Rating: Eventual NC-17. PG-13 maybe for this chapter
17859 / 50000 words. 36% done!
Slowly but surely catching up on the word count! Also, oh my god, Ed and Edward are being a pain in the ass. I finally got them cooperating a little bit though :D
The first week went by in something of a whirlwind. It was too new, the idea that there was a version of him who had succeeded, who had a job, a home, a life for it to feel particularly confining. After all, it wasn’t like he was alone. Sometimes, he could be around Al, who was always friendly in an achingly familiar sort of way. When it hurt too much, spending time with this Alphonse who was and wasn’t his brother, there was always the spare bedroom to hide away in. Edward seemed unable to make up his mind. Sometimes, he was terse and grouchy, but it never lasted long, and happened less often the more time they spent together. Ed hoped that meant something good, that maybe Edward was starting to like him, at least a little bit. After all, he was probably going to be here a while. It would be pretty miserable if they couldn’t at least be friends.
Ed avoided sleep where he could that first week. The days were fine, but all he’d lost, every life lost that hung on his head, the gate that sometimes he swore he could still feel, sickening and grotesque against his skin, howling in his head… it all invaded his dreams. He woke up shaking, sometimes screaming, and couldn’t imagine he wasn’t disturbing Edward and Al’s sleep with his own demons.
The second week, Edward wasn’t around so much. He said something about needing to be at the labs to supervise a project, and left Ed to his own devices, finally seeming to trust his double enough to not babysit constantly. It was quiet, and more than a little lonely the first day, and by the end of it, Ed was feeling hopeless and morose. Halfway through the week, he thought to throw himself into research, and that was enough to drive the pain away despite being alone.
Research did seem to have a purpose, even if he was at lose ends as to where he should be directing his efforts. He noticed offhandedly that it improved things as much in slumber as it did in wakefulness. The nightmares haunted him less frequently, leaving him just a bit less worn than he had been.
The third week, he ran out of books. It was back to square one, and he wasn’t about to just give up that easily. He rather liked being in a good mood again, and so he scrambled for things to do. He thought about exploring Central, after all, no one had actually said he had to stay here. Still, he figured it would probably cause more problems than anything, considering his resemblance to Edward.
One month and it occurred to him that this really, really had to stop. He’d never not been self sufficient before, never depended on others for something so basic as food and shelter since he was a child. He’d always pulled his own weight, and it bothered him now that he wasn’t. More than anything else, that singular fact had to change.
“I’ve got to get out of this apartment.” Ed practically pounced on Edward the moment he came through the door.
“What are you telling me for?” He asked, staring oddly at Ed. He looked as if he were thinking hard about something, looking through his double as much as at him.
“I need a job to do, and it’s not so simple because… I look like you and all,” Ed replied awkwardly. Ed wasn’t sure what it was about what he’d said that jarred Edward from his reverie, but the other him snapped back to attention, a faint blush creeping across his features.
“You okay?” Ed asked. Maybe he was sick or something. It wasn’t like something embarrassing had happened.
“No, yeah I’m fine. Sorry, I was just thinking about something. Well, I guess we could change your hair or something and try to pass you off as like, my cousin or something.” Edward’s lips twitched in a faint frown, and Ed couldn’t figure out for the life of him why. He was fairly certain Edward had never acted quite this strangely. He thought about asking again, just to be sure that everything was okay, but Edward was speaking again.
“You know, I’ve probably still got the wig I wore when I was…hiding. You could just wear that. In fact,” Edward paused, thoughtfully chewing at his bottom lip, “you need hands on experience with how alchemy works here, and I could use the help, I guess. I’ll just convince them to let me hire you to be on my team.”
Ed considered the offer. On the one hand, he didn’t really like… himself being his boss. On the other hand, better Edward than someone else. Maybe Edward could at least protect the secret of who he was. It was true, also, that he did need to understand how alchemy worked here, and how better to really experience it than to be working closely with it?
“Alright, but you better not be a jerk about it or I’ll kick your ass.”
Edward laughed and shook his head, but said nothing.
“What, don’t think I could?” Ed growled edgily.
