Note: I'm sorry it's so short, I tried extending it but it didn't seem right when I went back and read it. I posted the previous interlude, this chapter and then I'll post the next interlude as well to make up for it. That will be the last official timeline interlude as it will bring the Interlude back flashes right up to the point in Chapter One where the story starts. The final two interludes will deal with snapshots of two specific events. After they are posted the story will continue with just chapters because I can't think of anymore interlude ideas!


Al knew.

Oh maybe he didn't know it logically, maybe the actual thought had not yet crossed his mind but, still, he knew.

Ed was sure of it. He'd seen it in the way Al responded to him, the way he acted around him. Though they'd only been together three times now officially Al reacted to him as if they had known each other for a long time.

Really, it surprised him. He'd always known the depth of his own bond to Al but he had never thought it went the other way.

In Ed's mind, he could never survive without Al but he'd always believed Al could and would make it without him.

It was one of the reasons he'd not been terribly surprised to see Al living his life even after finding that the Ed of this world had died.

He was beginning to believe he'd made a gross error in judgment on that one.

So, are you going to tell him?


Why not?

Hi, I'm Ed but not YOUR Ed. How's that for a constant knife in your gut?

About the same as it feels for you?

Exactly. I won't have him feeling the same way.

He tried, he did. After the hospital he attempted to distance himself somewhat from Al. Ed stayed next to Mustang, didn't wait for the other boy when he walked away. In short, he tried to act like a stranger.

When they were walking out of that room in the back alleyway Ed was concentrating on "being a stranger" and it was for this reason that, when he heard Al, he automatically turned without consciously hearing what had even been said.

Until he saw Al's reaction.

Did he just say Ed?

And did you just respond to it?


Desperately, Ed forced himself to stay calm, forced his face to stay empty. Raising an eyebrow and trying to quash the tremor in his voice he said, "I'm sorry, did you say something Al? I didn't quite hear you."

You're a bastard.

I know.

Al didn't respond to him, just stared at him with the look of one who had just found something they'd lost only to immediately lose it again.

Or maybe realize they had never really found it in the first place.

Ed let himself look concerned, not a hard feat at that particular point in time. He stepped forward, past Mustang who had also stopped and was looking equally concerned.

"Al? Are you okay?"

Al still didn't respond and now Mustang stepped past him and over to the younger man. Ed forced himself to stay still; he was a stranger after all.

A stranger, don't forget.

Don't forget.


He watched Mustang as he spoke to Al and knew this couldn't keep happening. They'd barely even been together and already Al was falling apart. Ed hadn't expected that, he had always assumed Al would deal with his death far better than if their situations were reversed. Then when he'd seen this Al walking confidently through the streets apparently years after this Ed's death he'd been sure of it. He would admit it hurt to think Al could get over him so easily but he wouldn't wish the amount of pain he felt on anyone.

Now he wasn't so sure he had judged the situation correctly. Perhaps Al hadn't dealt with the death of this world's Ed any better than Ed had dealt with the death of his world's Al.

Perhaps this Al just hid it better.

So, what will you do?

I don't know.

If you leave him behind what will happen to you? Will you go back to the way things were before?

I don't know.

It feels like you've been offered your life back again doesn't it? Something other than the fog you've been in for the last six months, yes?

Has it really been six months? It can't have been that long.

An actual life versus a shadow life, which will you choose and what will the impact be on poor Alphonse?

I don't know, please stop asking.

All right.


Al tried to remember how to breathe and forced a shaky grin at Mustang in response to the older man's inquiries.

He was so pathetic. One little thing and he was willing to believe the impossible, to believe his brother had somehow returned from the dead.

Of course if anyone could accomplish such a feat it would have been Edward, right?

Pulling his shattered emotions together as best he could, Al put them back inside the box he'd created for them inside his head and shut the door. A strange haze seemed to fall over him, the same haze he'd been living in since Ed had died as a matter of fact, and he walked forward.

He could see Alric giving him a look of concern but he ignored it as he walked past the other youth. He knew the action confused Alric but he couldn't help it. At the moment even looking at the other boy just hurt too much.

It had been years already, YEARS; shouldn't he be over this by now? Shouldn't he be better?

Even as he thought that, however, Al knew there was no time span that could pass that could make it better, that could get him over it.

In fact, the other thought he found himself thinking as he walked was how he'd made it this long.

And how he expected to even make it another day.