shook his head and went around to the back, to the storm cellar doors that led down into the basement. They creaked as he pulled them open, the cold metal handles biting through his glove into his flesh hand.

The lights were on and burning as he descended the steps, but the chill in the air didn't lessen noticeably, and he had to step down on a feeling of irritability at the inconsideration. His companion couldn't feel the cold, not really, and took no discomfort from it; and the kerosene for the heater wasn't cheap, so it was probably better to keep it off while he was gone. Still... still.

"Hey, I'm home," he called out into the empty air; feeling awkward, at always, not knowing how to address the silence. Over in the corner, a pale shape moved; a cornsilk-colored head lifted, from where it had been bent studiously over a drafting table. Two vivid purple eyes blinked at him, in bemusement.

"Oh, Edward," the figure responded, and pushed back from the table. "You're back—already? I hadn't realized it had gotten so late—"

Seemingly confused, he spun about in a circle before locating the clock on the far wall. Edward wanted to laugh, at this typical display of Alfons Heiderich's absentmindedness, but a lump in his throat wouldn't let him.

"Yeah, well, I came a home little early," Edward said, coming slowly forward into the room. He unbuttoned his coat, but the chill air bit his skin and he refrained from taking it off yet. "Hey, could you turn up the heat in here? It's getting colder outside, you know."

"Oh, right," his companion said hastily, and moved to crouch over the rusty kerosene heater. It scraped as it started up, and belched out a foul-smelling gasp of air, but then started up a rattling hum. Just hearing it made Edward feel warmer, and he stripped off the top layer of his coats and hung them up.

"I don't get how you can stay down here all day," Ed found himself saying, although he'd promised himself that he wouldn't bring it up. "No windows or anything. Doesn't it bother you?"

Are you even human enough for it to bother you? he wanted to shout, but didn't. He turned away from the coat rack to see his companion watching him with a puzzled frown. "I don't...." he started, then his mouth closed and the space between his brows crinkled. "Of course it bothers me, Edward! Why wouldn't it? I lose track of the time so easily, and... especially with the heater running, the air in here can get to claustrophobic. That's why I leave it off, you know."

"Yeah, I know," Edward said, feeling his tension ease despite himself. "Sorry about that."

"Besides, I don't stay in all day," his companion said matter-of-factly. "I went out in the afternoon today, when it got sunny enough that I could wear glasses. There's dinner in the icebox, for later."

"Thanks," Ed said again, although the kerosene smell was making his stomach knot and he didn't really feel like eating right now. "Enough for you, too?"

"Er..." The other looked embarrassed. "Not really. I'll just eat what you don't. We have to save money, you know. But forget about that," and suddenly his vagueness was replaced by excitement, enthusiasm. "Come see what I've been working on!"

Drawn in by his vibrance, that intellectual effusiveness that had brought the two of them together so much in the past, Ed followed Heiderich over to the writing desk. "I've been fine-tuning the resonance, you know, basically looking for a way to downscale the size. Ideally it will be small enough for us to construct in a single room, small enough for just one or two people, and then it will take much less fuel to power it—"

Ed glanced down at the line drawings, and the bottom dropped out of his stomach. "That's an array," he said.

Heiderich looked up at him, startled by the coldness of his voice. "Of course it is," he said, but his voice was warier now. "Don't you recognize it? It's, it's basically the array from the Thule Society. It wasn't too hard to dig up the sources they were using. The important thing is to make it smaller enough that it doesn't require—"

"That's not the problem!" Ed said, incensed now. "I thought you were working on rocket designs! What the hell? That's what I've been beating my brains out on for the last month, I thought you were going to help me!" And you shouldn't know anything about arrays, a cold voice told him, insides trembling. You don't know anything about arrays or alchemy or the Gate, only Envy does, only Envy knows those things, and you aren't supposed to be Envy.

"I am TRYING to help you!" Heiderich flared up in response, pulling himself up to his full height. "I am trying to help you get home! You know as well as I do that rockets won't get you there! We need to find an array to get through the Gate, like it or not, that's the ONLY way! Why won't you admit that?"

Edward took a step back, looking up into suddenly blazing violet eyes, dark with slit pupils in the center. "And what will we do when we build this array?" he snarled, pushing his anger to overcome the other emotions. "Where are we going to find an alchemist to power it? Sorry, but we don't have my father around this time to push into it to make it run!"

"And I already told you, that's why we need to d—" Heiderich cut himself off, with a sudden, dangerous stillness, and his gaze fixed on Edward's face. "What did you just say?" he hissed.

Ed's mouth went dry. Shouldn't have said that, he thought, didn't mean to say that, except that Hohenheim was on your mind today and his blood raining down on the floor keeps coming back and oh, fuck, Alfons, what did you have to go and get yourself shot for?

A complex play of emotions flitted over his companion's face—hands jerking, lips twitching back and forth between a tight line and a snarl of rage, eyes first narrowing and then widening, the violet color seeming to blaze from within. Edward's palms itched, to clap, to grasp a weapon to defend himself; but there would be no alchemy crackling to his command, not in this world, and the thought of swinging a weapon against this man left him cold in agony.

Suddenly the expression seemed to snap back onto place, a coldly angry expression that Edward recognized, Edward knew. And when his companion slammed his open palm down on the table and leaned forward and down to emphasize his words, Edward recognized the mannerism; not seen often, but only when his friend was trying to get the attention of the stubborn and rowdy rocket team.

