A/N: Blah.

Warnings: All that psycho jazz you've come to expect. Smuttiness for all! (if it can be called that.)

Pairings: Envy x Ed.

Disclaimers: Don't own FMA. There.


Chapter 17: Take My Pulse


And so Envy sat, staring at Ed with those unnerving pin-point pupils…like small, volcanic islands trapped amidst a hurricane-ravaged sea…gray, empty…and still somehow, they seemed loaded beyond any words Ed could pull out his mental vocabulary. It was something…almost…subhuman.

That was exactly what was so debilitating about that stare of Envy's; the fact that he seemed barely human…and was this, what all the hype about drugs about?

What could be so great about seeming so empty…does it feel as empty as it looks…? Ed thought to himself, his throat going dry the longer he stood there, in the one-sided staring contest with Envy. One-sided because Ed was pretty sure he was doing more staring than Envy was…I mean, sure, Envy was looking at him…but did he really even see him? See the apprehension in his stance? See the fear in his eyes? See the way tension, desire, and …curiosity…churned beneath his skin, tightening his muscles…? But to Ed, there was something even worse, something more terrifying than Envy not seeing any of this…What if the boy could see all of it? See past it even? That was definitely the worse out of the two evils.

Ed wasn't a fool. He knew he was naïve in some aspects, having not been raised in a particularly-troubled home or having encountered any obscene or rattling episodes in his youth. Not until the Nina incident anyway…and that had only been recently. And though observant, he didn't make it his business to look into matters that didn't concern him…

There had been no reason for him to wander outside the circle of friends and values his parents had given him and Al a subtle, and then not-so-subtle, push towards…Even now, he was sure he'd bitten of more than he could chew. He wasn't learning fast enough and, because of that, he was making unnecessary bets and giving way more than he would have, had he learned to get wiser faster; Envy had been taking advantage of him from the very beginning, taking advantage of Ed's hesitant curiosity and ripping all the old beliefs into visible shreds.

And now…now the aforementioned boy was opening portals that would be better off closed. The last thing Ed needed was more…things…like sex…like this…to arouse his interest. But Envy had still gone and done it. And that was why Ed still stood in front of Envy, like a deer caught in headlights, a child transfixed by the open flame of a candle; even minutes after the older boy had spoken.

/"Come keep me company, Ed."/

"Edward…" Envy called, that smirk coming into a full and hideous view.

Ed steeled himself, narrowing his eyes in defense. And yet despite this stance, he still wondered what would drive Envy to this kind of release…was it possible that mind-numbing sex wasn't enough? What was so messed up inside him that not even sex was enough to fix it, even if temporarily?

"What good is all this shit; why-" Ed began voicing his thoughts only…Envy made a sound as if sneezing. It was only a moment later that Ed realized that the boy was laughing, doubled over his lap, the chuckles and giggles and whatever shaking his half-naked form. Yes…Envy was half-naked, wasn't he? Those well-toned arms…the same pale skin Ed had come to acquaint with no one else but the dark-haired dreg. All Envy

And at the same time not him at all, maybe…

At this angle, Ed couldn't see the dark bruises on Envy's wrists…though he was pretty sure they were there.

Envy stood up, walking slowly towards Ed as if he had all the time in the world. He probably did; Ed certainly wasn't going anywhere, much to the blond's annoyance. Yes, Edward was very displeased with himself. He just kept waltzing right into trap after trap after trap, goddamnit…and what was this sympathy? Wasn't he the only victim here?

"Does this scare you?" Envy asked, now coming to stand before Ed, almost a full head above him. Christ, Ed had never remembered Envy appearing so damned tall…maybe he should go back to sleep. Maybe he was seeing things in just as blurred a reality as Envy was in his high state. Maybe highs were contagious.

Still, despite the anxiety, Ed remained stubborn, staring up defiantly at Envy. Just why should he answer a question like that? "You didn't answer me," said Ed. "Why bother with this shit? And if you're gonna do it, why here? Couldn't you-"

"What? Save my nasty little habits for a place where they won't burn your little virgin eyes out?" Envy drawled, taking Ed's wrist and pulling him towards the toilet seat. Ed was almost hurt by the absurdity of the statement…he didn't come off that shallow, did he? But…hadn't that been somewhere along the lines of what he was actually going to say? Alright, maybe – yes…it had, he realized blankly.

Envy perched himself on the toilet seat, dragging Ed to straddle his lap. The blond complied, feeling his body switch from tense to completely rag-doll. He really didn't want to resist Envy, didn't want to get him angry when he wasn't sure what to expect – not that he ever was. Envy sighed contentedly as he leaned forward, nuzzling Ed's neck and still holding the boy's wrist.

His hands are freezing.

"You know what I want?" sinful, sinful Envy murmured.

"What?" came Ed's hoarse reply, his gaze focused elsewhere, on the place right above Envy's head.

"I want you to suck me off…" he groaned, rocking his hips slightly against Ed's. Ed swallowed. Hard. "Do you think you'd be able to do that?" Envy asked, patronizing Ed as if he were some corner-street, shoe-shine boy.

Ed had not the wits at the moment to respond with the usual indignation – he simply blinked, as if that would make Envy's open request go away. When Ed didn't answer right away, Envy cocked his head to the side, suddenly taking one of those possessive nips at Ed's throat, the ones he was known for using frequently…Ed was now realizing it was the dark-haired boy's way of goading a response out of you.

Ed thought about his dry throat; how stiff and loose and low and high and just how unbalanced he felt overall. He was pretty sure he didn't trust himself not to gag all over the place if he even attempted a blow job…he was that unsettled.

"No," he replied honestly, taking a deep breath as one of Envy's hands moved from his wrist to wander up his thigh, to cup his ass. Honest wasn't exactly a good thing with Envy…the older boy was rarely honest himself, so how could it be? The truth was an ugly thing for both of them…a very ugly thing that both boys usually ignored altogether – unless Envy was trying to rub Ed's face into the dirt.

Ed silently prayed the boy wouldn't try to force him to do anything. His wits weren't about him and violent confrontation with Envy definitely wouldn't remedy that.

What if I lose the heart to resist him anymore? Damnit, what's wrong with me?

"Oh well…" Envy sing-sang, as if it were Ed who was missing out. Ed breathed a silent breath of relief. "Then how about…" He shifted Ed's weight further back, using his other hand to take Ed's hand and guide it down the front of his sweat pants.

Ed was getting that creepy, used feeling again, but he did as directed, pumping his hand slowly up and down the length of Envy's shaft. Envy groaned, and well…Ed wasn't really sure of what went on after that. His mind wandered…

Do I like doing this? Ed thought to himself. No, not really.

What exactly did one get out of jerking another off? Ed supposed there might be a certain power that came with having a person's climax hanging in the balance, their pleasure, pain and every nuance in between literally being in your hands (or hand rather)…but Ed wasn't getting that out the experience. He never had. Ever. If anything, he felt more like a puppet, because God forbid he make the decision to actually deny Envy an orgasm…then he'd have a very pissed off and horny dreg to deal with.

That was enough incentive for Ed to pump harder…and pump harder he did. He pumped so hard, he practically lost the feeling of all around him – he officially zoned out. No longer did he feel the rough touches of Envy's rude hands or the kiss of the other boy's breath. All that was lost to Ed.

Then he finally faded back to reality, only to find Envy with his head cocked back, snoring away. He usually found the older male pretty attractive…but he couldn't seem to say the same for the snoring. Not to mention Ed was getting that awkward feeling again…like he couldn't understand what was going on under his own skin…

Then Ed had slunk away, not bothering to wash his hands for fear of waking Envy up. He shut the lights off on his way out and just prayed to high heaven he'd get a decent sleep.

He'd be damned if he had to dream about jerking Envy off tonight. Hell no…and he'd be damned if he gave any more thought to Envy's life outside their twisted little world. It wasn't his business. Ed would just continue manning his post right outside the loop.

(X)(x)(X)

12:59…at least seven more hours…

The smell of dust and…expired pine sol (if there were indeed such a thing) reached her nostrils as she opened the door.

Sheska was peeking her head around the door of her father's study, as if some hibernating creature might attack her should she step too far inside. Francesca Rockbell hadn't been in this room for what seemed like years, but it'd really only been a few months. One would think that, with her father having been so recently locked away, a deeper sadness would've resonated throughout her being upon laying eyes on the listless-looking room…but it did not. There was only a firm sense of duty as she quietly shut the door behind her and went about skimming the room's surface for anything of interest.

Grams and Winry would have a fit if they caught me in here…well, maybe not Grams…

There had been a time where Laurent Rockbell had sat in the very chair, emptily facing Sheska now. He'd spent long nights there, even vacation days, scribbling notes and ideas to himself. He made life about his work at the clinic, but Sheska had suspected there was more than the clinic to blame for their father's recluse…Winry had never wanted to accept this theory though. The blonde had dismissed it as she often did dismiss Sheska's hunches: with a toss of her hair and a roll of her eyes.

