Rating: PG-13 for this chapter. NC-17 overall
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32023 / 50000 words. 64% done!
So, I think they're finally starting to cooperate. Oh OTP of fail, how I love you. Anyway, sorry for the short chapter. I wanted to cut it there because that's where I'm switching PoV. Next chapter has some sort of resolution. In the meantime, here's Edward being very :F
It had been nice, like very few things in his life ever were, to wake up holding someone. The warm press of skin against skin was comforting, and the soft ruffle of someone else’s hair tickled against his arm. It seemed at least his subconscious mind had completely resigned itself to being attracted to Ed, so much that it didn’t even occur to him to be startled when a familiar face swam in his vision upon waking.
It would be so easy to get used to that, he sort of wanted to get used to it, but the moment he’d woken and asked after Ed’s injury, his alter had scooted away as if wanting nothing to do with him. He’d said he wasn’t angry about it, but how could he not be? Edward was sure if he’d woken to someone who wasn’t supposed to be in his room touching him and inflicting injury, he’d not be happy either.
He wanted to say something, to ask what he needed to do to clear the air between them. Ed looked at him so oddly now, like he always wanted to say something, but never actually brought forth the words. Maybe Ed was just afraid he’d be kicked out if they fought. That made Edward feel vaguely sick, like he was forcing Ed to get along with him or something.
Still, after a week, he just couldn’t bring himself to start a conversation about it. Ed seemed to not even notice, and somehow, that only made it worse.
“Are you okay, brother?” Al prodded over breakfast. It was a rare occurrence for it to just be the two of them these days, but Ed had insisted that he was going on ahead to work and promptly disappeared. It only fanned Edward’s fears about what had happened.
“Nothing really,” Edward replied, stuffing a bite of egg into his mouth to keep from divulging more.
“You’re a terrible liar.” Al indeed did not look terribly impressed. Edward wasn’t sure why he’d thought it would fly in the first place.
“I, umm… I think maybe…my…the other…Ed, well, you know who I mean,” Edward began, flustered at the way it still felt strange calling his alter by his own name.
“What about him?” Al prodded.
“I think maybe he’s mad at me,” Edward answered. Now that he’d said it out loud, it just sounded silly. Since when did he care if someone was mad at him, anyway? Everything was different when it was Ed, though. Maybe it was some weird side effect of this damnable crush of his.
“Why would you think that?”
“I kind of hurt him…accidently of course. I mean, it was late and I forgot about the spike on my hand, and it’s not like I was trying to…” Edward kept babbling until Al’s expression changed abruptly.
“I wondered what all the blood on those sheets was about. Is he okay? It must have been pretty bad because that was a lot of blood.” Al asked, sitting back and waiting for an answer.
“He’s okay. I mean, it was a pretty nasty cut, but I fixed it,” Edward assured him.
“Brother! Why’d you do that? If it needed medical attention, you should have woken me, or taken him to the hospital,” Al chastised.
“Why? I fixed him up fine,” Edward argued. He didn’t mention the way it had drained him, leaving him too exhausted even to stand. Much more and he probably would have passed out.
“You know you shouldn’t do things like that. You’re so reckless, Ed. I just don’t want you to hurt yourself…not after everything that’s happened.” It hurt, watching Al’s face as he spoke, the genuine worry for Edward’s safety. The kicker was, his little brother didn’t even know the half of it. He’d confided things in Ed he’d never dared tell Al. He could never tell Al, because he’d never let his brother feel guilty for the price he paid, and telling him would only accomplish that.
“I’m okay, I promise,” Edward soothed, getting up to clear their plates as if to prove his point. There was silence between them for a long while as he rinsed off their dishes under the faucet.
“I don’t think he’s angry with you,” Al volunteered finally.
“What?” Edward had nearly forgotten what had started this whole conversation.
“Ed. The other one. I don’t think he’s mad at you.”
Edward turned around to look at Al, “What makes you say that?”
“You’re a lot alike, you know. I know you better than anybody, and that means I know him pretty well, too. Besides, when you’re angry, everyone knows it. I’m sure if he was mad, he’d have kicked your teeth in by now.” Al grinned, shoving back from the table.
“You’re probably right,” Edward admitted finally.
“I know.” Al tossed the words over his shoulder as he left the kitchen.
Ed followed him to the living room, pausing to retrieve his shoes from their place by the door. He looked up again as he put them on. “Thanks, Al.”
Al gave him a funny look before nodding. “Sure. I mean, someone has to keep you from being all weird and sulking about things like that, right?”
Edward was sure there was some sort of lighthearted insult in that, but all he could find was truth. He let the matter drop, tugging on his shoes and flying out the door, wondering what could have possibly prompted Ed to leave in such a hurry if he actually wasn’t angry.