"Would you get your head out of your ass already, Edward?" Heiderich snapped. "Stop pretending that you're dumber than you are! You know, and I know, that there's nothing out there but space! Don't you want to get home? Don't you want to get back to your brother? Then take off these stupid blinders and see—"

"Don't you dare bring Al into this!" Ed retaliated angrily, his own temper starting to rise. Al, Al—even after months of distance, of pretended acceptances, the reminder still hurt. His baby brother, HIS, safe and whole and human and well—and wasn't that enough? Would it ever be enough? "He has nothing to do with this!"

Seeing red, Ed shook his head to try and clear his vision. It wasn't just anger, was it? The room was swimming—it was those damn kerosene fumes, making him nauseous. "Forget it," he snarled, turning with stiff motions and jerking his coat off the rack. "I'm out of here. I need to go for a walk."

He thought he heard a slight hissing sound, behind him, but didn't turn to look—but when his companion suddenly moved, like a spring unwinding, he was caught completely by surprise. The weight hit him in the small of his back and, without the time to brace himself properly, sent him sprawling forward. His chin hit the floor with a crack and he bit his tongue, although he didn't taste any blood.

"What the fuck?" he yelped, struggling to buck the weight off his back. It was no use, though—his opponent's weight was too firmly established, and he lacked leverage. "Fuck! Get off me!"

"You're—not—going—anywhere!" a voice grated in his ear, bitten out from between clenched teeth. His wrists were grabbed, and yanked up behind his head; at that angle, even his human arm could barely put up any resistance, and his prosthetic was useless.

Six months ago, prosthetic or not, he knew he could have won this fight easily—Alfons had never been a fighter, never practiced wrestling or martial arts or just plain scrap brawling when he was young. Alfons had been tall, but weak, and from their infrequent friendly scuffles Ed knew perfectly well how much he out-powered him.

But that was then, and this was now, and this version of Heiderich held him pinned with a balance and grace and a strength that was just a little too great to be natural. Changing tactics, Ed pulled his knees under him and flung them both sideways, sacrificing his bracing on the floor in the hopes of gaining leverage.

They flailed on the floor for a good minute, Edward slowly losing ground and gaining in frustration. And fear. As much as he hated to admit it, mixed in with his anger was a good dose of crawling, visceral fear; for if Heiderich had not possessed this strength, this fighting skill, then he knew from whence it must have come.

Heiderich—was it still Heiderich now? Or was it the other, Envy?—suddenly surged up to balance on one knee, the other leg firmly pinning Edward's legs to the floor. He had wrestled Edward's arms behind his back, holding them in a grip that threatened to flash over into painful, if Ed continued to struggle. He stilled, and over harsh breaths and a pounding heart he could hear Heiderich's voice, half-hypnotized, mutter: "Not going anywhere... Not going anywhere."

Edward stilled, mouth gone dry, rage ebbing. What should he do? The choices were always the same—apologize, play dead, fight for his life? No, no, things surely hadn't gone that far. Because after all these months of instability, wariness, caution, tension, sudden explosive violence the homunculus—say it! you know it's the truth!—had never really hurt him. Never yet.

"I wasn't going to..." Ed said softly, then swallowed. The other didn't seem to be listening. The harsh breaths continued, but as Edward ceased to struggle, the tight grip on his arms slowly relaxed. So Edward made an effort, stopped fighting, let his whole body relax as much as possible in the other's grip. Fight to kill... he didn't want to fight to kill; partly because he didn't know if he could succeed, against this not-quite-human, but partly, because he didn't know if he would ever want to.

After a moment Heiderich moved, pushing to his knees and dragging Edward with him like a doll across the floor; Edward almost saw an opportunity to renew the struggle, but it was gone before he could decide. Heiderich shifted his wrists to one hand and reached out with the other; metal clinked and rattled, and Edward tensed and swallowed again, this time against a throat gone desert-dry.

But again, Heiderich's heavy breaths and tense hands were back before he could react, and cold hard metal wrapped itself around his wrists, his arms, and held him. "Don't," he said impulsively, unable to stop himself. "You don't have to. I wasn't going any..."

"You're right," Heiderich said, and his voice was more firm now, more controlled, though still harsh. Metal rattled and leather rustled, and with brisk speed cold heavy straps were passed around Ed's stomach, low and high. "You aren't going anywhere."

He got to his feet in a sudden whirl of motion that left Ed dizzy; but one hand stayed planted between Ed's shoulder blades above his arms, keeping him down. Heiderich moved and stretched, his height unfolding in a weirdly liquid way that always unsettled Edward; and then there was a rattling heave and the straps bit into his chest and the bottom dropped out of his stomach as his feet left the floor.

He ended up with his stretching toes more than a foot off the floor; kicked once, in a panic, then forced himself to still as the resulting swinging made his stomach churn. It was the engine harness; the leather straps of the engine harness had been jury-rigged around his shoulders and arms instead, bearing enough of his weight that the pressure of chains on his wrist and arm was—just barely—tolerable.

The ceiling joist pulley system, which had once been used to hoist several-ton chunks of metal, could easily bear his weight and was counterbalanced for one person to be able to move large objects. It would be easy for Alfons to hold him off the floor, or to hook the chain around some handy joist and just leave him here.

