It was like swimming. That's how he'd always thought of it, even though the thoughts he'd had were very old. It kind of surprised him that he remembered it now, and that confused him. Why was he only remembering it now?
Slowly, so slowly, he swam up. His senses returned to him gradually, light filtering through the water, softly muffled sounds becoming clearer.
He was in no hurry. The water was inviting, caressing his skin, surrounding him in a soothing cocoon of warmth. He knew he had to reach the surface, though. Not to take a breath, but simply because someone was waiting there.
Who was waiting for him? He tried to remember, but his mind wasn't working quite right at the moment.
Instead, he slid his arms gracefully through the water, propelling himself forward, the water seemingly becoming more thin, more like air, until his head broke the surface.
He took a deep, quick breath, the kind you make when you realize you've been forgetting to breathe. His eyes slid open.
The gentle sounds of nighttime surrounded him, the easy darkness giving him comfort. Warm blankets were carefully tucked around him, the physical explanation for the warmth in his dream. He stirred slightly, rubbing an eye with a small hand.
Suddenly, time froze. His muscles tensed, hand suspended over his closed eye. He held his breath as he moved his hand where he could examine it, fingers spread.
It was the same as he remembered. Hot tears stung eyes that he hadn't had when he went to sleep.
And he suddenly remembered who was waiting for him.
Alphonse lowered his hand and saw golden light shining back at him. A spray of golden hair fell over the pillow next to Al's, catching the full moon's light and reflecting it, making a halo around the young man's sleeping face.
That was really the only way Edward could be described now. The years had passed, and Al would have sworn he looked as if he'd lived two years for each one. Al knew the stress of their lives, the guilt, everything going on around them was taking their toll on his brother. So, when the opportunity arose for Edward to remove the largest burden on his conscience, Al immediately agreed. Of course, he had been scared, though not for his own life. He worried for Edward in case something went wrong, and he worried that they might be separated again. Still, he knew how much Edward needed this, the thought confirmed by each passing day as his brother smiled less and less, laughed less and less.
That's why the look of peace his brother's face held now, bathed gently in soft moonlight, made Al want to cry even harder.
"Nii-san," he whispered softly, reaching out to touch his brother. "You did it."
Al frowned slightly when his fingertips brushed cold metal. He raised up on his elbow and saw Edward's automail arm, the light it reflected a dark contrast to the angelic light surrounding his face. Al rested his hand on the upper arm, wondering if this was what his brother had felt every time he had touched him before.
Suddenly, the mechanism beneath the metal skin began to whir and click as the arm moved, a strange, unnatural sensation. Al pulled his attention away from the automail, and his blue-grey eyes locked with gold.
Edward looked up at Alphonse, and neither brother spoke. Neither dared to breathe.
Tears ran down Edward's cheeks as he raised his left hand to wipe away the wetness on Al's. His eyes radiated immense relief and love. He smiled.
A dam that he'd built for twelve years suddenly, completely fell down. Alphonse hugged his brother around the neck, burying his face in his loose hair, and cried. He felt Edward raise his arms and hold him, pressing them together tightly. It hurt a little, but Al knew it was necessary. He needed the affirmation that he really was there as much as Edward did.
Finally, once all the tears were spent, Edward and Alphonse laid quietly, still wrapped in their embrace.
"Nii-san...what about your automail?"
Edward made a defeated sound. "They double-crossed me." He hooked the metal-beaded chain around his neck with an automail finger and held it up for Al to see. The metal ring that once had a large, marbled stone on it slid down the chain, now empty. He sighed and let the chain fall back against his chest. "It doesn't matter anymore."
Alphonse raised up to look into Edward's eyes, his face creased with concern. "But, nii-san, I swore I would—"
A cold, metal finger pressed against Al's lips, effectively silencing him. Edward smiled. "It doesn't matter anymore, Al. I can live with automail...but I couldn't live without you."
Edward had made up his mind. Al could tell simply by the look in his eyes. Once Edward had made his decision, nothing was going to pull him from it. All Alphonse could do is sigh and settle back down in Edward's arms, resting his forehead against his brother's neck.
"Don't worry about it, Al." Edward looked down as Alphonse looked up, and he smiled. "Let's talk about this tomorrow. We both need our sleep."
Alphonse nodded and yawned, nestling himself against his brother's warmth. Edward gently kissed Al on the forehead.
The first goodnight kiss since his mother was alive. Alphonse smiled and closed his eyes.
The warm blanket of slumber fell over the two brothers again, and they laid content in a moment of perfect peace that they both hoped they could spend the rest of their lives in.