When Ed next came to he was horrendously hot and he felt like he was floating. The world was dim and consisted only of thick wool. He blinked and rubbed at his eyes trying to comprehend where he was.
"Brother, are you awake?"
"Al?" The floating stopped and he felt the material slide off of his face. Ed's face scrunched up in pain as the bright desert sun burned into his eyes.
"Ah, geeze. You could have warned me it was so bright out."
"How are you even here anyways? I thought it was impossible to get up. How long have I been asleep?" Ed felt relief fill him as he glared up into Al's face.
"Well, I never said I'd sit right there and wait; just that I'd give you two days before heading back down." Al shrugged and Ed scoffed at the gesture. "We weren't sure the temple was at the top anyways, so I thought looking around the mountain itself would be better than just sitting there."
Ed cocked an eyebrow. "Then why are we going back down the stairs?"
Al squirmed. "I thought they'd be easier." Ed gave Al a questioning look, but Al just stared right back. Ed continued to glare, but finally his expression dissolved into a smile. It was the first time, since before they'd tried to bring their mom back, that Al had showed this kind of will.
Ed reached up and patted Al on the shoulder. "Okay, fine. Let's head back down."
"But Brother! What happened in the temple?! And why were you all passed out in the dirt?! You even got sunburn!"
Ed blew out his cheeks and crinkled his nose. "Ah, no wonder that hurts. Sun burnt or not, it's time to go." Ed stood up and dusted off his pants.
"But what happened?!"
Ed paused while pulling the hood of his jacket over his head and looked up at Al. He forced a smile. "I looked at the writings. None of it was useful. It was all stuff we already knew mixed with some religious nonsense." Ed finished pulling his hood over his face. "Whew, it's hot. Let's hurry up and get off this rock." He strode ahead, knowing Al would follow with more questions.
Ed started down the stairs. He got about half a flight before he sat down. Fresh rivulets of sweat stung the stretched sores on his leg and it was just too hot. He panted as he dug out the water skin, Al clanging noisily trying to sit down on the steps. He drank long and hard.
"Brother, are you okay?" Too busy swallowing to answer Ed just nodded.
"Don't lie, Ed." At the sound of his name, Ed stopped drinking and gave Al a sharp look.
Ed sighed before looking down. "I just want to get off of this mountain. We need to stop by Resembool before checking back with the Colonel." Ed stood up and began walking again. Al hurriedly followed.
"Why are we going back to Resembool? Is your automail okay? Shouldn't we stop and get a gift for Winry?" At the sound of that name Ed froze. Al didn't quite stop in time and almost jostled Ed right down the stairs, but Ed didn't even feel the steadying hands on his shoulders. The tears that he'd been trying so hard to hold back shot to the surface, causing his eyes to sting. His automail was fine; he knew why he was going home. That strength he was still lacking, maybe this time he'd gain it. Maybe the next death he was forced to face, he'd be able to face.
Ed started walking again, shrugging Al's hands off of his shoulders. "Nah, I'll just face her wrench. The mail isn't that bad, just gummed up. She'll kill me if the sand eats through the wires."
"Are you sure we shouldn't stop and get her something?" The tremble in Al's voice was clear and Ed couldn't help but stifle a chuckle.
"I'm sure, Al." They walked down for silence in a while; Ed grimacing as blood and sweat pooled in his boots, but not making a sound. Al clanged away, slightly behind, seemingly lost in thought.
"You know, Brother." Ed looked back over his shoulder, but continued walking. "I was kind of worried when the whole night passed and you still weren't back."
"I'm sorry." Ed automatically mumbled, looking at his feet as they continued their climb down the mountain.
"But then I got to thinking. That I shouldn't be just waiting around for you. I have to work hard too, so we can get our original bodies back."
Ed stopped again, turning around to look into Al's burning red eyes. "Al…"
"And sometimes that means I have to wait for you. And sometimes it means I have to find you. And right now it means I have to carry you."
Al hoisted Ed up. "What? Hey! Put me down!!!"
"Because if I let you walk all the way down this mountain and the sand eats your wires, Winry is going to kill me, too!"
"ALLL!" Ed screamed and cursed as Al took the steps two at a time, rushing down the mountains and ignoring the flailing limbs.