Title: "On the Wings of a Dream" - CHAPTER 2 + Art
Authors:theregaltigress and crazyloststar
Characters: This: Ed and Al, (The Rest of the Fic: Riza, Roy, Havoc, and more. :) )
Rating: This Chapter: PG (The Highest Rating of the Rest of the Fic: R)
Genre: AU (sky_dark's BLTA AU, to be precise), This particular section is humor and a bit of drama, (The Rest of the Fic: Generally Humor, Drama, Angst, Romance, Fluff)
Pairing(s): This: Roy/Ed (implied), Al/Riza (pending) (The Rest of the Fic: mention of Past!Roy/Riza, Havoc/OC)
Length of this (Mini-)Chapter: 6,784 words
Length of the (Edited) Story to Date: 27,548 words
As this fic is inspired from sky_dark's BLTA (("On the Wings of a Dream" takes place somewhere approximately between BLTA Chapters 7 and 9, so it is a 'tweener fic), so if you haven't read that far into her wonderful fic, you might find a few spoilers within. To get the full impact of this story series, familiarity with "The Adventures of Roy Mustang: Sex Ed Teacher" and its continuation, "Better Living Through Alchemy" would be particularly helpful, but if you aren't, hopefully we can get you up to speed. :) This is based on sky_dark's unique AU "take" on the end of the series, so there are some post-episode 51 "whiffs" and flickers of some movie backstory within the story as a whole. Obviously, since we are not sky_dark, this is not canon to BLTA, but as writers we are trying to stay as true to the characters/events in it as we possibly can. :)
CHAPTER 1: PART 1 (Includes Summary/Prologue) + Art
CHAPTER 1: PART 2
CHAPTER 2 + Art
CHAPTERS 5 - 8+: Editing in Progress
APPX. CHAPTER 9: Riza(/Al) Ficlet
APPX. CHAPTER 10: Al/Riza Ficlet
Ed rolled over on his side and felt around the bed for that familiar form, and let out a small whine when it was not there. Golden eyes sleepily opened and he took in the strange settings.
Oh yeah. . . Al's place.
He sat up unwillingly and rubbed his eyes, trying to open them completely. His door was shut, but he suddenly smelled something amazing. Bacon? His eyes widened and he jumped out of bed, haphazardly throwing on his workout shirt over his boxers.
One of the millions of reasons he loved his little brother; he cooked.
He opened the door and walked towards the amazing aroma while tying his hair back into a ponytail. It had been a few days since their incident at the restaurant, and Ed was scheduled to head back home to Central (and Roy) in two days. The days following the incident not a word about Riza had been spoken, or about Ed's eating habits, for that matter. Both subjects seemed to have been deemed as taboo for the time being.
This morning though, Ed decided as he walked into the kitchen and observed his brother standing over the stove, he wanted to talk about Riza. Why shouldn't his brother deserve everything he wanted? She needed to know how he felt, and if Ed and Roy could make something so bizarre (he smirked) work out, then why couldn't they?
But his eating habits? That was definitely still taboo.
Alphonse Elric stood guard over the stove and the multitude of pans and breakfast foods. He carefully gauged each one and adjusted the heat, position, or orientation of them in the supreme hope that not only would the foods be "perfectly" cooked and prepared, but that they would also be done nearly at once: a show of science and calculation to its finest for sure!
Plates and silverware as well as napkins were already on the table. Usually he would have asked Edward to get them out, but amid Alphonse's morning eatery preparations he found himself with a few extra moments on his hands between when he'd started the eggs and bacon and when the first set of toast had been done. Never a young man to let any time go to waste, he'd decided it couldn't hurt this once to set the table himself.
It didn't take long until Al heard Ed walk quickly and pointedly down the hall towards the kitchen. Always the careful observer, he took a certain amount of pride in not only being able to identify the gate as uniquely "Ed" from the certain way Ed's automail foot hit the floor, but moreover the pointed manner in which Ed walked. He had memories of Ed as a boy as well Ed's time within the military, and even now with Ed's teaching profession, there were still flickers of the extremely active young man he had once been some years earlier.
