There was still so much they didn't understand about the homunculi. It wasn't enough to know merely that they were not human; they still knew nothing about what they truly were, how they thought, what they felt, what they wanted. Why they did the things they did. Who they worked for and why. About the only thing they did know pretty well was just how far the homunculi were willing to go to get their way.
Here and now—trapped in an abandoned warehouse, at the mercy of their homunculus captors, and waiting for something —Al got the feeling that sometime soon, they were going to find out. The only question was whether it would be just in time, or much too late.
Al hunkered on the concrete floor, keeping a wary eye always on the slender form in black, seated in a posture of casual boredom on an empty crate. He was across the room, well out of even Alphonse's reach, but Al was not reassured; the chalk-white hands turned over and over a gun, fiddling with it idly, but handling it with an expert grace and ease that reminded Al strongly of Lieutenant Hawkeye.
That was all that did, though. There was nothing of the Lieutenant's cool fairness, her undercurrent kindness. No; this grace spoke only of a long experience of killing, and the little smile always on that face spoke of a deep enjoyment for it.
Al feared that smile, but he had no fear of the gun for himself. No, that fear was reserved for his brother. He kept his wary eyes on Envy, both to watch for his moves and to try and fathom his motives, yes; but also because it almost hurt him to look at Ed.
What kind of mind did it take, to devise this system of restraints? Al wondered. Clearly, it was one that knew his brother well, knew intimately his abilities and weaknesses. They had forced Ed to kneel, and kept him there, with a cold iron bar and shackles that attached to his knees, forcing him to spread them wide as he knelt on the cold floor; there was no possible way he could walk, or run, or even stand.
Another bar, constructed the same way, lay across his shoulders; the shackles at each end captured his wrists, holding his hands far apart from his body. It was entirely effective; there was no possible way for him to clap his hands, or even to touch anything to draw an array. There was nothing for him to gain leverage against, except his own body; no way to use his automail strength to break free, not without breaking his own bones.
Effective, inescapable, and painful; they'd been waiting here in a tense standoff for hours now, and Alphonse couldn't stand to listen to the increasing rattling sounds as Ed struggled for breath against the restraints. Between the iron bars, and the watchful glinting eye of the gun, there was no way Ed was going anywhere anytime soon.
And what kind of mind did it take, Al wondered, to bind his brother so thoroughly, and leave him completely unfettered?
It wasn't like they couldn't have; Envy had managed to take him down and pin him so immediately and thoroughly in their fight that his mind was still reeling from the shock of it. And the other ones, Lust and Gluttony; hell, they could have just carved off his legs if they'd wanted to, to render him helpless. But they hadn't. They just let him loose, on the warehouse floor.
He could have walked right out, if not for Envy. And Ed. And the gun. Because every time Al took a step in the direction of escape, or seemed to be reaching for Edward's shackles, Envy would look up, hand on his gun, and the smile on his face was absolutely eager.
They didn't bind him because they didn't have to. So long as they had his brother, Al wasn't going anywhere. And they knew it.
Al shifted around, nervously, and pushed down on the urge to pace. He didn't think he could stand the noise, even if it would help him to think.
"Al," a voice hissed.
Al straightened up, with a sudden clank, and barely kept his voice from echoing loudly. "Niisan!"
Ed hadn't moved, was still sitting there with his shoulders hunched and his head bowed. Al could barely see the movement of his lips. "Al, get out of here."
"I can't," Al whispered back, moving a little closer. He measured the length of the bar with his eyes, again, and wanted to cry. "He's got the gun, Niisan. I don't think I can cover you if I try and carry you out, it'll be too slow—"
"Idiot," Ed hissed, raising his head again. "Forget about me. You need to get yourself out of here."
"I won't leave you!" Al's voice rose a little at that, uncontrollable, and he hastily brought it back down.
"Don't be dense," Ed muttered, his breath coming in harsh puffs. "Go and get help, you idiot! Come back for me!"
For a moment, Al was almost compelled to follow his sibling's orders; then he realized, "What makes you think you'll still be here when I get back?" he exclaimed. "What if they decide to move you before I can find someone, and I'll never—" He broke off. By the lowering of Edward's head, he'd obviously thought the same thing, and was hoping Alphonse wouldn't. Damn his stupid, self-sacrificing brother, anyway!
"I won't leave you," he whispered. "If I'm not here, I can't protect you."
Ed heaved a deep breath. Al eyed him with increasing worry. He knew his brother was strong, but Ed's shoulders and flesh arm were shaking with the strain. Al wasn't sure how much more he could stand.
Resolutely, he came to stand behind his brother, and reached out his hand for the iron bar. Immediately, the homunculus came on the alert, twisting like a cat as he sat up straight and adjusted his grip on the gun. "And what do you think you're doing?" he called, in a lazy drawl.
"I'm not going to undo it. You can put the gun down." Al reached out and began to inscribe an array in the metal. Envy made no move to relax; instead, he raised the gun, and pointed it at Ed's chest, a casual, deadly target. "I said I'm not going to undo it, I promise. He can't breathe."
"That's his problem, scrap heap, not mine," Envy replied with a smirk. "And he's going to have a bigger problem breathing with a hole in his chest, so you should back off."
"You wouldn't kill him," Al said with confidence, although he was trembling inside as he finished the circle. Ed had tensed below him, but he didn't tell Al to back away, either. "You wouldn't be keeping us here if you didn't need us."
"Al..." Ed growled, a warning tone in his voice. "Don't push it."
Envy shrugged. "I was told to keep you here," he said, "until they come to get you. They didn't specify whether they wanted you alive or dead. I figure alive is easier to correct than dead, but I'm not married to the idea." He grinned, showing a mouthful of rather sharper than normal teeth.
If he could have, Al would have shot Envy a poisonous glare; instead, he moved his hand and activated the array.
Without changing expression in the slightest, Envy fired. Al shouted in dismay, and Ed flinched; the bullet passed within an inch of his outspread knee, and a stray chip of concrete flew from the impact and struck him in the hip. Ed hissed in pain, and Al could tell from the widening of Envy's smirk and the look in his eyes that neither the near miss nor the injury had been accidental. A warning shot. Al backed away.
His goal had been accomplished, though. Although still trapped, Ed was able to lower his arms and relax his shoulder somewhat, and his breath came easier. Al figured that had been worth it.
With a dramatic sigh, Envy lowered his arm, resting the gun in his lap. "You seem to think I'm bluffing," he said casually. "I'm not, you know. There's really nothing I'd like better than to see the shorty dead. Give me another reason, and I'll take it next time. Hell, I might just do it if I get bored enough."
"No!" Al shouted defiantly. "Don't you dare. If you hurt him, I'll kill you."
Envy snorted. "You should get so lucky," he said. "Either way, he'll still be dead. That isn't what you want, now is it, hmm?"
"Al," Ed hissed, craning his neck around to glare at his brother. "For fuck's sake don't talk to him. He gets a kick out of pain."
"He can't hurt me, Niisan," Al pointed out in a lowered tone. "And I won't let him hurt you. I'm serious. No matter what I have to do, I won't let him lay a hand on you."