Heiderich was just staring at him, now, his expression still and his eyes glittering violet, and Ed tried to force himself to breathe. He was trapped, completely helpless to defend himself, and with his arms pulled above his head his chest was bared and exposed and it ached, suddenly, just below the sternum—"Oh fuck," he choked, and cold sweat broke out on his skin as panic bubbled and welled and overwhelmed him. "Oh fuck, oh fuck, oh fuck..."

"Edward, calm down." Heiderich was staring at him, his own expression slowly changing, the wildness leaving it. He moved forward, and placed his hands on Edward's shoulder, steadying his swing. They were almost eye to eye, at this height. "There's no need to be afraid. I'm not going to hurt you. I was never intending to hurt you."

"Then why the hell did you do this!" Edward burst out, though his pulse was slowing despite himself. Heiderich moved one hand to his cheek, stroking slightly, and the faintly-warm softness of his fingers made Edward burst out into cold sweat all over his body. "A—Alfons!"

"I just wanted to stop you..." Heiderich trailed off, frowning slightly, then took Edward's face in both his hands, forcing him to turn his face downwards. "I would never hurt you," he said again, more firmly. "I have never hurt you. I never would."

He kissed him. Helplessly, Ed opened his mouth, let the homunculus invade him with his tongue, felt tingles of electricity passing from head to toe. Why, why, did he always still respond to Heiderich; he wasn't even human any more, so why were his kisses still sweet, his touches still warm, and his skin so arousing?

By the time Heiderich drew back, Ed was shivering; the cold sweat was soaking through his thin linen shirt, and all the coughing of the kerosene heater still hadn't warmed the air. Heiderich ran one hand through Ed's hair, pushing the sharp edges of the bangs out of his eyes; his violet eyes searched Edward's face. "I just wanted to stop you from leaving," Heiderich said softly. "I want you to stay with me, Edward. Be with me."

He wanted to lower his face, but Heiderich held him still, so he could only drop his eyes down and to the side. "I... I wasn't going to leave," he said, voice barely audible. "I don't want... I don't have anywhere else to go, anyway." No one else in this world since his father died, since Noah betrayed them, since the rocket team broke up and dissolved with the destruction of the Thule Society's paying contracts. And Alfons.

Alfons, the only thing he had cared for in this world, the only thing he had, friend and companion and partner and then later a lover. He'd had only the best, only the most noble reasons for coming back, that was sure; but would he have had the courage to leave his world behind, leave Roy and Winry and Al behind, if he had known that Alfons was dead, if he had known he would have nothing to go back to?

"You have me," Heiderich said, breaking into his thoughts, his despair. And he smiled, and it was Alfons' smile, and Ed felt a different kind of despair washing through him; knowing that for all he knew he should resist this, should leave, should destroy this hybrid thing of human and monster... he didn't want to.

Heiderich pulled his hands away, and Ed let his head drop, and closed his eyes. Felt more than heard Heiderich move around him, rummaging on shelves and drawers; could track his presence by the faint heat he radiated. Then he was back, and Edward couldn't keep from jumping as Heiderich's hands closed on his legs. "Tell me if I hurt you," Heiderich murmured softly, and Ed's scalp prickled.

"Alfons," said Ed. "You are scaring me." It was hard to breathe deeply enough to speak with his skin pulled tight over his chest. It took more effort to find just the right words to calm Alfons. "Please—this hurts. You don't have to—"

"Don't... move," said Alfons. The words began as a hissed command, but shifted eerily in the middle to become a plea. Edward felt his stomach drop further as the ropes hoisted, moving him further up in the air. After a moment, Alfons walked back into his field of vision, pacing back and forth in the small space. He took Ed's face in his hands, forcing him to stare into those piercing, violet eyes.

"Let me do everything," continued Alfons. "Trust me. You have to trust me," his voice was back to pleading, full of raw, hungry need. Ed felt like a mouse, mesmerized by the gaze of a snake; he could feel the faint warmth of Alfons' breath, puffing against his lips.

Ed swallowed. "I trust you," he said, barely able to get the words past the knot in his middle. It was only partly true. He didn't want to trust Alfons, but he would. He had no choice; he was helpless.

Gratitude flared in Alfons' eyes, and his fingers clutched hard at Edward's face for a moment. He stopped, looking suddenly confused, lost within himself. Edward watched him anxiously, searching for any hint of danger. If he saw Envy coming out, he would, he would... do what?

"It's the only way I can know," whispered Alfons, uncertainly, as if to himself. His voice firmed as he stood straight, his hands falling away from Ed's face. Ed lost track of him as he walked away, circling to stand behind him. Hard hands slid up Ed's knees, to the hips of the wool pants. "I love you. I need you to love me. I need you to put me first."

Without warning, Alfons' hands suddenly fisted in the pleated fabric around Ed's hips, twisting them tight and then yanking hard. Ed winced and bit back a cry as his pants, buttons, belt and all, were dragged over the jut of his hips. The rough fabric squeezed against his front, and tears sprang to Ed's eyes as his half-hard erection was crushed under the pressure.

Before he could gasp for Alfons to stop, the fabric suddenly ripped, the buttons of his fly sprang free and the pocket gave way under Alfons' inhuman strength. His pants and boxers passed the widest point of his hips, and hung down in ragged, fluttering strips around his knees.

Damn it, my only work pants! Edward wailed silently; this was not the first time Alfons' careless strength had taken a toll on his wardrobe. Edward gasped for breath, preparing for sputtering outrage; before he got the chance, though, Alfons' soft hands cupped his abused genitals as if in apology, drawing light fingertips against the length. A weight leaned into him from behind as Alfons pressed into his back, nuzzling gently against the base of his spine.

