Neither brother seems willing to speak, but their thoughts dip down into similar wells, dredging up the questions that most haunt them.
"When I walked in on you in the bath, Edward, I wasn't expecting Al to be there too."
That day, Ed had pulled his hair out of a braid and tied it up into a neat ponytail.
And if he did forget mom's face, what would be next? Her voice? Her smile? The color of her eyes?
It was kind of ironic, and kind of inconvenient, that Rush Valley, the capital city of automail, was also hot as hell for half the year.
Ed should have remembered this from that month on the island, back when he was a kid: you can only be in the great outdoors so long before you start dreaming of hot showers. And of dumping the people you're travelling with in them.
Ed meets his eyes, holds them, and then -- slowly, painfully, but deliberately, traces his free hand in a line across his throat.
He's seen quite enough of the military hospital in Central, and much as he likes the nurses, he was still glad when he thought they were through with it.
Only some things, he knew, could be repaired. Not every broken sword could be re-forged.
If Al hadn't known how often the older boy feigned unconsciousness in order to stave off these visits, he might have been fooled.
He mostly trusted his brother to be able to put a nearly-three-year-old to bed by himself, but...Al should probably check, just to be sure.
If Ed had his way, his allowance (and all of Roy's salary) would be spent entirely on the most expensive brand of dog food to have ever existed.
"And search for free porn." Havoc pointed out.
It was a big world out there, full of more possibilities than either of them could dream of.
Of course he came through the window.
"Now, Earth-type world, yes? Spoken language identified as late pre-Galactic English."
rated:M-L | GEN | Alt Universe | TWT | First Place (popular); Second Place (juried) | Green Lion Winner | Alfons Heiderich | Edward Elric | crack | drama | fusion | introspective | 2009 Brave New Worlds, Original
Brother likes to pretend that he doesn't care what goes on in the military unless it directly affects him. Or, you know, directly offends him. One or the other.
"Just who're you calling..." Edward's voice stuttered to a halt as he saw where the man was pointing. "...short?"
He remembered finding himself asking why the Fullmetal Alchemist would be the one to patch his own clothes.
He can still feel in his cheeks the faint scratch of beard against skin when his father kissed him there.
Every line in his chest and back was defined; he hardly seemed to have any body fat at all.
This really was turning out to be a day of surprises, thought Roy.
Tomorrow: having to talk to fucking Hohenheim. The day after tomorrow: the apocalypse. No pressure, eh?
And of course, he does not believe in God anyway, and scorns the idea of predestination.
Ling was an expert at this shit, he really was: making Ed feel too bad to say no to him, throwing out weird, cheeseball compliments that made his cheeks fire and froze his brain before he could brush them off
Ed imagined Al's expression would look something like Fletcher's did right now.
This is the smell of ozone from a lightning strike. This is fear.
It didn't really sink in when you saw the thing, all clumsy dangling wood and leather straps, like the arm of a marionette in a kids' puppet show.
Yet there are still nights that he wakes up to find his hand clutched by a seated Al, who laughs his hollow laugh and asks if he's okay, even though he does not remember screaming.
It is what people say to him because they cannot think of any other way to relate to him, this boy who has the heavy title of 'Full Metal Alchemist'.
If Al began to forget things, then Edward would remember anything and everything for the both of them.
The feel of hands on his shoulders woke him, one metal and one flesh, and it was the chill in human fingers that told him how cold the night had grown while he slept.
The only problem was that Ed didn't know what the heck "getting some" was or what he was being congratulated for.
He even dragged out his Best Manners for the occasion, the ones his mother had taught him so long ago.
The staff look at each other, look at their automail bottle-opener, and prepare to duck.
The idiot prince still couldn't be bothered to figure out the different notes and coins, probably because he'd never actually paid for anything in his life.
And while he didn't know the Niisan that had been to hell and back again with a grin on his face, he knew his Niisan, and he knew that prison was not at all where he belonged.
Very few alchemists believed in God, but all of them believed in books.
Hadn't he survived a month on a deserted island when he was ten, equipped only with a little knife and one pair of shorts? He was tough. He was rugged. He could fall asleep anywhere. He could totally do this.
And after all, no amount of rain can wash the blood away.
An alchemical reaction of the most ancient kind: sitting down to eat as though filling the stomach could replace the gap in one's heart.
He's getting so awfully, awfully tired of pictures, but they won't just stop coming.
But they were no longer young, and they no longer lived together, and Al wouldn't embarrass his brother in front of their hosts by trying to take care of him.
They shared the same eyes, the same hair, and a level of intelligence ... and sometimes, Ed felt far too much like he was his father's son.
Even Hawkeye could be caught off guard, and the men moving in too late, even five seconds too long, too far away.
It hurt, somehow, to know that there was no one now who could see past the mask if he didn't want them to.
"I want to bring father back for her," Al had whispered the week before Christmas fell.
When the lines didn't matter, when the lungs weren't working in labor of sweet industry worlds, then it was so easy to see where they might be all born of the same blood.
"We ought to have a toast," Ed says, frowning into the depths of his bottle. "They always do when they're having a drink in someone's memory."
He decided, then, quite firmly, that he wasn't ever going to drink coffee again, with anybody. It was too risky.