Some people called his brother the FullMetal Alchemist.
Others called him a prodigy.
Some even called him a hero of the people.
Personally, Alphonse tended to call him a high maintenance, over active brother who, at some point in life, had suffered a serious breakdown in the area of his brain that dealt with self-preservation. This breakdown had led, in many an instance, to Edward making choices that typically caused him to spend copious amounts of time in the hospital.
For the most part Al tended to follow along in his brother's footsteps, always behind, always supporting, always lending a hand.
Not every time though.
There had been one time in particular when Alphonse had known, known to the deepest part of himself in fact that what his brother wanted to do was WRONG and that it would only bring them pain.
He hadn't said anything and the tragedy that had followed that silence would haunt him for the rest of his life, however long that life might be.
From that day on he decided to never again allow Ed to make what he considered to be a mistake without at least warning him first, be it by telling him off or possibly even punching him as he'd had to do when Ed had tried the whole self-sacrifice thing with Scar.
Sometimes he had to go even further though. Like for instance that evening when Edward, having just arrived in Central after being gone for nearly a month, had dropped off his report to Mustang and just so happened to hear about a group of terrorists that had been planning an attack on the city. Supposedly their headquarters had finally been located and Mustang was planning an ambush for the next day. Naturally Al's impatient and clearly too tired to think straight brother had announced that would be too long to wait and had insisted on going right then.
He hadn't been too pleased when Mustang had ordered him to go to the dorms and get some rest.
In fact, they hadn't been in the dorms five minutes when Ed was already making plans to go take down the entire terrorist organization by himself.
Al had very politely inquired of his brother if the other had completely lost his mind to which Ed replied it would be fine since there would be two of them.
As if assuming that Alphonse was equally insane and as if two against twenty was SO much better than one against twenty.
Pointing this fact out had led to a huge argument between the two, an argument which had ended with Ed making the unfortunate comment of how Al couldn't stop him.
Al had responded by picking his brother up and locking him inside of his armor. Ed had been too stunned to do anything at first and then had proceeded to scream and holler so loud that Al thought he might actually burst a lung.
He didn't move though, after all he didn't want to risk damaging Al's blood seal. For the same reason he couldn't do alchemy.
Really, Al wondered why he hadn't thought of doing this years ago?
After ensuring that his brother was indeed safely locked away inside his armor, Al took a walk. Not having a body that could feel cold or fatigue did have its advantages from time to time. It was a beautiful night and Al was glad he could at least enjoy that.
It took quite a while for Ed to calm down but Al was able to more or less tune him out after the first few minutes. It also helped when he headed to more public areas and Ed had to shut up or risk people discovering that the great FullMetal Alchemist was being held prisoner inside his brother's armor.
Not to mention that this fact would probably cause people to question how it was that he could be held in a suit of armor that wasn't supposed to be empty.
Eventually, after a very long time, Edward fell asleep. He was exhausted after all and Al knew that he'd pushed himself too hard, as usual, on the last mission. After ensuring that his brother was indeed fast asleep, Al took him out of his armor and hoisted him up over his shoulders.
He didn't want him to suffocate in there after all.
Ed was far too old for a piggyback ride but he stayed asleep and what he didn't know couldn't hurt him. He did try to stay away from populated areas after that. He didn't want to embarrass his brother, just protect him.
Somewhere toward midnight, when the moon was directly overhead, Al decided to head back into the dorms. It was while walking down the hallway that he saw a shadow detach itself from the wall near their room.
Mustang walked forward
and opened his mouth to speak and then stopped suddenly, his brow
knotting in surprise, "is that FullMetal?"
"He was tired" Al responded simply. As he spoke it occurred to him that Mustang looked tired as well. Much more tired than he had earlier in fact.
"Are you okay?"
Mustang waved a hand.
"I'm fine. We just moved up the operation. We got most of the terrorists rounded up in the initial strike; the rest will be picked up trying to escape on the trains or other major routes out of the city. I've already got teams on the lookout for them."
"Why did you move it up" Al asked.
Mustang sighed, "It was my own fault the brat overheard us earlier and knowing him I fully expected to find him in the middle of getting himself killed when we got there. Upon finding I'd beat him there I thought I could get it done quickly before he arrived." He shrugged and started to move past them, "Then after getting it taken care of and he STILL hadn't arrived I started worrying that he'd come earlier and gotten hurt somewhere and I came here to find him. Finding you both gone I thought I'd wait a while to see if you came back before sending out the search teams. Anyway, you're both fine so I'll leave now. I still have some things to take care of before I can turn in tonight."
He moved off down the hallway, his shoulders slumped in exhaustion. Al watched him go for a moment and then said, "Thank you, Colonel."
His only response was a hand waved over his shoulder, a move so much like his brother that Al wondered again at the fact that his brother and the Colonel seemed completely oblivious to how much like one another they truly were. The next day they'd be right back at each other's throats but if anything happened to the one the other would always be there to help.
It was nice to know he wasn't the only one having to keep a reign on his brother's tendencies to try and sacrifice himself at inopportune moments.
Letting himself back in the dorms, Al put his brother to bed and then went to sit on the other bed and keep watch. Usually he didn't, he'd spend his nights off walking around or doing other things. Tonight, however, he would sit here and ensure his brother stayed where he was.
The next morning they would probably have a huge argument but Alphonse had already decided he wouldn't apologize. He also already knew that Ed would forgive him though his pride would probably never let him actually admit that Al had been right.
As he sat and watched his brother sleep Al wondered for the hundredth or so time what would have happened if he'd spoken up all those years ago.
Would it have made a difference?
He'd never know the answer to that question. One thing he did know, however, was that he wouldn't let his brother get hurt again.
And if that meant playing brother's keeper, sometimes by force, then so be it.