Envy laughed, and Al jerked a little as he realized that the homunculus' hearing must be sensitive enough to pick up every word. And if he'd heard—"That's sweet," Envy said. "Damn, that's really sickeningly sweet. You two brats really love each other, don't you?" He said the word with a sneer, as if it were some particularly disgusting swear word.
"Of course I do," Al said lowly, vehemently. "He's my brother. I'd do anything for him, if it would save his life. Maybe something like you can't understand that, but I do."
"And what about the shorty there?" Envy made a casual gesture with the gun barrel; both brothers flinched slightly. "D'you love him back?"
Ed bared his teeth for a moment, then reluctantly answered; "Fuck yeah, I do. What's it to you?"
Envy leaned forward, grinning widely, and dropped his voice. "So, just about how much do you two love each other?"
From the tone of Envy's voice, that wasn't just a casual repetition, but Al couldn't see what the homunculus was driving at. Ed picked up on it first, and reacted furiously; both his hands clenched, and he lurched forward, almost overbalancing himself on the floor. "What kind of a question is that? He's my brother, you pervert, we don't do things like that!"
"Awww, c'mon." Envy smirked, leaning back casually. "Lonely road... couple of teenage boys... you're trying to tell me you don't play spot-the-submarine at bathtimes? C'mon, don't be shy, I want details. I'm bored here, the least you could do is tell me some good stories."
"Niisan, what's he talking about?" Alphonse said, somewhat uncertainly.
"Nothing, Al, don't listen to him," Ed said through gritted teeth.
"I'm talking about sex, boyo. You know, the beast with two backs... things that go hump in the night?" Envy ran his fingers up and down the barrel of the gun, then paused, lifting his eyebrows. "Are you trying to tell me you really don't know? I knew you were the sweet and innocent one of the pair, but don't you know anything?"
The derisive tone left Alphonse struck speechless, both with embarrassment and pain; because he didn't know, how could he know, how was he supposed to know about things like that with this body? And Envy knew that, and so did Ed, who was now staring at the floor, jaw working, and avoiding looking at him.
"But Big Brother here—" Envy continued, switching his attention back to Ed. "Not nearly so sweet and innocent, hmm? You knew exactly what I was talking about. Because," he paused, and then grinned again. "You've thought of it, haven't you?"
"I have not!" Ed spat, outraged. "I told you, he's my brother, I'm not some kind of pervert! This is all in your sick head."
"Methinks the boy doth protest too much," Envy murmured, and then he suddenly adopted a tone of condescending kindness. "Why are you getting so angry? It's a perfectly normal... human... thing to want, isn't it? Must be a hard job, following a wild goose chase all the time... builds up a lot of tension... it wouldn't be so much to ask for your brother to help you out, would it?"
Ed fumed, but finally seemed to be taking his own advice; he refused to reply. Envy looked disappointed for a moment, then turned his attention to Al, still standing stunned from Envy's words. He didn't like the look playing on Envy's face as the homunculus looked him up and down, then said, "Well, why don't you?"
"Huh?" Al jerked at the question. "Why don't I—Why don't I what?"
"Why don't you," Envy said, slowly and patiently, "get your brother off?"
"Shut up!" Ed's face was going red, whether from fury or humiliation Al couldn't completely tell, when Ed turned his glare on Al. "I already told you, don't listen to him. He's trying to mess with your head."
"No," Envy said with a slow grin, "it's your head that's going to get messed with. Go on, kid. Hop to it."
"I—" Almost against his will, Al found himself taking a step back, further away from Edward. "I don't understand what you're talking about."
Envy rolled his eyes theatrically heavenward. "It's like talking to a preschooler," he said. "Honestly, nobody's that dumb. Touch your brother. Jerk him off. You know, masturbate him. Just look at him—" another jerk with the pistol barrel—"he's practically begging for it."
"I'm not going to do that!" Al said, aghast. "Like, he said, we—we're brothers. It wouldn't be right."
Envy's eyes narrowed, and his smirk faded. "If you don't," he said warningly, "then I will. I'm bored. If you two brats don't do something to entertain me, then I'll just have to entertain myself. It's your choice, really."
Envy's hands slid over the gun barrel in a way that made Alphonse suddenly very cold, even though he didn't know why; he only knew that he didn't want those hands and that gun one inch closer to his brother than it already was. "No!" he cried out, voice shaking, and took a couple of steps forward, holding his hands out in front of him. "Don't—don't come near him."
"Then, you do it." Envy's eyes glittered, cold and cruel. "Before I get so fucking bored that I start plugging holes in your brother just for something to watch. Your choice."
He would do it, Alphonse realized with a sick feeling. There was absolutely nothing about him that was bluffing. Ed was right, this monster got a kick from pain; if he didn't get the reaction he wanted, he wouldn't hesitate to move on to physically hurting them.
And since Al couldn't feel pain, it would be Ed that would get hurt if Alphonse refused.
Al turned back to Edward.
Ed had been glaring at Envy, radiating defiance; Al's sudden movement, though, broke his concentration. His eyes widened as Al approached. "Al, what are you doing?" he said, disbelievingly. "You're not—you're not actually going to do what he says, are you?"
"I—I think I have to, Niisan," Al said uncertainly. "He's not bluffing, he's really going to shoot you if I don't..."
"Then fucking let him shoot me!" Ed jerked against his bonds, leaning away as much as he could as Al reached for him. "Al, you can't let that asshole manipulate you like this!"
"Shut up, Niisan," Al muttered, casting a nervous glance over at Envy; the homunculus was watching them like a cat. "This is better than you getting hurt."
"Al—" Whatever protest Ed was starting to make was cut off in a startled exclamation as Al's hands landed, tentatively, on his chest. Al tried to figure out what to do next, and was struck by a sudden wave of sheer disbelief. This was ridiculous, this whole situation was ridiculous, he couldn't possibly have to actually...
A sudden idea struck him, like a lightning bolt of hope; if he pretended to go along with Envy, enough to get close to Ed, could he block the gun long enough to free Ed from his bonds, and they could make a break for it? They couldn't stay here, they just couldn't, something bad would happen if they did—
He didn't dare whisper to Ed, not with Envy's hearing; but he moved in closer, until Ed's body was shadowed entirely by his bulk. Trying not to make his motions obvious, he reached over Ed's shoulder for the bar. He'd have to move fast, to get both this bar and the leg bar before Envy reacted, but—
"One side, rust bucket!" Envy's voice rang out suddenly, making Al flinch, and nearly clobber Ed in the head with his arm. Drat. Reluctantly, he moved to the side, turning so that he could see Envy's narrowed gaze. Once he had moved, Envy seemed to relax, at least enough to loosen his grip on the gun. He grinned at Alphonse, flipping it neatly in his hand.
"You were blocking my shot," he said, as innocently as if Al had just done it by accident, "and we can't have that. Besides," he added, "what's the point if I don't get to see?"
Next to him, Ed muttered a curse under his breath; Alphonse was inclined to agree. Maybe—maybe if he moved fast—but a memory of Envy in action, a blur of pale limbs and dark hair, dispelled the wistful thought. Envy was faster than him, faster than anything human, and he could put Alphonse down as easily now as he had done the first time.
