Winter Night

There is no slow spread of red and purple across the horizon at sunset, of course—but the dark clouds overhead dim just a bit more, settling into the first shades of twilight.

Alphonse doesn't realize that it's begun to snow until he feels the first touch on his cheek, a tiny point of exquisite cold. He shivers as it melts against what's left of his skin's warmth, hunches deeper into the thick padding of his jacket and pulls the fabric tighter with mittened hands.

It is his first winter wearing flesh once more, and Alphonse has been continually amazed—by how much he has forgotten, how much there is that can't be had in the long, lazy days of summer.

All the same, he is profoundly grateful to see that the lights are glowing warm and golden in the window as he reaches for the handle of the door.

He is pulling off his boots when Edward comes up behind him, and the contrast between the snow-slush clinging to thick rubber soles and the smaller boy's warmth is startling.

One last tug, and the second boot falls free—he allows himself to be pulled back against Ed's chest, lets a path of gentle kisses chase the worst of the chill away.

"You're cold," Edward observes, when he decides at last to leave off his explorations.

"It started snowing again," Al answers, and begins shrugging his way out of the heavy coat. An extra set of hands close around the shoulders to help lift it free, and a moment more finds Edward depositing the fabric in a heap on the floor.

His big brother's hand is warm enough, as the boy drags him insistently toward the chair nearest the fire, that the reprimand for making a mess is almost forgotten.

He has harbored since childhood a belief in all that Edward is capable of—supposes that, if he'd paused to think it, this too would likely have joined the ranks of the many things he has believed his brother could achieve excellence at.

But in all their years of travel, he's never once seen Ed cook, and the absence, perhaps, has made it a talent that never so much as crossed Alphonse's mind.

But the spice cake in his hand is good, the first mouthful thick and moist—a spicy sort of sweet, and almost hot enough to burn. It tastes, as much as he's able to recall, like the ones their mother had baked them.

As Alphonse takes the second bite, he wonders whether Edward has kept the ingredients filed away in his mind, the recipe stored like some complex alchemical procedure, until both brothers could enjoy the result.

It is snowing in earnest by the time the fire has begun to burn low, but neither boy wants to move to add more wood.

The pile of blankets and limbs collected before the fireplace is warm enough of its own volition, after all, and both sets of eyes can look, without much trouble, out into the darkness beyond the curtain, where tiny flakes of white drift slowly down to the ground below.

There is something peaceful, Alphonse thinks, about the feel of Edward's fingers stroking gently along the slope that connects neck to shoulder. They are warm, and firm, and soothing; the automail is smooth and chill, reminds him simply by existing how much his brother loves him.

If he turns, just slightly, he can meet Edward's eyes, and he does—is greeted by a kiss, slow and searching, and gentle golden eyes that hold something beautifully, unguardedly tender.