A/N: I finally finished!! My god, this chapter certainly put up a fight! I guess my story just really didn't want to end. Took me long enough, I know, but hey. It's here and it's done! Finito! I don't know if I'm happy or sad or angry (since this chapter hated me xD ). But, good news is that I have two more chapter fic on the way! That may be why Hand in Hand became so difficult... with all these new plot bunnies, it's hard to concentrate on a story that's practically done. But now it is done.
I want to thank all of my readers for being so patient! I love you all and I'm so sorry that this couldn't be updated sooner. I hope you enjoy the final chapter and please keep an eye out for my new fic-babies that I hope to release as soon as they're beta-ed. Much love and cookies to all of you again!
The word hadn't stirred up such feelings of longing and appreciation for me in so long. For the past two months or so since Ed had vanished, it hadn't felt like much of a home. In fact, I dreaded the gloomy cloud that seemed to float over our house. Now, I was sure that it would be much better with Ed back and our feelings understood.
Though, I must say… the risk of getting caught holding hands in the hospital hallways, sneaking kisses in the rooms, and acting more than brotherly than normal was thrilling. We were both amused by kissing behind the nurse's back; except the one time where we were almost caught by her and Winry. I'd been flustered, but Ed had been downright paranoid. I did my best to reassure him at the time, but ended up promising that I wouldn't make any move until we were safe at home.
Another reason why I longed to go back home… I already missed feeling his lips against mine. Out of all the newly acquired sensations I'd been going through for the past eight months or so, my brother's kisses had to be the most pleasant… though his touches clearly rivaled this.
"Well… if it were up to me, you'd be staying another week…" I smiled weakly at Winry as she fussed with the wrist band that the hospital stuck on me, it would not come off, "But you and that brother of yours are just impossible. Ah, here we go. It's off."
I rotated my wrist a bit and rubbed at it, "Thank you, Winry."
"Yeah, yeah…" she nodded; sitting down in the chair that Ed normally sat in and watched me redo my ponytail. "But really, Al… you're okay?" I blinked up at her, surely she knew… considering that Ed had been briefed on everything concerning me and reported back to the both of us. "I mean, I know that Ed's fine. I'm his mechanic and I know how the automail should be functioning and what he should be eating. But with you… that's your real arm, Al. You can't replace it."
I lowered my gaze to my lap, now fully clothed instead of a simple hospital gown. Well, truthfully, I was afraid that something was wrong with my hand. Sometimes my hand would start twitching and have a spasm, I couldn't control them and I wasn't sure when they would happen next. I didn't tell Ed or Winry, but I had asked a doctor's opinion. They said it was either a side effect from the wound or stress, but nothing I needed to worry about.
I blinked and blushed, my face lighting up in a quick grin to reassure her, "I'm fine, Winry. Really! I mean, my arm is just fine, see?" I moved it up and down to show her, "No problems. So, please don't worry about me."
She didn't seem very convinced, but didn't press the subject as she led me out of the sterile, crisp hospital room to find Ed who was busy getting our tickets to Central and Winry's to Resembool. She really wanted us to come home for a bit to recover, but Ed claimed that we'd be just fine in our own house. He did promise that on his next vacation, we would visit and spend as much time with her there as possible.
For half of the train ride, the three of us would ride together until it was time for Winry to board another train heading for Resembool. We went over the train schedule beforehand so there'd be no mix-ups.
"C'mon, Al! Winry! Our train leaves in fifteen minutes!" Ed hollered from the curb, already reverting back to his old habits. He was regaining the weight he had lost and his new scars were already healing, much to my relief. The scars make Ed uncomfortable. "Hurry up, you slowpokes!"
"HEY! Who's lugging around the precious cargo that fixed YOUR automail?" Winry retorted. I sighed, sensing the start of another trademark Ed and Winry quibble.
My brother just rolled his eyes and motioned for us to follow him. In the hospital I had noticed it, but as I watched Ed walk I saw that his gait was more off-balance than usual and his shoulders were slumped forward despite his eagerness in leaving this place. He was walking much slower than usual, too. I knew that what had happened to him would affect him physically, but I didn't think it would be that bad to change how he walked completely. I actually feared that he would fall over, he looked so frail.
