Title: Without Me
Fandom: Fullmetal Alchemist
Parings: Ed/Al in later part, mentions of Ed/Hei
Word Count: 2,756
Summary: Ed and Al realize they need each other more than they thought possible.
Nine-year-old Alphonse Elric sat despondently in the small shelter he and his ten-year-old brother, Edward, had built, and watched the rain pour down around them. He was cold, hungry and wet. His eyes burned from lack of sleep, but he didn’t think he’d be able to rest if he tried. The ground in front of him was quickly turning into mud and the remnants of the other day’s food would soon be lost in the sludge.
Suddenly a mouse ran up to one of the fish bones from one of their previous meals, nibbled at it, then squeaked as Al launched himself out of the shelter toward it. He’d never believed that he’d be so hungry that he’d want to eat a mouse, yet here he was, feeling depressed that the small rodent had gotten away.
The rain poured down on him as he stayed there on his hands and knees and suddenly he heard Ed say in a quiet, depressing tone, “What do you think would happen if we died here?”
Fear struck through Alphonse’s heart and he dug his fingers into the soft mud. “No...” he whispered. “Winry and Aunt Pinako would be sad... and... I still have things I want to do...” It wasn’t fair, none of this was. “I don’t see what this has to do with alchemy...” he cried, then let himself fall the rest of the way to the ground. “I hate this... I just want to go home...” he sobbed.
The wet mud seeped into the front of his shirt and pants, but he didn’t care. None of that mattered. He just wanted that lady, Izumi, to come and get them. He just wanted to go home to Rizembool and sit in front of the fire and eat warm cookies with fresh cream...
He heard a noise behind him and suddenly a hand pressed against his back. “Al... I’m sorry... I didn’t mean to make you cry...” his older brother whispered. “You can’t stay in the mud... You’re going to get sick...”
“I don’t care,” he moaned into the ooze around his face.
There was silence from his brother then, “That’s not like you, Al... Come on. Get back in the... um, whatever...”
Al lifted his head and glanced back at their make-shift shelter, then laid his head back down. “I’m all muddy. I should just stay out here so I don’t get the inside all gross...” It was the logical thing to do...
“Don’t be stupid, Al,” his brother said in his ‘I am your big brother and I will take care of you’ voice, then walked off. He was gone for a few minutes and when he came back, Ed was carrying two of the large leaves they’d been sleeping on before. “One can be our bed and one can be our blanket. Now come on.”
“I’m still muddy,” Al reminded his brother as he got up and wandered over to the shelter.
Shaking his head, the blond boy walked over and pulled Al’s white over-shirt off of him. “Hey!” Al shouted as he watched his older, but shorter, brother hang the white shirt on a branch.
“Maybe it can wash off in the rain,” Ed said. “Now take off the rest of your clothes.”
“What!” the younger boy cried and wrapped his arms protectively around himself. “I’ll be even colder!”
“Don’t be stupid!” Ed said, marching over and grabbing the black t-shirt. Pulling it over Al’s head, Ed tossed it on the branch with the other shirt, then took off his own shirt. “See, I’ll do it too. Jeez, you’re such a baby!”
“No, I’m not!” Al answered, momentarily forgetting his previously depressed state, and watched his brother shuck his shorts as well. Scowling, Al quickly pulled off his pants and was about to go back to the shelter when Ed grabbed his arm and turned him around. “What?” Al asked. He just wanted to go back to the shelter and wallow in his misery...
His brother held up the shirt he’d been wearing and gently wiped the mud from Al’s face. “Really... I don’t know what you’d do without me...” Ed said kindly, then took Al’s hand and led him back to the shelter.
Once out of the rain, Ed slid under the top leaf and said, “Al, come on. We can keep each other warm by sharing body heat.”
The younger boy hurried under the leaf and instantly his older brother’s arms were around him. Al snuggled closer and felt his body press warmly against Ed’s damp skin before wrapping his own arm around the other boy.
He felt so warm and protected, even if Ed was a little shorter than him; his brother had a strength about him that Al envied. Of course, his brother was also a jerk at times and often made him do things he didn’t want to do, like both of their chores, but...
Sniffling, Al broke down and let the tears go. He hated this island. He hated the masked man that hunted them. All he wanted right now was to go home... but really, wasn’t home where his brother was?
He felt Ed stroke his short hair and murmur, “It will be okay, Al. It will be alright.”
