Author's Note: On a search for good Elricest fanart on deviantart, I ran into Cofie-san's gallery and fell in love with her "PridexVengence" pictures. They were so adorable, and they just filled my head with so many plot bunnies! XD

Warnings: Fairly predictable plot, language, lime, a little Royai, and. . . um. . . "dead" Elricest? Haha, no, really, "Pride" Ed and "Vengeance" Al. So it's not really "dead" Elricest, it's homunculi Elricest. XD Then there's some crossing over between them and some living Elricest (mostly fluff, a bit of angst). . . a smidgen of PridexEd for my friend Su-chan. . . (cough-I-should-have-added-a-foursome-scene-cough) XD Oh, and speaking of the homunculi Elrics, I'm not really sure what there powers would be, so I'm making 'em up as I go. ;)

Also, though I don't technically consider this AU, I have NO idea where it would take place in the series. Sometime after the Philosopher's Stone, I guess. . . you know, I suppose if you ignore the end of the movie and pretend Ed and Al came back to their world, this would work. Kinda. Or maybe it would work better in the manga universe. . . ?

Oh, just pretend, would you? Please? (sweatdrop)

NOW GO PRAISE COFIE-SAN! . . . after reading this. ;)

PS. I warn you now. . . this is pretty eff-ed up and was written purely for my own enjoyment. But I hope y'all enjoy it, too! XD

PSS. The title comes from a Vanessa Mae song—it's an instrumental remix, so don't bother asking for lyrics, but I felt it fit the tone of the story so. . . yeah. :) Eh heh. . . (sweatdrop) Check it out if you have a chance, it rocks! XD




"So where should we go from here?"

It was a simple question— asked on a whim and not particularly packed with any startling amount of concern. After all, they were on a road: they'd eventually find their way. (Maybe.) Really, the inquisition was more "food for thought;" though not in the metaphorical sense.

It had more to do with the map they'd lost.

The blonde boy frowned pensively, incessantly drumming his long fingers against his forearm. As he moved, the glossy ruby tattoos on his shoulder seemed to shimmer in the sun. "Where ever the wind takes us?" he lightly suggested, toying with his fingerless gloves in a nonchalant fashion.

His companion smiled slightly, rolling bronze eyes. "Very funny," he quipped, stretching languidly as they reached the shade of a sycamore tree. "Unfortunately, it's rather muggy today, in case you hadn't noticed. No wind."

"Really?" The first concentrated for a moment, then shrugged. "Mmm. No, actually, I hadn't noticed," he hummed, only half listening. Lifting his chin, he allowed his gaze to slide upwards, towards the bright blue sky. Summer had arrived, beating down upon them in all of its intense glory. But not one bead of sweat tarnished their pale skin—in fact, they both looked rather ghostly in the light.

Tossing back his loose locks, the shorter male hopped down the hot dirt road once, twice, three times, then slowed to a stop when he didn't see anything new through the forest. Not to be deterred, he quickly pushed himself up to his tiptoes, attempting to see over the crest of the hill they'd been climbing. However, all of his efforts came to no avail. He frowned. "Hey. . . Wanna give me a boost?"

". . ." The other—who had been momentarily distracted by a plethora of wild daisies— suddenly smirked, though not in a mean way. "'Give you a boost'?" he repeated blankly, tossing the pastel petals he'd gently plucked from the flowers towards the clouds. "I cannot believe you just asked me that."

A perfectly shaped nose crinkled in mild annoyance. "Why?"

"That's like admitting that you're sh—!" There was a flash of furious red. ". . . never mind."

Still beaming good-naturedly, the second boy stood and dusted down; sashaying over and—with a grace and ease that would shock any traveler—lifted the blonde, helping him wriggle onto his broad shoulders. (The dark-eyed male blushed a bit as his companion continued to wiggle long after it was necessary; his tight leather wrap teasingly chafing the back of his neck.) "What do you see?"

"Mmmmm," the first murmured, lifting a hand to shield his amber eyes from the sunlight. "A lot of big-ass trees. . . a few stray pedestrians and. . .—" A gasp; the carrier felt his 'cargo's' every muscle tighten in anticipation. (It felt quite good against his skin. . . His cheeks darkened a little more.) "It's THEM."

The other arched an eyebrow, sandy-brown hair now rumpled from his companion's excited, grasping hands. "'Them'?" he echoed, torn between disbelief and excitement. "You can't possibly mean—"

"But I do." The blonde let loose a feral grin, now sounding positively evil. "It's THEM. They're heading towards the desert— I think in the direction of Lior." A soft snicker echoed through the woods around them; the smaller boy's companion felt glorious chills race down his spine at the sound. "Shall we go wreck some havoc . . . ?" he questioned lightly, leaning down to softly whisper into his partner's ear.

There was a pause; a nip of teeth on flesh.

And then a creeping grin.

". . . Yes, I think so."




The Art of War





The dessert sun was not a merciful ball of gas; of that, Edward Elric was quite certain. Moaning laboriously, he dragged his heavy booted feet through the sands, both blessing and cursing his shielding red coat. "How much farther, Al?" he groaned, long golden braid frizzled from humidity.

"Too far," his brother responded dryly—which, ironically enough, was just how his throat felt. Dry. And sticky with sweat, like the rest of him. Sighing away his dirty auburn bangs, the taller boy hefted his trunk up a bit higher so that it rested against his shoulder blade, not his lower back. "Why are we off to Lior again, anyway?" he then inquired, trying his best not to sound bitter. "Nothing's going on up there anymore. Nothing worth investigating, anyway."

"You're asking the wrong person," Ed grumbled, lifting his hood with a furious snap of gloved hands. "I haven't heard of anything going on in this wasteland either, but Mustang insisted that we check it out. I dunno. . . maybe the fucking sadist just gets his kicks out of watching us suffer."

"That would be the definition of a sadist," Alphonse muttered sarcastically, but quietly enough that his older sibling did not here. No reason to start a pointless fight. . . not when Edward was the only one left with water in his canteen. Clearing his throat when Ed snapped a suspicious stare his way, Al said (a bit louder than necessary): "Well, no matter how much you may dislike him, Brother, I don't think Mustang would waste our time and his resources on a wild goose hunt. There must be something up here that he wants us to do—we just have to find what it is and do it."

"Woof woof," Ed snarled sardonically, spinning around to glare at his baby brother. "Do you roll over and play dead, too?"

Al scowled, but continued to walk on. "You shouldn't be talking; you're here, as well."


Glowering furiously, Edward did another 180— just in time to clear the crest of the final dune and see the worn, off-white buildings that had never looked so good.

"Finally!" Alphonse cheered, momentary fury forgotten as the pair paused on the summit of the tiny mountain, drinking in the promising sight. The restored city shimmered in wavering heat mirages; bright (though a bit dusty) in the midday glow. "We made it!"

"Almost, anyway," Ed corrected, though he sounded infinitely happier now. "We're down to the final stretch." He chuckled, casting his companion a teasing smirk. ". . . And I haven't had to dig you out of the sand once. It's a nice change."

"Yeah," his brother agreed—though he seemed a little pinker than before. "But I have to admit, not being able to feel the heat is sounding kinda appealing right now."

With a snort, Edward publicized his agreement.


"You know, I'd swear I've seen you before."

The two cloaked boys stiffened upon being addressed; looking up from their orange juices and blinking at the tan man behind the counter. Their eyes were shadowed—unusual, yet somehow familiar. . . Curious, he stared back; though not unkindly; as he wiped out a dirty cup with a worn cloth. Townspeople bustled around the three, adding to the white noise of squeaking glass and slurping liquid.

"Really?" the first purred, lifting a lithe hand and resting his chin against it; grinning widely. Black leather glistened in the sunshine as he moved; the shopkeeper noticed (with some degree of strange fascination) the spiraling burgundy tattoos which decorated his partially concealed arms and torso. "How amusing. Sorry to say, though, that this is my first time here. His as well." The stranger jabbed a thumb towards his traveling companion, who nodded in agreement.

"Oh?" the owner responded conversationally, apparently used to tourists. However, he continued to sound a bit distracted. "What brings ya to our little corner of the world, then?"

"We're here looking for someone," the second teen informed, in a voice softer than the blonde's. His copper-colored orbs could cut just as easily, however, as the hawk-like pair of his partner. "Some. . . old acquaintances."

"You don't say. . . Never been here before, eh? Well, welcome to Lior, then!" And though he still seemed rather put off, the man's smile was genuine. "I hope you boys find who you're looking for, 'cause unfortunately, I don't think I'll be much help."

"Oooooh, I don't know," the shorter one sang, twirling a lock of bright yellow hair around a finger. "You may be of assistance. You're a well-informed guy, yeah? Rumor has it that a rather popular midget is coming through this town with his younger sibling—you've heard of 'em, I'm sure. The Elric brothers. . . ?"

The name, as always, received a huge reaction. "Elric brothers?" the local echoed, straightening in surprise. "Of course I've heard of them! They're the ones wh—"

"Brilliant," the first interrupted swiftly, examining his nails with a bored expression—as if he'd heard the stories one too many times. "That's just brilliant, but more importantly—"

"Now, now, Brother," the other gently cut off, pushing his empty glass across the booth. Ice chinked quietly as he spoke; all attention was his. "Don't be so rude when you're asking for help." Ignoring his companion's splutter of indignation, he lifted his round face—lips pulling back in a beautiful smile that didn't quite reach his eyes. "I apologize for him. Now, you were saying that you knew of the Elric brothers. . . ?"

"Oh, sure, everyone knows who they are!" the clerk stated enthusiastically. (A few other customers nodded in agreement, having begun eavesdropping long ago.) "We owe those boys quite a bit—though they owe us quite a bit more!"

Everyone but the strangers laughed, as if sharing some kind of inside joke. However, though they didn't join in the guffawing, the cloaked pair did appear somewhat tickled— if their growing grins were anything to go by, anyway.