"Al, what's wrong?" Winry asked, shaking me from my thoughts. "You look upset."
I smiled politely back at her, "No, I'm fine. Just thinking."
"Alright… ah! Hey, Edward! Wait for us, would ya?!" she was walking briskly towards him now, leaving me to trail behind them.
"Well, if you both weren't so damn slow-!"
"And if you weren't so impatient-!"
I sighed; it was going to be a long ride home. But, the familiarity of this whole situation was comforting. A relief from the stress of me being alone with only a kitten for company. A kitten…
"PUFF!" How could I have possibly forgotten about her?! The poor thing… she was still only a baby! What had happened to her when I was attacked and brought to the terrorists' hideout? Did she find her way home? Was she hiding in an alley, shivering and cold and hungry? Was she even alive? I felt guilty about forgetting my kitten, the only thing that really kept me from going crazy while Brother was gone.
I sniffled, wiping at my face with my sleeve. It was my own stupid fault, I should've held onto her better or left her safe at home. Everything that had happened these past few weeks had been my fault. If I could lose a kitten that I adored so much, how could I possibly hold on to everything and everyone else that I held dear?
"Puff…" I didn't realize I had stopped walking until I looked up and Ed and Winry were gone. I shivered, then looked around me. It was stupid to think that she'd be here, but it wouldn't hurt to look. She did like to follow me around, after all. "Puff? Are you here?"
My feet started moving on their own, my eyes searching frantically for a splash of creamy-orange fur. I'm not sure how long or how far I wandered, but it wasn't until the sun was setting did I remember the train we were supposed to get on hours ago. I collapsed on the curb of some street, exhausted and not only worried about Puff, but now Ed, too. He was so tired and hurt, was he okay? Was he still here or did he get on the train? My brother had to know that I wasn't there when he went to buy tickets, right? Surely they wouldn't leave without me…
"You IDIOT!" I gasped and looked up to see Ed darting towards me and grabbing me by the arm. I winced when he was so harsh with it, but his grip loosened and he held me out at arm's length and glared at me, "Where the hell were you!?" This sounded familiar… "Do you know how long Winry and I have been looking for you? Don't just wander off like that Al- are you crying?"
Tears were spilling down my cheeks and my lower lip trembled, "I-I'm sorry, Brother… I didn't mean to… I was looking for Puff…"
"Puff? What?" he blinked, it was clear he did not remember the name of my cat or even that I had a cat, "What are you talking about?"
I started crying harder, ashamed that I was crying and relieved that I was found and upset about losing Puff, "My cat… I lost my cat…!"
He held me tightly and just rubbed my back soothingly, letting me cry and get it all out of me. I'm sure he thought I looked pathetic, but if he did he didn't say anything or draw any attention to it. Once I calmed down, he helped wipe away my tears and led me to the train station. Winry met up with us there, trying her best to console me about the loss of my cat.
"Don't worry, Al… if worse comes to worse, I'm sure Ed will let you get another cat." she tried to reassure me as Ed purchased tickets for the next train we needed.
But I didn't want another cat, I wasn't going to do that and replace her. I don't replace the things I care about. Our train pulled into the station and the three of us got on. Ed was exhausted, as were Winry and I, but only the two of them slept. I looked out the window and wondered how my brother could love such a screw-up like me.
"Alright, stop moping and eat your sandwich." I stared at the object shoved into my hands, caught off-guard by Ed knocking his shoulder into me as he sat beside me. "Eat it, Al."
"I will, you just gave it to me, Brother." I told him, picking the wrapping off my sandwich he bought from the train's food cart.
He snorted in response and took a large bite out of his own sandwich, probably very happy that he wasn't stuck with "crappy-hospital-junk-disguised-as-food" as he liked to call it. Winry had changed trains earlier that morning so she could get to Resembool, so Ed and I were alone. While I didn't want to admit it, I had been moping during a lot of the train trip so far. I was just worried about Puff and my side was irritating me and Ed was worrying me, too. And I was really, really tired.
