"Oh bother." Al clicked his tongue as he opened the door to the little bakery they'd stopped in. "It's raining properly now."

Ed registered the words, didn't know what to say in reply. A little rain never hurt anyone, the saying went, but he didn't want his brother out in the wet. He started to shuck off his duster.

"The bread's going to—Brother?"

What a confused look! Ed offered his coat wordlessly, and realized that he was going to have to explain himself. Shit, he hated explaining himself—hated explaining anything. Al made him explain everything, though, and had there really been a time when he liked talking? Things were so much easier without words. Angry words were easy—snapping and snarling was easy. Bravado was easy. Nothing was easy with Al, who was so fucking gentle and soft. "Put it on and hide the bread under it," Ed suggested.

Al frowned at him. "You'll get all wet," he protested.

No shit! Ed didn't know why he was exasperated! Al was always like this. He'd always been like this. Ed liked him this way—so why did it make him so furious to have to deal with Al caring one way or another about him!? "It's fine. The rain isn't that bad." He walked out into the moderate pour and found himself thinking about the showers as the chill soaked into him. He hadn't taken a cold shower since his release.

For a moment—just a moment—he remembered the guards in their slickers while he wrestled with the mud to make yet another pointless ditch, laughing when Kingsley pointed out that they might as well get naked now and skip the fucking showers.

My clothes'll take forever to dry, Ed thought, and then he laughed aloud. What was he thinking? One clap and he'd be dry again!

"Brother!" Al was at his side; he'd put on the duster like Ed had suggested, and the paper-wrapped bread was trapped between the coat and his shirt. "Are you ...?" he trailed off, that little tell-tale worry line between his brows. "Never mind ..."

That's what bugged him, Ed thought. It was one thing to wonder what Al was up to while he was a hundred miles away, but it was something else entirely to be responsible for his feelings—for living up to his expectations. Suddenly he was presented with someone who wanted him to be Big Brother—someone who expected the best out of him. He wasn't used to it any more. Everyone was supposed to expect the worst from him.

It was hard.

"I'm fine," he said, but it came out irritable, and he cleared his throat. "I'm fine." That was better. "You don't have to worry." I can take care of myself.

But Al's fingers snaked around his arm and squeezed. "Of course I'm worried," he said in a low voice. "I'll always be worrried, because you're my brother."

That's what I'm afraid of, Ed thought.