Usually, that was enough to unsettle Sheska – she'd discard the theory immediately – but this time was different. This time, she was going to follow through on her instincts regardless of what Winry said…because this time, it was her blissfully-ignorant sister who could be in danger. As it often went with Winry, Sheska had to follow behind the girl and clean up her mess – hoping to sift clues out of the destruction left in her eccentric wake. Though she was following two trails this time: Winry and Solomon Mc Gohlavin's.

If that's even the boy's real name.

At this point, Sheska was putting nothing past Solomon, not that she ever really had…only now she was confident enough to let her imagination run free with chimerical ideas of speculation. It was just as likely that he be a deadly assassin sent from some angry pharmaceutical faction, as it was that he were an explosive boy super-spy! The outcomes of having either near her sister were considerably apocalyptic as far as Sheska was concerned…but she'd keep it simple for now. Point blank, right now, Sheska was just willing to bet Sole was a fake: a disgusting, lecherous fake.

Sheska, however dull she might've been considered looks wise, was not a dull girl intellectually. By no means. She was actually quite bright, beyond bright…and she knew a hidden motive when she saw one…or rather when one kept cutting their eyes at its hiding place. There was something in this study, her father's study, that Solomon McGohlavin wanted. She was sure of it! But what? How would he even know it was here…What would her father be doing associating with someone like Solomon McGohlavin…?

"Dad…" Sheska growled to herself, finding it much more comforting to blame the disjointed pieces of this mystery on her dad's absence rather than her own lapse in logic; it did all fit together, she just had to find the other pieces…this was not a dead end. She was not going crazy…she had a perfectly-reasonable explanation for her suspicions toward Sole. Really.

Her father, though admirable for his work, had not been a saint. Sheska was quite sure of this, not allowing the love she had for the man to cloud her judgment. While she didn't believe he'd murdered that girl, she was positive he'd gotten involved in something that would make people want to make it look like he had…murdered the girl, that is. Call her paranoid, but with the vibes she had been getting from Sole ever since she'd first met him, it would be no surprise to Sheska if the boy knew what exactly that 'something' her father had gotten involved in was. But whatever the case…it just had to something dastardly if it connected to that 'Sole' boy.

"Alright, Mr. McGohlavhin…we have only a few hours until we meet again. I will find out what it is you're hiding," she murmured to herself, as if a character in one of the espionage novels she'd read back when she was going through…well, one of her 'literary phases', as her grandma had teasingly named them. Other teenagers went through puberty, growth spurts, and all sorts of dramatic life episodes…and Sheska…had her 'literary phases'…her most current being an obsession with works by Holocaust survivors like Eliezer Whitley…but that was besides the point.

Sheska stood back, taking a good long look at her father's book shelf before allowing her eyes to sweep over his desk. The place was a bit of a mess – Baisley's 'finest' didn't exactly care to give you time to tidy up when they were arresting you. They had arrested him right here, right in his office. They had not been given permission to ransack the place as they would have liked though – their grandma owned this house. Not Laurent Rockbell, but his mother, Pinako Rockbell. For this, Sheska was thankful; that meant that no one had been able to disturb anything

Dad hadn't even had enough time to hide anything, if there is, which I know there is, something to be hidden here.

Sheska was also sure that the arrest had taken her father by surprise – that's how she knew he couldn't have done it. Her father was not a good actor; he would not have been able to make his face…look the way it had when they'd taken him. He hadn't even been able to properly abate Sheska's suspicions concerning his mysterious side activities…She was here now, wasn't she?

Tears stung the elder twin's eyes and she fought them valiantly, not wanting to think of that day. It'd been a horrible day, really; she'd lost all her online chess rounds to some mysterious whiz kid and she'd burned Grandma's waffles that morning. Not to mention she'd taken a trip to the book store only to find that they had sold out of the sequel to one of her favorite fantasy novels…it was the only reason she had even attempted such a journey downtown on foot in the first place.

All of that should've been a bad omen in itself, but Sheska just kept waiting for the day to get better…or worse, really. Sheska wasn't too big on optimism. Then, as if the gods couldn't get enough laughter at her expense, police had 'politely' stormed her house, extracting her dad from his prized study with some shiny new bracelets to show for his resistance. Winry had been at some after-school meeting, but…Sheska had been there.

Sheska and granny Pinako.

To be in this room and remember that scene was a chilling combination…but imagine how much more chilling it would be to uncover her father's secrets now that he was gone; the more Sheska turned over the idea, the more confident she became in the existence of whatever it was her father hid in this study. More assured in Solomon McGohlavin's guilt.

But also…what made it so easy to string together Nina Tucker and Laurent Rockbell? The father, Shou Tucker, a man who Sheska and Winry had never met, was a co-worker of their father's…Where had he gone though? As the story went (as far as the tabloids were concerned), it was probable that since the murder had displayed signs of 'evil premeditation', Laurent Rockbell had 'done away' with Shou Tucker before going to 'finish off' the daughter.

They had made her father sound like a vengeful ex-wife if anything; using all these 'fancy', and dubiously dangerous-sounding terms one could find in one of her gram's poorly-written mystery books (courtesy of Rite Aid)…and oh, how Sheska hated their selection. But she couldn't have hated it more than she hated the press slandering her father's name, all for the cause of another 'case closed' to put the county's mind at rest…

But what about her mind? What about her, and Winry's, and grams', and their already loony mother's minds? Just how was Sheska supposed to react to this strange, demonic creature stalking about their home under the alias of Winry's boyfriend, 'Sole'?

Sheska could only wish she were a boy…a big hulking brother who could boot a con artist through the door no sooner than the act had entered. The type men like Sole would do well to fear…

"If dad were here, he'd never let that boy in this house," Sheska fretted to herself, as if her father's spirit would rise from within the confines of the office and proceed to harangue her right then and there.

She wrung her hands nervously, before moving to tug at her hair's ends…something damaging to the strands but soothing nonetheless. Truth be told, if Sheska's guess about Sole's intentions was correct (which she believed it was), then Sole probably wouldn't be here if her father hadn't been…set up so cleverly. Yes, someone had set her father up…the more she thought about it, the more sure she was of the matter.

Sheska plopped down in her father's study chair, looking down at his desk thoughtfully. It was odd, sitting there…but she could only hope she'd be given the ingenuity needed to put whatever pieces she found together. She wasn't just doing this to prove herself right, to feed her ego:

I'm doing this for Winry, and for dad.

2:05…at least 6 more hours until Solomon McGohlavin arrives.

(X)(x)(X)

My head was killing me. Damn it all. This time, that was the first thought that came to mind when I woke up. Who the hell cared where I was; I'd already covered that late last night. I was on my belly, face buried deep in the couch. One of my hands was cramped, fisted into the couch as if afraid of some dire consequence, like severance, should it let go. My other hand remained free, thrown haphazardly over the arm of the expansive cream-colored couch. I had started to unclench the cramped one and then I remembered what I'd been doing with it…there was no way I'd open it until I got to a sink.

"Damnit…" I mumbled to myself; how could I let myself go to sleep without washing my hands…? EW.

I turned my head sideways so I could survey the apartment. The moment I did that, I wasn't as sorry as I thought I'd be. Sole's apartment was poorly lit during the day time, having no windows I could see thus far. Hell if I was going to complain though; I certainly wasn't ready to have some stupid sunlight wake me up.

Sole's apartment was well-furnished though, cream to off-white in color in terms of furniture, and then darker hues and shades of tan in terms of the carpet and other random things. It was impressive – perhaps the work of some serious drug-pedaling? A murder of the original owner?

Lying there, I wondered absently to myself just where the hell had Sole gotten money for a place like this. Excuse me if I was being judgmental, but I didn't see him as the work type. He seemed more like the…laid back, bohemian, come-what-may type. There was just no way he could be an investment banker in disguise or something. And even if so, it was common knowledge that the guy hadn't finished high school…what the hell kind of money could he be making then?

Envy's eccentric friends always seemed to have time on their hands – which made sense since Envy himself seemed to have nothing but time to kill. He just liked to pretend that mind-fucking people was a busy job. Sole, for all I'd seen of him, seemed like he wanted nothing more in life than to party, get high, and harass high school kids – him and Envy were probably made for each-fucken-other.

