Author's Note: This fic was one of those spur-of-the-moment things, spawned by a conversation I had with a friend. There was so much I wanted to say on the topic, but I couldn't get it all out unless I wrote it out in a character's voice. I guess that's the curse of a writer - I'm not eloquent unless I'm writing. This piece isn't meant to be some awesome bit of writing; it's supposed to be Ed just talking, just saying what comes to mind. That means it probably won't flow as well as we might like, but hopefully you'll see some good in it anyway.

For Star, whose name I do know how to pronounce.

We come to believe in our hearts that needing anyone for anything is a sort of weakness, a handicap.
- John Eldredge

Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal.
- C.S. Lewis

For when I am weak, then I am strong.
- 2 Corinthians 12:10b

I am finding out that love will kill and save me.
- "The Beauty and the Tragedy" by Trading Yesterday

I heard someone say today that I'm too dependent on Al. That I'm weaker for putting all the meaning of my life into him. That maybe it would be better if I just let go a little, seek peace and meaning for myself.

Does it surprise you to hear me say they're wrong?

Now, on one account they're right. Alphonse is my life, my everything. Every moment of every day is spent striving toward the goal of getting his body back, of seeing him at peace once more. Every breath I breathe is for him. If Al was somehow taken irrevocably away and I couldn't bring him back, my whole world would crash to pieces, because I would have no reason to live anymore. There are other things that have meaning to me, other people I care about deeply, but Al is the most important. So yes, I am dependent on Al.

But all the rest is a gross misunderstanding. They make it sound like depending on someone cripples you, pulls away your legs so you fall flat on your face. But it's the other way around. Depending on someone is like getting an automail leg – it gives you your support back, and it hurts like hell, but you can stand again. And no matter how many times you fall down, you can always pick yourself up again because you have two legs to stand on.

I suppose I shouldn't mince words. Let's get right down to the point and admit that we're talking about love here. Not the "I love chocolate ice cream, hooray!" kind of love. Not the "I love you, honey; let's get married!" kind of love. I'm talking about something separate, something deeper than that. Something more piercing and precious, because it has nothing to do with what the person's actually like. It doesn't matter if your little brother has a warty nose or a double chin or is stuck in a spiky suit of armor. You don't love him because of what he looks like or what he's done or even who he is. You just love him because you do.

I will never regret saying that I love my little brother Alphonse. I loved him before I could comprehend the concept of love, and there hasn't been a day that I haven't loved him. Even when we're at each other's throats or when he irritates me so much I just want to scream, I still love him. It has nothing to do with circumstances or emotions. It's constant.

That being said, I think you can understand when I say that he's the most important person in my life. I love plenty of other people, but there's just something different, something special, about my relationship with Al. I guess it's because we're brothers. And when I thought everything I held dear had been torn away from me, he was all I had left, so I clung to him with everything I had.

That's why I brought his soul back. I couldn't bear the thought of living alone. True, before that awful day with the transmutation and everything, I didn't have quite the same kind of drive directed to Al's well-being. But he was still the most important person in my life, and if I'd let him go, all meaning would have been sucked out of my life.

But I think my actions that night cemented my dependence on Alphonse. Because I couldn't live without him, I brought a part of him back. And because I felt guilty that I had made him incomplete, I resolved to make him whole once more. And if I failed, it would be the end of Al, the end of…everything.

So does this dependence cripple me? Does my love for my little brother weaken me, turn me into a pathetic lackey groveling at Al's smallest command? Are there things I want to do but can't because I have Al to worry about? No, don't be silly. Love gives me focus, so I can see what's important in life. Love makes me stronger than I ever could have been before.

"How can this be?" you might ask. Doesn't love give me a weakness I wouldn't otherwise have? Because I love Al, if he is threatened I have to intervene. When an enemy learns how much he means to me, they go for Al first because he's my weak spot. So if I didn't love him, wouldn't it follow that I wouldn't have that weakness, and I would be stronger?

But that's not the case at all. If I didn't love him, my whole self would be weaker. I am not afraid of losing my own life, if it means I can save Al's. I'm willing to go farther, risk more, push myself to my fullest potential, because of him. I end up stronger than ever.

You might think that depending on one person would make you a one-facet kind of guy. You might think that because I'm all about Al, I'm shallow, since I don't care as strongly for anything else. But think about this for example: If I didn't depend on him, I would learn alchemy to gain praise, like I used to do. It would be all about me. But I study alchemy for him, all for him. It's not about me at all. I am daily thinking about someone other than myself. And that makes me so much fuller of a person.

It is not weak to depend on someone. When you depend on someone, you give them your heart. You make yourself vulnerable to them. If they wanted, they could tear you to pieces and you might never heal. But there are people who will take your heart and treasure it, cradle it close to them and keep it warm. They'll protect it from any assault the world can make on it. They'll encourage it to grow, and it will grow so much larger and stronger than it ever could have on its own.

I'm giving up my whole life for Al. But you know what? It's okay. It's worth it. All this pain, all the hardships and setbacks and moments of sheer terror when I think he's gone forever, it all fades in comparison to what I get in return. This could seriously challenge the principle of Equivalent Trade, because I give so little for such a massive result. Just being with him, knowing that he loves me, that I'm the single most important person in his life, is worth a thousand years of blood, sweat, and tears. Hearing his voice call me "Brother" makes every moment worthwhile. And I'm not earning any of this with my hard work. It's not Equivalent Trade, so it's not that I'm getting it in exchange for anything I've done. It's a gift, pure and simple. It's a gift I'll never deserve, but always treasure.

I love my little brother. I depend on him completely. I can't see how anyone could honestly call that a weakness.

Alphonse is my whole world. And the world is a vast place, isn't it?