Pain, then pleasure. Ed hissed as his roommate drew lazy spirals with his tongue over the small of his back, lapping at the very top of the groove that divided his buttocks. His skin, sensitized by fear and pain, ached with each ticklish caress. Edward wanted more, needed more, needed to grind his cock against Alfons' teasing hands. A small breath escaped him, and he arched his back. He couldn't help flexing, trying to deepen the touch, but even that small movement was too much.

The shift from gentle to furious came without warning, the soft caress turned into an iron grip on the base of his cock, pleasure turning into throbbing pain. A sudden spike of pain in his lower back resolved itself into a bite, puncturing skin with teeth that were much too sharp to be human. "Don't move!" Alfons' voice hissed.

The sudden spike of fear quickly broke down to a burning anger, in Ed's chest. What the fuck! You tell me to trust you and then you pull shit like this? I should not have to put up with this shit! But it would be a bad, very bad idea to say any of that aloud to Alfons, nor especially to kick him in the face like Ed wanted to. If he drove Alfons away he'd be still hanging helplessly off the ground. Waiting was better, because the pendulum always swung back, and even the most vicious moments always ended up tender in the end.

"Please," said Alfons a moment later, his voice terribly apologetic, and Ed's traitorous heart softened, already losing the anger. "Let me do everything for once. I'll be good for you if you let me have a chance." The hand around Ed's groin released, then began moving, stroking, warming his dry skin with gentle friction.

"Alfons," whimpered Ed. "I... I... I'll do what you want, you know that. When have I ever said no to you? I wasn't trying to get away, I just... you can't touch me like this and expect me not to move. What's gotten into you?" Desperately trying reason, trying to reach the rational mind that still existed in there, somewhere. If only he could get Alfons to talk to him...

This wasn't normal, not even for the temperamental creature Alfons had become. There had to be something else that was bothering him, driving these violent, quicksilver mood changes, and he had the terrible sense that it was very, very important.

Edward might as well have been talking to the heater, for all the response he got; whatever was bothering Alfons, he wasn't sharing. Instead, wordlessly, he just increased the pace, pressing gently but firmly with his palm, just the way he knew—he always knew—Ed liked it.

He was trying to distract him, Ed knew it... but it was working, so hard to think of anything else, when Alfons' hands kept moving. Soft and dry and powder smooth. Ed looked down on them, moving loosely, hand over hand across his jutting cock as if climbing a rope that never ended, and my god, it felt like he was thrusting forever through those gentle palms. Cold was forgotten. His cock burned with the friction and it felt so good.

Oh yeah, oh yeah—what did it matter what Alfons was thinking, what did it matter why he did anything as long as he kept doing this, oh holy fuck yes. Ed was close, so close he could taste it, seeing stars, the pleasure built up at the base of his cock and every muscle in his body tensed, a strangled cry ripping out of his throat. Just a little more yes please yes—

For just an instant he was flying—but then cruel, hard fingers suddenly clamped down hard, one hand forming a tight ring over the base of his cock, the other pulling painfully at his balls. Ed cried out again, this time in wild frustration, as his entire body seized and shook with the need to get off, but the release that had seemed inevitable just a second before slowly ebbed back. Leaving him high and dry, so to speak, panting, and frustrated.

Alfons released him entirely, after a minute, stepping away. Edward struggled frantically, twisting in the air, not so much to get free now as just to touch something, anything, to rub out the unbearable ache. But he could reach nothing but air, and after a few minutes of helpless twitching he subsided, slowly turning in free air.

Alfons stepped into his view again, seeming to waver in Edward's pulsing, pounding vision. Against all reason, he was smiling at Edward, eyes alight with adoration. "I love you, Edward," he breathed. There was no sign of sadism or triumph in Alfons' expression. Instead there was nothing but raw, aching desire colored with just a trace of fragile hope—as if Alfons was the one tied and helpless, held at Edward's whim, and not Edward.

"Well this is a fucking funny way of showing it!" Edward exclaimed, voice high with the frustration and breathlessness. He thought he might laugh. Or maybe scream.

Alfons kept on as though Edward hadn't spoken—in fact, he wasn't quite focusing on Edward's face, as if he were paying attention to some other conversation. "I want to give you things that no one else can—that no one else will. I want what we have to be special."

"Oh, fuck, Alfons!" Edward exclaimed, thrashing and rolling his head from side to side. If only there was something within reach he could beat it against—Alfons' own head would do—maybe this would all start to make some kind of sense. Did Alfons, in some crazy way, actually think this was some sort of unique, fun, bedroom adventure?

He inhaled deeply, trying to rein in his temper, his frantic need. He would get nowhere by ranting and raving, one of them had to be the sane one here. "Alfons, being... being with you is always special," he said, voice still a little too tight, but calmer. "I don't have anyone else. I don't want anyone else. You don't need to go out of your way to make it more... special." Oh fuck please, I think any more 'special' will kill me.

He must have said something right. Alfons' face broke out in a glorious smile. Why does it make him so happy to see me like this? And hell, it was almost worth being strung up like this to see that expression, even though his good hand had passed through tingling to numbness long ago, and the rest of his arm was screaming with ache.

Ed wiggled his hand, futilely, trying to get some kind of feeling back into it, but the tingling ache it shot down his arm discouraged further experimentation. Gritting his teeth, he did his best to resettle his weight into the straps, to try and relax and get as comfortable as possible.

