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pellaz

First Snowfall


"You're late for your class."

Al thought he had been feigning sleep fairly well, but now he opened his eyes a crack and tried instead for half-asleep, half-awake vibes. "Nnnn...." He tightened his lax body in a stretch, curled fingers and toes and rasped his hands over tangled hair. "Wha' time's it?"

"Al," said Ed, unpeeling his fingers from his braid, "don't try to fool me. You've been awake for half an hour."

Giving it up, Al slid away from the warm curl of his brother's body and sat up, stretching for real this time, touching his fingers to his toes and knocking the kinks out of his neck–he'd have them all morning, he'd slept in a funny position. "Really, though, brother," he said, and had to close his mouth for a second against a yawn. "What time is it?"

"It's seven-thirty." Ed rolled back over, stealing the quilt. "Goddamn, you get up too early, Al."

"I have to, unfortunately. Class starts at nine." Of course, Al thought, if Ed was in his position, he'd be up at eight-thirty and rushing to get ready; he'd show up at class with wild hair and an even wilder face, his I've-just-had-five-cups-of-coffee face. "I'm more responsible than you."

Ed snorted, a muffled sound through the quilt and sheets he'd wrapped around himself. "Yeah, yeah," he said, sticking one hand out of the pile to wave at Al. "Go shower, professor."

Peeling off his shirt and boxers, Al paused on the edge of bed, reached out and ran his hand through Ed's bangs, touched his cheeks. "Don't you want to come with me?" he said around a grin, and felt Ed's puff of breath hot on his fingers.

"No."

Al smiled, patted his lips and withdrew to pick up a towel from a pile of laundry. "Will you have breakfast when I'm out?" he said over his shoulder, opening the door to the bathroom.

"Yeah. Go on already, Al."

Their bathroom was tiny and cramped, two small counters lined with washcloths and medicine bottles and broken razors, and even a few damp books here and there, which Ed read when the water was taking more than one minute to heat up. Al turned the spray on, dipped a hand in to test the heat. It was going to be one of those days where it took more than one minute. He shook off his hand and turned to look at the dirty counters, sighing and putting his chin in his hands. "This is disgusting," he said aloud, then poked his head through the door and yelled, "Brother! This is disgusting!"

The lump in the bed just rolled over. Al closed the door again and considered, for a brief second, cleaning the mess. Then, "Oh well," and a shrug, and he made a mental note to never let Winry into their bedroom. She'd made a bad enough fuss over the kitchen.

After the shower–which, unfortunately, had never really gotten hot–Al navigated his way over the floor, carefully toeing clothes out of the way, and wrapped the towel around his waist. He was still rubbing the water out of his hair when he emerged from the dark hallways into the kitchen, where early-morning sunlight was streaming in through the open windows and Ed was standing at the counter, still in a rumpled T-shirt and scruffy pants.

Al sniffed the air as he pulled out a chair, slung his arms across the back and tilted forward, close to Ed. "Is that bacon?"

"Bingo." Ed tilted the pan so he could see the pink strips sizzling. He slanted an eyebrow at Al. "Alphonse," he said in his older-brother tone, with that faintly chastising and superior lilt to it. "It's winter, not summer. You're going to give your ass a cold."

"I think my ass is fine. And anyway, brother, the house is warm and I never catch colds. Not like you," said Al meaningfully.

Ed snorted and set down the pan pointedly. "Oh, shut up. You and your impeccable immune system."

"All thanks to you." Al sniffed the bacon again. "I think it's done."

"Should be about. Hey, Al, could you get the orange juice? It's packed in the ice over there," said Ed, pointing with his foot.

He rummaged through the ice with quick, darting fingers and came up with the carton of orange juice, a gift from the family down the road. "My fingers are blue," he said, wincing and breathing on them.

"Al," said Ed, in that tone again. "Get the cups."

When breakfast was spread out on the table–the bacon, some fruit and the orange juice–they sat down, pulling their chairs close together. "Eight-fifteen," said Ed, glancing at his stopwatch. "We'd better make this quick, eh."

"Well..." Al paused with a piece of bacon halfway to his mouth, and twirled it consideringly. "You know, it's looking like it might snow. I was thinking about posting my classes."

Ed looked at him with wide eyes and a full mouth. "Oh?" Then, with a glint, he grinned toothily. "Why," he said, leaning to look out one of the windows, "I think it is looking a bit frosty. Maybe you should stay home...."