It was strange how time moved like that. That somehow after all those years of nearly homeless travel and being on the move, that the more well known brother would have found himself a comfortable life (and no one could be more deserving of it, in Alphonse's opinion). But to Al, it would always seem a bit strange to picture his older brother teaching in a classroom, and while he wasn't about to bring it up to him just yet, he was undoubtedly a little curious how the days lounging around at Roy's place and Ed's job had fared on Ed's own sparring skills.
The unmentionable restaurant scene from two days past still nudged at Alphonse. When Ed had unexpectedly used alchemy and trapped him, a part of Al had flared up that had lain dormant for many years. This little voice inside of him wanted to trump his brother in something. Not chess, not games of careful calculation that Alphonse bested Ed in time and time again.
No, something in Alphonse wanted to show Ed that there was more to him than pretty words. He used to spar with Ed all the time before and during the period when he had been confined to that suit of armor, and he'd bested Ed each and every time (assuming Ed hadn't cheated), but was that really a fair fight? At the time Al had told himself it was, but he'd never experienced the exhaustion of a human body then, and it wasn't his body, really.
When Al was younger, like any good siblings the brothers had short spats while studying under their Teacher, Izumi. They found that when she noticed such things, however, the harsh "lessons" they'd gotten in response had not justified their original fight in the least. But even in those days, Al was able to hold his own against Ed, and in fact he usually won out (unless Ed fought dirty, as he was prone to do).
Al would have been the first to admit, however, that much had happened to them both since those days, so the past didn't necessarily have much credence on win-lose calculations in the present.
As all this ran through Al's head, Edward approached. Something about Ed's pace made Alphonse stop and think a moment. When he turned to Ed, who was donned in his haphazard clothing and ponytail, Al was struck a moment at how ridiculous it was that he had been debating any type of proposed sparring with his brother: after all, why should Ed be expected to do such a thing? His great journey and with it his days of fighting and military service were long-since passed, and soon Alphonse's own stay in the military would be over as well. What would it prove anyway? They both deserved a break!
…But why then, for the briefest of moments did the amber-eyed young man spare a glance at his older brother and try to determine in what ways who would have the upper-hand, and how? He didn't have anything to "prove" to Ed, right?
"Good morning!" Alphonse chirped with a little more enthusiasm than he probably should have, "you're up early! Did you sleep well?"
Al always made Ed laugh with how much of a perfectionist he was. That quality was something so unlike Edward, that it was almost uncanny at times that the two were related. Somehow, even in just boxers and undershirts, Al still managed to look more kempt. Not that Ed cared.
Ed noted that the settings were already on the table (which was fine by him. Al almost always ended up fixing however Ed set them down anyways) and Al was staring intently at everything that was cooking.
When Al turned to look at him as Ed entered the kitchen though, there was something almost. . . challenging in his eyes. Ed couldn't quite place the look, but it did remind him of when he, himself was younger, that look of determination. Ed paused a moment, taking in the look, the stare of the amber eyes, before deciding to dare to take the final steps to the table. He noticed Al greeted him in a manner way too chipper for this early. Or maybe that was just because Ed was so damn tired. It was hard to fall asleep when one had adjusted to the comfort of a warm body nearby.
"Mornin'" he managed to mumble out. His throat obviously had not joined him in the realm of awake yet. "I slept ok. You?" he took a seat at the table, (somewhat) patiently awaiting breakfast to be ready. His stomach was growling and he was ready to appease its demands.
Al seemed distracted, he noticed. It looked almost as though he were giving Ed the once over, sizing him up. Ed worried to himself that there was still left over tension from the fight a couple days ago. He kept expecting Al to pounce on him at any moment and try to gain the upper hand, especially since Ed had been a bit of a bastard and trapped him with alchemy. Ed struggled to hold back a chuckle at remembering Al's face then. What is he planning? Or plotting, rather?