Not feeling very hungry, I set my sandwich to the side and drew my knees up to my chest and looked out the window. I heard Ed sigh heavily, then the crinkling of the sandwich wrapper before a wadded up version of it smacked me in the face.
"What?" I asked, annoyed that he had chosen to hit me.
He shrugged, "I'm bored. And you make a good target."
"Well, find something else to do." I told him, going back to staring out the window. It wasn't very eventful out there, though I suppose that was a relief since I was tired of all the action we'd been through at that rebel base.
I caught myself yawning and rubbing my eyes; I really was tired, but I couldn't get up the courage to fall asleep on the train. The last time I had slept without the help of medication from the hospital or being knocked out was right before I left to look for my brother. I was a little wary of any nightmares that might come to haunt me, so I staved off sleep as much as I could. I knew for a face that Ed was having nightmares, but so far I managed to lull him back into a peaceful sleep by petting his hair and whispering to him.
I was yawning a second time when Ed decided to speak again. "You should really get some sleep, Al. I know you've been awake the entire trip so far."
"Uh-uh." I shook my head, "I'm not tired. Really."
He looked at me skeptically, "Riiight… Okay. You just lie down right here; I'll even be your pillow." I was hesitant to do so, "Please, Al. You need to get some sleep. If you push yourself too hard you're going to get sick. Now, sleep."
Ed tugged on me roughly and placed my head on his lap. I flushed darkly at this position, gazing up at him as he draped his coat over my body. It was comfortable there on his lap, though. His hand nestled itself in my hair, stroking gently just as I did when he had nightmares. It was soothing and relaxing; I found myself drifting off before I could stop it.
"Don't worry, Al. I'll be right here when you wake up." he reassured me as my eyes slipped close and I dozed off into a relatively peaceful sleep.
The train ride home was long and tiring, even with all the sleep that Ed and I got on the train wasn't enough for us to stay awake long enough to get back to our house. We took a taxi to get there, I ended up falling asleep with my head on Ed's shoulder and he rested his own on top of mine. The driver had to wake us up so we could get out and pay him, then we just stumbled up the steps in a slight daze.
I collapsed on the couch as Ed called Winry to let her know we arrived home okay. I was so sleepy and achy from the uncomfortable seat cushions; I started dozing off even as Ed tried to shake me awake so we could go to bed. He was tired too, and wanted to go to bed so badly. I attempted to sit up for him, but I kept falling over. After much trial and error, we gave up on me standing from the couch and Ed just dragged me to our bedroom where we tumbled onto the bed, not even bothering to get under the covers and fell asleep tangled in each other's arms.
"Al? What happened to all my socks?" I blinked at the random question, having just left my brother in the bedroom to check the messages on our phone
"Um, shouldn't they be in the drawer?" I offered, reading the flashing red numbers on our phone. We had four messages.
Ed sounded annoyed as he huffed, "No. I checked there, Al. I'm missing quite a few pairs of socks."
My eyes wandered over to the corner of the living room by the bookcase where most of Puff's toys were. Or should I say… most of Ed's socks. "Hmm… maybe I should've named her Socks." I said thoughtfully as Ed came in and gaped at the pile of socks that had gathered there.
"WHAT THE HELL?! And just WHO gave the damn cat permission to steal all my socks?! You should've named her 'Damn Thief' that's what!" Ed growled, storming over to the pile and scooping up all the socks and cringing as he touched them, as if they carried some sort of deadly disease.
I rolled my eyes at his behavior, but felt saddened by seeing Puff's favorite playthings get taken away and tossed unceremoniously into the washer. "She didn't mean to."
"Yeah, right. She's a perfect angel." he snorted, giving the socks a dirty look, "I bet they're all full of holes."
"Why are you in such a bad mood, Brother?" I asked, not certain why he was taking his anger out on Puff when he hadn't even met her yet. I was planning on going to look for her this afternoon, but if Ed was in a bad mood… then I wasn't too sure if he'd let me go out.