"I think I should, too." Ed laughed and ruffled his hair as he reached for the phone.


It didn't snow that day, but when they woke up the next morning, Ed was the first to notice the thick layer of snow settled around their house. More came down in the morning and kept coming in the afternoon, and Ed stood with his face pressed against a window, watching it. "Cool," he said.

"Cold, I think," Al said absently, flipping a page. The application of this method to the teaching of young individuals, who may or may not have the same desire to look at alchemy through the scope of a worldwide perspective....

"Heh! Very." Al looked up, warned by the tone, to see Ed clapping his hands together with a metallic clang. His brother's face was very white, lit from the snow-covered expanses outside, and Al could see the glint of his eyes from where he sat. "Al," said Ed, turning to him. "I'm going outside, wanna come?"

"What–?" Al put down his book and half-raised himself from his chair, but Ed was already gone into the bedroom. "W-wait! Brother! It's too cold, it's still snowing, we don't know how deep it's going to get–" He paused at the door to the bedroom. "Brother? Where are you?"

A hand lifted, waved a scarf around. "Here! Look, we still have all our old winter things. Mittens, scarves, boots–oh, hell, even this coat. God, this was a bad coat."

Al thought he remembered the coat, one of a set that had been patched together for them by the villagers. They had been multicolored affairs, made with different pieces of other coats, and huge–when Ed wore his, it had made him look like a human balloon. He had been scared Ed would float away, Al remembered with a sudden grin, and had grabbed his hand each time he wore it.

"Mine's long gone, I think," he said, stepping into the room in time to catch a flying mitten. He turned the battered item over in his hands.

"Yeah." Ed popped up, arms full with winter apparel. His cheeks were flushed. "Come on, Al," he said, throwing some more things at Al–the mitten's mate, two scarves, and a slim wraparound coat. "You gonna come with me?"

"Well," said Al, glancing outside at the heavy snowfall, "someone's got to keep you out of trouble, right?"

Ed's teeth gleamed. "That's my little brother."

Al pulled on the things, gently tugging at the mittens so they wouldn't fall apart, and glanced over to see Ed almost finished and wrapping a scarf around his neck. "Brother," Al sighed, smiling. "You're doing it wrong. Here, let me."

He stood in front of Ed and took the two ends of the scarf. He had to look down into his brother's face now, had done this ever since Ed had restored his body; he had a good six inches on Ed, who had stopped growing at thirteen. Ed was the one with the mature face, though, a hard jaw and sharp cheekbones and wise eyes; Al still had a bit of a baby face.

"What're you thinking?" Ed said, and Al blinked out of his reverie. He had tied the scarf without even knowing it.

"Ah–nothing," he said, tightening it and tucking it so that none of Ed's neck was exposed. He reached behind Ed and tugged his braid out of the scarf's confines, dropping it against his back. "There. Perfect."

"Perfect," Ed echoed, a tiny smile lifting his lips. "You take good care of me."

"You take care of me, too." Al returned his smile, and let Ed touch his fingers to his collarbone, wriggle under his scarf and smooth down his arm, touching the homunculus tattoo. Ed splayed his fingers across it and tilted his head, quirking a lopsided smile at Al.

"You always have, actually." Al lowered his head and breathed it over Ed's lips; he tilted his head and Ed lifted his, and their lips touched lightly as someone steps across the first snowfall. He slung an arm over Ed's shoulder, rested his hand on his shoulder blade and wrapped his other hand around Ed's waist. Ed raised himself on tiptoe, forcing his tongue into Al's mouth; put both hands on Al's shoulders, fingers sneaking in under his coat to walk across his skin.

"Shit...." Al wasn't sure who had said that until he registered that Ed was leaning away from him, his cheeks red and his eyes gleaming. "The snow's stopped."

Al blinked and turned enough to see outside the window. "Oh... um. I'm sorry, brother?"

"Eh, oh well." Ed grinned and kissed him again, just a quick brush of lips and dart of tongues, then pulled away again. "We can still have some fun. Come on, Al, follow big brother." He turned and headed out the door, braid flying with purpose through the air.

"Um... okay–Wait, brother!" Al said, hearing the slam of the kitchen door. He stepped into boots and thumped after Ed, nearly tripping over a pile of clothes in the hall, and hurried through the kitchen and outside. "Brother– Shit!" He lifted a leg, dismayed, seeing the wet of the snow reaching almost to his knee.

