Snake in the Playpen

A Fullmetal Alchemist Fanfic With Lemon
Written in Response to Challenges #2 (“The Audience,”) #15 (“The Bordello, or Dude Looks Like a Lady of the Night”) and #30 (“The Playroom, or, Wow, Santa Never Brought Me *That* Kind of Toy!") on the 30_Lemons Community

By Sailor Mac

When Russell walked into Roy’s office, the first thing that struck him was the yelling.

Not that it was unusual to hear Ed yelling, not at all. It especially wasn’t unusual to hear Ed yelling in this office. In the three months that Russell had been working with the military as a civilian consultant, he’d gotten almost blasé about hearing his lover snapping at his commanding officer.

But this time, he could hear him all the way down the hall.

“You’ve gone TOO FAR this time, Mustang!” Ed was shouting. “I can just quit any moment now, you know. We’re not chasing a Philosopher’s Stone anymore. I’ll just take Al and *both* of us will--”

“And who will finish the research on the Ultraweapon?” Roy said, much more calmly, as Russell peeked tentatively into the room. He saw Ed standing by the desk, hands balled into fists, face bright red from fury. Al was sitting in one of the other chairs, looking like he didn’t know whether to try to placate his brother or just drag Ed out of the room.

“Get somebody else to do it!” Ed snapped. “You’ve got to have plenty of toadys working under you who’d be all too glad to --”

“None of whom have your skills, of course,” Roy said, leaning over the desk. “Weren’t you the one who said you’d stay with the military until we caught these extremists, Fullmetal, since nobody else would be able to do it?”

“That was for LAB RESEARCH!” Ed shouted, slamming his automail fist to the desk. “And straight investigation! Not THIS!”

Russell didn’t know whether he should turn and leave. What the hell kind of assignment did Roy just give him? He wondered if it was something having to do with Ed’s shadowy past, the things he still wouldn’t tell Russell about . . .

And then, Roy spotted him, and said, “There you are, Mr. Tringham. Come right on in and have a seat.”

Ed’s face went from red to ashen white. “Russell? You got RUSSELL involved in this, too? Bad enough you tried to drag in *Al* . . .”

“Brother,” Al said, quietly, “calm down. Let Colonel Mustang and Russell talk. Maybe they can figure out a way . . .”

Russell slid into the seat next to Al, suddenly wishing he were miles away. “Hello,” he said, tentatively. “You called for me, Colonel?”

“Don’t let him drag you into *anything*, Russell,” Ed snapped, throwing himself into the seat next to his lover. “He’s gone insane.”

“Fullmetal . . .” Roy said in a warning tone, holding up a hand. Turning to Russell, he said, “I want to discuss you helping us with an assignment -- which, it seems, Fullmetal has some difficulties with.”

Ed just snorted and looked away, arms folded over his chest.

“It seems,” Roy said, “that we’ve been getting reports that a local woman named Marie Werner is one of the ringleaders of the political extremist group we’ve been pursuing.”

Russell nodded. He was more than familiar with the case -- he’d been brought in to help the government of Amestris develop an Ultraweapon, a super plant-based explosive, before a group of extremists who were planning to overthrow the current government could.

“Marie Werner,” Roy said, “just happens to be the madam of a bordello frequented by a lot of rich and powerful people. We suspect she’s using her position to gather information about high-ranking government officials for the rebels. The only problem is, nobody has been able to come up with any *concrete* evidence against her. She guards her secrets well. We tried sending operatives to the bordello as customers, but they weren’t able to find out anything.”

Russell squirmed uncomfortably in his seat. He could suddenly see where this was going -- and he knew why Ed was so very upset.

“We need to infiltrate her operation from the inside,” Roy said. “Send someone in there posing as a prostitute -- and since she uses young boys and girls, and there’s always a demand for prostitutes with automail --”

“DAMN YOU!” Ed suddenly shouted, springing to his feet. “I signed up to be the dog of the military, not its whore!”

“Colonel,” Russell said, trying to keep his cool, “can’t we come up with some alternative? Isn’t there another way? I mean, can’t you send someone in there posing as a maid or something?”

“I wish we could,” Roy said. “But from the intelligence we’ve gotten, it seems that Madame Marie has no maids -- she has her girls and boys do the cleaning. She doesn’t trust anyone else. However, we did find out one piece of useful information -- the reason she’s so popular with wealthy people is she allows them to have exclusives on a prostitute for two-week blocks -- twenty-four hour access, and he or she has no other customers. For a nice fee, of course. And that, Mr. Tringham, is where you come in.”

Russell’s eyebrows shot up. “You want *me* to work in there as well?” He’d rather have himself in there rather than Ed, but still, the thought of having to give *himself* up to strangers . . .

“*No*, Mr. Tringham,” Roy said. “Contrary to what Fullmetal believes, I would *not* send either of you into a situation where you would *actually* have to prostitute yourselves.”

Russell squirmed in his seat again. He looked over at Ed, who had sat down again and was still scowling and looking away, and then over at Al, who just sat with big eyes, still not quite knowing what to do about the situation.

“As soon as he gets there,” Roy continued, “he would acquire a steady customer, someone he feels comfortable with who’s actually working for us. Initially, we were going to use his brother, but . . .”

“No way in HELL are you sending Al into a place like that!” Ed snarled.

“Brother . . .” Al said.

"That," Roy said, unruffled as ever, "is going to be your role, Mr. Tringham."

Russell thought this over. If there *truly* was no other way to catch this Madame Marie, they’d have no choice. But that’s if there were *no* other way.

“I’d like to talk to the Elrics alone for a few minutes,” Russell said.

Ed’s head snapped toward him. “Russell!” he growled.

“Brother, just hear him out,” Al said.

Ed stood up and pointed at Russell. “If you even *consider* going along with this . . .”

“Fine,” Roy said, getting up from the desk in one smooth motion. “I have some things I need to attend to elsewhere, anyway. I’ll be back in a few minutes.” He turned and left the office.

Once he was gone, Ed flung himself back in his seat, grumbling, “He’s probably going to hit on some secretary. Bastard.”

“Ed,” Russell said, “why don’t we just *break into* the place? Lord knows you’ve done that enough.”

“That a reference to something specific?” Ed said, head turning rapidly toward his lover.

“Well, I *do* seem to remember our first meeting being something like that,” Russell said, a sly smile crossing his face. “But . . . you’ve got a *lot* of experience doing that, Ed. Why do you have to infiltrate the place?”

“Place like that, it’s easier said than done,” Ed said. “There’s something going on 24 hours a day -- you heard what he said about 24-hour access. It’s not like there’s any time when everything is *quiet*.”

“Maybe you could infiltrate it for just a day, put in some kind of bug so we could listen in and then leave?” Al said.

“Oh, yeah, *that* won’t look suspicious,” Ed grumbled.

“If there was some way we could *guarantee* that nobody else would touch you . . .” Russell said.

Ed shot a scowl in Russell’s direction. “I am NOT doing it, Russell,” he said.

“You wouldn’t have to *do* anything, Brother,” Al said. “Just go into the room with Russell.”

“Ed,” Russell said, “look, why don’t we talk to Mustang, and tell him we’ll agree to his plan, as long as he *promises* that if there’s even a *threat* of someone else having to touch you, he’ll get you out of there and there won’t be another word about this mission.”

“I don’t believe this.” Ed got up from the chair and stalked toward the window. “You two *both* want me to be a whore.”

“I don’t *want* you to be a whore!” Russell said, jumping up from his own chair. “I want you to catch these people who want to blow everything up so you can get the hell out of the military!”

“Brother, we *did* promise the Colonel we’d stay with him until those people were captured,” Al said.

“Did we promise to do *anything* in order to do that?” Ed said.

“Ed, you won’t have to do *anything,* Russell said. “Not if I can help it. Look, if this Madame Marie is as high-ranking in their gang as Mustang seems to think she is. . . if you get her, you could leave the military in a matter of weeks.”

He walked over and put a hand on his lover’s shoulder. Ed made no effort to shrug it off, but he just stood absolutely still, rooted to the spot.

“Brother,” Al said, softly, “I believe the Colonel when he says he won’t let you *actually* prostitute yourself. He *does* care for you . . . more than you know. Besides . . .” His eyes suddenly took on a dark, menacing look. “If anything *does* happen to you, he’ll have to answer to *me.*”

Ed turned around slowly, looking from one of the people he loved most in the world to the other.

Finally, he took a deep breath and said, “Fine. I’ll *try* it. For a *day* or two. And I swear, if anyone *tries* to touch me other than Russell, I *will* hurt them. Mission or no mission.”

Russell suddenly grabbed Ed in his arms, and felt the smaller boy hug him back, tightly.

He wasn’t crazy about the mission, either. But if it could help get Ed out of the military, help them begin the life together as civilians he’d been dreaming about for a long time, it would be worth it.

After all, the world worked on equivalent exchange. And if he wanted something like getting Ed out of the military for good, it was going to mean one hell of a sacrifice.

* * *

Outside the door, Roy Mustang listened to the conversation within. It didn’t surprise him in the least that Russell Tringham had managed to convince Fullmetal to accept the mission. For all the tension that was in their relationship on the surface, he’d noticed that the younger boy ultimately had something of a calming effect on Edward.

Which was precisely why he’d allowed Russell to work with him. It made it much easier to get Fullmetal to obey orders.

He had some suspicions of just how deep the relationship went, but he didn’t ask Edward about it, and he didn’t expect the boy to tell. Personal lives were none of the military’s business unless there was fraternization involved -- which didn’t apply here, since Russell Tringham was a civilian contractor, not a State Alchemist.

He actually regretted that the elder Tringham would never be a member of the military -- the boy’s abilities with plants were phenomenal -- but he knew that Russell and Ed wouldn’t do anything to jeopardize their relationship if they were intimately involved.

And as much as he liked the idea of Russell as a State Alchemist, he liked the idea of Ed finally having some happiness in life more. He definitely would not have dreamed of sending Ed into Madame Marie’s with anyone else for a partner.

He heard footsteps coming toward the door, and knew it was Fullmetal coming to tell him he’d accepted the assignment. He’d be sure Tringham was thanked properly once the mission was over.

Now, he just needed to get his staff to find a suitable undercover wardrobe for the boy. From what he’d heard, Madame Marie’s workers usually catered to fetishes . . .

He couldn’t help but feel amused at the thought of the face on the poor new recruit who’d have to fetch the stuff.

* * *

When Ed walked up to the door of Madame Marie’s establishment, the first thing that struck him was how *normal* it looked. It was a large, white house with four stories, a manicured lawn, flowers along the path, gingerbread trimming on the windows . . .

It could have been the home of any of the old-money families who lived in the hills just outside Central.

“Whatever,” he grumbled. “The less time I spend here, the better.”

He knocked on the door, knowing he’d be expected -- he’d called the place a day before, rattling off a carefully-rehearsed speech.

The door was opened by a young woman wearing a seemingly normal day dress made of a shiny pale blue material -- except the neckline was just a bit too low, and the skirt was just a shade too high. Her hair was so pale blonde it was almost white, and she had a wide, wide smile decorated with pink lipstick. She also didn’t look a day over 20.

“Hi,” she said. “Can I help you?”

Ed blinked. “You’re not Madame Marie, are you?”

“Oh, no, I’m Betsy, I just work here. Do you have . . . an appointment?”

Ed wanted to snap, “Do I *look* like the kind of person who would come to one of these places?” He managed to hold his tongue, though, and said, “I called Madame Marie yesterday about working here . . . I’m . . .”

“Oh, you’re the automail boy!” Betsy grabbed him by the arm in question and yanked him into the building so hard that Ed thought she’d ripped out half the circuits. “She’s gonna be *real* glad to see you.” Leaning over, she whispered loudly, “We had some rich kid call here about being with a guy with automail. He was offering a freaking *fortune*.”

“Really?” Ed said, feigning surprise. “Nice to know I’m in demand.” He struggled to keep up with Betsy as she dragged him through a parlor that was as normal-looking as the exterior, with a couple of landscape paintings, heavy, old furniture, a grand piano, and a few women dressed similar to Betsy lounging about.

She rounded a corner and stopped in front of a door with a heavy, brass knocker. “Wait here,” she said. “Madame Marie is *very* particular about who she lets into her office.”

*I’ll bet she is,* Ed thought. He watched Betsy grab the knocker and pound it against the door hard enough to be heard back in Riesemboul. The door swung open a crack, and he watched the girl lean over and whisper something to whomever was inside. The door opened a bit wider, and a woman in her early 40s came out, dressed in a well-tailored gray business suit with a ruffled cream blouse. Her chestnut hair was a neat, wavy bob. She looked more like a bank officer than . . . what she was.

“Madame Marie, this is the boy who spoke to you on the phone the other day,” Betsy said.

“It is a pleasure to meet you,” the woman said in a low, warm voice, extending a hand toward Ed. “I’m sorry, I don’t remember your name.”

“Thomas Sutton,” Ed said, giving the pseudonym Roy had told him to use.

“Won’t you come into the parlor, Thomas? Or do you prefer Tom?” Madame Marie said, leading him back the way they came.

“Tom is fine,” Ed said, getting a better look around the place. Outside the parlor, there didn’t seem to be much activity, other than some sounds that seemed to be coming from a kitchen at the back of the house. He figured the occupants were busy with their trade, and resisted the urge to shudder.

“I was quite pleased to get the phone call from you,” Madame Marie said, settling into an elegantly embroidered easy chair and gesturing for Ed to sit in its twin, across from her. “The day before you called, we had an inquiry from a young man who is most interested in automail -- you do remember the exclusivity policy I went over with you on the phone?”

Ed nodded. “He wants dibs on me for two weeks?”

“Precisely,” Madame Marie said, templing her index fingers in front of her. “Now, ordinarily, I would put a newcomer to our establishment through testing before I let him or her receive customers . . .”

Ed could just imagine what the *testing* would have consisted of, and repressed the urge to shudder again.

“. . . but given the fact that we need you right away, and boys with automail *are* hard to come by in this profession, I’m putting you to work right this afternoon. The boy will be here in precisely an hour and a half.” She pointed to the huge grandfather clock ticking away across the room. “You do have working clothes with you?”

Ed looked down at the suitcase Roy had shoved in his hand as he was walking out of his office. He had no idea what was in there. He didn’t know if he wanted to. “Yeah,” he said.

“Excellent,” she said. “I’ll take you up to the room you’ll be using for this assignment. The third floor is reserved for people with steady customers. Once you’re in the general pool, you’ll be living and working on the second floor.”

*Like hell I will,* Ed thought. “I understand,” he said.

“Now, you are aware you’re responsible for keeping your own room clean, right?” she said. “We all pitch in here.”

“You have no employees other than the . . . contractors?” Ed said.

Madame Marie chuckled. “Contractors. I’ve never heard that word used for my workers before. I rather like it. No, Tom, the only employee I have is the cook, and she’s never out of her kitchen. Comes in in the morning, goes home at night after dinner. You’ll have days when it’ll be your duty to help her out, and other days when you’ll be responsible for helping to clean the halls and parlor.”

Ed frowned. “Are *all* places like this one? I mean, I’ve never worked in a *house* before, so I don’t know . . .”

“Most places aren’t,” Madame Marie said in an airy tone as she got up, gracefully. “But then again, most places aren’t as generous in splitting the profits with their workers, either. Come, I’ll show you to your room . . .”

It was definitely suspicious, Ed thought as he followed her up a staircase with a carved bannister. The one employee was a cook who never left her kitchen except to go home at night . . . the workers were told the reason for the strange arrangements was so they could get a bigger cut of the profits . . .

*And the reason she’s probably so generous with them is she’s more interested in any information they can get her than the money,* Ed thought as they headed up the second flight. *And she wouldn’t even let me into her office to be interviewed . . .*

“Here we are,” Madame Marie said as they came to the top of the stairs and walked into a large, open area with parquet floors. The walls were all lined with numbered doors.

“Your room is #8,” she said, handing him a key. “You have a private bath, which also has a massage table for your customer. Across the hall, you can see we have a lounge area for the people on this floor when they’re off-duty -- there’s also a phone there if you need it. Dinner is available from six to eight, but if your client wants to take you out to dinner, feel free to let him -- you’re not bound to this place.” She turned to him with a smile. “Any questions?”

“Yes,” he said, eyeing the suitcase with apprehension. “Do I have to wear work clothes all the time?”

“For the two weeks you’re with a steady client, no,” Madame Marie said. “Once you’re out in the general pool, we encourage it, because you can be called on at any time.”

Ed gritted his teeth. He couldn’t imagine what life in that “general pool” would be like, knowing at any moment, you’d be called on to have sex with a total stranger . . .

“All right,” he said. “That’s all I need to know. I’m going to go get dressed now.” He waved at her and carried his suitcase toward the door of room #8.

“We’ll let you know when your client arrives,” she said as she headed downstairs.

Ed unlocked the door and peered carefully into the room, not knowing quite what to expect. At the center of it was a king-sized bed, covered in wine-red material. There were some kind of straps hanging from the posts . . .

He quickly looked away from those to scan the broad, low dresser, the heavily-curtained window, a full-length mirror and some kind of rack next to the bed. It looked like a cross between a bookshelf and a wine rack, and held some kind of implements . . .

When he looked closer, he drew back with a “GYAAAA!” The rack seemed to be filled with disembodied penises of various shapes and sizes, and below that was a shelf that held several small whips -- a cat o’nine tails, a riding crop . . .

“That’s it,” he said. “Madame Marie is going down, the sooner the better.”

He hauled his suitcase onto the bed and unlatched it. *Might as well see what the work clothes consist of*, he thought.

He flipped the lid up, peered in and let out a yelp. There, on the top, was a leather corset, laces hanging from the back.

“No way!” he shouted. “I have to wear THIS? No WAY!”

He threw the corset aside, wondering what *else* there was for him to wear -- and saw a very small black bikini and a pair of laced-up black leather boots that looked like they’d reach to his thighs.

“What the HELL?” he said. “Who would think this kind of thing was *sexy*. . .”

