Alphonse Elric had forgotten how cold mornings were. He shivered under the blankets and pressed into his brother's side. The bodily warmth helped out a little bit, but Al was definitely awake at this point. And if he was awake...
"Nii-san. Wake up." Al reached out, shaking his older brother's shoulder.
Ed moved slightly, muscles still incredibly uncoordinated. He managed to turn his head to look at Al. His eyes were surprisingly bright with intelligence today, and he started moving his mouth. After a few aborted sounds, he finally croaked out "Al."
"Yes!" It looked as if it was going to be a good day for Ed. He recognized his brother, and actually produced speech this early in the day. "It's time to wake up."
Golden brows furrowed in thought. Ed frowned, trying to think of the proper word, then looked sheepish. "Piss?"
Al let out a cough at the blunt word. "Yes, toilet too."
Ed nodded several times. "Toilet. Toilet."
"Huh?" Al watched Ed's face fall into exasperated lines. "Oh. Oh! Then we better get you out of bed now!" He started struggling out of bed, trying to remember how his new limbs worked. The muscle memory kicked in quickly, and he started aiding his brother out of bed as well.
"No." Ed pushed his younger brother away. "Want... can... try."
"Nii-san, you shouldn't push yourself. I should he..." Al broke off the word as Ed tensed up. "Make sure you don't fall," he said instead. "Neither of us have a lot of motor control right now."
"No help!" The older boy nearly snarled, trying to sit up. "No, no, no, no..."
"Nii-san! No help. I promise."
Ed glared at him, and Al sighed. Maybe today wouldn't be a good day for Edward after all.
It was sad, really. Al started to haul Ed up, thinking about the fateful day the ex-Fullmetal Alchemist had built his brother a new body.
They had learned they couldn't bring back Al's body, per say. To do that, they would have to literally bring back his body, as in the 10 year old one he had lost. Both of the Elric brothers had been against Al having to go through the process of growing up again. Instead, Ed had managed to build a 16 year old body for his brother. And subconsciously, he had made it an inch shorter than his 17 year old frame.
Everything had gone smoothly. The body was built, and was ready to have Al's soul transferred into it. But they should have known what the equivalent trade would be for it. They should have known.
When the body had gained motor control and cognitive abilities, Edward Elric had lost most of his. After two months, he had managed to work with Al when going places, and he could string together four or five words at a time on a good day, but he was still far away from the intelligent and witty boy he used to be.
And Ed was so unpredictable. Some days, it was nice and quiet, but there was almost always something that set him off. And no matter what, the word "help" made him incredibly difficult to work with. He wouldn't allow Al to call Winry or Major General Roy Mustang. If Al even made a move towards the phone, Ed would scream and thrash about, nearly hurting himself before Al put a stop to it.
But hopefully soon Ed would have regained enough cognitive ability that he would realize help was needed. He would realize that Al couldn't do it all on his own.
At least, that's what Al hoped.
"Look, Nii-san, it's snowing."
Ed grunted, reading the book slowly.
"Nii-san it's so pretty."
"Don't care." Ed threw his book down. "Don't know anymore!" His voice was very upset at even being unable to read a child's fairytale. "Al. Used to... under...stand. Why? Why?!"
Al tried to restrain his brother's sudden outburst of rage. "Nii-san, it's okay. You're doing a lot better! You'll understand again someday."
"NOW!" Ed pushed Al away, sulking. "Want now." He reached down to grab the book, nearly falling out of his seat. "No!" he shouted as Al tried to pick the book up for him. "I... can do. Let me."
Al watched as the older Elric managed to get the fairytale book and sit back up. "Nii-san..." he started carefully. "Nii-san, the snow is nice. Do you want to play in it?"
"Oh." Al looked at the snow, remembering a different time and place. And... what appeared to be a different Ed. "I'm going to make something hot. And something special, okay? So wait for it, Nii-san. It'll be extra special!"
Ed glared at him. "Why? Why special?"
The younger brother fell silent. "Nii-san... it's... don't you remember what day it is? It almost always starts to snow on this day."
"No. Don't care." He went back to the book.
Al thought about the cake recipe he had seen... the birthday candles... and his brother's 18 birthday. "Mm. Well, I'll still bring it out."
"Don't want. Don't care."
With quick swipes, Al started cleaning up the excess oil. He studied his brother's knee critically, and slid a hand under his leg. "Okay, Nii-san, let's try it."
Ed remained still.
"Nii-san?" Al looked up from his work, hand unconsciously kneading his thigh.
"Is it worth it?"
The younger Elric blinked, confused. "Is what worth it?"
"This!" Ed waved at the room with his human hand. "Alive! Is it... is it worth... if can't..." He grit his teeth, trying to get sluggish mental processes to work. "Used to be smart."
"You will be again, Nii-san." Al smiled at him. "I mean, even in a few months, you've made a lot of progress."
Ed snorted. "Months. Then take years. Lifetime. Never..." He looked at his metal hand, watching the joints move. "Never read alchemy again. Never understand again. Never... never use... to get hand back."
Al started to move closer to Ed, to hug him. "No, you will, I..."
The flash of metal was all the warning Al had before Ed's automail fist slammed into his face. Al threw one arm down, trying to catch himself from falling completely. He kept his face turned away, his cheek going almost numb with the pain. "Don't understand!" Ed raved. "Me, you, this..." He started struggling to get up.
"Nii-san!" Al watched him with horror. "Please, don't, you're going to hurt yourself!"
"Don't care." It was just simple words and a low tone of voice, but it pierced him deeper than the hit had. "Go away."
He couldn't say anything. Slowly, Al stood, eyes closed. He opened his mouth to speak, and pathetic sounds escaped his lips. None of the sounds made words, and the only way he stopped them was by closing his mouth. Finally, he opened his eyes only to see his brother looking away from him. "Okay..." he whispered, voice rasping over thick vocal cords.
Al had heard Ed trying to get up again, but it didn't register. Ed had never hit him before. Never in anger.
And it started to dawn on him that someone was leaning against him, tugging on his hair.
"Nii..." Al started to turn, and tripped on his brother's thick blanket. With an ungraceful cry, the two boys fell. "Ow... Nii-san!" He looked down, scrambling to pick his brother up.
Al stopped as Ed struggled up into a sitting position. Slowly, automail and flesh arms wrapped around him in a hug. "Hair. Al... sorry." Ed tugged on Al's hair, then snorted. "Too bright. Like mine."
"You wouldn't have known what I would look like now," Al said, barely getting the quivering words out.
"Sorry... didn't... don't want you go away. Here. Want you here."
Al hugged him tightly. "Nii-san. I can't do this alone. I'm still learning things... I can't take care of us alone."
Ed was still playing with his hair with the human hand. "Not Mustang," he said sourly. "Too happy to say something. Just want you alone."
Al felt Ed's lips against his ear. "Winry not know. Mustang... too..." A frustrated breath blew across his ear, causing the younger brother to shiver. "Hawkeye not like... Gracia taking care of Elysia..."
"But they care for us," Al whispered.
"Care more for you," Ed retorted sourly. "Don't care about others."
Al stroked his brother's back, warmth spreading through his veins at the feel of skin against his. "If I were... to ask, would it be okay?"
"Help, you mean?" Ed tugged on a lock of hair harshly. "Don't want others see me like this."
"Oh." Al said nothing else, and just held him close.
After a moment, Ed stirred, looking out the window. "Snowing."
Ed frowned, thinking. "Last time it snowed... oh, Al. Sorry... didn't... realize..."
Al placed his lips against his brother's ear. "Happy belated birthday."