Rating: Eventual NC-17. PG-13 maybe for this chapter
Total word count as of this moment: 11,282
Still behind, but I suppose any progress is something, right? I was having issues getting Ed and Ed to behave themselves long enough to have a conversation, so I spent most of yesterday writing porn that may or may not actually make it into the story XD. That being said, here's the next chapter.
Light assaulted him from the other side of his eyelids. Ed groaned and rolled over, burying his face in soft pillows. Pillows? It had probably been months since he’d slept this comfortably, or even in a proper bed for that matter. That was excluding hospital beds of course. Hospital beds were some sort of abomination every bit as relaxing to lie on as a rock.
Reluctantly, Ed opened his eyes. He was tangled in a swath of blue, and spent a moment extricating his limbs from the soft, almost velvety fabric. Arms stretched above his head, Ed arched off the bed, vaguely aware of a series of pops down his spine.
Slowly becoming more aware, he looked around, taking in his surroundings. He was in a bed bigger than anything he could ever remember sleeping in. Since when was he so frivolous? Alright, so the other Ed wasn’t exactly him, but still. Then again, he supposed once he had a home, he might be willing to admit that a bed this big was nothing short of amazing.
The rest of the room was fairly neat, actually. It didn’t surprise him. Somehow he knew that all the mess was in an office, notes sprawled across tables and onto the floor because his system of organization was of the ‘just put it anywhere’ variety. There was a big, bay window overlooking… something, the park maybe. He couldn’t quite tell from his perch on the bed. The window seat was veiled by sheer, baby blue curtains, remnants of the last tenants, he was sure. There was no universe in which he’d pick out something that girly. There just wasn’t, end of story.
The bedroom was obviously at the corner of the building, and there was another window sheathed in those same, stupid curtains. At least they weren’t pink. He’d have to disown himself if they were. A desk sat in front of this one, though it obviously wasn’t used much. The top was nearly empty, save for a mug with a broken handle, stuffed to nearly bursting with pens, and a notebook with the cover massacred by aimless doodles.
It occurred to him then that it was morning. If he’d slept here, in Edward’s bed, where was Edward? Ed slid from the bed, bare feet pressing against the hard wood floor. He was far steadier than the day before, his earlier exhaustion all but vanished.
There was a mirror on the back of the half closed bedroom door, and he caught his reflection as he swung it open. Ed couldn’t help but grimace at his disheveled appearance, scowling at the dirt that came away on his fingers when he ran them through his hair. He was in desperate need of a shower, and absolutely ravenous, but at least he wasn’t so damnably tired anymore.
The hall was negotiated with relative ease, letting him out into the living room. The open space looked far more lived in, books piled across the coffee table, notes spilling from their pages and scattered across the floor. The rug that he was sure Al had insisted on having was soft and enticing under his toes, and he grinned at the familiar shade of red.
Finally, his gaze settled on the couch. There was Edward, lying on his stomach, drooling on the cream colored cushions. His left arm and leg had managed to fall off the couch, skimming the floor. Ed felt a twinge of guilt, that the person who actually owned this place had been relegated to the living room on his account, but Edward seemed entirely content to bury himself in gobs of fabric and stuffing.
“Breakfast will be done in a little bit. I assume you’re hungry.” The voice behind him was startling, and he had to remind himself that it wasn’t his Al.
“Yeah, thanks,” Ed replied, turning around. He forced himself to meet this other Al’s eyes, managed a small, grateful smile. It was easier somehow, than it had been the day before, as if sleep had eased him of more than his fatigue.
“Actually, I was wondering if I could go take a shower or something.” It seemed like a lame thing to say, after hardly having spoken to Al at all, but it was a start. Al smiled brightly, like the fact that Ed hadn’t run screaming had made his entire week. It twisted something deep in Ed’s chest, but he stayed put anyway.
“Of course. You can make yourself at home while you’re here, you know.”
The idea of having a place he was welcome, somewhere to come home to, was enticing after years on the run. It was a struggle to remind himself that he couldn’t get too comfortable. He had to go back, find Al. Then, he could think about having a home.
If this world’s Al was aware of Ed’s inner conflict, he kindly did not mention it.
“Towels are in the hall closet. I’ll grab you a change of clothes.” Al disappeared without another word, reappearing a moment later long enough to dump said items in Ed’s arms on his way to the kitchen.
