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editor's note: this chapter originally had a title of "All That Matters", but the database design made it extremely difficult to retain that and keep the book-chapter links working. With the author's permission, this first chapter has been retitled to match the rest of the book.

jade pen

Love is a Battlefield

chapter 1. declaration of war

Edward didn't really mind that Al could beat him in most things. His little brother was a suit of armor, after all, and even when he still had his real body, he had always been extremely fast and strong. Losing to him wasn't shameful, because everyone in Resembool lost to Alphonse Elric.

When he met the Elric imposters in one of the perpetually-empty alchemy sections of a library once more, though, he couldn't take it any longer.

"Ah, the little brother returns," Russell Tringham had mocked, his blue eyes sparkling. "I do believe that you have gotten shorter since last we met."

"Shut up!" Edward bristled; even more now, since he knew that Russell was a year younger than he was. "At least I use my own name!"

"As do I, now." The elder Tringham gently marked his place in the book in his hands, and set it down. "I did take that piece of advice to heart. It has actually started to work in our favor. Right, Fletcher?"

The younger Tringham nodded, and sighed. "Brother, don't antagonize him like that. We'll get kicked out of this library too, if you end up fighting."

"You got kicked out of a library?" Edward burst out laughing. "Sounds just like you! What was it for?"

"Brother..." Alphonse, still a giant suit of armor, sighed. "Can't we just get our research done and keep going? There's no reason to argue..."

Russell easily smiled. "Actually, that was the last place where I tried to use your name. Apparently, they knew you by reputation, and kicked me out before I could get through the door."

"That's a lie!" Edward clenched his fists. "I bet they just knew your stupid trick by then!"

Fletcher, who by this time had edged towards Alphonse, whispered, "Should we try to pull them apart? They're going to get into a fight at this rate..."

Slowly, Al shook his head. "Brother's not going to listen to anything at this rate. I don't think your brother's going to stop anytime soon, either."

"What should we do?" Fletcher really was concerned; if they lost this lead, then they'd be back at square one, and that would be... really bad.

"You're right, I was 'trespassing.' Just like a certain shorty alchemist that I could mention... But how dare you call me a liar!?" Russell was still grinning widely; he hadn't had this much entertainment in a long time.

"Because you are!" Edward stomped his foot on the ground. "You're a born liar! You haven't said a true word since we got in here! And stop calling me short!"

Alphonse sighed. "Let's get to work, Fletcher. We can do our research while they're having their fun, and if they get thrown out, then at least we can finish it up. That's why you're here, right? To help your brother?"

The younger Tringham nodded, and ran a hand through his short blond hair. "Yeah... thanks. We can work together, right?"

"Sure." Al nodded. "Let's go." And with that, the two brothers walked off, determined not to return until their older siblings had returned to some semblance of common sense.

Which, considering how Russell was acting, wouldn't be for some time. "I'll stop it when it stops being true. Which won't be for..."

Edward snapped. At the possibility of another insult, he flung himself at the taller blond, snarling. Just in time, Russell saw the danger flying towards him, and leapt to the side.

"Are you insane, Edward!?" Russell's smirk had faded at this. "We can't afford to get thrown out!"

"You can't." Edward was smiling maniacally at this. "But I just have to file a misconduct report. It'll take me five minutes, and that's if I write left-handed." He burst out laughing at the look on Russell's face; the smirk was gone, and the taller blond was quite concerned. One way or another, I'll wipe the smile off that pretty face of his for good!

When he clapped his hands for a transmutation, though, Russell reached out his left and, and with a flash of red light, three of the books' pages wrapped themselves around Edward's right arm. "I still have the Red Stone," he announced, "It evens the playing field, wouldn't you say?"

And there was that smile again, the smile that made Edward gnash his teeth in rage. It was like Roy's Smirk, but worse, because it came from a man who was younger than the Full Metal Alchemist.

