Edward Elric is a proud boy. He refuses to ask for help when he needs it, much to the consternation of people like the Rockbells, or Roy Mustang. He takes up the guilt, the blame, for the failed transmutation attempt; carries the burden alone, and without complaint. He is the sinner, martyred on the crucifix that is his own poisonous arrogance.
Alphonse is a proud person in his own way, too, and one day he will make Ed see that he is not alone; that he does not need to blame himself for a wrong which belongs to them both.
It's late at night and Al is asleep, the lights of his eyes muted and body slumped forward in silent supplication. Edward has touched the cold helmet to no effect; Al is not going to wake up anytime soon. He sits up in bed now, fingers curled in the covers.
Humans are so greedy, the Truth had told him, in his dreams; and for all his airs and graces, he is no exception. Constantly screaming for his brother, his arm and leg; if they matter so much to him, then why did he give them up in the first place?
It had been an accident—bitter helplessness and pain roiled into one, and Al being so goddamn optimistic as he sorted and stacked papers. And maybe he'd meant to thump the table like that, anger boiling to the surface and seeking an outlet; but the hollow noise the teacup makes, when it smashes against his little brother's chest, snaps him out of the mood faster than anything else. And the way in which Al looks at him—if he'd been able to, Ed knows, he'd've been sniffling—breaks his heart.
I'm sorry, he thinks, and knows it isn't enough.
He eats more, when he's depressed, and Al knows it. Like now, before they get on the train to Rush Valley; he's finishing off his third sandwich and tearing open the fourth when a heavy gauntlet tugs it out of his hand, depositing it easily into the rubbish. "HEY!"
Al is watching him, face stern and unimpressed, and Ed knows it's the only expression his little brother can have now, same as how he can no longer eat or drink. Thinking of that, his stomach writhing and seething with guilt, he finds that he doesn't feel quite so hungry anymore.
It's wrong of him to be jealous of Winry, he thinks. She is a friend, and a sister to them both, and who is he to hate the way Al, newly restored, likes talking to her?
Nobody, that's who, and he stuffs his clothes into his suitcase on the second week with realisation sharp and painful in his chest.
But—"Brother?" and he turns around, and Al is in the doorframe looking unsure and nervous. "Are you leaving me?"
He draws Al close and breathes in the scent of his hair, and realises he's powerless against this person alone.
A lazy Sunday, others going to church, and Al is a warm presence against his chest. Ed doesn't feel like getting up, not with his brother close and so soothing; but Al shifts in the blankets, and blinks up at him sleepily, and he's so adorable Ed can't help but lean forward and kiss him.
His brother moves, and the kiss lands on his mouth; surprised, Ed tries to stop—but Al's hands tangle in his hair, drawing him closer, and he tastes sweet and innocent. Ed closes his eyes and gives into the only thing he's ever wanted.
He splays his hand out over Al's chest, and Al laughs a little at the sensation. His brother is a masterpiece in soft bronze and honey, tangled into the sheets, and as happy as Ed has ever seen him. He leans forward and claims his brother's mouth in a kiss; Al still tastes just as good as the first time.
"I love you," Al mumbles against his lips as they part, and Ed smiles.
"I know," he says; nips at Al's lower lip.
"And I never blamed you," Al whispers, and Ed stares, dumbstruck.
With those words, he's finally free.