But at this, his mind began to switch gears.
Ed began to have second thoughts about breakfast. . . at least one that was cooked by someone who may wish a bit of revenge on him. He stood and slowly walked across the kitchen to stand beside Al and take a glance at what was being prepared, and likewise catch a glimpse of the ingredients involved. It felt silly, but hey, if he wanted to take revenge on himself, Ed knew doing so through food (his favorite thing, ever) would be one of the best ways to do it.
Al didn't miss his brother's questioning glance, and Al immediately forced an overly large smile onto his face: a smile that he guiltily hoped would cover up whatever other expression Alphonse had been wearing moments before. Edward is your brother and an alchemist, yes, but not a mind reader! Al mentally berated himself as he quickly returned to busying himself with the small remainder of things that needed to be done before the meal could be considered "done."
He took notice of Edward's movement towards him, and tensed a little bit, thinking for the merest fraction of a second that perhaps Ed could sense his guilty conscience concerning his inner-thoughts on sparring. Al worried that he might be planning yet another inevitable show of "skill" to make sure his younger brother stayed in his "proper place." Thinking on his feet, Al scrambled to grab the nearest plate (full of toast, luckily) and promptly passed it to his older brother when Edward seemed to be taking peculiar interest in the breakfast foods. "Here! Butter these!" Alphonse quickly exclaimed.
What had Ed just asked? Alphonse considered, still amid some amount of mental distraction. Oh! How I slept!
Al's head bobbed once. It was a quick, official sort of nod that Al would have used out on the field or in an official's office: not quite the variety he usually had for Edward. As time went on, the younger of the two brothers was still struggling to be more of a peer to Edward, rather than simply his brother's beloved pet project. "Oh! I slept well. I had a dream where we'd both grown wings: it was really incredible!"
He looked back to the bacon and began to take it from off the pan with a certain amount of intensity and flourish that would have to anyone else seem like an immense amount of concentration for the sake of bacon. Watching him, however, it was almost as ritual and calculated as a master painter might work a paintbrush to a canvas. Al busily moved things here and there while he paused a moment to consider how to relay his dream before he continued, "I really don't know where we were, though. It didn't look at all familiar, but most people there dressed a lot more like you do. You were showing me around, though, so you," Al paused to correct himself, "well, the dream you must have known where we were." The younger brother ventured a quick glance to the doppelganger of Edward, "but you were as stubborn there are you are in person, and you wouldn't tell me!"
The younger alchemist was now scooping eggs and he sighed, "Eventually we got separated somehow, and I ended up back here and…" There was a longer pause as Alphonse tried to mentally connect the dots through his dreams to trace the nighttime logic. But he couldn't trace it this time, no matter how hard he racked his brain. He simply could not figure out how he … well, the dream he, had ended up outside the Colonel's apartment. Al had never seen it before, so he didn't know how he knew it was her place, but he just did.
Beyond that point in the dream there was even less logic. He'd been so eloquent, his manners so gentlemanly and mature. And… Riza had smiled and touched his arm! Al squirmed a little as he felt heat travel to his face (and possibly other places).
Well, that wasn't the real Riza; it was just the dream Riza. The Colonel would never… his thoughts trailed off.
Alphonse blinked as he noticed his hand was holding a skillet with two eggs still on it … why was his mouth open? Was he still talking with someone? His brain scrambled to catch up to his present reality. Oh! Ed!
"…I can't remember much of the rest of the dream," a distracted Alphonse lied, "but it was a good dream. I'm glad you slept okay too."
Al spared a glance at a clock to make sure he hadn't just been standing there looking like a blushing fool for any exceptional amount of time. He was relieved when he saw it, however, and promptly went back to moving eggs, because at least the eggs wouldn't be giving him the certain brand of "look" he suspected his brother would be wearing. That "look" that made Al feel like he was ten years old again, being gently berated by his older brother on any one of a variety of subjects.
The "painter" had dropped his brush all right.
