There were two things that Alphonse knew about Edward. One was that his brother loved him very much. The other was that he was a very intelligent idiot.

These two facts could sometimes combine to disastrous effect.

It all started when Al got his body back. Edward's paranoia, that was. Ed had been ecstatic at first; they both had. The first few days, despite the troubles and complications that surrounded the transmutation, were spent in a cloud of bliss.

Then worry set in.

Apparently, the years of stress had jaded Ed into thinking that if things were looking good now, then something terrible must be around the corner. He began to worry about Alphonse, watching out for his health and safety almost obsessively.

Then very obsessively.

Before Al knew it, he was on a specialized diet that Ed had calculated to the molecule for vitamin content, every surface in the house was carpeted, and he wasn't allowed to step outside the house if the temperature dropped more than three degrees, for Ed's fear of him catching influenza.

So when the rainy season came, it was Ed who went tromping through the heavy downpours to get noodles and toilet paper and other irreplaceable supplies; and no matter how waterlogged or exhausted or chilled he was when he came back, he refused to let Al take over some of the chores.

Al thought it served Ed right when Ed caught the worst cold of the season.

At least, that was what he'd thought before Ed's paranoia really kicked in.

"Stay away from me, Al!" Ed shouted, from behind the barricade of the bathroom door. "Your immune system can't handle this bug. I'm not gonna risk you catching it!"

"Bro-ther!" Al complained, pounding on the door. "We're living in the same house. I'm gonna catch it anyway, so stop obsessing!"

"No, you won't," Ed said grimly. Al got an apprehensive chill.

All too justified, as it turned out. By the end of the evening Ed, wearing a face mask and gloves to prevent the accidental spread of any germs, had split the house into germ—and germ-free zones. Al's half included the big bathroom and their bedroom, and the half of the living room with the good reading light. Ed's half included the part of the living room in front of the fire, where he'd made up his quarantine bed on the sofa, and the front door.

Even the kitchen had been split in half down the middle, with "AL DISHES" and "ED DISHES" labelled on each cupboard, and god forbid the twain should meet. Ed made Al cook his own meals, but with didactic coaching from him. Before a single day had passed of complete no-contact, Al was well and truly fed up.

"Don't you think this is all going a bit overboard, Brother?" he asked Ed, from the other side of the "DO NOT CROSS" tape running down the center of the living room.

Ed stared grimly at his book. "No way," he said. "I won't let you die like Mother did."

"I'm not going to die," Al said, alarmed. "You're the one who's pushing yourself half to death with this cold!"

Ed dismissed that with a wave of his hand. "I'm tough," he said. "A little cold won't get the better of me. You're the one with the inexperienced immune system, Al. Even a small bug could be fatal."

Personally, Al thought Ed was overestimating his own toughness—and underestimating the magnificence of his own creation. Al's body was new, but working superbly well, and Al was confident it could take on any disease that was thrown his way. Instead, though, he just said, "How is my immune system to supposed to get experience if you won't let me get sick?"

Typically, Ed ignored him.

The stalemate continued until the next day, when a new thunderstorm rolled into Riesenburg. Halfway through the afternoon, with rain beating on the windows and thunder rumbling overhead, their power flickered and went out, leaving only the light of the fire.

Ed swore, and threw himself to his feet. "Must have blown a fuse," he said, and sneezed. "I'll go out and fix it."

"Brother, you can't!" Al protested. "You're sick!"

"I'm already sick, a little more water won't hurt me," Ed dismissed, and groped around for his coat.

Al growled under his breath. This was just getting ridiculous. He got up from his sofa, strode quickly across the room—crossing the "DO NOT CROSS" line without a care—and grabbed Ed before he could put his coat on.

As Ed whirled, startled, and started on a "What are you—" Al kissed him.


Ed struggled for about two seconds before melting under Al's skill. Good lord, Ed's tonsils were the size of hockey pucks. He really was sick.

When Al released him, Ed slumped glassy-eyed back down onto the sofa. "There," Al said, with satisfaction. "Now we're both in the same boat, Brother. If you're going to be sick, I'll be sick too."

"Whu—" Ed floundered for his composure, then gulped. "Al, no! If you get sick—if—"

"Have a little more faith in yourself, Brother," Al said firmly, and seated himself on the sofa beside Ed. "I do. This body you made won't give up so easily."

Ed's mouth dropped open, but no sound came out. He sniffed.

"Now." He picked up Ed's book and deposited it firmly in his hands. "The fire will keep going until the storm blows over. And we are going to sit here and read until it does. Got it?"

Ed nodded meekly. Al smiled, and snuggled down beside his brother on the sofa. He tangled their legs together, and pulled the blanket up over them both.

The thunder growled, and the storm raged on. But that was outside.