It had hurt him. Alphonse Elric was a gentle soul, and he detested fighting. Romps and tussles he could deal with... but now... He sighed. He couldn't even remember what had sparked the fight. He and his brother had been rolling around, playing as they always had... when suddenly, he found himself pinning his brother, Edward panting from the exertion and squirming to get free. Just like always.
And then... his brother had started blushing, and squirmed a bit more. Al didn't know what was happening: he thought that his brother was getting embarrassed at being beaten again. Not that it's anything different, the boy thought to himself, I always beat him in the end. So he had kept his brother pinned, smiling and laughing like he always had. Like always, he had taunted, "Say 'please!'"
Then Edward had punched him. It had come out of nowhere, a complete surprise, and Alphonse had been flung back. Tears welled in his eyes, and he whispered, "Why? Brother, what's wrong?"
To which his older brother had only responded, "Leave me alone!"
"No!" Al charged towards his brother, and tackled him to the ground. "Why did you hit me? What's going on? Tell me!"
The younger brother gazed into Edward's eyes, trying to puzzle out what had happened. He couldn't understand why his brother's golden eyes were blazing, nor why he was struggling so violently. His brother wasn't supposed to do that... he was supposed to concede, with a muttered "That's not fair!", and be smiling again in a few moments.
And he certainly wasn't supposed to bring up both feet, and fling Alphonse to the side. "I said leave me alone!"
"Not until you tell me!" Al dashed forward. He was ready for his brother's swing this time, though, and ducked underneath it. Then he lashed out with his own fist, hitting his brother in the stomach. The golden eyes widened in pain, as Edward doubled over. Alphonse winced; he didn't want to hurt his brother, and he hated what was happening... "Brother... are you..."
In that moment of hesitation, Alphonse let his guard down. Edward lashed out with a kick, forcing Al to jump back; before the younger brother could recover, the older brother slammed into him, and they went rolling again. This time, Edward squirmed out of his brother's grip before Al could pin him, and he ran at his brother, his golden eyes narrowed in fury.
Al was fighting defensively now: seeking only to block his brother's attacks and to buy time. But, no matter how loud he cried, or how often he asked, "Brother! What's gotten into you?", his brother didn't answer. Alphonse winced again as he saw the beginnings of bruises on his brother's arms; Edward had to be hurting, each hit and each block had to be sending liquid pain through his nerves... but he wasn't making a sound. He was swinging and kicking with all the fury he could muster, and Al found himself fighting harder and harder just to keep from being hit.
It was inevitable, really. When both of them went all-out, one of them was bound to be hurt eventually. That knowledge didn't salve Alphonse's conscience, though, as he saw the look on Edward's face as the younger brother's fist crunched into the older brother's face. Edward's young body went flying with the impact, and this time, he didn't get up.
Concern overriding his defensiveness, Al knelt beside his brother. "Brother... are you all right?"
Slowly, painfully, Edward got up. Alphonse's heart nearly shattered as he saw his brother's golden eyes filled with tears. His entire body went limp as he heard his brother choke out an, "Al..." Edward's body was covered in bruises, and the side of his face was beginning to bleed from a particularly harsh blow. Deep in his heart, Al knew that it was his fault: if he had been stronger, perhaps, or if he had been able to keep his brother pinned, or if he could have gotten through the rage that had consumed Edward... then his older brother wouldn't be hurting.
"I'm sorry, Brother! I'll... I'll... leave you alone." Alphonse dashed off, scared at what had happened to his brother and not wanting to give his brother any other reason to fight him. He ran and he ran, until he couldn't remember where he had planned on going in the first place. Even still, he kept running, until he couldn't hear his brother's voice and he couldn't will his legs to move any more.
He collapsed by the side of the river, and he fought against the tears that were forming in his own eyes. "Stupid Brother," he muttered, "I just wanted to know what was wrong with him. He didn't have to do that..." Slowly, as the sun began sinking, he found both his anger and his grief diminishing, and even found his regret over hurting his brother overshadowing his own pain. Brother must hate me now. I didn't want to hurt him, he decided. It's my fault that he hates me. I'd hate me too, if I was him. He... he must have had a good reason for doing what he did. I was the one that kept pushing, and then I hurt him. I'm so stupid!
Al heard footsteps behind him, and he leapt to his feet. There was Edward, both hands in his pockets and a frustrated frown creasing his bruised face. In instinct, the younger brother shifted into a fighting stance, all of his weight on his back foot so that he could get away quickly. For a long moment, Al stared at his brother, then turned around and began walking away. "Let's go, Al."
The effect was instantaneous. At the fact that his brother had forgiven him, that everything was all right again... Al ran towards his brother, smiling. "Mm!" He fell into step with Edward, and after a moment, he added, "Brother... I'm really sorry about what happened earlier. I shouldn't have..."
"It's all right." The older brother ran a hand through his blond hair, then turned around. "It... was my fault, too."
The younger brother gasped, as that motion had allowed him to see just how badly he had hurt his brother. The otherwise flawless skin was mottled green and deep purple, and even though Alphonse was being as gentle as he could, that slight touch caused Edward to wince in pain. "Brother... I'm sorry. I'm so sorry."
"Not as sorry as I am." Edward offer a smile. "I shouldn't have tried to beat you. It hasn't worked the past... however many times, has it?"
"That's not what I meant, Brother!" Al pressed his lips against his brother's wrist. "I'm sorry... that I hurt you."
"A-Al!" Edward tried to pull his arm back, but his younger brother's grip was too strong. "What are you doing!?"
"Any time that I get hurt, Mom always kisses it and makes it better. I thought... that I should do that for you, Brother." To emphasize his point, Al moved on to one of the more vivid bruises, pressing soft lips to tender skin.
Then, slowly, his brother's arm started moving up, and Al found his grey eyes following it. Finally, he was staring straight into his brother's eyes: they were softer now, and there was a slight smile on his brother's face that Al loved so dearly. "I'm sorry, Al."
Then Alphonse felt his brother's lips pressed against the bruise on his cheek: the only part of his body that had gotten injured. At this, the concrete sign of his brother's forgiveness, Alphonse sagged slightly, relief pouring through him. His older brother was gentle and careful with his tender skin, too, and he could feel the warmth on his face even after Edward had pulled back. It was... a nice sensation, Alphonse decided. It was worth the one bruise to experience it: though, next time, he would make sure that he was the one that got hurt, not his brother.
"Let's go, Al." Edward smiled. "Mom will get worried if we stay out too late."
"Brother... you never did say what was wrong. Are you going to tell me?"
The older brother burst out laughing. "Maybe when you're older, Al!"
"Brother! That's not fair!" Al began chasing his brother: even though Edward was the faster runner, Al could see that his older brother stopped and paused every so often, making sure that his younger brother didn't get lost.
Then, just before they saw the hill that lead to their home, Alphonse saw that Edward had stopped completely, that same old confident smile on his face. He smiled, as well, and poured all of his energy into a final sprint. At the last moment, he jumped, crashing into his brother and sending them both tumbling to the ground. After a moment, Al saw that he had again pinned his brother; this time, though, Edward wasn't struggling quite as hard, and while he was still blushing, he wasn't lashing out any longer.
All in all, Alphonse thought, as he stared into his brother's golden eyes and saw the depths of love and caring that Edward had for him, It wasn't such a bad day, after all.