When Roy returned that evening, he found the two of them curled together on the sofa, Edward leaning against his brother's side resting while Alphonse read aloud from some book or another. He came over to greet them, smiling as he ruffled their hair. "I must say, you two look extremely cosy."
Edward didn't stir. It had been a good day, but tiring—once Alphonse had stopped carrying on and calmed down, he'd spent almost an hour trying to get Edward to talk to him. Edward had tried, but it was hard and Alphonse seemed to understand when he fell lapsed into silence again.
"We've been busy," Alphonse was smiling, Edward could hear it in his voice even if he didn't look up. His fingers played with Edward's hair and he closed the book.
"Oh? That sounds promising." The sofa shifted and Roy draped an arm around them both. "Did anything happen while I was at work?"
Alphonse's reply was distinctly mischevious. "That would be telling."
Edward smiled, turning to look up at his brother. It had taken him a while to make Alphonse understand that this was to be a secret, until such time as he was ready. His brother had been hurt at first by the realisation that Edward had been able to talk some time, and it was only with great difficultly that he had made Alphonse understand that it was hard work speaking. Falling asleep mid-sentence had helped convince his brother.
However, Alphonse had always been easily persuadable, and Edward suspected that he liked being in on a secret. Certainly, if the way he was returning Edward's grin was anything to go by, he was enjoying this—
"If the two of you are going to be like that, I'm not going to tell you my news."
"Hawkeye's found a doctor who's willing to take a look at Edward."
Alphonse didn't sound very certain. "I thought we agreed it was too risky? If Nii-san's name is brought into this—"
"It's all right. She's offered to pass him off as her nephew that's been in an accident, and has been left in her care suddenly. She's conversant enough with Edward's condition and personality that fooling a doctor ought to be no problem."
"Even so, I don't know. I mean, Nii-san's doing so well lately, without a doctor—let's talk about this in the kitchen, okay?"
Now that was unfair, Edward thought irritably as his pillow disappeared. Keeping secrets was one thing, having conversations where he couldn't follow was quite another. He sat up scowling after the shut door.
There was a tinny ringing sound and the kitten meandered round the side of the door, slowly pressing itself against it. Edward brightened, pulling himself up straighter. The kitten liked him, having quickly discovered that being the least mobile member of the household, Edward was not likely to stand and suddenly dump the kitten to the floor. Edward liked the kitten too, although he was a bit bemused as to where it came from. He didn't remember them having a kitten before, although he was sure he knew who was to blame.
"Here, stupid cat," he called and the kitten came over to be picked up. "So where did Alphonse find you?" he whispered, and the kitten batted it's head against his forehead and purred. Edward smiled, shutting his eyes and breathing in the kittenish smell. He liked cats almost as much as Alphonse did, though he would never admit as much. It didn't help that they reminded him of the first kitten, the one their mother hadn't let them keep—
There was a sudden mechanic click, and Edward looked up puzzled. What was that?
"Winry will be pleased," Alphonse said, lowering some kind of wooden box. "She's always complaining we don't send her enough pictures."
"She won't believe that's Edward, you know," Roy said, amused in the doorway. "Just wait, she'll turn up on the door step with her wrench demanding to know who the imposter is and what you've done with your brother's body."
They were watching him? Edward curled up defensively, letting go of the kitten. Of course, he expected this from Mustang, but Al was supposed to be on his side—
"Don't be like that, Nii-san. Come on, it's time for your exercises." Alphonse tugged Edward's legs over the side of sofa. "You want to make a good impression on the doctor, right Nii-san?"
Edward could care less. He let himself slide down into the cushions, making it clear that he was no willing part of this. Alphonse manipulated his leg, forcing it to bend at the knee and stretch again. The more reluctant Edward was, the more determinedly cheerful his younger brother became. It was unbearable, and Edward sought the comforting distance of his dreams.
He didn't drift back into wakefulness until much later, and even then his mind was still clouded. Edward blinked at the kitten in his lap and tried to decide when it had gone to sleep.
"—hate when he does that."
"Now, Alphonse, you know he can't help it. All the sources we have indicate that recovery could take months, even years—"
The voices weren't happy. Edward tried to push the sleep from his head, and make sense of it, but they spoke so quickly.
"It's been months! And how would you like it if your own brother just blocked you out like that. It's scary, it's like he's not even there anymore—"
"We don't know that he does it on purpose. If it makes you feel any better, Hawkeye can ask the doctor about it tomorrow. Anyway, Al, you're taking this much too personally. At least he recognises you."
Alphonse looked over to the sofa, his expression worried.
He was still angry at Al for treating him as if he was some kind of invalid or something, but Mother had said it was the older brother's job to overlook such things. He smiled at Al, putting a finger to his mouth. They had a secret after all.
Alphonse wavered, then smiled back tenuously. "Maybe you're right," he told Roy. "Nii-san's still Nii-san. He can't have changed that much."
Watching Roy and Alphonse talk in quiet voices was somehow soothing. Edward let himself lean back against the sofa peacefully. The kitten made a soft sound of approval, stretching a little before settling back against Edward's chest. Edward patted it absently. He was trying to place the word 'doctor'.