"Because I have no socks." he grumbled, coming back into the living room and flopping onto the couch, "And besides… I bet those messages are from Mustang… and I really don't want to hear his damn voice, but go ahead and play the messages."
I sighed, knowing that I should've figured that much. He knew we were alright since we called him at the hospital, but these messages were probably from before then. Pressing the play button, I leaned against the wall and listened as the answering machine announced the messages.
"Alphonse, answer the phone. It's me." General Mustang's voice was somber and very hesitant, probably because this was sometime when I was still so fragile that I'd burst into tears if his voice had so much of a hint of bitterness to it. "Fine. I guess you must be sleeping. You'd better be sleeping, at any rate. Eating, too. Gracia told me that you were looking thin." Yeah, I bet she did. I had lost about ten pounds, which was pretty bad since I was still trying to gain back all the weight that I had lost in the Gate. "You know Fullmetal won't want to come home to find you wasting away." I flushed darkly, considering that "Fullmetal" was sitting right in front of me on the couch. "Well… I just wanted to let you know that there's still no word from our scouts. I'm sorry, Alphonse… but I think we're running out of options. I'll call you later to check on you." The answering machine beeped and I let out a shaky sigh, and then flashed Ed a hesitant grin.
My brother looked anything less than happy. He directed a wary glance in my direction, as if daring me to comment on the message. Being the typical little brother that I am, I rose to the bait. "They were exaggerating… it wasn't as bad as they were making it sound…" Honestly it wasn't. It seemed that all I did while Ed was gone was sleep; and even though I was never all that hungry… I still ate. Sometimes… well, obviously not enough to keep me from losing ten pounds. "Really, Brother. I took care of myself."
"Mmhmm…" his searching gaze didn't waver in the slightest and I could feel myself getting hot under his watchful eyes. I bet I was bright red. "Is that why the doctors had to feed you through a tube in the hospital?"
Oh right, I had nearly forgotten about that… they were worried because of how thin I was and weren't sure if they could risk getting the bullets out with me so unnourished. "Umm… well…"
"Forget it. Just play the next damn message." he sighed, looking away to gaze out the window.
I felt my chest constrict and I bowed my head; I had let him down. I had always prided myself on being the more responsible out of the two of us, but that of course had been when my soul was bound to armor. Of course I seemed more responsible, I didn't have to worry about eating or sleeping or getting hurt or sick. It was Brother that I had to worry about. I hit the play button again, but I didn't stick around to listen to the next three messages.
I didn't want to hear what Mustang had to say about me.
All my searching was fruitless. I'd been up and down the streets of Central for the past two weeks, but there was no sight of my kitten. It seemed that my brother and I had swapped moods. Now he was the one with the brighter outlook, due to the fact that Mustang extended his break for 'recuperation' reasons. I think Ed just used my temporary depression to guilt-trip the poor General. However, I was now the one with a dark rain cloud hanging over my head. Metaphorically speaking, of course.
I flopped onto my bed and didn't even bother to take off my shoes. Ed had been napping on the couch, my favorite place to nap whenever I was upset, but I wasn't going to disturb him. The fact that I couldn't find Puff wasn't the only reason why I was so bitter. My brother and I hadn't even made the slightest of efforts to go back to how we had been at the hospital. The only affectionate touch I'd received since the night we returned home was a pat on the shoulder. It infuriated me to no end that my brother was avoiding that part of our relationship that I thought we had established.
I wanted to feel his lips against mine, but Ed always found some sort of excuse. Was it so hard for him to spare me a little bit of affection now and then? Especially now that we were alone in our house. Even when we slept in the same bed, he'd remain as stiff as a board and wouldn't respond to my cuddling at all. I was acting desperate and clingy and I knew that. I followed him around almost everywhere in this house.