Alfons was watching him, through narrow, considering, violet eyes. "Alfons," he ventured, trying to catch his roommate out of the corner of his eye. "Come on, put me down... I gotta go to work tomorrow. I need to be able to use my arm. Please, Alfons, you can't just leave me hanging here..."

"Not good enough, Ed," Alfons said, and his voice was flat, displeased; when he moved back into Ed's line of sight his expression was cold, and Ed's stomach fell the rest of the way to the floor. "You don't need to go back there. I already told you, you're just wasting time messing around with the rockets. I already made the array we need, and you don't even fucking appreciate me."

His voice was harsh, the unusual swear word ugly in his mouth. That's not Alfons talking. Fuck, fuck, fuck, this was bad.

"Of course I appreciate what you do!" Edward was sweating again, feet stretching helplessly, uselessly for the floor. Appealing to Alfons' intellect wasn't going to work; this wasn't about logic, it was about sex. This escapade would end when Alfons came and no sooner. But how the hell could Ed bring Alfons off hanging like this from the ceiling? Alfons hadn't so much as unbuttoned his own fly yet. "Come on, let me down, and I swear I'll show you just how much I appreciate you. I'll give you a blow job, we can fuck, c'mon, whatever you want..."

"Whatever I want," Alfons said, from right behind him. "I don't have to let you down yet. Or ever. I could just keep you here until the array is ready. If nothing else, I could be sure you wouldn't run off. And you definitely would be motivated to help me out with the array, then."

Edward's mouth went dry, and he stopped moving. Alfons wouldn't... would he? Shit, there was nothing Alfons liked better than doting on Ed when he was helpless, sick or injured or incapacitated. Keeping Edward completely helpless, dependent on him for every little thing... He wouldn't go that far. Even Envy wouldn't....

"But I wouldn't do that to you," Alfons said, and there was a muffled pain in his voice. He reached around Edward with both hands, and began unbuttoning his shirt by feel. "Because I love you. I don't want to hurt you. I just want you to let me do things for you."

Shakily, Edward began to breathe again. The danger moment was past, it seemed. He had to work his mouth for a moment, before he could speak. "We can't use the array," he said, it sounded a little strangled. "We can't, Alfons, it needs blood—"

"I have a plan to take care of that," Alfons said, and his voice was firm, insistent. "You don't need to worry about that part. I'll take care of everything. Just trust me, let me handle it."

Something about his wording made the hairs on Edward's neck begin to rise—he hadn't said he wouldn't hurt anyone, and the array... "But—" he started, then bit off a moan as Alfons' fingers trailed over his chest, tweaking his nipples. "Ah—Alfons, we can't—"

"Just trust me," Alfons repeated, his voice going cajoling. His hands stroked up and down Edward's chest, skipping over the chains, rubbing firmly over the muscles under the skin. It sent warm rushes of pleasure through the taut, straining muscle. "I promise, nobody innocent will be hurt. Don't worry about it, I'll handle it. You just need to concentrate on the array."

His hand was back, softly ghosting over Ed's cock. That flesh leapt eagerly to the occasion, his near-orgasm of before coming back to haunt him in urgent, throbbing need. It was impossible to concentrate on what Heiderich was saying when he kept doing that, and Edward made a few more inarticulate attempts at argument before he gave up with a pained gasp.

Ed couldn't swear to it, but he thought he heard a low, breathy chuckle as the hand disappeared, then came back a moment covered in something cold and slick. Alfons began to stroke his cock again, with a firmer and surer grip this time with the aid of the oil. Edward writhed, needy and desperate... but the same slickness that made the pumping easier also denied him the deep friction that he craved. "Alfons—"

"I'm getting to it." That made no sense, to Edward's ears—especially not when the hands withdrew entirely, wringing a strangled cry of frustration from Ed's lips.

He wasn't that close to coming when Alfons withdrew, but he let out a strangled cry of frustration nonetheless. He heard further noises behind him, but this time his curiosity was satisfied quickly as Alfons dragged a stool over. It was a tall, bar-style stool—an orphan they'd adopted along with the narrow iron bed when they'd rented the apartment. Alfons carefully positioned it until it was close enough for Ed's erection to touch its wooden seat.

Before Ed could ask what this meant, Alfons climbed up in the seat, sitting so that Ed's upper thighs were caught between Alfons' knees. Alfons fumbled with his fly and released his cock for the first time. It was swollen and hard, but not nearly as red and inflamed as Ed's own.

Any question as to what Alfons planned to do next ended when he rubbed his oil glistened hands over his cock. Ed fought the urge to tense up as Alfons pulled his hips forwards and lifted, throwing one leg after the other over his thighs, until Ed was settled in Alfons' lap. For the first time his weight was of his wrist and that was a wonderful feeling in itself.

Ed gritted his teeth slightly and bore down just as Alfons pushed in. There was a slight ache, but nothing too bad. Strange to think that only a few months ago he'd found this fullness vaguely unpleasant. Now he found the feeling enticing, a new, indirect way to scratch an itch that had gone way past maddening. Ed took advantage of the stool to hook his feet onto the upper rungs, gaining a precious bit of leverage.

