(Previous chapters...Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5
Word count: 3871
Pairing: Ed/Al if you can count it as such
Rating: PG-13 to R depending on the chapter
Warnings: And no beta, even though people have offered! So the mistakes are my own. And there's KISSING.
Summary: AU after episode 50. With Al's body freshly restored, the Elrics now must face each other's sins and hopefully survive their own trial by fire. After Edward is buried alive, he must recover and eventually learn to forgive himself for the past.
With her arms hugging herself, Winry watched as the auto was loaded. Alphonse and Roy packed the three suitcases carefully while Ed made his way down the steps with cane in hand. The only indication that he was still in pain was the fine sheen of sweat bathing his face and the tension in his locked jaw.
Her eyes half glared at Ed as he stepped slowly to the car. "You shouldn't be leaving, Ed. Your arm's in a delicate state-"
"You shouldn't have treated Alphonse like a criminal!" The teen snapped back as he avoided her glare. "Maybe you should have thought of that, huh?"
"Ed, You were dead," her hands slapped up against her mouth as her eyes widened. Edward froze as everyone turned to watch them while his eyes narrowed dangerously to glare at her.
"Dead, huh? Tell me, Winry, did you see the Oroubus on my body, anywhere?"
Winry shrank back slightly as her eyes cast downwards. "That's not what I --"
"DID YOU?!" Ed's voice choked with pain as he shifted his automail arm. No matter how tightly they bound it to his side and chest, it always shifted. "I want to know, Winry. I wan to know before we leave whether or not you think I'm a homonculis!"
Alphonse's hand reached out for his brother as he took a step forward. Edward being this angry was not good for healing. "Brother--"
"Shut it, Al. This is between me and her."
Al turned when he felt Roy's hand on his shoulder and fell back. Ed seethed as he waited for Winry's answer. "Well?"
"What do you expect from us, Edward?" The girl was never submissive. She grew up with these boys and could fight back as hard as they dished out. Winry's hands were clenched into fists at her sides and her eyes glassed over with unshed tears. "We're not Alchemists and anytime we wanted to help, you've pushed us away! You've not once trusted us to help bear your burdens!"
"They're not your burdens to bear!" Edward raged at her, taking another step forward. "You don't need to get involved in our troubles! We want you to have a life that will let you sleep at night and not keep you looking over your shoulder every five minutes!" Ed's eyes flashed as he glared at her, shaking as he shouted. "You were suposed to be our family, Win! Our haven and the place where we could try to sleep at night! And you betrayed that. Family doesn't do that, ever." Ed turned away from her and started heading towards the car.
Winry stood on the porch in shock when Ed turned away from her. She hopped down after a moment, all fight and defensiveness gone from her tone as she called out after the teen. "Ed, wait! What about your arm? When do you want me to come to Central to check on it?"
He practically sneered as he continued forward. "I wouldn't want to trouble you. I can find a mechanic, so don't bother worrying about us."
Riza watched Edward make his way to the car and slowly haul himself in. She glanced over to Roy and turned to get in the driver's seat. Once everyone was loaded into the auto and they started down the gravel road, she glanced in the mirror to see the blond girl with her face turned into the one of the pillars supporting the porch roof. In the back seat of the auto sat the brothers in stony silence. Alphonse watched Ed as he stared out the window. Roy looked through the passenger's side window, ignoring them.
"You made Winry cry, Brother. " Al's tone wasn't accusatory. It sounded like he was making an observation.
Ed's response was soft and calm. Maybe he was ready to cry, himself. "It's the last time I'll ever do that, then."
Roy's eyes shifted from the rolling, monotonus scenery to Riza seated beside him.
The train ride back to Central proved to ba a difficult trip for the elder Elric. The constant jostling agitated Ed's arm. He tried to sleep away the journey, but the best he could do was doze restlessly against Alphonse's side, his right pressed up along the younger boy. Al in turn watched the world pass by with a low hum in his chest and fingers slowly twirling through his brother's hair. Roy dozed as best he could for the time being with his arms folded across his chest and his legs stretched out, crossed at the ankles. His hat was partially drawn over his face to provide some sort of shaddow against the midday sun and it's heat.