"Aaah. . . yep. Good kids, those two," the storeowner beamed, clearing away the empty cups that littered the counter. "So, why're you two tryin' to fin—

. . . eh?" He blinked—rubbed his eyes, blinked again. "Whaa—?" At this shocked noise, the others gathered paused. All remaining trickles of laugher died away; eyes widened and hands stilled as the men and women looked over to suddenly find. . .



"Looking for us?"

Alphonse silently slurped his soda as his brother and the shopkeeper spoke quickly; Edward's face tight with paranoia-based concerns as the other jabbered in bewilderment. It had been mere moments after the vanishing act that the Elric brothers had appeared, thirsty but alive—and coherent enough to try and figure out what the hell was going on. "Someone was looking for us?"

"Yeah!" the tanned man nodded, seemingly torn between shock and confusion. "Yeah, he and his—I think they said they were brothers—they were sitting right here, and we all looked away for a moment, and they were gone! They mentioned somethin' about looking for the Elrics, though, didn't they?"

A few men nodded and muttered affirmative responses.

"You didn't happen to see what these people looked like, did you?" Ed inquired evenly, though Al could see the worry lines forming across his brow. They'd dealt with plenty of suspicious-sounding folk before, but that didn't mean they enjoyed or ever grew used to it. "Any distinguishing marks?"

"Couldn't tell much, to be honest," the owner shrugged, slowly but surely calming down. "Both wore these hooded capes. . . musta been hot, but they didn't seem to care. The taller one had these brown-ish eyes, like a coin. Or. . . actually. . ." He stalled for a moment, looking a bit surprised. "More like his."

He pointed at a stunned Al.

"And the other had long blonde hair and a bunch of red tattoos."

'Red tattoos. . . ?' Edward didn't reply for a moment, simply allowing everything to sink in. Alphonse shot him an anxious glance, but his apprehension was waved off. "Red tattoos, did you say?"

The man nodded. "Why? Does that mean anything to you?"

"It used to," Ed said vaguely, finally attacking his own drink. "But they're all dead now."

Or, at least, they should be. . .


". . .You shouldn't call me that."

The brown-eyed boy gave a small start of surprise, twisting his head to the side. And though the ally way was dark, he could still see his companion's profile without a problem: standing there, looking serious and oddly melancholy in the fading afternoon light. "Call you what?" the second questioned softly, shifting his weight against the brick wall as he turned to face his partner.

"Brother," the first murmured, avoiding the other's gaze. Instead, he wrapped his arms around himself, staring off at the distant plaza—watching the Elrics with a slit gaze. "It's not really true."

". . ." The other didn't respond for a moment, apparently torn. He made to move, then stopped; opened his mouth, then closed it; reached out a hand. . . and touched his 'brother's' face. "I remember," he whispered, moving his body so that he'd caged his companion—caught between arms and legs; pressed flush to the cold stone wall. "I can remember being your brother. . . I still have the memories, as do you. Rizenbool. . . mom. . . the armor. . ."

"I'm not your brother," the blonde hissed, though not from anger so much as pleasure—he could feel the teeth against his nape; wandering hands slipping down his sides. . . "I am. . . I am not. . ."

"You like it," the darker haired one accused mischievously, a smirk in his voice. "You like it when I call you 'Brother.' Don't try and hide it. . . You did back then, and you still do now. It's an aphrodisiac." Strong fingers locked around thin wrists; a limber leg incased the taller male's back—forcing hips to grind so painfully that they both gasped in delight.

And then the second's lips were stolen in a passionate kiss; all teeth and tongue and fiery lungs.

"Fuck yes I like it," the shorter snarled as he pulled away, cheeks flushed and golden pools bright; slicing through the gloom like knives. "But I haven't earned the right to be called your brother yet. . . there's still something we have to do."

"Besides screw. . . ?" the other teased lustfully, smoldering eyes half-lidded. His partner leered, weaving his arms around the brunette's neck. Then, pulling himself closer, he bent down and—

"Sorry," he breathed, rubbing noses affectionately. "Not here; not now. They're on the prowl." He jerked his head in the direction of the Elrics; they were gathering their things and paying for their food. Clear signs of departure. . .

The second pouted, clearly disappointed by this announcement. "Does it matter?" he asked a bit resentfully. "Why can't we just let them be for now? We can always find them again later. . . or we could just let them die naturally. Wouldn't faze us."

"No," the blonde agreed, giving his 'brother' a small love bite, "it wouldn't. But it wouldn't be half as much fun either, eh?"

And though the taller teen did smile, it was certainly hesitant.


The mood was tense, even hours later—Alphonse barely managed to contain a sigh as he watched Edward pace back and forth, back and forth across the floor, wearing away at the wood. "Brother," he finally grumbled as he finished combing his long sandy tresses, already having donned loose pajamas, "please stop. You're going to give yourself a headache."

"Too late," Ed grunted in reply, though he slowed regardless—throwing himself onto the second bed. "Dammit. . . !"

"'Dammit' what?" Al questioned calmly, burying his brush in the safe confines of his suitcase. "'Dammit, I've got a headache' or 'dammit I can't figure this out'?"

Ed didn't reply, instead choosing to fume and fester as he glared at the ceiling. (Which, in the long run, wasn't very helpful on any front.)

". . ." There was a sigh, a soft creak; then the weight of someone lying beside him. The state alchemist stiffened as his brother's feathery bangs tickled his throat, copper eyes watching him watch the rafters with a glitter of exasperation. ". . . I assume the latter, then."

"Red tattoos, Al," Edward ground out through gritted teeth, brow furrowed in unease. "The only people with tattoos who look for us are homunculi."

"The homunculi are dead, brother," Alphonse assured, sounding weary—though whether that was from travel or this conversation, Ed wasn't sure. "Besides, tattoos aren't all that uncommon. A lot of people in Central have them. And they come in a bunch of different colors. These people are probably just some random Alchemists who've become interested in your work or something. Maybe that's why the Colonel sent us down here." Cutting himself momentarily off in order to smother a yawn, Al smiled—lazy and sweet as he curled closer into his brother's warmth. "Besides, even if there were homunculi, they wouldn't bother looking for us. We're not searching for the Stone anymore. We're useless."

Ed remained silent.

He stayed that way for a long time. . .


The air crackled with electricity, gasps and moans reverberating off of the hard inn walls—white and cold and unfeeling. Twin thuds echoed when the tangled bodies toppled from the bed; wrestling for dominance as their tongues danced erotically down the other's flesh.





The brunette trapped his companion against the wall, pushing him forcefully to it. Both groaned and snarled and sighed with desire; biting and nipping and tearing as the pleasure and tempo built. They could almost grasp Heaven— and then, for a fleeting moment, it was theirs: flashing lights, consuming waves, and perfection at its best.

They lay together on the floor, battered and broken but unable to stop grinning; animalistic growls replaced with adorable purrs and loving kisses in the moonlight. Following this was a silence. . . and then the second boy spoke, toying with stray strands his lover's loose hair. "Bro— sorry. . ."

The blonde smiled tenderly, rolling his eyes. "You know," he whispered, as if speaking any louder would shatter the scene, "you could always just call me by my name. My name in this form, I mean. . . it doesn't hurt."

'Doesn't hurt whom?' "Mmm," the taller noncommittally hummed, then rolled onto his elbows and stared down into his partner's face. ". . . What will we do?" he asked, resting his cheek against the other's chest, kissing the collar bone.

Stray fingers trailed upwards to run through auburn hair. "What do you mean?"

"I mean just what I say," the second murmured, tracing unintelligible patterns on his companion's chest. "When we find them. . . what will we do? Will we really kill them?"

"Of course we will," the first retorted firmly. "Why wouldn't we? They had their chance, failed, and we're the result. Why should we bother with people stealing our identities? We've never tolerated it before. So what if they're the originals? We're stronger, faster, and will stay younger. . . It's the way of nature: superiority prevails."

"You're so egotistical," the other snorted, though appeared rather amused—his eyes glimmered through the darkness like dancing flames. "Such a big head. . ."

"They don't call me Pride for nothing," the older smirked, canines flashing in the star glow. "And you're just jealous of my 'big head'." He snickered as the other flushed a beautiful shade of scarlet, spluttering in self-conscious denial. Taking advantage of this, Pride flipped them over so that he was straddling the brunette's narrow waist. Stutters were replayed with moans. "Now," the blonde breathed; sultry and sweet into his lover's ear, "what we need to see more of is your namesake, Vengeance. Why are you sticking up for them? You and I were always on the same page before."

Vengeance hesitated, unable to look his companion in the eye for a moment. "I know, it's just. . ."

"Just. . . ?" Pride prompted, arching a flaxen eyebrow.

A pause.

". . . nothing," the brunette eventually murmured, beaming gently and kissing the tip of his partner's nose. "I'm only being stupid."

The blonde grinned widely. "Well, then, I'm glad that's cleared up." Settling comfortably upon the other's chest, Pride warmly purred—lavishing his lover with fluttering butterfly kisses until he'd drifted off, leaving Vengeance in a solemn state of silent contemplation.

'It's just. . .

Brother, what if I can't do it?'


Alphonse woke early the next morning; much earlier than either Edward or the sun. And he groaned horribly when he realized it—beating his head against his pillow with an anguished sigh. He hated this time of day, the endless hours preceding daybreak: suffering at the brink of first light, when the sky was at its darkest. It was a dreadful era—when the entire world was either dead or in a ruthless coma. . . When it felt like he was the only one alive.

. . . it felt like that in the armor.

Shivering—but not from pre-dawn chill— Al rolled over: vainly trying to seal himself away in his blankets; away from the world. But that only made it worse.

'This sucks,' the boy mused bitterly, though he found himself unable to keep a miniature grin off his face. After all, he was starting to sound just like Ed. . . and he couldn't help but consider that amusing. "Brother. . ." he breathed unintentionally, gazing at said companion through his thick lashes. Al blushed; 'meep'ed.

Luckily, his brother was a very heavy sleeper. "Mghf. . ." was Edward's eloquent response as he—in all of his unkempt glory— shifted subconsciously towards the noise (thankfully without waking). However; "in exchange," as an alchemist might say; the bed sagged, his tank top rose, and his automail arm whacked the headboard rather loudly; legs and boxers twisting together as peach blankets deftly slither away.