"Clothes off," Envy ordered, strange violet eyes watching them intensely. "I want to see skin."
Ed opened his mouth to protest, looking from Al over to Envy; but whatever he saw there, it must have convinced him to hold his tongue; he closed his eyes, visibly gritted his teeth, and relaxed his shoulders.
Slowly, uncertainly, Alphonse devoted himself to this task. It was no minor job; Ed's clothes were both concealing and close-fitting. Getting him out of them would have been tricky even with full range of motion and his cooperation; there was no way he was going to be able to remove them now, not with his arms and legs stretched wide and pinned. Al fumbled large, clumsy fingers over the fastenings of Ed's shirt, opening them to reveal the undershirt beneath, and stopped, uncertain.
An impatient noise from behind him made Al acutely aware of the homunculus' presence at his back, and he hurried forward. There was no help for it; he was going to have to tear them. Fortunately—if you could call it that—Ed's clothes had taken a beating along with the rest of him, and the shirt was full of tears and weak along the seams. After a few minutes of fumbling and harsh yanks at his brother's skin, Al managed to get the shirt in enough pieces that he could push it back over his brother's shoulders.
He stopped there, for a minute, staring. It wasn't like he'd never seen his brother's chest before; although Ed preferred to cover up in public, there was little to stop him from wandering around in their room wearing only his pants, and Al knew he slept bare-chested. But it was different now; the stretch of his chest and shoulders, and the quick unsteady rhythm of his breaths, rendered him vulnerable in a way that Al had rarely ever seen.
"Al," Ed hissed under his breath, darting a look up into Al's face, "you aren't going along with this, are you? You can't... I mean... you can't..."
"Just... just play along, Brother," Al whispered back. "Play for time... I'll think of something..."
His brother seemed to accept this; at least, he settled back down with a swallow, and closed his eyes. Nervously, Al picked up where he'd left off.
The pants were much harder than the shirts had been; if anything, they were a tighter fit, and a tougher material. Al practically had to tear them into pieces at the top in order to work them down over Ed's hips, and push the pants legs down over his thighs. It occupied his attention such that it wasn't until he finished and sat back that he realized, with a queer shock, that Ed was not wearing underwear.
All Al could think for a moment was that their mother would not have approved.
"Oh, no you don't, pipsqueak," Envy's voice came sharply; Al realized that Ed was hunching over, breath coming faster, curling over to try and shield himself from view. "Straighten your brother out, will you, rust bucket? No point in being shy now."
Ed resisted when Al tried to pull him up; Al had to force him, and having nothing to brace himself against, Ed went. He was breathing hard through clenched teeth now, Al saw, and his eyes were squeezed shut hard, a flush on his cheeks.
"That's more like it," Envy said in a satisfied tone, then laughed. "Well, well. Looks like this part's no exception; it's as runty as the rest of you."
Ed's eyes snapped open, and he gave an enraged snarl, struggling uselessly for a moment against his bonds. "Don't listen to him," Al murmured encouragingly. He squeezed Ed's shoulders, with the gloved hands still on them, and blurted out, "I don't think you're undersized at all."
"That's not helping, Al!" Ed snapped out.
"Am I going to grow mold over here, waiting?" Envy snapped impatiently, shifting around on the crate. "Maybe foreplay's your thing, but I'm telling you to get a move on."
"I'm working on it!" Al's temper flared, and he pulled away from Edward slightly, stalling for time. "I'll go at my own pace. I've ne—"
A click, and Envy smiled again as he chambered the next bullet. "No. You'll go at my pace."
"Wh-what exactly should I do?" Al said, looking over at him nervously.
"And you're supposed to be the scientist?" Envy sneered. "I don't believe this. You've got him naked and spread in front of you and you need a freaking step by step manual. Touch him. Find what makes him squirm. When you're getting it right, even you won't be able to miss it... even if you've got no idea what it feels like yourself."
Chafing under the reminder, Al hunched his shoulders a bit; hesitantly, following Envy's instructions, he ran his hands down Ed's exposed chest. The edge of his glove brushed over Edward's nipple, and the older boy flinched.
"Al, don't," Ed said, and there was an undercurrent of panic in his voice. "I don't want this. Don't do this."
"I have to," Al said, with some desperation. "He'll hurt you if I don't."
"I don't care!" The panic was rising a bit, and Ed squirmed against his bonds. "Don't, Al, this isn't right—-"
This time, Al didn't answer; he took a moment to stiffen his resolve, and then plunged his hands back towards his brother's skin. Ed's protest cut off in a muffled shout as Al's hands began running over his exposed torso and belly; he tried to curl forward again, to shield his genitals from touch, but Al held him straight with only a little effort.
Find what makes him squirm, Envy's malicious whisper echoed. Well, something had made him squirm before... Al reached for Ed's nipple, first brushing against it lightly and then tweaking it between his fingers. Ed swore, and tried to pull away; but in his current position, he wasn't going anywhere, and the next sound he made was more like a whimper than a curse.
As he experimented with different kinds of touches, it almost startled Al when he saw the first stirrings of response. Envy had been right, there was no mistaking it; Ed's cock was right in plain view, and there was no way for him to hide the first twitchings and stirrings as the touches, unwanted or not, began to have an effect on him. Maybe it was just Al's imagination, but it seemed when he ran a palm slowly down Ed's chest and belly that the rest of Ed's skin had grown more sensitive, too; a heavy flush suffused his skin where Al's hands had passed.
He glanced at the area between Ed's legs, with some interest; this was something he'd never spent much time looking at. The color was different from what he remembered seeing, now flushing a dusky red with blood, and he could almost see the pulse beating in the blood vessels that enervated it. When he touched it, though, he couldn't feel any difference between one area of skin and another. He had to go to one knee, to reach down this far easily, and the impact jolted through him up from the floor. Carefully—very carefully, he had a theoretical idea at least of how delicate this area was—Al pressed his hand against Ed's hardening cock.
The strangled gasp that left Ed then, and the convulsive jerk of his hips, confirmed Al's suspicions. Slightly more sure of his ground, he left one hand between Ed's legs, pressing down against the growing hardness there, while he trailed the other back up to see if he could repeat his success with the nipple.
"No," Ed's voice whispered, hoarsely. "No."
He looked up at Ed's face, then, and wished that he had not. Ed's expression was twisted in something that resembled agony; his eyes were squeezed shut and he was biting down on his lip the same way Al had seen him do once or twice when dealing with the pain of automail adjustment. Al was suddenly terrified of his own touch—he couldn't feel how hard he was pressing, and he knew his hand was rough leather and had to chafe.
Immediately he lightened up, leaving only the barest touch on Ed's cock—but that didn't seem to help any, because a wordless noise tore past Ed's lips, and his hips jerked up to try and follow the touch.
"Damn, that was easy." Envy's voice startled Al so much, he accidentally dug his fingers into Ed's thigh, and Ed gave a yelp of real pain before he was able to lighten up. Envy was watching avidly; he'd rearranged his seat on the crate, legs open in front of him as he leaned forward to watch—but both hands stayed at all times on the gun. "I thought the little pipsqueak would be harder to warm up than that. Guess I was right, he must want it pretty bad."