The quiet gave Riza time to reflect on the past two days and to observe the Elrics under the pretense of cleaning her firearm. The brothers had proven to be close as they searched for the Stone and now they truly seemed inseperable. It was intriguing to watch Alphonse worry and fret over his brother, at least as much as Edward would allow. Fullmetal was as scrappy and independant as ever, even when he was still recovering from automail surgery. If more people had this kind of love and devotion for each other then the country would be in a better state of affairs than it was now. He leaned on his brother when he thought no one was watching, content to have that single presence against his side or back. Ed always had done that, even when Al was a suit of armor. Always touching even if Al couldn't feel it at the time.
Now that Al could feel, he touched everything. The auto's leather seats, the ungiving burning hot metal of the train car, the golden strands of Ed's hair, nothing was too sacred to be exempt from Al's questing fingers. Even now his hand was brushing gently along the well worn window frame. After spending years trapped in a body that had no sensory input save for the strange glowing orbs that served to be the Elric's sight, Alphonse seemed to be trying to make up for lost time. Riza had noticed that he did not eat as voraciously as his elder brother even though he seemed to enjoy meals well enough.
Edward started awake only once through the trip. He gave a strangled, incoherent shout and flailed off the bench he was half slouched in, startling Alphonse from his daydream. Riza scrambled a little to retrieve the pieces of her weapon when Ed inadvertantly knocked her leg. Roy jumped slightly and lifted his head to watch Al slide down onto the floor beside Ed.
"Brother?" He was afraid to touch Ed at first, remembering the first time the young Alchemist had a flashback.
"Alphonse?" Ed jumped and blinked with eyes that still dreamed. "Al?"
"Right here, Brother." He gently touched Ed's left shoulder, his eyes a little calmer now that he knew that Ed was slowly coming out of the dream. "It's okay, Ed. We're on the train to Central, remember?"
Ed's shoulder slumped a little and he nodded, shifting painfully to try to get back up on the seat. "Right. Train." He winced when he forgot his right arm was bound and tried to move it. Instead his left hand came up to rub his face. "Why didn't we take the auto back, again?"
"There's a feul shortage," Riza reminded him quietly as she reassembled her weapon. "The vehicle belonged to one of the officers stationed at Rizembool."
"Officers? Why's there Military stationed at Rizembool?" Ed finally pulled himself back into his seat as if nothing had happened. Alphonse watched Ed a moment longer while chewing on his lip and then turned back to Roy and Riza.
The General tipped his hat up so that the others could see his face. "The main reason why Military's been stationed at Rizembool was to monitor you and Alphonse's where abouts. The Military believes that you're MIA, Fullmetal, and that your brother is still a suit of armor."
"MIA...you didn't tell them I was dead?"
"I believe we've had this conversation, already."
"You only said that you believed what Al did, you never said what the Military knew about us, General." There was always that spark of ire and defensiveness in Edward's voice, and it came through especially now when he was speaking with Mustang.
And it was something Roy was used to. He actually missed it to some extent. He didn't draw atention to the tone but he did acknowledge the words. "Never the less, when I return to HQ, I will have to inform them of your return. Oddly enough, the Master Sergeant in Rizembool never reported to Central your presence, so at the very least, the Rockbells did hide you."
"We didn't know if Ed was going to be courtmartialled or if the Military knew about me," Alphonse said quietly.
Roy nodded. "So...we can't hide you in armor, Al, then we have to say that you and your brother crossed over into Xing and found a way to bring your body back."
"And what about my arm?" Ed didn't see an issue with the plan as of yet to outright disagree. "And I would have cooked myself crossing the desert."
"It was early spring. Not as warm as in the summer, so it's feasible to believe you made it there and back. As for your automail, it can always be said that you were caught off guard by bandits--"
Ed sniggered at the thought. "Yeah, right, General! A bandit ripped my arm off!"
Roy shrugged. "Or you caught some foreign disease. That would explain your recovery at the Rockbells and your current state."
"Yeah, okay." That seemed satisfactory enough for the young Alchemist. "Why are you doing this again?"
"You're one of my soldiers, Fullmetal. I make certain that my soldiers are taken care of."
Ed looked up at Mustang as if to say something, but he sighed instead, relaxing back into the bench. "So when do you think they'll serve dinner around here? I'm starving."
"So, Fullmetal just appeared out of no where and you just happened to be visiting in the same area." The General didn't even look up from his paperwork while Mustang stood at attention.
