A/N: For my FMA Fanfic Challenge. I worked hard on this one...I'm not quite used to writing a lot of Al-centric stuff.

Disclaimer: Don't own FMA.


We were rushing.

Ed was holding this boy tightly in his arms, hugging him close as we ran down the cobblestone street. On any other occasion than this, I would have been staring at all the odd buildings and flying machines up ahead, and not at the odd boy in my brother's arms.

His stomach area was bleeding, his white shirt stained with the bodily fluid. I was queasy, and running wasn't comforting my bowels very well. I knew I could just look away, but my neck wouldn't turn and my eyes wouldn't shift.

This boy...he looked just like me...

Ed practically kicked the door of a clinic in with his automail leg. I could only follow behind him as he skidded down the hallway. Tired, I slowed down, taking a few deep breaths. It'd been quite a day so far.

The girl Ed had quickly introduced to me as Noa came up behind me and hesitantly touched my shoulder. I looked up at her, curious as to why she was here. She blinked for a moment in surprise and withdrew her hand.

"You're...the suit of armor, aren't you?" she asked softly, as if my look-alike wasn't in critical condition just a few yards ahead. I nodded slowly, the memories gradually seeping into my mind.

"Yes...yes I think I was..." I replied, looking away. She was silent and stared at me for a while. I swallowed and started walking again. "We better go check up on him..." I said, blushing lightly. I didn't really pay attention to her much after that.

We found the room Ed had invaded, and the taller blond was on the bed, bleeding still. Ed was bustling about the room, searching for something he knew he couldn't find. I wanted to tell him to go get some help, but the boy in the bed captured my attention. Who was he? Why did he look like me? Why was Ed freaking out so much over him?

Ed finally got around to yelling for a nurse who was already racing in due to the loud entrance we had made coming in. She went for a doctor, and hustled us from the room. Ed didn't want to leave. He was panicking, and it was almost scary when I couldn't tell if the water running down his face was sweat or tears.

The boy had an operation that night, and Ed stayed up the entire time. Noa had fallen asleep in a bed offered to her by a hesitant nurse, and the nurse's behavior toward her confused me. I made sure to ask Ed this once he had calmed down enough to sit down.

"She's a gypsy. Not many people like them. They say they're no-good thieves who stay with men just to take off with their money." he answered as smoothly as he could. I nodded slowly.

"But she's not like that, is she?" I asked. Ed shook his head. "Then...it's just like with the Ishbalans...huh?"

Ed looked at me for the first time since we got here. He stared for a while, and then laughed a bit.

"Yeah...just like that. Except the one we're involved with isn't trying to kill us at every chance possible." he said, smiling. I had to smile, too, even if only for a second. I remember Scar. It made me sad to remember because then it reminded me of all the deaths that ocurred to people I had become close to. Teacher, Wrath, Greed, Martel, the chimeras, Nina...Mother...

"So...who's he?" I questioned next. Ed sighed, rubbing his eyes.

"His name's Alfonse Heidrich. He's you on this side of the Gate. You're him on our side." he told me. I was shocked. So, in a sense, that was me in there, getting treated for a shot wound? Then I thought of something. But Ed beat me to it. "A long time ago, when Envy had kidnapped you, I was transported over here. My soul, at least. And I saw Dad. It took me a while, but then I realized that the body I was in wasn't my own. Dad told me everything about this world, about that world, and how they were connected. When he left, a fire broke out and I got trapped under it. And...I died. Well, the body did. I came back over, kicked Envy's ass, and you know what happens after that."

I blinked. So...Ed had died twice? "You died twice?"

Ed laughed. Bitterly, almost. "Yeah. I've died twice. But here I am, alive. First fire, and then Envy. What's next?"

I smiled at him. "Old age, hopefully."

Ed stopped laughing and looked at me. He stared for a while, as if taking in my appearance fully this time. I blushed under his gaze and looked away. It felt weird to have my big brother looking at me for so long. Then he sighed.

"So...you grew your hair out?" he asks. I chuckle.

"Took you long enough."

--------------------

When Heiderich, as I'm calling him since calling him 'Al' or 'Alfonse' was just too weird, was out of surgery, we were allowed to come in. I don't understand why, though. He looked horrible, his skin a sickly pale and his hair stuck to his forehead. He was almost dead. He might have an hour to live if he's lucky.

Ed was the first to go in. One at a time was the rule. Noa and I talked for a while, and I found that she was quite a nice person. Shy, but not too withdrawn. Since the time limit was half an hour, Ed was out and Noa was in. I could see in his eyes that thirty minutes wasn't enough for him.

I wasn't sure what to do when Noa came out, tears running down her cheeks.

The nurse had looked at me expectantly, and I had looked at Ed questioningly. He forced a smile.