A picture flashed in his head. He knew *exactly* who.


* * *

Russell pulled at his bow tie as he knocked on the door. The expensive suit he was wearing was constricting him like a rubber leotard. He just wasn’t used to clothes like this. When you spent your life in a lab and an orchard, you wore things that were loose and *comfortable*.

Besides, he felt like something was *missing* without suspenders over his shoulders.

The door was opened by a statuesque redhead in a too-brief black dress studded with rhinestones. “Hello,” she said in a voice that sounded far too high-pitched to be coming from her body. “Welcome to Madame Marie’s . . . do you have an appointment?”

“I’m supposed to be seeing . . .” He consulted a paper in his hand for the alias Ed was using. “Thomas Sutton.”

“Ah, so *you’re* the boy with the exclusive on him! Come right in, he’ll be down shortly . . .”

Russell entered the parlor, resisting the urge to pull on the tie again. He was supposed to be a rich boy (Reginald Hawthorne, that was the alias Mustang had told him to use), he had to *try* to look like he wore clothes like this all the time.

Right now, he was sure he wanted this mission to be over just as badly as Ed did.

A woman in a business suit came around the corner, a bright smile breaking out over her face as soon as she saw Russell. “You must be Mr. Hawthorne,” she said, extending her hand for a shake. “I’m Madame Marie.”

“A pleasure to meet you, Madame,” Russell said, shaking her hand.

“Thomas will be right down,” she said. “I am sure you will be most pleased with him.”

“He has automail?” Russell said.

“Arm and leg,” Madame Marie replied. “Wonderful work, if I do say so myself, though I can’t claim to be an *expert* at that sort of thing.”

Russell wondered if Winry would be flattered or insulted if he told her that her work had just been complimented highly by the proprietor of a whorehouse.

“Ah, he’s coming down the stairs now,” Madame Marie said at the sound of footsteps in the distance. Russell turned toward the staircase she indicated -- and gasped.

The redhead was leading down a blond in a formfitting black leather corset that stretched from just above his nipples to his hips. Below a tantalizing strip of bare skin was a brief, tight black bikini. His legs were covered with laced-up boots that only accentuated the muscles beneath, and his golden hair spilled over his shoulders.

It was *so* over-the-top, a virtual charicature of sexiness, that Russell thought he was going to burst out laughing.

“Reginald Hawthorne,” Madame Marie said, “this is Thomas Sutton.”

Ed bowed his head a bit, trying to look polite and submissive. “Hello,” he said.

Russell choked back laughter, feeling like he was in the middle of a comedy sketch in a burlesque house, that any minute pounding music was going to start playing and Ed was going to go into a striptease -- which just made him want to laugh all the more.

But at the same time, it was strangely hot, revealing *just* enough skin to make an onlooker wonder what was under the brief coverings.

Something in the back of his mind reminded him that he had to play his part. He grasped the automail hand and brought it to his lips, kissing it. “Beautiful,” he said. “Exquisite. All I ever wanted.”

Madame Marie beamed. “I take it he is to your liking?”

“Very much so.” Russell reached within his jacket and withdrew the fat envelope of cash he’d been given at Central headquarters. “Here is your payment.”

“Thank you very much, sir,” Madame Marie said, taking the envelope. “Tom, would you please show your guest up to your room?”

“This way,” Ed said, and led Russell up the stairs. They climbed in silence until they reached the third floor, when Ed led him to a door and reached inside the corset for a key.

Once they were inside, Russell sank onto a red velvet chair opposite the bed and burst out laughing. Ed wheeled around to face Russell with burning eyes. “What the hell is that about?”

“It’s just . . . that *outfit* . . .”

“Oh, yeah? Well, *you* look like a penguin in that suit!”

“Hey, you think this is *comfortable*?” Russell said.

“You think *this* is comfortable? Plus, I look like an idiot!” Ed grumbled, flinging himself down on the bed. “When I get hold of Mustang, I am going to make him *pay* for this.”

“*You’re* going to make him pay?” Russell laughed. “I feel like I’m being slowly choked to death!”

“Crap, I can’t wait until this is over,” Ed grumbled.

Russell got up and walked toward Ed. “You know . . . the outfit is silly, but . . . it *is* kinda sexy. I wouldn’t mind seeing you in it when we’re alone.”

“Yeah, and with any luck, you won’t see it again.” Ed sat up. “I had to use *alchemy* to put this damn thing on! Tied the laces in the back, then split the front, wrapped it around me and resealed it.”

“You haven’t seen yourself yet, have you?” Russell said.

“Just looked in the mirror for a second,” Ed said. “I don’t *want* to see it.”

“Come over here,” Russell said. “Take a look.” He indicated the full-length mirror.

Ed frowned. “Why do I want to do that?”

“Just look. You’ll see.”

Ed got up, walked over to the mirror and looked at himself. “I was right. I look like an idiot,” he said -- but at the same time, he reached up and brushed his hair back, as if admiring himself.

“See, it *is* kind of sexy, isn’t it?” Russell said, wrapping his arms around Ed. “I like how the leather *just* covers your nipples, and that strip of tummy skin peeking out . . .”

“This place is getting to you, Russell,” Ed grumbled, but he leaned back into Russell’s embrace.

“You don’t think it’s just a *bit* hot?” Russell said, pulling Ed tighter.

“Are you kidding?” Ed twisted back to look at him. “I look like a slut! Like . . .” He looked away. “An object. That’s what all the people here are. *Objects.* People who sell themselves like this, or buy their services . . . they don’t know the value of a *human.*”

Russell could see the haunted look in Ed’s eyes in the mirror, and knew the boy was looking back at a painful time in his past. . . . probably his struggles to help Al regain his body.

He bent over and kissed the top of Ed’s head. “I don’t see you as an *object* in that outfit. I see *you*. I think of it as you wearing those things for *me.*”

“What, so you can laugh your ass off?”

“I *told* you it was hot,” Russell said.

“Yeah, after you got done laughing,” Ed replied.

“Look, can’t something be funny and hot at the same time?”

“Whatever.” Ed yanked at the corset, as if trying to tear it off. “I’ll tell you one thing -- if I *was* to pick out something sexy to wear for you, it sure as hell wouldn’t look like *this.*”

“Oh?” Russell looked at Ed in the mirror again, running his eyes over the boy’s body. The more he looked at the clothes, the more sexy they appeared. “What *would* they look like, then?”

“I don’t know,” Ed mumbled. “You think I go around thinking about things like *that*?” He tugged at the corset again. “Sure as hell don’t want anyone but you seeing me in this.”

That idea suddenly struck Russell as very sexy -- the idea that Ed didn’t want anyone but *him* seeing that outfit, as much as he hated it. He suddenly became aware of a familiar heat stealing through his body.

“Look, I don’t like this assignment any more than you do,” Russell said, softly. “But we might as well make the best of it while we’re here, right?” He nuzzled his cheek in Ed’s hair. “We’re not going to be expected to come down for awhile. We have this room, our privacy . . .” He kissed Ed’s temple.

“You want to make love *here*?” Ed said. “Are you nuts? We have no idea of knowing what the hell went on in this room . . .”

“But this room was *made* for that, wasn’t it?” Russell said, lightly running the tips of his fingers up and down Ed’s flesh arm, feeling the boy lean a bit more against him in response.

“You just want an excuse to get out of that suit,” Ed sighed, tilting his head back against his lover.

“Damn right I do,” Russell said. “But that’s not the *only* reason.”

“All right,” Ed said. “Just let me do something first . . .”

He slid out of Russell’s embrace, walked over to the bed and clapped, touching his hands to the red cover. Purple lighting flashed about the whole thing, then faded away.

“What did you just do?” Russell said.

“Sterilized it,” Ed replied, moving over to the chair. “And just in case we end up using this as well . . .” He clapped again, bending over to touch the piece of furniture. “Remind me to do the bathtub later, too.”

“I will,” Russell said, watching his lover move back across the room, the tight bikini hugging that exquisite ass, the leather corset embracing his torso . . .

He reached up and yanked on his tie. He wanted out of this suit *now*.

“Damn, Russell, don’t *rip* the thing,” Ed said as he sat on the bed, watching his lover shed his clothes like they were on fire. Russell didn’t stop until he peeled off his boxers, at which point he let out a deep sigh of relief. He felt like *himself* again.

And there was a luscious creature waiting for him on the bed.

He walked over to Ed, wrapping his arms around his shoulders. “I’m paying for you, you know,” he said in a teasing tone.

“No, you’re not,” Ed said, giving Russell a hint of a lopsided smile. “The Amestris government is. And I can’t wait to hear the reaction of the accounting department when they get the invoice for whorehouses and leather corsets.”

“Well, then, let’s see what the *government’s* money bought,” Russell said in a husky near-whisper.

He leaned over and kissed Ed hard, reaching up to run his fingers through all that long, thick, soft gold as his lips opened, his tongue starting to probe the smaller boy’s mouth. He heard Ed let out a soft whimper of pleasure, and he thrust his tongue more aggressively, letting out a moan of his own when he felt Ed caress back.

Ed broke away from Russell and leaned over, tongue coming out to caress a nipple, sliding back and forth over the bud before he drew it in his lips, rapidly suckling, causing Russell to lean back and moan, the hand that had been stroking his hair tangling in the strands.

“Aaahhh, Ed,” he groaned.

Ed moved to the other nipple, suckling and licking it, his flesh hand reaching around Russell’s body to grasp his bottom, squeezing it, caressing it, squeezing it again. Russell just closed his eyes and let his head drop back, his mouth open in a gasp, savoring the sensations -- the wet tongue sliding over his hardening bud, the skilled fingers stroking and rubbing and massaging, his body completely flooding with pleasure.

“You have such a sexy ass,” Ed moaned, raising his head.

“So do you,” Russell panted. “I could feel yours all the time . . .”

Suddenly, Ed pulled away, a wicked smile on his face. “I have an idea,” he said. “Get on the bed, on all fours.”

Russell frowned. “Already? I thought you wanted to play around some more first.”

“I do,” Ed said. “But you’ll see.”

Russell complied, wondering what the hell Ed was up to, lowering his head and fully expecting to feel lubed fingers penetrate him next.

Instead, he felt something against his bottom . . . smooth, and firm, and gently rounded, rubbing against him in lazy circles. He sucked in his breath, then groaned -- he wasn’t quite sure what Ed was doing, but whatever it was, it felt *good*.

The thing rubbing against him began to move up and down, and Russell moved up and down as well, starting to press hard and grind against whatever it was. The pressure on his sensitive flesh was tantalizing, sending warm tingles running through the rest of his body.

He had to find out what it was that was driving him nuts. He turned his head and looked over his shoulder.

There was Ed, on all fours as well, the black bikini gone, rubbing his own ass against Russell’s. The sight of it -- one set of firm mounds caressing the other -- made him let out a small moan.

“You like this?” Ed said as he started to move faster, swaying his hips back and forth, then up and down. Russell let his head fall forward, matching Ed’s movements, the friction making him pant and whimper, his erection feeling rock-hard and throbbing.

“Yes,” Russell gasped, “but . . .”

Ed stopped and turned around, and Russell gasped at the sight. If Edward had been beautiful before, he was an erotic fantasy now, his hair mussed from their play, his erection standing up against the bottom of the leather corset.

“But, what?” he said with a sly smile, laying back on his elbows so his top half was elevated.

“Right now, I’d like this more,” Russell said. And he leaned over, taking the other boy’s length in his mouth in one swift motion, sucking hard, letting his tongue caress the shaft as he started to slide it in and out.

He heard Ed gasp, then moan, flesh and metal fingers tangling in his hair, and he slid his lover’s hardness out of his mouth, licking over and over the head, kissing it reverently. When he took it back in, he went as deep as he possibly could, and was rewarded with ragged breathing and a groaned, “Ohhh, *yes*, Russell.”

His fingers teased his lover’s thighs as he pulled him almost all the way out, sucked hard on the head a few times, then slid him back in, surprising even himself with how deep he was able to take it this time. Ed let out an “Aaahh!” and the fingers in his hair tightened.

Russell slid away, kissing the head tenderly again before looking up. “Do you want to keep going like this, or . . .”

Ed gave him a wicked grin. “Sit in the chair. I have another idea.”

Russell gave him a puzzled look, but got off the bed, walking across the room. Ed got the bottle of lube and headed over to him, and Russell expected his lover to bend over, offering himself up to be prepared for penetration.

Instead, Ed sat on Russell’s lap with his back to him, wriggling his hips so that Russell’s erection was within the cleft of his bottom -- not far enough to penetrate, but far enough so that he could *feel* it, could know very well he was encased in firm, heated flesh.

“Ooohhh,” he moaned, and moaned it again when Ed started to move, rubbing against him, his cock sliding back and forth against the tantalizing, smooth curves. His hands ran over Ed’s torso, sliding over the leather, and the feel of the tight material just made him even hotter.

He slipped the fingers of one hand under the top of the corset, feeling around for a nipple, and when he connected, Ed cried out, tossing his head back so waves of gold spilled over Russell’s shoulder. His hips pumped faster, stroking Russell harder, and the younger boy moaned loudly, his other hand reaching for Ed’s cock . . .

But before he had a chance to grasp it, Ed stood up, moved to the bed again and got onto it on all fours, that delicious ass, pink from the earlier friction, offered up to Russell like a gift.

“Do it, Russell,” he said. “Get your fingers in me *now*.”

Russell grabbed the bottle and spilled lube onto his fingers as he made his way to the bed. “I can’t believe how you look right now. You’re so incredibly sexy . . .”

“Russell, if you don’t stop talking and *fill me* right now, I’m going to transmute your hair into chicken feathers.”

Russell didn’t have to be told twice. He parted the two mounds and slid a finger inside, slowly, feeling the tight heat that was becoming familiar to him, but never failed to make his blood race. He felt his lover stiffen at first, then relax as the pain gave way to pleasure.

Ed leaned back against Russell and let out a low sound, and Russell moved his finger faster, deeper, thinking that he couldn’t wait until it was his *cock* in there . . .

But he had to be patient, at least for now. He slipped the finger out and relubed it, along with a second, pushing them in again.

“So tight,” he said as he moved them in and out, hearing Ed’s low cry as he brushed the sweet spot within him. “You feel so good . . .”

“Now,” Ed said. “I’m ready.”

Russell slid his fingers out, quickly wiped them off and lubed his cock. Ed didn’t seem to be moving from his current position, so he knelt behind the boy, grasping his hips. He probed the entrance gently, pushing in a little. He bent over and kissed his shoulders, his neck.

“Is this position okay for you?” he said.

“I’m all right,” Ed replied, his voice husky. “Just keep going.”

Russell moved in a bit more, slowly, until he felt Ed relax. Then, he began a gentle thrust, and heard the older boy gasp in pleasure beneath him.

“Ooohh, that’s good,” Ed said. “Faster . . .”

Those were some of the most welcome words Russell ever heard. He quickened his pace, his manhood sliding deeper and harder and more rapidly into the heat that surrounded him, pulled him in, enveloped him, tightened around him with every thrust . . .

One hand reached around Ed’s body, grasping his erection and stroking it in time to Russell’s motion. The air was filled with a chorus of soft moans, gasps, and names whispered in husky voices, the sound of flesh hitting flesh, the dull thud of an automail hand pounding at the mattress as the pleasure got to be almost too much for its owner. Golden hair was tossed about like a silken sea as the moaning and panting sped up, grew more intense.

Russell thrust harder and deeper, thinking he wasn’t going to make it much longer, his blood was on fire, he thought he was going to explode from the inside out . . .

Then, he heard Ed let out a loud cry, and felt his lover buck wildly against him, warm seed starting to pour over his hand. It was all Russell needed -- as Ed’s body clenched around him, he was suddenly overwhelmed by white heat, and his body shook again and again with shudders that seemed to come from the bottom of his soul.

Ed collapsed to the bed, panting, and Russell fell beside him, drawing him into his arms and kissing him, tenderly.

“You kept that thing on the whole time,” Russell said, teasingly, touching the leather corset.

Ed yawned contentedly, snuggling against his lover. “Too much of a hassle to take it off and put it back on,” he murmured.

Russell held him closer, gently kissing his forehead and temples. “So . . . where did you get the ideas?”

Ed opened his eyes, lazily. “What ideas?”

“You know. The butt-rubbing. The thing with the chair.” He gave Ed a sly smile. “I’ll bet you were reading those books again.”

A look of panic passed over Ed’s face. “What books?”

“Oh, you know . . .” Russell stroked his hair, lazily. “The ones I got from Arthur Corley. The *private* library.”

“I never took any of those books!” Ed said, sitting up. “I’d rather eat broken glass than read that flowery crap! I just . . . made the stuff up, okay?”

“Okay,” Russell said, smiling to himself. He knew very well that the last time Ed had visited, two books had mysteriously disappeared from the “private library,” which he kept in miniaturized form in his bottom drawer -- and one of the books that had disappeared had a scene very much like what he and Ed had done tonight.

He knew this, of course, because he had been sneaking reads in the books himself. But he wasn’t going to let Ed know that. Or Fletcher. Or anyone else.

After all, it was a long-held alchemist’s belief that books were a waste unless they were actually used for research.

* * *

When Ed woke up from his nap, Russell was running the shower. “I *told* him I wanted to sterilize the tub before we used it,” he mumbled. Well, Russell was a competent alchemist -- Ed hoped he’d thought to perform the sterilization himself.

He sat up, reaching down to rub his side, and felt the leather still there. He sighed. He knew that when Russell left -- they agreed he would depart for at least a few hours each day to make a report to Roy and reassure Al that his brother was all right -- he’d have to walk him downstairs in those clothes again.

Okay, he didn’t mind *Russell* seeing him in the corset -- much -- as long as Russell found it attractive. Anyone else, though . . .

“Maybe there’s a robe or something I can wear on top of it,” he said aloud, getting off the bed and heading across the room. When he opened the closet door, he fully expected to see more of the implements like those in the rack by his bed.