The floor creaked and the sudden noise roused me from my half-asleep state. I was about to sit up when a hand gently coaxed me to lie back down. My body complied, even though my mind was puzzled. I opened my eyes and tilted my head back to see Ed sitting at the edge of my bed and running his fingers through my hair. He looked a little upset, but I couldn't decipher why just from looking at him. Anyway, I was much too surprised at the sudden act of tenderness. Even if it was something I had been used to before our separation, it was still a little foreign.
His gaze met mine and he gave a half smile, "Hey… no good?"
I assumed that he was referring to my search for Puff. Did he see any cute, adorable bundle of joy scampering around? I certainly didn't. I knew I was just in a bad mood, but really… did he have to ask something that was so blatantly obvious?
"No." I mumbled, turning away from him and staring at the wall.
He sighed heavily and the bed shifted. I almost whipped around to ask him to stay, but before I could a sudden weight was thrown over my legs. I blinked at Ed's leg, a little more than surprised to see him tangling our legs together. His arm wrapped around my front, in a spooning position behind me. I let myself relax as I heard him hum into my hair. He seemed to be playing with it as well, since I'd feel the occasional tug and a soft 'sorry'.
We were lying in silence for quite some time, I had actually almost dozed off again, but his voice brought me back. "I… I wasn't mad, you know…well, I mean… I was, but not at you. I'm sorry if you thought I was."
"Mm?" I frowned, not quite sure if I was hearing correctly due to my sleepy state, "What're you talking about?"
I turned my head to the side, although it made my neck ache, to get a better look at him. "You know… the other day… when we got all those messages? And I didn't talk to you? I wasn't mad at you…"
"But you seemed angry at something, Brother." I replied, remembering clearly now how I walked on glass around him that day and several following that. "And don't tell me that it was you."
His sheepish grin told me enough, "Eh… colonel bastard?"
"Brother…" I rolled onto my other side so that I could face him, "Don't blame yourself for I did. I should've taken better care of myself. I mean, what good was I doing you by letting my health suffer? It was my stupidity and I should've known better. You had every right to be mad at me."
His golden eyes looked away to the bed sheets, "No. Because none of that would have happened if I had just stayed at home."
"You know you couldn't have done that." I reminded him.
"Then I should've taken you with me. Like you wanted."
"It wasn't rational and you know it."
The pout he sent my way had me laughing, "Oh, so now you're trying to be the smart and responsible one?"
"I try." I chuckled again, inhaling his scent as I took a deep breath. "Mm… I love you, Brother… but please don't go away again."
Ed pulled me close to his chest, tucking my head into the crook of his neck. His arms were so reassuring and warm all around me like that. I couldn't help but brush my lips against the sensitive skin of his neck. He shivered, his right hand going up to tangle in my hair.
"I love you too, Al. I'm sorry that I've been avoiding you… I just don't want to screw up things for you anymore than I already have…" he whispered into my hair, this time it was my turn to shudder.
"Brother, we've been through this, haven't we? I'm happy as long as I'm by your side. I want this as much as you do and that will never change." I didn't want him to angst over this anymore, "We'd already come to an agreement on this is the hospital."
My brother sighed, his breath warm against my ear, "Yeah… but that was before we came back to the real world…"
I smirked, placing another kiss on his neck before squirming in his grasp so he'd loosen up a little. He did so and soon our lips were mere centimeters apart from each other. My eyes asked for permission and he smiled. I really, really missed kissing him.
We broke away for air after the chaste kiss, but without warning our lips crashed together in a searing kiss. I gripped his shirt tightly and he smoothed his hands along my clothed back. He rolled us over so that I was completely sprawled out on top of him. None of our previous kisses compared to this sudden intensity. My heart was pounding so hard that I feared it would burst from happiness rather than nerves. Finally, when we could no longer breathe properly, we broke apart and I gazed down at him. My brother's cheeks were flushed and he was panting just like I was. I released my grip on his shirt so I could brush my fingers against his scarred cheek.
I wasn't aware that I was crying until Ed pulled me back down into his arms and rocked me. He murmured soothing nothings and told me that he was okay and that I was okay and we were going to be okay. It was so easy to fool myself into thinking that this was just like my first few weeks in this body when all Ed did was baby me. I couldn't help but wish that we could back to that time before the military sent my brother away.
