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"Brother?"

No response, just as he'd figured. Of all the things he could trust in the world, it was his brother's talent for selective hearing.

"Brother!"

"Mmmph-what?" Edward said finally, surfacing from his third kettle-sized serving of chowder. That was the other thing he could count on from his sibling—Edward's ability to eat like a horse, at any time of the day or night, bordered on the legendary. Even perched uncomfortably on a cot in the middle of base infirmary, covered in so many bandages his body was barely visible.

"The doctor wants to see you." Alphonse pointed out, not unreasonably. "They need to check on your cast."

"And?" Edward didn't even bother to spoon this time, just knocked the dish back and took a swig. "Tell her she can wait. I'm almost done."

"But..." Alphonse tried another tactic. "Brother, I know you were hungry. But THIS is ridiculous!"

He swept an arm toward the pile of dishes his brother had started demanding almost as soon as they had breached into daylight. Edward had been eating nonstop, it seemed, from the very moment they had made it back to civilization.

Edward paused and his golden eyes flickered uncertainly.

"Can it wait FIVE more minute?" He looked strangely...frightened.

Alphonse put two and two together, and got Exasperating. If he'd had eyes, he would have rolled them.

"They're not going to give you a shot, if that's what you're worried about! Is that the problem? You're worried they're going to give you a shot, aren't you?!"

Edward stiffened, dropped the bowl heavily to his lap. Alphonse sighed. Sometimes, he wondered which of them was really the elder, after all.

"Honestly..." Said Al. "I would hope that after all we've been through, you could be man enough to take one measly prick."

He bent down and looked at his sibling, tried to burn the sentiment by sheer force of will.

"I just want you to get better, brother. That's all."

"Al?" His brother's voice was low and tortured.

"Yeah?"

"...where the hell do you think you get off, lecturing your older brother?!"

Edward swelled like an angry cat beneath his mummy wrappings, eyes promised violence. Even his braid seemed to puff up.

"I'm doing this for YOU!" Edward spat. "Dammit Al, that theory about us being linked..."

Alphonse remained skeptical.

"ONLY for me?"

"Yeah!" Edward sputtered.

"Right. Try the other leg, it has bells on." He snorted. "Brother, I know you. They gave you a food pass, and you're milking it for all it's worth."

Edward's face fell, momentarily—then miraculously recovered its usual grin. A strange gleam entered his eyes.

Alphonse instinctively took a few steps backward.

"Oh yeah? I can prove it!"

"How?"

"...get me some milk."


He wasn't particularly happy to see that his brother actually took him up on the offer—even less happy to see the way he offered it, like it was some kind of test—well, hell, not like it wasn't. Al was right. Under normal circumstances, he would just be taking advantage of the room service.

"Brother..."

"Yeah, yeah." Said Edward, accepted the milk.

There were many things he had seen in the past couple weeks that he never wanted to see again—so many new horrors burned into the back of his eyelids that he thought he might never sleep again—but first and foremost was the image of his very own brother...his brother's body, sitting all by himself in what had to be the loneliest place in the universe. The pitiful way his brother's ribs jutted out. The hungry look on his brother's face, desperate for nourishment, water, or just human contact. His brother's body was trapped in that Gate, and his brother's body was starving.

Still, he had been overjoyed to see that his brother had gained a couple inches, and despite the sharpness of his clavicle his shoulders were wider, older. More mature. Starving, but still growing...and it was up to Edward to make sure he got the nourishment he needed.

And Edward had promised.

So he looked down and looked his adversary straight in the glass, made a long and dour face at it, but steeled himself anyways. There were some sacrifices he had hoped he would never have to make, but if came to this...so be it.

"This one's for you, Al." Edward swore, raised the glass to his lips, and braced for the impact.