Instead, to his surprise, he found it rather *normal* looking, with racks of neatly folded linens on the sides and several different robes hanging from a rod.

“Now we’re talking!” he said. He began to look through the robes, immediately rejecting a see-thorough one, weighing whether a plain white terrycloth one was *too* plain for the role he was expected to play . . .

As he pushed that one aside, he caught a glimpse of something out of the corner of his eye. It looked for all the world like a doorknob set into the back wall. Curious, he bent over and examined it -- and it *was* a doorknob, painted the same white as the wood surrounding it.

“Huh,” he said. He twisted it and pushed, only to have nothing happen. He was about to clap his hands and transmute it open when he caught sight of a small latch under the knob, so inconspicuous you could practically have your hand on it and not know it was there.

“Very clever,” he said, pushing it aside. This time, the knob turned, and the State Alchemist pushed open the door, sticking his head out.

He was greeted with the sight of a corridor, very plain -- but not entirely dark, because someone had set small lamps into the walls here and there.

“Hmm,” he said. “Wonder where *this* goes.”

Pulling his head back, he shut the door and walked back into the bedroom, where Russell was zipping up his suit pants, his shirt lying on the bed next to him.

“Guess what I found?” Ed said as he retrieved the bikini underwear and pulled them back on.

“Some of Madame Marie’s papers?” Russell said, pulling the shirt on -- too bad, Ed thought, the view had been quite lovely.

“Nope,” Ed replied, a bit of a smug, overly-proud tone creeping into his voice. “I just may have found a spy corridor.”

“You’re kidding.” Russell finished buttoning his shirt and tucked it into his pants, and Ed couldn’t help but be amused by the fact that he automatically reached down for suspenders that weren’t there.

“Not kidding at all,” Ed said, pointing to the closet. “Take a look.”

Russell followed him into the door, and Ed turned the knob, gesturing into the hall. Russell walked out into it, blinking as his eyes adjusted to the dark. Ed followed, shutting the door behind them -- it seemed to vanish into the wall again, being as plain brown as the wood around it.

“How will we know which one of these doors is ours?” Russell said.

“Simple,” Ed said. He clapped his hands, then touched them to the wood. A flash of sparks later, a diagonal slash had been cut into it, just long and distinct enough to be noticeable. “There you go, instant door-marker.”

“Quiet,” Russell whispered. “Do you want to get caught?”

“Relax, Russell,” Ed whispered back, “this hall is probably soundproof. If it is what I think it is, do you think they *want* people to hear someone scurrying through the walls?”

He led the younger boy down the hall, then around a corner -- where, suddenly, they realized the wall wasn’t so plain anymore. There were windows set into it, spaced at intervals that suggested each one offered a view into a different room.

The boys crept down the corridor, slowly, peeking into the first one -- there was a woman in it, the same redhead who had led Edward down the stairs, apparently getting ready to receive her steady customer. She was wearing a black lace bustier that left little to the imagination, panties to match and thigh-high stockings, and was leaning over her dressing table, carefully applying makeup in the mirror.

“Watch it,” Russell whispered. “She’ll see us!”

“You think that’s a window?” Edward whispered back. “It’s a one-way mirror. Remember the big mirror on one wall of the room? I’ll bet every room in here has one, and they all face onto this corridor.”

The woman dropped her mascara with a loud clatter, and said, “Damn!” -- the sound nearly as distinct as if she’d been standing next to Ed and Russell.

“And it seems like there’s some kind of one-way sound transmission device in the rooms, too,” Ed whispered.

They moved further down the hall. In another room, a petite woman with short brown hair was cleaning up after her guest had left for the afternoon, opening the window to air the place out and pulling the sheets from the bed. The next room was dark and empty.

“Is that a stairway up there?” Russell whispered.

“Sure is,” Ed replied. “Probably goes down to the second floor, where the people who don’t have steady customers are . . .”

They descended the stairs in silence, Ed noting that someone had put lamps there, too. They reached the bottom, turned a corner -- and froze.

The room in front of them was definitely not empty, and the people within were definitely not changing sheets or applying makeup.

There were three men in there. A man with curly, dark-brown hair and the physique of a slightly lapsed athlete was lying on the bed, his wrists tied into the straps that hung from the bedposts, like the ones in Ed’s room. A boy slightly older than Ed, with a slender build, pale skin, black hair and long-lashed green eyes, was kneeling on the mattress next to him, stroking his erection, occasionally bending over to kiss and lick it.

But it was what the third boy was doing that was most interesting. He had his fingers in the man’s ass, obviously prepping him for sex, casually reaching up and brushing his shoulder-length platinum blond hair behind his shoulder as he worked.

Ed noted the look of firm concentration on the boy’s heart-shaped, almost girlishly pretty face -- he obviously knew what he was doing and was waiting for just the *right* moment to move on to the next step. Sure enough, when the man on the bed began to shudder and moan in pleasure, the boy slid his fingers out and wiped them on a towel.

Ed was rooted to the spot, as if his feet were cemented to the floor. He couldn’t tear his eyes away from the scene in front of him if he wanted to. He stole a look over at Russell -- his lover was staring with wide eyes, his cheeks seeming a bit flushed in the dim light.

Now the long-haired boy was picking up the lube bottle -- but instead of coating his own erection, he reached for the rack next to the bed and pulled out something purple, almost the same side and shape as a male organ, which he then lavishly coated with the liquid.

Ed’s heart was pounding -- he knew what that was, he knew what the boy was going to do, and part of him was thinking, “Ghaa, that’s *disgusting*!” -- but a big, big part of him was also thinking, “Oooohhh . . .”

The boy showed the object to the man. “Tell me you want this,” he said.

“Please,” the man said. “Please, give it to me . . . I need it, I have to have it . . .”

The blond put the toy at the man’s entrance and started to push, just as the brunet leaned over and took the man’s erection in his mouth. The man arched off the bed and uttered a strangled cry, and Ed could just *feel* the combination of pleasure and pain, feel it deep in his own body.

He watched as the blond moved the toy in and out, very gently, as the brunet sucked on the man harder, taking him in so deep Ed thought he was going to choke himself, and he heard the man *moaning*, a low, keening sound of pure pleasure that touched off fires in his own blood.

He started to wonder if *he* sounded like that when he and Russell made love.

The man on the bed writhed, pulling against his bonds, as the two continued to work on him, and then the blond left the toy inside him and bent his head so that he was licking up one side of his erection while the brunet worked on the other.

Ed watched them both, saw two tongues sliding around and around hard, heated flesh, two beautiful boys pleasuring a man together, heard panting and moaning and low pleas of “Make me come, make me come . . .”

Suddenly, it was all too much for him, and he turned around and headed for the stairs -- hearing Russell’s footsteps close behind him.

Ed didn’t stop running until he saw the door with the mark on it. He grabbed it and yanked it open, pushing aside the robes to run back into the room. He sat on the bed, breathing heavily -- and realized, to his huge embarrassment, that he had a full erection -- which he bent over to hide when Russell burst into the room after him.

“Well, I think we know that you can see *and* hear what’s going on in those rooms,” Russell said, sitting in the chair -- and Ed couldn’t help but notice that he was bent over as well.

“Guess some people *like* watching that stuff,” Ed said, bending over further, mentally willing his problem to go away.

“Yeah,” Russell agreed, leaning over more himself. “I have to tell Mustang about that. It’s definitely a spy network.”

Ed tipped his head upward, peering at his lover through blond bangs. “Yeah, but the question is -- was it really put there to collect information?”

Russell frowned. “What do you mean?”

“I mean, it might be there so people can watch other people doing it,” Ed said. “It might be one of the things the customers ask for.”

“You think so?” Russell was now leaning over so far, he was almost falling out of his chair -- which amused Ed to no end.

With a sly smile, he said, “You don’t seem to mind.”

Russell’s head snapped up. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“The way you’re sitting . . . it seems you enjoyed what we were looking at,” Ed said, trying to sound casual.

“You’re sitting the same way!” Russell snapped.

“Well, that’s because I’m thinking about *you* being excited,” Ed replied in his most teasing voice.

“Bullshit!” Russell said, and sprang up from his chair in one fluid motion, tackling Ed and knocking him backward onto the bed. He pinned him down and positioned himself so that his hardness touched the other boy’s, two erections brushing through layers of cloth.

“You’re hard,” Russell said, pushing his hips forward.

Ed let out a gasp. “You’re not doing so bad yourself,” he retorted in a husky voice.

“So . . . what are we going to do about this?”

“I know what *I’d* like to do,” Ed replied.

He reached up, hooking his flesh arm around Russell’s shoulders and pulled his head down, lips seeking lips eagerly, and he let out a groan as Russell’s tongue pushed into his mouth. Ed stroked it with his own as his right leg came up and hooked over the taller boy’s hip, pulling them closer still.

Ed felt Russell’s erection push against him, his lover’s fingers massaging and kneading his left shoulder above the corset. He moaned a little as the other hand tugged at that damn garment, pushing it down just enough to bare Ed’s nipples.

Russell bent his head, and Ed felt wetness and heat envelop one bud, sucking and tugging and licking and kissing, pausing ever so often to blow across it, the coolness of the air contrasting with the heat of his mouth, before sucking at it again.

Ed’s head was spinning. His mouth was open, his breath coming in loud, ragged pants. When Russell moved to the other nipple, he tangled his fingers in his hair, groaning and pulling him closer.

“So good,” he moaned. “Damn, Russell . . .”

Russell pulled back, quickly shedding his clothing, and yanked Ed’s bikini underwear off. He slid one hand up his lover’s chest, playing with the nipples again, brushing his fingers in circles, then squeezing, then brushing his thumb back and forth rapidly.

The other hand grasped Ed’s erection and began to stroke it, moving from the base to the tip and back down, brushing ever-so-lightly over his balls, caressing the place where his manhood met the rest of him. Then, he was sweeping upward again, tickling the head, slicking his fingers with precome and rubbing back and forth, back and forth.

Ed arched his hips off the bed, gripping the sheets with automail fingers. His blond hair swished on the pillow as his head rolled slowly back and forth, his body starting to writhe a bit as if he could barely contain the pleasure.

“Your mouth,” he gasped. “I want your mouth . . .”

Russell smiled at him. “What are you going to give me as equivalent exchange, Ed?”

“I’ll show you what I’ll give you!” He sat up, grabbing Russell and flipping them both over so that he was on top as one hand reached for the lubricant bottle.

Popping open the lid, Ed squeezed some of the contents onto a finger. He bent over, kissing up and down the side of Russell’s manhood, licking over the head, marveling at the shape -- the way it flared out from the shaft and arced in a gentle curve up to the tip.

As he took it into his mouth, moaning a little at the luscious feel of it sliding over his lips and tongue, he started to probe gently with the lubed digit, pushing in bit by bit.

It was the same thing he did when he was about to take Russell. But he had something slightly different in mind this time.

He knew Russell had a sweet spot deep within him -- just like he did himself. He’d brushed it by chance with both his fingers and his manhood. If he could *find* it this time . . .

Ed began to make a stroking movement with his finger, as if he were beckoning, moving it here and there as he sucked hungrily at his lover’s erection, pulling it in deeply, then tugging hard at it with his mouth, then sliding it rapidly in and out.

Russell writhed beneath him and tangled his fingers in Ed’s hair . . . but Ed knew he hadn’t quite *hit it* yet. He stroked faster, moving the digit around in circles . . .

Suddenly, Russell bucked and let out a yell, and Ed knew he had a winner.

He began to stroke faster over the spot he had just hit, caressing it oh-so-gently as his mouth continued its work, running his tongue down the shaft, teasing the balls, then going up again. Russell whimpered, his hips raising off the bed to thrust into Ed’s mouth, but Ed made sure he didn’t lose contact with *that spot.*

“Ed!” Russell cried, his body moving beneath his lover in a wavelike motion. “Ed, so good, I can’t believe it, oh, Ed . . .”

Ed stroked faster, sucked harder . . . Russell was tensing up beneath him, trembling a little, and he knew it was going to take just a *little* more . . .

And then, Russell bucked wildly, and let out a shout. Ed’s mouth was flooded with hot fluid, and he swallowed, over and over, until finally the other boy sank to the bed with a gasp.

Ed slid his finger out and reached for a tissue. Russell was flat on his back, panting, skin glistening with sweat, one hand across his eyes.

It just made Ed all the more aware of his own aching hardness.

He leaned over and kissed Russell’s lips, reaching for his hand and guiding it to his erection. “Now, I think I said something before about equivalent exchange?”

Russell lifted his head, his hair seeming to fall in his eyes even more than usual. “What *was* that you just did?”

“What, you want to know my technique? I don’t give up my secrets, you know,” Ed said, teasingly.

“I’ll find it out,” Russell said, sitting up to kiss Ed hard, tongue pushing into his mouth. The hand on his erection started a rapid up-and-down stroke, and Ed shuddered with pleasure, warm tingles beginning to move through his body. He began to lay back on the bed, Russell moving along with him, not letting go of his manhood.

Russell slid down his lover’s body, his tongue coming out to trace lazy patterns over and over the tip of Ed’s hardness, and Ed groaned -- even though a part of his mind noted, with some amusement, that the lines felt like an array.

“Are you going to transmute my cock into something, Russell?” he said in a husky, throaty voice.

“No,” Russell said. “I like it just as it is.” And suddenly his mouth was *swooping* down on Ed, enveloping his erection instantly, taking it deep, deep, until Ed could swear he was halfway down the boy’s throat.

“Aaahhh, yes, Russell,” he moaned. “Like that . . .”

He let out a groan as the warm, soft wetness slid back and forth over his heated, sensitive flesh, taking him almost all the way out, sucking hard on the head, moving downward again . . .

Russell pulled it out and flicked his tongue from place to place . . . how did he know that Ed wanted to be stroked right *there*, just under the head, and wanted light flutters *there*, right at the slit on top, and fast, back-and-forth darting right at the root of his shaft . . .

Ed was biting the back of his flesh hand now, opening his legs wider, his automail hand reaching down to hold Russell’s head where it was, like he never wanted him to leave, he wanted him to keep giving him pleasure forever.

When he took Ed’s balls into his mouth, gently sucking and licking, Ed arched off the bed, yelling, finding himself oh-so-close to coming.

“Russell,” he gasped. “Almost . . . almost there . . .”

Russell responded by grabbing Ed’s shaft in his hand and stroking fast as he tongued the sac, rubbing up and down, brushing his whole palm over the tip once, twice, three times . . .

He began gently sucking his balls again at the same time his fingers teased the slit, and Ed felt an explosion of heat deep in his soul. He cried Russell’s name out as wave after wave of luscious sensation broke over him, his whole body shuddering as his seed poured over his lover’s fingers.

He flopped back to the bed, dizzy and spent and deliriously happy, and purred contentedly in his throat as Russell bent over to kiss him.

“Good?” Russell said.

Ed opened his eyes, slowly. “Damn, Russ, that’s an understatement.”

Russell lay next to him, pulling Ed into his arms. “You’re gorgeous right now, you know that?”

“Can’t tell, Russ, I’m not looking in the mirror.”

Mirror . . . Suddenly, a realization hit him like a bolt out of the blue. They had one of those big mirrors, too, across from the bed. *That means Madame Marie can spy on *us*, he thought.

He stroked Russell’s hair. “Come in the bathroom with me,” he said. “I think we both need to get cleaned up.”

Russell shot him a quizzical look, but followed Ed into the next room. As soon as they were in, Ed shut the door.

“We’re going to have to be careful,” he said. “All our mission talk is going to have to be in here from now on. If we get caught, we’re gonna blow everything.”

“The mirror . . .” Russell said.

Ed nodded. “Are you going to see Mustang when you leave?”

“Yes, and your brother,” Russell said. “I’ll tell Mustang we *may* have something here.”

“And while you do that, I’m going down to that lounge Madame Marie showed me,” Ed said. “Try to talk to some of the other workers. Find out what the hell goes on around here.”

“Then we’ll meet back here tonight,” Russell said.

“Better get dressed up,” Ed replied, catching a glimpse of himself in the mirror -- was he actually getting *used* to the sight of himself in this corset thing? “It’s a cocktail party for high-paying guests. Guess you meet *that* description. They’ll probably tell you about it on the way out.”

“They told you that when you came here?” Russell said.

Ed shook his head. “The woman who brought me downstairs told me. She’s one of the ones I want to talk to -- she’s on this floor right now.”

Russell nodded, and bent over for a kiss. “I’ll sleep here,” he said. “I won’t let you spend your first night in this place alone.”

“Hey, what makes you think I’d mind that, Russell?” Ed said, his voice fairly dripping sarcasm. “I sleep in houses full of people having sex with strangers all the time!”

“Well, then, we’ll just have to be louder than all of them, won’t we?” Russell said. He pulled Ed into his arms, holding him close. “Be careful, okay?”

“Don’t worry, Russell,” Ed said. “Whoever’s holed up here, I can probably take them out in my sleep.” He gave his lover a kiss, then broke apart from him, reaching for a washcloth. He cleaned both of them up quickly and led Russell back into the bedroom.

Russell put his suit back on, Ed tied a black silk robe over his corset and underwear, and they headed for the stairs.

Madame Marie was in the parlor, seeing another guest off, and she turned and smiled when she saw them coming. “Hello, Mr. Hawthorne,” she said. “Are you pleased with our Thomas?”

“Madame,” Russell said, “more than I ever thought I would be.”

The businesswoman beamed like a cat who had been given a particularly large saucer of cream. “I’m so glad,” she said. “Now, you are very much invited to our cocktail party tonight, at nine sharp.”

“I’ll be there,” he said. He bent and kissed Madame Marie’s hand in a way that made Ed wonder if he’d been taking smoothness lessons from Roy Mustang, then raised Ed’s automail fingers and kissed them as well.

“I’m looking forward to seeing you again,” Ed said.

As Russell left, Madame Marie put her hands on Ed’s shoulders. “Tom, it seems you’re getting off to an excellent start. I’m sure you’ll have a long, productive career with us.”

