The story is completely AU. Based on FMA: Brotherhood, events after the Promised Day. As usual, it is my own little private timeline; my own private little world. Yeah, and, just to add, my own little crackpot theories. This is also full of free-form Alpha/Beta/Omega dynamics, with some similarities to a "traditional" A/B/O universe.

We all know I don't own FMA or FMAB. This is fanfiction for entertainment purposes only – distribution for profit is not allowed. Comments and reviews are always welcome!

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Chapter One

Rating: T

Edward Elric was a late bloomer. He knew this, his brother knew this, and by now everyone knew it. Fifteen he was when puberty final hit, and it had been forced at that on that cold assed day in Baschool. It was one of the most memorable days in his life. He'd had that damned iron post yanked from his body and half-healed himself at the expense of about two years of his life. The down side was that he'd probably die earlier than he'd been fated to; the up side was that he'd grown a good three inches in height. Short was a description he'd happily left on the bloody ground in a burned out, broken down warehouse.

Better late than never, he'd thought at the time. Thought it when he reached his full height at eighteen, when he set out on his exploratory travels in the west. Thought it when he scored his first lover (beside his hand) at nineteen and a half, in a beautifully extravagant bedroom four doors away from the Tsar of Drachma.

It seemed like every one of his rites of passage occurred during some landmark moment in his life. So when he dropped his battered, brown suitcase on the platform and slumped in his chair, he wondered what event was around the corner this time.

Because his skin was itchy and something crackled under the surface and it had nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with alchemy.

He was headed to Central after a year and a half of being snowed in at Ekaterinburg, enjoying the hospitality of the Tsar Nickolas and his Alexiandra. It was an unplanned, but very happy stop at the start. Eventually, as he well knew, all good things came to an end, and he'd packed his considerable collection of books and Drachman souvenirs and booked the train back to Central Amestris. He'd written a letter to precede him, sending a friendly warning directly to the Office of the Prime Minister, Vice-President, Second in Command or whatever General Bastard was calling himself these days. He had the answer in his coat pocket, and could even hear Hawkeye's kind voice when he read that both she and the General were looking forward to seeing him and his brother.

The trip had very carefully coordinated after he'd received a letter from his brother, telling him that Alphonse was also returning to Central from his time in Xing, and was preparing to go in for reassessment for his State Alchemist certification. He would meet his brother at the Central Station. It had been far too long since he'd seen Alphonse though his brother's descriptive letters made it seem as if he were walking through the halls of the Forbidden Palace right along with him.

It had taken him a long time to rid himself of the oppressive loneliness he felt after Alphonse had left for the East. That isolation had made him do some rather stupid things before he left for his own trip up north. A couple of drunken binges, some minor fisticuffs, and a half-assed proposal of marriage were top on that list of things Edward should not have done. But, after all was sorted, and Granny had given him an earful of what-for, he'd calmed himself down enough to consider his own plans for the future. He'd quit drinking bad beer, made peace with his former enemies in Risembool, and thanked the gods he didn't believe in that Winry had presented as alpha and had mated with the Pitt Renback before he had to make good on his promise to give her half of his life.

Now, Edward was practically vibrating with excitement at the idea of seeing his brother in the flesh again. In the flesh. No matter that it had been almost four years that phrase still sent a tremor of absolute happiness through Edward.

Upon later reflection, he should have known better. He should have realized that, per the usual, his life was not going to click along the way a normal life was supposed to. He should have realized that that late blooming part wasn't done with him yet, and was going to bite him on the ass someday.

Ed looked down the platform, loosening his tie and unbuttoning the first two buttons on his shirt. He'd forgotten how hot summer in Amestris was. The heat, virtually unheard of in Drachma, slipped under his skin, exploded from his pores in fine drops of sweat. Maybe that's what was making his skin feel too tight for his body. As he saw the train finally coming up the track, he was only looking forward to meeting with Al, enjoying the largest dinner he'd eaten to date and crashing head first into a soft, fluffy bed in the Central Officer's Dorms.

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Alphonse was… beautiful. There was no other descriptive word that could describe the younger Elric. Eighteen and a half, tall, lithe and confident, he was a head and a half taller than his older brother, and Edward could do very little at first but stare at him.

Al had taken to Xing culture as if he'd been born there. His hair – as white-golden blond as Ed's own – was pulled back in a jeweled clasp, and braided into a long Xingese queue down his back. The only nod to his Amestrian upbringing that was left was the dark brown waistcoat and pants, the white shirt buttoned with tiny pearl buttons, and pristine white gloves. And his smile was as bright and universal as the sun.

"Brother!" he called, racing down the platform to engulf Ed in a bear hug of extraordinary proportions. As Ed attempted to draw some air into his lungs, he looked over Al's shoulder at the person standing a few feet away, next to his brother's luggage.

Ed took the man in from head to foot. He was about a fraction shorter than Ed; that was something Ed liked right away. He held himself with a regal bearing that was not hard to miss, but his eyes were soft and his smile was almost shy. He was dressed smartly; long black hair in a queue, gray waistcoat and trousers, white shirt with onyx buttons. His mark stood out as a delicate bruise on the pale skin of his neck, as small and subtle as only Alphonse could bestow.

Ed leaned back and arched an eyebrow at Al, a smile playing at the corners of his mouth. "Something you forget to tell me, Alphonse?" he asked, cracking a grin at his brother's blush.

Alphonse was not your typical alpha, not in the true sense of the word. Unlike Winry, who was an alpha in all of her blazing, wrench-wielding glory, Al's pull was more subtle, like the undercurrent of a deep river. He usually let his presence do the talking for him, and saved his Voice for when it was absolutely necessary. So Ed knew the blush was nothing about embarrassment, and all about a deep and comfortable pride.

"Ah, yeah, about that, Ed," Al rubbed the back of his neck, then turned and gestured for the man to come. "This is Tseng, Brother," Alphonse said, "Tseng Yao."

Ed paused in offering his hand. "Yao?"

Al nodded. "Twentieth son of the Emperor." He draped a possessive arm over Tseng's shoulder. "One of Ling's younger brothers."

Ed blinked a few times while this processed, then continued on with his greeting. "Pleased – real pleased to meet you."

Tseng took his hand with a gracefulness that belied a firm grip. "The pleasure is mine." His voice was a softer, more melodic version of Ling's. "I have heard so much about you that I feel I already know you."

"I hope not all you heard was bad," Ed murmured, waiting with bubbling excitement for the formal words to come from his brother. He knew what he was seeing, and he was overjoyed, but he just had to hear it from his Al's mouth.

Alphonse was delighted to give it to him. Claiming his mate was all part of the package. "Ling was heart-broken when we mated," and there it was in Al's understated style. "He groused and complained so much about finding another finance minister that I had to feed him a twelve course dinner to make amends."

"He would eat his way out of his despair," Ed snorted.

Al craned his neck, looking at his brother. "Is… anyone with you?"

Ed knew what Alphonse was asking. He shrugged, then picked up his suitcase. "No. Well, I should say not yet. I've decided that either I'm a miserable beta or I'll be fifty before I present." It really didn't bother him either way. He'd had plenty of excitement in his life without the upheaval of an alpha's first rut. He was looking forward to some time to rest and just enjoy himself before he had to go through that turmoil.

But, before he could get to the rest and relaxation, he'd made a pledge to pay his respects to Hawkeye and Mustang first. He didn't really see it as an obligation, though. In the end, they were the reason he was even at peace in the first place.

"C mon, guys. Let's get to the dorms so I can pass out. I'm exhausted."