“No. I’m pretty sure you couldn’t, actually,” Edward replied, heading for his bedroom.
“Could too,” Ed argued, following close behind.
“Even Al doesn’t usually beat me anymore,” Edward murmured, pausing to turn his head and grin cockily at Ed.
That was it, the last straw. He was not going to stand for being insulted by his own double. Ed growled, pouncing like a cat. He barreled into Edward, sending them both crashing to the floor at the entrance to Edward’s bedroom.
“W-what are you doing?” Edward asked, struggling to at least turn over so he wasn’t sprawled on his stomach.
“Can’t beat you, huh?” Ed muttered.
“You took me by surprise. That doesn’t even count, you ass,” Edward retorted, wriggling in earnest as he tried to dislodge Ed’s grip on him.
“You’re just saying that because you lost.” Ed leaned forward, digging his knees into the floor on either side of Edward’s hips, the heels of his hands pressed hard against his double’s back. Edward growled, squirming beneath Ed in an attempt to get up.
“Concede?” Ed asked with a grin, leaning a little more of his weight against Edward’s back.
“Fucking never,” Edward hissed. He got his hands under him then and shoved upward, making Ed lose his balance and tip back a bit too far. Edward was fast, pressing the advantage the turn around and lunge forward, sending Ed onto his back, the air rushing out of his lungs in a sharp whoosh. The wood floor was hard against his head, but he hardly had time to notice the discomfort.
Edward wasted no time in pinning Ed. He sat squarely across Ed’s hips, leaning forward to pin Ed’s wrists far above his head. He was panting slightly, lips parted as he sucked in a breath. Ed squirmed to no avail. Edward’s body matched his perfectly, chest and belly pressed hard into his and he couldn’t move, could hardly suck air into his lungs for all the pressure on his lungs.
Ed did the first thing instinct suggested. He struggled, bucking his hips and yanking from his shoulders in an attempt to dislodge Edward’s hold on his arms. If he could just get his automail free. Edward’s face was close, and maybe if he flung his head forward, he could startle his double enough to get loose, or bonk him in the nose. He was okay with that option, too.
It seemed, though, that Edward had anticipated that, and he tilted his head to the side, protecting his face by burying it against Ed’s neck. His mouth brushed Ed’s throat, and for a split second, the entire world came to a halt. It was a foreign sensation, like a jolt of adrenaline through his veins.
Ed blinked in surprise. He felt strangely warm, and he was sure there was a crimson blush creeping across his cheeks. What the hell was wrong with him? He looked up at Edward, who had tugged his face away like he’d been burned, curiously trying to work out what was happening. Edward appeared startled, his throat working furiously. His whole face was flushed, and he looked rather like a panting, blond haired tomato.
“T…truce?” Edward asked finally. He didn’t seem to even care what the answer was, already scrambling off of Ed. Ed nodded dumbly, and took the hand Edward offered him, allowing himself to be yanked up off the floor. He wanted to ask what had happened, wanted to puzzle this out, because it’d never been like that before when he’d fought with someone, never put his body on edge like that. Edward, however, looked every bit as bewildered as he felt.
Ed stood in the middle of Edward’s bedroom as his doppelganger disappeared behind the closet door, rooting around for something. There was an agitated snort and some shuffling. Finally, Edward shut the door, holding out a mop of black hair to Ed.
“Here. You’ll need it if we’re going to pull this off.”
“I could just dye it. I mean, I alchemized it black once before. It isn’t that hard,” Ed suggested, mostly because wigs were a pain. He’d discovered that in Lior. Edward’s jaw worked, and he seemed to be debating a response.
“You shouldn’t use alchemy when you don’t have to,” he said finally, his voice near a whisper.
“You keep saying that. I’m not saying you should use it for every little thing, but if you have the power to do so, and it makes something easier, what’s the problem?” Ed asked.
“You just… shouldn’t. You never know what’s going to happen, and it’s better not to spoil yourself. Otherwise, you end up dependent on it and…” Edward trailed off, looking worse for the wear. His brow furrowed as he pulled his thoughts together, and finally shook his head.
“Just trust me on this, okay?” He asked, his eyes almost pleading, though for what, Ed couldn’t say.