“Thank you, Madame,” he said.

*I’d rather French kiss Black Hayate,* he thought.

He turned and headed up the stairs. The spy network definitely gave him something to think about. It was the first piece of the puzzle. Now, if only the other workers would give him some other ones . . .

But before that, he was getting rid of that damn leather corset if it was the last thing he ever did.

* * *

There were four occupants in the lounge when Ed walked in -- the redhead who’d led him downstairs, a petite woman with bobbed black hair sitting on the couch next to the first woman, a boy a couple of years older than him with curly, dark hair, black eyes and a muscular build and a busty blonde with her hair in high pigtails. All were dressed casually -- except the blonde, who was wearing a knee-length black skirt and short-sleeved, scoop-necked blue blouse.

All conversation stopped and all heads swiveled in his direction. He just strolled in casually, flopping down on an overstuffed chair near the door.

The redhead was the first to speak. “Thomas, isn’t it?” she said.

“Yeah,” Ed said, stretching his blue jean-clad legs out in front of him. “Call me Tom. I don’t think I got your name before.”

“I’m Susan,” the redhead said. “This is Kate” -- she indicated the woman beside her -- “Mike, and Maggie.”

Kate nodded. Maggie waved. Mike just looked Ed up and down, as if sizing up the competition.

“So, what’s it like, working here?” Ed said. “This is my first time working in a *house*. I’m not quite sure what to expect.”

“Well, long as you keep your room clean and treat the customers nice, you’ll be fine,” Susan said, crossing her legs and leaning back against the seat cushions.

“What’s with the keeping your room clean thing?” Ed said. “Is that normal for a house?”

“Most places do have maids,” Kate said in a soft, melodious voice. “This arrangement *is* unusual, but Madame Marie . . .”

“Huh, she’s a cheapskate,” Mike said. “She just doesn’t want to pay for a maid, that’s all.”

“She gives us a bigger cut of the profits than most places do,” Susan retorted, leaning over in Mike’s direction. “That makes up for it.”

“She treats us *well,* Kate added.

“Eh, she treats *some* people better than others,” said Maggie, who had been silent until now.

This proved potentially interesting. “She has favorites?” Ed said.

“Pets, we call them,” Maggie said, reaching over to a dish of candy that was placed on the room’s central table. “Most of us, we have steady customers for two weeks every once in awhile, and then . . .”

“Chucked right back out into the general pool,” Mike said. “You take anything they send up to you, and it’s usually the lower-paying customers.” He gave Ed something of a sneer. “At least *you’ll* get the automail fetishists. They’re willing to pay more.”

“I knew a girl in another house who tried to hack off her own arm so she’d get automail and make more money,” Maggie said, scooping up a couple of the candy-covered chocolates in the dish and popping them in her mouth.

Ed felt a bit ill at that. He couldn’t imagine wanting to go through the ordeal of having automail if you didn’t *have* to. He’d endured it for Al’s sake alone.

“So,” he said, quickly, “about those ‘pets’ -- they’ve been working here a long time?”

“Most of them have,” Susan said. “One of them, April, has been here as long as Madame Marie has owned the place.”

Ed made a mental note to seek out this April. “And they get the highest-paying customers?”

“Oh, hell, yeah,” Maggie said. “Politicians, generals, millionaires, you name it. One of them would have gotten *your* sugar daddy if he didn’t have a thing for automail.”

*Gossip travels fast around this place,* Ed thought. *They’re worse than Mustang’s crew.*

“Interesting,” Ed said. “So how do you get to be a *pet*, anyway?”

“None of us have figured it out, really,” Susan said.

“Kiss her butt,” Mike said. “That’s how you get to be a pet.”

“Not necessarily,” said Kate. “I’ve seen a lot of people try to butter her up, and she brushes them off. Like, they volunteer to clean her office . . .”

Ed noticed Kate leaning a bit against Susan. He wondered if the two were lovers. He couldn’t imagine having a relationship with someone and also having sex with strangers for pay. It just reinforced his feeling that these people had to turn themselves into *objects* while on the job.

“Madame Marie doesn’t take volunteers to clean her office. She *chooses* who does it,” said Maggie. “It’s supposed to be a *privilege.*”

This set off alarm bells in Ed’s mind. Obviously, cleaning the office was a job reserved for “pets,” or candidates for “pet” status.

“Aren’t *you* supposed to be doing that tomorrow, Maggie?” said Susan, putting a hand on top of Kate’s and confirming Ed’s earlier suspicions.

“Yeah, and I *was* supposed to meet up with a friend,” Maggie said. “Some *privilege.*”

A golden opportunity suddenly presented itself in Ed’s mind. “Hey, how about I cover for you?”

All of them looked at him. “You? You just got here!” said Maggie.

“Madame Marie doesn’t *supervise* the cleaning of her office, does she?” said Susan.

“Well, no, she just hands over the key that morning,” said Maggie.

“So? There’s no reason Tom *can’t* do it for you,” Susan said.

“Besides, he’s so short that if anyone comes in, he can hide under her desk blotter,” Mike said with a smirk.

Ed leapt to his feet. “WHO’S SO SMALL HE COULD DROWN IN A RAINDROP?” he retorted. He decided he *really* didn’t like this guy.

“Mike, back off of him,” Maggie said. “Okay, Tom, you can do it. I’ll give you the key after she gives it to me tomorrow morning. And thank you *so* much, this means a *lot* to me.”

“So, who’s this you’re meeting up with?” Ed said. “A boyfriend?”

Maggie shook her head. “Just an old friend. But she doesn’t know what I do for a living.” She turned and waved. “Well, I’ve got to get ready for the cocktail party -- see you!”

“I think we *all* have to get ready,” Susan said as she got up, Kate following her. “We’ll see you downstairs, Tom.”

“Sure,” Ed said, starting to follow them out -- only to be stopped by Mike.

“Don’t you think this room-cleaning thing is going to automatically make you a pet,” he said.

Ed turned around. “Nah. It’s obvious *you’re* gunning to be one. And if being a pet means I have to work with *you* all the time, forget it,” he said. And he turned and stalked out of the room.

* * *

Russell walked into the party, thinking that the more formal suit he was wearing tonight was even *more* restrictive and uncomfortable than the one he’d been wearing that afternoon. He felt like a mummy trying to move within its wrappings.

The room was crowded, so much that it seemed there was hardly any room for *air* in there. In front of him, a man in a tuxedo was chatting up a platinum blonde with considerably darker eyelashes and eyebrows. On the couch, three men sat, all seeming to vie for the attention of the brunette in the chair opposite him, her trim figure swathed in an elegant “little black dress.” Waiters passed glasses of champagne, a silver-haired man sat at the piano, playing classical-influenced arrangements of popular tunes.

Like anything else at Madame Marie’s, it seemed like just another upper-class party until you looked a little closer and realized that the necklines were too low, the skirts too high -- and, in the case of the house’s male workers, the pants on their suits were just a bit too tight.

Russell took a glass off a passing tray -- he didn’t have any intention of drinking it, it was just something to hold onto, something to make him feel a little less awkward.

A chubby man with a shining bald pate fringed with salt and pepper hair, barely stuffed into his tuxedo, suddenly bumped into him. “Oh, hello,” he said. “I’ve never seen you around here before.”

“I’m a new customer,” Russell said. “Today was my first time here.”

“Oh, you’re gonna be hooked,” the man said. “I come here all the time. Wife has no idea, she thinks I’m out with the guys. But, hey, if wives weren’t such cold fish, we wouldn’t need places like this, huh?”

“I’m not married,” said Russell in an even tone.

“Ah, young guy sowing his wild oats, huh?” said the man, taking a gulp from his champagne glass that drained more than half of it. “Can’t say I blame you. Live it up before you go to the altar, huh?”

Russell was extremely relieved to see Ed pushing his way through the crowd toward him. “Excuse me,” he said. “I see my regular.”

The man looked over at Ed -- and his face immediately took on an expression like he was inhaling a pile of garbage that had been ripening in the hot sun for a week. “Oh, you’re one of *those*,” he said in a tone of contempt, before turning and walking away, shaking his head and muttering, “Madame Marie’s gotta be desperate to cater to those sickos.”

“Nice guy,” Ed said as they watched him leave. “I can see why *he* has to pay.”

“Sorry I’m a bit late,” Russell said. “I was in the *meeting* longer than I expected.”

Ed nodded -- he immediately understood what Russell meant. “It’s okay, the party’s just now getting started, really,” he said loudly, for the benefit of anyone listening. Softly, to Russell, he said, “We need a quiet place to talk for a moment.”

“Can’t we go to your room?”

“Not quite yet.” Ed’s eyes darted around. “Everyone else is downstairs . . .”

Russell nodded -- they didn’t want to look suspicious. “Let’s head back toward the kitchen, then,” he said.

The boys pushed their way through the crowds, brushing against velvet and satin and sequins, inhaling innumerable different perfumes and cigars, until they were in the hall leading to Madame Marie’s office. Fortunately, that seemed deserted -- for now.

Ed leaned over and whispered, “She had me talking to all these guys who are *lining up to be my customers* after *you* are done with me!”

“We know that’s not going to happen,” Russell whispered back.

“I know, but they were looking me over like a piece of meat and *poking* my automail.” He rubbed the false limb as if it could feel pain. “You don’t know how hard it was not to beat the crap out of them.”

Russell fully understood. He was feeling an urge to track the guys down and beat the crap out of them himself. “Did you . . . *hear* anything?” he whispered.

“All I can say is this -- be on the lookout for any workers here in fancier clothes than the others, especially if you see them talking to politicians or military men. They might be . . . what we need.”

Russell nodded -- Ed apparently had found evidence pinpointing possible spies. “Come on, we have to get back . . .”

As they started back into the room, the crowd seemed to have gotten even *thicker* -- Russell thought if people didn’t start making their transactions for the evening and going upstairs *now*, the walls would burst from the sheer volume.

They nudged their way past a love seat, where a stunning brunette, her ears and throat dripping with sparkling jewels over an elegant red velvet dress, sat talking to a man Russell recognized from the local papers -- a millionaire who’d basically bought his way into political office in Amestris’ first free elections.

“April, I’ve told you a million times,” he was saying. “I can take you away from this. I can set you up in a nice apartment . . .”

Ed suddenly stopped in his tracks, his metal fingers clamping down on Russell’s arm. Russell got the message immediately. The boys had to take a position where they could keep an eye on her, while trying to remain inconspicuous.

Ed happened to notice several couples around them attempting to dance in the crowd, but not getting very far because of the lack of room.

“Dance,” Ed whispered, grabbing the champagne glass away from his lover and putting it on a nearby table, then wrapping his arms around his waist. This would allow them to not talk, yet not look suspicious. Russell took the hint, and started swaying along with him.

On the seat next to them, April was saying, “I can’t leave, you know that. I owe a lot to Madame Marie.”

“You owe her nothing!” the man said. “You’ve worked for her for five years!”

April leaned over and put a hand on his knee. “Roger, if I was going to leave, believe me, you would be the one I’d leave for. But . . . I’m not going to.”

“What is it, then?” he said. “Is it money? I’ve got plenty of that, April. So much that my wife won’t miss it.”

“It’s not money, Roger. It’s . . . a matter of loyalty.”

Ed and Russell exchanged a look. This sounded like they were on to something.

“Loyalty?” the man said. “April, for *what*? She doesn’t do anything more for her people than any other madam out there! Whatever she gives you, I can give you *more*.”

“You have no idea what our lives are like!” the woman snapped, the mask of the trained man-pleaser falling away, the expression of a fierce tigress taking its place. “You . . .”

Suddenly, she took a deep breath, regaining her composure, and said, “Roger, let’s not discuss this right now. You’re ruining the mood. Let’s just . . .” She reached over and caressed his chest. “Open the bottle of champagne I have on ice in my room.”

A broad grin split Roger’s face. “You have a deal, baby,” he said.

Russell and Ed looked at each other and nodded, almost imperceptibly. They knew what they were going to do -- try to find her in the spy network, and see just what they were talking about over that champagne.

Fortunately, at that time, other workers were begining to head upstairs with their customers, so it didn’t look that unusual when they started for the elaborately carved staircase, hand in hand.

* * *

They didn’t turn on the light when they went into the room, just in case someone *else* was in the spy network, trying to peek in at them. As Ed held open the door, Russell made his way to the closet by the light pooling in from the hallway, opening the door and feeling around for the interior knob and latch.

Once he had it open, both boys slipped into the secret hallway, Ed shutting the door behind him.

“You know anything about where *pets* might have their rooms?” Russell whispered.

Ed shook his head. “They didn’t say anything about that. Guess we have to just look around this level.”

They walked forward in silence, peeking into any room that seemed lit. In one, a woman with long, black hair was starting to peel a near-giant’s expensive suit off. In another, a dark-haired boy was creatively stripping out of his suit, wiggling his bottom for the benefit of the man lounged on the bed, sliding the jacket down his shoulders and then back up again, tugging at his tie . . .

“Yeah, you *think* you’re hot shit, don’t you?” Ed mumbled to the window.

Russell frowned and turned toward him. “What was that?”

“Eh, that guy’s a jerk,” Ed said. “I met him in the lounge. Really full of himself. Stuck-up.”

Russell smiled to himself. “I once met someone like that.”

Ed whirled to face him. “*You* weren’t exactly Mr. Charm when I first met *you*, either!”

“I don’t usually greet people who break into my lab with tea and cookies,” Russell said breezily as they turned a corner.

“Yeah, well, I don’t greet people who *steal my name* with flowers, either,” Ed said as they peered around, seeing mostly darkened windows.

“Too bad,” Russell said. “I could have used them as weapons.”

It was as much a part of their relationship as working on alchemy together or making love, this banter about the circumstances of their first meeting. To a casual observer, it would seem sometimes that these two were still at odds with each other, still holding grudges.

Nobody would know it was quite the opposite. Sometimes, Russell and Ed didn’t even admit it themselves.

They approached the one window on the hall that wasn’t dark -- and scurried away from it, quickly.

“*That* . . . is something I don’t think I want to do,” Russell said, feeling the blood drain from his face.

“What’s the matter, Russ?” Ed said. “Not into the idea of being flogged?” He tried to keep a snarky tone in his voice -- but Russell could hear a faint tremble in it.

“At least we know it wasn’t *them*, Russell whispered as they turned another corner.

“Hard to tell, with that leather mask over the woman’s face,” Ed replied.

“That wasn’t Roger,” Russell said, looking around. This hallway had three lit windows. The first revealed two women simultaneously stripping off their bras and throwing them at a man lounging at the foot of the bed. The second, a boy with a blond crewcut and the muscular build of an athlete unbuttoning the shirt of a man who looked nearly three times his age. The third had a woman in a parody of the Amestris military uniform -- top too tight, skirt way too short -- handcuffing a shirtless man to the bed.

Russell suddenly felt relieved that, for the most part, they were witnessing the opening phases of the action. He didn’t know how comfortable he’d feel seeing scene after scene of full-blown sex unfolding before him.

He couldn’t think of this as being the same as what he did with Ed. That was making love. This was just *fucking.*

They peeked around the last corner -- and saw no lights on at all.

“What the hell?” Ed whispered.

“Maybe she’s down on the next floor?” Russell whispered back.

“No way!” Ed whispered. “That’s for the peons! Maybe they just got distracted on the way. We have to go look again . . .”

Russell started down the corridor again -- and stumbled on a nail protruding from the floor that couldn’t be seen very well in dim light. He reached for the wall to steady himself -- and felt it *give*.

“Ed?” he said. “Come here . . . I think I’ve found something.”

Ed came up beside him and pushed on the wall where Russell indicated. It swung inward, revealing another staircase, leading upward.

“Seems the pets have their *own floor,*” Ed said. “I thought it was just an attic up there, but . . .”

“Keeping them separate from the other prostitutes?” Russell whispered. “So nobody knows what goes on up there?”

“Exactly,” Ed replied. “We would never have found that door if you hadn't fallen.” He started up the stairs, Russell following.

At the top, they found another corridor with spy windows like the ones downstairs. They didn’t have to look far to find April -- she was in the first one they came to.

She was also naked and bent over, hands resting on the bed, head thrown back, hair spilling over her shoulders. Behind her, Roger was equally naked, grasping her hips, thrusting as if his life depended on it.

“Guess they decided to skip the champagne,” Ed said.

Russell just watched the scene unfold in front of him. *So this is what it looks like,* he thought. *A man and a woman . . . what all those guys brag about in the tavern . . .*

Something looked *wrong* about the scene, though. The sounds that April was making, the grunts and panting and moans, didn’t seem to be coming from the *heart.* They didn’t sound like the sounds Ed made when they made love.

They sounded like an actress giving a performance.

He looked away from the window -- and saw that Ed had turned away altogether, standing in the corridor with his arms folded, head down.

“Ed?” Russell whispered. “Are you all right?”

Ed looked back at him with a wan smile. “Yeah,” he said, sounding not entirely convincing.

There was a bellow from Roger that sounded like the cry of a wounded moose, then more ragged breathing, and finally, silence.

A rustle of fabric followed, and then, Roger’s voice said, “I’ve got to go, darlin’.”

“Already?” April said. “You just got started!”

“Have to go back to the wife, you know,” he said. “And I’ve got a damn meeting in the morning.”

“Same thing you told me about last time?” she said, coyly.

“Now, you know not to tell anyone about that,” he said. “That is classified information.”

Russell and Ed looked at each other and nodded. They’d hit pay dirt.

“I wouldn’t dream of it,” she replied.

There was a sound of a kiss, and then goodnights were exchanged. The two boys turned and headed for the stairs -- they’d seen what they needed to, and more than they’d wanted to.

* * *

Ed rushed to the main light in his room after they came back through the closet, then the bathroom light. Russell followed him.

Once the bathroom door shut behind them, Ed said, “Okay, we *definitely* know that April is collecting information.”