"Fuck you," Ed growled hoarsely, releasing his bite on his lower lip to leave a patch of red there. "I don't want.... I don't..." He couldn't seem to find anything more coherent to say, though; beads of sweat were forming along his hairline, the hollow of his throat, the outline of his ribs, as the cravings of his body struggled with the rest of him.
"Brother, relax," Al whispered anxiously, sweeping one hand over Ed's face, brushing off the sweat gathering there. His thumb lingered for a moment on Ed's lips, the bead of blood forming there, before wiping that away as well. The leather of his thumb pushed into Edward's mouth; Ed tried to pull away from it, but had nowhere to go. "Relax," Al repeated, a bit desperately. "I don't want you to get hurt."
"You don't think this counts?"
"Sorry," Al whispered, but with another worried glance at Envy, he forced himself to continue.
Touching here, he quickly realized, he had to be very careful; he couldn't see what he was doing very well, couldn't get close enough, and the skin was so sensitive, so delicate. Ed was fighting it, fighting the touch with everything he had, and kept terrifying Al with anguished whimpers; he didn't want to hurt him, didn't want to hurt him, but it was hard to tell the difference between real pain and self-imposed mental anguish.
He went slow, watching his own empty—cold—hands carefully. Ed was sweating hard now, breath heaving in his chest, and his hips kept spasmodically jerking up into Ed's hands. Al wondered—couldn't help but wonder—what it felt like, this urge that was taking over Ed's body like a puppet. It looked like it hurt, sounded like it hurt, but from the eagerness of his motions, it didn't feel bad.
Al could only guess; he had no way of knowing. His own body had been destroyed before it ever came into this bloom.
"I gotta give it to the pipsqueak," Envy said in an amused voice, "he's got stamina. I'd thought he'd have lost it by now." He frowned for a moment, tapping the tip of the barrel of the gun against his chin, then grinned at Al in a way that made him cold. "Finger him."
Al looked back at him in confusion. "I'm already using my fingers," he said warily.
Envy burst out laughing, as though Al had just made a particularly good joke. "No, no," he said, still chuckling. "Take a couple of fingers—" he made a demonstrative motion that made Al's eyes widen—"and shove them up his ass. It's not physics."
Al sputtered with disbelief, yanking his hands away from Ed as if his brother's skin were suddenly hot. Ed let out a moan that was either relief or disappointment, or possibly a mixture. "But," Al said, "that won't work! Won't—won't that hurt?"
"Of course. It's nothing he can't handle," Envy smirked. "Believe me, that'll really get him riding. Doncha know anything about a guy's body?"
Al didn't say anything; he didn't. They'd studied a woman's body, together, in the hopes of making it—but never a male.
Slowly, with deep misgivings, he reached between Ed's legs, further than he'd gone before. It was awkward—the edges of the metal plates in his arm pressed against Ed's groin and thighs, and he had to push Ed further back, forcing him onto his heels. He ran one leather-glove finger up the inside of Ed's thighs, trying to follow the line by sight of what he could not feel, and soon the tip of his fingers grazed flesh of Ed's ass, pressed the cheeks apart to reach his entrance.
Ed whimpered, spine jerking straight, the muscles of his thighs straining convulsively as he tried to close his legs; it was impossible. Al looked up and was shocked to see tears squeezing out of his brother's eyes, running down the sides of his upturned face. "No," Ed whispered, voice hoarse; "please Al, don't—"
"No. I can't." Shakily, Al began to withdraw, climbing to his feet and looked defiantly over at Envy. "I can't—I won't violate him like that. That's where I draw the line."
A crack filled the warehouse, and Ed shouted an indistinct curse as he lurched over, trying fruitlessly to curl into himself. Al nearly screamed, himself; it took several terrifying moments before he was able to pinpoint the bullet lodged in Ed's automail shoulder.
"Sure you don't want to reconsider?" Envy purred, and the gun went click again. "Think I'll do the other shoulder this time."
"Stop it!" Al could hear tears in his own voice; the only place that they would ever show, he knew, could ever show. "Leave him alone, damn you!"
"That's up to you," Envy replied, meeting his gaze fearlessly. "You're the one who's refusing, after all. Think it over, can opener—what's a little bit of chafing and a moment's embarrassment, in comparison to, say, multiple compound fractures and major blood loss? Well, if you really think that's what's best for your brother—"
"No!" Al was surprised to find himself shaking, empty armor plates rattling against each other. "I—I'll do it, okay? Just stop it! Just shut up!"
He went hastily to his knees, practically crouching between Ed's outspread knees, and pushed his hand against Ed's automail; it couldn't move more than an inch anyway, but it gave him better leverage. With the fingers his left hand, he thrust almost violently back towards Ed's ass, only forcing better control on himself when Ed jumped and gasped.
Al had to look away from Ed's face entirely, and resolved not to look back; focusing instead on the convulsive trembling of Ed's body, the little jerking motions of his hips. It was so frustrating, to have so little feedback from what he was doing; he couldn't see, having to guess instead from Ed's shudders how fast he could proceed. He felt resistance, and tried to work around it, but had very little idea of how he was doing. He just hoped the friction of the leather wouldn't cause too much of a problem.
Steeling himself, he pushed his first finger in. Ed made a strangled sound, and his thighs bunched as he tried to push himself up and off the invading digit. Al let him, following the motion up, keeping the pressure up as Ed's legs trembled and gave out, forcing him slowly back down. Al slid his hand up Ed's thigh, gripping the boy's cock between his thumb and forefinger, and tried to remember the touches that Ed had liked, before. He just hoped it would be enough, to distract Ed from what was happening to him.
"Nn—" Ed started, then was cut off as Al squeezed his cock lightly, prompting an involuntary jerk. "Hurts—too much," he gasped, and Al failed for a moment in his resolution not to look at Ed's face. "Al, dammit—"
"Try to relax," Al whispered, doing his best to keep his voice soothing and his hand distracting even as his other hand worked slowly in deeper. What had Envy meant, that this would get him riding? If it hurt this much—
He must have touched something right, because the next minute Ed gave a hoarse yell that didn't sound at all like pain, and his cock jumped in Al's hand. Startled, Al nearly jerked his hand away, only remembering at the last minute what a bad idea that was. It didn't matter, because the next second Ed was grinding down on him, pain or restraint apparently forgotten as his his hips moved of their own volition.
Al recovered from his startlement, and tried to go along with Ed, moving his hand to try and recapture whatever it was he'd done right. Another touch; another guttural moan wrung itself from Ed's throat.
He managed to set up a rhythm. Pinned helplessly in two dimensions, Ed was only able to rock frantically back and forth between Al's hands, twisting helplessly under his brother's touches. Al, for his part, did his best to go with Ed's movements, to find a balance between giving him the rubbing he seemed to crave while avoiding too much chafing. He couldn't, he wouldn't look at Ed's face during this; he didn't need to, not when he could already see the tears dripping off Ed's chin to splash on his hands, spotting the brown leather with black. He couldn't ignore Envy's presence, his burning violet eyes, gloating at his brother's anguish. He couldn't, he definitely couldn't think too much about being the source of that anguish; not when he himself had no tears to let go.