"Morning, sunshine." A sure 'speak of the devil' moment…

Sole sauntered in, clad only in a green pair of silk pajama bottoms. He looked way better than he had last night, his eyes no longer red and the gel obviously having been washed out his hair – it hung flaxen and gold about his head and behind his ears; it was free of spikes and cliffs. If Sole wasn't such a damned nuisance, I'd say he looked quite good bedraggled…

"Where's your buddy?" he then asked, sneering. And then of course, he spoke…and I enforced in my mind the fact that I didn't like, nor trust him very much. Besides, having people snarl at you got kind of ridiculous after the first two or three times…

"Probably passed out in the bathroom," I grumbled, turning my head back into the couch. Shouldn't this Sole character be hung over or something right about now?

"Well…" he drawled. "You guys must've had a real blast last night…"

I suddenly turned my head back to him, letting out a huff of frustration. "If you want him, go get him for Christ's sake. Otherwise, can you leave me alone? I'm tired," I snapped, instantly curling back into the couch as if its mighty leather upholstery would protect me.

Sole, obviously not a fan of my short temper, suddenly thwacked me in the back of my head with a pillow. I mean, of course I hadn't seen him, but who else would? Envy was stoned to the lowest pits of hell…

"What?!"

"It's time to wake up," Sole stated, looking smug and sounding particularly obnoxious. I don't think he liked me…which was okay, since I couldn't stand his ass.

"Says who? What's your freakin' problem? Aren't you supposed to be piss-drunk stupid right now?"

Sole's face twisted in distaste at my attitude, before he made an 'hmph' sound. "Whatever. I'll just go wake up Envy; he'll know how to deal with you." He chuckled, skipping merrily away in the direction of the bathroom.

I stared after him with what I'm sure were a pair of murderous, sleep-deprived eyes before digging back into the couch. I had to prepare for the coming onslaught. They'd never take me alive…

Which I'm sure would be no problem with Envy.

As expected, it took a lot longer than Sole had obviously thought it would to revive Envy. Envy was still pretty much passed out in the bathroom, and from what I could gather (from Sole's random exclamations and the occasional sound of something ringing against the toilet's hollow, porcelain body), Envy had most likely been sleeping on the floor.

Thus I was left to speculate: Envy probably…hit his head. Then he most likely…proceeded to strangle Sole for waking him. It was contingent…that both were locked in a battle to the death, Sole possibly…having tried to clobber Envy with a dildo in response to the assault. Chances were high…that they even had each other in well-to-do chokeholds at this very moment…but what did I care? I was just happy for the extra hour or so of sleep. It might not have even been an hour; I just know it felt a lot better than the guilty slumber I'd forced myself into last night.

By the time Envy and Sole finally did appear (Envy still looking groggy, mean, and just downright unpleasant; Sole looking less giddy than he had a while ago), I was on my way into the kitchen to wash my hands. They both stared at me, their gazes malevolent, but I figured I'd deal with that in a moment.

"Ed," Envy finally snapped, just as I had turned the faucet off after finishing the cleansing of my hands. He was very big on 'his time'…control freak…I mean, what kind of time could you possibly hope to control if you spent most of it in a drug-induced stupor? Huh?

"Hum?" I looked up, feigning ignorance, and keeping these thoughts to myself.

"Go take a shower," he snapped.

I grinned, though it was strained. That'd feel better than just washing my hands. "Certainly," I replied evenly before marching purposely in the direction of Sole's bathroom. But…something in me hesitated and I took one fleeting glance back at Envy…unable to shake the images of needles out my conscious.

"Are you going e-tarded on me now, Ed?" Envy snapped, impetuous and scowling. He was certainly (maybe even reasonably) cranky…or bipolar.

I continued off into the bathroom, making sure to lock the door behind me. Envy had that tone as if he and Sole had something important to discuss and he'd wanted me out the way. Which was fine – why the hell would I care what they were talking about?

Don't lie to yourself. You're aching to know.

As the door's lock clicked into place, I felt strangely…disjointed.

Envy…

Leaving Sole and Envy to plot to themselves didn't sound like a good idea.

(X)(x)(X)

"Eddiiii-baaabe…we wanna talk to you!"

Since when did Envy ever wanna talk? Better yet…since when had Envy gotten sober again?

Ed approached the room, his only cover a towel, and his heart seemed to stutter for what was probably the tenth time within the last two days.

"What the hell is that doing here?" Ed rushed out, still holding a towel around his waist (he suddenly felt the need to shrink under it and disappear).

Sole looked back at him, waving happily before assaulting Ed with a dangerously-bright flash. Ed swore that he must've swayed…

"Oh, I'm sorry…you were waiting for me to go 'say cheese', right?" Sole pondered in an innocent manner, holding the camera to him as if it were a treasured pet that Ed had offended.

Ed blinked away the little Technicolor shots in his eyes, backing slowly towards the door and away from the offensive piece of technology. Jut what had he done to deserve this again? Was this punishment for not being able to dance…because if so, he'd learn, goddamnit!

"What the hell do you think it's here for?" Envy asked, gesturing to Sole who was waving a camera to emphasize the expected point.

"Oh, can I say it if he doesn't guess it? Can I? Can I, Envy? Please, pleaaaaaseeee…?" Sole whined, jumping from foot to foot and squeezing his eyes in a pantomime of toddler-classroom desperation.

Envy rolled his eyes, swinging an arm around Ed's shoulder. The blond's (the sober one's) eye twitched.

"To take pictures!" Envy exclaimed, ignoring a pained howl of disappointment from Sole ("S'not fairrrrrrrr!") He'd really wanted to answer that million-dollar question, poor chap…

"Now smile for the camera, Eddi-babe!" Envy shouted, yanking a dazed Ed to drape over him as they fell to the bed. It was obvious that Envy loved every moment of this.

"Pose!" shouted Sole, who suddenly recovered from his little fit and started clicking away, while Edward still tried to process what was going on. "YES!" Sole exclaimed enthusiastically, as if each snap of the camera lens brought him a whole new wave of ecstasy. "The pure uncensored shock is gonna be the cat's pajamas – yeowrza! – in my photo album!" the older blond went on, gassed beyond belief.

Finally, Ed snapped out his stupor, flailing limbs and throwing himself away from Envy and out of the line of sight of Sole's camera. Never mind he was practically naked. Yes, maybe the 'cat's pajamas' expression had done it. He'd only known Sole a short time, but it seemed fitting that only a person like him could use such an outdated adage.

"What the hell are you gonna do with those pictures?!" Ed shouted, glaring at Sole accusingly.

Sole suddenly stopped, as if tazered by something invisible, before replying in a calm, controlled voice, "I don't know…" He frowned in thought. "I've kinda had this idea about making a pin-up calendar for those homo priests and closet educators…so they have something else good to masturbate to besides their little disciples or whatever." Sole maintained a casual tone while Envy rolled around in his boxers, shaking with laughter.

The former then grinned diabolically, his full excitement on display through a magnificent show of teeth. "I'll sell it on the underground and then, when some sorry bastard tries to pawn off my work as his own on eBay and gets carted off to jail for child porn, the price will sky rocket and I'll be filthy fucking rich. Take that MichaelR. Kelly." Sole grinned a dirty, oh-so-dirty and lecherous grin, before snapping another picture at Ed in a teasing manner.

Then the maniacal laughter started…and Ed wondered to himself if Sole were always this erratic in the mornings…hadn't he been quite cranky before? Perhaps the shower was some sort of portal and Ed had fallen out on the other side like in some messed up version of Alice in Wonderland. It could happen.

Ed actually flinched at another 'click' of the camera. It might've been all fun and games to both Envy and Sole…but Ed really couldn't tell the difference between humor and warnings with the manic hippy. He was a riddle, so for all Ed knew, he could've been serious about the whole masturbating priests thing. Maybe he really was in a high-tensioned rivalry with both R. Kelly and Michael Jackson…anything went with these dregs. Ed couldn't bring himself to expect anything else from them.

Envy took advantage of Ed's rigid manner and slipped an arm around the small forward's shoulder. "C'mon, Ed, it's no big deal…just a couple of photos. Wanna look at these with me?" Envy asked in a seemingly-innocent manner, wagging the photo album at Ed like it was a rattle and Ed was the two-year-old that needed calming.

The younger of what was turning out to be the three misfits – one psycho, one eccentric, and the other surly – blinked at Envy for a moment, before covering himself up a bit and scooting over to him. He still looked distrustful of the black-haired boy.

"This might be a bit X-rated for you…but it's nothing you can't handle." Envy snickered before pulling Ed close and opening the book.

With each flip of a page, Ed's face got even redder. The book was a myriad of ages, genders, and characters…all in various positions of suggestion. Some were actually very graphic and just plain bared; all…Ed tried his best not to look too obvious in his discomfort. It was strangely enticing.

"See? Now let's make love for the camera." Envy smirked, snapping the book shut before a picture that somehow resembled him. Ed didn't give the resemblance much thought though…he just shivered at the way Envy had said 'for' instead of 'to'.