Thus, Ed's stomach lay exposed to all the brutal elements the room could throw at it.

". . ." The younger boy watched this with a sardonic smile playing across his face. "One day he's gonna get sick and wish he'd have listened. . ." he muttered under his breath, pushing a stray lock of his auburn mane behind his ear before moving to lay back down—

But old habits die hard, it seemed, because instead of attempting to coax the Sandman back to his own bed, Alphonse suddenly found himself crouching beside his brother's, fingers outstretched to rearrange the flimsy cloth.

However, they, too, stilled.

And he stood for an instant in the shadows, simply watching over his older brother: taking in every scar, every muscle, every definition of his body. . . every inch that made Ed, Ed. Al pillowed his chin against his right arm, allowing his left hand to dart timidly out—brush against that smooth, worn skin. It was warm and soft and supple. . . tendons tight beneath the flesh. It trailed up and down his living arm for a moment; carefully, feather-light; before sliding upwards: past the shoulder, the junction of the neck, the throat, the lips. . .

The lips. . .

Al flushed horrendously, quickly pulling back his hand; pretending he'd only moved it there to brush away a stray strand of hair. Not because he'd wanted to touch his brother. . . not because he'd wanted to kiss him. . .

The boy released a terrible, tight-lipped moan, unable to fight back the guilty burn in his belly; the taste of rising bile and salty tears. 'Old habits really do die hard. . .' he realized despairingly, cursing himself for letting it get this far; for letting his common sense fly so far out the window when he'd been in the armor. 'If only I'd never looked. . . if only I'd looked, but never touched. . . if only I'd touched, but never craved. . .'

If only he'd never had a brother at all.

Of course, that would have been impossible— because without Ed, there would be no Al. Edward was his other half; he knew that. And a life without him would have been too much to bear.

But this. . . (Alphonse could barely stifle a sob as it tore from his mouth). . . This was almost too much to bear! This was almost worse. A world full of 'cannot's— cannot look, cannot touch, cannot crave, cannot have. . .

'I cannot love my brother.'

And he knew that. He'd never forgotten that, and never would. Still, sense does not dictate emotions, as any poet or dreamer could guarantee. As Al himself could assure.

The darkness clung heavily to him, like a fatal disease.

He felt like he was dying.


There was a bittersweet numbness encasing those with the knowledge of immortality; an invisible line between gain and loss. While it could be a beautiful thing to recognize you'd never age nor die, it was also a curse to realize that—no matter how much you may hate your life—you were stuck with it.

Until the end of time.

Really, it took more skill than many realized to be able to make it from day to day; knowing that you'd never have the chance to rest or sleep or just let go. It could cause the best to go insane.

Pride sometimes wondered if he could do it.

Blowing out his cheeks, he slowly pulled his clothing back on—so used to the familiar rhythm of the action that he didn't bother trying to find a light. The movements came naturally to him; every moment did. Fighting, jumping, walking, running, sparring. . . it had been preprogrammed into him, along with Edw—


Along with his memories.

Forcefully swallowing a growl, the young man stood; stalking over to the window as the horizon began to glow. And as he did so, he tried to wash the sour taste of irony out of his mouth.

How could it be? He didn't understand—everything about him was perfect: his composition, his mind, his will power. And yet there was someone in the world (many 'someone's, even) who had the gall to tell him he was a fake? That he was nothing? That everything he knew, everything he remembered, was a lie?

They may as well have tried to tell the wind to stop blowing, for all the sense it made to him.

". . ." Pride frowned, opening the window a crack; allowing the crisp breeze to toy with his hair. 'What's so good about being the "original," anyway?' he asked himself frostily, and with all the internal maturity of a four-year-old. 'They're brittle; like porcelain dolls. I could snap either of the Elrics like twigs. No one could argue with me, then, as to who was the 'true' Ed— because Edward Elric would be on my side. After all, I know him. I know the bastard inside and out, and I know how he feels about the laws of nature: evolution trumps antiquity.' His mouth tugged upwards, displaying a brief flash of white teeth.

'They'll all see. We'll be better Elrics than they were; better than they could ever hope to be. We'll be faster, stronger, younger, smarter. . .

We'll be real.'


"Wake up, sleepyhead."

Alphonse groaned, rolling away from the cold, hard fingers that lightly brushed his shoulder, giving him a gentle shake. "Nnnnn. . ."

"Come on, Al," the voice repeated, infinitely too jovial. There was another soft nudge, followed by an annoying shower of lukewarm droplets against the younger boy's cheek. "I've let you sleep enough—it's almost noon."

Noon. . . ? Alphonse's frown deepened considerably, confusion wrinkling his forehead. It couldn't be noon. It'd been hours before dawn when he'd closed his eyes and—

—and not opened them again.

'Shit. . . !'

Bolting upright (and almost cracking his skull against his brother's), the brunette whipped his head frantically back and forth, trying vainly to piece together what had happened. Al could recall getting out of bed, kneeling beside Ed and. . . and. . . and what? He couldn't remember. But this was most definitely not his bed. . .

Had he crawled in with Edward without realizing it?

"Hm?" Said alchemist noticed his younger sibling's magenta features with a whistled note of bewilderment, allowing the towel on his head to drop to his shoulders. Long, wet waves of gleaming yellow hair tumbled down to caress his bare back; Alphonse swallowed rather loudly. "What's wrong, Al?"

"Br—Brother. . ." he stammered, coiling a locket of his own hair around an anxious finger, "why am I. . . ?" 'Oh God, please don't tell me I did anything stupid—!'

"Huh? Oh," Edward beamed, turning to face his sibling; rolling cheerfully up and down on the balls of his feet. The black leather of his pants squeaked in weak protest. "I woke up last night at around 4 to find you crying—completely disorientated and half-asleep, too. You were on the floor beside me for some reason; I assumed you'd had a bad dream so I just tucked you in with me." His smile was so wide, so innocent, that Al would have been entirely convinced that that was what had really happened, a bad dream, had he not known any better. (Though it may as well have been as Edward said, because there was no way in hell that Alphonse would ever admit that it was otherwise.)

". . . thanks, Brother," the boy mumbled timidly, hands clenching and unclenching in embarrassment. "Sorry to have caused you so much trouble."

"Ah, don't worry about it!" Ed enthusiastically assured, plopping beside the taller teen and ruffling his hair with vigor. "I was glad to help. It reminded me of when we were younger, you know— you always used to come to me before mom. . ." His smile fell a notch, vibrant eyes dulling. ". . . but you seem so closed off, nowadays."

Al didn't respond, choosing instead to hide behind his flowing bangs. But still, he could feel that heated gaze—not angry: worried. Concerned. A little hurt. It pierced him to his very soul. "Brother, I . . ." he choked despairingly, fruitlessly trying to dig up a proper response; give some justice to his case. "I . . . I don't mean to be closed, I just have a lot on my mind."

"And you can't share it with me?" the older boy inquired quietly, definitely wounded now—and sounding as if he'd wanted to say this for a long time. Which, really, just made things hurt all the more.

Alphonse—though honestly trying his best— couldn't reply. What could he say? 'Of course I can't tell you; it's about how I want you' didn't feel like a proper retort. So instead he simply sat there, feeling worse and worse, until Ed finally took pity on him.

". . . never mind, sorry I asked," the blonde mumbled; replacing his frown with a tiny grin. "It's not like I've never kept secrets from you. Equivalent exchange, yeah? Just tell me if you ever need to talk."

The younger of the pair faltered, opening his mouth as if to—well, even he wasn't sure. But in the end he closed it with a feeble beam, nodding his thanks. "All right, brother. I will."

Though he doubted he'd ever take him up on that offer.


The day was spent, in large part, simply sitting in their rented room— listening closely to the noises from below them; the light chatter and awkward silences. Because of this lackluster turn of events, restless Pride found himself in a foul mood rather quickly: 'Dammit, won't those stupid Elrics do SOMETHING worth while?' Even if it was something as mundane as playing a card game, anything would be better than this: the hesitant exchange of pleasantries between two disconcerted individuals.

"Shit, please don't tell me we were even this boring!" the blonde snarled, oozing off of the bed to lie beside a languid Vengeance on the floor, supple body sprawled every which way. "I mean, really! How many times can they mention the great fucking weather?"

"Calm down," the other sighed softly, eyes glued to the floor as if he were seeing through it. "They're just confused. You remember feeling like that, yeah? 'Cause I sure do."

". . . well, okay, yeah, maybe, but STILL!" Pride grounded out, tracing his own spiraling tattoos with an air of indescribable dullness. "Haven't they figured out our plans yet? Because ripping them limb from limb won't be fun unless they're expecting it."

Vengeance graced his lover with a flat stare. ". . .you're disgusting."

"Damn right I am," the shorter of the pair grumbled, rolling over to kiss his partner's exposed thigh. "But I'm also incredibly sexy, so it all balances out." He was rewarded with a playful bop on the head.

"Quiet," the brunette insisted dryly. "I can't hear what they're saying when you blabber."

"What on Earth could they possibly be saying that's worth hearing?" the elder pouted, acting like a hurt puppy. "More stuttering and pauses?" In response, Vengeance simply smiled at him—a cunning, colder smirk than Alphonse Elric would ever wear. But it was his, all the same, and Pride couldn't help but drink in that sneer with an air of longing.

"No. . . it sounds more like 'goodbye' to me."


"Are you really sure it's safe?"

Edward grinned, a patient look in his eyes that he only ever shared with his brother. "Weren't you the one telling me to calm down yesterday?"

Alphonse colored slightly, glowering a bit. "That's beside the point," he huffed. "I just mean. . . Shouldn't we stick together? In case something bad happens?"

"It's safer for you here," Ed retorted without hesitation, slipping on his chunky boots and fastening his shirt buckle. His back was turned; he refused to make eye contact. "No one knows where we're staying and there are places for you to hide in case something bad happens."

