His hands (both of them flesh now), they feel so cold. Clumsy. Edward forces them to work. He has to wear the uniform which means he has to be able to fasten the buttons. Even though he knows what this fabric is (wool, grown and sheared and carded and spun and woven and dyed and cut and sewn here in Risembool), how warm it would be, he shivers. He can't help it. His body trembles hard enough to make his teeth chatter. He clenches his jaw to make his mouth remain silent.


Alphonse, his voice tentative, coming from the doorway.

Edward's whole body tightens at the sound of his brother's voice. He'd begged Winry away, and she agreed, turning away before he could see the tears he knew had to be there. But Alphonse would no more let him leave Risembool, this house (their home), without saying goodbye.

"Do you have to go?" Alphonse totters into the room, his crutch making a tattoo like a drum beat across the wooden floor. "You've done so much already!"

Fixing the last button, Edward inhales deeply before turning to face his little brother. "Military conscription," he says, remembering the blue uniforms standing at the door to the Rockbell house, remembering how Winry had been the one to launch herself at them ("He's done enough! Don't you know? He's nearly died already more times than you'll know!"). Granny had to inject her with something before she settled down, but the soldiers marched away from the house with bruises and cuts on their bodies from her attack. Alphonse had simply offered to destroy the conscription, but Edward had to sign for it. His scrawl is on record, somewhere, saying he got the notice to report to the front. "Don't worry, Al." Edward musters a smile, offers his fist to Alphonse to bump. "I made a promise."

Alphonse nods, biting his lip, and steps aside so Edward can walk through the door. Before he does, Edward hugs his little brother, inhaling his scent deep inside of himself. Holding it tighter than a memory. "Be safe," Alphonse whispers.

Not trusting his voice, Edward nods sharply, and marches down the stairs and out of the Rockbell house (home), and toward the battlefield.