Each snap of the lens seemed like it was pinching away a piece of Ed's soul…wearing it down. Ed was pretty sure this had more to do with his own dirty deeds than the actual superstition centered about cameras. But right now, it wasn't about validity; it was about making himself feel comfortable…and believing in the superstition was definitely the more comfortable option.

If anything, Ed had been under the impression that the supposed 'art' was in the insinuation of the pictures. He'd thought they they'd be suggesting things by their poses and only implying things, but it came to a point where it clicked in Ed's mind that that wasn't the case.

Oh well, the idea had made me feel a tiny bit better while it had lasted.

Somewhere between recalling the positions of the people in Sole's book and actually having Envy inside him, it clicked: those pictures were as real as life.

Of course, Envy had to push things to the extreme. The only barely-redeeming thing about the incident was that most of the pictures just dealt with Envy and Ed in obvious, yet concealed and provocative situations. It'd been a right he had to fight quite vehemently for. Envy's hand down Ed's boxers but never taking anything out…though the hand cramps were real enough for Ed to know he was actually jerking the boy off. Then there was Ed bouncing in Envy's lap with a cover draped over his ass, thighs, and waist. Back views mostly: steamy pictures that seemed all the more provocative because of the blond hair loose and trailing to Ed's mid back, the sheen of sweat evident in the indent right above his covered bum.

It might've been an hour or two later when Envy sent Ed off to the shower (again) only to join him a few seconds later. Ed, of course, was very…concerned…with the thought of taking a shower with Envy. Quite frankly, it scared the hell out of him.

"Scrub my back, Ed," Envy demanded, pulling up his hair expectantly.

"What am I? Your fuckin' slave?" was Ed's snide reply.

Envy tilted his head back slightly, giving Ed a bemused look. "I can beat you like one if you like…since you're being so defiant and all." Envy shrugged.

"If anything, you should scrub my damned back," Ed snorted, surprised when Envy actually turned around.

"Fine," he said, pushing Ed up against the bathroom wall and snatching the loofa.

He moved the coarse instrument over Ed's somewhat scarred back, smiling wickedly as he got closer to the boy's waist. Ed shifted uncomfortably: He was wisely suspicious of how easily Envy had complied with what was only supposed to be an empty challenge. His suspicions were confirmed when the first finger entered him. Ed hissed as Envy pushed his full weight against him, roughly shoving another finger inside of him.

"How do you like that?" the older boy purred against Ed's ear, all the while moving the loofa in well-concentrated circles along Ed's back.

Ed didn't respond. Envy, seeing this, took the initiative he was well-known for and pushed his lips further against Ed's ear, finger stretching inside Ed and growing more intrusive by the second.

"Do I scare you, Ed?" he whispered, a reiteration of the question from the previous night.

Envy was indeed cruel…his erection poking at Ed in an obviously-crass manner. Said blond's chest was practically fusing with the wet shower wall and he cried out as Envy spun him around, slamming his right shoulder into the hard tile and hitching up his legs so that they were around the older boy's waist. Both groaned as their erections met and Ed stared down lamely at the dumbbell piercing right beneath the head of Envy's dick.

Well, fancy that, he thought absently, grimacing.

"Look at me. They'll be plenty of time for that later," Envy hissed, hands still latched tightly beneath Ed's thighs, pulling the boy up further against him so that he ground tightly into him. Ed rocked his hips back, arms coming around Envy's back and clinging to him for dear life as the boy sunk his teeth into his shoulder.

"Tell me you're scared," he demanded yet again.

Ed was shuddering now, his hair streaming down his face, in these wet, wheat blond clumps. Envy thrust against him again, causing Ed to grope more desperately at the boy's expansive shoulder blades. He was only slightly surprised to find his fingers getting tangled in Envy's own untamed, inky tresses – Envy didn't notice. There was a small note made not to yank on them no matter what happened. Absolutely not, under no circumstances. He didn't want to know what the consequences would be for such an offense…

"Yes…" Ed finally gasped.

"Yes what?" Envy bit out, raising the boy high enough so that he could position himself properly at Ed's entrance.

Ed shuddered harder and then gave a harsh cry as Envy entered him, nearly choking on the mouthful of water he received for his lack of control at the moment. The boy's hands clawed at Ed's wet, slippery thighs, his ass. Edward wasn't so unsatisfied anymore; this was definitely better than last night. Last night had been hell, but this…this felt like it was supposed to.

Never mind that this wasn't something he was 'supposed' to be doing.

The switches between hot and cold in his persona were obviously a control device for Envy

Beg prettily enough and he'll make me feel as good as I want.

Though, like most things with Envy, this law wasn't written in stone; Ed felt that summed things up well-enough for now.

"Yes what?" Envy repeated, a thrust reminiscent of crashing into a bed of nails, digging into Ed and causing him to whimper into Envy's collar bone.

You obviously had to be pretty fucked in the head if you found this sort of abuse normal…

"I-"

"WHAT, ED?!"

"You freak me out sometimes, alright?" he hissed. "You fucking scare me. You're crazy and- ugh- unpredictable and it just feels so- ah- damned good sometime…Why can't you just fuck me and get it over with…?" Ed gave a shallow sob…a sound that came out more like a heavy gasp of pleasure. Did the sex ever stop when it came to them? They'd only finished fucking like a good five minute ago for Christ's sake.

"And another thing…" Envy hissed as he bucked into Ed's hips again, now trusting the boy to remain secure around his waist and hooking his hands under Ed's arms. He gave another possessive bite to the boy's shoulder and then another to the collarbone, swearing at how gorgeous the friction between the two of them remained. When Ed started to slide down against the slippery shower wall, Envy's other hand immediately returned to gripping the boy's ass. The pace intensified.

"Say 'what is it, Envy?'," the dark-haired boy panted against Ed's lips, relishing in the flushing of Ed's face, the dimness in his now-ocher eyes as he grew farther away from lucidity.

"Please…" Ed whimpered, turning his face down and away from Envy, only for the former to gruffly nose his face back into its previous position. The farther Envy's hips burned into his, the less likely it seemed that Ed would be able to retain consciousness. However, the sharp bite to his bottom lip snapped him back into reality, even if it were just for a moment.

"Say it," Envy grounded out, glancing down at their still-thrusting pelvises from time to time.

"What is it?" Ed finally moaned, officially submissive. His head was lolling back against the wet tile.

Envy pulled his hips away suddenly, only to slam back into Ed viciously. Ed hissed, his skull making a sharp impact with the aforementioned tile. Tears sprung to his eyes, though they remained hidden by the steady stream of water, and his body jerked at the sudden change in pace.

"Chrissst!" he exclaimed, clutching Envy to him tighter.

Envy then began repeating this same action, in quick, painful succession, enunciating his demands with each draw and slam of his hips. "I-" thrust. "-want you-" slap. "-to pay-" thrust. "-very close-" cry. "-attention…when I'm fucking you. Are you that dense? Have you already forgotten?" Envy hissed, nails pinching the skin on Ed's side. It was derogatory…damned right abusive, but Ed didn't care anymore.

/"You can't continue to do these things to me, Envy. You can't just bend me anyway you want to. That's not how it works," I said determinedly. /

Oh yes, he can…that's exactly how it works…maybe that's exactly how I like it…

"No," Ed gasped.

"Good," Envy grunted. "Now say you're my bitch, Ed. Nice…and loud."

Ed let his eyes slip shut for a moment before blinking more water out of them. "But-"

They were now at the point where there was barely an inch of space between the two. Ed's inner thighs burned with the abrasive effort of holding onto Envy…onto the sick pleasure he got from having the boy between his legs, violating him like this. He squeezed them, beckoning the dark-haired boy to go harder, faster; despite the obvious pain he was in…he'd learned long ago how good Envy could make the pain though.

It was so fucking good.

No excess fat to form a barrier between their hot bodies, and water causing them to remain slick and practically welded together…like two warring pieces of hot irons. Or, more appropriate, like a welding hammer to iron. It was when this protest began, the 'but-', that Envy squeezed himself against Ed in such a way, that the freshman thought he was suffocating.

Envy stuffed his face into the crook of Ed's neck, biting harshly at the skin there and at the same time using the tongue to tease and massage wherever his teeth fell. Those rough hands, those sharp nails dug even deeper into Ed and the boy let out another cry of false release, absently aware of Envy biting down the length of his shoulder and arm. And still he clung harder, that voice in the distance saying all manner of things he didn't understand but somehow knew he had to follow. It would only be later that he'd realize the voice was his.

"Say it," Envy growled, his breath almost coalescing into a complete solid as it touched the side of Ed's face.

