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A Brother's Burden

By Pipersong

Drama / Other

The End and the Beginning

"Brother if you would just listen to me!" Alphonse shouted at his older brother.

Ed turned his head around to look back at Al and glared. "If you want me to listen you should stop telling me to and get on with it already."

"Well it's kind of hard to talk to you when you're busy walking away from me!" Alphonse said heatedly.

Ed looked around briefly, seeing as there was no one on the street currently, he stopped and faced his younger brother. No, not just his younger brother. As hard as Ed tried to ignore him he couldn't stop seeing Hohenheim standing just a few feet away from them, waiting. "I don't want anything to do with that bastard!"
"But Brother! He knows how to get our bodies back!" Alphonse pleaded.

"I don't give a damn about what he knows! I'll find another way to get our bodies back!" Ed crossed his arms over his chest and shivered slightly from the cold breeze. His automail ports ached and the sky didn't look too promising. He'd need to get inside soon or get violently sick from the pain.

"Brother, you're letting your emotions cloud your judgement. If you just listen to what he has to say-"

"I won't listen! No!"

"Quit acting like a child!"

Ed's temper flared like a fire on a cold winter's night. "Oh yeah, because I act like one so often don't I? After all every child would join the military and spend his childhood raising his little brother as best he can!"

"I can take care of myself, Brother! At least I didn't lose my body!"

The fire died as quickly as it came. Ed's eyes widened marginally and his breathing quickened slightly. "What do you mean?"

Hohenheim saw the warning signs in the way Ed stood, he saw the hunch to his son's shoulders; as though a great weight rested on top of them. He tried to stop Al from speaking, but it was too late by that point.

Al saw none of the signs, he saw only the red haze in his vision which was the anger that clouded his judgement. "I mean at least I didn't think it was a good idea to bring mom back! At least I didn't lose your arm, leg, and my whole body! At least I'm searching for a way to fix it unlike you! You turn down every single way we find to get our bodies back!"

"It’s not my fault," Ed whispered, feeling as though he was being ripped to shreds from the inside out.

"Of course it's your fault! It's always been your fault! You're so stupid, Brother!" Al huffed and then spoke more calmly. "I'm going with dad to get my body back. You're welcome to come with us, but we are leaving. Come on dad."

"Al-" Hohenheim started to say.


"I think you should look at Ed for a moment, just look."

Al did so just as Ed turned tail and ran, red coat flapping in the wind. It was at that moment that the full implications of what Al said registered in his mind, he had just blamed Ed for everything. He knew Ed had always blamed himself, now he probably just took away the last support Ed had. All that weight was coming down, down onto his brother.

"Ed! Ed wait!" Al yelled out, using the full power of the lungs he didn't have.

Ed heard the yells behind from that bastard and Alphonse, they told him to stop and wait; he wouldn't wait though. He wasn't wanted anymore, Al had Hohenheim; he'd be safe. Al believed that Hohenheim could get his body back; Al trusted Hohenheim. That wall all well and good, Al didn't need him anymore. And since Al didn't need him why should Ed wait and listen to what he has to say?

Answer; he shouldn't. So Ed kept running as fast as his legs would carry him.

Roy Mustang had just successfully procrastinated from having to do his paperwork on this dreary day. It had taken all of 4 hours to devise the perfect exit strategy from Hawkeye's gun range, now he was home free. He owed Havoc and Falman 500 cenz each but that was okay. He also needed to return a zebra to the Central zoo but that wasn't any real issue… At least, he didn't hope so.

He lived relatively close to HQ so despite the blasted rain, he chose to walk home. Now, he was a trained soldier and state alchemist; he had been trained to expect anything to happen. So it only half surprised him when, as he was rounding a corner, a red blur ran straight into him; knocking him to the ground. While being trained his reflex and recover-time became unassailable as well and so it was that he reached out and grabbed hold of the blur before it could scramble away. With the ceasing of movement, the blur became a red eyed Fullmetal, tears running down his face.

"Let go you bastard!" Fullmetal said, trying to pull himself free from the Colonel's grasp. There were distant calls of "Ed!" and "Brother!" Fullmetal looked behind him and Roy could see the fear in the boy's eyes. Thinking quickly as he got to his feet, careful not to let go of Fullmetal. Seeing as there were two voices calling for him, one being Alphonse's plus, the tears on the kid's face it was not at all hard to guess what was going on.

