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kaltia

Phaecia


Ed dumped his suitcase on the floor by the chest of drawers, barely supressing a yawn as he did so. The room was small and cramped, but clean, and considering some of the inn rooms they'd stayed in over the years, Alphonse considered that a blessing.

His brother kicked his boots into a corner and shrugged his coat off, dumping it on top of them. He looked exhausted, and Al didn't think that was entirely due to the long train ride to get here. He smiled, putting his own bag on top of the dresser, leafing through it until he found the change of clothes he'd be wearing tomorrow; and, making sure they were folded neatly, set them out besides his bag. "Brother," he said without looking up, "you should go brush your teeth, before you fall asleep where you stand."

Ed mumbled something, but reluctantly booted open his suitcase with an automail foot and vanished into the tiny en-suite bathroom; when he didn't emerge after a few minutes, Al pushed the door open anyway to find Ed dozing lightly, on his knees with his arms folded over the rim of the sink. Reminding himself that years of extended travel had apparently given his brother the napping ability of a cat, Al shook his shoulder to rouse him, and got him tucked up into the thick blankets of the lone bed. Ed was asleep again by the time Al emerged from the bathroom for the second time, toothbrush in hand.

He slipped the toothbrush and toothpaste into a side pocket of the bag and shucked off his clothing, shedding down to his boxer shorts and packing the old clothes in his bag. Ed mumbled in his sleep and Al leaned over the bed; one hand busied itself tugging off Ed's hair tie, fingers running through Ed's hair and easing the tight sections loose—Ed had never, to Al's knowledge, fallen asleep with his hair braided unless he really was too exhausted to undo it, in which case (like now) Al did it for him. Setting the hair tie on the dresser by the small brush Ed claimed was easier on tangles than any other type, Al began to strip his brother down to his shorts. Ed didn't wake up, mumbling softly in vague protest at the chill on his bare skin, but Al draped the blankets back over him before he awoke and started complaining.

When he finally finished with Edward, Alphonse allowed himself to snuggle in between the covers too, curling gently around his brother's body. The bed was right beside a window, and while usually Al would close the curtains or transmute a sheet over it, they were on the second floor, and thus safe from curious eyes. The sky was black, strewn with stars, and Al felt no pressing need to drop off right away. He ran a hand down Ed's chest underneath the blankets, feeling the muscles and the soft skin and the hard scars, and kissed his brother on the nape of his neck. Ed made a sleepy, satisfied noise, and wriggled closer.

There should be more moments like this, Alphonse thought, abruptly and with a stab of pain. More moments when Ed was relaxed and content like this, more moments when he could hold his brother without fear, more moments when he could see the stars so brightly. The smog in Central got in the way of the sky; it was one of the many things he missed about Risenbourg. Ed had never understood his passion for astronomy and astrology and everything celestial, but he would smile softly and listen as Al told him about stars that seemed so tiny being thousands, millions of times bigger than their world; he would tolerate Al's enthusiastic speeches about light years and solar flares and pulsar stars, black holes and white dwarves, red giants and supernovas. He would ask questions, even though Al knew he didn't particularly care, simply because he liked seeing Alphonse so animated about something.

Al rubbed his cheek against Ed's shoulder, and smiled.

"Thank you," he whispered into the fine strands of his brother's hair; Ed smiled in his sleep and rolled over, deftly pinching all the blankets. Al snorted. "Brother!"

After the ensuing brief tussle to regain control of the blankets—Edward didn't even wake up, just clung with his automail—they settled down again; Alphonse stretched an arm over his brother's side, cheek pressed out against his brother's shoulder blade, and watched the stars glinting in the night sky. He smiled up at a familiar one, remembering his mother pointing it out to the pair of them through the kitchen window one evening—the North star, she said, told them it could be used for orientation, to help one find his way home. He craned his head back—glanced backwards at the dark lump of his bag on the dresser, and smiled quietly at the two bits of paper he couldn't see in this light, two pieces of cardboard reading 'Central to Risenbourg—one way'.

Ed mumbled something about Al in his sleep, and latched onto his pillow as though it were his little brother; Al laughed, softly, a huff of warmth against his brother's spine, and snuggled up. Tomorrow would be the last leg of their trip home, the pair of them safe and sound. "Nearly there," he whispered, and Ed grunted, twitched his nose; the light of the star washed over him, washed over them both, and the sight made Al smile.

"Good night, brother," he said. Kissed Ed's cheek, lay back, and closed his eyes.