As soon as Ed shut the bathroom door, he was stripping, elated by the idea of finally being clean again. The fixtures were every bit like the ones back home, a similarity he was very much glad for. It would have been rather embarrassing to have to go out and ask how to work the darn thing, and he wasn’t sure he could stomach getting dressed again before he was clean.
Once the water was on, he drew the shower curtain shut, sliding behind it. The warm spray hammered at sore muscles, and he sighed contentedly at the feel of it. How long had it been since he’d done something that actually felt good, anyway? He tilted his head back, wetting his hair, and pointedly ignoring the caked blood and dirt that came away, sliding down his chest before dropping to the bottom of the tub.
A quick look around found the shampoo, and he squeezed some into his hands before working it through his hair. Bit by bit, he eased the tangles from his locks, and lazily stood under the water for long moments after he’d rinsed the last traces of shampoo from them. After all, this was the most luxurious thing he’d done in a very long time, and he’d be damned if he wasn’t going to at least enjoy it.
Ed was mildly disappointed when his stomach decided that it had needs, too. He frowned faintly, turning off the water, toweling off his hair. He tried not to think about the fact that the clothes he worked his way into were not his. At least they reminded him of the differences between him and his alter. The pants hung loose at his hips, and he supposed it was normal that Edward would be a bit bigger than he was. After all, this world’s version of him hadn’t been on the run for months. The shirt was no better, settling a bit loosely on his shoulders. He thought about just transmuting them before remembering something about needing blood. He wasn’t entirely certain how it worked yet, and decided he liked the idea of trying to find something to draw blood with less than he liked having clothes a bit too big.
There was a comb on the bathroom counter, and the top drawer revealed a small collection of hair ties. He hoped Edward wouldn’t miss one, and dragged the comb through his hair, tugging it back into a high ponytail. It was too time consuming to braid it right now. Satisfied that he looked at least moderately presentable, he was finally willing to leave the confines of the bathroom.
Edward was awake when he finally emerged from the bathroom, settled against the kitchen counter, nursing a cup of coffee. Coffee sounded like a glorious idea, actually, and he mumbled as much, surprised when his doppelganger shoved an empty cup at him.
“Feel better?” Al asked conversationally, gesturing vaguely to a plate of pancakes that were apparently meant for him. He nodded, looking across the counter top until he found the cream and sugar. Edward watched with interest as he spooned some of the sugar into his cup, just enough cream to make the coffee palatable, and filled the mug the rest of the way with dark, bitter liquid.
“What?” Ed asked finally.
“I was just testing a theory,” Edward replied with a shrug. “You make your coffee just like mine.”
Ed nodded absently and found his way to the kitchen table, plopping down in one of the chairs. It was an interesting observation, this similarity between them, but at the moment, he was far too hungry to care. The pancakes disappeared far too quickly for his liking, but at least he didn’t feel like he was dying of hunger anymore.
Al excused himself before Ed had finished, saying something about work and he’d be back that night, and Ed was nothing short of dumbfounded. He was still coming to terms with the idea of a world where there was a life beyond searching for a way to restore his brother’s body, and here this version of his brother had long since moved past that, had a life, had a job.
The front door shut while he was still registering the circumstances of this world as an actual possibility. He looked up at the sound of it, realizing finally that that left him alone with his double. Edward was leaning over in his seat, the remainder of his coffee forgotten in favor of scribbling furiously, eyes narrowed in concentration. A slip of pink tongue stuck out between his lips, and he batted absently at a stray lock of hair that obscured his vision for a moment. Nothing else seemed to exist in that moment, an Ed watched with unabashed curiosity. Did he look like that when he was concentrating, too?
Ed dismissed the idea, right off the bat. He was tough and masculine despite his hair, and this alter of his looked almost… pretty right now. The line of his jaw was soft, and his eyes were gentle, if a bit intense, despite their focus. He’d left his hair down, perhaps too lazy to be bothered with pulling it back, and it hung like liquid gold about his shoulders, silkier looking than Ed could ever remember his being. Edward looked up finally, obviously startled when he noticed Ed’s presence.
“You’re staring at me,” he muttered awkwardly.
“Sorry. I was just thinking,” Ed replied lamely.