"Edward," Alfons said from between his teeth, his voice going ragged. He thrust in and out, his hands leaving bruises on Edward's hips as he jerked him down against the thrusts. It felt as fantastic as it did maddening, Alfons' cock rubbing inside of him in a way that made him see stars, but Edward was still helpless to control the timing, the force and rhythm.

Fortunately, for once it seemed he and Alfons were on the same wavelength. Alfons' hands stabilized him and helped lift him. Every time gravity brought Ed down, he was met with a slight thrust of Alfons' hips. Ed was riding an endorphin high, putting every thought into keeping the thrusts coming, speeding them up, making them harder.

If there was a down side it was that, but for the purely accidental rub of Alfons' taut belly, Ed's prick wasn't seeing any action at all. To make matters worse, Alfons had not removed his shirt, and soon the rough wool was all but glued to the oil and precum on Ed's prick. The combination of painful roughness and almost, but not quite satisfying friction was going to drive Ed out of his mind.

Panting helplessly with frustration, Ed twisted, canting himself to the side in an effort to escape the maddening shirt. Alfons seemed to fully appreciate Edward's helpless writhing, and the stool scraped and rocked precariously on the concrete floor as he suddenly stepped up his tempo.

"Yes," Alfons hissed from between tight-clenched teeth. His face was locked into almost a rictus, lips peeled back, and the expression in his eyes at that moment was so chillingly inhuman it would have frozen Ed's insides, if he hadn't already been on fire.

Abruptly Alfons grabbed Ed's hips hard, squeezing the flesh to the bone in a painful hold as he threw his head back, shuddering in ecstasy. Ed bit his lip bloody to avoid crying out against the inhuman grip, and squeezed his own eyes shut to try and block out the sight of angelic rapture on Alfons' face as he came.

Slowly, Hei's hands eased up on Ed's sides, and he was able to breathe again, short shallow pants that were all his constricted chest muscles would allow. Long, soft fingers stroked up and down his sides and flanks, sending shivers through Ed's torso and sparks through his groin. "That was wonderful," Alfons said softly.

"It sure looked like it," Ed said tightly, through a knotted throat. Easy for Alfons to be sappy, Edward was the one who was sore and well-fucked and aching and still needed to come damn it. The ache from his groin was beginning to spread up into his belly, a sure symptom of a monster case of blue balls on its way.

With a massive effort, Ed bunched his muscles and tried to grind against Alfons, seeking some stimulation, but he couldn't get any thrust. The next moment Alfons stymied his efforts by sliding his hands under Ed's buttocks and lifting him off of his cock. Ed winced and gasped at the shift, but Alfons simply picked up the iron stool and slid away, leaving Ed to dangle in the air again.

Ed desperately wanted to come. At this point it wouldn't take much—a minute with Alfons' hand, a second with his mouth, hell, he'd happily grind against their sandstone polishing cloth if Alfons would just bring it to him. "Alfons, please," Ed moaned. "Come on—I can't take this much longer."

"I know."

Something about his roommate's voice sent an uneasy chill down Ed's spine, and he cranked his head around to try and see Alfons' face. Alfons turned away before meeting his eyes, heading towards the winch at the edge of Edward's vision. Ed tried to track him, then cursed and jerked his head straight as a vicious cramp assailed his neck.

The lurching, jerky descent that followed was enough to raise his hopes. This was over, thank fucking God, Alfons had gotten to come, so now he was going to let Edward go, and he could crawl over to their bed and jack himself off and then rest... fuck, or maybe he wouldn't wait till he got to the bed. Just let me down, he hoped fervently. Bed or floor or anywhere, just so's long as I can rub against something...

But the descent stopped, just inches above the floor, and Edward stifled a whine as his feet swung helplessly in free air. For fuck's sake, now what? "Alfons!"

"You want to come now, don't you?" Alfons circled around back into his vision, his own clothes neatly back into place, looking almost as neat and prim as he ever had. He reached out a hand towards Edward's swollen, purpling erection, but paused in mid-air just a few inches away.

What was your first fucking clue? Edward wondered crazily, but he was too far gone to try snark on Alfons, too far gone for anything but need. "Yes, oh please," he said desperately, aware that he was begging and hating it. "Touch me, lick me, I don't care, just get me down and get me off!"

"You're awfully demanding, for a man in your position," Alfons said disapprovingly, withdrawing his hand.

Ed thrashed in the air, the muscles in his chest and back screaming, but the opportunity was lost. "Come on, Alfons, what do I have to do? Do you want to fuck me again? Just put me down and we can do anything you like, I'll suck you if that's what you want, just please, please let me come!" He didn't even stop to think about the insanity of offering to suck the man who'd just fucked him; he was too frantic, searching for the right words to get mercy from Alfons.

Alfons listened to his desperate babble without reaction, head cocked and eyes glittering. Ed ran out of steam and let his head hang down, nearly in tears of exhaustion and frantic need. Alfons had gone crazy, he was really off the deep end this time, and Ed had no idea what to say or what to do to bring him back and end this...

A moist finger to Ed's cock made his scream out his need. Even that light touch stung, but Ed had given up on the idea of a blissful come, and had settled on a nasty, uncomfortable, any-way-he-damn-well-could one. He rocked himself in an attempt to thrust more of himself into Alfons' hand.

Alfons pulled his hand back after the first touch, but he'd served his purpose—he'd firmly got Ed's attention. "You say you'll do anything," Alfons said, holding Ed's blurry eyes steadily. "I want you to make me a promise."

"Yes! Sure," Ed said, half hysterical and lightheaded with hope. "Whatever. Anything. I'll promise. Just name it."