When Ed came, it surprised Al; enough that he pulled his hand quickly free of Ed's body without thinking, which elicited a hoarse exclamation of pain. That wasn't enough to stop the process, though, and Ed's entire body shook as his cock spurted white semen onto Al's hand.
When it was over, all the resistance seemed to have drained out of Ed's body with it; he collapsed bonelessly, like a puppet with his strings cut, and Al had to catch him and hold him up to keep him from pulling something.
Ed's face rested against the front of Al's chest plate; Al's arm circled around his brother's back, white-splattered hands resting along his spine. Al stared at his hand, and tried not to feel filthy. "Satisfied?" he asked Envy coldly, not turning his head to look.
"Oh, quite,"—a very different voice suddenly insinuated itself, and Al whipped around to face it. In the doorway into the warehouse, past the crates where Envy still sat, watching like a vulture—two new figures in black sat like shadows.
"Lust," he muttered, recognizing her—and Gluttony, of course, Lust's constant shadow. In his arms, Ed stiffened, and Al panicked as he tried to recalculate the odds of escape in their favor. Now with not just one, but three of the monsters here—but they had to get away, they had to, before—
"So what's the verdict?" Envy said sharply, all his attention seemingly on Lust; his posture was tense, though, belying the aura of casualness. "We have our orders?"
"You didn't even wait to hear them before you started playing," Lust chided, and Envy shrugged. Al's spirits leapt in hope. Maybe—maybe Envy would get in trouble, maybe there'd be an opportunity—
Lust stepped forward, walking with an easy, undulating grace; her heels stepped sharply on the concrete floor, and here eyes stayed trained on the two of them. "We're to take them in tonight," she said, sounding bored. "Pride will open our route after sunset; until then, there's nothing to do but wait."
"No," Al whispered.
"Any word on what condition they have to be in?" Envy said, trying to feign casualness to cover up the eager lust underneath.
Al's arms tightened around Ed as he looked from one deadly, inhuman pair of eyes to another. Who were they, he wondered desperately, crazily; what did they want—-
"Doesn't matter one bit," Lust purred.
Envy's laughter, echoing around the corners, had a tinge of almost hysterical relief. "Well, then," he said jovially, "we don't have a problem here. So long as they're still breathing—sorry, so long as one of them is breathing—when we deliver them, it doesn't matter what else we do, now does it?"
"Envy," Lust said, and her voice was calmly amused, but... Al shot her a quick look. "You're too careless, again."
"What, just because I know how to enjoy a good show? Always so conscientious, Lust!" Envy met Lust's eyes, challengingly—and surely Al wasn't imagining the tension that rose between them? A sting of hope surfaced in his mind; if there was some way he could work on that tension, divide the two Sins...
"It's too bad you missed it," Envy continued, still holding Lust's eyes. "Even you could use a chance to... let go of yourself every now and then."
Lust didn't answer, and Al searched frantically for the right words to say, for something that would take advantage of this opportunity. Unconsciously, his arms tightened around Ed, who took a pained gasp.
At the sound, both of the Sins looked back towards them. Lust's slit-pupilled eyes rested on him for a moment; then she looked back at Envy, and smiled, chillingly. "Yes, it's too bad we couldn't come a little earlier," she purred.
Envy's smile broadened, and Al felt his heart sink; the moment of tension, whatever the cause had been, was gone. "I'd hate to see you go without," Envy smirked. "Let's see if we can rouse them for another round."
"No!" Al's angry shout cut across their conversation. "Why can't you monsters leave us alone? You already made me have s-sex with him, aren't you satisfied already?"
Envy doubled over with laughter, and Lust's perfectly shaped eyebrows lifted with surprised. "Oh, you are too much," Envy gasped. "You think that's all there is to sex? A little fingering and a handjob? That hardly qualifies as foreplay!"
"He's so innocent," Lust commented idly.
"So stupid, more like," Envy said, and straightened up again, teeth glinting. "Let's give our boy a taste of the real thing, why don't we?"
For a moment, Al's paralyzed mind couldn't process that statement, and then a shuddering gasp ripped from Ed's mouth, and it clicked. They wanted him to—"No," he said again, voice tight with anger and disbelief. "You can't. I can't. I—" he hesitated, then shoved aside his humiliation and pushed on. "I c-can't even do that. I don't have a... I don't have one of those."
Envy snickered at his hedging; Lust began to walk towards them again. "That's a handicap," she murmured, her movement and her eyes as mesmerizing as a snake's to a mouse. "But I think we can come up with something."
She stopped a bare breath away; Al considered attacking. But then he saw Envy, watching avidly, and Gluttony, prowling about the edge of the warehouse, and reluctantly dismissed the idea.
"Drop him," Lust said.
Alphonse pulled Ed a little closer. His older brother wasn't looking.
Lust's lips curved slightly, and she reached out and casually wound her fingers through Ed's hair. The tips of her pointed nails dug into Ed's scalp, and Al was nearly paralyzed with fear, remembering how quickly those fingers could flash into unnatural scimitars.
However, all that happened was that Lust pulled, yanking on Ed's hair like a leash. It jerked his head back, bending his neck at a painful angle as Al tried to keep his brother protectively close. He didn't want to relinquish his grip on Ed. Didn't want to give him up to whatever these monsters were going to do to him.
He changed his mind, though, when he saw the golden strands slowly tearing away from Ed's skin, and a tiny whimper escaped his brother's lips. Abruptly he loosened his hold, and Ed fell to the concrete floor in a tangle of sprawled limbs and iron. Al suppressed a mental wince at the ungainliness of the fall, and prayed that nothing had been broken.
Then Lust stepped in front of him, and demanded his attention. Warily, Al tried to back away, but found himself frozen by those mesmerizing eyes.
Lust held up one hand for him to see, then flashed her fingers into long, piercing talons. Before Al could do more than flinch, she'd brought her hand down in a slashing motion, and the loincloth part of the armor that had been his only piece of clothing fluttered to the ground, in shreds.
Lust tilted her head slightly, as if considering, and her fingers flashed again. Al froze as he heart metal screech and scrape in protest. He felt no pain, barely felt anything at all, but he was aware of the steel shredding and giving way under those unnatural claws. He couldn't keep himself from looking down, and frantically tried to cast his mind away from what was happening to him; to wonder how it was that Lust came to know the array, when the homunculi couldn't do alchemy; anything not to think about those claws digging in, mutilating, between his legs.
"You have plenty of material to spare, down here," Lust told him, sounding amused. "Perhaps this was what your brother had in mind when he made this form. No?"
"What are you doing to him?" Ed growled, and Al saw his brother trying to struggle upwards, completely lacking in leverage, before his muscles trembled and gave out and cracked him against the concrete again. "Leave him alone, you bitch!"
"Oh?" Lust cast a look over her shoulder, claws momentarily still. "Are you offering to change places with him, then? I promise you I can cut this shape into flesh as easily as steel."
"No!" Al cried, overwhelming Edward's voice, and bringing Lust's attention back to him.