“Fine, fine, I’ll wear the wig,” Ed conceded, offering an awkward smile in an attempt to lighten the mood. For an alchemist, heck, for another version of him, Edward didn’t seem to actually like alchemy very much. It was only the fact that right now he was dependent on Edward’s good graces that kept him from pestering his double for an explanation as to why.
Edward’s lips quirked in a lopsided grin, obviously forced, but at least he didn’t seem angry. He looked like he might say something, but the front door opened, and there was Al, saving them from the awkwardness that had managed to fall between them again. Ed wanted to bang his head against the wall. Here, they’d made progress, to the point where he almost could cautiously consider them to be friends. Only now he’d somehow mucked it up and Edward didn’t really seem to want to be around him.
Dinner was a subdued event, with both Ed and his alter trying and failing at keeping a conversation going. There was something strained and he couldn’t quite explain it, couldn’t define what had happened that made him feel so ashamed. Perhaps it was attacking Edward earlier. Sure, Edward had deserved it, but he just looked so bothered, it made Ed’s stomach twist in knots. He could only hope an apology would be good enough. He felt positively sick at the moment.
Al, for his part, looked worriedly between them, but didn’t pry. He did end up babbling a great deal about the kitten he’d helped at the animal clinic where he worked. Apparently, it had no home, and he knew how the conversation was going to end before Al even got to it.
“So…so if no one comes to claim it…” Al turned to Edward with pleading eyes, and Ed had to look away at first. Times like this, it hurt to watch Al, to listen to this person who looked like his brother. Who knew if his Al was even alive?
“Fine, Al. You can keep the cat.” Ed did look up, then. The pain of memory had begun to fade, and he couldn’t help slight amusement at the way Edward had finally caved. He was sure he would too, when he got home. In fact, the first thing he was going to do when he got back to Al would be to go get him a damn cat. The Al sitting across the table from him practically beamed, and for a little while, Ed almost forgot how awful he felt.
After dinner, he helped Edward do the dishes. The mood had lifted enough that at least Edward didn’t seem actively angry. Ed decided now was probably the best chance he had to mend things with his alter.
“Look, I’m sorry,” he mumbled, absently scrubbing at one of the plates with a washrag. He allowed himself to watch Edward from the corner of his eye. His alter nearly dropped the cup he was drying, looking altogether startled.
“Y…you’re sorry?” Edward turned away, sliding the cup up onto a cabinet shelf.
“Yeah, sorry for earlier. I didn’t mean to upset you or anything,” Ed looked down at the sudsy water, feeling at the bottom for stray silverware.
“Wait, you thought I was mad at you?” Edward turned around to face him, his gaze squarely on Ed.
“You mean you aren’t?” Ed paused to turn and look at Edward, his hands dangling in the sudsy water.
“No…I’m not mad.” Somehow, even though he believed Edward’s words, it didn’t make him feel better. His double seemed more bothered than he had been before. He clammed up, silently drying the dishes and disappearing to his room once they were finished.
Ed flopped down on the couch, eyeing the bookshelf for something he’d not already read at least twice. Al kept him company with a ready smile and pleasant conversation, easing the tight coils in his chest. He was actually rather sorry when Edward’s brother finally excused himself in favor of bed.
Bed was probably a great idea about now. As it was, he was alone again, the apartment silent save for the ticking of a clock on the mantle. Ed thought about heading for his bedroom, but already knew it would be a while before he managed sleep.
The day had just been so disconcerting. The loneliness was something he was familiar with, as well as the urge to attack anything that irritated him. It was the other thing, the strange feeling he’d had when Edward was pressed flush against him. If it had been someone else, he might have thought something of it, that perhaps he had the beginnings of a crush or something. He didn’t really have anything to compare it to, as he’d never stayed in one place long enough to be attracted to anyone except for Al, and Al was his brother. Still, that couldn’t possibly be it. Edward wasn’t his brother, wasn’t even family… Edward was him. Wouldn’t he have to be some sort of narcissistic weirdo to be attracted to his own doppelganger?
