Characters: The Elric brothers, mentions of Izumi and Winry.
Summary: "I didn't want you to know so you wouldn't feel guilty. It wasn't your fault. It was my choice, and mine alone."
Warnings: Spoilers for manga chapter 53, post-series. Implied EdxWinry. One shot.
Al made the mistake of falling asleep on top of his work. When Ed came back, he saw all the formulas and understood: his brother kept ignoring his warnings. Without a word, without even a grunt, Ed pressed his palms together and then reached the sheets of paper beneath Al's head, making sure he'd erased everything. Al seemed to be really tired, he didn't notice a thing.
After he was done, Ed went upstairs to his room. He had just opened a Pandora's box, he knew it. Yet, it was better than the alternative. Ed had spent months trying to nullify the explosion now bound to happen that very night, forbidding Al to even think about starting that research. But Al was as stubborn as him, if not more.
At times, Ed thought Izumi, the only one to know the whole deal, was right: he should had told Alphonse everything since the beginning. As he was taking off his coat, Ed sighed at the irony of hurting the people he cared about whenever he tried the hardest to protect their feelings.
Just as he'd thought, not much later the room's door opened with a loud bam. Ed didn't turn around; he knew his brother was furious. He finished buttoning up his pyjamas while imagining Al under the door's frame, breathing harshly, his eyes shining with anger, pain and disappointment.
When Ed finally looked at his brother, he tried to keep a blank expression, or, at the very least, an indifferent one. Al's face, however, grew more and more irritated each second.
Finally, the youngest Elric went to his brother, took him by the collar of the pyjamas and shook him. "What the hell is wrong with you?" he asked.
Ed took Al's hand and pushed him away. "Nothing," he said in a stupid attempt to delay the unavoidable.
"Do you have any idea for how long...?"
"...we've talked about this."
"We've talked?" said Al, his voice trembling. "You're the only one who does all the talking, you never listen to me and never give a proper explanation!"
Ed released the sigh he'd been holding in. "Al," he started, but stopped suddenly; his brother's eyes were tearing up.
"Edward," said Al somberly, "give me a reason, a good reason, and I'll leave you alone."
"I'm fine like this," Ed answered avoiding his brother's eyes.
"No, you are not fine like that!" said Al while raising Ed's right arm and pulling up the sleeve uncovering the automail. "After everything we've been through..."
"Since the beginning, my sole intention was to return you to your body, specially since I discovered all the advantages the automail has..."
"I'm not lying!"
Al seemed to be about to punch Ed's face, but he didn't do it. Instead, he turned to the door.
"I'll start over," he said, "but not from scratch: I still remember some of the results I got, and which of the methods I used were the right ones."
"Stop wasting your time, Al."
"Doing everything I can to help you is not wasting my time."
"I don't want your help, you got that?" Ed made his brother turn over, face him and look at him in the eyes. "It's my decision, respect it."
"I can't..." Al closed his eyes and clenched his fist. "Not after all those complains back then on how much you hated not having your own limbs. I don't get it, brother! What happened to all that determination to gain back what you lost?"
Al seemed to be near the breaking point. Ed hated to be the cause, but he couldn't explain to his little brother what happened when they entered the Gates that last time: it would only make it worse. He would do it, though, eventually... "Just let it be," he managed.
"I'll have to kick the truth out of you, won't I?" Al whispered.
The truth, the Truth... the damned Truth was the one to blame for everything.
Yes and no.
Ed let his head fall onto his brother's shoulder.
The Truth was fair, precise, faithful to its own rules; there was no reason for it to make concessions to anyone's ignorance.
Ed suddenly felt he didn't have the right to keep Al in the dark. Whatever it came up from his research could end up being worse than everything they'd been through already. "I'll tell you," Ed said sitting down on the bed, "but I want you to promise me..."
"I won't promise anything; you owe me this."
Ed sighed again and rubbed his face. "Fine," he started, but it took him almost a minute to go on. "Al, your body deteriorated worse than you imagine in all the time it was inside the Gates. If you had came back to the real world like that, you'd had died within a month. The Truth pointed out that just when he was about to give me my arm and leg back. What we had to offer in exchange for what we wanted wasn't enough for you to get healthy out of there."
"Stop it, Al," said Ed. "Stop that research. I'm getting tired of the bastard's games."
"No buts, Alphonse. I didn't want you to know so you wouldn't feel guilty. It wasn't your fault. It was my choice, and mine alone. And if you're gonna start complaining," Ed added after a pause, "I'll hit you until you forget this whole evening. Are we clear?"
Al couldn't help but to smile, despite the circumstances, while listening to his brother. Ed was very much relieved he could finally talk freely about the matter.
"You know something, Al?" Ed concluded, "if the Truth wants to keep my limbs, let it have them! I've got the best automail mechanic in the world!"
"She said yes, then?" said Al, beaming.