Steel filings dusted down as she withdrew, hand returning to a semblance of a human once more. With a strange smile on her face, Lust reached out and took his gauntlet, and forced him to place his hand directly on top of the array she'd carved into his metal flesh.
He could tell which array it was; he struggled to take his hand away, but her strength resisted. It was a simple matter-changing array, for size and shape, not composition. "What are you trying to do?" he demanded.
Envy made a derisive sound, that echoed in the empty room. "How does it feel," he taunted, "that the runt there is a third your size, but has three times as much cock as you? It was he who turned you into an emasculated metal freak, wasn't it? It's about time you got some payback for that."
"I don't want to do anything like that!" Al cried, struggling to pull away again. "You can't use alchemy, you can't use this array yourself. You can't make me do anything!"
"No?" Lust's eyes narrowed, and Al heard the creak of tortured metal as the points on her talons hardened and grew slightly. The warning was clear.
Al choked in horror, and involuntarily glanced past Lust at Ed; the boy was struggling to push himself up, to get off his back and into a more protected position, but it was a futile endeavor, sending the iron bar clattering over the concrete. He was helpless. Helpless.
Al looked up into the darkness of the warehouse spaces—the best he could do since he could not close his eyes—and activated the array under his fingers.
The metal bulged at the apex of the crotch, quickly reshaping and growing into a metal imitation of a phallus. He'd just had his brother's cock in his hands, a few minutes earlier, so the image of what one should look like was still too vividly clear.
Lust's eyes widened slightly, then narrowed with pleased satisfaction. "Don't stop yet," she hissed, when he paused, the blue glow dying down. "Come now, for the size you are, that is an insult."
Al darted a quick glance down, his eyes telling him what his hands couldn't, before he had to look away in shame. "You want me to—" He choked on the words, and had to stop and start again. "You want me to put this i-in him, don't you? Well, this is all that will f-fit."
A mocking bark of laughter from Envy. "Oh, don't underestimate the shorty," he said. "He's so used to bending over to let the military screw him, he must have had lots of practice."
Lust's claws gouged deep lines in the metal of his gauntlet. "Keep going," she said, smiling. "You know, most men would kill for a chance to redefine their penis size however they choose. They'd be in envy of you."
"Leave me out of this," the other Sin said. "Mine's just fine thanks."
"I will tell you when to stop," Lust asserted. Reluctantly, Al willed the activation of the array again.
Al tried to slow the process down, creeping the growth of the metal phallus incrementally, but Lust was patient and unyielding, slit-pupilled eyes glowing in the light of the reaction. When she finally released her grip on his hand, Al stared down at the thing he'd made in horror. It was easily the size of his brother's forearm, jutting awkwardly out from between his legs.
It didn't look like a real cock, or at least not like his brother's; it was artificially smooth, perfectly round at the tip. All Al could think of was that this was going to have to go into a very tight space, and the smoother he could make it, the easier it would be on Ed.
It was disgusting. And when he moved, and it banged against the inside of his thighs, it made him disgusting.
"I trust you know what to do, hmm?" Lust said, and then she stepped away, leaving the space between him and his brother clear. Her heels rang against the concrete as she crossed over to where Envy was perched.
When Ed got a good look at Al, his face drained of blood, and a spasm shook him. "Al no," he gasped, even as Al took a few hesitant steps closer, and crouched down beside him. "You can't do this. You can't fucking do this to me, Al. I don't want it, I don't want it..."
"But they'll hurt you if I don't, Niisan," Al whispered. Too terrified to be much more than numb.
"Then let them hurt me!" Ed's voice rose almost uncontrollably. "What difference does it make if they use you as a tool? Don't do this to yourself, Al, don't do this to me. If they want to shoot me, they'll shoot me—it'll heal, it'll heal. Let that bastard fuck me if he wants—he's dying to, I can tell from here. But don't help them!"
Al met his brother's eyes, steadily, robbed of his voice.
"Well?" One of the Sins called out sharply from behind them; for a moment, Al couldn't identify which one, before the malicious tone marked it as Envy. "Get on with it, boy. Or do you want me to come do it for you?"
"No." Al turned to face them, and braced himself.
Envy frowned with displeasure; Lust merely watched him with unfathomable eyes. "What do you mean, no?" he demanded. "You want your brother to get hurt?"
"No, I don't!" Al denied, but he didn't budge. "But if you hurt him, then that's your fault, not mine. And I won't br-break his trust. That would hurt more than anything else you could do to him."
Envy scoffed, loudly. Lust just folded her arms over her chest, and turned her head to the side. "We'll see about that," she murmured. "Gluttony?"
Al felt his heart freeze, then plummet. Oh no. No...
"Lust?" Alerted by the sound of his name, the fat little Sin came waddling eagerly over. He turned white, vacant eyes on Al, and past him, Ed. "Is it ok now? Can I eat him?" he whined.
"You can't!" Al cried, voice strangled. "You—you need him alive. You said so!"
"Alive, yes," Lust said, eyes glinting, "but nobody said anything about whole. You two have a head start on us there, but there are actually quite a few more parts he could stand to lose before it killed him. Gluttony," she said, turning to him with an almost kind tone, "do you think you could manage small bites on this one?"
"Small bites?" Gluttony's gaze swung between Ed, splayed on the floor, and Lust. "Can I do small bites?"
"You'll have to anyway," Envy put in, sounding almost anticipatory, "considering how small he is already—"
Lust looked back at Al. "You do remember what Gluttony here does to limbs, don't you?"
Al remembered. He remembered the sight of the monster sinking its teeth into his leg—the sight of the tempered steel writhing away and leaving a gaping socket behind. And he remembered perfectly well the way a freshly severed limb looked, on a little boy bleeding to death in the choking haze.
The horror gave way to numbness. They had him and there was no way of getting out of it. Everything—Ed's wishes, his remaining dignity, even his trust—was going to have to come second to that image in his mind.
"Fine," he whispered, in a tiny voice. Apparently not hearing him, Gluttony was starting to waddle forward, drool escaping his mouth. Al's voice rose to a panicked shout. "I said fine! I'll do it! Just keep him away!"
"Al!" Ed hissed from behind him, full of recrimination and betrayal.
"Shut up, Niisan," Al hissed, even as Lust, smiling with triumph, called Gluttony back to her side.
"The fuck I will! Al, you said you were thinking of some way out of this!"
"I'm still trying!" Al clenched his empty gloves into fists, in frustration. "But there are three of them and I can't see any way to get out of this, Niisan, just to get it over with as soon as possible."
Ed swallowed, breath coming faster; Al saw his glance flicker down, then away as if the sight burned him. "I don't want this!" he said with barely suppressed panic.
"It doesn't matter what you want," Al replied, and felt the emptiness deep within him.
Ed clenched his jaw, and closed his eyes.
They were watching; Al could feel the twin violet gazes from across the room. They wanted a show, he knew. Envy, in particular, wanted to see blood and pain. Well, then, Al would just have to make sure not to give the Sin that satisfaction.
