His brother was leaving. Alphonse Heiderich could only blink in confusion as he saw the apartment he shared with his older brother being torn upside down, a series of suitcases laying just inside the door. "Brother?" The younger Heiderich walked in, brows furrowed slightly. "Where are you?"
"In our room, Al!" Edward Heiderich's voice sounded harried, more than a little upset, as well. "Where did you put that album we had?"
Alphonse strode into their room, hardly noticing the walls of books and the two desks they had placed in their large, carpeted room. No, his attention was on the dressers, now open and with clothes strewn all over the room, and at the large bed they shared. Namely, at another suitcase that was placed there, and at his older brother. Edward was running a hand through his short golden hair, making his bangs even messier as he pushed them out of his eyes.
As soon as he saw his little brother, Edward breathed a small sigh of relief, and a smile started sneaking across his face. "Al, there you are! Do you know where we put that album, the one with us as kids?"
"We have quite a few, Brother." Alphonse blinked, trying to take all of this in at once. "Where... are you going?"
The older Heiderich suddenly devoted a great deal of attention to his suitcase, pushing and adjusting the numerous white shirts and slacks he had crammed therein. "London."
"London!?" Alphonse strode forward, and stood at his brother's side. "What's in London?" Confusion was etched on his angelic features, and he mimicked his brother's motion, brushing light blond hair to the side. "And... when are you leaving?"
"Soon." Edward closed the suitcase, but as he turned to face his little brother, he plastered a large, overly-confident grin on his face. "My train leaves later today, and in two weeks, I'll be in London. I heard that there's a chemist there, named Hohenheim... something. But he's unveiled a new theory, and I think it might just help us out. And in a couple of months, maybe a year, I'll—"
"Brother..." Alphonse slowly shook his head. "There's no need for all of this. I mean, you're not leaving for awhile, so I can get packed, get another ticket at the station, and we can—"
"No, Al." The older boy crossed his arms and shook his head. "There's no time. And besides, it's dangerous. Haven't you read the newspapers?" At his younger brother's mute denial, he sighed and explained, "There's tension rising between us and Britain. Their Triple Entente and our Triple Alliance... and I'm willing to bet that war's going to break out any day now."
"Then why are you—"
Edward stomped his foot. "I need to, Al! This man, Hohenheim... I think he's one of the few people that can help us out. We're just kids, we need to find people that can teach us what we need to know, and then we can have our dream. To do that... we're going to have to take some risks. I'm going to have to take this risk. I'll go and find Hohenheim, learn everything that he knows... and then I'll come back here."
A shaky cry escaped from Alphonse's lips. "Brother... we've never been apart. Why do we have to be that way now?"
That cry awoke something deep in Edward's heart, and he took a step forward, wrapping his arms around his little brother, holding him possessively close. "We have to, Al. I don't want to see you getting hurt... and if you stay here, in Munich, then I'll always be able to find you, right?"
"But... I don't want you to leave me, Brother." Alphonse leaned into the embrace, his own arms wrapping around to hold his brother tightly. "Couldn't you... well, no, you couldn't..." He shivered. "I know that you don't want me to get hurt, Brother, but... I don't want you to get hurt, either. And if there's a war breaking out, then..." His voice fell to a whisper, hardly able to imagine the concept. "...it could be years before we see each other again."
"It will not, Al!" Edward squeezed a little, trying to be reassuring. "Everything's going to be fine! I'll get the theoretical end of our research, you find someone to teach you the practical side... and in a few months, we'll meet back here and compare notes. Between us, we'll have everything we need to start working on our own rocket. And that means, in a few years..."
"We'll finally have our dream, Brother?" Alphonse gave a small smile; he wanted to believe, so badly, that everything would work out, that he'd get his older brother back, safe and sound, and they'd have their dream fulfilled... "A-all right. But, I want you to promise me." He looked deep into his brother's golden eyes, carefully brushing away the messy bangs. "Promise me that you'll come back. That no matter what, we'll meet back here in Munich."
"We will, Al." He leaned in for a kiss, gently pressing his lips against his younger brother's cheek. "After this, we'll be together for a good, long time. And... hm..." He gave a small, teasing smile, "You know... after being in London for so long, I'll have forgotten everything in this town. You'll have to show me everything, get me reacquainted with it... heck, we could spend days just getting used to this town again, right? And I'll spend it all with you, to make up for being gone so long. Right?"
A small, mute nod; Alphonse was worried, but was being rapidly won over by his brother's promises.
"Right!" Edward nodded vigorously, then checked the clock on the wall. "It's getting late... I'd better get going or I'm going to miss my train." He squeezed before releasing the embrace, pressing a soft kiss onto his little brother's forehead. "And if you're making me promise something... then I'm going to have you make one, too."
"S-sure, Brother. Anything."
The elder Heiderich turned away from his brother, closing and locking his suitcase. "Promise me... that you'll take care of yourself while I'm gone, all right?"
Alphonse nodded mutely, but realized that his older brother couldn't see this. Therefore, he spoke up, his voice constricting slightly with emotion. "I will, Brother. Until you come back, right?"
"Right." Edward picked up his suitcase, and ran his right hand through his short hair. "And no dogs, either! I don't want to come back to a house filled with the furry devils, all right?" He laughed, very obviously amused... but when he saw the melancholy look on his little brother's face, he added, "Don't worry too much, either. When have I ever let you down?"
"Never, Brother..." With a small smile, Alphonse held out his arms. "...all right. I'll... I'll try not to worry too much, and I'll take care of myself. Just... come back. I know that you promised, but..."
"I know, I know. 'I don't know what I'd do without you,' right?" Edward used his warm, strong right arm to pull his little brother close; into a brief, firm hug; before letting go. "Don't worry! I've already promised, you've already promised, everything's going to be fine! And now I'm going, because if I stick around any longer, I'm never going to leave." He briefly ruffled Alphonse's hair, and smiled broadly. "And the sooner I leave, the sooner I get back, right?"
"R-right..." Alphonse blushed slightly at the ruffling, and let his older brother walk past him. After a moment, he called, "Do you, um... Do you need me for anything?"
Edward paused at the door, and shook his head. "Nah... I've got it, Al."
"Um... then... maybe I should walk you to the station?" Alphonse took a step forward, hopeful.
"No, Al!" Edward shivered slightly, then softly explained, "I... I've already said good-bye, and... I wouldn't want to say it all over again." At the hurt look in his brother's eyes, he added, "And besides... why should we go through all of that hassle again?"
Alphonse didn't have an answer; how could he explain the need to see his brother off, to hold on for that one brief moment longer? There were so many things that he wanted to say... so many things that he needed to say, things that were important, that he needed to tell his older brother before it was too late... But no: he couldn't force himself to raise his voice, couldn't even force himself to look on as Edward strode towards the door. A brief "See you in a little bit, Al!" announced his older brother's departure.
He got one last look; all too soon, the door had opened and shut, and his older brother left. However, in the back of his mind, Alphonse Heiderich knew that he'd see Edward again. He'd wait in Munich until then; for as long as it took. He'd fulfill his dream and his promises, one way or the other.