Alphonse came home the next day. Edward was sleeping on the couch and missed it, drifting until the voices in the kitchen wound their way into his consciousness. He listened unthinkingly for a while, enjoying the feeling of warmth he got from listening to the voices without wondering why.
"—independence, she said. We should let him do more for himself—"
"Why Hawkeye? Why not either of us? I mean, we're here all the time—"
That was Alphonse. He sounded faintly hurt, upset. Edward roused his sleepy self, pushing himself off the sofa. If Alphonse was unhappy he had to do something about it.
Things didn't go as planned.
His body was tangled in the blankets still, so he didn't fall fast but it was something of a surprise to find himself nose to nose with the carpet suddenly. He blinked, lifting his head to survey his surroundings. What was the floor doing there?
"Edward, are you all right—well, how did that happen?"
He was scooped up quickly by strong arms, the accompanying smell of aftershave identifying the man as Mustang. "There you go," he said, settling Edward back on the sofa. "Well, you don't seem to be hurt and at least you're awake now." He patted Edward's head. "There's someone here who's been waiting to see you."
Alphonse sat down on the sofa beside him and Edward turned toward his brother. He was smiling now, and Edward relaxed, that was a good sign.
"I told you I'd be back," Alphonse said, pretty much as he was the last time Edward had saw him, minus the coat of course. "Did you miss me? It felt really odd being in Central without you, Nii-san. We'll have to go there together when you're feeling better." His fingers played with Edward's hair gently, and he hesitated as if there was more he wanted to say but couldn't.
Edward was content just to bask in his brother's company. He watched with interest as a box was set on his lap and then opened.
"I got you a present," Alphonse rambled. "Do you like it? I remembered that you always used to eat a lot of these when we travelled, and so I got one for each of us . . . do you remember, Nii-san?"
Roy patted Alphonse's shoulder and stood. "Let's get something to wash them down with, shall we Al? And maybe some plates?"
Edward studied the contents of the box. Oh, he remebered these—dumplings on a stick. "The best are the ones from Aquaroya," he whispered to himself, stretching out a hand to pull the box closer.
His hand closed around the first stick. This was much easier than that stupid fork.
"—Riza did the grocery shopping too? You shouldn't have let her—"
"She wanted to, she said. I think she likes to play domestic every now and again." There was rustling sounds from the kitchen which Edward took to be Alphonse and Roy fetching whatever they'd gone in there to fetch. He didn't pay them that much attention, focusing instead on the dumpling. This was almost as good as the Aquaroya stuff. "Al, you couldn't grab some glasses for me, could you?"
"Oh, sure. Here—what are you—we can't! Ed's in the next room—"
It didn't take long to finish the stick. Edward let the stick fall, licking sticky fingers. That had been very good. He eyed the other two sticks thoughtfully. For some reason, he had a feeling that he shouldn't eat them—
"He doesn't mind. Al—I missed you too."
Well, the voices seemed busy. No one would mind. Edward reached for the second stick.
He was on the final dumpling of the third stick when they returned, the soft murmur of voices and the sharp clink of glasses informing him of their presence. He didn't think anything of it, at least not until he heard the startled gasp from Alphonse.
"Nii-san!" He said, excited and pleased and so happy that Edward cringed. "You're—"
"Eating. He does that," Roy sounded amused and not bothered at all as he drew a side table over to the sofa, and tugged at Alphonse to stop staring and sit down. He gave Edward a conspiratorial grin, as though they were sharing a joke and Edward was emboldened to smile back, resuming his steady consumption of the last dumpling. "A lot of people do, Alphonse."
Alphonse wavered and for a few minutes Edward wasn't sure whether his brother was going to yell, burst into tears or laugh. Eventually he settled for taking the sofa on Edward's other side, scrubbing hastily at his eyes. "Stupid of me—sorry, Nii-san. I'm glad you liked your present."
Edward carefully placed the hand not holding the dumpling stick on Alphonse's arm. He sat there a moment, watching as Roy poured drinks for all of them, and let the conversation of the other two wash over him. Their voices hadn't seemed this warm in a long time—or maybe they were closer now? Either way, Edward decided, leaning against Roy's side, he was happy.
"—bakery on your way home. Nii-san really liked those puddings they did."
"If you let Edward get fat, he'll kill you when he's better. Isn't that right?" Roy patted his shoulder and Edward smiled in response. This was right at last.
"I wouldn't let that happen," Alphonse protested mutinously, taking the box away. "I take good care of—-Nii-san! You didn't!"
"He ate them all! All! Nii-san, we were supposed to share those!"
Roy laughed. Big real laughs that shook the whole sofa, and almost made Edward tip over. After a moment, Alphonse began laugh as well.
"If we needed further proof that Nii-san was back—"
Edward would have been offended at that, but he'd just realised that the drinks Roy had poured them all were in his reach.