"The only thing that makes sense is moving forward." Edward Elric
In the dark of the night, Ed's door opened.
Years of being in the military, of learning to expect attacks, of getting injured and re-injured, had honed Ed's reflexes until they were drawn tight as a violin's string. He jerked upright, ignoring the dizziness he got from the sudden motion, and gazed blearily at the door.
He was expecting Mustang. Since he'd woken up in the hospital a week ago, the Colonel had been a staple to his room, impatiently allowing doctors to treat his wounds while "looking after" Edward. There had been a fare few arguments, each devolving into name-calling until Hawkeye returned from guarding Alphonse to kick out her superior officer. "You're supposed to be setting an example," she'd admonish.
"He started it."
But it wasn't Mustang this time. Ed scrambled to his feet, tangling himself in blankets as he rushed to meet Alphonse, struggling through the door. "Al, you're not supposed to be moving, your body can't take it." But he had never had the heart to send his little brother away, not even when they were children.
"I wanted to make sure you were okay, brother." On anyone else this might have been a cover-up for night terrors, old phobias brought to light in a crowded hospital, but the simple honesty in Al's voice, the familiar touch of his hand, feather-light on Ed's arm, proved the sincerity of his words.
"I'm not the one who needs to gain twenty pounds before they're allowed out of here." Ed said gently, leading Al over to the bed and watching him painfully settle down. He opened his mouth again…
"If you say you're sorry, Edward Elric, I'll transmute you into a rock." It was the use of his first name (the first time in four years, the first time since That Day, when they tried to get mother back, but Ed wouldn't realize that until later) that made Ed close his mouth, smile sadly at his little brother.
"I know." Al had the face and voice of a child, his body now ten years old. He had to keep reminding Hawkeye, the nurses, Winry, anyone who visited him that he was fourteen, that they didn't have to talk down to him. "But Edward…"
"If I can't say that I'm sorry you can't say that I saved you." Ed collapsed on the bed, his one tiny leg still not able to support him, though he was a lot closer to recovery than Alphonse. The doctors said that his little brother will now be his…littler brother. They didn't know how to make him age, and Al insisted that it was a minor problem until they stopped pestering him about it.
Al hummed to himself, a small noise in the back of the throat, and put one hand on Ed's shoulder. Ed grasped it in his own, his heart breaking at the fact that it could fit so easily inside his own. It was the size of Elisia's hand, of a little girl's.
"Brother…you did save me." Al yawned. He hadn't been able to keep awake for more than a half hour at a time, less if there were visitors. He'd spent four years without sleep, his body was just trying to catch up. "I owe you everything."
It was times like this where it was impossible to forget that Al was just a year Ed's junior. Ed swallowed the lump in his throat, stroked Al's downy hair as he leaned against Ed's arm. "We're brothers, Al, there's nothing to owe."
How could he explain that Al had saved him just as often? How could he make Al see that their relationship was a series of sacrifices, of heated arguments and subtle subterfuge and, ultimately, love? There was nothing to reciprocate, nothing, but Alphonse would never see that. His little brother was an expert as seeing the good qualities in everyone around him, yet was always astounded to find that he possessed any himself.
"You saved my life." Al's mouth opened in another yawn, revealing two rows of mismatched adult and baby teeth, a small pink tongue. He leaned more heavily against Ed, who threw two of the hospital sheets over the both of them.
"I was the one who took it away." Ed reminded him, "I was the one who suggested the transumation in the first place."
Al snuggled himself deeper into the covers, sighed when Ed threw an arm around his still-too-small body. "We're pretty messed up, aren't we brother?"
"Yeah." Ed stared out the window, wondering where the heck the next horizon was, "But we'll manage somehow. We always have." He let out a long, low breath, "Seems like everything works out in the end."
"It was a good ending." Al agreed, "The best we could have hoped for, after everything…"
Ed could think of a few better choices. Hughes could have lived to see his daughter grow up. Mustang could have not gotten so bitter at the world. They could have seen Winry more often…but, Ed supposed that in the end, they still had each other. They were alive and whole.
And, in the end, that's all that really mattered.
Somehow, they ended up on their backs, limbs tangled together. Ed thought Al was asleep when he spoke the words aloud to the room, "Love you, Alphonse."
But the sigh in his ear was the last thing he heard before dawn broke over the world, and they most definitely did not come from someone who was asleep. "I know, brother." Al might have hugged him closer at that point, but perhaps Ed's memory was adding that in, "I love you, too."
There, with his brother lying real and heavy under his arm, years away from the first fissure when it had begun to break, Ed's heart began to heal itself.
It was short, but it was the Epilogue. There will be another FMA story…in the future. Only because we love the story too much not to play with it a little more.
And, lastly, please review.