"Come on," Mustang said tugging the boy down the alley next to them. Fullmetal struggled at first but soon was following as the Colonel led him down a twisting maze of alleyways and shortcuts that could boggle anyone's mind. "I do hope for an explanation on what's going on," Mustang grumbled as he stopped before a door. Pulling a key out of his pocket he inserted it into the lock and twisted. Pulling the door open he gestured with his head for the boy to enter. He did so, giving Roy a shrewd look; Roy followed him in, making sure to lock the door behind him.

Turning on the lights revealed a kitchen equipped with a table and two chairs. Out a doorway to the side you could see a cozy living room with a large fireplace and a staircase leading upstairs. "Where are we?" Fullmetal asked cautiously, his flesh arm rubbing his eyes hurriedly.

"My house, pipsqueak," Mustang said, striding by him with a self-satisfied smirk; awaiting the inevitable rant. None of his military training could have prepared him for the silence that followed his sentence. No yelling, no grumbling, no rants; it was disconcerting to say the least. Turning back to look at the boy he saw only his back as the kid had turned to face the wall while he wiped away his tears.

His heart went out to the kid and he sighed, long and slow. "Take the load off while I get us something to drink. Don't think you can run away either, not until I get my explanation." Fullmetal looked over his shoulder; after looking at Roy for a moment with the gold-red eyes he nodded. While the kid seated himself in one of the chairs Roy was raiding his fridge. Settling on the gallon of orange juice Roy poured two glasses.

Sliding one across the table to Edward, he took his seat and waited. Edward looked at his drink suspiciously before sipping it carefully. It seemed to have passed his test because the boy proceeded to down it in three mighty swallows. "Thanks," he said when he was done.

"Now talk."

Fullmetal gulped audibly and gave a small nod. "It started about a week ago when Al and I had just… completed our last mission."

Roy nodded, he remembered the poorly written report he had received for it; another failure like usual. No stone found but the job was done excellently if you didn't think about the collateral damage of three wrecked buildings and the desecration of a graveyard.

"Well Al wanted to know when we were going to try something new to get our bodies back. He had been talking for a while of alternative methods and we have done research on it but nothing really came back. We didn't fight about it often but it did come up after a while. Then Hohenheim showed up and well… things went downhill from there. Al wanted to have Hohenheim help with the research and wanted to travel with him for a while and I didn't want to because he was a self-righteous bastard."

Roy winced at Edward's choice of words but let him continue nonetheless.

"So today Al told me at breakfast that he was leaving with Hohenheim on the train this evening. We fought for a while then he-" The boy's voice caught in his throat here and he coughed to clear it. "He said its my fault and so I just… I don't know, I did what came to mind first. I just ran away."

Edward looked at Roy almost sheepishly. "You're not going to find Al and drag me back to him and Hohenheim are you?"

Roy didn't respond for a second, just sat back in his chair and processed. He was half tempted to drag the boy by his ear back to his brother. It was a stupid argument to start with, so Alphonse's tongue slipped up? He couldn't have meant it, could he? No, it was best the brothers worked their problems out with their father. He made to stand but something in Edward's face caught his attention. The boy seemed to have known where his thoughts were headed because he had tensed up like a coiled spring, ready to flee at the first sign. Roy saw the stark fear in Edward's face and it took a moment to realize why he was so shocked to see the boy like this. It was because he never showed fear. It had always been anger, anger to cover up the fear he felt inside.

Edward had always been strong willed, and it was always a question where such strength came from. Now Roy realized that it came from Alphonse, the need to be the adult of the family drove the boy to lengths no boy should have to go to. Now that Alphonse was gone Fullmetal's walls were all coming down, revealing the boy beneath. Roy let go of the breath of air he had been holding, he couldn't force Edward back.

"You can hide out here for the time being then," Roy said at length. "I'm not very happy about what went down with you and your brother. It's a stupid argument and it isn't really worth avoiding him for."

Fullmetal opened his mouth, his eyes flashing dangerously. Roy held up a hand to stall the impending outburst of unadulterated rage. "But, I'm not in your place now am I? I can't very well go about telling you how to live your life when I'm not living your life. So I won't."

Roy stood up and pulled his spare key out of his pocket. Tossing it to Edward he said, first door on the left up the stairs is yours. Decorate it however you wish but if I see anything of yours outside of the door it'll be incinerated. Dinner is at six and I leave for work in the mornings around eight." With that Roy walked by Edward, intending to head up to his room and take a shower. As he walked by Edward reached out with his flesh arm and gripped his sleeve.

Edward refused to look at him, his hair obscuring his eyes. "Thank you," he said softly.

"Anytime, Fullmetal. Anytime," Roy said by way of reply.

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