"Go in if you wanna. He might talk to you." he said. I nodded and stood up from my seat, swallowing a lump in my throat and walking in. The door closed behind me, and for some reason my heart beat faster when I realized I was alone with this boy whose voice I had never heard.

My feet carried me to his bedside, and I shivered when I looked at him closer. He was so close to dying...it hurt so bad to see him like this. To see me like this. Would I look like this when I would begin to die? This sickly and pale, this lifeless and painful? I brushed some of his blonde hair from his face. It was much lighter than mine, but more coarse and thin. And short. Very much shorter.

I jumped when his eyes opened, and when he gasped for air. He had pretty blue eyes, not too dark and not too light. Was it odd for me to find this parallel form of myself so attractive?

He breathed for a while, and I could only stare. He finally looked at me, and his eyes widened.

"Wh..at?" he choked. I shuddered again. Such a weak, frail voice...

"Hi...I'm Alphonse. Ed's little brother." I introduced shakily. After those armor-years it was a tad hard to hide my feelings. Heiderich blinked slowly, elderly. Then he smiled a crooked, thin smile.

"Heh...so that's...why he...gave me those...those looks so...long ago..." he whispered. I saddened. Ed missed me that much...?

"I...I guess so." I said, smiling back. He lifted his arm and I could see it shaking horridly as he brought it closer to me.

"You...don't look...like me..." he said, almost happily. I blinked. What was he talking about? I was floored when I saw him! His fingers, cold and clammy, brushed against my cheek. It was then that I realized how close I was leaning in to him.

That smile almost killed me.

"You're...cuter...softer...more like an entity of...inno...cence..." he managed through his chapped lips. I blushed under his touch and his words. "That's what...this damn coun...try needs...no wonder...he loves you...so much...you're so tender..."

Okay...I think I'm getting that wrong. "What do you mean? Ed? He's my brother, of course--"

But Heiderich's hoarse, cracked chuckle stopped me. "I'm sorry...I didn't mean for...it to come...out...like that..." he apologized. His hand never left my face, and I held it there to prolong the fatigue he must be feeling. "I...meant to say...no wonder he...adores you so...much...he talked about...you a lot..."

A tear ran down my cheek. This broken man was tearing me up...

"Heiderich...I'm sorry..." I said. He looked at me, surprised. "Since I came to this world, my counterpart had to be removed. I'm so sorry..." I whispered and touched his cheek. It was dry...

Heiderich was still shocked, but he overcame it and groaned as he shifted. I jumped. He wasn't supposed to do that! It could reopen his wound!

Not like he had any longer to live, though...

I stared back into his blue eyes, clouded over with the oncoming of death. So many people around me die...yet this is the first time I had to see it happen. With Martel I could...feel it, sort of. In my soul. I had never watched one die so painfully slowly. Not even Wrath, who only took one bloody and gorey instant to perish. Not even my Mother, whom I couldn't bear to watch die at such a young age. I was away when Teacher passed, and I've never forgiven myself for it. Not even Ed back then, but that was only because I was held down and couldn't see him.

He blinked again. "You've...seen a lot of...death...haven't...you...?" he asked. I blinked. How did he know?

"Y-yeah...I have..."

"I'm...sorry I have...to be added...to that...list..."

"You don't have to be sorry. I should be."

Heiderich chuckled that cracked laugh again...

"Are all...'Al's...like this...? Saying 'sorry'...when un...necessary...?" he asked and I had to laugh.

"Maybe. Or maybe it's just us." I replied. Heiderich sighed, and his arm became limp.

"Al...right...I'll...say it...one last...time..." he quietly promised. I knew it was time...he did, too. I couldn't stop the tears from falling, or my hands from clutching his. "Sor...ry...for...not...get...ting t...o...kn...ow...y...ou...A..."

Those blue eyes closed, and his smiled faded. Whatever blood that had come to his cheeks vanished, and his skin became colder. Much colder. I cried right there, unable to stop. I hardly knew him, but I felt like I had known him all my life. Gently I lowered his arm down to his side, my entire body racking in shudders. I hadn't cried so hard since Mother died...

Ed did as much as he could to comfort me, and I tried my best to not be such a burden to him. He obviously would miss Alfonse Heiderich more than me, but he wasn't shedding a tear because he was helping me let mine out. I was always the big baby of us two...

At his funeral we stood silently. Noa danced before his grave, and I could hardly hold back more tears at his picture. A healthy-looking face with a beautiful smile. I hated that I only got to see his pained, regretful one. His last one.

A while afterwards, mainly after I got over the sight of Hughes without bursting out to hug him or start crying again, Ed and I began our journey again. I'd cut my hair short, my own tribute to Heiderich. Ed understood; he didn't ask for a reason.

The Elric brothers weren't the type to need a reason to do things. So whenever we cried, no one asked why.