“And the pets have their own floor,” Russell said, “so that nobody can watch the exchange of information except --”

“Other pets, or Madame Marie,” Ed finished. “And tomorrow, I’m going to go into Marie’s office, and find the evidence, and then we can call Mustang and get the hell out of this gold-plated hellhole.” He raked his flesh hand through his hair. “Then I can beat the crap out of him for sending me here in the first place.”

“I don’t think I want any more spy missions like that,” Russell said, quietly.

“It got to you, too, didn’t it?” Ed said, sitting on the edge of the tub and looking up at his lover. “The thing with April . . .”

“She was like . . . a windup doll,” Russell said, leaning against the sink. “It didn’t look . . . *human.*”

“That’s exactly what bugs me about this place, Russ,” Ed said, the fingers of his flesh hand sliding back and forth on the porcelain surface. “They don’t know how valuable *humanity* is. They think you can put a price on it . . . and you *can’t*. I remember when I . . .” He suddenly stopped, and looked away. “Forget it.”

Russell frowned. “Ed . . . what were you about to tell me?”

*Dammit*, Ed thought, *why the hell did I let that slip? I can’t tell him what I was just thinking about!* “It’s nothing,” he said.

Russell knelt beside him, covering his flesh hand with one of his own. “Ed . . . whatever it is, you can *tell* me. That first night we were together, I told you I’d listen and I’d never judge you. I *mean* that.”

Ed just looked at the wall. Could Russell *really* not judge *everything* Ed did? He’d accepted the story about human transmutation, but . . . there was so much *else* . . .

Russell was better off not knowing all of it. Not only might it affect his perception of Ed, it might affect his perception of his whole world. If he knew about the *Gate* . . .

“Really, Russell, it’s *nothing*,” he said, more firmly than before.

“Whatever it is, it’s a memory that pains you. A *lot*.” Russell’s grip became firmer. “Ed, you *can* share the burden with me. You’ll feel better. Whatever it is, it’s safe with me. I told you I won’t judge you -- I *love* you . . .”

Ed’s head snapped up, his eyes wide. Had he really heard what he thought he just did? The way Russell looked away, blushing, told him he had.

He didn’t think he’d ever hear those words -- at least, not from someone besides Al. Quite frankly, in his heart of hearts, he didn’t think he *deserved* to hear them.

But the boy kneeling next to him *had* said them -- in the bathroom of a whorehouse, of all places. *Bet it’s the first time those words have been said here,* Ed thought. And he suddenly realized that there was nobody else on earth he *wanted* to hear them from.

Russell was continuing to stare at the wall, turning crimson, murmuring, “I’m sorry.”

Ed reached out with his flesh hand, put it on his lover’s face and turned him around to face him.

“Well,” he said, “nice to know we feel the same way about each other.”

Russell suddenly threw his arms around him -- and knocked him backwards. Ed had to throw his automail hand back to catch them both -- barely -- and keep them from tumbling into the tub.

“What the hell was that!” he shouted, automatically. “You nearly knocked us both over!”

“Excuse me for being affectionate!” Russell shouted.

“Affectionate? You plowed into me like a *bull!*”

“The hell I did! And what about that time you almost knocked *me* off the ladder?”

“You were only one step up it!” Ed retorted -- his automail still bracing them both in place.

Then, suddenly, his expression softened, and he said, “We’re always gonna do this, aren’t we?”

“Guess so.” Russell got off Ed, helping him to stand up.

Ed hugged Russell’s waist, and said, “You’re pretty strong for a guy who spends all his time locked up in a lab.”

“Maybe if you spent more time in a *lab*, you’d do some actual *research,* Russell replied, hugging back.

They walked back to the bedroom, hand in hand, both silently knowing they weren’t going to be discussing Madame Marie’s case again that night. Ed sat down on the bed, propping himself against the headboard, and Russell settled in front of him.

“The thing you were going to tell me about before . . .” Russell said.

Ed had almost forgotten about that until Russell brought it up. Suddenly, the memories were flooding back into his brain, as vivid and painful as the night they had happened. He could see the glowing tubes of red water, Envy standing over him, leering, Lust with her talons poised over Al’s blood seal, prepared to rake them across the rune and kill him . . .

“It was a few weeks after we got back from Xenotime,” he said, quietly. “Do you remember a Dr. Marcoh?”

“I remember Belsio talking about him,” Russell replied, shifting a bit on the bed. “He cured Elisa of her red water sickness when she was a baby.”

“Belsio told us about him, too,” he said. “And when we got back, Al and I decided to find him . . .”

The whole story rolled out of him -- tracking down Marcoh, the confrontation with Scar, the detour to Riesemboul to get repaired, the discovery of the true components of the Philosopher’s Stone . . .

“I knew about that,” Russell said, looking down. “There was a section of our father’s journal -- the one we brought you pages from the day you disappeared -- that was written in a very tough code. When you were gone, Fletcher and I managed to break it, and it said he’d discovered when he was in Central that the Philosopher’s Stone was made from living human beings.” He looked at Ed. “That’s why he wanted to make a fully-powered red stone so badly -- to give the world a Philosopher’s Stone without having to *hurt* anyone.”

“It wouldn’t have worked,” Ed said, shaking his head. “I know that now.”

He continued on with his tale, telling Russell about how they broke into the Fifth Lab, his encounter with the Slicer Brothers . . . He skipped over the part about Shou Tucker, because Nina was far too painful a thing for him to let out -- at least not yet.

Ed watched Russell’s face as he described the confrontation with the homunculi, how they tried to get him to sacrifice a room full of prisoners to restore Al -- and he just couldn’t do it.

“I knew how precious life was,” he said. “Even those lives that were supposedly useless -- I couldn’t. Not even for Al. And then, they were going to kill him . . .”

Russell moved over so he could hold Ed in his arms, and Ed sagged against him, grateful for the support as he finished the story -- he *had* to now, had to get it all out, like an infection that had been festering at the bottom of his soul for years and was now being opened and drained so healing could begin.

When he finally finished, he sagged against Russell like a rag doll, feeling his lover’s arms tighten around him, feeling drained -- but also, in a way, relieved.

“I would have done the same thing, if I was in your shoes,” Russell said, quietly. “You knew your brother wouldn’t have wanted you to make the sacrifice.”

“If they had killed Al . . . “ Ed said.

“I know.” Russell kissed the top of his head. “But they didn’t. And he’s with us now. He’s whole, and he’s happy, and he’s worried as hell about you. When I saw him this afternoon, he just wouldn’t stop asking me how you were doing, and if they were treating you well.”

Ed looked up. “You better not have told him about the leather corset.”

“I wouldn’t dream of it.”

“Good. Because if you did, you’d be *sleeping* in that bathtub tonight. And I’d transmute *this*” -- he indicated the lock of hair that always hung over Russell’s eyes -- “into steel wool.”

“Yeah, but I was *good*,” Russell said. “So . . . what do I get?”

Ed gave him a sly smile. “What do you *think*?”

Russell answered him by practically swooping down, kissing him *hard*, his arms tightening around him.

Ed melted against Russell, opening his mouth eagerly to him, almost a symbol of how he’d opened his heart just a few minutes earlier, moaning as the younger boy’s tongue stroked his.

He let his flesh fingertips lightly skim up and down Russell’s ribs, feeling his warmth through layers of fabric. His metal hand tugged at jacket buttons as Russell’s tongue plundered his mouth again and again, and Ed’s stroked and rubbed and caressed it.

When their mouths broke apart, both were panting. Russell unbuttoned Ed’s coat, and Ed stripped it off, letting it fall, before starting to undo his own shirt. He yanked it down his arms, noting with satisfaction that his lover was doing the same.

And then, when they were both stripped to the waist, Russell tugged Ed, encouraging him to sit on the very edge of the bed. He fell on his knees, as if in worship, and kissed Ed’s stomach with utmost tenderness, wrapping his arms around the boy’s waist. Ed reached down, stroking the other boy’s hair, as Russell’s lips touched him again and again, reaching down to unzip his pants.

His hand slid inside, grasping Ed’s length, stroking and stroking, and Ed just leaned back, panting, feeling himself swell and harden and tingle beneath the younger boy’s gentle caresses. Ed reached up to undo his ponytail, feeling his hair spill around his shoulders as Russell pushed his pants down, kissing his erection, flicking his tongue over the tip. He shuddered, letting out a small groan.

“You just love to drive me crazy, don’t you?” he said to the taller boy as Russell stood up, unfastening his own pants.

“I thought it was only fair, after all the times you’ve done that to me,” Russell replied, bending over to unfasten and pull off his shoes, presenting Ed with a lovely view of his upturned, naked ass.

This was a temptation that was too good to pass up. Ed leaned over, pressing his lips against one firm curve, feeling a shudder of heat inside him as Russell groaned in response.

His right hand caressed the firm flesh in front of him, marveling at the shape, how it seemed to be sculpted by an artist who was a stickler for perfection, how the cleft divided it into two even, perfect halves, seeming just right to be held and squeezed.

Russell Tringham was beautiful and sexy and all *his.*

He kissed some more, running his lips over the curve, nibbling a bit, feeling his own body tingle when Russell groaned in response.

Reluctantly, he eased back and stood up, shedding his own shoes, kicking his pants away. He sat on the bed and opened his arms to his lover.

Russell embraced him, and they tumbled to the bed together, moving slightly, just enough to create friction, but mostly just feeling the other boy’s warmth, the texture of his skin -- and, in Russell’s case, metal -- breathing in his scent, just being *close.*

Their lips came together, a soft and gentle caress, brushing and melding and exploring with the utmost tenderness. Pale blond hair blended with a deeper gold as they rolled over on the bed a couple of times, almost playfully vying for dominance.

Finally, they stopped with Ed on his back and Russell above him, kissing his lips as he swirled his fingers over the other boy’s nipples. He reached down and grasped his length as he kissed Ed’s neck, and Ed let out a groan as Russell started to caress, faster and harder than he had before, his fingers fluttering up and down the shaft like a virtuoso playing his instrument.

A hot wetness closed over Ed’s nipple as a warm palm stroked the head of his aching hardness, and Ed threw an arm around Russell’s shoulder, panting, arching upward into his touch because it was so, so good . . . his automail hand gripped the sheets tightly as Russell began a rapid up-and-down movement, fingers finding the drops of dew at the tip and coating his whole erection with it.

“Oh, yes,” Ed panted. “Keep going . . . ohhh . . .”

Russell sucked his nipple hard, pulling back to flick his tongue over it in patterns, teasing the pink, then rapid flutters over the bud, as his hand caressed the root of his lover’s cock before sliding up again.

Ed clung to Russell, letting out one small cry after another, feeling the pleasure mount and mount, thinking he would explode any second . . .

Then, he stiffened, and let out a loud, throaty cry, his body shuddering as pulses of electric heat passed through him, overwhelming him.

When he sank to the bed, he felt Russell kiss him, tenderly, the other boy’s erection pressing against his thigh. . .

Oh, no. That wasn’t going to do. One thing that could always be said about Edward Elric was he gave as good as he got.

Flipping them both over, he moved down to Russell’s legs, running his tongue down a thigh, then his knee, then his calf. When he reached his foot, he licked slowly over the instep, moving to his toes, which he kissed reverently, one at a time.

He leaned back, holding the foot against his chest, rubbing the toes against a nipple, and heard Russell’s surprised gasp -- he was half-sitting up to get a good view of what Ed was doing.

He dropped the foot and moved back up, kissing Russell’s lips hungrily, grasping his erection and starting to stroke it rapidly as his lover had done to him, and he heard Russell groan deeply in his throat, just spurring him on.

Ed let his fingers tease Russell’s balls, cupping the sacs in his palm, then a gentle caress over the surface, then taking the whole thing in his hand again, lightly stroking.

“Oh!” Russell cried. “Just a little more . . . so close . . .”

Ed slid his fingers back up to the shaft, stroking hard, fast, feeling Russell buck in response, hearing his groans, his whimpers, his low murmuring . . .

He caressed his lover *right* where he knew he liked it, just under the head, and that did it. Russell thrust upward wildly, letting out a yell as hot wetness started to coat Ed’s fingers, writhing until he sank to the bed again.

Ed grabbed a tissue quickly to clean himself and Russell off, then moved up, kissing his lips, sweetly.

“I meant it when I said I loved you, you know,” Russell panted.

“Hey, you think I’d accuse you of lying about something like that?” Ed said, nuzzling the other boy’s neck.

“And you?” Russell said, his hand cupping Ed’s face, turning the boy to face him.

“Yeah,” Ed said. “I meant it, too.”

He nestled his head on Russell’s chest, feeling the other boy’s arms wrap around him. “I’m really glad I decided to stay tonight, now,” Russell said.

“You would have stayed one way or the other,” Ed yawned. “If you tried to get away, I would have transmuted that damn leather thing into a lasso and used it to pull you back.”

Russell turned toward him. “You *really* don’t like that corset, do you?”

“Why don’t *you* try wearing it?” Ed said.

There was a moment of silence, and then Russell said, “Okay . . . point.”

Ed kissed him again. “Still . . . you’d probably look cute in it.”

Russell stroked his hair. “When this is over, we’ll find something sexy for *both* of us to wear, okay?”

“You’re on.”

Ed fell asleep, imagining just *how* Russell would look in the leather corset.

* * *

Ed woke up when it was still the middle of the night. He sat up, yawning and stretching -- and his automail arm collided with something with a dull *thunk.*

Leaning over, he saw the *something* was the stand next to his bed where the sex toys were, and that one of them had fallen on the floor.

Grumbling, he bent over to retrieve the dldo. He lifted it up so he could see it in the streetlight coming in from the window. It was a bit slimmer than a real male organ, and rippled, and broad in the base.

“Huh,” he said, quietly. “Weird-looking thing.”

Shifting it to his flesh hand, he could feel its texture -- smooth and firm, just soft enough to give a little when he squeezed it.

The realization of just *what* he was holding hit him, and he dropped it to the sheets with a thud, rushing into the bathroom to wash his hands.

Russell stirred when he heard the sound. “Ed?” he said.

“It’s okay,” his lover called from the bathroom. “Just picked up something I shouldn’t have, that’s all.”

“What’s this?” Russell replied -- and Ed rushed back in, clapping before Russell could have a chance to touch it.

“Eh, just something that was lying around the room,” Ed said, bringing his hands to the thing. Purple lighting danced around it as he sterilized it, as he’d done to the bed.

Once it was clean, Ed flopped down again, picking it up -- but not putting it back on the rack. For some reason, it was fascinating him.

*Looks like something you’d stop up your drain with,* he thought. *What’s so sexy about that?*

Russell sat up, reaching out with his hand, lightly touching the dildo.

“Do you want to . . . try that?” he said.

Ed sat bolt upright. “Try that? Put *that* inside me? Or you?”

“It’s sterile,” Russell said. “You just cleaned it.”

“Hey, what would *you* do if you found something like that? We don’t know where it’s been!” Ed said, quickly -- but he didn’t drop it.

There was a pause, then Russell said, “Well, I just thought it might be worth a try . . .”

Ed whirled around to face him. “You think this thing is sexy?”

Russell flushed bright red. “I didn’t say that!”

“Yeah, *sure* you didn’t say that,” Ed said. “You’ve been looking at this thing like it was a part of *me*!”

“Well, is it so wrong to be *curious*?” Russell said.

“*I’m* not curious!” Ed said.

“Look, just forget it, then!” Russell said, flopping back on the pillows. “It was just an *idea*!”

Ed lay back down himself, and turned over -- and found himself facing the rack the thing came from. He clapped his hands again, leaning over to sterilize the whole thing. *Just because I can’t stand to have them in the room, that’s all,* he thought.

But in the light of the transmutation, he couldn’t help but see the other objects that were there. Dildos of all different shapes and sizes, thin and fat, short and long, flesh-colored and a variety of plastic colors --

And at least one with a small *crank* in the bottom.

Now *that* was odd. He took it from the rack, tentatively, and started to turn the crank, winding it up like a music box. He heard the creak of springs as Russell sat up again.

“What are you . . .” he said.

“Just want to see what this does, that’s all,” Ed said, quickly, finishing the winding. There was a small button on top of the crank, which he pushed -- and the whole toy started to vibrate. Ed dropped it and scurried back on the bed as if he were seeing an insect, the dildo lying there, purring and moving around slowly like a living thing.

Russell just stared at it. “What . . . the . . .”

“Who the hell THINKS of these things?” Ed said, still frozen to the spot, staring at the toy with wide eyes. It rolled across the bed, seemingly of its own accord, and came to rest against his flesh leg.

And then, Ed *felt* it. Felt the vibration, softer than he’d expected, and tingly, and seeming to make his skin *glow* . . .

He let out a small sound of pleasure. In the back of his mind, he was beginning to wonder if it felt so good against his leg, what would it feel like . . .

“Ed?” Russell’s voice said, snapping him out of his thoughts.

Ed looked at his lover, and a wicked smile spread over his face. Russell wanted to try these things so badly? Well, he’d try *this* one out on him!

He picked the toy up and started to wind it again as he leaned over, his lips claiming his lover’s hard, deep, his tongue sliding quickly into Russell’s mouth. A thrill ran through Ed’s body as he heard the other boy’s deep groan of satisfaction, felt Russell’s arms envelop him.

Ed broke contact with his lips to run his tongue down Russell’s neck, and the other boy let out a husky, “Ooohhh . . . that’s so good . . .”

“You taste *really* good, Russell,” Ed said breathlessly, before starting to suck on his neck, nibbling at the soft flesh. He finished winding the toy, and dropped it to the bed for now, reaching for Russell’s ass, squeezing it hard.

He let his fingers tease the cleft as he kissed Russell’s shoulder, nibbling at the collarbone, letting his tongue lightly brush the juncture with his neck. Russell moaned, low, hungry sounds that made Ed’s blood run hot.

Gently, he tipped his lover backwards until he was against the pillows, bending over to kiss one nipple, then the other. He reached over for the bottle of lube . . .

His hand hit something hanging from the bedpost. He looked, and saw it was one of the two straps they’d pushed out of the way earlier.