"I want you to promise that you'll stay here and help me work on the array until it's ready. Stop going to work on the rocket. It's a waste of time. Stay here with me."

"Okay," Ed panted. "Anything. I'll help, I promise." A stroke of a slick hand—quick, tormenting painful, oh so wonderful. So very, very, very close.

"You'll stay here with me?" Alfons' inhuman eyes bored into his. "You won't leave the apartment for any reason? You'll wait for me to bring food and—and materials?"

Crazy. This was crazy. They were going to run out of money and starve and freeze in the winter and it wasn't going to matter because Ed's cock was going to explode and he'd die right here on the floor. "All right, I promise! I'll stay!"

"And when we get to Amestris, do you swear that you'll stay with me and let me love you and you won't leave me for anything or anyone else?"

Another ghosting touch, another moment of nirvana held out tantalizingly and then ripped away. Ed could hardly breathe. But somehow, through a throat too tight and dry to speak, he managed to choke out his promise. "I swear. I will stay with you, I'll never leave you. Never." Ed screwed his eyes shut.

"I'll do whatever it takes to keep us together," Alfons promised in return. And finally, finally he closed his hand around Edward's erection, turning agony to bliss in just a few steady, satisfying strokes of his hand. "I'll do anything it takes. Anything. Even forcing you to make promises like this."

Ed couldn't answer; he'd been pushed over the edge, and was out past all thought and reason. He could forget how much he hurt, how desperate and scared he'd been just a few minutes before, about the promises that had been forced out of him. It was all worth it now, just for this, an infinite instant of relief and bliss. Ed bucked in helpless shudders through an orgasm that seemed to last forever.


Solid ground. Edward felt like he'd never appreciated the ground properly before, cold concrete or no. It was so solid, so firm and supportive, and he could rest the entire length of his aching body against it and it would hold him up, without pinching or squeezing uncomfortably at his skin, without swinging away from him at inopportune moments...

And he was damn well going to get his fill of it, because fuck, he didn't think he could move. Even with the chains off—and Alfons was removing them now, apparently secure in the knowledge that Edward wasn't going anywhere now. After all he'd promised, Edward had promised, hadn't he...

He was getting so comfortable on the ground, he almost complained when Alfons rolled him over onto his back. His hands were still dry, somehow—still barely-warm and powder-dry and so deceptively soft and gentle. The hands hesitated a moment, and then rubbed slowly down the side of Edward's rib cage, smoothing out an abrasion mark. "Sorry," he whispered.

Ed was tempted to snap at him, Don't be sorry, don't yank me around in chains, for fuck's sake! But that would be counterproductive; confronting him about it would just bring... bring the violent side back... so it was much safer just to accept the apology, insincere as it was. Still, it did make him feel a little mollified about the whole thing.

The hands continued to stroke, rubbing with firm pressure across the marks on his chest, down to his hips. If his hands had been even a little damp, it might have been uncomfortable, but the perfectly smooth, dry calluses slid softly across his skin. "Is there anything I can do to make you feel better?" Alfons said, and the guilt was more pronounced in his voice.

Ed opened his eyes to slits, was treated to the dank unpleasant sight of the basement ceiling, overhead, and the pale-haired head wavering in his vision. He opened his mouth, and had to wet his lips with his tongue before he could speak. "Kind of cold down here," he muttered. "And—umm—hard."

"Oh, of course!" Instantly, Alfons sounded relieved—and those too-soft hands left off stroking his body to slide under him, and shoulders and knees, and Alfons scooped him off the ground with a suddenness that left Edward fighting vertigo again.

And then Alfons was sliding him into bed, and oh fuck that was nice, it was like the floor only it was softer and didn't dig into his spine and hips and skull.

It was still cold, though, and as the endorphins began to slowly clear out of his system Ed began to shiver, in little fits and starts. Damn it, that heater really was worthless—

Warm fingers smoothed over his lower belly, caught and dragged over a stickiness, and Ed made a displeased noise in the back of his throat. "I'll be right back," Alfons said, and then vanished, leaving Edward to slowly come back to himself.

If this storm was anything like the past ones, he should have some peace now; as long as he didn't actively provoke a fight, Alfons would stay as Alfons, stay kind and nurturing and protective, for quite a long time. And as much as it was humiliating to be wiped and carried and pushed this way and that, he couldn't deny that it was comforting, too. It brought back the human side of Alfons, left him calmer, more focused, more balanced. More like himself, the Alfons that Edward remembered.

The endorphins were slowly beginning to clear out, leaving a mess of sensations in their wake. Edward twitched as left hand suddenly broke out in pins and needles, then gasped as the twitch woke a searing protest in his cramped shoulder muscles. A feeble attempt to roll himself over towards the edge of the bed was immediately aborted, with a groan. Fuck, fuck, he really hadn't needed to promise after all; he probably wouldn't be walking straight for days if this was an indication—

But he had promised, and Ed ground his teeth, rolled his eyes at the ceiling, and tried to think his way around that promise. Maybe—maybe he could find some excuse to tell them, that would keep him bedbound, while still sending work in to the office by correspondence.

But that didn't address the real problem, the sinking dread in the pit of his stomach whenever he thought of the array, and the Gate, and what lay beyond it—thousands and thousands of slit purple eyes. He was committed now, he would have to face them sooner or later—damn Alfons, damn Envy—

You always knew you would have to, a voice inside of him whispered. It's the only way home, the only way back to Al. You could waste time waffling around here for years, but you'll never get home if you're too much of a coward to face it.