/"I can only let you go but so far."/

Yeah right… At what point can I possibly stop you? I'm not sure if I even want to…

"I'm…" Ed began, the color in his vision ebbing toward blackness before being sucked completely into one thin, white point. It was such a sudden loss of signal that Ed's body froze, his words sticking in his throat at the pending ruckus that was undoubtedly climax.

As always, things were especially noisy with them. Though Ed only let out the barest whisper of a cry, a hoarse one, as Envy fully dug his nails into the skin of his thighs and side. Envy, who usually recovered faster, chuckled into the crook of Ed's neck, licking his lips at the salt he could taste mingling with the shower water. It was true, Ed had been sobbing his eyes out in relief when they both finally came – this amused Envy.

He let go of Ed, allowing the shorter to slip limply to the shower floor. The abusive dreg then stood back to admire his 'handiwork'.

/"I was in my right mind when I said I'm yours. It being exclusive to you isn't a problem for me…"/

No I wasn't. I was crazy…how can I ever possibly hope to have control when I'm like this? When I want this so badly?

Ed's body, once rigid with the shock of orgasm, was now listless and shaking. His thighs were now empty and aching…the sudden loss of heat hurt more than it should.

Envy stared down at the boy, a cruel grin on his face and a gleam in the rattling gray eyes. "Don't fuck anyone else. You say you want some sort of exclusivity? Fine," Envy said, smirking.

Ed, who was still somewhat in shock, only widened his eyes in a small fraction of realization. Was this some kind of sick joke?

Duh, Ed, isn't it always? Had Envy, the bona-fide lunatic he was, really just brutalized him in a shower…in answer to a comment the boy had given weeks, maybe a whole month ago?

"Thought I forgot about all that, right?" Envy taunted, the smirk now growing into a full-blown leer.

How condescending…

Hadn't he said that they were equals now? Ed stared up at the boy, his brows creasing in slight confusion. Though he wasn't confused at all…far from it. If anything, he was still dazed from the plowing he'd received moments earlier.

"Not even that damned girl you have blowing kisses at your heels. I mean, it's not like you'd have the balls to fuck her, but I just want that to be clear," Envy went on, still completely nude and picking at his nails as if all were right in the world.

No…this is not alright…

Ed felt so compelled to respond and yet…he couldn't find the words, nor force them out. This was obviously his body going into some sort of post-orgasm shock…

"With all the shit I got going on, the last thing I'd need is your girlfriend's little cooties," Envy sneered before giving a small snort of laughter; that innocent little sneeze of a laugh, as if Ed and he shared some sort of private joke. Whatever it was…Ed didn't get it. He wasn't sure he wanted to get it.

Envy then turned away from Ed, giving one last mocking look over his shoulder as he left the boy to stare after his naked backside. He pulled the door shut behind him with a disdainful 'thump'.

/"…being exclusive to you isn't a problem for me…"/

Long after Envy had left him, those fatal words still rang in Ed's ears. The words that had come out his mouth only weeks earlier. He was only just realizing this, but…he'd been telling the truth…that was the sick thing about it…and now he wished he hadn't. He wished that he'd been lying the way he had intended to when he said those things…his head was killing him now.

He absently wished the tell-tale soreness in his legs didn't feel so good. And oh yeah…he hadn't pulled on Envy's hair.

Way to go, me.

There had been a time when Ed had never thought anyone capable of owning him – he had too much respect for that – but it seemed now, that Envy was well on his way to doing just that.

(X)(x)(X)

It was a time-old guideline in the art of fabrication, that in order to tell the best lies, one must stay as close to the truth as possible – the situation permitting, of course. It was very rarely that one found a zany tale, filled with drunken antics and epic misadventures, as the solution to their questionable equations. If someone asked, 'Where have you been?' and the fact of the matter was, that you had been out canoodling with their girlfriend, it went without saying that you didn't want to actually say that. Instead, you could reply, 'I was out with a friend'. It also helped to remain as vague as possible in those cases.

If Ed had followed this technique accordingly, chances were that Al wouldn't be sitting in his room, looking more perturbed than a conservationist among a slaughtered rainforest.

The news didn't look so good. Not at all. Al was growing more and more convinced, day by day, that he was indeed losing his brother…but to what, he did not know. Apparently, Jake didn't know either.

Al had called Jake's, hoping to inquire as to where Ed had hidden his stolen socks, only to find that the older boy wasn't there (That is what he'd told their parents right?).

Embarrassed, yet still not missing a beat, Al had feigned some sort of amnesiac episode, claiming Ed had mentioned having to go run an errand for their parents. He'd even went as far as to say that the boy was probably calling on the other line right at that moment, wanting nothing more than to rid himself of Jake's telephonic presence. He couldn't sort out his thoughts if he were on the phone, his own tiny white lie subject to possible scrutiny. Though, granted, they were talking about Jake here. The boy didn't seem to believe in abject scrutiny.

But really, what was he supposed to do? Should he let Ed know that the game was over, that the 'charade was up' and risk another off-put reaction like the one he had received about the earrings? Or should he trust his brother, the way Ed apparently didn't trust him, and hope that everything would turn out for the best? The facts were all laid out in front of him…and yet the decision was so hard to make.

Fact number one: Ed was obviously engaging in…in sex with another boy; Al had witnessed the act of 'homosexual fornication' firsthand, so that was undeniable. He would have never believed it otherwise.

Second, Ed also seemed to have picked up the nasty and unfortunately-addictive habit of lying. Ed had been a bit of a pathological liar around the age of seven. Al could recall this clearly, having been unnecessarily subject to a number of Ed's underhanded schemes… but he'd stopped altogether once his mom had expressed a justifiable disdain for the habit – in the form of her tears after Ed had made up a particularly-ridiculous story to explain how Al had managed to obtain a replica of Mt. St. Helens on the back of his skull…in addition to all sorts of scrapes and bruises (another one of Ed's bicycle stunts gone wrong).

After that, Ed had dropped the ugly habit altogether, finding his mother's favor a much more satisfying thing that escaping his deserved punishments. Yes, Ed was a momma's boy whether he liked to admit it or not…

Ed's inner child was not the point though.

Al could just feel Ed's steady descent downward. If Ed weren't feeling it, he was definitely feeling it for his older brother. He had the nasty feeling that Ed was tampering with forces better left alone…things their church doctrines warned them against weekly, in fact! What next? Chain-smoking and a motorcycle? Clubbing and frolicking about nude in the public? Along with a whole host of other presumptuous sins? Could he trust his brother to draw the line somewhere?

The youngest Elric brother was fluctuating back and forth between anger at Ed's inability to tell the truth, and worry over what exactly Edward had been up to. Al felt it his duty, as Ed's brother, to shield him against potential, self-created disasters. That would mean that he should confront Ed, and yet…wouldn't it be so much more of a disaster if he approached Ed about…something so…sacred? Regardless of who it was between, whether it be a man and woman or man and man, Al felt that it was a bit taboo to just waltz in upon a pair who was busy 'relating' each other's brains out….even if it had been on accident.

Besides…sexuality was a very sensitive subject for people around their age…well, some people. He doubted Ed, who'd been darting about here and there under the cover of lies and darkness, was someone who was comfortable with his sexuality. No, Ed wouldn't be too pleased to know Al not only knew, but was reprimanding him for it. Nope, it wouldn't go over well at all.

Of course, excluding all creative and unnecessary measures, the only thing left for Al to do was to continue life as if he had not the faintest idea of what Ed was up to. Though, he wouldn't have to act too hard…he really didn't know what Ed was actually up to. For all he knew, the boy could have joined the occult or some random gay pride activist group…both would explain Ed's suspicious absences and behavior as of late. Al didn't care which one it was…he just wanted to know. He wanted to know whether or not his brother was ok.

Though it went without saying he preferred the gay pride activist group over the occult…Satanism and homosexuality were obviously two different things…weren't they?

The least troubling out of the signs of Ed's silent rebellion had been the earrings…they weren't a big deal compared to all the other stuff. Al was looking at the bigger picture.

Perhaps it'd all began with that puzzling Tucker case. Everyone had, of course, been aware that Ed was tutoring a young girl by the name of Nina Tucker in his spare time…however, it was a mystery what had happened to Ed the day she died – well was murdered, actually. Ed had never really spoken on it, only commenting that traffic had been 'out of control' that day – he'd supposedly never made it to Nina's home. High school had started almost immediately after and Ed had seemed so determined to start that out on the right foot…they hadn't the heart to press him on the issue. He'd seemed fine.