"Yes, sir." Mustang was never offered a seat so he never bothered to take the one chair that was right beside him. His eyes remained straight ahead and focused on the portrait behind his commanding officer. It was better in these cases to simply answer the question and not provide any additional information to avoid tripping over your own story.
"And not only did he magically appear, but his younger brother has been fully restored to his human body."
The General sighed softly, setting his pen down. For once, he looked up to Mustang. "And both of the boys are with you, correct, Major General?"
"Very well, then. Fullmetal will be taken into custody for trial."
"Sir?" This wasn't something he wanted to happen. He thought that having the boys in his care was enough. "General Keretonin, may I interject?"
"Do you have a problem with the Military trying your subordinate?"
"No, sir, but the boy should be in the hospital. He's recovering from an illness and automail surgery. If he's moved or sent to prison, irrevocable damage may happen to his shoulder."
"Thus rendering your protegy useless and sending him into early retirement."
"It would be a detriment to the whole of the Military, sir. Especially if the people caught wind that the People's Alchemist was on trial. They would not take it very well."
The General paused and then nodded slowly. "Very well. He will be placed under house arrest and tried when he is well enough to stand trial."
Mustang saluted. "Yes, sir! I shall inofrm the Military Police of this."
Keretonin handed the Major General the orders. "Straight away, General Mustang."
Roy entered his office and sauntered over to Vato's desk. "Here's your next assignment, Falman."
Vato looked up to Mustang as he took the paper to scan over. He had to read it twice before jumping to his feet and saluting. "Sir! Fullmetal and his brother have been found?"
"That's right, Falman," Mustang sat behing his desk with a weray sigh. "They've been found."
"Where have they been all this time, Sir?" Fuery's mousy voice asked as he pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose and turned to face Mustang.
Mustang peeked open a bored eye. "Xing. The Elrics will be under house arrest until Fullmetal's trial for which a date has yet to be set."
A silence befell the troops in the large office. It was a heavy question that seemed to absorb all sound and beat at the back of Mustang's eyes like a hangover. He finally answered what couldn't be asked. "Yes, Alphonse has his body back. If we're lucky, we'll be able to convince the higher ups that Edward was not the one who performed the transmutation."
"House arrest?" Edward had a distinct look of confusion as he looked from the paper to Falman.
Vato saluted and gave the affirmative. "The Military is preparing a trial to determine if you should be court-martialled. General Mustang is going to do everything in his power to keep you out of court, or at the very least make certain you aren't convicted."
Ed sighed and tossed the paper on the coffee table. "Well, Mustang would have a defense lawyer or something under him, right?" He looked over to his brother with a hint of a smile. "Guess we're stuck here, then, Al."
Alphonse pressed his leg up against his brother's nodding slightly. Who knows how long it would take to get the trial rolling. He expected that the word was going to leak out to the public sooner or later that the People's Alchemist was under arrest. That wasn't necessarily a good thing. "Will Ed get transferred to a safe house or stay here?"
"Orders say that you're to remain here. Either the General placed emphasis on your recovery or the Military's trying to cut costs and not have to pay me overtime." Falman smirked as he removed his coat.
"Great. You're my babysitter, then. I'm going to go and sleep." Ed groaned softly as he stood up. He didn't use the cane since he was only going a short distance, a good sign that he was recovering well. He turned to Falman as Alphonse rose to follow. "You're not going to be following me everywhere, are you?"
"Not unless you're planning to escape, Fullmetal."
"And go where?" Ed slowly made his way to the spare bedroom with Al following quietly after him. He hurt and was glad to have a moment's respite by lying down. Ed sighed softly and draped his left arm over his eyes.
Al pulled a chair up to the bed and sat by Ed, watching intently. "Brother?"
"Do you want me to re-adjust the sling? It's sagging a bit."
A smile crept from under Ed's arm. "Sure." He didn't bother moving his arm from his face as he sensed Al shift in his seat. Warm hands unbuttoned the loose shirt he wore and pulled the halves aside. He remained still and limp while his left arm rose and Al slid the sleeve off. Ed peeked open an eye to watch his brother and suddenly he could not stop studying that young face.
Alphonse's eyes kept a close watch over his motions, making certain he was careful not to jostle the automail. His hands were unnanturally warm as they drifted over skin and steel, supporting Ed's arm and back while he unwound the bindings. It was a ritual performed between them several times a week. The younger Elric understood the stress of automail on his brother. He was the one who made certain the elder ate and kept up his stregnth. Al was the one who gently rubbed tense muscles and skin around the ports, trying to alleviate some of the daily stresses his brother endured. He wanted his brother's suffering to end, but on every occassion the subject was broached, Ed refused Al to seek a way to get his arm and leg back. He would not risk loosing his brother again if it meant he would live pain free.