Al was all over the place. Not literally of course, but his thoughts sure were. The dream Al began to talk about … okay, the wing thing was weird, but it was the idea of Ed taking Al somewhere strange and foreign that made something catch in his throat. There was always the underlying fear that one day something would come up and Ed would have to face that world all over again. He knew that one day he would have to talk to Roy about it, but he never wanted to have to go through that with Al. That whole time he'd been stuck there, so much of his time was spent thinking of what had happened here. He was afraid his memories would be plagued by those thoughts.
It was then he noticed that Al had become obviously distracted, and was looking slightly flushed. Ed had the brotherly urge to playfully bonk him over the head, but instead he finished buttering the bread Al had thrust at him and then decided to just go right to procuring breakfast onto his plate. Besides: bonking his little brother over the head would only further delay food consumption.
To lighten the mood, Ed decided that he would indeed bring up the dear Colonel to Al and tell him how this should be handled. Really, how hard could this be??
Ed grabbed a plate and shoveled food onto it, already stuffing a piece of bacon into his mouth as he sat down at the small table, his eyes on Al once his host was seated. He never wanted to pick fights with Al, but there were times that he felt that as big brother, he had every right to step in and make his opinion known.
"So Al," he bit into a piece of bacon and slowly chewed on it. "Tell me more about how the Colonel is doing these days. You seem to know a lot about her work. I mean, she's a Colonel now, and when Roy was in that position he always had some interesting stories." He smirked and glanced down at his plate to pick up some eggs with his fork now. He could just imagine the look on his brother's face at the mention of her name. He hoped though that by getting Al to talk about her first, he could easily begin discussing a plan of attack. One of them needed to make some sort of first move.
Alphonse had finished with what needed done. He turned off the heat on the stove, picked out the last few necessary breakfast items, and then had taken to the cupboards. He fetched out glasses and filled two with juice, one with milk, one with water (for Ed), and placed them neatly on the table, aligning them so perfectly to the curvature of the plates that one would have thought "breakfast" was at its core, merely another alchemic array to Alphonse.
He had long-since stopped trying to convince his elder brother of the benefits of milk, and the two had reached a sort of truce where Ed would try his best not to make disgusted faces at his little brother when Al drank it, and in exchange Al would keep quiet about how he believed Ed should have it now and then (especially in the off-chance it might help him earn a belated growth spurt; even though Al's body was only seventeen, he was still taller than his twenty-three year older brother: a sore point with Edward, if there ever was one).
Al took his seat across from Ed, folded a napkin and put it into his lap, and had just cut a piece of the egg and put it into his mouth when he heard his brother pipe up about the Colonel. He half-choked in response, considering his thoughts had already flickered to and fro concerning the Colonel in the last few minutes. And how.
Alphonse really was petrified his brother had become a mind reader. About the last thing he wanted right at that moment was his brother being able to read his thoughts.
His head popped up and accusingly focused on Edward, whose own head was conveniently pointed back at his plate while he worked to voraciously shovel food into his mouth. He was working at it slower than usual, Alphonse was quick to notice, which must mean he was plotting something (he was never terribly good at multitasking), and by the looks of it, Al had a rather good idea what it was.
Why is doing this AGAIN?! We already went through it once and over days ago!
Al glared daggers at his brother while he coughed once into a napkin, and still glaring, narrowed his eyes at Ed.
The tone in Al's voice made it obvious that he was far from oblivious to what his brother was likely scheming. No, Al was not about to be innocently led into this. He was going to stand his ground and play Ed's little game.
"The Colonel is doing just fine as far as I know. We don't really socialize much outside of work, so I'm probably not the best person to ask, in that regard." Though I often wish I was, he confessed privately to himself.
"She's very busy, though, and there are some cases we're working on right now, but there's not much I can talk about concerning them. Official business and all." Yes, there was certainly a flicker of lofty pride in his tone, as if he knew or at the very least suspected he was being tested. Privately he justified this to himself: after all, his current rank was above what Ed had achieved when he was part of the military, so Al could afford to be a little smug now and then. Right?