"'Hide'? What if I don't want to hide?" Al complained, brow furrowed in exasperation. "I don't need to be protected, Brother! I want to help you!"

The blonde shook his head, ponytail whipping back and fore. "It'll help me more if you stay here," he insisted delicately, straightening his lapels. "If I do run into someone. . . or something. . . I'll know you're safe."

"But I won't know if you're safe!" the younger of the pair cried, barely able to keep himself from stomping his feet like a toddler. Clomping angrily foreword, Alphonse forcibly spun Edward around and began poking him painfully in the chest, as if trying to prove his point. "Do you want to return to find me bald from having ripped out all of my hair? No? Then let me come! I'm not 4 years old anymore!"

However, despite the serious glare and determined prodding, the state alchemist just chuckled as he tugged himself away. "Don't be stupid," he chastised, moving towards the door. "I'm not doing this because I think you need protecting, Al. This is me being selfish."

. . . Selfish?

The brunette's head tilted in confusion; Ed's lips pulled back in one of his beautiful lopsided smiles. But before Alphonse could ask his brother what he meant, the older teen was gone—sweeping out the door and locking it from the outside.


Words of good luck were not needed; luck was not necessary. Luck implied that they required help, after all. So instead, they only grinned, flicking fingers at one another in imitations of salutes.

"See ya— don't have too much fun with my old body." A chuckle, a kiss—deep and hot and promising; pushing against the cold, slimy wall.

The hatch opened.

"Right back at you, love."



Seconds passed like minutes; minutes like hours; hours like days. And all the while Alphonse could think of nothing better to do then sit on the bed like a fool, waiting for his brother to return. Sure, he'd moved once or twice—considered breaking down the door, or escaping through a window—but eventually decided against. What if Edward came looking for him later? What if he was out, and Ed couldn't find him? Things had ended so badly; he didn't want to start off with another fight.

"Brother. . ." Al blew out his cheeks, flopping backwards against the mattress; staring up at the ceiling with deadpan eyes. "What am I going to do. . . ?"

"You could start by not talking to yourself—it's kinda creepy."

The brunette gave a horrendous start, nearly jumping a mile straight into the air. "—!" Clutching the cloth that covered his racing heart, he bolted upright; glaring at the speaker. Said speaker simply closed the door behind him, smirking his amusement. "Brother!" Alphonse gasped, working to keep the mortification out of his voice. "Geez! What're you, a ninja? Give me some warning or something, next time!"

Ed arched an eyebrow, slowly easing out of his coat. "Well, sorry. But God, Al, breathe. I didn't mean to scare you—but I didn't think I'd need to announce my presence, either." The jacket fell to the ground beside him with a rustling flutter, easily stepped over as the alchemist moved forward. "I mean. . ."

. . . Rather, more like 'glided towards him;' eyes half lidded, glittering, and—if Al didn't know any better—he'd say . . .sultry. "It's not like you're trying to hide anything."

His footsteps echoed through the small room, rhythmic and composed. (But hazily, Alphonse thought there was something 'odd' about those footsteps. . .)

"And you're definitely not keeping anything from me," Edward continued in a purr, his voice as teasing as ever—but with a darker sort of lilt. And as he made his way closer and closer to the mattress, Alphonse found himself scooting farther and farther backwards, towards the headboard. "Right, Al?"

"N—no," the boy stammered, still flustered. It was incredibly difficult to keep from forgetting himself when Ed's haunting golden eyes were focused so fixedly upon him, after all. "I'm not h—hiding anything, I just—I just wasn't expecting—oh! Did you find anything interesting, brother? About the people looking for us?"

Al tried to give an easy smile; it came off looking pained.

"Hm? Oh, no," the blonde shrugged, sliding unhurriedly onto the bed—one knee out and the other tucked beneath him. The simple stretching was almost too much; Alphonse had to pointedly look away as Edward continued to settle himself down. 'What the hell is going on?' "Turns out to have been nothing, after all; just some big shots that thought they could mooch offa us. Don't worry, though; they already split town."

"Really. . . ?" the younger male gulped, uncomfortably aware of the way Ed was laying: his black undercoat riding upwards just slightly; the loose flaxen ponytail tickling Al's ankles. "I wonder why Mustang had us come all the way out here, then, if it would amount to nothing. . . ?"

"Never can tell with that bastard, can you?" Edward murmured lightly, reaching upwards to tug on his hair tie. "It's like he's always got something up his sleeve. . . some secret. . ."

Alphonse froze; his brother wasn't letting this go—!

The loose strands of gold fluttered as Ed suddenly sat up, nearly pouncing on Al— nose to nose with the taller teen, so close that he could hear the startled boy's 'eep!'. Two strong arms caged the brunette; gloved fingers tightening on the headboard.

"You don't have to lie to me, Al. . ." the state alchemist breathed, tenderly pressing their foreheads together; chest to chest; between Alphonse's trembling knees. "I know about that thing you've wanted. . . wanted for quite a long time, now. . ." He made a soothing noise in the back of his throat when the younger whimpered, puzzled and frightened. "I remember, brother mine. . . I remember when you were in the armor—the way you used to watch me all night; run your gloved fingers down my body; the way you used to touch me. . . Like this. . ."

Alphonse gasped; only just able to bite off a groan as Edward took his hands in his own, trailing them down his chest, his belly, his—! "B—brother—!" the teen squeaked, feeling heat rush through his body at the contact.

The blonde smirked, chuckling huskily in Al's ear. "You thought I didn't know . . . ?"

"Br— broth— ah!" the other alchemist gasped, terror and bewilderment and lust and shame and want all tearing at his brain; tears welling in the corners of his bright bronze eyes. "Brother, I— I'm sorry, I— why are you acting like this! Please, what are you doing?"

"'What am I doing'?" Ed echoed coolly, almost mockingly; swiftly trapping Alphonse between his legs and squeezing tightly, transmuting the wooden posts to coil around the boy's wrists. Al began to panic; writhing helplessly in dread. 'What is—? Why is—?' "I'm just giving you what you've wanted for so long—



"Ugh. . ."

The world was swimming: blacks and grays and sickly off-whites swirling together as the floor quavered like gelatin. Nausea—he was definitely feeling queasy, bile rising in his throat; whole body throbbing in agony.

"Wh. . . what the. . . hell. . ." the golden-haired alchemist choked, tugging vainly forward in an attempt to stand. This plan was hindered, however, by the shackles encasing his bare wrists.

. . . wait a minute.


Edward's hawk-like eyes snapped open, focusing quickly despite the overwhelming urge to vomit. Where the fuck was he—what was this dark, damp place? A cell? No, too long. . . the sewer, then? It would explain the rotting, molding stench. . . but why was he there?

And why was he only dressed in his underwear?

"Who's there. . . ?" he called blearily, cursing his cracking voice as he strained to see through the shadows. "Anyone. . . ? Where am I?" 'Why am I chained to the damn wall in my boxers!'

The words simply echoed for a moment. . .

Then they were answered with a familiar sigh—

From directly before him.

"!" Startled, Ed tried to move his body, attempting weakly to see who was present; to see who could blend so perfectly with the shadows; but the speaker didn't try to stay hidden for very long. Instead, they simply crouched down, smiling silkily at the stunned alchemist. "Hey, there, Edward-san."

". . .—." For the first time in his life, words failed the blonde. All he could do was stare in shock at the boyish face of his little brother, grinning down at him from over a glittering knife. "A. . . Al. . . ?" he spluttered, completely at a loss—until his frazzled brain noticed the oddity of the other teen's clothes, the length of this Al's cropped hair, and the—

Was that the Seal of— ?

"You're not Al. . . !" Edward abruptly hissed, retreating as far from the taller male as he could; pale back pressed flush to the moist brick wall. "You're a homunculus—!"

"Oh my. Very good," the doppelganger smiled, wedging the sharp blade in between the stones of the floor, mere centimeters from Ed's flesh toes. (The alchemist cringed a bit.) When his hands were free, the fake-Alphonse used them to reward the teen with a slow, cynical clap. "Though I'm sure I could have tricked you if I tried. I just didn't expect you to be waking up soon. . . or at all, to be honest."

"And why the hell is that?" Edward snarled, pulling against the handcuffs. He was dismayed to notice the chains unusual strength; this homunculus knew who he was dealing with. "Gonna let me freeze to death in my underwear, were you?"

The clone chortled; it made Ed's stomach turn to hear Al's sweet laugh tainted this way. "No, sorry. . . about the clothes, I mean. My brother needed to use them. He had to make a little visit. Though I think you look much more appealing like this. . . no more layers to get in your way. . . and bondage to keep you still. Almost reminds me of your first time in Lior, in Father Cornello's cell. . . God, when I saw you bound there. . . it was hard to keep my mind on wiring a sound system, if you know what I mean." The brunette smiled coyly, a small pink blush dusting his features. Then, after a moment of hesitation, he scooted an inch or two closer. ". . . You really are so very beautiful, Edward-san. . ." he whispered, leaning gradually nearer, placing a velvety hand on Ed's chest. The sleek fingers expanded, like a flower, covering his heart. "So pretty. . ." And he giggled when the alchemist squirmed, rubbing closer as he stared up into those startled amber eyes. "It almost makes me want to kiss you."

"You're going to want to fight that urge," the blonde scowled, face flushed from anger or embarrassment or something else entirely; even he wasn't sure which. There was just something in this boy's ('No! Homunculi aren't humans!') eyes that. . . that. . .

He didn't resist—couldn't resist— when the taller teen pulled himself upwards; slinking like a hungry cat; pawing from Ed's stomach to his shoulders to his chin; before molding their lips together in a heated kiss. And he reacted. God, how he reacted: pushing and nipping and battling tongues just as readily as the double.

But though his body was oddly obedient, Edward's mind was reeling.

'This—this isn't right. . . what the fuck am I doing? What's going on; where is. . . why am I thinking of. . . I can't wish this was—!' "A. . . Al—!" he moaned, tilting his head upward; breaking the contact with a pant.

