A Brother's Burden

A New Day

The next morning Roy awoke twenty full minutes before his alarm. At first he was downright furious at whatever had woken him up. He was a practical man, and any practical man valued his sleep; losing such sleep was much like losing a part of your life. So naturally he was ready to set something on fire. That was until he smelled what it must have been that awakened him. Pancakes.

He couldn't his mouth from watering. It had been years since he had something so simple as pancakes. First Ishbal then his duties as a Colonel had kept him far too preoccupied to do something like make pancakes. Then the Elric boys had come into the picture and all thoughts of luxury went out the door.

Thinking about the Elric brothers he remembered that he now had one under his own roof. That meant it was Edward who had made pancakes. That meant… Edward could cook? Roy couldn't believe that without first seeing proof. So, making himself roll out of bed, he left his room dressed in pajamas to investigate the phenomenon.

When he poked his head around the corner to peer into the kitchen he half expected there to be a fire or at least smoke from Edward burning the food. None was there though, rather just a boy at the table nibbling slowly on a single pancake while reading a book. across the table where Roy sat was a large stack of pancakes, steam still rising off of them.

Coming fully into the kitchen Roy raised a quizzical eyebrow and let a small smirk slide onto his face. "Well, well, it seems the Fullmetal Alchemist can cook. Hard to imagine someone so short could even reach the ingredients they need."

Roy waited patiently for the outburst, hoping today would be more fruitful than the previous. Once more he was disappointed as all Edward did was look up at him and say, "Good morning."

Roy huffed in irritation, "Are you ever going to respond to my jibes again? Or are you just going to use this new mature attitude of yours and ignore it. Hard to imagine someone with such a short fuse learning to be patient."

"If it makes you feel better I can, but honestly it just hasn't gotten to me of late." Fullmetal shrugged nonchalantly, "Guess I have bigger concerns than that now."

Roy blinked a couple times and repeated Edward's last sentence in his head a couple times. Unable to understand if he heard right he asked, "Did you just make an indirect short pun at yourself?"

Now it was Ed's turn to smirk. "Why, Mustang. I have no idea what you're talking about. Are you sure you aren't reaching here?"

Roy shook his head and Edward laughed out loud. "Anyway, now that I'm finished screwing with your brain; the plate over there's for you but don't blame me if you're not a fan of pancakes."

Taking his seat, Roy carefully took a bite from the large stack of pancakes. They tasted delicious, warm and fluffy; reminiscent of Saturday morning. "Where did you learn to cook?" Roy asked around a second bite.

"I never did," Edward replied, his attention turned back to the book he was reading. "I just transmuted the ingredients into the food. Never did it before so it was a bit of a long shot; but I figured. Hey if I can turn cloth into clothes then I can turn food into meals."

Roy looked down at his food and examined it more closely, checking for transmutation marks. None were to be found on the food though, at least none visible to the eye. "Amazing," he murmured appreciatively, he was a Flame Alchemist so he didn't transmute objects often. It was always surprising to see what other branches of the age old science could accomplish. "I never thought Alchemy could be used for such… mundane purposes."

"That's because Amestris focuses on using Alchemy as a weapon. Xing uses Alchemy for medical purposes, the exact opposite of Amestris Alchemy. No one ever really considered a middle ground between destruction and healing."

Roy nodded and the table of two fell silent save for the sound of Roy's fork hitting the plate when he cut, or the sound of pages being turned as Edward read. Midway through his meal Roy had to break the silence. He never really had guests, much less temporary roommates. It was awkward and uncomfortable for him.

"What are you-"

"Hey did you-"

Edward and Roy stared at each other across the table for a long moment. "You first," Edward said at length, his bangs falling forward to obscure his eyes.

"I was going to ask what you planned to do today. I mean with Alphonse looking for you, public places wouldn't be the best places to be."

"I was about to ask if you needed a hand down at the office, I mean unless you had a mission for me or something," Edward said sheepishly.

Roy allowed a small, real, smile to spread across his face. "Sure thing, I'm sure we can find something for you to do."

"Thank you, sir," Edward said, smiling.

Roy's hand froze in the process of lifting the fork with food to his open mouth. Edward's head had dropped back down to his book and so he did not see Roy's look of utter shock. Roy knew right at that moment that despite how well Fullmetal was behaving he was by no means alright. He no longer responded to short jokes, he made Roy breakfast, and he had said sir. No, something was going on in that boy's head that shouldn't be. Roy made a silent vow to get to the bottom of this and get his subordinate back to normal as soon as possible.

Alphonse sat down at the park bench with a heavy sigh that was as fake as the body he had. His father sat beside him with an equally heavy sigh, placing his head in his hands. "I'm such an idiot," Alphonse said woefully.

"No, you were just angry. It is not your fault Edward took it too far and ran away."

"Do you think he'll come back?" Al asked in a small voice that to any passing stranger would sound odd, coming from a large suit of armor like him.

"I don't know," his father replied honestly. "I haven't been around like I've wanted to be and so I have no idea how Edward reacts to these things. You've lived with him all your life, you should know."

"Brother and I don't get in fights often, not so bad that he is the one running off anyways." They had spent all of last night looking for Brother. Al had taken the haunts he and Edward frequented, HQ, the local noodle shop, the first branch library (Though he was stopped at the door because he wasn't a state alchemist), and their old dorm room; meanwhile their father had taken to the streets, calling out Brother's name and generally upsetting the people who were trying to sleep.

What if Brother didn't come back? Did Brother hate him for what he had said? What if he ran off and got hurt? Or worse yet, tried to prove he didn't need Al by him and died for it? Alphonse didn't think he could live with the guilt should Brother die while away from him. Then his mind carried him to more childish thoughts that were probably never going to happen. What if Brother found someone to replace him? What if he wasn't needed anymore? What if Brother didn't care about Al anymore?

Even though Al couldn't show emotions he had his own sort of body language that allowed anyone to tell how he was feeling at that moment. His father must have read into Al's thoughts because he set one hand on Al's forearm, an empty gesture as he could feel none of his father's warm touch. "I'll bet though that Edward, being the strong boy he is, will come to see reason and come back."

Looking up to the sky Al considered his brother. His fiery temper, the loyalty to his friends, his guilt, all the things that made Al look up to him; and all the things that made Al laugh at him. At last Al said quietly to the fading stars, "I don't think it's going to be that simple."

They were both silent for several minutes, watching the sky turn gray as the sun rose behind the towering buildings of Central. Then at last his father stood and offered his hand to help Alphonse up, another useless gesture. "Come on, shouldn't Edward's superior at least know about his disappearance? That Mustang fellow, I think his name was."

Alphonse did a mental face palm. "Of course! If anyone could find Brother it'd be the Colonel and his team." Standing up Alphonse started walking with his father out of the park and towards HQ to consult the Colonel.

"Hey dad," Alphonse said after a moment. "Why do you keep treating me like I'm human?"

"What do you mean?" His father asked, a frown forming on his face.

"I mean the way you grabbed my arm earlier and also how you offered me your hand just a minute ago."

"Just because you can't feel doesn't mean I, or anyone else for that matter, should treat you as less than human. You have been and always will be a human, Alphonse, always."

Alphonse inwardly beamed over at the man he was proud to call his father. "Thanks dad, that means a lot to me."

"Anytime, Alphonse, anytime," his father said by way of reply.

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