When I woke up, the blankets were tucked all around me and my brother was no where in sight. I frowned a bit, wondering what could possibly take him away before I laughed to myself. Food. What else? I stretched myself out before crawling out from under the covers, my neck and back a little stiff. Padding down the hall into the kitchen, I was surprised to find the house empty. Completely. I even did a double check of the bedroom and bathrooms.
Not allowing myself to panic, like I knew Edward would be doing if it had been me that was missing, I went back into the kitchen. It was then that my eyes caught what I had missed earlier in my once-over. There was a note tacked to the fridge and I quickly recognized my brother's messy scrawl.
'Went out to run some errands. Be back soon. Love you, Al!
I sighed with relief; see? Nothing to get all worked up about. He was probably getting some groceries or maybe some more socks to replace the ones Puff… Right. With Brother gone that meant I couldn't leave to go look for Puff some more. There wasn't anything really stopping me, but I knew that if Ed returned home and I wasn't here (even if I left a note) he would panic and storm around Central. I smiled fondly and shook my head, silly Brother. Well, I might as well grab something to eat.
After scrounging through the fridge, I ended up munching on apple slices with peanut butter. However, when it comes to peanut butter, it is physically impossible to eat it comfortable with having something to drink it down with. Preferably milk. I was lucky to have picked some up the other day when I had been searching for Puff. The dishes and glass were washed and set aside in the sink. I'd deal with them later.
Grabbing a book from off the shelf, didn't matter what the title was since I probably already read it anyway, and spent an hour just curled up on the couch reading. The problem with reading books that you've read a thousand times before on a very comfy couch is that one can hardly keep from falling asleep despite the nap they had earlier.
"Al… wake up… there's someone who wants to see you."
I murmured something, my brain barely comprehending the soothing voice by my ear. The tone was enough for me to try and curl close, but I was effectively stopped by a metal arm. Something furry brushed against my nose and I couldn't help but sneeze. But wait… even in my slightly fuddled mind, I knew that my brother was furry. When a small tongue lapped at my nose, I blinked sleepily before my eyes widened in astonishment.
"Puff!" I practically squealed as I cuddled the squirming, orange-cream kitten close.
She was meowing and purring at the attention, kneading her paws into my arm. I couldn't believe it! My kitten, Brother had actually found my kitten! And she was so clean and fluffy and looked well-fed, as if she had never been on the streets in the first place.
"Oh, Brother! Thank you! How did you find her?" I had set Puff down for a second just so I could throw my arms around him in gratitude.
Ed was laughing and pulled away to give me a peck on the mouth, "Well, after two hours of looking in alleys I just so happened to run into Gracia while I was passing the market. She came up to me and asked if you wanted Puff back. Turns out that the little furball remembered when you left her at Gracia's before and went there when you dropped her. She was perfectly safe the entire time." He watched me scoop Puff back up, "And yeah, your welcome, brother-mine."
"You're so smart, Puff!" I was crooning to her, "You deserve a treat. C'mon, I've got some chicken scraps and some milk to give you. Then I can brush you and you can play with your toys and nap in your box. I'm so happy that you're back!"
As I set the plate of chicken down for her, Ed's arms wrapped around me and looked down at Puff, "Eh… I guess she is kinda cute. Little thief kept nipping at my fingers though."
"Aw, that's just how she shows her affection." I beamed at him, taking one of Ed's hands and giving it a squeeze.
"Funny way of showing it."
"Oh, Brother," I sighed in mock-exasperation and brushed a kiss against his jaw, "I love you."
He blushed, but tried to hide it as he looked back down at Puff, "Yeah, yeah… enough with the sappiness, Al. I love you, too."
That night, the three of us slept curled up together; though Ed had protested a lot before finally allowing Puff on the bed.
"Yep, the automail's doing just fine. Nope, nothing out of the ordinary." Ed sighed and rubbed at his temple with the hand that wasn't cradling the receiver. "Yes… I've been doing the rehab exercises. I'm fine, I swear. Al, too. He's been looking much better. Of course I'm feeding him! And the stupid cat, too. Did I tell you she keeps stealing my socks?"