". . ." The homunculus smiled slightly, hands weaving themselves into yellow locks. "I prefer 'Vengeance,'" he admitted, getting to his feet with a sudden, heavy exhale. "But yes, I'm Al, too. Or at least I was." He perked at the memories, admiring his nails with flushed cheeks. "You know, I always wanted to do that with you, Edward-san. Even when I was very small. . ."

But by this point, Ed wasn't listening; he was too busy trying to sort through his thoughts. "Al. . ." he repeated, body rapidly tensing. (Vengeance noticed this with an air of mild interest, pausing to watch the slow reaction.) "Al. . . ! Where. . . is he? Where— where's Al? Tell me where my brother is!"

Vengeance shrugged. "I expect I don't know, do I? I've been with you, down here, the whole time."

That answer just wouldn't cut it. "WHERE'S MY BROTHER?" Edward screamed, tearing at his binds with all his might. The one which encased his automail made a crackling noise, but that was the extent of it— neither budged enough to free him, or even let himself transmute an escape route.

So again, obviously feeling completely unthreatened, Vengeance indistinctly moved his shoulders; sliding down the opposite wall. "My Pride is with him—but really, stop asking me where, I couldn't tell you. All he said before he stripped you down and left was that he didn't want me to have the trauma of seeing myself killed. It would sort of fuck with the psyche, don't you think?" He hummed in mild amusement, though more to himself than to Ed. "So it was my chore to off you. But. . . well, you can see how well that little job is turning out." For the third time, he blew out his cheeks—raking a hand through his short locks. ". . . there are some things worse than seeing yourself die, I think."

". . . ?" Edward faltered, baffled by the murmured words. And then—



"Aaah—!" Al yelped, unable to keep his voice from hitching breathily; tears and sweat slipping down his pale face. Buttons flew. Fair locks and a trailing tongue tickled his exposed, heaving chest. . . His eyes jammed shut against the pain and pleasure; his head flailed as uselessly as his pinned legs and arms. "N— no! St— st—!"

"St. . . ?" The blonde paused, resting his chin atop the younger boy's collar bone; gloved hands flittering like spiders over the bare skin. "Stop, you mean? Why? I thought you liked stuff like this, Al. I thought you wanted this, sick and twisted though it is. What's wrong?"

Alphonse choked on air and saliva, attempting to find his own voice. "N. . . not—!" he raged, once more tugging against his bindings. They wouldn't budge. "Not— you're not— my brother—!"

". . . ?" 'Ed' started in momentary surprise, but quickly covered the reaction with a snort of exasperation. "And what makes you say that. . . ?" he inquired melodically, crouching lower but pushing higher up his captive's body— staring down his nose at the boy while still rubbing against him. "Why do you think I'm not your brother?"

Al smiled wryly, despite the fear and lust and adrenalin pumping through his veins. "Brother. . ." he panted, flushed and beautiful against the pillows, "would never. . . treat me this way.

. . . and he has automail."

". . ." Two pairs of eyes flicked towards the elder's right arm—distinctively human underneath glove. Said hand instantly recoiled; was clenched by its twin against the imposter's chest. Then the look-alike smirked. "Mmm. . .I was hoping you wouldn't notice, Alphonse-kun."

The younger Elric didn't respond for a moment, chest continuing to heave as he intently watched the stranger—an odd expression in his hazel orbs. Odd. . . because it perfectly countered the bitter humor playing across the other's face. ". . . who are you?" Al soon managed to hiccup, though he remained painfully aware of the Ed-twin perched between his sprawled legs; of the wide honey eyes that had yet to stray from his face. "Where's my brother? And why. . . why are you doing this to me?"

A beat full of consideration. . . the blonde doppelganger snorted quietly, glancing the other way. ". . . That's a whole bunch of questions to ask the person straddling you."

"I think I deserve to know the answer," Alphonse responded just as calmly, though his face had yet to regress to its original hue. "Especially because you're straddling me."

Surprisingly, there was a chuckle—and the leer returned in full force; framed by fists which smashed into the headboard an inch from each ear. Their noses brushed; countless, waving strands of gold caressing the clone's back quite lovingly. "They call me Pride," he silently informed, reaching upwards with a lazy hand—only to fiercely rip off his left sleeve. The cloth tore easily beneath his fingers, dark fabric vanishing; burgundy tattoos replacing it. "I'm what you call a homunculus."

'A—!' Al froze, eyes wide. "A. . . homunculi. . . ?" he gasped, petrified. "Of my brother?" That seemed fairly obvious, but. . . "How? He's not dead!"

"Not now, he isn't," Pride scoffed, lips pursed in agitation. "But he has been before, hasn't he?"

In response to this eloquent point, Alphonse could only gag on his own voice— thoroughly stunned. "W. . . well, yes, I. . . I guess so, but. . ."

"But," the blonde interjected, sounding somewhat impatience, "homunculi aren't perfect human transmutations. As an alchemist, you know that—they're portions of a soul, if even. Memories and a face. You don't even have to use the original shell to make a good one, as we discovered with Sloth. So if the rest of an 'original's' soul can find a way back into a true body. . ." He grunted, clearly irked as he balled his fists. ". . . Someone must have missed Edward enough to try and bring him back while he was stuck on The Other Side of the Door. . . only to find later that he could make it back on his own."

". . ." The younger boy gaped noiselessly, having a difficult time processing the acidic words as they spilt from what-looked-like-his-brother's mouth. 'Ed. . . revived? But I didn't. . . who else would. . . ?'

"Now," Pride cleared his throat importantly. Reaching into the depths of his black over shirt, he found a small, hidden pocket; delicately sliding a long, silvery knife from its depths. "I didn't want to have to do this without fulfilling a fantasy or two for you, but as the kitten is already out of the armor, so to speak—"

"Woah—!" Al shied away, horror creeping back into his tone as he eyed the weapon; though the shock in his voice didn't seem to stem only from the blade. "How—how did, er, I mean, do you know that one of my fantasies—um—that is. . . !" He squeaked for the umpteenth time, terribly flustered under the other's widening leer.

A patronizing finger tapped his nose.

"Why, Vengeance told me, of course," the homunculus purred, applying a little more pressure to their hips. "He remembers all of those dirty little secrets. . . and I must admit, Alphonse-kun, you have some damn good ideas."

Al could feel the delighted shiver race up his captor's spine. But that was the least of his concerns right now.

"What. . . ? But how would anyone—I haven't told—?" the brunette spluttered, face cherry red as he stammered. "Who is this Vengeance . . . ?"

A pause—full of amusement and arrogance.

". . . What a silly question. There's only one person your brother would travel with, isn't there. . . ?" Pride's smile lengthened once more, cocky and elated all at the same time, when Al didn't answer. "He's you, Alphonse-kun. Vengeance is your homunculi counterpart."


. . . the chains were off.

"—?" Edward blinked like an idiot for a full minute, arms still out as if bound—eyes glued to the clattering remains of the metal bands as they bounced and spun into the distant shadows. 'What the—?' They were really gone. 'Why had. . . ?' Vengeance had cut them, somehow. 'This. . .?' He hadn't even nicked Ed's wrist.

The homunculi watched him lazily from the shadows.

This wasn't the time for questions.

Leaping to his feet in a flurry of splattered puddles, Ed dashed forward; automail converted into a sword in the breath that it took to reach Vengeance. Posed, panting, and livid, the alchemist steadied his arm; the tip of the blade scant millimeters from the doppelganger's neck.

And yet Vengeance simply yawned.

"Tell me where Al is," the state alchemist ground out, ocher pools flashing through the musk.

"How many times do I have to repeat myself?" the look-alike sighed, starting to sound somewhat annoyed as his fingers darted out, idly brushing the other's weapon. So unconcerned. . . it was infuriating. "I. Don't. Know. He's probably where you left him."

"I don't believe you!" Edward growled, shaking his metal arm a bit as if to emphasize his point. "Tell me or I'll kill you!"

Vengeance arched an eyebrow, still gallingly relaxed about the whole affair. "And what good would that do you?" he questioned somewhat wryly. "A corpse can't say much."

Ed flushed in ferocity, rage consuming him as he took a small step closer; one foot on either side of the second's crossed legs. ". . . you just don't think I can do it, don't you?"

The homunculi smirked. "No, I don't."

"You're wrong," Edward hissed, lips pulling back in a sneer. "I killed Sloth, didn't I? And Sloth looked like mom. Know how I could do it? Because I knew she wasn't mom. Just like I know you're not Al."

Vengeance beamed serenely, murmuring his reply. "Yes, but you seem to forget who held you that night, telling you it was okay." Resting his chin in a hand, the clone watched the confident smirk collapse on the alchemist's face—russet-gray eyes as piercing and sharp as daggers. "You're a good actor, Edward-san, but the game is up. Don't tempt me into a fight—I could always beat you as Al, and I could certainly kick your ass with this body."

"Rrrg—!" Ed snarled in frustration; pulled back an inch—then wavered. After an instant-long lapse, he moved again as if to thrust forward—!

But as he did so, the other blinked; lashes fluttering, framing soft hazel orbs which sparkling with tears. "You. . ." he breathed, voice pained and weak and trembling and. . .

And. . .

"You'd really hurt me, brother. . . ?"

The world spun.

"—!" Jolting backwards sharply, Edward trembled; crumpled; pale as snow. And as he did so, the homunculi laughed, grinning as he stood—hand on his hip in a victoriously confident pose.

"Don't try to fool yourself," Vengeance advised, staring down his nose at the shaken teenager. "You can't kill me. You can't even touch me. You love Al too much.

. . . and that's not a bad thing, Edward-san. It proves you have a heart."

". . .?" The blonde, though rattled, gave an extra jolt upon hearing those words—looking up at the speaker with an odd expression playing across his features. "Th. . . then you. . . ?"

Vengeance continued to smile, clasping his hands to his chest and almost dreamily closing his eyes. ". . . I have one, too. And so I knew. . . I know. . ."

And in that moment, understanding flooded Ed's senses; broke over his brain in rushing waves: 'He couldn't kill me, either.'The alchemist swallowed, feeling like a fool. Because in the end, no matter what form, Alphonse was still— if nothing else— compassionate. (It was Al, after all.) Edward had never been in any danger.