Before they’d come to this island, his brother had never been so physical with him. They’d rarely hugged or anything like that. Most of the time when they actually touched it was because they were fighting. Here, though...
Here on this island they were just trying to get by. They were just trying to live and Al thought that perhaps Ed was just as lonely as he was, but he never showed it. Again, Alphonse snuggled into his brother’s arms and a moment later he felt a soft kiss on his forehead.
He blinked in surprise. Hugs from Ed were rare enough, but his brother had never kissed him before... Al smiled a little and sniffled. It made him feel better, this attention, and he didn’t protest when Ed kissed him again on his cheek.
“Please don’t cry anymore, Al,” Ed whispered. “Everything will be alright. I promise. I’m here for you, okay?”
Al nodded, and let out a contented breath before closing his eyes. It felt so good to be held. This whole thing had been so frustrating and scary, but lying like he was with his brother, Al felt safe and secure. It was with these feelings that surrounded him as he drifted off to asleep.
Al’s eyes popped open in the darkness at a sound, and for a moment he wasn’t sure where he was, then it all came rushing back to him.
The devastated city of Central.
He blinked and pulled the blanket over him as a chill ran through him. This was only his first night in this new world and he still felt a little scared. When they’d come through the gate, there had been someone there, a dead seventeen-year-old boy named Alfons, who looked almost like Al would when he turned seventeen, a dark-skinned girl named Noa, and a man, a police officer, who looked just like Hughes and had the same name even...
As he’d gone through the gate, all his memories had come rushing back into his head. It had been an intoxicating and frightening experience, but also one that filled him with happiness. It was as if everything he’d found everything he’d been searching for in the past two years in that one moment.
Now, though, he felt at odds with himself. He had the mind of a fifteen-year-old, with an extra year of being eleven and twelve. He should be seventeen, but his body was thirteen. Really, it was all very confusing and it made his head spin just thinking about it.
A sound, a repeat of what had woken him, met his ears and he glanced over to the other bed where his eighteen-year-old brother was sleeping, or at least, where he was supposed to be asleep. The sound of sniffling met his ears, and Al wondered if his brother was crying.
Ed never cried, or at least, almost never.
Slipping out of his bed, or Ed’s bed as it actually was, Al padded across the room and laid a hand on Ed’s shoulder.
“Brother?” he whispered. He felt Ed tense under his touch and the sniffling stopped. Al realized Ed was trying to pretend he was asleep, but that wasn’t going to work with him. Lifting the blankets, Al crawled into the bed that Ed was sleeping in, the one that had belonged to the teen who had looked like him.
Al scooted close and pressed the front of his body against Ed’s back, then lifted his hand and brushed his brother’s long blond hair away before kissing Ed’s neck. At that, Ed stiffened even more and Al wondered if he was doing the wrong thing.
“Al...” Ed whispered. “What are you doing?”
“I just want to comfort you, brother,” Al said.
Ed turned onto his other side to face him. “Al... But why did you kiss me? I’m your brother...”
“I know,” Al said, feeling a little confused. “Remember when we were on the island, when we were little, and it was raining? I was crying and...” He trailed off as his brother nodded at the memory.
“But, Al...” Ed said, glancing away. “We were just kids then, I mean...” He let out his breath slowly.
Feeling a little hurt at being berated, Al started to get out of the bed, and mumbled, “Sorry... I was just trying to help...” He was almost out of the bed when he felt his brother grab onto his arm and pull him back into the bed.
“Al, wait,” Ed said quietly. “Please don’t leave, I... It’s not that you weren’t helping... It’s just that...” The older teen’s eyes held a look that begged him to understand. “The two of you look so much alike...” he whispered. “Especially now that you’ve cut your hair...”
Al laid his head on the pillow and looked away from Ed’s gaze. “That other boy, you mean? That Alfons?”
He heard Ed swallow and felt him nod. “Please don’t be angry, Al. You don’t know how happy I am to be with you again, but...” Al looked up at his brother and saw his gold eyes shimmer with tears. “If you kiss me... If you touch me... It’s hard, Al. It’s like... he’s here... but he’s not...”
“But... brother, why would he kiss you, why...” Al asked, feeling confused, and then the thought came to him, the one that made him understand why his brother could say those things. “Oh...” was all he said.
“Al...?” Ed asked, with a scared look on his face. “Al, please don’t be angry...”