The trouble was that Alphonse was usually happy to divulge at least a little of what was going on "at work," but after what Ed had said the other day, he wasn't about to say more than absolutely necessary. He firmly believed Ed was only asking to find out more about the Colonel. As far as Al was concerned, the less he knew, the better. The less Ed knew, the less he could use it against him.
And the less chance there was (he hoped) that Ed would actually go through with his threat on talking to the Colonel, himself.
"I'm not sure when the last time was that you saw Hayate, but he's doing well, just getting up there in years so he's not as active as he used to be. The Colonel still brings him to work with her most days, though, and he's just as friendly as ever."
Instinctively, Alphonse wanted to wrap the conversation back around to dogs and R.D. as a lead-in to changing the subject, but he knew this little circus of Ed's was destined to re-route right back around anyway. It was only a matter of time. Maybe if Al just let his brother air himself out this once, he would get it out of his system and the issue would drop entirely.
A pause. There wasn't even an actual issue! That's why it was so frustrating! His brother just wanted to have his hands in Al's life and "help" even if in areas such as these, Ed's certain brand of "help" was far from welcome.
Al ate a little more and observed his brother carefully for signs of what, he wasn't sure.
There was nothing between Al and the Colonel, and that's… well, that's simply how it was and was going to remain. Al had told himself once and over to accept that. To accept he simply had a childish crush on someone he respected, and that, for one, he was too young (or at the very least, looked it). More importantly, he was acutely aware that she was an higher-ranking officer, and much as he sometimes felt his legs weaken when she complimented him on a job well done, or gave him a smile, Alphonse was not ignorant enough to mistake those things for evidence of any sort of budding "relationship" between he and the Colonel.
Although he did secretly fanaticize about how such things might be.
He fantasized about a lot of things.
None of which was he about to discuss with anyone, least of which, especially Ed.
Al pointed his fork towards Ed, "look, I know what you're probably trying to get at. You were always horrible with small talk, you know, but I'm fine. Work's fine. As far as I can tell, the Colonel is busy, but fine, and in a few weeks I'll be out of the military, (which I only joined so I could find you), and then I look forward to not having you poking and prodding me about the Colonel anymore. There's nothing to worry about! She's just a senior officer and a good friend, that's it!"
What initially began as a convincing monologue progressively became less so. By the end of it, it wasn't totally apparent if Alphonse was bent on convincing Ed, or Ed and himself as well.
"I'm not even sure how often I'll bump into her once I'm out: she's very busy after all."
Somehow, that thought seemed to have been meant originally to convince Edward, but after the words had left Alphonse's lips, he had this very real realization that once he was out of the military, he really wouldn't be seeing much of Riza.
His face contorted a bit at the thought as he stuffed an oversized bite of egg in his mouth in the manner he used to eat before he perfected this whole etiquette "thing."
Ed sat back and watched Al squirm. It was absolutely amazing how he could predict the actions of his younger brother at times. Six years apart did not take away all bonds that they had, most definitely not.
He adjusted himself once Al began to talk about "official business," crossing his right leg over his leg, and lifting his right arm onto the chair, getting nice and comfortable. He picked up a piece of toast and took a bite. Al took pride in knowing that Ed was no longer part of the military, and therefore no longer privy to important information. But Ed also knew that anything he wanted to know he could easily get out of Roy: something Al seemed to sometimes forget.
Al also, though, was a smart kid, and knew what Ed was trying to get at.
"I'm not poking and prodding anything, Al," he smirked and took a bite of toast, waving it into the air as he chewed and spoke once more, "I am simply trying to help my brother out. Like I said the other day, don't you deserve what you want? I mean, come on, it's obvious you have a thing for the Colonel. I don't put it past you either, that you would find some way to make it into the station to say 'hi' to her even after you're out. AAANnnnd furthermore, I don't doubt that she would mind in the least."