"This is really thick," said Ed, but he didn't sound as concerned as the situation might warrant. His flushed face made his grin look maniacal, or at the very least not quite healthy.

"I didn't think it'd snowed this much." Al lifted up his other leg, looked at it in amazement.

"Well, sometimes things surprise us." Ed turned and pointed. "Look, Alphonse."
Their backyard of forest stretched wide and white, the towering tops of the trees covered in white so they looked like dandelions. Sometimes the wind breezed through and brushed off their tops of snow; it sounded a little like they were shaking their heads, and the thumps as the snow covers hit the ground sounded like a giant walking. The sky was a clear gray, the sun was nowhere to be seen, and it was crisp and cold enough to make their breath come out in white puffs against the gray sky. Al stepped up beside Ed and said, softly, "It's beautiful."

Ed cracked his knuckles, nodded. "It's not bad." He knelt and scooped up a handful of snow, curling his mittened fingers in it until they disappeared. "It must be the first snow this deep in these parts."

"For at least a decade or so." Al huffed experimentally, and his breath disappeared into the snow. "It used to snow all the time on your birthday, right, brother?" He heard Ed snort. "You hated it, until Mother took us out to play in it. And we ice-skated on the river...."

"And you almost fell in," said Ed, standing with his hands behind his back. "The ice cracked."

"You caught me and dragged me onto the bank, just before some of the ice I was on fell away." Al smiled. "I remember."

"Mom would wrap us up in blankets and sit us in front of the fire."

"She gave us hot chocolate and read us stories."

Ed smiled, flashing his teeth like little icicles. "You would almost burn your feet, every time, because you put them too close the fire."

"And you," said Al, recalling a child's reproachfulness, "always hogged the blankets."

"You always beat me at snowfights." Ed grinned, raised his hand and drew it behind him. "Let's see who wins now, Alphonse! En guarde!"

"Wha– Wait!" Al protested and raised his arms instinctively. Ed's snowball broke against him, spattering his dark coat with snow.

"Damn, almost got you," said Ed, crestfallen. Then he grinned and scooped up some more. "Well, come on, Al! You can't sit there defending all day!"

"Ooh, brother–" Another snowball hit him, smashing against his back this time. Al set his teeth and gritted, "This is war, brother."

Ed just grinned and tossed the snowball in his hand. Al curled his lips, himself, and held still until he saw Ed's arm tense to throw, then ducked down and whirled his leg over the snow, sending a spray into Ed's face. While Ed was sputtering, wiping away the snow that clung to his lips and bangs, Al tossed another snowball. He wasn't as mean as his brother–it hit Ed in the chest. He followed with two more to Ed's arms and grinned when he heard Ed's defeated yelp.

"Oh, fuck you, Al," said Ed from the ground. He crossed his arms behind his neck and lifted one leg to settle on the other knee. Al heard him give a great sigh.

"I'm sorry," Al said, trying to cover his laughter with his mittens. But he couldn't help his smile spilling out from their protective cover. "Did you fall on your bottom? Does it hurt?"

"Yes, Al, I fell on my ass and yeah, it hurts."

"I really am sorry." Al sat down himself, resting his arms on his knees, and grinned. He stretched out his leg and nudged Ed's shoulder. "This is just like when we were kids."

"What, you always beating me?" Ed grumped.

"Well, yes," and Al winced when Ed slapped his leg. "No, I'm just kidding. It's just... you know. You and me in the snow. If I don't think too hard, it seems like Mom could be just inside, waiting with hot chocolate and a blanket."

"Hmm." Ed's legs shifted, then he rolled over so he was facing Al. He propped up his chin with one hand and moved the other out across the snow so that when he lifted it up, a spread of his arm was left. "I guess... I try not to think like that. I haven't, in a while."

"I know," said Al quickly. "It was so many years ago, that's usually how I am, too, but–"

"I wasn't saying that, Al," said Ed in a gentle tone. "It's all right to miss Mom. It's okay if you're fifty and still missing her."

Al let go of his legs to free his hands, and reached out to touch Ed's face. This face... he loved this face for many different reasons–because they were brothers and they only had each other, for one–but he thought, sometimes, he loved it because it always stayed the same. Ed was always Ed, a beacon of strength with his same smiling mouth and sharp gold eyes. Ed was always the one quick to comfort him, quick to say that whatever he was feeling, it was all right. He put both hands on Ed's cheeks and touched their foreheads together, smiled against Ed's lips. "I don't miss her so much," he murmured, "because whenever I get sad, I turn around and you're there."

