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kaltia

Hurt


His arm and leg are gone.

It's all he can think of, sometimes. There"s a cold floor and a transmutation array, and so much blood he wonders, dimly, if it all came from him, because nobody has that much blood in their body.

He shifts in the tiny bed, in the Rockbells' spare room. There's a cool damp cloth over his face, to reduce the fever, and he feels too weak and too grateful for its presence to try moving it. Somehow he knows—though the pain obscures most of his senses—he knows that his brother is there, sitting beside the bed, ready to jump the instant he makes a move. Winry, too. He recalls one night he'd been screaming, screaming so loudly they must have heard him in Central, about the Gate and the Truth and Hell itself, and then his brother was there and though he still hurt, he was okay.

The surgery will start two weeks from now, he overheard Granny Pinako saying one day, while his brother and Winry had been changing his bandages. He's healing, and his stumps bleed less—the bandages they change are becoming cleaner and cleaner. "The surgery will be difficult," Granny had said with a frown, and Winry had shivered.

"I don't want to have to hurt you like that," she'd said to him, afterwards. He'd ignored her and she left, but then his brother had sat, gingerly, on the edge of the bed, wringing a new cloth out and draping it over his face. "Listen to her," his brother had said quietly. "Please."

"I can't," he'd whispered, and his brother hadn't responded for a few minutes. He'd struggled upright, and then accidently rasped his pyjama top against his cut-off shoulder. Even the tender motion had made him gasp in pain, and his brother had crossly pushed him back down, wrapped the blanket snugly around him and stroked his hair until he fell asleep to pain-shadowed fever-dreams.

It's the dead of night, and he should be asleep, but the pain won't let him go. He lies so still, biting his lip against whimpers. Every tiny motion of the blanket presses heavily against his stumps, and he's on edge—or on fire, maybe, his world narrowing itself down to two gaping losses. He gained something, though, for those losses, and he knows this—sees the proof every day.

An owl screeches outside, and instinctively he flinches. The blankets rub against the stub of his leg and he cries out before he can stop himself; he screws his eyes shut and cringes as his brother scrambles to his feet. "What? What's wrong?" his brother asks, voice thick and clogged with sleep still.

"Nothing," he replies, and hears the answering sceptical snort. The blankets are pulled down and he shivers, but then his brother is climbing into bed next to him, arranging himself against his good side, careful not to brush any part of himself against the bandage-wrapped injuries. Cool fingers run over his face, touch the cloth—drying, warm, useless—and then remove it.

"You don't need to lie to me, Al," Ed says quietly, stroking his cheek with the heel of his right hand—his flesh right hand, the one Al sacrificed his own limbs for. "If you hurt, you hurt."

He tries to bite his lip, force it back, be strong; he can't, and the tears come from somewhere deep inside him. Ed never says anything, in times like this. He holds Al's hand and presses his head against Al's throat, kisses his face and mouth. "This is what I want," Al whispers, when the tears are dead and his face is hot, dry and scorched. Ed makes a sound—of disbelief, displeasure—and kisses his mouth gently. "You gave up so much for me," he continues, softly. "I couldn't let you do that."

"Idiot," Ed murmurs, but there's no sting in his words. He'd shouted out all his anger about this a long time ago, and all that's left to him now is a kind of dull, broken acceptance. "You know I won't leave you like that. Automail's such a bitch."

Al closes his eyes and smiles, feeling Ed's hair tickling his throat, his chin. He remembers the blood, Ed in the centre of the array, horror on his face as he realises what Al has done. "I know," he says. "I believe in you."

"Mmmm," Ed mumbles, and his cheeks are almost as hot as Al's own fever-touched skin. "Sleep. You need to build your strength up."

Ed had built his body, Al recalled; he'd made it perfect, and then transferred Al's soul into it without a hitch. The hitch had come later, when Al sacrificed his own limbs to restore Ed's. He remembers a passage in one of Father's old alchemy books, long gone with the rest of their house. "Sacrifices are made out of feeling," the book had said, above an elaborate copy of an array. "They are rarely made by our rational minds. Be it the mother for the child, the husband for the wife, the friend for the friend—sacrifices are made out of love, and out of emotion."

And that is true, Al realises, as Ed's fingers twitch in his, and his brother exhales deeply as he drifts towards sleep. His soft, even breath ghosts over Al's skin, a steady blast of cool air, leaving goosebumps in their wake, but Al wouldn't exchange this feeling for the world. He knows the only reason he is still here—and more to the point, here, with his brother a warm presence curled around him, protective even in his sleepy state—is because of Ed's passion, Ed's wild, irrational, uncontrollable love. "Thank you," Al breathes, closing his eyes. He doesn't hear Ed's reply, but instead follows his brother into sleep.

He hurts a little, still, but Ed's warmth is slowly banishing the pain. He made my body through his sacrifices, Al thinks, but between us, we make each other whole.