"This is all chickens."
Winry gave her youngest brother an exasperated look. "Could you stop that already? You sound like a broken record."
Al looked up balefully from Winry's workstation, before he ground his face against the surface again, moaning. "Chickeeeens."
Winry rolled her eyes and put the gun she had been cleaning down. "Oh for Heaven's sake, Al. Could you just tell me what's wrong and be done with it?"
"Winry." He suspiciously sounded like he was whining. "I don't think the real Alfons is anything like the Alfons I know."
Winry raised an eyebrow. "And you realized that just now?"
Al gave her a look before he ground his face against the workstation again. "Why am I always the last one to know everything?"
Winry smirked. "Have you heard the saying that to assume is---"
"To make an ass out of you and me, I know, shut up." Al sighed loudly. "Yes, it's my own fault, I assume everything, I don't listen to anyone, I act rashfully, et cetera, et cetera. Can we get on with the program now?"
"Amusing, don't you think? That Alfons is exactly the opposite of you."
"He is," Al agreed ruefully. "He's always the smart one, the quiet one and the better one."
Winry smiled. "Is that jealousy I detect there?"
Al gave her a look for a moment, before he pouted. "Am I that obvious?"
"If I were you, Mr. Bad Boy, I would have been jealous of my Mr. Perfect brother too," Winry chided. "Except that you always get the chick."
"It's just chicks," Al whined. "He gets the credit for everything. Dad trusts him more than me. He gives more fun stuff to him."
Winry gave him a wry look. "That 'fun' stuff happens to be dangerous stuff, too, Al." Before Al started to protest, she continued, "Infiltration is not your forte."
"Well, yeah," Al pouted again. "But still...."
Winry sighed. Al really was stubborn.
"Everybody treats me like a kid," Al moaned again.
"You are a kid," Winry said, picking up the gun again. "You're just seventeen."
"But you're only a year older than me! And Alfons is seventeen too!"
"You should hear yourself just now. That's the epitome of a five-year-old."
Al gave her a baleful look and ground his face against the workstation. "Chickeeeeeeeens!"
Winry rolled her eyes and kicked him out of her garage.
* * *
Ed opened the bathroom door and froze.
Alfons was standing in front of the mirror, applying something that looked like a salve to the darkened skin of his cheek. The boy immediately noticed Ed's presence there and turned toward him, greeting cheerfully. "Good morning, Edward. Did you have a good night sleep?"
Ed boggled at him.
Alfons blinked at him. "What's wrong?"
Ed knew he really did punch the boy yesterday. It was evident enough from the ugly bruise on the face. But Alfons was acting like nothing had happened at all. Ed had expected a cold shoulder, or maybe a glare or a punch back, but certainly not this. "Your-- your face---"
"Ah." Alfons poked at his cheek sheepishly. "I admit you do have a very strong right hook."
"I---" Ed was at lost. There was too many questions in his head. Why had Alfons kissed him again? Why was Alfons acting like he wasn't angry? So many whys, but at the end, Ed settled with the one that had been nagging at him all night, depriving him of his sleep. "What do you want with me?"
Alfons blinked again. Then casually answered, "Nothing."
The boy turned his attention back to the mirror, applying more salve on his cheek. "Nothing."
Ed's hands fisted, the nails digging painfully into his palms. Nothing, he said!? "Then why--- why did you--- you----"
"You wanted it," Alfons replied, sounding like he was just informing him of the weather today.
The next thing Ed knew was that he was grabbing the taller boy by the collars and had him against the wall. "Don't play with me," he hissed angrily, his eyes burning.
Alfons looked down at him, still smiling. "I don't play with people."
Ed couldn't believe it. Alfons' face and tone didn't hold any sign of malice. He was simply looking down at him brightly, innocently, like they had merely been chatting over a cup of tea.
"I didn't want to kiss you!"
"Really?" Alfons' eyebrow arched. "I know you wanted to," he said, still smiling that awfully bright smile. But that same smile somehow become scarier the more Ed saw of it. "Even when you act shy, you know what you want. But you don't want to get it, because you think you are not supposed to want it."
"I--!" What the hell was the boy talking about!?
"You care about what your father want from you, and you're aware that it might be the only reason why he even tries to protect you from Envy. But even so, you cling to him because you want to be wanted. Ah yes, that's it."
Alfons' smile took a definite turn into cruelty in Ed's eyes.
"You want to be wanted, do you? You want to be desired. You're afraid that I want you not because of who you are, but what you are, your father's son, because you're tired of everybody, yes, even your father, treating you as if you were an object."
Ed felt his fingers tighten on the boy's collar, threatening to tear the fabric off. "That is not true," he heard himself saying.
"Really?" Alfons tilted his head aside. "Then tell me, Edward."
The boy leaned down until his face was dangerously close to Ed's, allowing Ed no space to run away as he felt himself caught by the boy's intense stare. "Do you want me to want you?"
"I---" Ed swallowed, and forced himself to speak, and his voice was hoarse to his ears. "What the fuck does that have to do with anything!?"
Ed felt his breath stop. Then he saw it. Then it disappeared again. Something had flickered away from the boy's face just then. Ed could swear that he saw something in Alfons' eyes that he had never seen from the boy before, but whatever it was, it had completely disappeared, replaced by the usual unreadable look.
"I---" Ed started, not really knowing what to say. So he just parroted his question again, "What do you want from me?"
Alfons smiled at him, and it would have been sweet if not for the cold edge in the boy's voice.
"Like I said. Nothing."
* * * * * * *