Ok, so he was being a bit….assuming. But now he needed to instill in his brother some confidence! Why was Al being such a wuss about this? It was just a girl. Sure the Colonel could whip out her gun and aim so fast he wouldn't know what hit him, but Ed also had some inkling that perhaps there was more going on here than anyone, even Riza or Al, realized was going on.
Another bite of toast while Ed pondered, looking up to his automail and inspecting the small scratches on it. It was almost time for his yearly check up. Oh, Joy. He was, however, thusly amused by the way Al seemed to have forgone his concerns with etiquette for the time being.
"Ok, Al. Here's what we are going to do." He uncrossed his legs and leaned forward, using the last bit of toast in his hand to point right at him. "You need to get Riza's attention somehow. Have you two ever gone out at all? To lunch? Dinner? Hell even looking at guns? Anything that would give you both alone time?"
His goal here was simple: either Al was going to plan something, or Ed was going to put him somewhere, so that these two could get alone and see what's going on.
Ed thought that Roy might get a bit miffed for interfering in this way.
He smirked internally.
But Roy wasn't here. Ed had to hide a laugh of sheer evil joy.
"I don't need your help! And besides, you don't have any idea what you're talking about to begin with!" Alphonse retorted, "You were gone six years, brother! You're reading this all wrong!" The younger brother was certainly insistent, and it seemed his food was all-but forgotten once Ed had gotten him going. "She's just a good friend, a mentor: that's all!"
There was a short silence in which he ungracefully shoved more egg in his mouth and continued after some chewing and deliberation, "at the most, the VERY most, I used to have a tiny crush on her." He went on defending himself and the crush he didn't have, "Who wouldn't?! She's an attractive, accomplished, talented, strong, kindhearted woman! But I don't have a crush anymore, I've outgrown it. She's my senior officer, I just report to her! That it! End of story!"
Liar. Something deep inside him responded.
"But even if I did still have a crush. Which I don't. But if I did, she's not interested, Ed. She never was. I'm still just a kid to her, that much is blatantly obvious." There was a peculiar tone to his voice that spoke to a bit of a deeper hurt than he was letting on. A hurt that he was uncomfortable letting anyone see, least of all Ed.
He stared at a piece of bacon as if he waited for it to make the first move.
In a very frustrated and un-Alphonse-like manner, he stabbed a piece of bacon with his fork with a loud ~CRUNCH~. The sweet-tempered Elric was being pushed into a corner.
He looked across the table at Ed as his brother proposed a plan of attack. A plan of attack as if this with Riza was some sort of chess battle: didn't Edward already know full and well that if there was a chance, however slim, that Alphonse already would have taken it? That his clever mind and observant eyes were always gauging the Colonel for … something. Something that would let Alphonse know that he was "special": her body language, her smile …there were an endless list of mental notes as well as at least eight journals filled with "filler" information on the Colonel. But try as he might, he'd long-since established her attentions to be completely of the platonic variety.
On one hand, it was somewhat touching Ed was so insistent, seemingly on Al's behalf, but on the other hand, his brother just didn't seem to be getting it through his thick skull that all of this was for naught. As far as Al was concerned he had already been subtly rejected (Ed was hardly the first person to notice Al's "crush" on the Colonel), so all this was doing was opening a raw very familiar wound. "I don't need 'alone time' with her. She's not interested! It's just a stupid crush!" Al exclaimed for seemingly the hundredth time.
Alphonse's voice was serious now, and the tone of it made it rather apparent he was not amused in the least to be a part of this conversation. Ed was pushing buttons that he hadn't managed to push before, and how. He wasn't going to be bullied into one of Ed's little schemes, least of which if it concerned Al's dating life (or the Colonel), especially when Alphonse was entirely convinced at the pointless, inevitable pain of such an endeavor.
But a flicker of him, just a flicker, wanted to hear Ed out, and wanted to feel differently.
Al reacted exactly as Ed had thought. He knew this was a touchy subject, and knew this was something Al would not want to talk about. But he didn't care one bit, because he was determined to do something about it. And of course, once Edward decided something needed to be done, there was no turning back for him.