Mom had only thought it would be best to give him space…she just kept saying to give him space…

It seemed entirely possible that perhaps they'd trusted Ed too much, had given him too much space…were in denial of what he was capable of…

Edward's plight plagued the boy in his pseudo slumber…he 'woke up' to find himself exhausted, having only risen from bed because it was the routine thing to do. Hours later would find Al still sitting at their family's breakfast nook…stirring about his slowly-deteriorating cheerios lamely. The same redundant questions scrolled back and forth across the front of his brain…their lights growing dimmer the longer they marched: just how long would Ed play this card…? When was he planning to return home…? Why doesn't he trust me…? Why do mom and dad seem so calm about Ed…? Why has he never told me about Nina Tucker…? Who does he confide in then…?

It was already a bit late into the day…Al had risen from his bed late and had spent most of his time idling before his cereal, his mind barren and wasted from lack of a good sleep.

"Al?" Al started – which seemed all out inappropriate since he was not the allegedly-guilty party here – as the voice of his brother came to him.

Ed now stood in their kitchen, having obviously come in through the back door with partially-melted snowflakes about his hair and jacket. He definitely wasn't dressed warm enough for the weather. Ed was never one for patience and planning ahead when it came to clothes.

"Ed, you're home so early?" Al asked, looking up from the wasted cereal. He was tired. Thoughts Tired of thinking of Ed and his stupid decisions and life and...oh all of it was just so tiring. Just a big mess waiting to happen. Sleep had not come easy…or good as a matter of fact. Though Al supposed that was good in a way (hah, good)...Better natural and tired than ill-at-ease and suspicious though…it seemed he'd made the unconscious decision to leave Ed be for the time being; he didn't want his older brother to know of the lies he was peering into.

Studying his older brother, he noticed there were no earrings in his ears at the moment. Perhaps he'd taken them out or forgotten them wherever he'd stayed…? The boy also looked more tired than he himself felt…like he'd broken his neck to get back here.

Perhaps even committed an animal sacrifice here or there…Al flinched at that own train of thought. He must be very cranky for his thoughts to get that dark. He wasn't normally what one would consider a dark person…

Ed blinked at him curiously. "Al, it's like one or two in the afternoon." The older boy chuckled, pulling out a chair to sit across the table from Al. "Where's mom and dad?" he asked, peering around at the quiet house.

"They went Christmas shopping." Al answered, giving up completely on his cheerios with a sigh and sitting back to give Ed a small smile. Ed was looking from the abandoned cereal to him with a confused expression.

"I over slept," Al returned, answering Ed's unasked question.

Ed nodded and they both sat in silence, as if expecting some barrage of questions from the other any moment. It was the most uncomfortable silence you could ever find between people – the silence born out of having too much to say rather than nothing at all.

Ed's disposition – far away and detached – made Al feel as if they were strangers, rather than brothers. The boy was wearing clothes that were unfamiliar to him – a style he was so sure was not Ed's. Some ridiculously-fitting graphic tee the older boy was trying to conceal underneath a ribbed hood jacket of some sort – again, clothes Al could not recall having seen Ed in before. Come on, he only lived with the boy, of course he would grow accustomed to his brother's wardrobe – especially since Ed wasn't a big shopaholic or anything. They were both boys who were content with whatever clothes they had.

The boy's clothes…or Ed's new clothes…?

Also, Ed's hair was bit of a mess; his braid was thrown together in a haphazard manner, one that made Al wonder if the boy had been too lazy to dry and comb it out properly after showering…and just where had Ed showered anyway if he had?!

Was he also showering with that boy…? Al flushed at the mental picture, making a face as he tried to banish the image. Those were not the types of scenes you wanted in your head while sitting before your brother – not the types of scenes any sane person would want in their head at all.

"Al, are you alright?" Ed finally spoke up slowly, eyeing his brother with that same curious look as if he himself had nothing to hide. The rest of the world was just filled with secrets, but not he, not good noble Edward Elric. That's what that face seemed to convey to Al. What was even more ironic…had it not been that long ago that Al had asked Ed that same question? Back when the boy had first started acting a bit odd?

"You look pretty tired there, Al…you alright?"

It hadn't seemed like too long ago that Al had asked him that same question…when everything had began. Though it was unlikely that Al's fatigue was due to the same reasons Ed had been down back then…even now he was worse than down.

"I'm fine, Ed," responded Al simply, shifting his gaze up to meet Ed…Ed was indeed interesting. How could he ask that question…had he not looked in a mirror this morning? Ed looked downright sick…but Al wouldn't speak on it just yet. If the boy was guilty, he'd lash out if Al pressured him at this moment…Al would wait a day and inquire about it if Ed didn't clear up in the next day or so. He sincerely hoped the boy wasn't coming down with another fever or the flu, or another equally-trying virus…

Finally, Ed spoke, "I'm going to get some sleep," the blond said, yawning and trudging in the direction of the stairs.

Al got up right behind him, seeing no point in playing awake any more. Ed was home…maybe now he could get some sleep and worry about the older boy's whereabouts when he woke up. And hey! He just might come to a logical conclusion or course of action…Al could only hope.

"You didn't sleep?" Al asked on a yawn, giving Ed a look that might have been a pointed one if not for the obvious lack of energy. If anything, it looked just a bit grudging….weary and grudging.

Ed turned to him, seeming surprised that the boy was suddenly so close. He was obviously really out of it if he hadn't already heard Al behind him.

"Let's just say Jake makes mornings a lot longer than need be," he grunted, allowing Al to step ahead of him as they both trudged tiredly up the stairs.

As Al pressed against Ed, bowing his forehead to touch the other's back in his apparent exhaustion, Ed cast a questioning glance over his shoulder. "What's your excuse for being so…"

"I think I'm coming down with something…"

"Oh."

Again, the strange silence. Both fell into bed, thrown haphazardly over one another as they instantly gave in to sleep.

It began to snow outside and neither of the brothers could find it in themselves to dream…they really were just too tired.

(X)(x)(X)

It had seemed that the smartest thing Sheska could do, was start with the simplest thing in her father's room to decipher. That was the drawers…she didn't even want to touch his computer. It appeared that the infernal device was password-protected and right now, Sheska just needed to know what she was looking for…digital detail could come later.

But as Sheska burrowed deeper and deeper into the musty wooden confines, she was finding that she understood none of what she was coming up with…just what was all this damned pediatrician's mumbo-jumbo? This unfamiliar 'doctor's' jargon…? What the hell could be so top secret about sticking a Popsicle stick down some child's throat…and thermometer in their ear…? Diagnosing diaper rash…?

Sheska calmed herself, ignoring the fact that she'd been sitting here for quite a while and that it was now pitch-black night outside. Though 'a while' was sugarcoating her predicament to the max: it was night time. At least that's what the dark study window situated behind her (she sat in her father's chair) was telling her. Sole had to have arrived hours ago. That was ok. He had Winry to distract him – her elder sister could care less about her whereabouts as long as she got to be in the arms of Mr. McGohlavin. She'd probably latched into him like the (again) proverbial leech, obstructing all else in the house from view with just the slightest flash of some cleavage. It seemed Winry had been making quite the habit out of that lately…

Now back to the problem at hand…

Acetylcholine… Adrenalin…Aktetron…

Ambien…Aminazin…Amobarbital…Amphetamine sulphate…Analasine…

A heartbeat. A lone, troubled heartbeat.

Ephedrine…Ephetamine Epinephrine…Ergot…Ergotamine…Ethanol… Ethchlorvynol…Ethyl harmol…Epicane …Escrine… Estazolam…Ethclorvynol …

It would only become clear to her if Sheska allowed it to be clear. The answer was on the tip of her brain but Sheska didn't want – well, she did want to understand but…it was a frustrating place to be caught in between. Her chest was starting to hurt, in fact from all the internal warring of her…desires? What were they?

Now if Sheska could just get a hold of herself…one heart, two hearts, three hearts, four…she inhaled, exhaled…she could proceed to turn over her knowledge bank. It shouldn't be too hard to figure out what this stuff was. I mean, c'mon, her father was a pediatrician; not a CIA member for Christ's sake. And with all the reading she'd done in her life, she had to have passed a passage or two about…prescription drugs? That's what these things were, right? Sheska had to get a bit detached a scientific for a moment – it would definitely save her some time…and sanity. Baby Einstein steps would be needed here.

Well, pfftt, began Techno-Sheska. These are obviously chemicals or…prescription drugs in their more scientific name sakes!

But what would a pediatrician need with stuff like this?! Sheska squealed mentally, much to the irritation of Techno-Sheska. You're supposed to find that out. You're supposed to be a sleuth of some sort, aren't you?!

Sheska made a face – something she often did when distressed. She wasn't even sure what half of this crap was – the only thing she could properly identify was Epinephrine!

The Epi-pen used to combat anaphylaxis…She could see what a pediatrician might need with that…but the rest of the Greek scripted among his papers seemed to have an ominous tone to them – if for no other reason than simply because she didn't understand it. Not even her mental librarian, Techno-Sheska, could place any of it!

