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cryogenia

Cleaning Up


They tried to split the chores, when they could be arsed to do them at all; neither of them was particularly enthusiastic about housework. It was the sort of thing you threatened your sibling with, not volunteered to do, so they scuffled and bartered and fought over whose turn it was until finally there was no other alternative: like it or not, some things had to get done, so might as well share the burden and suffer together. Like with dishes. Alphonse washed, and Edward dried (owing to the automail; safer not to submerge), and between the two of them the stack eventually diminished.

It wasn't all bad though, Alphonse thought privately, because even when they didn't chat, there was something soothing about working together on something so finite, routine so prescribed. Scrub, rinse, towel, repeat. Alphonse's right hand brushing Edward's left, Edward's right swooping in with the dish rag; perfect choreography. When the soap bubbles got high they would beat them back down again, laughing, and sometimes his brother would reach over and transmute something out of the excess—a bulbous cat, a hot air balloon. He'd respond in kind, cat became dog, balloon grew wings and soared, until they lost the ability to lay hands on their creations. Proper surface tension was tricky.

He would be lucky if they even had a water glass clean tonight, though. His boss had been keeping him after so much lately at work they were lucky to see each other at all in the evening, let alone waste time on cleaning. Dinners were separate boxes of takeout, consumed at separate times; they'd used up first the plates and then all the utensils. And now, tonight, arriving well past eleven, throat aching and dry from the dusty walk home, there would have to be a reckoning. Just one glass. He was awake enough for that.

He wondered if Edward, too, was still awake, or if he had given up and just gone to bed. He was starting to forget what his brother sounded like, outside of sleep-talk; missed the casual way his brother bantered while they were cooking and cleaning and doing all those other boring things. Curiously, he found he missed them. Even missed Edward flicking the dish towel at his head, of all things... Alphonse sighed and padded into the kitchen, intent on nothing more than quick foray, rinse, and drink.

Stopped short in his tracks, and smiled.

The sink was overflowing as it had been when Alphonse had left, but not with dishes. A shimmering sculpture in glycerin, a kitten in explicit detail, so life-like it begged for him to pet. Beside it, on the counter, were the previously fouled utensils—so shiny and polished he wondered if his brother had just transmuted new ones. A single glass stood out prominently, in front of the others—his favorite glass, one with moons and stars etched along the rim, and it was already filled with water, just waiting for him to transmute it cold.

Edward was thinking of him. Somehow, he found that more touching than the dishes being cleaned.

As he padded closer, he noticed something else, scribbled in liquid soap along the rim of the sink. Soap made a note, just as bubbles had made a greeting.

You dry.

"Show off." Alphonse said affectionately, and began wicking the last of the moisture off the good silver.