"Watch from the bridge," Niisan had instructed.
Al shielded his eyes from reflected moonlight on the water more from habit than from any real need; if he removed his head, he knew, he'd still be able to see just as well. But old habits tended to die hard, and Al wasn't in any hurry to shed the little human things he knew he did. At the very least, he'd still be in practice when he got back his real body.
In any case, he was standing on the bridge over this wide canal because that's what his brother had told him to do. Niisan, he knew, was out on the water under the bride; he'd come sailing out on the little boat he'd borrowed when Miss Psiren came.
Why wasn't he on the boat with his brother?
Mostly, he thought miserably, because he'd probably sink it. I really don't like this body, he thought sadly; if he'd had a face to pout with, he would have. But he and Niisan were closer every day, he thought, to finding the Philosopher's Stone; he would just have to be patient.
And there was Miss Psiren, sailing towards the bridge; Al sighed and thought sadly that it was too bad Miss Psiren was a thief. She was such a nice person, really. And there was Niisan, pushing the boat forward with one heave; he floated to a near stand still a little ways from Miss Psiren.
Al couldn't hear the conversation; it didn't matter too much, Al thought. Niisan didn't speak so well with words, after all, and there he went—
No, wait; it had been Miss Psiren who made the first move—and suddenly, Niisan was gone, knocked off his boat and into the water.
Al wasted no time in jumping in after him. He didn't even seen the magnificent hand of water his brother sent up from the bottom of the canal to engulf Miss Psiren.
"I can't swim, Al," Ed had said miserably one day. "I just realized I can't swim any more."
"It's okay, Niisan," Al had answered sympathetically; "I can't swim either."
"I know," Ed answered, made even more miserable at the thought; Al had always been the better swimmer, but now ...
"When you get us back our real bodies," Al continued, "We'll both go swim together, right?"
Ed smiled thinly, and nodded. "Yeah, Al," he had said. "That's a great idea."
It wasn't very murky water, Al thought, which was good; he could see his brother standing at the bottom of the canal, his flesh arm and leg floating up a bit, his metal arm and leg both weighing him down, giving him a sort of odd asymmetry. He was still concious, which was a good thing because that meant he could hold his breath a little longer; Al slogged through the water as best he could, hurrying to his brother.
"Don't worry," he said when he got there, his voice unhampered by water because he didn't need air to speak; he had no lungs. "Hold your breath a little longer, Niisan!" But Ed shook his head; he couldn't last much longer. His face was turning almost blue.
Al swept his arms around his brother, carrying him in his arms the way he had That Day, with his knees over one arm and his shoulders cradled in the other; he jogged through the water, kicking up dirt as he went. The shoreline was getting closer.
His brother let out a huge bubble of air, and Al looked down to see his brother clutching his nose and mouth, trying not to breathe, purple with the effort. "Almost there," Al told him. "Almost there, Niisan—"
And then he was breaking through the surface of the water, and he hoisted up his brother so he could breathe at last.
Al wished, briefly, that he could also have suddenly burst out into gasping breaths as he poured water from his hollow joints; he couldn't remember what it felt like to be out of breath. But he was also grateful that because he didn't need to breathe, he could rescue his brother.
He put Niisan down on the edge of the sand, patting his back as he coughed up water and breathed raggedly. "Are you going to be okay?" he asked, a little worried; his brother was very pale.
But Niisan smiled—more like smirked—and coughed again, heaving to his feet. "I'm fine, I'm fine, Al," he snorted. "It would take more than that to kill me, especially with you around." Al's older brother paused. "Thanks, Al," he wheezed, "for saving me."
Al would have smiled; he could have sworn he felt something warm inside him, if he could only remember what warmth felt like. "That's what brothers are for, Niisan," he said.