Request of a Child

"Brother Ed! BROTHER ED!"

"Whoa!" Ed stumbled back a bit as Alicia flew across the room and latched onto him. "Alicia? Wha- "

"I missed you so much! They said you were never going to come back! Will you come up to my room and play with me? I got a new camera and took pictures of my classmates and my new bird. Wait, you haven't met Rocky yet! She's the smartest bird EVER! I bet you never saw a bird like her before and – "

"Slow down!" Ed held up his hands to slow the flood of words. "I think we have enough time stay for the afternoon. Think so, Al?"

"Sure!" His brother smiled down at Alicia from his place beside the elder Elric.

"Stay for dinner." Gracia suggested, her eyes hiding laughter at the sight of her daughter yanking on Edward's sleeve, dragging him off towards the living room where Rocky's cage resided.

"Thank you!" Al replied then hurried after his brother. The trio spent the afternoon playing dolls, dress up– which involved a rather cute scene with Ed as a groom and Alicia as a bride, and both Elrics dressed as military officers with Alicia pretending to be Fuhrer– reading the girl stories and posing for pictures.

"Okay, now sit right here. Perfect!" Alicia grinned and snapped off another picture. "Now, Brother Al, sit at Ed's feet, your head in his lap. Nice!" Click. "Hm. Something's missing. I know!" The little girl bolted from the room, returning with two large teddy bears. "Now hold these."

"Um, I've got to go use the bathroom." Al stood and quickly made his escape. "Be back in a few minutes!"

"Coward!" Ed hissed, waving one of the stuffed bears in irritation. Alicia laughed and promptly took another picture. The blond silently vowed revenge and made a mental note to destroy the film.

"Brother Ed… "

Edward blinked at the surprisingly soft tone. "Alicia?"

The girl cradled the camera close, looking anxious. "Is... is Daddy coming back too?"

The words hit the former state alchemist like a punch in the gut. "Alicia, your father is dead." The words were cruel but there was no way for Ed to soften them.

"I know! But they said you were dead too!" Tears glinted in her young eyes. "But you came back! And I know Daddy will come back too. He had to go away for work but he always came back!"

"Alicia, it's not the same. I never died." Ed fumbled for words, knowing they would only hurt her but was unwilling to lie to the child. "I was in- I went someplace else. But your father- he really died."

"But… but surely you can bring him back!" Alicia cried, her voice growing hoarse with suppressed tears. "You can do anything, Brother Ed! I heard my mom say so! You've done things no one else has done!"

"It doesn't matter, Alicia. There are some things no one can do." Ed clenched his hands, all too aware of his limitations.

The girl looked angry. "How do you know? Why don't you try first?"

"Alicia, no one can bring someone back to life. Not even me. Everyone who tries dies."

Alicia broke into tears, threw her arms around Ed's neck and buried her head in his chest. Ed held the sobbing girl tightly, wishing there was an easier way to learn this lesson. "I want my Daddy back. I want things to go back to normal, with Mommy not sad anymore. I want to go and visit him at work like the other kids and take pictures and have birthday parties and… " She choked. "I want him back. "

"So do I," Ed whispered softly, wishing with all his heart that he had been able to save Hughes from Envy. He never, ever should have told the officer of the homunculi. "So do I."