“It’s never going to work like that,” Ed fumed at one of the assistants. Edward could never remember his name, Sam, or Fred, or something. It was probably Fred. That one sounded closer to being right.
“Why not?” Guy who might be named Fred looked genuinely perplexed, clutching his notebook as if it held the deepest secrets of the universe.
Ed looked like he was going to blow a fuse in typical Elric fashion. To his credit though, he screwed up his nose in irritation, took a deep breath, and held out a hand for the notebook. The startled assistant clutched it more tightly, and Edward was fairly certain he heard Ed growl.
“Look, I’m not going to hurt your precious notes. I’m going to show you something,” Ed grumped, looking rather exasperated.
“Okay,” Guy who might be named Fred, but actually maybe not because he could be Frank answered. Whatever his name was, he timidly held out the notebook, flinching when Ed roughly swiped it from his hands.
Edward came closer, and neither of them noticed him as Ed pointed out a few places where the assistant… Jim according to his nametag, had his equations wrong. Ed was so lost in thought, he didn’t even seem to register Edward’s presence when his alter was right beside him.
“Look, it’s a good start, but go back and check the rest of your equations. If we don’t even have formulas right, nothing’s going to work. Besides, even if it was all correct, you’re sort of missing the point,” Ed finished, not seeming to notice the indignant look on Jim’s face anymore than he did Edward standing beside him.
“What do you mean?” Jim squeaked, looking even more nervous now that he had seen Edward.
“I mean we’re trying to replicate limbs. That’s creating something new, not healing what’s already there. I mean, that’d be good for something like a disease, but it’s not what we’re working on,” Ed explained, twitching in barely contained frustration.
Jim ran off, and Ed finally turned to the side. He nearly jumped out of his skin, and Edward was pretty sure he actually had been entirely unaware he had company.
“When did you get here?” Ed asked once he’d composed himself again.
“Few minutes ago,” Edward answered, swallowing hard. It was now or never. Despite Al’s reassurances, he wasn’t entirely convinced Ed wasn’t angry at him. After all, he had taken off in an awful hurry.
“Why are you looking at me like that?” Ed asked, backing up almost imperceptibly, like he thought Edward might try to eat him and wanted to be ready to run.
Edward swallowed again, his tongue thick in his throat, “I…just wanted to apologize for the other day. I really didn’t mean to hurt you.”
Ed blinked at Edward, his face blank as if he couldn’t figure out for the life of him what his alter was talking about. “The other day?”
“Yeah… you know, your back,” Edward explained, raising his hand in a vague, lame gesture before dropping it back to his side.
Ed’s face lit up with sudden realization. “You’re still on about that? I told you it was okay. It was an honest mistake. Besides, I’ve been through a lot worse than a little scrape. I’m…kinda used to pain by now.”
“Yeah, but you shouldn’t be, not from me, too,” Edward muttered.
Ed raised an eyebrow at him, searching his face for something before he spoke again, “It’s okay, I promise. You fixed it, and I’m fine anyway. Even if you hadn’t, I would have been okay. I’m not mad at you or anything.”
Edward must have been visibly relieved at that, because, finally Ed seemed to understand. He offered an awkward smile and shook his head, wandering back to the table he usually worked at. Edward was so pleasantly surprised about the whole thing, he forgot to ask what had brought Ed here so early.
Ed leaned over his notes, the dark hair of his wig sliding forward, long tendrils of black that threatened to assault the table. His tongue poked out from between his lip, briefly wetting them before disappearing once more. Edward looked up from his own work, helpless but to watch. Ed’s mouth moved faintly as he read something back to himself, and Edward sighed, wondering what kissing said mouth would be like. He’d dreamt once, that Ed had kissed him, that morning they woke up together. When he’d opened his eyes, though, Edward had wanted nothing to do with him, excusing himself as quickly as possible. Edward decided that he really couldn’t be blamed for wishful thinking, though, not when this was all still so new and foreign to him.
Edward hadn’t realized he’d still been writing, or rather drawing circles on the page. He pressed too hard against the pencil, lost in thought, and the fragile wood snapped. The sound was deafening in the near silence of the room, and Ed looked up, noticing it like he never noticed people talking to him when he was working.
“You okay?” Ed asked, glancing briefly at the circles Edward hadn’t even realized he’d drawn.
“Yeah, fine. I was just…” Edward paused, remembering his earlier question. At least that would draw the attention away from him. “So what brought you here so early.”
Ed looked startled for a moment, and Edward wasn’t sure he would answer. Slowly, though, the surprised look melted away into a very pleased smile. “You’ll see when it’s finished.”