But Al himself; Alphonse Elric. . .

He could be.

With nothing more than the doppelganger's suggestion to go on, Edward bolted for an exit. Vengeance watched him go without another word.

'I'm sorry, Brother. In the end. . . I really couldn't do it after all.'


"B. . . but how can that be. . . ?" Alphonse stammered, feeling his blood run cold. A homunculi—of him? It just wasn't possible! "How can that be, when I never died?"

Pride, though clearly growing impatient with all of the talk, made no move to stop it. Instead, he somewhat helpfully answered the questions; choosing to toy with his knife rather than use it. For this, Al was grateful—and decided to keep him talking for as long as he could. 'Brother will find me, soon. . .' "Well, no, not really. But you did lose your memories for a while, right?"

'My memories. . . !'

Alphonse mouthed mutely, completely baffled by this eloquently expressed statement of fact. 'How does he kn—?' "Wha. . . ?"

The blonde rolled his eyes as if talking to a stupid child. "I repeat: homunculi don't need to be made out of the body of the one you wish to recreate— ergo, there's no law saying that said person has to be dead." As the claim left his mouth, however, Pride paused; considering the declaration with a half smile. ". . . or perhaps there is and I just overlooked it."

His words echoed coldly through the room, slowly sinking into every inch of Al's skin.

"YOU made Vengeance?" the boy gasped, unable to tear his eyes away from the other's face. The homunculus nodded, looking a tad annoyed.

"Of course I did," he scoffed, still playing with the blade between his flesh fingers. "Who else do you know with enough alchemic skill to attach any sort of soul to a lifeless body?"

That was true.

"But—but if I wasn't dead, where did you get the soul from?" Al asked—and was slightly stunned to hear the fear leaving his own voice; replaced by simple shock and even a bit of awe. 'Such power. . .' "Even the Philosopher's Stone can't— ow!"

The teen winced in surprise as a deft fist cuffed him (rather gently, actually) over the head.

"Don't be stupid," Pride barked—in a voice disturbingly like Edward's— "I got it from the Other Side of the Door. Duh. You've been an alchemist how long, Alphonse-kun?"

Al could only stare blankly in response.

". . . Agh," the look-alike crumpled a bit, irked. "Fine! I'll explain—but listen carefully 'cause I'm not going to repeat myself this time. Now. . . When your body was stuck on the Other Side of the Door and your soul was trapped here, Edward sacrificed one to get the other back, in a sense. You lost your memories during the exchange because what he sacrificed for your body wasn't enough to cover all parts of your soul. Ah—don't interrupt! No, your memories are part of your soul, not your brain. After all, you remembered things in the armor and you sure as hell didn't have a brain stuffed in there. Anyway, I simply got my hands on a few of those lingering traces of memory which remained beyond the Door after your human transmutation and everything fit into place for me."

Pride beamed; Alphonse gaped. This was too much.

"But why would you do that?" the brunette inquired, voice stark and soft from astonishment. "Why. . . ? There was so much that. . . that everyone could have lost in the exchange—!"

The homunculi looked down at Al as if the boy had just announced he was changing his name to 'semicolon'. "'Why'. . . ?" he echoed dully. "Why? Why did I seal your soul into a suit of armor in the first place? Why did I sacrifice myself for you? Why did I ever do anything at all? In case you haven't noticed, I've—Ed's—got a soft spot for you."

". . ." Al processed this with a certain amount of embarrassment. But. . . in the end, it all made sense. All of it. . . except for one tiny thing. "So. . ." he began slowly, coolly —and with a lot less concern than he really felt—, "now what?"

"'Now what?'" Pride tilted his head, as if confused by the question. "Well, I have to kill you." He shrugged lightly, tapping the flat side of his knife. "It's nothing personal, really, Alphonse-kun, but I want what's best for my little brother—and it's better for him if you're not around."

To this, Alphonse simply said: "Oh. Okay."

Then laid silently.

. . . not exactly the 'groveling for mercy' Pride had come to expect from his victims.

And so, the homunculus paused while raising the knife—clearly taken aback by the lack of fear on the younger male's round face. ". . . you don't seem too frightened by the prospect of death."

Al grinned faintly: the half-flustered, half-amused smile that he used to display all the time when they were children. "I suppose I don't."

"You were much more active before," Pride pointed out, lowering the knife a second time. He really didn't seem in much of a rush to do anything dangerous with it. . .

"You had your hands down my pants, then," the brunette reminded lightly.

"So I did."

A pause. Then the doppelganger (though it didn't seem possible) leaned a smidgen closer, bright golden eyes narrowing a bit in suspicion. ". . . you're not even worried about Edward?"

"About Brother?" Alphonse snorted, lips quirking upwards in amusement. "Well, you said you left him with me, right? Then there's nothing to worry about."

"You could always beat me, though," the blonde's brow furrowed, making him look— strangely— a little hurt. "Doesn't that concern you at all?"

Al blew a raspberry. "I never hurt you badly. I love you too much."

And as he said this, his pink lips fell a bit—lowering into a petite, wounded frown. ". . . you said you love me, too, right?" he whispered; not afraid, nor pleading. . . simply said. As if to remind Pride. "You love me. . . and Vengeance. . . You always have. And it sounds like you always will. So. . . I guess I'm not afraid. . . because I know that—if any of my brother really is inside of you—you won't let yourself hurt me."

Alphonse beamed—the homunculus could only gawk at him, blanching.

". . . Because you can't."



The next few moments passed in a multicolor whirl— starting the instant a silver, gold, peach, and periwinkle blur blasted through the door with enough force to shame a cannon ball (and make Armstrong quite proud). Pride stiffened, only managing to turn partly in the correct direction— "GET OFF OF MY LITTLE BROTHER!"

"Brother—!" Alphonse gasped, eyes alighting and personal space returning as Pride was swiftly knocked over, rolling to the ground with an enraged (and still only partially dressed) Edward. "Brother, are you okay?"

But Ed was not listening to Al; he saw that he was fine (almost naked, but fine), and that was good enough for him right now. He had more important things to do.

Like make the asshole trapped underneath him pay.

"Who the FUCK do you think you are. . . ?" he hissed, bladed arm pressed flush to the copycat's throat. "And what the HELL were you planning to do my brother!"

Pride chuckled, smirking easily as he posed beneath his captor, golden hair sprawled sensually around his head; lips puckered in an adorable pout. "Temper, temper. . . I was just having some fun with Alphonse-kun. No need to get so jealous. . . I let you have a go with my Vengeance, didn't I? It's all about equivalency, isn't it, dear Edward?"

"DON'T YOU DARE! Don't you dare even START talking like that you sick twisted BASTARD!" Ed screeched, balling up a fist and moving to bring it down with all of his mi—!

Ed stiffened as he felt a flesh hand grip his waist, hips lifting upwards to meet his own and grind; free fingers darting to tug down on an unprotected braid, brining their faces closer. "You're so cute when you're angry!" the fake laughed, as carefree as you please as he examined the teen's face. His eyes glittered with possibilities—ideas that Edward did not want to know anything about. "Hmm. . . I suppose this counts as narcissism," the doppelganger purred, leaning uncomfortably closer. . . (Ed tried to move, but found that—for some reason—he couldn't). . . "still, there's a reason my name is Pride—"

But he froze a breath away from the state alchemist's lips; gaze falling upon the empty doorway. Then the empty hall. . . the empty space around them. . .

He ripped fiercely backwards, sending Edward crashing to the floor as he leapt to his feet. "WHERE IS HE?" the blonde bellowed, every hint of teasing smoothness gone. In fact, every inch of composure seemed to be gone as well; the homonculi actually looked alarmed.

"Wha—?" Ed gaped dumbly in response, thrown completely for a loop. Wasn't he the one that was supposed be yelling and snarling? "What are you talking abou—?"

"Vengeance!" Pride screamed, baring his teeth—and for the first time, looking truly frightening. "Why isn't he with you?"

From his position bound to the bed, Al watched intently, admittedly shocked. 'Why is he so surprised that Vengeance isn't here, too? Shouldn't he be more surprised to see Brother alive? Or. . . did he never really expect Vengeance to kill Ed?'

"Why would I take that idiot with me?" Edward spat, promptly recovering; scrambling to his feet with a growl. "He can rot in the damn sewers for all I care!"

. . . the sudden, heavy silence was the first warning. Edward had crossed the line.

"R. . ." Pride had frozen, face paling drastically. "R. . . rot. . . ?" The whispered word reverberated, repeated, bounced off of the walls; the room growing suddenly colder. The Elric brothers gave a jolt upon noticing this—the creeping, crawling, icy, invisible fingers—, feeling unexpectedly nervous. "Rot. . . ?" And in an instant, Al realized what the problem was—

'Rot' was what a dead body did.

"Shit. . ." Ed muttered, realizing the same thing half a second later—when Pride's smoldering eyes snapped upon him in all of their surreal glory; so intense that they could actually make one feel pain. But all the same, Edward scowled right back; poised and ready to fight.

He didn't have to wait long. "IF YOU SO MUCH HURT ONE HAIR ON HIS HEAD, I'LL TEAR YOU FUCKING LIMB FROM LIMB!" Pride roared, throwing himself forward with a swirl of alchemic power.

"Brother—!" Al screeched, terrified as Ed, too, leapt onward— daggers and automail and inhuman arms colliding with a noise like thunder. In a raw panic, Alphonse began, for the first time in what felt like ages, properly pulling against the bondage; desperately trying to loosen the headboard's hold. "Brother, please—!"

But he was ignored. The two teens continued to rip and tear at one another—legs banging into sides as fists clawed; screaming obscenities and threats. Alchemy soon followed: twisting vines, a shower of glass knives, twin poles that met with sickening cracks—!

The battle wore fiercely on.

"Please, st—!"

. . . but not for very long.