Ed mulled over the idea, sure that couldn’t be the case. Yet, he couldn’t get it out of his head.
Well, you do like being around him.
I had to make friends with him. I’m going to be stuck here for who knows how long. Besides, I might need his help!
And so you gravitate towards him? That doesn’t sound like friendship
No no no… it isnt’ like that! I’m just lonely and there isn’t anyone else to hang out with. It won’t be like that once I get out of the apartment a bit.
Keep telling yourself that. You liked the way it felt, earlier. You can’t say you didn’t when your heart was practically hammering out of your chest.
Ed shook his head. He must be going mad. After all, he was having an argument with himself about whether he had a crush on... himself. Well, no, it wasn’t him exactly. It was Edward, but hell, Edward looked almost exactly like him, and that was just weird. Never mind that he was a guy. Honestly, that was the least of Ed’s issues with this.
Perhaps he really did need some sleep. He should just go to bed, and tomorrow things would be back to normal. After all, this whole idea he was obsessing over was nothing short of preposterous.
Ed was just considering writing the night off as a loss and heading to bed when he heard the scrape of wood on a door frame. There was shuffling down the hall towards him, and eventually Edward emerged, blinking owlishly in the dim light. His hair hung loose, ruffled and concealing most of his face, though his expression looked soft, inches away from sleep. He wore only a pair of boxers and his automail gleamed in the soft yellow lamp light. He looked startled and his cheeks were pink when he noticed Ed’s presence.
“Couldn’t sleep?” he asked softly, not really waiting for an answer before he wandered to the kitchen for a glass of water.
“I guess not,” Ed replied with a shrug. He groaned inwardly when Edward plopped down at the other end of the couch. He needed distance right now to figure this out. Edward hanging around half naked was not going to help.
“Yeah, me either,” Edward mumbled, staring down at the water in his glass. Ed nervously wet his lips. As long as Edward was here…
“Are you okay? You’ve been kinda weird all day.” Ed looked over in time to see Edward’s face briefly screw up in something like fear. It smoothed out, but he hunched over himself a bit.
“I’m fine. Just had a lot on my mind, I guess. It’s been a weird day,” Edward answered, sinking back into the couch.
“You know, I never really put any thought into ‘after’,” Ed noted, letting his eyes slide shut as he tilted his head into the back of the couch.
“Yeah, me either. Now… now I feel like I’m at loose ends half the time. I mean, the whole point was to restore Al’s body, to give him his life back. I never really expected to make it, and now I don’t know what to do with all the extra time.” Edward’s voice began to fade, and his eyelids fluttered a bit as he stared at the ceiling.
“Well, you’ve got an important project, right? I mean, I’m sure it’s not as time consuming as… everything before, but that’s something, right?” Ed wondered if maybe this meant Edward had at least some idea as to how lost he was feeling.
“I just feel like I’m missing something important, like, by the time I figure out what it is, it’ll be too late. Jessy keeps trying to tell me I need a girlfriend,” Edward murmured, looking positively mortified at the idea.
“Who’s Jessy?” Ed asked. It seemed it was a day for all sorts of foreign emotions, and it took him a while to decipher what he was feeling as something like… protectiveness, a twinge of jealousy maybe. That was silly, though. He didn’t know this girl to be jealous over her, and he didn’t have a crush, or whatever on Edward, so there was just no reason to be jealous of anything.
“You’ll meet her in a few days when we get this job thing sorted out. She’s a girl on my research team,” Edward turned to look at him, his eyes bleary with almost sleep.
“Honestly, what the fuck would I even do with a girlfriend? Girls are all weird or scary, it seems like. Besides, it’s kind of hard to be attracted to something you spent years dissecting the anatomy of.” Edward squirmed against the couch cushions, settling comfortably into the corner.
“I never really thought about it. I guess you’re right though. I can’t really imagine having a girlfriend. It’d suck having to explain everything that’s happened, and, you know, hope she’d understand why I’m all weird and stuff,” Ed murmured, fighting to keep his eyes open.
Edward hmmed in response, and then fell silent. Ed hardly noticed, telling himself he’d just rest his eyes for a moment, and then head off to bed. He was just resting his eyes…