Ed's hands wrapped around his wrists, and his brother smiled too, that expression that softened his whole face and lit up his eyes. Sometimes Al thought he remembered being very young–too small to remember, rightly–and seeing that smile when no one else was smiling. He would be crying and see that smile, and stop. That smile made him happy. "I would hope you're not sad," his brother said lightly; "that would mean I'm not doing a very good job."

"You are. Even if you were doing a terrible job, I'd still be happy."

The smile turned to a grin, and Ed slid his hands up Al's arms to his shoulders, pressed his weight down and settled on top of Al. They were deep in the snow now and Al couldn't see anything but Ed and white all around. Pressing against his back was cold snow, but Ed was warm on top of him, grinning, his eyes standing out brilliantly. "I think," said Ed, "I have been doing a bad job, but you always end up all right, anyway. You're always a little ahead of me."

"Ahead of you–? Brother," said Al, smiling. "I think the same thing about you."

Ed's eyebrows lifted. "Who stays at home and who's the bigshot professor?"

"Who was one of the first alchemists to successfully create a homunculus?" Al returned.

His brother rolled his eyes. "I only care about that because it helped you."

"Besides, I understand why you stay at home. I don't like leaving this town, either. Out there is...." Al waved his hand. "War and politics and people who hate us."

"Me," corrected Ed. "They hate me."

"If they hate you, they hate me." Al disentangled his arms from Ed's fingers and lifted them, settling them around the back of Ed's neck. "I don't care," he spoke into Ed's hair; "whatever you do is fine by me. I'm just glad we're still together."

"Mmm." Ed nuzzled into Al's neck, breezing his mouth over his skin. "You're cold, Al."

"Well, I am lying in snow."

Lifting his head, Ed favored him with a toothy smile. "That just means I have to work harder to keep you warm."

"Brother! We're in the snow, I think we'd get a little, uh....."

"Don't knock it 'til you've tried it." Ed's sharp teeth tugged at the fingers of his mittens, pulled them off; they were deposited somewhere in the snow bank. His fingers dipped under the hem of Al's shirt and touched his skin, and Al shivered at the cold bite on his belly. Then Ed's hand was moving further down, skating across his thighs and deftly undoing the buttons of Al's pants.

"Wait–" Breathless, Al reached down and caught his hand. "It really is too cold," he said, smiling at Ed's scowl. "Come on, don't look at me that way. Warm it up first, all right?" He lifted it to his cheek, then his lips, and kissed each finger. Then he pressed it under his shirt to his heart.

"You're a sap, Al," Ed said brusquely. "Warm enough now?"

"I am not. And yes, it's warm now."

"Well, pretty soon it'll be even warmer." Ed grinned, looking perfectly normal, like his hand wasn't currently snaking under Al's pants and–

"Hell," Al gasped, head falling back against the snow. He heard his brother chuckle, and pressed his mouth shut; but he really couldn't control his body, the way his thighs were shaking and sweat was gathering even in this cold. He lifted his hips, gritted his teeth, breathed out his brother's name: "Ed...."

"Yeah," Ed purred against his throat, kissing his jaw. "No more of this 'brother' business."

Ed kissed him and Al opened his mouth, guiding in his tongue, dancing around it and letting his brother come in deeper and deeper. He lifted an arm around Ed's shoulders and pressed him down further, lifted his hips again and moaned into his brother's mouth; maybe a name, maybe a title, he could never tell at this point. It didn't really matter. This was Edward Elric and the Fullmetal Alchemist and his brother, and he never really made a point of distinguishing them.

Ed's metal arm was resting by his head, and cool, hard fingers flitted over his brow, pushing up his short bangs. Al wanted to move into it, but his body wanted to move down more; and he did, and Ed's fingers pressed tighter and moved faster, and he gave a long and heartfelt moan.

"Come on, Al," Ed said, kissing his lips and cheeks and chin. "You always go too slow." He ran his tongue along the line between lower and bottom lip, gnawed the bottom, just a little bit of teeth. Al groaned, bumping his teeth against Ed's.

"Alphonse," said Ed, and that was it, it always was. Al stiffened, then relaxed against his brother's hand and dropped his arm, wiping away the sweat on his forehead. He breathed in deeply, still tingling a little with pleasure, and opened his eyes to see Ed smiling at him.