Suddenly, he had a very, very wicked inspiration. He grabbed the strap and looped it around Russell’s left wrist. “What the . . .” Russell said.

“Hey, you’re *mine*,” Ed said, reaching for the twin strap. “I’m not about to let you get away.” He grabbed Russell’s other hand and secured it as well, then reached for the bottle again.

He looked at the sight of Russell, hands bound, his body a pale streak against the crimson of the sheets, hair in disarray, eyes closed, erect nipples standing out against his chest, full erection resting on his stomach, swollen and red and already moist with a few drops of precome . .. .

Oh, yes, he was a *pretty* sight.

Leaning over, he began to lick up and down Russell’s shaft as he poured lube onto his fingers. He brought one to Russell’s entrance, pushing it in slowly as his mouth enveloped Russell’s erection, sucking hard as he felt the younger boy tense around him, then relax.

Ed started a rhythm, pushing his finger in as he slid Russell’s manhood out, then sliding down on the boy’s erection as he pulled out the finger. His lover whimpered in response, and Ed felt a hot thrill run through his own body.

He pulled his finger out and lapped hungrily at the other boy’s cock as he wiped off and relubed the digit. Oh, yes, Russell tasted *good*. Felt good, too, hard and hot and slick from both Ed’s mouth and the dewy droplets that kept forming at the tip.

When he pushed the two fingers in, he felt Russell’s whole body clench again, felt him writhe a little . . . but as Ed resumed his sucking, Russell relaxed. Ed went deep into him, his fingers flicking back and forth rapidly as he devoured the luscious thing in his mouth . . . he had to be careful, he didn’t want to take Russell *too* close to the brink. Coming now would ruin everything.

“Ed,” Russell moaned. “Do it, I’m ready . . .”

Ed slid out his fingers and, reluctantly, moved his mouth away. “You *do* know what you’re going to get, don’t you, Russell?”

“I think so,” Russell panted.

Ed looked at the two toys that were on the bed. He decided it was better to start with the non-motorized one, to open Russell up and make sure he was ready. Picking it up, he coated it liberally with lube (and reminded himself he was going to have to sterilize it again *after* its use), then gently began to push it into his lover’s entrance.

He saw an expression of pain on Russell’s face -- no different from normal penetration, at least not yet -- and moved up to kiss his lips, then his nipples, then his lips again.

“How does it feel?” he said.

“Different,” Russell said. “Not warm like you. A little strange, but . . .” He closed his eyes. “I want to keep going.”

Ed resumed pushing in, going slowly and carefully, keeping an eye on Russell’s face. Gradually, his expression changed, his body relaxed. Tentatively, Ed began to thrust -- and was rewarded by Russell starting to writhe, letting out a low, throaty groan.

“Good,” he moaned. “Oh, Ed, you have to try this . . . it feels so good . . .”

Encouraged, Ed started to thrust a little faster, and Russell gasped, raising his hips to meet every stroke, murmuring softly. Ed switched off hands, moving the toy with the metal one so he could grab his own erection with the flesh one, stroking it as he watched his lover moaning, skin flushed and sweaty, hips rolling along with his thrusts.

Russell was ready for the main event. Ed slipped out the toy, hearing a groan of disappointment from Russell, and coated the vibrating one. This one was very easy to slide inside, since his lover was already stretched, and Russell offered no resistance, thrusting his hips down against it.

Once it was in, Ed pushed the button, the toy began to vibrate and Russell let out a loud cry, so loud Ed would be worried about people coming running if there were anywhere other than a whorehouse.

“AAAAHHH!!” Russell cried. “Oh . . . oh . . . this is . . . AAAAHHHH!!” His hips lifted all the way off the bed, his body writhing wildly, wrists straining at his bindings as he panted, his skin fairly glistening with sweat.

“You’re so beautiful right now,” Ed said, starting to thrust the vibrator in and out. “So very sexy . . .”

“More,” Russell cried, wildly thrusting his hips up and down, and Ed matched what he was doing, pushing the toy in hard and fast, twisting it a bit, moving it here and there . . .

And then, Russell arched so far off the bed Ed thought he was going to break the bonds, and very nearly *screamed*. Ed had connected with his prostate. Ed moved the vibrator back and forth over the same spot, caressing it as Russell cried out again and again . . .

The younger boy stiffened, then shuddered, crying out as he released himself, hot fluid shooting all over his stomach, all the way up to his chest.

Ed moved up and kissed him, hotly, his tongue pushing hard into his lover’s mouth. Russell was trembling, his eyes still closed, his whole body completely limp . . .

“You okay?” Ed said, reaching for tissues to clean Russell off.

Russell opened his eyes, slowly. “Yeah,” he said. “It’s just that it was . . . damn . . ..”

“Guess you liked this thing, then?” he said, teasingly, holding up the vibrating toy.

Russell smiled, slyly. “Get me out of this and I’ll show you.”

Ed would have protested that idea before -- but seeing how Russell had just reacted . . .

“You’re lucky I love you, Russ,” he said, leaning over and undoing the restraints. “I wouldn’t let just anybody do something like this.”

Russell sat up and moved over, pulling Ed into his mouth and kissing him hotly.

“I *am* lucky you love me,” he said, easing his lover down to the bed. “Very lucky.” He reached for the straps and wrapped one around Ed’s automail wrist.

“Careful,” Ed said. “If you break anything, I’ll let *you* tell Winry you broke her masterpiece by tying me up in a whorehouse.” He couldn’t help but feel a small bit of satisfaction at Russell’s pained wince at the thought.

Ed raised his flesh arm, feeling Russell loop the strap around it and pull it just tight enough to be snug, but not enough to cause pain. Before he had a chance to get used to the sensation, the younger boys’ lips were on his again, his fingers on his nipples, and Ed moaned deeply in his throat, warm pleasure stealing through his body.

“Mmmm,” he said. “Go on . . . suck . . .”

Russell lowered his head, and Ed gasped as the hot, wet tongue started to slide back and forth over the sensitive peak, followed by his lips, closing over it and tugging at it hotly.

“Ohhh, yes,” he groaned. “Damn, that’s good . . .”

Russell kissed one nipple, then the other, lavishing each with his tongue as his fingers played in his lover’s navel before slipping down, the flat of his palm sliding over Ed’s lower belly, making him grow more and more excited as it got closer to . . .

When Russell grasped him and started to stroke, Ed’s hands jerked at the restraints, his urge to bring a hand to his mouth thwarted. He’d feel frustrated if Russell’s fingers weren’t doing such damn amazing things, stroking along the shaft with the pads of his fingertips, then ticking the head, spreading around the drops of dew.

Russell didn’t let go of Ed as he moved down and reached for the lube bottle -- not until the last second, when he got the lid flipped open one-handedly. Ed groaned in disappointment as the hand left him, but found himself opening his legs and raising his hips in anticipation of what was coming.

It was a very strange feeling, giving up control, being at the mercy of another -- and *not minding it*. Had it been anyone but Russell, any circumstances but this, Ed would have been yelling, twisting about, doing *anything* to get out of his restraints . . .

But this? Oh, yeah, *this* was hot.

Ed felt a finger push into his entrance, and he caught his breath, anticipating the pain. Damn, but he hated that moment, that sharp stab as his muscles protested the invasion . . . but he gritted his teeth, thinking only of what was going to come after.

Russell’s other hand was back on him, grasping him, stroking up and down rapidly, his fingers circling the base, tickling here and there before moving up again, and Ed let out a moan as the friction went to the very core of him, spreading a luscious pleasure that completely obliterated the pain.

The finger within him was moving in and out, and there was no pain now, just a delicious *fullness* that merged with the sensations coming from his cock, and Ed found himself moving back against the digit, forward into the caressing hand, his head starting to thrash on the pillow.

“Good?” Russell said, his hand and finger both moving faster, sending a fresh wave of *feeling* washing over Ed, making him writhe and moan and forget everything else in the world except the boy pleasuring him.

When he got enough of his senses back, he panted, “No, Russ, I *always* look this way when I’m just sitting around doing nothing. And if you stop now, I’ll kill you.”

Russell pulled out his finger, and Ed was about ready to break the damn restraints and make good on his threat -- when he felt a *second* finger enter him along with the first. He gritted his teeth against the pain again, hands clenching into fists . . . but the pain went away fast, and Ed moaned *loudly* as what was warm pleasure before became a throbbing heat.

“Do it!” he said. “Do it or I may come *now*. . .”

There was a pause, and Ed heard the squish of lube being poured out again . . .

And then, *something* was probing his entrance, cold and odd, a bit softer than Russell, ripply in texture . . .

He wasn’t quite sure if he liked it. In fact, he was almost ready to tell Russell to take it out . . .

Then, it hit a sensitive spot, and he let out a cry, his hips bucking. And as Russell pushed it in further, the pleasure just kept building and building from there.

His body was starting to adjust to the toy, warming it, shifting around it as if to welcome it. And when Russell’s mouth enveloped Ed, sucking him hard as the thing within him moved back and forth, caressing him here and there, seeming to stimulate every damn nerve within his channel . . .

“Fuck, Russell!” Ed cried, arching off the bed, feeling like he was burning up from the very root of his soul. The mouth sucked harder, the toy moved faster, and Ed panted, groaned, let out low, animal sounds, begging Russell without words to *make him come* . . .

The mouth and toy left him, and Ed sagged back to the bed, crashing back to earth, breathing like he’d just run a marathon. The air felt cool on his skin, and he knew he was *bathed* in sweat.

He heard a clicking sound, over and over, and then the squish of the tube . . .

“Ready?” Russell said.

Ed was beyond being able to think of a smart retort or snappy comeback. He just groaned, “Yes.”

There was the feeling of pressure at his entrance again, and then something slid in, bigger and thicker than before, and this time, there was nothing but *pleasure* as Russell pushed it further, Ed’s body open and very, very willing . . .

Russell leaned over and kissed his lips. “Love you,” he whispered.

“Love you, too,” Ed whispered back.

And then, Russell pushed the button in the toy, and it was *vibrating*, hard, sending shockwaves of fiery tingles shooting over every part of him, and he nearly screamed. He didn’t know pleasure this intense could possibly exist.

The toy began to move, and the vibrations seemed to travel from one end of Ed’s ass to the other, running to the very base of his spine and out through his cock . . . damn, Russell wasn’t even *touching* his cock and it felt *amazing* . . . He rocked his hips, wanting *more* of that thing, and *more* still, feeling like it was shaking him apart from the very root of him, and it was the most beautiful sensation in the world.

“I’m . . . I’m gonna . . . “ he gasped.

And *then*, it bumped his sweet spot, and the whole world exploded. He arched all the way off the bed as white heat consumed him, and waves of ecstasy broke over him hard and fast, completely overwhelming him, and just when he thought it was over, it started *again* . . .

When he finally sagged to the bed, he felt like a limp dishrag, exhausted and boneless and completely, totally, utterly satisfied.

Dimly, he was aware of Russell sliding out the toy, unfastening his wrists, cleaning him up -- did he *really* shoot so hard that some of it got on his *face*? -- and then, of his lover’s lips on his. He rolled over, wrapping his arms around Russell and purring contentedly.

“Now you see why I liked it so much?” Russell said.

“Russ,” Ed murmured sleepily, “we *are* taking those home.”

He heard Russell chuckle, felt his lips on his forehead. It just added to the *warm* feeling inside him.

He never, ever thought he’d feel this good again. Not since the horrible moment when he and Al had walked in the door to find their mother on the floor.

Yawning again, he nestled his head against Russell’s chest and fell asleep.

* * *

Russell awoke first the next morning. He looked at the clock, then rolled over and kissed Ed.

“Hey,” he said. “Don’t you have a job to do this morning?”

Ed mumbled, reached for the blankets with his flesh hand and pulled them further over his head.

“You have to break into Madame Marie’s office, remember? The reason why you’re here?”

Another mumble.

“Ed, if we don’t get enough evidence now, it might be harder later, and then we won’t be able to catch her before the deadline . . .”

“No way in hell!” Ed sat up. “No way in hell am I being a *real* prostitute!”

Russell kissed him. “Good morning,” he said.

“Yeah, whatever.” Ed yawned and stretched. “Guess I gotta get dressed and find Maggie.”

“And I’ll go home for awhile while you do that,” Russell said, getting out of the bed and picking up his clothes.

He watched the other boy drag himself out from under the blankets and make his way across to the closet, looking for casual clothes. He was gorgeous, despite the sleepy eyes, despite the grumpy face.

And he *loved* Russell. Last night, when they both had confessed their feelings . . .

It had made everything that had happened on this assignment worthwhile. Hell, it made up for all the times they were separated from each other.

The suit pants and business shirt and jacket felt even *more* confining today than they had last night. He didn’t even bother with the tie, just tucked it in his pocket. And, dammit, he felt *incomplete* without his suspenders.

“I’ll be back this afternoon,” he told Ed, walking over to his lover and kissing his lips quickly. “You’ll probably want to go to breakfast here to meet up with this Maggie.”

“I’m sure I’ll have the goods by the time you get back, Russ,” Ed said, leaning over to tie his boots. “Then we can tell Mustang and get the hell out of this place.”

“Think you’ll have enough time to find what you need?” Russell said.

“Russ, you’re looking at *professional* here,” Ed said, standing up and reaching for a hairbrush. “I can spot an alchemic code in two seconds flat. If she’s hiding *anything* in there, it’s not going to stay hidden for long.”

“Bet I could spot the code even *faster,” Russell said, teasingly, handing Ed his hair elastic from the nightstand.

Ed flashed him a scowl. “*You* wanna wear that leather thing?”

“Point taken,” Russell said. “But you *do* look hot in it.”

“It’s *hot*, all right.” Ed finished tying his ponytail and yanked the door open. “I *roast* in that thing.”

Russell smiled to himself. He didn’t think he’d be able to convince Ed to take the garment with him. He’d just have to enjoy his lover wearing it while he could.

* * *

Ed saw Russell to the top of the stairs (he didn’t want to be seen escorting his customer downstairs without the dreaded *work clothes* on, it wasn’t worth putting them on just for two minutes), then went off to look for Maggie. The lounge was empty -- he wasn’t surprised. He didn’t imagine there were a lot of people up and about after that party.

He was about to head down toward breakfast when he saw Maggie come out of a room around the corner from his. Her hair was brushed flat today, instead of being up in pigtails, and she wore a ruffly, knee-length white skirt and a pale pink scoop-necked shirt.

“Hi, Tom!” she said. “I’m so glad I ran into you, I’m just about ready to head out.” She walked over to him, holding out a key on a plain leather keychain. “This is her office key. You can go down and start working in about a half hour, that’s the time she usually goes to town.”

Ed frowned. “Hey, aren’t you afraid you’re going to run into her?”

Maggie waved a hand dismissively. “I know the kind of places she goes to, I’ve heard her talk about them. They’re too *expensive* for anyone who isn’t her -- or one of her pets. We won’t even be in the same part of town.”

“All right,” Ed said. “How long do you think I’ll have to do it?”

‘Bout two hours,” she said. “It’s not a big job. Most of her stuff is stashed away in her filing cabinet, you just have to dust it.”

*And the cabinet is probably locked tighter than a drum,* he thought. Not a problem for him at all.

“All right,” he said. “Now remember, you owe me a favor back.”

“Don’t suppose I could take that cute customer off your hands for a few hours, could I?” she said as she headed for the stairs.

Ed’s eyes flashed fire. “OVER MY DEAD BODY!”

Maggie turned to him with a sly smile. “Don’t blame you there. If I had a sugar daddy who paid that much, I wouldn’t want him slipping away, either.” She gave him a wave and rushed down the steps.

Ed looked at the key in his hand, then in the direction of the steps. Half an hour. He had time to kill, and then . . .

The smell of bacon and eggs wafted up to him from downstairs. His stomach reacted, loudly.

He knew how he was going to spend that half-hour.

* * *

He was sitting at the table in the near-deserted dining room, finishing the last of his breakfast, when Madame Marie peeked in, dressed in a well-tailored, fur-trimmed coat that was much too warm for the season and was obviously for show.

“If anyone sees Maggie,” she said, “remind her that she has office cleaning duty today,” she said.

“Don’t worry, I will,” Ed replied.

He looked around at the other people in the room -- one of the two male prostitutes they’d watched at work, a platinum blonde he couldn’t remember seeing before. Both were deep into their food, not conversing with each other or him.

*Probably too hung over,* he thought. They definitely wouldn't notice him slipping away to the madame’s office.

With a last swallow of coffee, he got up and headed down the hall, reaching for the key in his pocket. There was nobody around as he reached the door and unlocked it.

He slipped into the office, his eyes scanning the room through the light that poured in through the window. It was much simpler than one would expect, given her expensive taste in other things. A forest green carpet on the floor, a dark wood desk with a blotter the same color as the rug and several pens in a holder, a few shelves with some books on them -- business manuals mainly, he noted, nothing suspicious or salacious. There were a couple of milk glasses with silk flowers in them placed here and there on the shelf.

And then, there were the filing cabinets against the far wall, standing at attention like a regiment of soldiers guarding her secrets.

“First things first,” he said. He clapped his hands and slammed them to the floor, causing alchemical energy to spark and crackle over the entire room. Any traces of dust collected into a solid, gray brick, which dropped at Ed’s feet -- easy for him to carry away later. The room gleamed as if it were freshly polished.

“And now that the *cleaning* is done . . .” He walked to the cabinets, clapped again and touched his hands to the top. The locks holding the drawers closed opened all at once.

“Okay, Madame Marie,” he said, sliding the first drawer open. “Let’s see what you’re hiding.”

* * *

An hour and a half later, he sat on the floor, head in his hands, looking through yet another ledger.

Nothing. Nothing at all that even *hinted* it could be an alchemical equation, an array in disguise. There were neat columns of numbers, but they were nothing but listings of income and expenses. There were some notes on the lives of her customers -- but they were mainly listings of who was married, who was not, what time of day they were likely to come, and of course, how much they *paid.*

He thought he’d found something when he discovered a page of doodles. Upon closer examination, they turned out to be just that -- *doodles*.