You might want to take a closer look,Techno-Sheska sniffed at her

Oh yes. As usual, Techno-Sheska seemed to be quite on the mark…there was some strange scribbling listed beside a few drugs here and there. Some of it was easier to translate than the rest.

Anectine (succinylcholine, musc. Relaxant. FX: -)

Amobarbital sodium (hypnotic sedative, FX+/ -)

Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (aka XTC, Adam. FX: 7 Hours. +.)

It was all about heartbeats, wasn't it? Living heartbeats, dead heartbeats, stuttering heartbeats, waning heart beats, eccentric and electrified heartbeats…drugs were either affecting your heart or your nervous system as far as Sheska knew (which she realized, to her dismay, might not be much). Excuse her French but Sheska just wanted to know-

"What the hell is all this shi- Ow!" The girl had lifted her little brown head too fast, having a painful meeting with the heavy desk lamp she had hovering patiently above her. A flicker or two was the only sign of its aggravation.

She now whimpered to herself but still tried to remain strong…despite all the 'tut-tut-tutting' Techno-Sheska was giving her. That's obviously what she got for lowering her self to use such filthy language. Grams Pinako would have clobbered her. Abandoning her throbbing head, she quickly set to work at jotting down some of the shorter chemical names to plug into a search engine on the 'family' computer – the one that wasn't trying to imitate Fort Knox's security. It was apparent that it was useless to sift through any more of this unless she knew what she was looking at – she'd need to do some chemical…perhaps pharmacological research.

So far, being a detective was proving not to be as much fun as Scooby Doo and the Gang made it seem. It was challenging, very stressful – Sheska didn't know why she felt so edgy. As if some disaster might strike at any moment. Perhaps a terrorist attack or gas explosion of some sort – no one was watching her or anything…right?

You second-guess yourself a lot.

Yes…she did do that a lot. She'd better stop that, before –Why all the worry? Why must there be some sort of impending doom for every move she made?

You're obviously afraid of where your search will take you…where it will lead,Techno-Sheska informed her in a detached manner, probably taking note of all the things she herself wouldn't be able to remember on the spot if she needed to. Having your own psychologically-manifested consultant had its perks.

Just as she'd tucked the last of the papers safely into her dad's desk – pocketing the key to it she'd found hidden in a book shelf slide – a noise disturbed her. She took care to be inconspicuous in her hiding of her own notes…she was somehow very sure of who it was disturbing her – though she hadn't really expected it; if anything it had been a small, vague post-it Techno-Sheska had stuck somewhere in her mind – only to be ignored.

Looking up, Sheska saw who she'd now named as her arch-nemesis, leaning casually against the study door. It was closed, of course…and Sheska could feel her airways striving to mimic the state of that study door. Oh God, she hoped she hadn't made the 'eep' sound she was quite known for making…that'd be horrible. This was…a situation that demanded more strictness of her than any 'eep' sound would express. Although it had been a post-it possibility, Sheska hadn't actually prepared for this (a lone confrontation with 'Sole').

The girl hadn't thought she'd need a flashlight, compass, and machete to navigate a study that was part of their house – but it appeared to Sheska that she should perhaps rethink that position next time she set out a 'treasure hunt'. A machete, even blunt objects like the flashlight or compass, would have done her a world of good right about now…

"Where's Winry?" she squeaked. "And grams?"

Sole could barely be seen – the only light in the room being the lamp that illuminated the desk. But she knew that relaxed frame anywhere, the outline of the stylishly-tussled hair…the faintest hint of that smirk. He stretched, the hand behind his back only moving when a particularly-dangerous click sounded – it really should have been dangerous. Considering it was the click of a door lock – something one heard quite often throughout the day if they attended a school as populated (and sexually active) as S.A. But this door click…was the work of Solomon McGohlavin: a very displeased-seeming Solomon Mc Gohlavin.

Oh no…

This was definitely bad. No one ever locked a door behind them unless something bad was to follow…unless you were a character in some corny romance movie or raunchy porno – which Sheska was most definitely not. Sole was in no way shape or form the love of her life, and Sheska just didn't think herself cute enough for porn…besides, she found it entirely degrading to the world's female populous…but all that Miss Liberty stuff aside…she was locked in her father's scarcely-visited study with Solomon McGohlavin –who looked nothing short of evil incarnate. He still had yet to answer her question too…

"Where is Winry?" she demanded yet again, her voice in its rightful octave and more urgent this time around. Grams wasn't a worry really. She'd probably gone to bed early and was still a spitfire even in her old age – there would have been the audible commotion of 'Sole', had he somehow managed to 'ruffle her feathers'. But…he was a demon. He had demonic powers, did he not? Powers that were capable of rolling a person under and – she was praying…she didn't want to be a character in some horrible thriller either. This 'Sole' finally stepped further into the room and away from the door, his face becoming more visible now that the light could finally touch it.

"She's napping." He gave her what was meant to be a pleasant smile…but 'napping' had so many negative connotations attached to it…for all Sheska knew, it could be Sole and his lot's twisted euphemism for being dead!

Even more so…was the nap Winry was supposedly taking a natural nap, being taken to recover energy lost during the day? Or some plotted, drug-induced nap? Something that was highly likely considering the nice little notes about ecstasy Sheska had uncovered today in her father' s study notes, definitely connected to whatever Sole was snooping about for. Or was this a nap of the more permanent nature…? Maybe it was something even more horrible! Was it…a p- post-coital nap? Sheska shuddered at the thought – she would certainly prefer her sister die before allowing someone like Sole to…to… Despicable. The very thought of such a thing was despicable. Even someone as often clueless as Winry did not deserve that.

Sheska was pulled out her virtual state of disgust by Sole.

"Oh, don't look at me like that…your sister is fine. Take my word for it," he, his eyes momentarily glinting in such a way that lead Sheska to believe he had rolled them.

She mentally scoffed. What a fool she'd be to do that…but right now, she had not much choice. She needed to begin prodding at the mystery that was Solomon McGohlavin…and before he did something devious, mind-bending, possibly coma-inducing to her. Would he whip out some 'Amobarbital sodium' and maybe'hypnotically-sedate'her…?There were so many questions.

"What are you doing in father's study?" Sheska snapped, her voice a bit high-pitched, though steady all the same.

Sole reverted back to his silent status. Instead his strange, silver eyes gleamed back at her. A lump formed in the girl's throat and she stifled a scream. She really did want to scream, but oh how she hated scenes…especially being at the center of them, or the cause of them…being a notorious klutz had that effect: scene-phobia.

Sole made his way slowly towards her, and just as it occurred to Sheska's stunned mind that she better stand, perhaps attempt to move away from him, Sole had lashed out, gripping her wrist painfully as he slammed her into the window. The blinds made their strange pealing sound, before her weight crashing against them brought their noisy quivering to an abrupt halt, as if even they were afraid to speak. There was the dull, hollow-sounding 'thunk' of her back meeting the cold window and now, she knew it was too late to scream.

"Whatever you're trying to do, please don't…" she pleaded, retreating in on herself the closer Sole's face came to hers. Sheska would have accused him of drinking…but she smelled not the faintest trace of alcohol (Yes, Sheska knew what alcohol smelled like, for Christ's sake).

Great; of all the boyfriends Winry could have, she brings home a boy who's naturally unhinged.

Sheska wondered what she could've possibly done to anybody to get herself in a mess like this. She got good grades in school, she treated all people she met with respect and kindness. She kept a firm belief in the practice of abstinence…though whether or not that was entirely by her will alone was up for debate. But yes, despite these good virtues, she found herself in this predicament: trapped in a dark study with a particularly dark boy.

She was pretty sure said boy was dangerous and now, with her in the dark, in the cold of the night, Sheska was finding it much harder than she had in days past to summon forth some courage. It had all left her the minute she'd looked up to see Solomon leaning against the traitorous door. And then it had seemed to completely slip out of her reach when- when this Sole had just come at her like that! Like some willful night banshee from a deranged fantasy series she'd read once upon a time…perhaps like the mythical Beast of Gevaudan!

Sheska, this is no time to be recalling fanciful 18th century tales…you have a crisis on hand, girl! snapped the much cooler Techno-Sheska. Well, of course, she could talk! She was safe within Sheska's mind. She wasn't even real as a matter of fact! Sheska did have to admit that, as usual, Techno-Sheska had a point.

Oh yes…there were those fingers digging into her arms without regard, weren't they? Those eyes staring down at her…and the tongue moving along that reasonably-thin bottom lip.

Yes, this would be a crisis, wouldn't it, Sheska? Do you want to perhaps do something about it?