"That expression makes me happy," said Ed.

Al blinked, and raised himself up on his elbows to be level with Ed. "What expression?"

"That," said Ed, eyes narrowing as he reached out and tapped Al's cheeks. "Your lips don't have to be happy, but your eyes are. That's when I know you're happy."

"Aren't my eyes always happy?"

"No one's eyes are always happy," said Ed, dismissive. "Well? Shall we go inside to recover from our little bit of fun?"

"It's true," said Al, standing and trying in vain to brush all the snow off his coat, and re-zipping his pants, "no one can be happy all the time. But your eyes are happy a lot more often now, brother."

Ed paused with one mitten half on his hand, teeth clamped over his hat and all covered in snow. "Oh?" he muttered, setting the hat on his head. "Let's go inside, Al."


Al started the fire while Ed bustled around in the kitchen. It sputtered at first, but then roared into full flames. Al sat close to it, holding out his cold hands and keeping his wet feet close to the fire. He rested his chin on his knees and stared into the flames.

"Here you go." Something heavy dropped on his head. Al pulled it off, grinning when he saw the old patch quilt from their bed. Ed sat next to him and handed him a cup of hot chocolate, trying unsuccessfully to press back his smile.

"You even put marshmallows in it," said Al, peering into the thick brown liquid. He grinned at his brother, then set down his cup and handed Ed a corner of the blanket. They spread it out between them, nestling into it and each other, bumping shoulders and heads as they drank their hot chocolate.

"Mom made it better." Ed wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, tossing his head a little to get his sweaty bangs out of his eyes. "But this isn't too bad."

"I think it tastes just like Mom's," said Al, brushing away his bangs for him.

"Ehhhh," Ed said, unconvinced. "Not thick enough. Besides, this is just water and a mix. Hers was real."

"You're right." Al drained the last bit and set it aside, carefully away from the fire. "But yours tastes like you put your heart into it, brother."

"Al. That was really sappy."

"So?" Al leaned against him, pressing their bodies together. "I love you, brother." He settled a hand on Ed's waist, ran the other down his shoulder to his automail arm, fingering the bumps and raises of scar tissue. Ed's breath caught when he touched the automail joints, lightly, careful never to pull or touch too hard. Like always, though, Ed bent his head forward, moved into the touch, and Al teased his fingers among the wires and over his neck and ribs.

"I love you," he repeated it, murmuring against the back of Ed's neck, and kissed the bumps of his spine.

They eased into the blankets, Ed propping up his knees to crush Al in between them, and Al with his hands on either side of Ed's neck and lowering in to kiss him, teasing at his lips. They pressed against each other, rubbed, sliding against one another's bodies. They kissed, then broke apart and came back into each other's mouths. "Brother," Al murmured against Ed's lips, "I want to... can I...."

Ed's eyes were slitted so their gold and black were hard to see, but Al could see the glint of pleasure making them glow. His brother smiled a little, showing teeth, and held up a small bottle. "Go ahead," he said, eyes shuttering as he slid his body, languorously, against Al's. "And hurry."

He did, coating himself and Ed, stretching, watching Ed's expression as he moved his fingers. He was content with whatever his brother did–he liked watching him garden, read, write, cook–but it was times like these when Al felt he was really seeing his brother, every last piece of him. The lazy, shining eyes, the lax mouth, the twining body: this was his brother at his most intimate, and it made Al shiver to think that Ed would let him see all of it.

"Hey." Al blinked as fingers threaded through his hair; Ed's eyes were open again, more worried than sexual now. "You all right, Al?"

And even more than being allowed, than being given this gift–it was making Ed happy. Holding his brother in his arms, touching his hair and his face, all of it was a gift he was being given and giving back to Ed. Not a thank-you and not recompense: just acceptance. "Of course," he said, and rubbed his face against Ed's, brushing their noses and mouths together. "Of course I'm all right. I always go too slow, remember?"

"Not too slow, really." Ed's lips curved beneath his. "You always did things better than I did."

Al pressed their mouths together, opening Ed's lips and dipping his tongue in, touching Ed's and following it when it fell away. And he eased into Ed, clenching his jaw and his arms, breaking away from Ed's mouth for a moment to gather himself as Ed arched slowly against him.

"Good...." Ed breathed. "Al. Alphonse...."

