Title: Until it's Gone.
Word Count: 1,276
Summary: Alphonse ponders an old adage. Elricest.
It's at moments like this that Al is overwhelmingly aware of himself. The moon, completely unobstructed by clouds, shines brightly through the long, thin gap in the flimsy curtains. The room is dark and perfectly still, athough the beam of light from the window seems to sluice effortlessly through the gloom to spill out over the beds.
(And Ed is sleeping soundly in the bed by the window, his breathing soft; golden hair fanned out over the pillow.)
It's cold, and Al knows this. But to him, it feels like a distant, detached observation.
(And Ed starts to shiver, even underneath the thick duvet, and this is why the temperature matters to Al.)
His metal body lies motionless; for the most part, temperature is an abstract concept of the past. But it's at times like these, when he lies awake in the darkness, alone with only his own thoughts, that he remembers something that their mother once said to him: 'You never know what you're got until it's gone.'
It is, he supposes, quite true.
(And Ed turns slightly in his sleep, face peaceful in repose; this allows Al to permit himself a few small moments of longing, of regret, of feelings that Ed cannot be allowed to know.)
As a child, Al had always hated the cold. The way it made his nose run and turn pink; the way it numbed his fingers and made them feel like they were about to drop off. It was, perhaps, an exception when the cold was accompanied by snow. Al had hated the cold, and yet now found himself missing it fiercely. He missed the ice and the misty breath; he missed the snuggling up by the warm fire in the evenings; he missed the freezing mornings where he could stay cocooned within his warm nest of a bed. Their mother used to bring them up hot chocolate, steaming and foamy with a marshmallow melting in the center.
(And Ed is frowning, and all Al can think of is how Ed used to hug him to keep him warm when they were out too long in the snow.)
Al stares at the dark ceiling above him. The duvet doesn't quite reach his metal feet - it shouldn't matter, but somehow it does; his feet should be freezing, but somehow they're not. He has no mother to turn to for comfort anymore; her hugs, her smile, the way she used to stroke his hair. Al always thinks they probably took her too much for granted, but they certainly realised what they'd lost once she was gone.
(And Ed is muttering something now, not even aware of it; he looks pained.)
Clouds must have covered the moon, for the small room darkens even further. Al still wishes from time to time that he could truly sleep - but he has no eyes to close, no flesh body to rest. He knows that Ed still thinks he sleeps, though. Sometimes, when it's very late and Al has been silent, lying in bed caught up in his own thoughts, he has seen Ed move, just a little. His brother always faces the wall, then, trying to appear as though he's asleep; his left arm betrays him. Al doesn't mean to watch, but at first he couldn't help but be intrigued by this thing he had never experienced. But now, he watches for the hints of desperation he can see. For the oh-so-quiet noises his careful brother doesn't want to make.
(And Ed turns onto his back with a quiet snore, and Al is wondering if there's ever anything he could do. But no, not in this body. Never in this body.)
Al's sense of touch is relatively intact. This is another thing he now realises he took for granted; being able to really feel - not just to know when you were in contact with something; not just to know when you clumsily ran your hand along a surface. But to feel the intricate grain of wood, to riffle the crisp pages of a book, to trace the tiny pores of an orange.
(And Ed's lips part just a little, and Al thinks they look soft. And Ed's hair is messy around him, and Al thinks it looks like tangled silk.)
He misses hugging his brother. Al is glad he has him here, so glad, but he hates the physical distance. He has told Ed this before, and it still holds true: he wants to touch him again, more than anything. He can only faintly remember how close and warm his brother felt, but he still knows with certainty that it was one of the only things which comforted him after they were left alone. Al knows they were each other's strength, and still are. But being this close to him, constantly, and yet not being able to touch him... Al has seen Ed change. He may not have grown much these past few years, but Al can see the difference. He wishes he could feel this new Ed: begin to learn the slightly harder set of his jawline, trace the multitude of scars on his still-young body, discover how the automail connects and merges with the real flesh. Al longs to hug his brother again; to press their cheeks together and run his fingers through Ed's hair; to touch his lips and feel their warm response.
(And Ed is lying peacefully, and Al simply does not consider the import of these thoughts: Edward Elric is his brother, he loves him, and they will always be together. With the loss of his body, Al has become focused on the desire for real physical contact. One day, he knows, he will be able to touch Ed again.)
Al's sense of taste, however, is something that he has lost completely; how can he taste, when he has no mouth with which to eat?
Food, Al had always thought, was rather mundane. But again, only now he had lost this ability did he realise how much it should be appreciated. It still seems odd to him, sometimes, the way he never feels hungry, and the way he simply never has any desire to eat, and only pretends to on occasion out of politeness. He almost can't even remember what it's like to taste something any more. What does bread taste like? Or cheese? Or strawberries? Al finds it frustrating; an almost alien concept, but one which he has experienced. But it's been so long, and these memories fade quickly.
(And Ed is shifting, the side of his face beginning to be illuminated by the gentle glow of the dawn which creeps through the curtains. His lips are moist.)
Sometimes, it strikes Al that there are things that he may never experience. He can cling to the precious memories of his youth, of his huddles and close embraces with his brother, and knows that there may never be more. But then, from time to time, he will glance at Ed, and wonder what Ed tastes like. He may never know. But Al hasn't tasted anything in so long, and because of this metal barrier he sometimes feels this desire so acutely it hurts. The taste of his brother's skin is something that he wants because he has never known it: the idea of it is still only abstract, but it's there.
(And Ed is stirring, beginning to wake up as the room brightens a little more with the sunlight streaming in. He opens his eyes, blinking sleepily.)
There are some things, though, Al thinks as he watches his elder brother, that he never took for granted.
x-posted to elricest