Pinako stopped in the doorway to the spare bedroom, watching the boys. She thought again about what to do with them afterwards; she and Winry could make room for them, certainly, could be their family, but Ed and Al didn't want to leave their house. The house where they lived, had lived, had grown up in. The house where their mother had been, and the house where she died.
"Edward," Pinako said gently, regretting the disturbance but knowing it was necessary, "those won't all fit. You may as well stop."
Ed shot her a dull glare, golden eyes made red and swollen from crying. Or maybe it was just lack of sleep, because in the week that Ed and Al had been staying at her house, she'd yet to see him sleep, and she'd yet to see him cry. Unlike Alphonse, who was curled up in the corner behind his brother, his nose pressed against his knees as tears leaked steadily from his eyes. He'd cried loudly in grief, and when that was done, he still cried slow silent tears of bewilderment.
Al cried himself to sleep at night, woke up, came down to breakfast, and cried again when the food wasn't the same as their mother would have made. Ed didn't do any of these things, unless Pinako or Winry bullied him into it. Even that didn't always work; half the time they got a snarl or a sullen glare.
Like now. Ed returned stoically to his work, scratching with chalk at the place where his hands had smudged the line, and methodically piling his ingredients into the center of the array. Pinako sighed. She hadn't exactly given him permission to turn the floor of the spare bedroom into a workshop, but she hadn't had the heart to stop him, either.
Not even if the room was becoming unusable, it was so overfilled with flowers.
She picked one up, turning it over in her calloused hands. It was beautiful, a few pale yellow blossoms surrounded by bright green leaves, wrapped in a write cloth. It was beautiful, filling the room with a sweet perfume almost to the point of overpowering you. It was beautiful, but she wished he would stop, because this isn't helping.
"Ed, stop now," she tried ordering him. "You and Alphonse need to get ready. The funeral is in a few hours."
Ed ignored her. In his corner, Alphonse began to sniffle. She could see from his expression that he wanted to ask her, do we have to go? Isn't it all right if we just stay here? but he would never say that out loud; it would feel too disloyal.
There was a flash of light, and a crackling. Pinako looked back over to see Edward, his face underlit by the golden light of the transmutation reaction. It made him look terrible, and Pinako realized that his expression held none of the fierce exultation it always had before, when performing a transmutation.
Ed picked up the flower decoration from the center of the array, and put it with the others. He leaned over the array, carefully examining the outline for smudges, and started again.
"Edward!" Pinako said sharply. "That's enough. Stop now."
"Mom was always happy to see us do alchemy," Edward murmured. His voice was as dull as his eyes. He reached behind him, into the boxes of ingredients he'd collected, and began measuring them out again.
Pinako sighed. "Do you think your mother would be happy to see you wearing yourself out like this?" she tried.
"I don't care what would make her happy." Scrape, scrape. The materials fell down in a soft hiss to pile into the center of the array. "It was only because it reminded her of Dad. It wasn't because she was proud of us at all. She only wanted to think of him."
Over in the corner, Al made a strangled noise, and buried his face against his knees again.
"That's not true, Edward!" Pinako said, alarmed. "Your mother loved you very much, Edward, Alphonse. Of course she was proud of you."
"She loved him," Ed said. Crack, snap. Another flower joined the pile. The ones on the bottom were slowly being crushed under the weight, Pinako saw. "She waited for him. Even up till the end, she was waiting for him to come home."
"I thought he'd come for the funeral," Al whispered. His voice choked with tears.
"Your mother loved your father," Pinako said slowly. "Because he loved her in return. That doesn't make her love for you two any less."
"Because we can do alchemy. Like him." Scrape, scrape, hiss. "She waited for him until the end. If he'd come, maybe she would have gotten better. Maybe his alchemy could have saved her. Ours just wasn't good enough."
Pinako definitely did not like the tone of Ed's voice. It was dead and flat, but there was something behind it, something which she couldn't quite place. By all rights he ought to have been grieving, crying himself out like Alphonse. This bottling up of things couldn't be healthy. "There is no alchemy that can cure sickness," Pinako said firmly. "Alchemy isn't perfect. That would be something that not even an alchemist like your father could do."
"Then what use is it?" Ed stopped, head down, hands placed on the outside of the circle, ready to transmute. "We couldn't save Mom. We couldn't make her happy. We couldn't make her love us enough to stay. What's it good for?"
"Who knows?" Pinako was beginning to lose her temper, annoyed by Edward's cold words, his flat tone, and his insistence on asking saying things that were too painful to hear, questions that were too hard to answer. "Edward. Stop right away. Go and get changed into your suit. Then help your brother. We're leaving in fifteen minutes."
Slowly, Ed picked his hands up from the Array. His bangs were still hanging over his face; he hadn't had a proper haircut since his mother became too weak to do it for him, Pinako observed sadly. But at least he was stopping.
"Good," she said, and paused. "I'll help you carry the flowers to the grave," she said. "We'll bring as many as can fit. The rest will have to be thrown away."
"Whatever," Ed said. Still in that tone. Flat, hard, and lifeless. Alphonse sniffled, uncurling enough to rub an arm across his face, and that at least seemed to command all of Ed's attention. That was the only thing that reassured Pinako; that whatever else was going on in Ed's mind, he still cared enough about his brother to try and comfort him.
Alchemy wasn't perfect, Pinako thought as she went to put on her own black dress. Nothing in this world was perfect. People died, people left, people sometimes made terrible mistakes. She only hoped that love would be enough to do what alchemy could not, and that someday, the brothers could make each other whole.