Notes: Written for the fma_fic_contest prompt 'pills'.

Brother's Keeper
by Starlit Purple

He knew it was bothering him. Much as his brother always tried to put on the brave face, Al had always been able to see through it. Sometimes even more efficiently than Winry could. And trips across the desert were always hard on the automail.

To be fair, Ed was hiding it fairly well this time. Al couldn't see the slight limp that usually accompanied it, but his posture was telling. He'd bet his brother didn't even realize the slight change in his stance when his leg was particularly bothersome. Yet despite it all, he seemed the same old brother Al had seen months ago when he'd swung through Rush Valley on his way home, with a bright smile and a bear-gripping hug waiting for him when he saw him.

Al didn't miss the stiff way his brother sat, or the subtle unconscious rub of a hand on his thigh as he launched into a detailed account of his journey.

After several minutes of the rubbing, Al got up and wandered to the bathroom before stopping in the kitchen to get drinks for both of them. When he returned, Ed had his travel journal in hand. Probably looking up a new theory he'd had, Al presumed. The idle rub had turned into a more vigorous massage.

He figured he'd get a glare for offering them; Ed never did like admitting he needed anything. But when Al traded the alchemy notes for the two pills he dumped into his brother's hand, he received a guilty smile before Ed wordlessly popped them in his mouth and followed them with a drink.

"That bad?" Al asked softly.

Ed waved his hand, taking another gulp of water. "Desert sucks," he grumped in explanation. He drug his eyes back to Al's and smiled in earnest, rubbing his leg pointedly. "Thanks, Al."