Pride simply couldn't take it; his very body was beginning to wilt: white and sickly and slowly seeming to crumble away. . . though his eyes and resolve remained as stubbornly determined and furious as ever. And, however guiltily recalled, it was in that moment that both of the Elrics suddenly remembered the pain a homunculi feels when they come into contact with even a speck of 'the real thing.'

Edward, however short, was a lot more than just "a speck."

Yet the clone was so stubborn, so loyal, so very much like Ed—the brothers had forgotten how much agony the doppelganger must have been in. And all for what? Vengeance?

Could a 'fake' human really have true feelings?

The possibility made the alchemist pause. Consequently, he almost lost an eye. 'This isn't the time for philosophical thought!' he mentally reprimanded, furious at his own idiocy. 'Think about what you're doing!'

So he did. He made himself ignore all else; all but the shriveling waste of skin in front of him.

"Brother, LISTEN to me!"

Ed swiftly cornered the other (quite literally), skills unmatched now that Pride was on his last legs; bladed arm poised to give the finishing blow—!

"STOP IT!" Alphonse screamed, the splintering of wood and the pounding of his heart resonating endlessly inside his head. "STOP IT, EDWARD—


"—!" The blonde froze, arm lowering; honeyed pools connecting with the other's identical pair. They looked so helpless and full of fear . . . not for himself—

But for Vengeance.

Unable to do anything else with his body by this point, Pride weakly slid down the wall; a motionless heap. Al's heart went out to him—and apparently, to some extent, so did Ed's; for when Alphonse's murmured: "Brother. . . please. . ." Edward moved away without a fuss, stepping back towards the door to give the doppelganger space to breath. As he did so (as gruffly as he could, so as to keep his image), he grabbed Al's coat, slipped it on, and muttered: "I left Vengeance in the sewers, but I didn't do anything to him. He let me go and I left. I don't know where he is now."

". . ." Pride forced a smirk, still clammy and shaking. "I. . . see. . . . He probably. . . found a kitten. . . or something. . . on his way back here. . ." he breathed, voice sounding rusty. But he was progressively pulling himself back together—enough to lift his head, anyways. "Annoying, isn't it. . . ? He knows we. . . can't keep it. . ."

Edward didn't respond verbally—but Alphonse caught his cautious smile and nod.

Pride closed his eyes.


Vengeance appeared and disappeared within the span of a minute—just enough time to enter the room, drop a kitten into a stunned Al's lap (there really was a homunculi version of him!), lift his unconscious brother gently into his arms, and bow his thanks to Edward, a small grin playing across his mouth. At the time, Ed didn't understand it's meaning, but now that an hour had passed and the brothers had exchanged the stories of their day, he thought he was beginning to.

It had to do with the major plot point that they had tried their best to gloss over, but desperately needed to discuss.

". . . so. . ." Ed garbled weakly after a span of silence that seemed to last forever (though it'd really only taken up about a minute), "um. . . so Pride was, uh. . . and you. . . and. . . yeah."

(. . . that didn't make any sense, did it? The alchemist mentally beat his forehead against the wall.)

In response, Alphonse blushed brightly, desperately wishing to just curl up and die. But he couldn't—he couldn't even disappear underneath the bedcovers, as he might have tried if he were still 5— so, instead, simply nodded.

There was another long hiatus, in which both boys attempted to sort through this information overload. Trying to find some shred of logic or reason behind the whole chain of events. . .

But it's hard to think rationally when you're afraid that your entire world is about to fall apart.

". . ." Al swallowed, shifting restlessly from side to side, trying to work past the sticky lump in his throat. It took quite a bit of gulping and a squeaky cough, but he finally managed to un-lodge the words: "Brother. . . d— do you. . . hate me. . . ?"

"?" With a great amount of very sincere shock, Edward whipped his head around to stare sharply at his pink sibling. "What. . . ?" he scoffed, nose wrinkling a bit; as it tended to do when he was bemused. "Hate you? Why?"

The younger teen blinked his wet eyes up at the elder, fiddling nervously with the bedspread and a button that had been torn from his shirt. "Because. . . because Pride—he. . ."

"He. . . ?" Ed repeated, sounding decidedly more nervous and angry, now. Moving closer, he reached out and firmly gripped his brother's shoulder, forcing their eyes to meet. "What did he do, Al?" he whispered, trying to keep his voice as patient and gentle as possible—though his eyes were narrowed in rage at even the idea of his sibling being injured in some way. "Did he hurt you? Did he threaten you! Tell me w—!"

That was it.

He couldn't take any more.

With no other warning, Alphonse abruptly let loose an anguished sob: dissolving into horrible torrents of tears as he threw himself into Edward's troubled arms. "He— he—" the boy stammered through his strangled cries, entire body heaving as his fingers desperately clung to cloth. And, though admittedly startled by this impulsive embrace, Ed easily returned it, tracing soothing patterns on the taller boy's back as he waited for the rest of the reply. "He only did. . . what I've always wanted you to do!"


Time stood still.

Al felt frosty dread grip his heart—the same moment Edward's body stiffened horribly. Every cell within him seemed to stop; not even blood could be heard pumping through his heart. Ed simply sat, frozen, staring down at Alphonse's trembling head.

"Y. . . you. . . ?" the state alchemist finally managed to gawk, sounding—somehow—frightened and angry and calm and careful all at once. The second boy hated the tone, but had to respond somehow, so he gingerly nodded into Ed's warm chest.


". . . how long?"

The brunette whimpered a bit, burrowing his face deeper into the self-made darkness—unable to face his brother's piercing eyes. ". . . a long. . . long time. At least since. . . mom passed away. Probably before." Al winced as Edward tensed again. "I'm sorry," he offered weakly in response to the reaction, sounding desperate and timid. "I'm sorry— I just. . . I can't help it, Brother! I love you. . . I love you so much! Too much. I know that. . . ! But. . ." –Ed could feel the hot tears cascading down his stomach, now, disappearing past the hem of his boxers— "but I just can't stop myself! I can't help it! I love you. . ."

By this time, Edward's arms had fallen away completely, leaving Alphonse feeling incredibly cold. 'This is it,' Al thought blankly; his body beginning to tremble with dread. 'It's all over. There's no way he can ignore this. . . I'm about to be disowned. And what will happen to me then—?'

But to the boy's tremendous shock, when his brother spoke next, it wasn't in a tone of disgust and contempt.

. . . It was in a murmur of embarrassment and simple uncertainty.

"When. . . when I was in the sewers with Vengeance," he tentatively whispered, warily avoiding Al's gaze as the younger teen pulled away, staring inquisitively upward, "he. . . um, well, he kissed me. And I. . . er. . . that is. . . but when I realized who I was really kissing, I found I wasn't mad because of who he was. . . I was mad because of who he wasn't." He cut himself off awkwardly; unsure of what to say next. "Does. . . uh. . . does that. . . mean anything to you?"

". . . ?" Alphonse cocked his head, completely baffled—but with such a feeling of elated hope growing within his chest that he was sure he was about to burst. "Brother. . . ? What are you trying to say?"

Edward's face had turned a bright shade of maroon; golden eyes fixed firmly on a distant fountain he could see through the shattered window. "I. . . well, I'm not as sure of my feelings as you seem to be, but. . . I . . . I think I. . . you know. . . l—love. . ." His voice lowered, ears nearly radiating with heat. "If. . . if we just took things slowly. . . so I could figure things out for myself . . . ?"

. . . Either Hell had just froze over, or Alphonse had somehow made it to Heaven, because there was no other way this could be happening. . . Regardless, Al (dropped jaw and all) chose to accept rather than question; cheeks pinking adorably and bronze eyes sparkling as he nodded— quite exuberantly—lacing their fingers together in a tight hold. "You can have all the time in the world."


"Are you still not talking to me?"

". . ."

"Really, Pride, don't be like this!"

". . ."

"Pride, talk to me. Pride. . . Pride—! Rgh. . . Okay, fine! I'm not going to talk to you, either, then!"

". . ."

". . ."

". . ."

". . . Priiiiide! Why are you so mad at me?"

Pride blew out his cheeks in a huff, unable to keep quiet after the pathetic, whining snivel Vengeance had just used on him. "I'm mad because you dragged me away from a fight, all right? I was winning, too!"

Vengeance's face dropped in an instant, eyes dulling from exasperation. ". . . you'd fainted by the time I'd gotten there."

The blonde scowled. "Details, details."

"Oh, c'mon, Pride!" the second begged, falling to his knees beside his bedridden brother, bunching stray sheets between his hands. "Please! Tell me what's wrong so that I can make it better. I hate fighting with you like this—!"

And as a tear slipped down Vengeance's cheek, Pride felt himself inevitably crumble—crossed arms plummeting to his sides as his shoulders drooped. The pair held eyes for a long moment, one sniffling, the other sighing. Then the elder questioned weakly:

"Why, Vengeance? I only wanted what was best for you. . . why did you fight it so much?"

"?" The brunette blinked rapidly, clearly bewildered. There was a beat; an eyebrow arched. ". . . What's best for me?" he then repeated, sounding—somehow— callously monotonous. And the first could see flames of anger crackling to life behind his hazel-gray orbs. "How is killing someone that looks just like my lover what's best for me? How is losing my last thread of humanity—heartlessly murdering someone because I'm told—what's best for me? How can cursing a little boy, forcing him to feel the terror I felt when I learnt my big brother was dead, what's best for me! Tell me that, Pride!"

Pride snarled, straightening and curling his hands into fists. "What is your PROBLEM, Vengeance?" he barked, aggravated. "You never objected before, and now all of THIS—?"

"Well, I finally thought about it little more!" the younger homunculi snapped, glowering. "And when I did, I realized that it wasn't what was best for us—and it sure as hell wasn't what I WANTED!"

"Well then, what DO YOU WANT?" Pride howled, giving his hair a furious tug of frustration.

"To live for US!" Vengeance cried desperately, pounding his fists on the bed like a child. "For ONCE in our LIVES, I want to just live for US!"

". . .

. . . ?" His brother could only stare, quite thoroughly taken aback.

