Series: First anime, probably quite early in the plotline.
Word Count: 439
Characters: Ed and Al.
Summary: Ed’s nightmares are not what Al thinks they are.
The nightmares are familiar by now. As familiar as my own shadow, and they follow me just as closely—but never quite so much as when we’re out on the road, sleeping in some lonely place under the stars, like tonight.
And, as usual, my other shadow is beside me even before I realize I’m awake.
“Brother! Brother, wake up!”
That gentle tightness clasping my shoulder is Al’s hand. Always on my left shoulder; the touch isn’t that of skin to skin, but it’s as close as he can come. I could swear I feel the warmth of it, all the same.
I also feel the weight of his gaze, glowing brightly from the fragile ember of his soul… like fireflies, trapped in a jar.
“Shh, it’s okay, Brother. You were only having a bad dream again.”
I can’t meet that gaze. I never can, for a little while after.
“Yeah.” I shrug off his hand and huddle into myself, wrapping my coat more closely around me. “I’m alright now.”
Al knows I’m lying, but we’ve been through this too many times for him to question it anymore. He hesitates just for a moment, and then I hear a faint scrape of steel as he sits back, to stir new warmth for me from the dying fire. Only then, when he’s watching the flames instead of me, can I look at him… with a creeping shame that I can’t bear to let him see.
I told Al the nightmares are about my own loss, the agonies of an arm and a leg torn away; but it isn’t true. I only wish it was, because I’d rather relive that pain every night than face the horrors that come from the darkest places in my own mind.
You see, my nightmares are visions of being in his place: of waking to find myself existing—living—inside that lifeless shell.
Under my coat, trembling fingers close over the cold metal of my right shoulder… and then I slowly draw the flat of my palm across my chest, to feel the beat of my heart through warm flesh.
I look back at my brother, and realize he’s humming softly as he tends the fire. The notes ring hollowly in the emptiness beneath his breastplate, but I remember them: it’s the lullaby our mother would sing to us long ago, when storms came in the night, and we were afraid.
As my heart skips a beat under my hand, I close my eyes, to hold back the storm I feel gathering there now.
I should be the one who comforts him.
2010 Jordanna Morgan