And Ed could sense…he just knew that Al wanted to do something about this, but that strange…new side of him that grew those six years he was away was holding him back. Ed wished he knew what had changed Al so slightly in the time that he was gone. But Al was obviously flustered about this situation, and about the idea of Riza not being interested in him. Sometimes he really couldn't hide his emotions, hard as he may try.
"Just hear me out, Al." Ed shoved the last little bit of bacon into his mouth and stood, crossing his arms in thought as he began to pace across the kitchen. He had to make this plausible. He may need Roy's help. . .
"You just need to start off simple. Obviously since you are still under her orders things are a little tricky. . . " he stopped at the sink and turned towards Al. "but what if you just did something little, like, took Hayate for a walk with her? I mean really, that's harmless. She loves that dog and you just love anything that's furry and has four legs."
He paused at this point and placed both hands on the table, staring down at Al. "I mean, that seems pretty innocent, don't you think? And Roy and I can even be nearby if you would like, hidden of course, in case you need anything. Which I guess could be helpful since you know, you trust him over me with women." He scoffed only slightly when mentioning this.
"After a few walks, you guys will be getting to know each other better. From there I mean there's endless possibilities. We could even go out, the four of us, and make it seem like some innocent celebration of something random." By this point Ed was again away from the table and pacing around the room, his mind littered with ways of getting these two together. "I mean if you want I can start this whole thing off. I can go offer to Riza that we walk Hayate!! Then I'll have to skip out. It will just be you two!" He was getting excited that this plan of attack might work. Hell, why wouldn't it work? He cackled and placed a hand on Al's shoulder.
"You can stop denying everything! It's totally obvious. And you know that you would love to spend more time with her." He shook Al's shoulder, grinning so wide out of joy that this should work.
Alphonse Elric was indeed trying his best to hear his brother out, but still part of him remained conflicted. Part of him was so almost ANGRY that Ed was continuing to knowingly push his buttons in this manner, yet the merest fact that not only was Edward talking in a calm voice, but that he was actually attempting to use logic had ever-so remotely kept Al from going over the edge. He listened. He didn't necessarily AGREE with what Edward was saying, but he decided to bid his time.
In the back of his mind Al considered Ed's idea of offering to walk Hayate, but he wouldn't give his brother the benefit of knowing it.
"Brother. It's a nice idea, really, and if it was anyone other than the Colonel, I might be inclined to consider it, but there's just no POINT, don't you see? I don't need an excuse to talk to her: I do it practically every day I'm in East City! And I'm not denying anything. I'm just telling you the truth! Whether or not I would … "prefer" to spend more time with her has nothing to do with it! She's busy enough as it is without some harebrained scheme of swindling her time to get in the way of her duties."
Alphonse slouched a bit under his brother, for the moment ignoring the hand that was placed on his shoulder in favor of looking up at Ed. His eyes betrayed his lack of conviction.
"This isn't a game, brother. Please just leave it be. I'm okay with things as they are. Really."
Liar. That voice said again.
Ed removed his hand from Al's shoulder and grabbed his plate, quickly finishing off the eggs and remaining piece of bacon as he got up and walked towards the sink. He was filing away some valuable information. The way Al placed his words were too careful. "Prefer"? Please. Thought Ed. That's probably the closest thing I'll get though to any sort of confession that he really has strong feelings for her. It was even more amusing to Ed though that Al did not even realize that he had given his brother this ammunition.
"Fine." Ed said, as he rinsed the plate off in the sink, his back to Al. "I'll leave it be then. I guess I should just stop trying to help my little brother out so much, huh?" He turned and placed both hands on the edge of the counter behind him, leaning back as he stared directly into Al's eyes. He wasn't trying to be intimidating, but he was trying to let Al know that if this was something, rather, someone, he wanted to be with, Ed could help.
But Ed had a feeling that this was going to be a solo mission. He hadn't had a "mission" in quite some time, so the thought of such an important operation invariably excited him; this was a mission he would have to really pull out some favors for.