As smooth as he had desperately tried to make it, the metal shaft still chafed under his glove. It would burn and tear in Edward's flesh. He needed something like the oil Ed used in his automail, or the kind he applied to his own joints to keep rust away. But there was nothing here at all, nothing to use. No liquids at all.
None except blood. Ed's. He would have plenty of that, he was afraid, if he went ahead this way. What else was there?
In a sudden inspiration, he moved and resettled himself, kneeling beside Ed's head. "Brother," he said tentatively, and settled his hand across Edward's lips. "Brother, open your mouth."
Ed made a negative sound, shaking his head once. His eyes were still tightly closed.
"Niisan, you have to," Al said, desperate even to his own ears. "I need your... your spit, do you see? I haven't got any, but I need something. Or else it'll be too rough, and hurt you. Come on. You have to. Don't make me force you," he said, in a voice near to despair.
Although he kept his eyes firmly shut, slowly Ed's lips parted. Relief washed over Al, as he dipped the fingers of his hand into Ed's mouth. They came away stained darker, with little trails of moisture. He rubbed the same hand over the metal shaft, trying to lubricate it. There wasn't enough; he went back to Ed's mouth for more.
It occurred to him that Ed had not had any water in many hours; his mouth and throat were already parched. There was not going to be enough. He slipped his fingers under Ed's tongue and rubbed gently, trying to stimulate more. Ed shuddered and choked a little, but couldn't move his head away.
Already the little bit of spit he'd got on the shaft was starting to dry, and Al began to panic. This was taking too long. He shifted again, and his free hand came around behind Ed's neck, pulling him up and supporting him. "Open wider, Brother," he ordered him, trying to put a touch of teasing in his voice and failing. "Come on—"
Ed had a big mouth. Al knew this to be truth in every sense of the word; from the way his brother could spit fury and sarcasm at the most unwise of occasions, to the way he could shovel down an entire meal in five minutes and be ready to go right away if he had to. But now, holding Ed's head between his large, clumsy hands, for the first time he was truly aware of how small Ed's mouth was. His jaw, his skull, his bones under Ed's huge hands. So very frail. So easy to hurt.
Not more than the first few inches of the metal shaft could fit into Ed's mouth. Al thought about where else that thing was going to have to go, and had to firmly suppress the panic that thought caused.
"Lick," he encouraged Ed, softly, hand behind his head holding him firmly to the task. He really hoped he didn't taste nasty, a part of him thought. But then, how was he supposed to know?
Ed gagged, then choked; Al let him pull back. A trail of spit slipped out of the corner of Ed's mouth, and Al quickly gathered it up with his finger. Changing directions, he guided Ed's mouth sideways down the length of the shaft, trailing wetness behind him.
"That should be okay, Niisan," he whispered, and Ed pulled sharply away and swallowed hard. Al steadied himself, and lowered his brother's head gently back down. He ran his palm down the metal shaft, trying to spread the wetness around the circumference, and then held onto it to keep it from banging between his legs as he lifted himself and stepped over between Edward's legs.
He stared for a moment, blankly, then lifted his head to the Sins. "This won't work," he said. "The leg bar is in the way."
"Work around it," Envy ordered shortly.
"I can't," he said, and demonstrated the problem. When he tried to kneel between Ed's splayed legs, the iron bar interfered; metal clanked and screeched noisily as he tried and failed to lift it out of the way. "His legs just won't spread far enough. I can't get at him unless I remove it."
Envy jiggled impatiently. "So remove it already!" he said.
"Envy," Lust said sharply.
Al froze, as the two of them exchanged another long look. Finally, Envy sniggered, and broke eye contact. "Might as well," he said. "In another few minutes the runt won't even be able to walk, much less run anywhere."
Al dared to move again, and hardly daring to believe he had permission, started to unlock the metal bar from the manacles on Ed's knees. The shackles themselves were locked with a key, and neither of the Sins had made any move to provide him with one.
It took forever, and Al's heart sank as his clumsy fingers fumbled with the cruelly tight bindings. There was absolutely no hope that he could do this in a hurry. At last the metal bar clattered loose to the concrete, and Ed gasped involuntarily in relief as the tension eased.
He started to close his thighs, pulling his knees up to protect himself. Before he could, Al took hold of his knees, forcing them wide again, and then even wider as he settled his hollow metal bulk between them. Ed let out a strangled whimper, and thrashed against the hold, but Al did not release his grip, pulling Ed's knees up on either side of his broad chest. Ed cried out as the overstrained muscles in his thigh began to cramp; Al wrapped his hand around the afflicted area and dug in, trying to give ease to the painful spasm.
"Hurry up," Envy's voice ordered peremptorily, but Al didn't need the prompting. The slick saliva on the metal cock was already drying, and if he waited much longer there would be nothing to protect his brother.
"Please trust me," he whispered to Ed, clamping Ed's knees to his sides as he adjusted Ed's hips. "I'm trying not to hurt you! Just relax and I'll make it as easy as I can."
Something was glittering on Ed's face; startled, Al leaned down to see more closely.
His brother was crying. Tears squeezed from the corner of his closed eyelids. If Al had had a heart, it would have frozen in his chest right then.
"No, don't cry!" he exclaimed involuntarily, and immediately regretted it when he heard Envy's caustic laugh. "Please, Niisan—it'll be all right—"
"Don't," Ed whispered, so faintly that as close as he was, Al could barely hear it. He was fairly sure, though, that the Sins with their unnatural senses could hear every word. "Please don't, Al. I'm begging you. Don't do this to me. Don't do this. Don't do this..."
But Gluttony's voice piped up in the background, asking when he was going to be allowed to start, and Lust's neutral reply. Al smoothed his hand over Ed's cheek, wiping up the tears, and spread the moisture over the quickly-drying spit on the metal cock.
"Sorry," he whispered back, and pushed forward.
Ed cried out, a strangled animal noise that was much worse for Al than any scream. He wished that he could cover his ears, but his hands were firmly on Ed's hips, and anyway it wouldn't have done any good. Ed jerked and struggled, motions that seemed more instinct than anything else. But Al held his hips still and kept him from ripping free.
This was obviously different from before. There was no hidden pleasure here, not for Ed, and not for him. This was nothing but pain, and pain was the show that the Sins wanted to see. He kept moving, as slowly and gently as he could, holding Ed's hips at just the angle where he could push in and be fairly sure of not ripping anything. Tears were flowing down Ed's face more freely now, and a short keening cry ripped from his lips.
Keep going. Just don't stop.
As if from a far distance, he heard the Sins talking, voices casual.
"Look at him squirm," Envy said, with an unconcealed laviciousness.
"He could do better," Lust said in a neutral, almost bored tone. "The boy doesn't know what he's doing.—-Don't stop, boy."
Check for blood. Nothing yet. Don't stop.
"He's worthless," Envy agreed.
"Why not take over, then?" Lust said curiously. "You could certainly put up the form, if not the function."
Envy laughed. Keep moving, don't stop. Al's hands loosened on Ed's hips, now that he was far enough impaled on the shaft that he couldn't move. He leaned forward instead, placing his hands close to Ed's, on either side of the iron bar. A distance that stretched Ed's slight frame from fingertip to fingertip was barely more than shoulder-wide on Al.