Alfons reappeared just then, with—Ed yelped when it first landed on his chest, steaming and soaked—a hot towel. Where had he gotten the hot water? Ed could have sworn he hadn't heard any water pouring.

"I fixed the heater," Alfons said breathlessly, as he rubbed the warm, wet cloth briskly over Ed's skin—he shivered, first at the sweet, warm, good feeling when it ran over him, then again when it left and the wet skin was exposed to the cold air. "It should really get warm in here soon, now."

He finished wiping the thin film of sweat from Ed's chest and torso, and moved down to his belly; Edward twitched and bit down on a squeak as the rough edge of the hot cloth dragged over his nipple. But for once Alfons didn't seem to notice his reaction, didn't take him up on it, which was good because Edward didn't think that anything in the world could persuade his throbbing, sulking cock to come to attention again. Not even the warm, moist towel, running so gently over his stomach and hips and groin, and oh fuck, that felt nice...

Alfons was chattering, now, his voice easing, returning to the precise diction Ed was more familiar with. "I got the towel first, then I thought of putting it on the heater, to warm it. I remember when I was very young, I was sick—possibly the measles, or chicken pox, and I felt so cold all the time. Hot towels were the only thing that felt better, my..."

Alfons stopped, suddenly, and the words died in his throat, as the light died in his eyes. Edward watched him, warily, but not without compassion, as Alfons' brow knotted, chasing the memory. "My... mother, maybe... no..." he murmured uneasily. "I—I can't..."

"Alfons," Edward interrupted, gently. The violet eyes snapped towards him, filled with an unexpected terror, and Edward felt oddly, bizarrely guilty. He shrugged his shoulder, then winced and reclassified that as a Bad Idea. "It was years and years ago," he said, finally.

"Yes, of course..." Alfons muttered, although he still sounded unsettled. "I... I... Should I go start dinner?" he asked, abruptly changing the subject. Standing up straight, he wrung out the towel between his hands, seeming not to notice the warm droplets spattering from it. "You... you must be hungry. I can bring you dinner. Dinner in bed."

Edward considered food, but the thought of trying to force it on top of his present fuzzy exhaustion just made him queasy. "Maybe later," he murmured. "Not hungry now."

"Oh." Alfons' face fell, crumpled. He twisted the towel tighter in his hands. "Then... then should I..."

"Kinda cold in here," Edward interrupted, deliberately, "even with the heater running. It'd be nice if I had someone in here to help me warm things up."

Alfons' face relaxed, cleared up, and he quickly draped the towel over the headboard and climbed into the bed. If he was being honest, Alfons' presence in the bed didn't really warm things up much—he was only faintly warm, not putting out enough heat to help warm Edward in turn. But it somehow felt warmer, not to be alone in the cold sheets.

Alfons curled up at his side, setting his blond, tickling hair on Edward's right shoulder, just above where the harness ended. It was strange, how much taller Alfons was than him, but he could make himself fold up so much more compactly. "Sorry," Alfons whispered, again, when a few moments of silence had passed. He brushed one soft finger over the reddened bite mark, on Edward's chest. "I don't.... sorry."

Edward closed his eyes. It was hard to believe, almost, that this contrite, tender Alfons could be the same volatile being who'd ruthlessly extracted a promise out of him not half an hour ago.

His hand, still numb and clumsy, flopped over to stroke the cornsilk hair. You know, you didn't have to force me to promise, he wanted to say. Even if you hadn't, I would have stayed with you. I could not have let you go on your own, uncontrolled, into the world. You are my responsibility. My sin.

In the darker parts of the night Edward wondered, the his most private solitude, what he was going to have to do with Alfons. The homunculi were chaotic, unpredictable—halfway to insane, and on nights like these, it hardly seemed as if Alfons were any different from the rest of them had been.

But then he wondered—not for the first time—what kind of hell it must be like, to be shouldered aside inside your own head, to be seized with violent impulses you couldn't control, feelings you could hardly recognize. Was Alfons fully cognizant of what was happening, at these times? Was he really in control of himself, or was it like being pushed back into the role of an observer while someone else took the helm? Edward had never asked.

The other homunculi, they had never apologized, had they? Never felt regret or remorse for any of the horrible things they did, which were a lot more horrible, he had to admit, than tying him up and teasing him for one evening. If Envy had ever had him like this he would have hurt him much, much worse—but Alfons wasn't Envy, not by a long shot. Whatever the homunculi had been before, he was different now.

Alfons was different. Edward clung to that thought. Different from the others, different from... anything Edward had had experience with. He had storms, and moments of cruelty and violence and, yes, madness, but he'd always come back to himself in the end, looking shaken and frightened and lost as—as any human might, who was afraid of losing himself in himself. As Al had been, Edward remembered.

Unlike the others... Lust, Wrath, even Greed... could Alfons be saved? Would he be saved? Not without a price, surely—nothing came without a price. And when they faced the Gate again... who would that price be asked of? Himself—or Alfons?

Edward closed his eyes, tilted his head until the fine pale hairs just brushed his cheek. He hurt all over, a distant, fuzzy hurt that was receding the further he moved towards sleep. Sleep, he just needed sleep, and then food and then he could deal with the homunculus again. Could deal with the world again.

The world, and what lay outside it.