Al watched Ed's eyes drift closed and the fall and rise of the boy's chest became steady. He smiled a little then, glad to see that his brother was resting confortably. It was a small comfort, but a comfort none the less. Al rested his hand on Eds automail shoulder, knowing that he couldn't be felt but wished it could. He leaned forward and barely brushed his lips against Ed's forehead. He froze at that one moment, suddenly realizing his brother was not asleep as he originally thought. How many times at night during Ed's fevered illness that he would kiss that forehead, hoping that it sould soothe away nightmares and fears that were no longer childish fantasies.
Al had been caught.
His teeth claimed his lower lip and he pulled away, flushing guiltily at the sight of golden irises looking up at him. Ed was never one for affection, or the physical expression of it, anyway. There were probably a million things going on in his head, and the one on the forefront had to be the fact that his brother was a pervert.
Edward's eyes regaurded his brother carefully. There was no judgement there, no accusation or shock or disgust. His eyes trained on the movement of Al's tongue peeking out to moisten dry lips and then teeth clutch the lower lip to prevent it from trembling. "Al... Don't." Don't what? Ed wasn't entirely certain himself if he knew what he wanted to say, or at the very least was afraid to voice it.
"I-I'm sorry." Al sat up more, unable to face his brother's eyes and the anger and hate that must have been there.
"Don't...stop." Ed's hand curled around the back of Al's neck before he could slip too far away and drew him back down. A tiny portion of his mind screamed at him, demanding to know what the hell he was doing. The rest of him craved this like air.
When their mouths connected in hesitant, closed lipped softness, Al's eyes shot wide open and he stiffened for a moment. His brother...kissing him?! Was this a dream? Was it a joke? But Ed didn't push him away, and his eyes were closed with this expression othat Al never saw before. Like he was afraid to open his eyes and find some horrible truth. Ed was never afraid.
Alphonse whimpered and finally relaxed. All the tension melted away and the hand on the shoulderport slipped behind Ed's neck as his mouth pressed against Ed's. He felt a sudden and unfamiliar heat rush through him and Al was pressing closer, trying to be mindful of Ed's healing body but he felt like he was going to die if he didn't get closer.
Ed slowly parted his mouth, deepening that single not so innocent kiss and reached out with the point of his tongue to taste. If he was in pain, he gave no indication as he shifted to drape his right arm around Al in the closest fashion of an embrace that he could muster. He wanted to tell Al how long he'd been wanting to do this; to offer something in return, to repay the childhood he stole away from his brother. But Ed couldn't find the words. He was reduced to this single moment and a kiss that burned his soul.
When they finally parted, both boys looked drunk and glassy eyed. Al could barely catch his breath and he felt like he'd been running a marathon. And he was hot...and hard. The flush on his face was probably one bright, embarassing shade of red. He tried to shift some so that he wasn't pressed so obviously against his brother's thigh, but the single movement shot sparks through him and Al could do nothing but gasp and moan. "Brother...." His voice was high pitched and breathy. So...needy.
Ed shifted then with a low sound in the back of his throat. He looked up at his brother with eyes that were bright and glassy. He could tell that Al was trying to sort things out. "I love you, Alphonse." His voice was soft and steady to match his quiet and somber look.
"Ed." The reply was strained and choked when he fell into his brother, clinging to Ed like a small, frightened child. "Love you too, Brother." The first choked sobs were drawn by the awkward fingers drawing through his hair. "So...so much...it's not right, Ed."
"Like hell." That spark of ire was there, but Ed's voice was also thicked and choked sounding with emotion. "Don't let anyone tell you that. When they've been through what we have, then they can judge us. Not before." He held onto the shaking form as best as he could, nuzzling against the side of Al's temple. "You come first, Al. Fuck everyone else."
"I'm yours." Alphonse's voice was barely intelligable, but the emotion behind it was communication enough. "I'll always be yours."
The next chapter will close this part of the Elric's lives. It's been a great trip, and this chapter kind of told me (after taking nearly a month to write) that it is time for such good things to end. And I hope when you get to the ending, you'll be content with it as I will.