"I could," Envy said. "But it wouldn't be as good."
"Enlighten me," Lust murmured.
Ed's face was twisted in agony, flinching every time Al moved more than an inch. His eyes were still closed, which Al regretted. He put all his weight on his left arm, the one closer to the Sins, and carefully touched his right hand to the metal bar by Ed's wrist.
"Look at the runt," Envy said, voice dripping with contempt. "Look at his face. He's crying and begging. I could have strapped him down and beaten him all night, ripped him open from the inside and he would just snarl and curse and hate me for it. He'd scream all right, but he'd never beg. This is so much better. I don't even have to lift a hand and he's in more pain than I could ever put him through."
Don't listen to them. Don't listen. Slowly, under the cover of the slow and careful thrusts, Al scratched at the metal. The next time he leaned back, he put his hand over Ed's fingers, pulled them over to make contact with the array scratched in the metal.
Ed's eyes flew open, staring up into Al's face. Just a few more minutes, he begged, trying to convey meaning with an expressionless steel helm. Just hold out for a few minutes more.
He wished he were his brother, knew his trick. Instead, he had to carefully, without breaking his rhythm or arousing suspicion, scratch the array onto his palm. First he was worried that he wouldn't have time—and then too much time.
They were still watching him, intently, he could feel their gazes burning into him. He needed them to look away. Just for a few moments—just long enough—
Salvation came, unexpectedly, in the form of Gluttony. The third Sin had apparently grown bored of watching Al torment his brother, and was wandering around the circuit of the warehouse. He came back up to the other two now, vacant eyes bright, and snuffling.
"Lust," he said eagerly, "I smell something good. Can I eat it?"
"Augh!" Envy exclaimed, leaning back from Gluttony in disgust. "For God's sake, Lust, haven't you got him better trained than that?"
"It's your own fault he's worked up," Lust said, but she turned back to Gluttony. For just one moment, they were looking away.
"Now," Al gasped hoarsely, even as he reared back and pulled free from Ed with a sudden lurch. The warning was unnecessary, though; Ed's hand already tightened on the iron bar, and there was a crackling as the iron suddenly writhed and disintegrated into dust.
At the same time, Al had already yanked open the chestplate on his armor. The Sins were just starting to turn back to them. Al's hand met Ed's halfway, and with a simultaneous yank launched Ed into the hollow of Al's empty chest. And in the same motion, Al was up and running.
He heard the gunshots at the same time as he felt impacts pinging against his side and back; but Ed was safe, protected, and the bullets couldn't hurt him. Not the way Lust's claws could, or Gluttony's teeth. He made not for the doors, but for the warehouse windows, crashing right through the brittle iron frames and broken glass panes. The hand with the array met the windowpane briefly as he vaulted through, and it was enough to send the alchemical charge down through the wall, into the structure of the building. There.
He didn't look behind him even as he lurched and fell the six-foot drop to the alley behind. Didn't look back as he set off running, at a pounding pace that no normal human could maintain. He heard the building rumble and collapse behind him, and he hoped, just hoped that it would delay them for long enough.
He couldn't take the time to look behind him, to see if they were gaining; he wouldn't know until they threw him down. He couldn't take the time to make sure that Ed was safe, able to brace himself properly on the inside or not.
He ran faster than any human could, but he knew they could run just as fast. And he had so much more to lose, if they caught up to him again.
Later; a more cautious pace, through crowded streets to a more deserted section of town, to hide their trail and throw off the scent. There had been no sign of pursuit, not even now that they were alone.
"We've lost them," Al sighed, slumping down with relief.
"For now, maybe," Ed's defeated grumble was muffled, echoing inside his empty chest. It felt strange. Then there was a bang, of metal on metal. "All right, Al. Let me out of here."
Ed started to fumble with the chest plate, in preparation for crawling out of the armor. All at once, Al put up an arm, preventing him from leaving.
Ed stilled. "What are you doing, Al?"
"Niisan," Al whispered. "I just wanted you to know.... while you're there." It was something he'd been thinking all through the flight from the warehouse, but there wasn't time before. He wished he could take a steadying breath, before he rushed on. "If you wanted to... to rub out the seal. Because of what happened. Then you can. That would be okay."
There was a moment of stillness.
With a mighty shove, Ed pushed Al's blocking arm aside, and clambered awkwardly out of the armor. It took him a moment to straighten up—he needed to cling to one of Al's armor spikes for balance—but when he did, the eyes that swung up to meet Al's were hot with fury.
"I'm gonna have to start a list," Ed growled, "of things to kick your ass for once you're back to normal. What happened in the warehouse is gonna be number two."
"Number two?" Al said in a small voice.
"That—-" and the thrusting motion of Ed's hand, back towards the gaping chest cavity, clearly meant the offer Al had just made—"is gonna be number one. What the hell would be the point, Al? What would be the point of anything then?"
Al bowed his head, humbled. "I—I just thought I owed you that, Niisan."
"Fuck, Al," Ed said, and then Ed's metal knuckles banged on Al's shoulder, getting him to look up again. Ed's eyes were serious, his mouth grim. "What happened back there in that place was meant to be torture every bit as much for you as it was for me, Al, only you didn't seem to notice that. Half the reason I'm so pissed at you is because you just went along with it and let them hurt you."
Al sat back, stunned. He hadn't thought of it that way at all.
"Don't think I'm not pissed, 'cuz I am," Ed continued relentlessly. "But the fact that you'd even think that just goes to show that—that you don't owe me a damn thing. So just put that thought out of your head right now, before I have to knock it out."
Al didn't say anything. He just watched as Ed turned away, and began readjusting himself, regaining his composure. Crackling stiff limbs, pulling together disarrayed clothing, fixing his hair. Slowly piecing himself together.
A clap and a crackle of alchemy mended the torn clothes, covering Ed's skin again. Another clap, and this time Ed turned to him, and Al nearly jumped straight in the air as Ed crouched down between his legs. A moment later, the ungainly metal attachment was gone, vanished back smoothly into the metal from where it had come, without leaving a trace.
Al was suddenly sorry Ed hadn't asked him. He didn't want the metal back; he wanted it gone. Gone away from him.
"I want to take a shower," Al announced, voice remote.
Ed looked up at him, startled, brows drawing together. Al didn't look at him as he continued, "I want a bath. I want to take a bath in a lake and clean myself off."
"Al," Ed said, a note of wariness in his quiet tone. "You can't. You know that."
"I know." There was a faint chattering sound in the air, one he dimly recognized as his own armor plates rattling. "I still want to. I feel—"
He felt filthy, was what he felt. Every part of him that had touched his brother, forced his brother, hurt his brother. Everything looked the same, armored plates gleaming bright and clear; but he still felt the filth, deep inside where no amount of reassurances could reach. He covered his eyes with his hands—the only way to block out the sight of the world—and could not cry. The shaking just increased.
"Al," Ed said, softly, and there was so much, so much in that one word. Al didn't see it, but he heard the soft clank as his brother leaned against his side, throwing his metal arm over Al's shoulder.
Al's touch made him filthy, but somehow, Ed's touch made him feel clean again.