The brunette blew out his cheeks, collapsing weakly against the mattress. ". . . when we were little," he began quietly, idly clenching and unclenching his fingers, "we devoted our lives to alchemy and to bringing mom back. Then we committed ourselves to research in order to join the Military, then to finding the Stone. . . then we were separated for so long. . . and now we're finally back together, and what do we do? Tie ourselves down to destroying our 'originals'! It's like we're afraid to do anything without some dire motive and. . . and I'm sick of it!" he admitted with a wail. "I don't need a goal in life anymore—I just need you. I don't want some stupid name or purpose or anything. . . I'm sick of those. I just want you."

". . ."

Pride gaped mutely at his companion for a long, long while. Then, with a flimsy smile, shrug, and snort, scooted over—before promptly falling back against the pillows and closing his eyes. Vengeance watched him do this oddly, hesitant to take the offer of sleeping beside him until he'd gotten some sort of answer. . .

Noticing this, the blonde cracked one eye open with a frown. "C'mon, Vengeance, get your ass in bed. We've got a long walk ahead of us, tomorrow."

"Wha—? Why?" the second questioned, though he readily obeyed the command—snuggling up next to his lover with a content little sigh. "Where are we going?"

"Mmm. . . Always wanted to see Acqroya again," Pride muttered blandly, pillowing his head with his arms. "And it'll probably be at the bottom of the lake, soon, so I figure we best head off." He paused, casting his partner a sideways glance. ". . . unless you have any objections?"

". . ." Vengeance's beam cut through the shadows like a sun. "None whatsoever."


Dawn came and went in the blink of an eye; so fast that no one seemed to notice— one moment there, the next, gone. But in many peoples' opinion, it was better that way. It was better to just move on . . . And time did. Rapidly. After the last silvery clouds had hardened and the pastel pinks of the sky had darkened to resemble the many shades of ocean blue, Lior positively exploded into life: busy townsfolk perusing another day and all of the wonders it had to bring. People chatted, taxis lingered, stores bought and sold goods, trains left. . .

More trains left. . .

A couple extra trains headed off. . .

(Ring, ring)

". . ." Vein throb.

(Ring, ring)

"Ughm. . . dammit. . . !" Ed groaned, rolling over and pressing a pillow to his ears. 'Infernal machine—!' He considered smashing it to bits with his automail, but soon decided against it. He'd just have to pay for a new one.

(Ring, ring)

"Mmgh. . . Brother. . ." Al bleated sleepily, eyes drowsily drooping, "it's the phone. . ."

A grunt of exasperation. "I know that, Al."

(Ring, ring)

"Then why don't you pick it up?" the younger boy suggested with all the sarcasm he could squeeze through a yawn. Still, he was smiling.

"Mmmmgh—!" Edward grumbled like a child, shaking his head forcefully into the mattress. His golden hair rippled and shimmered in the light that managed to shine through the sheet they'd used to cover the shattered window. "'Dunwanna. You do it."

There was a long moment of suspended silence. Then—

". . . I can't."

At this muttered reminder, the Fullmetal Alchemist smirked: turning his head enough to give his bound brother a smug sort of stare. "I know. 'N I'm gonna keep it that way for a little while longer." Chortling huskily, he rolled over and wrapped his arms around the boy's bare waist, kissing his ticklish side. Al squirmed, but not unpleasantly. "Eep!"

(Ring, ring)

"Wh—what happened to. . . all of that time you needed. . . ?" Alphonse gasped, features flaming as his brother's lips and tongue began to work their way upwards. . . then downwards. . . for the umpteenth time. "I promised you. . . all the time you needed. . . ah—!"

"I know," Ed reassured quietly, lightly closing his eyes. "But. . . I remembered . . . that we really have no time to waste, do we?" He looked up at Al as if to confirm this feeling, and was rewarded with a grin; long legs slipping around his hips. "I love you, Brother," Alphonse breathed, each syllable dripping with heartfelt emotion.

Edward flushed brightly, but beamed all the same. ". . . I love you, too."

(Ring, ring)

The phone was disconnected.



The sun beat, hot and heavy, down upon them through the forest foliage— casting shadows of the leaves and making the dirt path shimmer like gold. Pride paused mid-step when his companion spoke, casting a inquiring look over his shoulder. "Yes?"

Secretly thrilled that his lover hadn't overreacted to his calling him 'brother', Vengeance bit his bottom lip, gathering the courage to put his mind at rest. "Um. . . I just. . . I just had one more question before we let this whole incident go."

There was a beat; no reply. But that was good enough as encouragement went. The brunette took a deep breath—

"Do you. . . did you. . . like him. . . more than me?"

". . . ?" Pride stared at his partner rather strangely, curving a baffled eyebrow. "What?"

"I mean, well," Vengeance took a few strides closer, wringing his hands behind his back as he did so. "You know I kissed Ed and. . . I know you planned to. . . with Al. . . and. . . did-you-like-him-more-than-me?"

". . ." The blonde blinked, completely and utterly nonplussed. "How could I like him more than you?" he asked, disbelieving. "You're the same pers—!"

Wrong answer.

Vengeance's timorous face hardened rapidly—glaring with all the ferocity of a dragon. "No. We're. Not."

And there was a lull; both standing and facing the other, having a hard time accepting that this was about to be their second fight in less than two days. What was wrong with them? They'd never fought before! They'd just accepted that they. . .

. . . they'd never really talked, had they? Since the day they were reborn, all they'd done was act on urges they'd kept suppressed while alive. Sure, they loved each other; sure, they were brothers; sure, they cared . . . they could remember every day they'd spent as little kids, and traveling, and in Germany. But now that they were starting to look past the outer shell of their relationship, it was becoming apparent that they had a few kinks they needed to work out of it.

Vengeance sighed, realizing he had to explain. "That is. . . brother, we've been together for years now, and. . . I suppose at one time we were the Elrics, but we're not anymore. We are who we are—and if we're going to live for ourselves, then we have to be ourselves." He looked desperately at Pride to verify he understood this, clasping his hand to his chest. "I want to be loved as Vengeance just as much as I was loved as Al. But more so! Because. . . because I love Pride more than Edward."

The first homunculi considered this, having watched the other speak intently—and then offered him a smile before looking away. ". . . I never had sex with Al."

". . ." The brunette didn't reply, but it felt as if a weight had been taken off of his chest. Pride continued as if he hadn't noticed the look of relief. "I couldn't. I didn't even like kissing him. I kept thinking of you. (Which wasn't hard to do, I'm sure you realize, but. . .)" There was a second of hesitation; a kiss on the hand in a gesture of unsure reassurance. ". . . Does that answer your question?"

". . . you don't love Al?" Vengeance paraphrased with a growing grin, twisting a lock of Pride's hair around his finger when a breeze pushed it forward.

"I love you. But you'll always be 'Al' to me," the shorter admitted, shrugging his apology. "An 'Al' to my 'Ed.'"

The second beamed, pulling his lover down the path a bit; until his legs started to move on their own. "How about a 'Vengeance' to your 'Pride'?"

"Aww— That analogy doesn't work as well!" Pride whined, but winked to show he was only joking; darting up to nuzzle his partner's neck from behind. "Just as long as it's you. . . I'll be happy."

Vengeance flushed a lovely shade of cherry, as did Pride—who wasn't used to such mushy topics, and so chose to quickly change the subject to one of lesser consequence. "So. . ." he began conversationally, "what should we do, now, brother mine?"

"The only thing we can do," the second replied cheerfully, whistling to a passing bird. "Live."

". . . Does living include sex?"

"Brother!" A laugh. ". . . yes."

"Then let's go do a lot of that!"

They disappeared into the distance of the well-worn path.







Roy stared fixedly at the phone, as if offended by its very existence. But no, he was just irked at the pair that was hiding somewhere on the other line, refusing to pick up. "They were supposed to have taken an early train back to Central this morning," he said aloud—to no one in particular— before setting the receiver back in its cradle.

Of course, as there was someone else in the room, the statement was responded to. "Sir," Hawkeye murmured in her usual, brisk monotone, "you know that Edward tends to wander off—didn't you expect this of him?"

In response to this inquisition, Mustang smirked; lazily resting his chin against his laced fingers, staring off into the distance with a pleased look upon his face. "Oh, yes, I expected it. I would have been disappointed, actually, had either of them answered. . ."

There was a pause—one full of questions and mystification which the Flame Alchemist absorbed like a sponge; relished. Attention was his friend, and dramatic breaks made him feel important. However, he also liked to share information with those who deserved it, so he decided to let his subordinate out of her 'quiet misery.' "First Lieutenant. . . Do you know why I sent the Elrics to Lior?"

"No, Sir," she returned smartly, eyes calmly shut and lips pulled down in her patented 'business frown.' "But I'm sure you had good reason for doing so."

"Mmm. . . no, not really," Roy hummed, nonchalantly fiddling with the buttons on his sleeve. "But what with the rest of our squad out on assignment and only two kids in the way. . . I just wanted to have a little time alone with you."

He cast the woman a fleeting glance from the corner of his eye; smile hidden by his gloves. Terribly surprised by this coy expression, she blushed—brightly— spluttering for a moment in mild confusion. "S— Sir. . . ?" she choked, eyes wide; understandably shocked. "W— what do you mean. . . ?" After all, there was no way that. . . that. . .

But Mustang didn't expand or explain any further, choosing instead to grin and turn away.

"Never mind, Hawkeye," he sang flippantly, playing with two of the little army figurines on his desk. After a few moments of making high pitched squeaky noises in mimic of doll-like conversation, he heard a gun click behind him.

He took out his paperwork like a good boy.


I don't usually ask specifically for reviews like this, but please—this fic has taken 15,836 words off of my life. . . don't let that be in vain! ;)

Seriously, though, I hope y'all enjoyed and that I didn't offend anyone. . . I'm kinda afraid that this fic might have done that. . . o.O

Also, one final note—anyone reading this who is part of (or is gonna join) deviantart—my friend Ra-kun and I started a new Elricest club up there called Silver and Gold! Please join, we desperately need members!

Thanks so much! XD

Hugs, Kisses, and Moon-Lit Nights,

Maiden of the Moon