Sleep, they'd said, hands pushing him away, pushing him down into bed and drawing the covers over him. You've had a long day today, Al, sleep.

I don't want to, though, he'd said weakly, but Winry had laughed and stroked his hair.

He'll still be here when you wake up, Al, and he's just as tired as you are. We'll feed him and let the two of you sleep, and you can be reunited tomorrow.

I don't want tomorrow, I want today, he'd protested, but she'd already left, switching out the lights and shutting the door behind her. And he was tired, and he did eventually fall asleep, to the vague hum of voices in discussion downstairs.

He wakes shortly after midnight, to the soft click of a metal foot and the even softer sound of a flesh one. Someone opens the door, though they do not turn the lights on, and closes it behind them; he keeps very still, not moving, hardly daring to breathe. The odd feet slap over the floorboards as their owners comes closer, and then Ed climbs into bed with him, awkwardly arranging himself around Al's body. They've taken away the useless prosthetic he had when the gate spat him back out, Al notes, and is relieved. Though the space where Ed's arm should be is scary, it isn't as scary as that ugly fake arm, and he feels slightly guilty for thinking that.

Ed snuggles up close, eyes half-lidded, and says mildly, "I know you're awake, Al."

Al turns in bed, rests nose to nose with his brother. His eyes are wide in surprise, and the sight makes Ed smile. "How did you know?"

"You generally sleep with your mouth open, and you also make these odd little noises in the back of your throat when you do," his brother says affectionately.

"Oh." Ed's different, he thinks, and extends a hand cautiously to run his thumb over the lines of Ed's face, over his nose and too-sharp cheekbones and jaw line—like Father's, he decides, from the single photograph he's seen of the man. Ed's mouth quirks into a smile under his hands, and he lets his finger tips rest on Ed's lips; he's beautiful, he thinks vaguely, and wonders why. He doesn't know beauty. He hears people 'his age'—seventeen, and he feels intimidated by that number—discuss beautiful women, though, and wonders if his using that word means that his brother is a woman.

He makes a note never, ever to say this aloud.

Ed's crying, he realises with abrupt confusion, as tears trail over his fingertips. He's crying, but he's smiling through his tears, so it can't be that bad. Hesitantly he reaches out and wipes them away with his thumbs, like Mom used to do; it doesn't seem to work, because Ed just starts crying harder.

Maybe he's hurt, Al thinks with a sudden stab of worry. Nobody cries that hard unless they're hurt, like the time he fell out of the apple-tree and landed on his ass on the ground; he couldn't sit down for a week, and certainly cried floods at the time. But then—no, he cried even harder at mom's funeral, so you don't need to be hurt to cry like this. Ed reaches for him with his left hand, curls his fingers around the back of Al's head and presses him closer. He's babbling incoherencies, and Al only manages to catch the words "—eight goddamn years, Al, eight years—" before he descends back into his nothings. Hesitantly Al smiles for him, pushes him onto his back and brushes their noses together.

"I missed you," he says awkwardly, and then Ed's really bawling, and he's really confused. Ed's left arm is tight around his back, so he puts his arms around Ed too and cautiously nuzzles into his brother's chest.

Hours later, when Ed's tears have faded and they doze lightly together, he hears his brother mumbling. "You're perfect," Ed whispers, though when he checks his brother's eyes are closed and he doesn't appear to be focussing on Al. "You're perfect. Eight years of hard work and you are my reward. Al."


Ed kisses him on the forehead and whispers, "I love you, Al." His voice is raw and earnest, thick with his emotions. Normally Al would shriek in disgust, announce that kissing is a girly thing to do, and push him away; but this kiss is motherly, and Al closes his eyes and relaxes into it. It's been far, far too long without either his mother or his brother, and though he knows he can't have both, it's good to have his brother at least.

"Love you too, brother," he says, with a sweet smile; Ed chokes on another sob and holds him tighter.

"I don't ever want to be separated from you," Ed promises softly as his eyes close, and he drifts towards sleep. Al watches him until he's sure Ed is well and truly sleeping, then leans over and presses his mouth to his brother's. Unsure why he did so, he nevertheless murmurs, "You won't be, brother, not if I have a say in it."