I laughed to myself, sitting cross-legged on the floor and dangling a piece of string in front of Puff to try and distract her from Ed's socks. We were trying to break her of the habit, but she didn't seem too keen on giving up her favorite toys. She actually scratched Ed when he tried to take one from her. The string captured her attention for a few minutes, but she was obviously more amused by batting the sock across the floor.
Ed gave me a look when he heard me laugh, but made no comment, "Shut up, Winry. You must put catnip in my automail because she seems to like that, too." It was true. Puff had decided that she liked to paw at the metal and rub against in whenever it was exposed. "What?! No, I do not like the damn fuzz ball. I hate her! Whatever… Al, stop laughing!"
I clamped a hand over my mouth, though my eyes sparkled with amusement. Even through his scowl I could see that he was pleased to see that I was amused. I knew that Ed really did like Puff. There had already been several times where I caught him sneaking some of his dinner to her or idly petting her while he worked in his study and even played fetch with her (fetch consisted of him throwing a sock and Puff running off with it).
"Sure, we'll come and visit soon. I promise. Okay, take care. Nice talking to you, too. Bye." he hung up and groaned as he rolled his shoulders.
I left Puff to her own devices and got up to wrap my arms around him. I nuzzled my face into his good shoulder and felt him relax against me. But the knots from the stress of the automail were still present under the skin.
"The automail being tough, Brother?" I asked, resting my chin on his shoulder.
He made a face, "Well, it's nothing that I can't handle, Al."
I sighed. There goes big brother trying to act all tough and bear the weight of the world on his shoulders. I released his waist and went around him to tug on his hand. He gave me a puzzled glance, but allowed me to lead him into the bedroom.
"C'mon, Brother. Take off your shirt and lie down on your stomach. I want to make your arm feel better even if it's only a little bit." I told him, gesturing towards the bed.
Ed raised a eyebrow, "What are you going to do?"
"I'm just giving you a massage, don't worry." I smiled at him, "I'd never do anything to make you hurt or be uncomfortable."
The flush that colored his cheeks was adorable and made me want to tackle him. He sat down on the edge of the mattress and removed his shirt. It was my turn to blush when I saw the muscles curl beneath his scarred skin. When he was completely settled, I straddled his waist and started to press into the joints surrounding his right shoulder.
At the first hiss, I froze and thought that I had hurt him in some way. "Nn… s'kay, Al… keep going. Feels good."
Encouraged by this, I continued my ministrations and worked out each of the knots gently. His sigh and contented murmurs were pleasant to hear. It made me feel even better to know that I was the one that made him so content. I massaged the base of his neck and started to move lower, receiving more pleased sounds for my efforts.
His skin was so warm, and though thanks to scars, both old and new, it wasn't as soft as it used to be I still loved the feel of it beneath my fingertips. He arched beneath me, practically purring now. I pressed a little harder and he moaned softly under the pressure.
"Al…" the simple breath of my name sent shivers up and down my spine, soon I was curling up beside him, "S'nice, Al… thanks…"
I smiled fondly and brushed some of his golden bangs out of his face. His eyes were half-lidded and focused solely on me. His left hand reached for mine and we twined our fingers together. The sun was setting and casting yellowing-bronze shadows across the room, giving Ed's skin and hair a radiant glow. I shifted closer to him so there was barely an inch of space between us.
"Brother… can it always be this way?" I asked softly, not wanting to shatter the blissful silence but I felt compelled to ask.
He smiled sincerely and brushed his lips against my forehead, "As long as you want it to, Al."
"I'll always want it to be like this."
"Good, because I don't know if I could let you go."
I gave his hand a gentle squeeze, receiving one in return. Soft kisses were placed wherever lips could reach. The last inch between us was closed. We remained like that until night had fallen and the crickets' lullaby gave us cause to drift off into peaceful dreams. There was no other word for where we were when wrapped up in each other's arms.