He doesn't know what wakes him, couldn't say if asked. All he knows is that he bolts upright, tears in his eyes and hands clenched on the sheets. It wasn't a nightmare; nightmares leave him shaking and sweating, but now he's oddly calm. All that is left is a lingering feeling of sadness, and he wonders about that as the tears drip silently off his cheeks, falling onto his lap.

The walls of this inn are thin, and though it is quiet, it is not silent. He can hear people shifting in their sleep, can hear people in the throes of dreams, sleeptalking, even a couple in the room to his left attempting to have sex with as little sound as possible. Alphonse rubs the tears away from his eyes with the back of one hand, and then rakes his fingers through his hair—he had been too tired to undo the hairband when he'd fallen asleep last night, and now his fingers find matts, and tangles. There's a hairbrush in his suitcase, and he settles back on the bed and begins combing through his hair with sharp, exaggerated motions.

The bed is hard, the mattress stiff and sheets rough and cold against his skin. It is too large, too; he wishes for his brother's presence, so that he can curl into warmth, and softness, and comfort. Ed knows—or knew, he's never quite sure, but vehemently wishes it to be the former—exactly how to arrange them in sleep, so that Al ended up using his brother's arm as a pillow, face buried in Edward's shoulder and breathing in the familiarity of his scent. Warm. Safe. Protected. They'd slept like this long before the island, when cuddling up so close became neccessity, rather than luxury; and when they returned—to that lone empty house, that sat like some dark forboding creature upon Rizenbourg's skyline—sleeping so close to his brother had been soothing, easing away his fear of the unknown.

And then one day, he had woken up, cold, aching and alone, outside the long-since crumbled remains of his home with a hole in his memory and a bigger one in his heart. The first night had been the worst—helpless, desperate sobbing, with fear and grief and loneliness, a desire to have the warm strength of his brother back to shield him, keep him safe. He hadn't known this new Winry, or her friend, or even this new, empty Rizenbourg. He hadn't known the stranger in the photographs they showed him, either, the one with hard, cold golden eyes and shining silver limbs, and that distressed him more than anything else. Granny Pinako gave him a copy of an old picture, one he remembered their mother taking—Ed with him in a headlock, grinning proudly and as beautiful as he had ever been. He'd gone to sleep with it clutched in his hand.

He's close, he knows it. Soon, his brother (not dead, just not here) will be back, will be with him again. Al can feel him, almost, every time he wears the red coat, every time he puts on the white gloves. Soon his brother will be there, with his cocky grin and kind eyes. Soon his brother will be home, the most valuable gold in the world.

Soon, there will be no more nights of waking alone, to an empty room and the faintest memory of a sorrowful dream still present in the tears drying on his cheeks.

Nearly, Al thinks. Everything is nearly perfect.

It will take a warm presence, smelling of soap and dirt and books and the raw, metallic tang of alchemy, to make everything okay again. But until then, Al knows, he will have to make do with the coat, and the picture, and memories of the time before. It's not enough to keep the dreams at bay, but he can live with them, for a while.