"No, it doesn't!" He managed to rip the fibers off of his auto-mail, and rolled forward as more paper chains started flying towards him. He clapped his hands as he tumbled, and when he got up, he pressed them to the ground. There was the familiar flash of blue light, and Russell braced for the worse.

Nothing obvious happened. Russell smiled again. "Messed up the formula? Or, perhaps, were you having trouble seeing..."

"Idiot." Edward smiled a most predatory grin. "I've got you right where I want you."

"What on earth are you—" He stopped short. Russell had tried to take a step forward, to get within striking range... but the floor had partially closed over his feet, leaving him utterly immobilized. "I see... no matter, one transmutation and..."

He didn't get the chance. When he bent down to apply the Red Stone to the wooden floor, Edward pounced. Russell, unable to dodge, tried to brace against the impact, but it was impossible; Edward lead with his auto-mail shoulder, striking directly against the younger man's chest.

The force of the blow sent both of them going back. But, since Russell's feet were stuck in the floor, he started falling down, bringing Edward with him. In the end, Tringham and Elric slammed onto the table, sending books, papers, and pens flying.

For just a moment, Russell was dazed and unable to move. In that moment, Edward reached down and plucked the Red Stone from his fingers. Russell protested, "Get off of me!"

"No."

"I see... so that's how it is." Russell, his feet buried in wood panelling and pinned to a table by the entire weight of the Full Metal Alchemist, without his Stone and without a way to draw a transmutation array, smiled. "Where do we go from here?"

"I'm going to wipe that smile off your face, damn it!" Edward pounded his auto-mail fist onto the table, sending what few supplies remained to the floor and cracking the wood.

"Good luck." And he was still grinning; with golden-eyed, very angry Death staring him right in the face, Russell Tringham was smiling as though he was the one in control!

Edward's mind was in a whirl. Here he was; his opponent was pinned on a table with his feet trapped, no way to draw an array, and without any sort of backup... and that didn't scare him at all. What, he pondered, could possibly cause him to lose his cockiness!?

The answer hit him. It made him blush, but it also made him smile demonically. Best of all, he reassured himself, It won't mean anything. I'll do it, get him to freak out, and then I'll go back to the research. Easy enough. But... should I really...

"Get off of my stomach. I know that you can't reach any higher, but you are giving me a cramp." Still smiling, still mouthing off. "Besides, it's not like—"

Edward launched himself again, this time crushing his lips against Russell's. The younger boy's eyes widened, his body went slack, and he offered absolutely no resistance when Edward thrust a tongue into his mouth. Edward, for his part, was thorough, leaving absolutely nothing to chance. He dragged his tongue through every inch of Russell's mouth, even going so far as to nibble against the taller boy's lips, not stopping until Russell groaned softly.

Then he pulled away, smiling widely at his victory. "Well then, how did you—" He couldn't believe his eyes.

Russell was still smiling. He was panting, blushing, and completely off-guard, but he was still smiling. "Is that all you have, Edward?"

For just a moment, Edward was tempted to concede defeat. But, after a bet like that, the only real choice was to raise the stakes. He couldn't back down now. His pride wouldn't let him. He had to go forward.

"Not a chance." He leaned forward, initiating another brutal kiss, and while Russell was off-guard and helpless, Edward let his auto-mail hand wander down until it touched a particularly sensitive spot on Russell's body.

The younger blond tried to arch into the touch, but the combination of his feet being stuck and his shoulders being pinned meant that he couldn't get the leverage he needed. Softly, Edward rubbed that spot, smiling as he saw Russell slowly grow more and more flustered.

One good combination of nibbling on the ears and kneading the front of Russell's trousers broke the taller boy's concentration, and his mouth gaped open as he groaned in pleasure. As soon as he had done so, Edward stopped. "There. That should do it."

This time, Russell groaned in frustration. "You aren't going to leave me like this, are you?"