“I’m... not... I...” He wasn’t angry. He wasn’t anything. He didn’t even know what to say. Could his brother and that other Alfons have been kissing each other? The way that a man and a woman do? It was just... He didn’t know. He wasn’t sure if Ed’s comment referred to the fact that he’d been kissing another boy or that he’d been kissing someone who had been his double in this world.
“So... You don’t want me to kiss you because you want the other Alfonse to kiss you...” Al asked.
“Al...” Ed said softly.
“But why?!” Al cried. “I’m your brother!”
“Exactly!” Ed returned.
“Stop tempting me, Al!” Ed cried in frustration.
Al stared at his brother in hurt silence. Tempting? “What do you mean?” he asked.
“Al...” Ed breathed out. “I’m sorry...”
Ed dropped his head in his hands. “For never telling you...” Al sat, watching his brother in silence, waiting for more. “I... Al... Promise you won’t hate me for what I’m going to say...”
The younger teen thought about the request carefully, then said, “I could never hate you brother...”
Ed lifted his head and glanced at him before looking back down at the covers. “I realized it on the island... I... well, I would watch you and I started feeling things... like, I guess how people feel when they, you know... when they like someone...”
Al sucked in his breath a little. He wasn’t sure what to think about that, but he kept quiet, waiting for Ed to finish.
“That day when it rained, I kinda gave into it a little. It was selfish of me, but I wanted to touch you and kiss you...” Ed faltered and gripped the bedding with his hands. “Since that day, I wanted more, but I could never find the right time to, well, see if you would go for it, and then you lost...”
Al swallowed hard. He wanted to say something, but he didn’t know what he could possibly say.
“And then I got older, and I realized that what I wanted was wrong, because you were a boy and because you were my brother, and brothers just don’t do those kind of things. When I met Alfons... I completely fell for him, and it just worked out, you know? I mean, even though he looked like you, he wasn’t you so... that wasn’t as bad, right?”
“So... you don’t like me that way anymore?” Al asked slowly. He felt a little hurt, though he thought maybe he shouldn’t.
Ed shook his head. “I want you even more now...” He lifted his head and gave Al a pleading look. “Please don’t hate me for this! I swear, I’ll never try anything, but that’s why you can’t do things like what you were doing, no matter how innocent you are about it. I just can’t handle it.”
Al thought about that for a moment. Would he want Ed to touch him that way? It didn’t seem all that bad to him. A bit strange perhaps, but not bad... “What if we did whatever you and Alfons did?”
Ed’s head snapped up in surprise.
“Well... I mean, to see if I like it or not. If it’s something that makes you happy, then I’m willing to at least try it...”
“You are?” Ed asked in shock.
Al nodded and he saw something enter his brother’s eyes, a look he’d never seen before. Getting on his hands and knees, Ed pushed on Al’s shoulder so that he laid flat on his back. “Are you sure?” he asked breathily.
Swallowing hard, Al nodded.
Ed bent down and pressed his lips softly against Al’s for a moment, then pressed his tongue against Al’s lips. The younger boy breathed in sharply as his brother’s tongue slipped into his mouth. At first the kiss was unsure, then it became deeper. Al felt Ed’s hands wander and then there were touches all over his body, some gentle, some needy and rough.
“Al...” Ed breathed shakily before nibbling at the tender skin on Alphonse’s neck. Al tentatively reached up and touched Ed’s back. It was then that he felt the small shaking in his brother’s body, then there was a small sniffle as Ed buried his face into Al’s chest.
“Al...” This time it came out in a moan and then there was a small sob to accompany it. Alphonse was sure that this time it wasn’t him Ed was calling for, but Alfons... Al wrapped both of his arms around Ed and pulled him down to lay on top of him. The older boy moved easily and slid his arms under Alphonse’s neck.
For a long time, they laid there, Ed sobbing, and sometimes crying out for Al, though more often than not, Alphonse was never sure which ‘Al’ his brother meant. After a time, the shaking in Ed’s body subsided and he simply laid there.
Finally Ed said, “I’m sorry... I... I wasn’t lying when I said I wanted you, but right now can we just stay like this? I just need some time...”
“Of course,” Al whispered, and began rubbing Ed’s back. He turned his head and gently kissed his brother on the forehead. “Please don’t cry anymore, brother,” Alphonse said quietly. “Everything will be alright... I’m here for you, okay?”
Ed pressed himself closer and whispered, “I don’t know what I’d do without you...”