“About?” Edward was looking at him now, his expression laced with something like interest. Ed blushed at the attention, though he couldn’t, for the life of him figure out why.
“Well, there was the coffee thing… I was just wondering how much we’re alike,” Ed shrugged. His innate desire to know the inner workings of everything had been prodded to life, and now he couldn’t stop. If they sparred, would it be a draw? Did they have all the same mannerisms? He couldn’t help but wonder how much of his behavior could be attributed to the life he’d led, and how much was actually an intrinsic part of who he was.
Edward blinked at him for a moment, and then his gaze slid away as he muttered under his breath, “Fuckin’ weird.”
“What?” Ed prodded.
“I was just thinking the same thing.” Edward scrubbed a hand over his face, incredulous at the idea that even their line of thought was not entirely independent.
Ed sat, silent and awkward, unsure of what to talk about now that he was forced to spend time with Edward, unfettered by exhaustion. Edward seemed just as unsure, looking at anything but Ed.
“So tell me,” he said, finally, his eyes locked on Ed’s, “How did you get here?”
He listened, astonishingly quiet, as Ed told him a story of a broken family, and two lonely kids. Edward nodded, now and again, his eyes gazing somewhere far away, and Ed got the feeling that at least this much of their tale was similar. He seemed to be remembering rather than simply listening to Ed.
Ed told him of their failed transmutation, the abomination he created in the process. Edward’s gaze flicked back up to his, startled, perhaps, at their stories’ divergence.
“A…homunculus?” Edward’s jaw worked as he considered that.
“Yeah. It… it was alive, but it was nothing human. It was years before I even realized what it was,” Ed mumbled, losing himself for a moment in painful memory.
“I didn’t even end up with that. I lost my leg, Al lost his whole body for, for a pile of gore.” Edward hissed bitterly.
“Consider yourself lucky.” Ed paused for a moment, surprised that Edward didn’t press the issue. Edward’s expression darkened, shaking himself from whatever reverie he was in. He regarded Ed with renewed wariness, as if just remembering that his alter didn’t belong there. Still, he said nothing, only eyeing Ed distrustfully. Ed scowled at the silent insinuation, but there was nothing for it. He supposed he’d assume the worst, too. Besides, Edward maybe wasn’t exactly friendly with him, but he hadn’t kicked him out yet, either.
Ed plodded forward once it was clear that Edward was waiting for the rest of the story. His double listened as he spoke of his first encounter with Roy Mustang, joining the military, and all that came with it. Edward listened quietly until he mentioned the Philosopher’s Stone.
“Philosopher’s Stone?” Edward prodded.
“Yeah. Don’t you know what a…” Ed started.
“Just tell me about it,” Edward snapped irritably.
“You don’t have to be such a dick about this, you know,” Ed pointed out with a scowl. Edward’s lips twisted into an angry frown before he spoke again.
“Listen, I’m only even doing this because Al wanted to. That and on the off chance you actually are what you say,” Edward trailed off, agitation washed from his features, and he looked honestly concerned. It didn’t last, though, and he remembered to be angry again. “So, just answer the fucking questions.”
Ed fumed. Was he really this much of a jerk? Actually, if Al was to be believed, and Al didn’t lie, he generally was this much of a jerk. He bit his tongue in a rare show of self control, and began to explain.
Talk of the stone carried them through most of the rest of his story, and he fancied he could see Edward’s stomach drop when he revealed the secret of the stone.
“You actually used that thing?” Edward looked positively ill at the idea.
“No, not exactly.”
“How do you, ‘not exactly’ use something like that?” Edward pressed.
“In Lior, there was this guy called the Crimson Alchemist. He tried to kill Al, turned him into a bomb,” Ed started to explain.
“How could you let someone hurt Al?” Edward looked absolutely furious, and Ed wasn’t sure if it was meant for Kimblee or him.
“I wasn’t there, okay? It’s not like I wanted things to fall out the way they did.” Ed scrubbed at his face, trying to remind himself why punching Edward and being done with it wasn’t a good idea.
“Anyway, Scar turned him into the Stone… to save him.” Wide golden eyes regarded him in genuine surprise, and Edward was quiet once more.
“So…what happened?” Edward asked, finally, his mood more subdued.