And that was okay. It was, after all, for Al. For now though, he decided that he would lay low. He would give Al what he requested and drop the subject. He wouldn't bring this up again. No, not at all. But Ed hoped that the next time this was brought up was when Al ran in hugging Ed, overjoyed that he had finally gotten through to Riza.
Ed blinked, noticing his brother was also staring at him. Nervously, he smiled too big, and skipped forward, bending down to give Al a small hug. He loved his brother, in the end, and that was what this was all about.
"I'm going to get a shower now then I suppose. . . " He yawned and stretched out his arms, then scratched the back of his head. "We have a lot more to do before I go home tomorrow!!"
Al sighed a little in relief: it seemed to him that his brother had made a wise decision in letting the topic of the Colonel drop (sort of). Normally, Alphonse wasn't so bothered by the subject, after all: he spoke to the Colonel most every workday (when he was not, of course, out on a mission), and even sometimes on weekends when he would sometimes manage to find an excuse to slip into the offices.
…And sometimes he simply made excuses to himself just to have an opportunity to stop by the Colonel's office, just in the off chance she was in.
…but he certainly wasn't going to tell Ed that, either.
"Thanks for understanding," Alphonse succinctly responded. Well, he didn't believe Ed really grasped the entirety of the situation, or that Ed actually FULLY intended to back off from it or let the subject drop, but Ed even proposing such an offer was tantamount to some small victory. Al would have to keep a closer eye on him: the insistence in Ed's voice seemed to imply this had become Ed's next "great quest."
That thought made Al stop a moment and think about more than he would have cared to: about the promise he'd made to help his brother get his limbs back, about so many tougher days of the past.
Maybe that's why he's so insistent: he'd spent so long searching for answers, for things, that now he doesn't know what to do without that focus. And look at me? Wasn't I the same way? Al looked at his brother's face. Why was he so opposed to Ed's help, besides the obvious?
Because it's the 'Colonel,' and Ed is … He looked at his sloppily dressed brother.
… uniquely 'Ed.'
He couldn't help but manage a small smile for his sibling. "I really do appreciate that you want to help, Brother," the next part he was having trouble swallowing, but he made sure he meant every word when he said it, "and if I need any advice, I'll certainly ask you for it, alright?"
There was a lot he wanted to say, but he decided there were better ways to spend the morning with his brother than promoting a shaky stroll down memory lane or possibly provoking a deeper argument. No, before Alphonse had to head in to work, he just wanted a nice, quiet morning with his brother.
…And once Ed was safely in the shower, Alphonse would get out some of his old Colonel observation journals and see what he'd scratched down about dog-walking, and see if he had overlooked any crucial information since he'd last referenced them a week before.
Al went back to his now lukewarm food, "just try to keep the water IN the shower this time, okay?" Al remarked, eyeing Ed, "I think I understand now what Pirate meant about you needing so many towels."
As Ed headed out the kitchen, he was already plotting what he was going to tell both Havoc and Roy to try to get his plan to work. He would spend the day scheming while Al was at work. This was going to have to be done without Al knowing, and that would be tricky, but despite what Roy said, Ed thought, no, knew, this would work.
At Al's comment about the towels, however, Ed stopped abruptly at the doorframe edging the perimeter of the kitchen. Ed's right hand gripped the door jam as he kept his eyes facing forward (and away from his brother).
That slimy bastard. How dare he mention something like that to his brother!! Roy sure was developing quite the list of things that Ed needed to bring up.
Ed swallowed hard, thinking that Roy probably thought it hilarious to bring the subject of their. . . "overuse". . . of towels each day, especially to someone who was not likely to understand. Ed finally caught his breath when he felt the heat of a blush completely overwhelming his face, and forced that smile of his. Completely full of nervousness.
"One towel it is, I promise!" He waved his right hand in the air and dashed out of the room to continue fuming about being placed in such an awkward moment with his own brother.
That man is damn lucky I love him. Fucking lucky.