Can’t Follow

It was a game they often played, what would they do once they got their bodies back. Sometimes the topics were ridiculous and wild; take a trip around the world, eat a whole case full of dumplings, kick Mustang in the ass in front of Central HQ, stay in bed all week long (except possibly for potty breaks.)

But sometimes they voiced real plans, real hopes and wishes. Which was why Al, perfectly serious and a little wistful, found himself saying "I'm going to take the State Alchemy exam."

"What?" In the other bed of the room, Ed sat bolt upright, turning to look at him. "Al, be serious."

"I am serious, Brother." He sat up as well, with a clank of metal and the squeak of the mattress. "I couldn't get a State qualification back then. I want to try again when I can."

Ed scowled at him. "Why would you want to?" he said sharply. "We can get what we need out of it with just me being a State Alchemist. You don't need to be too. Hell, we don't need two dogs of the military in one family."

Al would have frowned if he could. "But then what will I do when I get my body back?" he protested. "What if they don't discharge you?"

"I dunno," Ed said, and he did frown. "Go back to Riesenburg, I guess. No reason you'd want to stick around with me after, anyway."

"I don't mind that you're a State Alchemist," Al said quietly. "Other people might look down on you, but I don't."

"Yeah, well, you'll mind when they make me kill for them," Ed said, and with that he lay back down, turning his back to Al. "It's only a matter of time before they do, y'know. And I'll go and do their dirty work for them, because that's what a dog of the military does. Bad enough that it's me, Al, it doesn't have to be you too."

"But, Brother—"

"Good night, Al." It was a final tone. But Ed, being Ed, just had to get in the last word; even as Al lay down again, his voice came out of the darkness. "I don't want you to stick around and watch me become a killer, Al. You won't like the sort of person I become then."

There was a shifting around, rustling in the blankets, and then silence but for Ed's breathing. On Al's side of the room, there was no sound at all.

You don't understand, he thought, staring at the ceiling. I don't want to leave you just because you change. I don't want to sit apart and become horrified when you do things I don't understand. I don't want us ever to become the kind of people who can't talk to each other because neither of us can understand the kind of life the other one's living.

"If you change, Brother," he dared to whisper, when he was sure Ed was asleep, "Then I'll change too. We can't go back to the past, but we can move forward together. Just... don't... don't ever go where I can't follow."