Ed recounted his showdown with Dante and the homunculi. Edward’s eyes narrowed in consideration when he explained why he hadn’t been terribly surprised at being faced with a double of himself, perhaps finally beginning to accept that this might be the truth. He told of his fight with Envy, bleeding out across the ballroom floor, only to find himself at the Gate.
“And so, from what Rose said… Al used himself to bring me back. I woke up and he was gone.” The last word was choked, drawn out on what might have been a whimper were he anyone else. Instead, he leaned forward, resting his elbow on the table, palm spread over his face.
Edward looked uncomfortable at sudden display of emotion, and hesitated before murmuring for Ed to please finish the story.
“There’s not much left to tell. I couldn’t let him sacrifice himself for me, so I offered the Gate a trade. I woke up here, and there’s no way to tell if it even worked.”
Edward nodded, pushing himself up from the table. “Let’s…go get the spare room set up for you.”
He turned, then, not bothering to look and see if Ed followed. Ed did, trailing after him like a golden shadow. He flung open a door to what looked like a study, a fairly neat room lined with bookshelves. Most of them were full, but two along one wall were entirely empty.
Edward clapped his hands together, wincing again, and Ed just barely caught a crimson stain smearing against the side of one of the bookcases. He had a hand on each, and light flared up, flashing brightly as the wood changed shape, flattening and widening out.
That in itself was not strange, but the bed wasn’t entirely wood. On top was a mattress, and Ed barely managed to contain himself until the transmutation was finished. The light wrought by transmutation died away, and Edward leaned heavily on one of the bedposts, gasping for air.
“You okay?” Ed asked warily, making a conscious effort not to jump at the furious look he got in return.
“I’m fine,” Edward bit out, practically growling the words.
“Geez, sorry I asked.” Ed looked at the bed again, tried to work out if there was something he’d missed, but still came up short.
“How did you do that?” he asked finally.
“Do what?” Edward seemed to have recovered mostly, and idly wiped a trail of blood off his palm with an automail thumb.
“That. You completely ignored the laws of equivalent exchange.”
“No I didn’t,” Edward replied, looking a bit perplexed.
“You did. That mattress isn’t a similar material to wood at all. You can’t do that,” Ed insisted.
“What the hell are you on about? The size is the same, equivalence is met.” Edward shook his head, and looked at Ed as if he’d suggested that there were giant rabbit people invading Central.
“It doesn’t work that way… where I’m from,” Ed explained with a shrug. Maybe it was something to do with the blood. Perhaps it acted a little like the false Philosopher’s Stone had. He’d sort it out eventually, he supposed.
Finally, Edward pushed himself away from the bed, glancing about as if in search of anything else Ed might need. He looked fatigued, and Ed wanted to ask about that, too, almost as much as he wanted to know how he’d gotten Al back.
“So, how’d you do it?” he murmured.
“We just went over that.”
“No… how’d you bring Al back? Maybe if I knew, maybe I could find a way to fix this.”
Ed shot him a withering look, “How would it help? You’re stuck here. It wouldn’t make a difference.”
“I don’t even know if Al is alive,” Ed hissed. “I have to start somewhere. Why won’t you give me something, anything to go on?”
Edward flinched as if stricken, and the scowl he wore softened faintly, “If you’re me, you shouldn’t have to ask that.
Edward didn’t close the door when he left, just wandered silently towards his own bedroom, leaving Ed to settle in. It was strange, he thought, how, without his alter’s familiar if rather grumpy presence, it felt less like a place to stay and more like a cell.
The mood was a little lighter when Edward returned, awkwardly thrusting some clothes at Ed.
“Sorry they don’t fit quite right. It’ll have to do until we can sort something else out,” Edward muttered, looking a bit sheepish.
Honestly, it was more than Ed had expected, and despite his frustration with his double, he was grateful. “Thanks, you know… for everything. You didn’t have to.”
“I know I didn’t have to,” Edward sputtered, arms waving a bit as if he thought he wasn’t getting his point across well enough. Ed waited for him to stop, dredging up an amused grin he wasn’t aware he was still capable of. There was no way he was this ridiculous. They couldn’t possibly be the same.
“Well… thanks, anyway,” he offered once Edward was a bit less animated.
“Uh, yeah, sure. It’s fine, I guess,” Edward’s shoulders rose and fell, and he turned to leave once more. He had reached the threshold of the bedroom when he finally turned back.
“Just…don’t make me regret it, okay?”