The only thing that Madame Marie seemed to be hiding is she wasn’t *quite* as generous with the split of the profits as her workers thought she was, and that some employees were, indeed, getting bigger cuts than others -- he assumed they were the “pets.”

“Dammit!” he said, smacking the ledger in frustration. He was so *sure* he’d find what he was looking for, that he’d be able to get Madame Marie arrested that afternoon, that he’d be home with Al tonight . . .

*There has to be something else,* he thought. *Some hidden compartment somewhere in this room where she’d hide the *real* stuff.*

He put the ledger back and reached to the very back of the filing cabinet drawer, feeling for a hidden compartment. Nothing. He checked the other drawers, same thing.

The desk? He resealed the locks on the cabinets and headed across the room. The drawers were nearly empty -- just some plain pads of paper, a dictionary, a telephone directory. And no indication of hidden compartments here, either.

It was beginning to look more and more apparent that Madame Marie was *not* keeping classified information on politicians and the military, or any formulas for an ultraweapon, in her office.

And he was running out of time. Marie would be back any minute.

He slammed the last drawer shut and stormed toward the door, nearly slamming it as well.

Suddenly, the possibility of them not being able to find enough evidence before his allotted time was up became *real* for the first time, and he shuddered.

* * *

Ed headed up the stairs, key in hand, teeth set. One of the other workers had delivered a message to him that Russell would be there in an hour and a half.

He wasn’t looking forward to breaking the news of his failure to find anything.

*Might as well see if Maggie is back yet,* he thought. He raised his hand to rap on the door -- no answer.

He was turning to leave when he caught a faint whiff of a familiar smell. It was acrid, bitter . . . definitely *not* the type of thing one expected to be smelling in a bordello.

In fact, it was more like the kind of thing he was used to smelling in a lab.

His curiosity piqued, he glanced around the hall to see if anyone was looking -- which they weren’t -- then clapped his hands, bringing them to the lock. There was a crackle of energy, and he was able to open the door.

Peering in, he noticed that Maggie’s room was slightly bigger than his. It looked very much like his own, except for one thing . . .

Her room had a desk. And on top of it was a beaker on a Bunsen burner, slowly simmering.

Ed walked over to it, examining the color, breathing in the odor, trying to analyze what was in it.

*Now I know why it smelled familiar,* he thought. *This seems to be similar to the megaweapon that Russell and I made.*

He looked at the desk itself -- it was fairly standard, with three drawers on the side and one in the center. He pulled the top drawer, and it opened without resistance.

There were several notebooks lying there. He knew what was going to be in them before he even opened them up. His hand went to his pocket to get the notebook in which he’d intended to copy Madame Marie’s records.

*Gotta work fast,* he thought. He had no idea when she was going to be back.

He copied down a few arrays, some formulas, large chunks of what appeared to be some kind of code, his hand fairly flying across the page.

This was *definitely* not the work of someone just playing around with alchemy. The arrays had a complexity he couldn’t remember seeing outside the highest-level texts in the library in Central.

Once he had a few pages filled, he replaced the book carefully, slipped out of the room and resealed the lock, quickly retreating to his own quarters.

Not five minutes later, as he was starting to analyze what he’d found, he heard footsteps outside his door. He looked out, and saw Maggie heading for her room, key in hand. Pulling Madame Marie’s key out of his pocket, he followed her, quietly.

Just as she was unlocking her door and starting to push it open, he said, “Maggie?”

She jumped, startled, and whirled around, quickly pulling the door shut behind her. As she turned, her skirt flipped up, and Ed saw something high up on her thigh . . .

A tattoo. A curve with intertwined lines above it, looking suspiciously like the bottom of an alchemic array.

“Oh, Tom!” she said. “Did you finish in time?”

“I did,” he said. “Here’s the key back. Have a good time?”

“Oh, yes,” she said. “A great time. But, I have to get ready now, my client is coming in less than an hour.”

“Same here,” Ed said, wondering quietly what she did with her little alchemic experiment when her client was there -- he suspected she stashed it in the closet and covered the smell with perfume. “By the way, I couldn’t help but notice your tattoo -- is that an alchemy symbol of some sort?”

“Oh, that?” Her hand came down to her thigh as if she were holding a wound closed. “I used to date an alchemist. I got it for him.” He noticed she was backing up against the door, almost protectively.

“Hey, same here, that’s how I know what it is,” he said, casually. “Okay, I’m going. You owe me one now!”

“I do, don’t I?” she said, still not budging from her spot. “I’ll see you later!”

Ed walked back to his room, keeping his ears peeled for the sound of Maggie going into her door. He heard nothing -- not until his own door closed behind him.

His suspicions were confirmed. Apparently, Madame Marie’s number one “pet” wasn’t who they’d thought it was.

* * *

Russell fully expected that when he arrived, Ed would lead him right to the bathroom. So it didn’t surprise him at all when his lover said, for the benefit of anyone who might have been peeking in, “You look tense. Come on, I’ll give you a bath and a massage.”

The boys went into the other room, and Ed turned on the taps, reaching into his pocket.

“You found something in her office?” Russell said.

“Not in Madame Marie’s office,” Ed said. “She’s sneaky. She’s got someone in here working with her who’s the *real* keeper of all the information, and it’s not even one of her so-called *pets.* Hell, it’s the person who complained about her pets the most!”

“Coverup,” Russell said. “It makes sense -- she has a bunch of ‘pets,’ but her partner is part of the common herd so she won’t attract suspicion.”

“And furthermore” -- Ed handed Russell the notebook -- “the partner’s an alchemist, and a damn talented one. Take a look at her arrays.”

Russell scanned the pages, his eyes moving over the intricate diagram. “This looks like some kind of explosive,” he said.

“Bingo,” Ed replied. “And she’s got code, too. Looks like a description of a tennis match, but . . .”

Russell looked up. “Can I take this with me?” he said. “I’ll have Al and Fletcher help me with the code.”

“That’s what I got it for,” Ed said, a slight smirk running across his face. “We have the goods on *both* of them now. You can take the code right to Mustang . . .”

“*If* it shows anything we can use,” Russell said.

“Hey, how can it *not*?” Ed replied. “She’s *guilty*, Russell. She’s even got an array of some sort on her thigh.”

Russell frowned. “You’d better be careful around her. If she suspects . . .”

“She’s not gonna suspect anything,” Ed said, reaching for Russell’s shirt buttons. “And, hey, you think I can’t take care of myself?”

“Well, I *do* know firsthand what you’re capable of in a fight,” Russell said, reaching for the fastening of Ed’s leather corset.

“Damn right,” Ed said, pushing Russell’s shirt off. “And I kicked your ass.”

“You left that lab with a *very* swollen face, I remember,” Russell replied, dropping the garment to the floor.

“Eh, just a bump,” Ed said, pushing his leather corset down and off, followed by his boots and bikini pants. He stepped into the water, holding a hand out to Russell.

“So you meant it about the bath and massage?” Russell said, shedding his own remaining clothing.

“Hey, we gotta stay in here for awhile anyway, right?” Ed said as Russell climbed into the water with him.

“I think you’re going to miss this place when we leave,” Russell said, teasingly, picking up Ed’s flesh foot, which was stretched next to him. He started to massage it tenderly, tickling the sole a little, which made Ed jump.

“Miss it?” Ed leaned back in the water. “Hell, no! You think I *like* this atmosphere?”

“You like that bed. And this tub. And the things that were in the rack by the bed.” Russell’s fingers moved up Ed’s calf, gently caressing.

“You liked them, too!” Ed said. He trailed the fingers of his flesh hand over the surface of the water. “I want to go home. I miss Al.”

“He misses you, too, I can tell you that,” Russell said, moving up to his lover’s thigh.

“I think this is the first mission he didn’t come with me,” Ed said, his eyes taking on a faraway look. “Feels strange. He and I have always been together, except for . . .” He looked away. “No way was I having him in here.”

“Don’t want him seeing you in the leather corset?” Russell said, slyly. That earned him a kick from the foot he’d been caressing, a splash in the face and a bar of soap shoved toward him.

“Shut up and wash, Russell!” Ed said.

Fortunately, Russell was able to win Ed’s favor back when they were both standing up, washing their bodies, and he lathered his hands, beginning to wash the older boy’s back with long, gentle strokes, moving from his neck to his hipbones, then back up again, rubbing in circles, making him give a small moan of pleasure.

“Damn, Russ . . . you do that so well . . .”

“You know I love touching you, baby,” Russell whispered.

“Don’t call me baby,” Ed murmured, but leaned back into Russell’s caresses, letting out an “mmmm” sound as Russell’s fingers kneaded up and down, back and forth.

“So are you going to give me a massage, like you said?”

“If you want,” Ed said, his voice a near-purr.

“Oh, I want,” Russell said. “I *really* want.”

They rinsed off and stepped out of the water, reaching for large bath sheets to towel themselves off. Russell did Ed’s hair, carefully, then reached for a comb on the sink to untangle and smooth out the long strands.

“Okay,” he said. “I’m ready to see your hidden massage skills.”

“You’d be surprised at how many skills I have,” Ed said with a smirk.

Ed led Russell over to the massage table, located at the far end of the bathroom. “All right,” he said. “Lie on your stomach . . .”

Russell complied. “I’ve never really had a massage,” he said.

“I’ve never *given* one,” Ed said, reaching for the bottle of oil that was in a holder at the side of the table.

*Hey, how hard can it be, right?* he thought.

Right away, though, he realized a problem. The massage oil would gunk up his automail. He needed every last circuit and joint functioning perfectly -- he had no doubt that a fight was in his very near future.

Searching in the storage bin next to where the oil was, he found tissues, a couple of soft cloths, and . . .

“Ha!” he said aloud. “Problem solved!”

Russell raised his head. “What?” he said, his hair seeming to fall even further into his eyes.

Ed was holding up a couple of packages of condoms. “Okay, so they’re not going to protect what they were *meant* to . . .” he said, tearing them open. He lay them on the table next to Russell, clapped his hands, then touched the rolled-up pieces of rubber. They stretched, elongated and formed into a glove.

“There!” he said, holding it up triumphantly. He poured the oil onto his hands and leaned over, kissing Russell’s neck as he started to rub across his shoulders, then down his back. Russell let out a loud purr, and Ed said, in a soft voice, “You like that, huh?”

“That feels good,” Russell murmured. “So good . . .”

“Hey, I aim to please,” Ed said, his hands sliding down to his lover’s hips, up over his back, rubbing in circles on his shoulders.

His flesh hand stroked slowly, slowly over the oil-slicked flesh, squeezing, caressing, and he heard Russell let out a deep sigh as he brought a hand up to his mouth.

“Keep going,” he whispered.

Ed knew exactly what it was he meant. He paused, oiling his flesh hand again . . .

Then, he brought it to Russell’s ass, that delicious, perfect, compact bottom, running it over the curve, his fingers exploring it gently.

“Your ass is sexy,” he said in a low voice. “I love touching it so much . . .”

Russell was flat-out moaning now, arching his bottom upward, pulling up on his knees a bit. “Ed . . .” he gasped.

Ed let his fingers slide between the cleft, up and down, teasing, and he heard Russell’s whimper of frustration. “Baby, don’t tease me,” he said, raggedly.

But Ed *wanted* to tease. And he pulled his finger out, making sure it was oiled extra-well, before pushing it back in again, stopping when it was *just* touching his entrance.

“Ohhh . . . ohhh . . . “ Russell groaned, writhing beneath him, his hips bucking upward, trying to impale himself on Ed’s finger.

“What is it you want me to do?” Ed whispered.

“I want it in me,” Russell panted.

Ed pulled his finger away. “Nah, I don’t think so,” he said.

Russell suddenly sat up, turning around. “Dammit, Ed!”

Ed smiled with satisfaction when he saw the full erection that was revealed. “Maybe I’d rather play with this,” he said, gently stroking his manhood -- which made Russell let out a yelp.

“Either.” he moaned. “Both. Ed . .. “

“Both?” Ed said. He couldn’t easily do that with an automail hand, but . . .

“Be right back,” he said. He headed back into the main bedroom, finding what he was looking for on the stand next to the bed.

When he returned, he told Russell, “Okay, lay back, and close your eyes.”

Once Russell obeyed, he poured lube from the bottle he’d brought with him over the other object he held, then onto his flesh fingers.

“Spread your legs . . .”

Russell raised his hips, opening his legs wide, and Ed slid a finger in, moaning at the feel of the tightness and heat closing around him. For a moment, he considered just dropping his plan, oiling his own manhood and taking him.

But that would bring a swift end to things, and he wanted to prolong the pleasure for both of them.

He slid the finger out, lubed it and a second again, then pushed them in, Russell’s soft cry going to the very core of him. He moved in and out, feeling his lover’s hips move in time to what he was doing, looking at Russell's beautiful face, eyes tightly closed, lips parted, cheeks flushed, hand clutching at the covering of the massage table.

“So beautiful . . .” Ed said as he picked up the toy with his automail hand, bringing it to Russell’s entrance. His flesh hand lightly grasped the younger boy’s erection, teasing it lightly with stroking fingers.

He began to push the dildo in, and heard Russell gasp. His other hand tightened a little, starting to move a bit faster.

“This is so good,” Russell moaned. “Deeper . . .”

“You like this, don’t you?” Ed said, pushing the toy in further.

“Yes!” Russell said in a hoarse whisper.

“Good -- ‘cause I like watching you like this,” Ed said. And he started to thrust it, a rapid in-and-out motion, as his flesh hand stroked faster, fingers tickling the base, sliding over the shaft before twirling around on the head.

Russell arched off the table, his body moving in almost a wavelike motion, head tipped back, blond hair softly whispering against the fabric of the table cover as he tossed it back and forth.

Ed found a rhythm -- thrust the toy in, slide his hand downward, pull it out, slide up . . . His fingers glided over skin that was both rough and smooth, hot as hell, and wet, so wet from the precum that his fingers spread from top to bottom every time he went up to the head, teasing the satiny mushroom, tickling the sensitive spot just under it . . .

“AAAHHH!!!” Russell cried, suddenly, and his body arced upward sharply, like a sea creature breaching the water. Hot seed flowed from his cock, which Ed kept stroking, and stroking more, until the boy finally sagged to the table, sated.

Ed slid out the toy, bending over to kiss Russell’s lips. “Mmmm,” he said.

“Incredible,” Russell mumbled.

“Hey, what can I say? I *am* a prodigy,” Ed said, teasingly.

“Didn’t think you were a prodigy in *that*,” Russell said, sitting up. “Okay . . . now I want *you* to lie down and spread your legs.” He got off the table, gesturing for Ed to replace him.

Ed complied, wondering what the hell Russell had planned. He wasn’t going to take him, since he’d just come himself, and if he was going to use the toy . . . well, he’d better *clean* it first!

Russell leaned over, his lips claiming Ed’s, and Ed kissed back hungrily, his tongue probing his lover’s mouth. He could hear the squish of the tube . . .

Their lips parted, and Russell moved down to Ed’s nipples, starting to kiss and lick and suck as his finger probed Ed’s entrance. Ed spread his legs wider, thinking this was the prelude to something else . . .

Then, Russell’s finger started to stroke, and move around from place to place, making Ed shudder deliciously. He knew what Russell was doing now . . .

And when Russell hit his goal, his finger connecting right with Ed’s sweet spot, Ed yelped as stars burst behind his eyes, pleasure shooting over every bit of his body in sharp tingles.

“Ohhh, yes, *there!* he cried, and then Russell’s finger was *massaging* him, kneading that spot gently, so gently, making a sensation like hot honey shoot from his channel to his aching cock and out to his whole body, until he felt it in his toenails.

Russell moved up enough to kiss Ed’s lips, his fingers never leaving that spot, then he whispered, “Love you.”

Then he moved down and took Ed’s erection in his mouth, and Ed almost screamed.

Hot wetness on his cock, surrounding, sucking, the pleasure moving down and mixing with the *unbelievable* feelings from where Russell’s finger was still stroking, massaging . ..

Ed thought he was being driven mad bit by bit, and it was the most wonderful feeling ever.

He panted and moaned and gasped, he writhed and thrust, as Russell took him deep, over and over, then slid him out and licked him, then sucked him *hard*, as the massaging went faster, faster . . .

Pleasure was swelling in him, swelling like air in a balloon, and he was ready to explode . . . Russell was *pressing* on his prostate, oh no, that was too much, but so good, so good, sooo .. .

Ed screamed Russell’s name, and his whole body shook with electric pulses, shaking him to the very core, his hips moving again and again, Russell’s mouth never leaving him, drinking in every drop he had to give . . .

When Ed sank to the table, Russell’s lips were on his, his hands stroking his face. “Ed . . .” he whispered.

Ed wasn’t sure if he’d be able to form coherent words. He managed to get out an “uuuhh.”

Ed turned, wrapping his arms around his lover, burying his face in his chest. Hell, yes, he wanted the code cracked, he wanted out of this damn place . . .

“Come on, let’s go into the bedroom and lie down a couple of minutes. Then I want to take this notebook home. The sooner we can crack the code, the better.”

But he also wanted to savor this moment for just a bit longer. And that was just what he was going to do.

* * *

They walked to the door together, careful not to touch each other, make too much eye contact . . . make it apparent to anyone looking that they meant more to each other than just prostitute and client.

“I have to go to that horrid family thing,” Russell said, making sure it was just loud enough for everyone to hear. “But I’ll be back tonight.”

“I’ll be waiting,” Ed said.

He watched Russell head down the walk, the more-valuable-than-gold notebook in his pocket. He knew that the next time his lover returned, it would probably be with the military, and it would be over for Madame Marie and Maggie.

*And I’ll be able to wear *clothes* all day again,* he thought, heading back through the parlor, toward the stairs . . .

“Thomas?” a familiar voice said around the corner. He turned, to see Madame Marie emerging from her office.

*Great,* he thought, *the last person I want to see.* “Oh, hi there,” he said, trying to sound sincere. “How’s it going?”