Edward considered pressing the issue. He decided, though, that it was really too dangerous. Ed being his double meant he was every bit as stubborn as Edward, and trying to prod him into an actual answer would produce nothing but another argument. He wasn’t entirely sure the lab could take it, or that it wouldn’t make the truth about them painfully obvious.
He settled for going back to his notes, turning a page to start fresh. Starting over didn’t ease his distraction or help him concentrate. Blank pages ended up covered in doodles and aimless transmutation circles where there should have been equations. His mind strayed, time and again, to Ed, who seemed perfectly oblivious to his discomfort.
That was it. He obviously wasn’t getting anything accomplished here. He shoved the notebook away in aggravation before getting out of his chair. The movement grabbed Ed’s attention, but he didn’t dare meet his alter’s eyes, didn’t even dare speak, lest he do something phenomenally stupid. If Ed said anything, he didn’t notice as he made his way out of the lab.
He made his way briskly down the halls of the building his lab was in. Walls and doors were passed without acknowledgement, and if not for the breeze, he might not have even noticed when his feet carried him outside. The balmy air was warm on his face, gently ruffling his hair, but it did nothing to ease the tightness in his chest.
How the hell was he meant to live like this? Edward almost wished he could just go back to not knowing what it was like to really want anyone. He’d had Al and that had been all he needed. Now, it was never quite enough.
Maybe it never would have happened if Al hadn’t been so scarce lately. That was the whole point of getting his body back. His little brother had a life, now. He was supposed to be living it. Still, it left Edward lonelier than he liked to admit, and Ed had been easy to seek out. Was it only natural for this to follow?
No, that couldn’t be right. He’d spent years of his life almost exclusively with Al and he certainly had no interest in seeing his brother naked. The thought that that meant he rather did want to see Ed like that made him blush just for letting it cross his mind. What about Roy? He’d sort of made friends with the man, voluntarily spent time with him, even, and he wasn’t tempted to kiss his former commander every time he saw him.
This whole situation was just ridiculous. It was no wonder Mustang was always trying to skip out of the office if this was what attraction was like. There was no focusing, no point in even attempting concentration, and how anyone accomplished anything in this state was beyond him. It was a miserable distraction that left him flustered and irritated, and yet… the idea of not feeling it, now that he actually knew what he was missing was not entirely pleasant either.
Alright, so he had at least established that it wasn’t something he was entirely averse to, anymore. This whole wandering around in a daze business had to stop, though. He didn’t dare try to sort out how he was going to handle that. There was something vaguely embarrassing about even considering having a plan of action for a situation like this. Besides, wasn’t Al always saying he was too spontaneous about things? Might as well live up to his reputation, he supposed. The fact that he’d been on the fence about this for so long was ridiculous as is.
With new resolve, Edward turned on his heel, heading back to the lab. Ed looked at him curiously and he flashed a determined smile, pleasantly surprised when it was returned. It occurred to him then, that maybe he’d been reading things wrong the whole time. After all, as Al had said, they were a lot alike. It was going to be pretty dumb if the whole time he’d been freaking out about all this, Ed was too. Since when was he afraid of anything, anyway? And why, exactly, was it that everyone blabbered about how great it was to be with someone, but no one ever said it made you want to run for the hills? Surely, that couldn’t just be him.
How he got through the day, Edward wasn’t sure. It certainly wasn’t by doing any actual work. He was rather glad Jessy had taken the day off, because he was sure that one look at him and she’d just know. Then, she’d poke at him until he told her enough to get her off his back. That was about the last thing he needed, no matter how well intentioned she might be. In her absence, he settled back in his seat, drawing aimlessly as he considered how best to handle this revelation of his. He was still a bit star struck with the idea that there might be a solution, even if the very thought of it had him blushing, much to the alarm of the rest of his staff.
“Are you sick or something?” Ed asked, finally. His head was cocked to the side, eyes narrowed as he looked Edward over, obviously in search of any clue as to his odd behavior.
“No, no I’m fine. Hey look at the time. We should go.” Edward pointed at the clock, babbling to ease a sudden fit of nerves. What if this wasn’t what Ed wanted from him? No, he was done second guessing himself. They’d just have to cross that bridge when they came to it. In the meantime, worrying wasn’t solving anything, and he grabbed Ed’s wrist, trying to ignore the indignant squeak as he dragged his alter from the lab.
“What’s the rush?” Ed squawked, finally tugging his wrist from Edward’s grasp.
Edward wasn’t sure how to even begin to answer that, so he didn’t. He felt the teensiest bit bad when he saw the worried look on Ed’s face, as if he thought he’d done something wrong, but it couldn’t be helped. It wasn’t as if he was going to hash this out in public, in the middle of the sidewalk. Edward was at least moderately certain Ed wasn’t going to flee between here and the apartment, so he’d just have to wait.