The first night, they'd stayed in Winry's bedroom. Shared blankets on the floor as though sleeping over, and forced the tears to something quietly miserable so that they wouldn't keep the girl awake.

It was during breakfast the following morning that Edward had announced they were going home, and his little brother, occupied by trying to force a mouthful of toast past the ache in his throat, couldn't quite find the heart to protest.

They didn't eat again that day—though when the sun began to creep low in the sky, two children had ventured cautiously into the kitchen, observing the place silently with somber young eyes.

The curtains were drawn, though, and the stove was unlit, and nobody was humming softly while something simmered over the flames.

And it was so, so much easier just to go hungry than to try their hands at something she'd done so well.

Alphonse had never learned first aid—knew nothing about the human body but what he'd studied for a transmutation attempt that had gone horrifically wrong.

But he knew from experience that when Ed was bleeding like that, he ought to apply pressure further up on the arm, squeeze tightly enough that the liquid pumping out so quick and red would stay where it belonged.

And his brother grimaced as he took hold, clenched his teeth and hissed a breath in, long and slow.

"Brother," Alphonse said, voice showing the concern that his face couldn't. "I'm going to move you, okay? You need a hospital."

And Edward made a curious little whine as he bent to lift the smaller form—squirmed and grit his teeth together. "Al," the boy panted, "Not so hard. I think—the bone—"

Alphonse drew the gauntlet back as though burned, and wished that he could cry.

"I can do it," Edward insisted, turning the water on more violently than necessary.

Flesh hands reached to wrap around the smaller boy's waist, attempted to coax him from the sink.

" I know you can, brother," Alphonse acknowledged, "but I don't mind." Carefully, the boy nuzzled in against the back of his brother's neck—mouthed a line of kisses down the ridge of Edward's spine. "We can go back to taking turns after Winry's fixed your automail."

A noise of discontent, and Ed twisted to fix his brother with sharp, golden eyes. "I don't need two arms to wash dishes."

There was a challenge in the glare, deliberate and wounded, and Alphonse hesitated in the face of it, running his thumb slow and searching along Edward's jaw.

When he leaned down to bring their lips together, the boy was surprised by how tightly that single arm held him near.