Looking at woman on TV in these sorts of positions, they really made it seem easy enough to just jam their knee up into their offender's more private regions…but this skill didn't some so easily to Sheska. Just as it occurred to the young brunette to do so, it seemed Sole anticipated the belated move and blocked her knee with his own, before jerking roughly at her arm. She staggered forward, her wits scrambled and she just barely registered rough fingers twisting about her already short hair, jerking her back against what seemed to be a diamond-hard body. A man's body. Solomon McGohlavin's body.

Her breath hitched and she wished that her super-ridiculous klutz powers would intervene – just where, in god's name, was a flight of stairs (to trip down) when you needed it? Then, without any warning, Sole began to shake her. The dim light reflected off his eyes and made them a more devastating imprint for the memory. She'd forever remember this moment.

"You're a meddling, ugly little girl, aren't you, Francesca? Aren't you?" he hissed in her ear, causing Sheska to spaz out of control – a new and dreadful sensation gripping her: this was not courage, this was all-out fear. Just what was he going to do to her? She thought that he might only do a few things here and there to scare her, perhaps verbally threaten her into silence, but he was getting considerably more violent that she'd have ever imagined.

"And you're more horrible than I thought!" she choked, trying to kick and scratch at him, but to no avail. "You're wicked and I know you're up to something in here, Solomon!" Her voice was trembling and she was half-expecting the boy to smack her. Instead, his ill-mannered temperament seemed to be exacerbated by her inadequate resistance.

"What the fuck did you find in here, Sheska? Cut all brainy, victim bullshit," he demanded.

"Nothing!" she yelped as his grip on her arms tightened.

He pulled her forward, only to slam her against the window again, knocking nearly all the breath out of her and casting her already scattered wits about the floor like a confused sack of marbles.

"Nothing at all!" she reiterated as he tossed her against the desk. She cried out as her hip met with the surface's hard edge and her shaking hands knocked over the desk lamp, casting Sole into darkness once more as he approached her.

And yet again those heartbeats came back to her…slow…steady…and gripping…

Instead of the full-fledged throttling she was expecting, Sole pressed her against the desk, his body settling against hers in a seductive manner. She could not see him, but that didn't seem to matter. There was a touch upon her chin – warm fingers guiding her face up in the direction of where his most likely was.

"I suppose I can't blame you…if I were you, my young Francesca…" His tone was delighted. "…I, too, would keep my pie-hole shut."

She felt those fingers pull her in a direction she most likely didn't want to go…those fears were only confirmed when she felt the slightest touch of lips against her own. She recoiled, whimpering as Sole imposed more of his weight against her and as the grip on her chin grew sharper – as he'd suddenly grown talons. It was like being cornered by a monster; how could something like Sole smile so sweetly for everyone else and turn out to be such a complete hellion once the lights were out? How was it possible that he could make such a drastic change? Just who was he?!

"Stop it!" She shoved him, not liking the way he moved his body against hers, or how close his breath was to her face. If this was what being with a boy meant, well, then Sheska couldn't for the life of her understand what she could have possibly been missing.

Was it considered good to have one's heart lodged in their throat? Did it feel right to have a boy's hands on you like this – when it was so clear you didn't want any of him anywhere near you? And was it natural to scare the living daylights out your partner beforehand?

I don't think so.

The Sole boy's hands came up beneath her shirt rudely, eliciting yet another shriek from her. A hand came up over her mouth to silence her and she realized, a bit too late, how close her back was coming to the desk surface.

"You're not quite as flat-chested as I thought you'd be," Sole remarked, sounding bland.

It was when he gave a particularly-rude pinch to her breast that Sheska thought this had all gone far enough. Her hand groped at the desk beneath her, and she was relieved when her efforts rewarded her with the distinct shape and hard-plastic feel of the study phone's hand held receiver in her palm. It was like a blessing – and Sheska took full advantage of it the way God would obviously like her to. Common sense said to ram it up the side of the boy's head as hard as possible. It would definitely take more guts than Sheska thought herself capable of possessing, but she managed. She did it.

"Fuck!" Sole hissed. There were other profanities beside that, but Sheska had not the chance to listen as she dropped to the floor, crawling beneath the desk and to the other side of the room. She knew it! He couldn't be trusted! McGohlavin had obviously been trying to rape her!

"Hmph. I thought nerds were supposed to be smart enough to take whatever's thrown their way…it's not like you have many options, Sheska." His voice was pretty chilling now that she knew for a fact what type of person he was. Especially when his face was like that…and the way he'd said her name; the nickname everyone used…he made it sound horribly vile. It was better when he used that already awful Francesca name…it's not like she liked it much anyway.

Sheska began shaking, her hand clasped over the phone (she'd dragged it with her beneath the desk and across the room), which, thankfully, was still very much in service despite her father's extended absence.

"You think you can just treat people anyway you want because you look like you do," Sheska accused, her voice trembling.

Sole raised an eyebrow, then brought his hands up in a peace gesture. "It's that obvious?" he sputtered in mock disbelief, clearly making fun of her. "So I guess you're perfectly aware of what you look like, hum? Well, fancy that." He sniffed.

Well, ouch. If Sheska hadn't been battering her own ego all her life, that just might have hurt a bit more. Thank heavens for self-destruction.

Sheska wanted to close her eyes, take a breather. But she was afraid. Even though he was on the other side of the desk, she was afraid at what blinking could cost her. And so she kneeled there on the floor, clutching the phone to her like a lifeline and staring at the ominous figure slouched over her father's desk. The light of the abused lamp only touched both of their feet, connecting them the way a well-placed kick might if Sheska could have gotten that far in the confidence department. She flinched away from the light.

"Well, I don't care. I'll never let you into this study. You just see," Sheska said with more conviction than she actually felt. "Now get out before I call the police. Kiss Winry goodbye and just…just go!"

There was no clichéd stand-off or stare-down. To her surprise, Sole moved to leave…but not before having the last word. As he began to brush past her, Sheska, who was already tensed, nearly jumped out her skin as he crouched down to whisper in her ear.

"Your father…intended that formula for me…for us. We will have it, Sheska…and it'd be quite an unfortunate scenario if you were to get in our way," and with that, Sole was gone. She hadn't even heard him shut the door behind her…but it was suddenly imperative that she exit the study, post haste.

She patted herself to make sure the paper she'd scribbled on was still on her person – tucked securely in her overalls pocket – before dashing out the eerie room. She would never be able to look at the place as her 'father's' study any more…a place she'd grown up monitoring. From now on, it was a dreaded room – a place where her worst fears could manifest themselves: Solomon McGohlavin's room.

For the time being.

But she had no choice but to return there – and soon. She didn't know how long she had until the 'us' and 'our' and 'we' Solomon had mentioned would descend upon her household…whoever they were, she was sure she wouldn't want to meet them. And the sooner she found this supposed formula, the sooner she could call the police and avoid that unmitigated disaster. At least that 'Sole' demon had let her know she was on the right track.

The supposed prescription drugs mean something.

Sheska was out of breath by the time she'd reached the bottom of the stairs. She was pleased to hear the familiar, smooth sound of Sole's car leaving their driveway and flew over to where Winry lay on the couch – illuminated by the glow of the TV. Her and 'Sole' had been watching a movie – a movie that was still playing. Whatever piece of modern-day garbage it was…Sheska was relieved to see that her younger sister was breathing…and clothed.

The elder twin sagged against the slumbering blonde girl, causing her to stir slightly and nudge at her. Sheska ignored it…she felt as if she'd been fighting a long, tiresome battle against some invisible foe. Solomon might as well be invisible – she didn't know what he was up to and couldn't anticipate his next move. It was indeed like fighting a transparent enemy. And a tricky one at that…could she do it?

"Sheska…whaaaat're you doing?" her sister mumbled on a yawn. "I thought you went to sleep…haven't seen you all day…" Winry murmured, her eyelids opening slightly, only to drift closed again.

"Only saving the world…" Sheska mumbled in a deceivingly-nerdy manner – the one expected of her – and leaning her head back against the arm of the couch. "…only saving the world…"

Winry snuggled against Sheska. "Oh Shesh, you read too much…"

Sheska gave a rueful smile. Maybe she did…if she hadn't read so well into Solomon McGohlavin's façade, then perhaps her arms wouldn't be smarting and he would just come and take whatever 'formula' he was talking about in peace. She wouldn't feel so degraded from having his hands up her shirt and…they would have never known the difference – it's not like they had need for anything his kind could possibly be so eager to get their hands on. They would never know this 'formula' was missing.

But she was a reader. And that was all there was to it.

(X)(x)(X)


Author's Note: Not sure about the quality of this chapter but that's why I have you guys to tell me! looks hopeful

Songs for this chappy:

The Grand Apartment by Louis XIV

How We Operate by Gomez

When I Grow Up by Garbage

By Myself by Linkin Park

Liar (It Takes one to Know One) by Taking Back Sunday

Danger Zone by Gwen Stefani