“Your client is *very* pleased with you, Thomas,” she said. “Mr. Hawthorne has been spending quite a bit of time here. I can’t tell you how happy that makes me.”

*You wouldn’t be so happy if you knew *why* he was here all the time,* he thought. “Yeah, well, I’m making sure he gets his money’s worth!” he said.

“I am very much looking forward to having you in general circulation,” she said. “If you produce the way I think you will, there may be . . . perks involved.”

“Really?” he said, folding his arms across his chest. “What kind of perks?”

“Oh, special accommodations . . . more days off . . . and assignments to the highest-paying clients. Plus access to areas of this house that are off-limits to everyone else.”

“Hmm.” Ed raised his eyebrows. “Sounds nice . . . what’s the catch?”

“No catch,” she said. “Just occasional favors now and then.”

*She probably still has the pets feeding her info,* he thought, *even though Maggie’s her main partner. Unless there’s *other* members of their group hidden in here . . .*

“Hey, that sounds great,” he said, putting on a cheerful voice. “Thanks for the offer . . . I’m not gonna let you down.”

“I don’t think you will, Thomas,” she said. She patted his shoulder with a jewel-heavy hand and headed for the parlor.

Ed bolted for the stairs. This was a small amount of information, to be sure, but it was still information, and it may prove useful . . .

And in the meantime, he was bound and determined to get out of this outfit. Hopefully, he’d never have to wear it again.

* * *

Russell sat at the kitchen table of the Tringham family’s old house in Central. It was basically the Elric-Tringham house now. Whenever the Tringhams were in town, all four of them stayed there.

Up until now, Ed had resisted Russell’s offers to live there full-time even when the Tringhams were in Xenotime. He hoped that he would reconsider now that their relationship had deepened.

In front of him was the notebook he’d taken from the bordello. He studied the arrays, decomposing them line by line in his head.

*This is definitely not the work of an amateur*, he thought. *This Maggie seems talented enough to be a State Alchemist.*

He knew Ed was up against a formidable foe, and that worried him. He knew his lover could take care of himself, and then some, but still . . .

Fletcher walked into the room, a piece of paper with some writing on it in his hand. “Did you find anything else out, Brother?” he said.

“Only that this Maggie is someone to be very concerned about,” he said, rubbing his eyes. “What about you and Al? Any progress?”

“Her code is tough to crack,” Fletcher said, opening the icebox and taking out a pitcher of lemonade. “Al and I think we’re on to some of it, but the rest . . .”

“I’m sure you’ll get it,” Russell said, smiling quietly. Fletcher was the *real* genius in the family, he knew that. And Al was just as brilliant.

“That Madame Marie must know something about alchemy herself,” Fletcher said, taking three glasses out of the cabinet and starting to fill them. “She knew *just* what she was looking for in a partner.”

“I think most of those people do,” Russell said, accepting a glass from his brother. “Remember, even Baddley turned out to be an alchemist. And they were going to . . .”

He didn’t even want to complete that thought. He remembered all too well how they had kidnapped Fletcher with the intent of forcing him to work for their cause.

Fletcher suddenly put the pitcher down and threw his arms around his brother’s shoulders. “You’re worried about him, aren’t you?” he said.

Russell covered Fletcher’s arm with one of his hands. *How does he do it?* he thought. *How does he always know what I’m thinking?*

He took a deep breath. “Yeah,” he said.

“He’ll be all right, Brother,” he said. “Whatever this Maggie can do, Ed can do better.”

“I could probably do even better than him,” Russell replied.

Fletcher rolled his eyes. “*Brother* . . .”

“It’ll all be over in a matter of hours, right?” Russell said, “We’ll get this code cracked, and take it to Mustang, and . . .”

“We’ll back you up, Brother,” Fletcher said, giving him a little squeeze. “When you go in there, we’re coming with you.”

Russell frowned, turning around so he could see his younger sibling. “Fletcher, I don’t want you in a place like . . .”

“I *know* what goes on there, Brother,” he said. “And it’s not like we’re going to *stay* there.”

Russell patted his arm. “I’m not going to persuade you otherwise, am I?”

“We just want to help, that’s all,” Fletcher said, sliding his arms away. “Hey, we’re all family now, right?”

Russell smiled at the sound of those words. Family. What they hadn’t had since their father left, their mother died . . .

“Yeah,” he said. “We are.”

“We’ll be in the living room,” Fletcher said, picking up the other two glasses. “Let us know if you need us.”

Russell picked up the notebook and started to study the arrays again, the word *family* resonating inside him like the slow echo of a gong.

* * *

Ed had just intended to lie down for a moment and rest after changing into casual clothes. But the late night and all the vigorous lovemaking had gotten to him, and he dropped off to sleep.

He’d been napping for about an hour when he was awakened by a loud *thud* outside his door.

Sitting bolt upright, he strained his ears, trying to detect any other sounds, any sign of movement. There was none.

He opened his door and peeked out. All he saw was an empty hallway.

Then, he looked down -- to see Maggie on the floor, apparently passed out, wearing a black silk teddy, the tattoo on her thigh fully visible.

It was an array, all right. One that looked very complex, and very dangerous. Ed had an instant flashback to Psiren, and the array tattooed on her cleavage.

The first thing he had to do, though, was make sure the woman was all right. He bent over, listening to her breathing, feeling her throat for a pulse. He shook her gently, she didn’t respond.

*Okay, I have to get help,* he thought. *She might have been poisoned, there might be someone else working against her group in here.* He started to stand up -- but he couldn’t resist pausing by her thigh, looking at that array, trying to analyze it . . .

A hand suddenly shot out and grabbed his. “So, you *do* know what that is,” a voice hissed.

“You’re not exactly shy about flashing it around, are you?” he said. “You *deliberately* lured me out just now.”

“Bingo,” she said. “You just confirmed what I’ve been suspecting about you all along.”

“Really, now?” he said. “Well, it’s nice to know we *both* know what each other’s really about.”

Maggie sat up, eyes burning. “You’re the Fullmetal Alchemist, aren’t you?”

“Nice guess,” Ed said, wrenching his hand out of her grasp and clapping. “Shame to see a brain like yours going to waste working for a bunch of extremist bombers.”

He reached down, intending to transmute the boards into a cage to hold her fast to the floor . . .

Then, she touched her array, there was a flash of light, and a sudden, sharp blast of wind knocked him head-over-heels across the room.

* * *

Al and Fletcher rushed into the kitchen, nearly knocking each other over in their haste. Russell looked up from the notebook. “What’s wrong?” he said.

Al was pale, trembling. He held a page out to Russell. “You have to read this,” he said. “We broke the code, and . . .”

Russell took the paper, scanning it quickly. His eyes widened, and he felt the blood drain out of his face.

He looked up at the younger brothers. “We’re going down there,” he said. *Now.*”

* * *

Ed skidded across the floor, knocked head-over-heels, feeling as if a freight train had just slammed into him. He managed to stumble to his feet, glaring at his opponent.

“You’re not bad,” he said, clapping his hands. “Unfortunately for you, I’m better.” He started to slam them to the floor -- only to get knocked down by another blast of air that seemed to come from everywhere and nowhere at once. He rolled over and over, hands scrabbling at the floorboards . . .

Dimly, he was aware of other people coming out of their rooms, of the sounds of whispers and shouts. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Kate and Susan clinging to each other . . .

“Get out of here!” he yelled at them as he clapped his hands again, this time not bothering to stand up. He sighted his target at the other end of the room and sent alchemic energy into the floorboards, forcing them upward into a cage to trap her -- but Maggie touched her array again. It glowed, and there was a *whooshing* sound before the wind blasted again, flattening the boards.

*Like Lyra,* Ed thought, *before Dante took over her body. Dammit, I *knew* I should have recognized that array, it’s like the one on Lyra’s pendant!*

His hand grabbed for something, anything that could help him, and came up with a small table in the hallway that held a potted plant. He pushed the plant to the floor -- he’d just need the table for this.

“So, a wind alchemist, are you?” He clapped his hands and brought them to the table. A crackle of electricity, and the wood thinned out, elongated, reshaped itself into a shield that was nearly as big as Edward himself. “Ha! Blocked you!”

He clapped again, directing the energy to the plant. He’d seen Russell turn regular plants into weapons, shields, ropes to tie people up . . .

The leaves elongated, and shot toward their target -- who was calmly removing a long, thick metal chain from around her neck. And on that chain hung a charm that was . . .

*Crap, another array!* Ed thought. He saw Maggie touch it, saw the chain transmute into a long, thin sword, which she used to cut the branches.

“Did you *really* think I’d be a one-trick pony?” she said. “I work with metals, as well.”

“Good,” Ed said, clapping again, the sparks and streaks of energy surrounding his own metal arm. ‘Cause metal’s *my* specialty as well!” A blade shot out from his automail, and he grabbed the shield, charging at his opponent. She swung her sword, his arm-blade connected with it.

For a long moment, neither moved, blade pushing against blade, the two combatants glaring at each other, waiting to see who was going to make a move.

*She’s strong,* Ed thought. *And powerful.* Her metal alchemy was near-flawless -- that sword she’d made was showing no signs of cracking like the sword Russell had made a seeming eternity ago.

“Planning on standing here all day?” she said, cooly.

“No, I plan on taking you down,” Ed said.

“How?” Maggie’s face wore a smirk that was not unlike Roy Mustang at his most annoying. “You have to clap to work your alchemy. If you let go of that shield, I can blow you away.”

“And if you go for your array, you’re going to have to lean over,” Ed said, “and that’ll leave you open.”

“Did you really think I’d have just one wind array, too?” she said.

“You’re bluffing.” He fixed her with a steely-eyed gaze.

“Am I, now?” He saw her reach for the wrist that held the sword -- yes, there was a bracelet there, but he couldn’t see if it had an array . . .

And then, another plant leaf whip came flying out of nowhere, heading for Maggie. She turned to slice it out of the way, activating the wind array on her thigh at the same time.

Ed whipped around -- he knew who had done that, there was only one person who could have created the plant whip -- just in time to see Russell, Al and Fletcher get blown across the room.

“AL! RUSSELL!” he shouted, rushing after them, carrying the shield as he ran. He saw with a sickening feeling in his stomach that his brother and lover were rolling toward the stairs . . .

And then, Ed heard a yell, and a thump, and the wind stopped. He turned to see Fletcher, the plant he’d knocked off the table in his hand. He’d elongated a branch enough to knock Maggie off her feet.

“Nice work, Fletcher,” Ed said, starting to clap -- only to have a long metal lasso come flying at him, wrapping around his hands, binding them together.

“You have *no* idea what you’re up against, do you?” Maggie said, smugly, getting to her feet and going for the wind array again.

And then, there was the sound of feet on the stairs, and a familiar voice yelling, “What’s going on up here?” Madame Marie . . .

Ed struggled with the chain that was binding him. When she got up there, she was going to use her *own* alchemy, and chances are she’d be as strong as Maggie, and Ed would be *damned* if he’d let her . . .

But as the madame got to the top of the stairs, Maggie activated her wind array again -- this time, aiming the blast solely at Madame Marie. The woman tumbled down the stairs again with a scream.

Ed wheeled toward his opponent. “What did you do THAT for?” he shouted.

“Why do you think?” Maggie said.

“You mean . . . you’re not . . .”

“Oh, please. You think we’d work with a greedy bitch like *her*?”

“It’s what we came to tell you, Ed,” Russell said as he activated the array on the plant he’d managed to retrieve, its leaves flying toward Maggie -- which she promptly blew away with her wind array. The three alchemists hit the deck, bracing themselves so they wouldn’t roll all over the floor again . . .

And Al managed to get close enough to Ed that he could clap his gloved hands and touch them to the chain. It loosened and fell away from the boy’s hands.

“Ha!” Ed grabbed for his wind shield. “You may not be a one-trick pony, but you can only focus on one kind of alchemy at a time!” He dashed for his own room, shooting a glance over at Russell -- he was going to need their help for what he had in mind.

Maggie chased after Ed, activating the array on the chain, trying to create another lasso -- but before she could, Ed reached the bed, clapping and touching his hands to the headboard.

The bondage straps he and Russell had used elongated and shot out toward her. She promptly went for the wind array to blow them away.

“Now, Russell!” Ed shouted. And a plant whip flew into the room, wrapping around Maggie’s waist, trying to pull her off her feet. She stopped the wind and went for the chain array, transmuting it into a sword --

But before the transmutation was complete, the straps wrapped around her, bonding her arms to her side so she couldn’t go for *either* array.

It was here that Al and Fletcher sprung into action, rushing into the room, Fletcher carrying the plant he’d had before. He transmuted the leaves into long spears, wrapping around and around her to make sure she was secure, while Al clapped his hands and touched them to the very chain she’d used before, turning it into a fine net which he then fastened to the floor.

“No idea what we were up against, you said?” Ed said. “More like *you* had no idea what *you* were up against.”

“You just got lucky,” she mumbled.

“I’m going to check on Madame Marie, Brother,” Al said. “Fletcher . . . can you call the Colonel?”

Fletcher nodded and began to walk out with Al -- but not before Russell stopped them at the door and hugged them both. “You did well,” he told them. Looking at Ed, he said, “They cracked the code that was in Maggie’s journal. The passage said she knew you were the Fullmetal Alchemist, and she was going to take care of you.”

Maggie nearly turned crimson at that. “How the hell did you get hold of that?” she said.

“You think I wouldn’t recognize the *smell* coming from your room?” Ed said. “That wasn’t exactly perfume. So tell me -- megaweapon? Or something worse?”

“If you *must* know, I was coming up with a new formula for the megaweapon which didn’t need red water soil,” she said. “Had to do *something* between whoring assignments. Unlike *you*, I was willing to *really* put myself out for my cause.”

“Which was gathering information?” Russell said.

Maggie was silent.

“I’ll take that as a yes,” Ed said. “After all, the voyeur network was right there, wasn’t it? And Russell and I can’t be the only people to ever stumble upon the one on the pets’ floor by accident.”

“The pets *thought* they had privacy up there,” Maggie said. “Found out there was a voyeur network on that floor my first day. Madame Marie wouldn’t let *anyone* in this place go unspied-on. Greedy bitch used to watch *everyone* to make sure they were giving her *every penny* they collected from their customers and weren’t pocketing anything.”

“And she knew *nothing* about your activities? Even with all that spying going on?” Ed said.

“I alchemized my mirror,” Maggie replied. “When I didn’t want her to see what was going on . . . it would look like the room was dark.”

“One more question,” Ed said. “How come you were so eager to let me go into Madame Marie’s office? You were meeting with a contact, weren’t you? Passing on information?”

Maggie was silent.

“Fine, that just proves I’m right,” Ed said.

There were footsteps and voices outside. “Well, it seems like it’s time for me to turn you over to the military,” Ed said. “Too bad you won’t be earning any more money for your *cause*.”

Maggie turned her head toward him and snapped, “There’s more of us out there than you think, Fullmetal Alchemist! You’re not going to get all of us!”

“Just you watch,” he said. “I think we will. I told you -- you’re the one who doesn’t know what you’re up against.”

He turned and left the room, gesturing for Russell to come with him, as uniformed military personnel started storming in.

Russell took hold of Ed’s hand. “It’s over,” he said.

“For now, at least,” Ed said. “You heard what she just said.”

“At least you can come *home* now, Ed,” Russell said.

The two watched as Maggie was led out, toward the stairs, military personnel all around her, arms securely bound to her sides -- and Ed noticed they’d put an extra binding over her wind array. She shot him a venomous glance as she passed.

Ed reached for Russell’s hand again. “Hey, Russell?” he said.

“Hmm?” Russell replied.

“Thanks. For everything. I couldn’t have done this without you.”

Russell squeezed the hand. “I wasn’t about to let you go in here *alone,* was I?”

Ed just smiled quietly as they headed for the stairs. For the first time since his mother died, he really could say that he was going *home.*

* * *

Marie Werner was lying on the couch in her parlor, a group of her worried workers clustered around her. Her ankle was wrapped up, and she had a few bandages here and there, but she had, luckily, escaped serious injury.

She raised her head as Ed came down the stairs, suitcase in hand. “Thomas!” she said. “Or . . . that isn’t really your name, is it?”

“Nope!” he said. “I’m Edward Elric. And this” -- he indicated his companion -- “is Russell Tringham.”

Madame Marie started to sit up. Her charges instantly began to push her back down. “I can’t thank you enough,” she said. “You got rid of that horrible traitor. To think I had someone like *that* working for me . . .”

“Hey, there was no way you could have known, right?” Ed said.

“Oh, I was so disappointed when I found out what was going on . . .”

*Well, I’d be too, if I was harboring someone like Maggie,* Ed thought.

“I was disappointed to find out you really wouldn’t be working for me! Imagine all the money I could have made with you. Beautiful boys with automail don’t grow on trees!”

Ed turned crimson, then purple. “WHAT? Are you saying I REALLY look like a whore?”

Russell pulled on the back of his coat. “Come on, Ed, we’re going.”

“No WAY would I do that!” Ed said, as Russell nearly dragged him away. “I had ENOUGH of this place to last me the rest of my life!”

Russell smiled to himself as they headed down the walk and out to the military car waiting to take them back to headquarters. He knew very well that there was *one* thing in that place Ed hadn’t gotten enough of.

After all, they had a souvenir in his suitcase in the form of two sex toys.



I joined the 30_Lemons community with a couple of friends back in the summer. I know the community was created with the intention of doing short fics and drabbles, but . . . I just *knew* I was going to make a long fic out of several prompts. And when I got "The Bordello" as a theme, the idea for the story just fell into place. (Besides, who could pass up a chance to write Ed in a leather corset?)

I had two betas on this story, Steve Savage and Mistress Quickly, who I am eternally grateful to. Thanks also to Sonya (who came up with the "I signed up to be the dog of the military, not its whore" line), the RussellXEd community and Hellcon!

Fullmetal Alchemist is property of Hiromu Arakawa, Square Enix and Studio BONES. These characters ain’t mine, I’m just borrowing them for a little while.