"Nnn–" Al gasped as Ed moved against him, opened his eyes to see Ed's gleaming at him, the gold shimmering and waving in the light of the fire. He almost lost his balance, but he locked his arms and ducked his head down, breathing harshly for a second.

"Alphonse," Ed said again, arms wrapping tightly around his neck. "I'm so glad... so glad you're here...."

So am I, Al thought dazedly; glad you're here with me, when I almost lost you. He plunged back into Ed's mouth and began moving, slow at first than faster, wrapping his fingers in Ed's hair and losing himself in Ed's eyes, his lips, his face, breaking away occasionally to run his mouth over Ed's automail and his scars. Ed was breathing fast beneath him, then moaning, and when Al moved back up to his lips he could see Ed's eyes slitted in pleasure. I'm doing this, he thought. It's me who can make you like this.

"Alphonse, I love you."

Al ground his teeth against each other, his whole body tightening. He kept his eyes open, staring at Ed's face, all gold and bronze, the face he remembered from every year of his consciousness. Always there, always protecting.

He dozed, and then was brought back into half-consciousness by fingers threading through his hair, smoothing out the tangles. Al opened his eyes a slit, but Ed's fingers descended on them and shut them gently. "Go back to sleep," his brother said.

"Mm," Al murmured, sleepy and warm. "Don'wanna."

"I said so," said Ed firmly.

"You have to tell me a story, brother."

Arms around him went tight, and Al realized, through hazy fog, that Ed was holding him, cradling his shoulders. "What do you want to hear, Al?"

"Mmm... anything. I just want to hear your voice."

"Heh," Ed burst out, almost annoyed but not quite. "All right. Once upon a time–I guess that's how they're supposed to start–there was a baby. Okay? A baby. And, uh, the baby had a mother and an older brother."

"What about a father?"

"Nope. No father, because the father was an asshole and he'd already left. Good-bye, father. It was just the mother and the brother and the little baby. And the mother was a very kind woman, and the baby was a kind baby, too, because he never cried and he let everyone hold him even when all he wanted was to sleep."

"He never cried?" Al blinked under Ed's fingers, fought back a yawn.

"No, never. Everyone thought it was remarkable. Well, the good baby's brother was jealous because the baby got all the attention now, and he used to get all of it and he loved attention."

Al smiled. "He still loves attention."

"And the brother sometimes thought that the mother was paying less attention to him, and that maybe she didn't love him as much anymore. Which was stupid, because babies need a lot of attention and the kind mother hardly had anyone to help her, and she had to spend all her time with the baby. So the brother was very, very jealous. So one day, he did a very bad thing."

Ed's fingers moved away; Al opened his eyes a bit, and saw that Ed was staring off into the glowing remains of the fire, eyes dull and pensive. "What did he do?" he asked softly.

"He took the baby's favorite toy and broke it. It was a mean thing to do, and older brothers shouldn't be that way, but he did it anyway. Their mother was out to market and she'd told the brother to watch the baby, and he did that. It made him happy because now he'd gotten back, even a little, at the baby who'd taken away all of the attention."

"Then what happened?"

"Then? Then the baby, who'd never cried before, started to cry." Ed's lips twitched. "The brother was very surprised, because he'd never heard a baby cry before. It was an awful sound. It was loud and grating but–worst of all, it was kind of sad. It wasn't like the baby was screaming because he was mad, he was screaming because his brother had done something mean and he was sad. It made the brother sad, too, because he realized that the baby couldn't help anything and it was stupid to punish him when he was still just a little baby.

"The kind mother came back from the market and found out what happened, and she scolded the brother and sent him into another room. That made the kind baby cry even more, and she tried very hard but she couldn't get him to stop crying. So she called for her friends and their mother, and they tried. They even gave the baby treats, but he just spat them out and kept crying."

"And then?" Al said, because Ed had stopped. The fire had finally stopped, too, and the room was dark because they hadn't bothered to turn on the lights.

"Well, everyone finally went to bed because it was night. But the baby kept crying, and crying, and crying. It was so sad. The brother tried to sleep, but he couldn't. So he grabbed his blanket, the special one his father had given him before he left, and tiptoed out of his room to the baby's room. And he climbed into the crying baby's crib, picked him up and wrapped him in the blanket."

"And?" Al shut his eyes again, smiling. "He stopped crying, didn't he?"

"Yeah," Ed murmured, putting his cheek next to Al's. "He did. And the brother held him all night."