"Absolutely. I've got research to attend to." Edward turned around, and offered a mocking wave with the Red Stone. "By the way, I'll be keeping this. Just to make sure you don't get into any trouble."

"Heh... should have known that you were short in more ways than one."

Those words stopped Edward cold. Slowly, menacingly, he whispered, "What did you just say?"

"Absolutely nothing." Edward could hear the smile in Russell's voice.

So he turned around, his golden eyes flashing fire. "Care to repeat that?"

"Absolutely nothing." Just as he thought, Russell was smiling again, and had gotten himself upright. Due to this, Edward's previous victory felt so hollow, especially considering the insult.

He dashed forward, and snarled, "Were you implying that I was lacking something?"

"I didn't 'imply' it. I outright said it. You are short in more ways than one. I'm certain you know what I'm talking about."

"You... you..." Edward's face was turning a brilliant red; a combination of rage and embarrassment. "Sit!"

"Beg your pardon?"

"Sit! Lay down! Whatever, just get on the stupid table!" When Russell didn't seem inclined to move, Edward pushed him down. "Fine! You want to go through this stupid contest, we'll do it! But if you lose..."

"I won't." If Russell's grin got any wider, it would quite possibly split his face.

"When you lose, I'll make you regret wasting my time!"

"And what if I win?"

"In the hypothetical case of you pulling a marginal victory, then I'll let you go. Deal?"

Russell shook his head. "Not good enough. You wasted my time, too, and then you assaulted me. When I win, I'll punish you."

"Sounds fair enough." Edward smiled as well, and disconnected Russell's suspenders. He fought a mounting blush as he struggled with the button and zipper, and frowned furiously when he looked up, seeing Russell reclining on the table with an indulgent grin.

With one motion, he pulled down the elder Tringham's pants, and frowned further. As he had feared, being taller really did have a relationship with that... He pondered this for a moment, until the now half-naked boy quipped, "You like what you see?"

Edward struggled to keep from strangling the other blond, and after a moment, he countered, "Not really. Watch." With that, he pulled down his own pants.

Russell Tringham swore. There was no conceivable, biological way that it was possible, but he saw the proof right before his eyes. Edward even made a point of placing his next to Russell's own, just so that there was no doubt. Gone was the smile, gone was the cocky attitude. The smirk was on the other face, so to speak.

Edward clapped his hands, and placed them on the table. There was a flash of blue light, and Russell found his hands encased in the table's wooden structure. He couldn't help but let a hint of apprehension sneak into his voice. "Edward Elric, what are you doing?"

"Like I said, I'm going to make you regret wasting my time." Edward pulled up his leather pants, and grinned. "You want the Stone back?"

"Yes!" Russell squirmed under the golden gaze; he most certainly did not want this situation to continue. "Give it back!"

"All right, then. Tell you what; you beg me for it, and I'll give it to you."

"What!?"

"Either that, or I take it with me. Deal's a deal, after all."

Russell grimaced, then swallowed his pride. "Fine. Please, Edward? Please give me my Stone back?"

"Well since you asked so nicely..." Edward couldn't contain his mirth as he positioned the Stone between Russell's legs.

"What are you doing!?" The younger blond was frantic now, struggling against the wood trapping his limbs.

"Like I said, a deal's a deal. Here's the Stone." And with that, he partially pushed the Stone into Russell's body. Tringham desperately struggled, blushing and thrashing, but Edward casually reached out with his auto-mail, and restrained him. When it was half-way in, he stopped, and waved. "See you!"

"What? Where are you going!?"

"I think I hear the librarian coming. I'm going to go and check up on Al, and tell Fletcher that you might need a little help. Better hope that he's a fast runner." And with that and one last mocking wave, Edward walked out. Leaving Russell Tringham half-naked, horribly aroused, and unable to use the Red Stone lodged in his entrance.

He honestly didn't know which would be worse: being found by the librarian, or being found by his brother. "Curse you, Edward Elric! I'll get you for this!"