“We are not,” Ed says, “keeping that thing.”
“It’s not a ‘thing’!” Al sounds wounded, and his eyes are huge. Ed estimates that he has about two minutes before the lip starts to wobble, at which point he’s doomed; no creature with any semblance of a soul could resist Al’s about-to-cry face. “It’s not even an ‘it’! He’s a he!” There’s a pause. “I think. I’m not an expert.”
“All the more reason not to keep it,” Ed says. “Contributing to the vast supply of other reasons, like ‘Winry will never, ever visit us again’—”
“I’d just hide his terrarium!”
“‘All of our neighbors will think that we’re freaks’—”
“They’ll never even know, Brother!”
“‘If it gets out and bites us, we’ll probably die, which would be twice as insulting after we worked so freakin’ hard to survive this long’—”
“He’s not even poisonous!” There is another pause. “…I think.”
Ed introduces the heel of his hand to his forehead and then drags his hand down his face—carefully, keeping an eye on the thing, which is currently residing, reasonably contentedly as far as he can tell, on their kitchen table.
“I can’t believe that Truth asshole didn’t tell me I had to make sure to bring back your sanity,” Ed says.
Oh, crap. There’s the lip.
“It was raining,” Al says, voice quavering, “and it’s cold out there, and someone would have stepped on him—”
“Repeatedly,” Ed says. It’d probably take a full-scale exorcism to destroy the thing.
Al raises his voice. “And all he wants is to be loved, just like anything—or anybody—else!”
Ed sucks in a breath and holds it, cringing, as Al strokes his fingertip very gently along the thing’s back. To its credit, the thing seems to arch up into the contact a little, and its legs twitch in a way that could, if one was very creative or perhaps slightly drunk, be interpreted as enjoyment of the affection.
“Where the hell did you even find a tarantula in Central?” Ed asks.
“I think I’m going to call him Mustang,” Al says lovingly. “Because he looks really scary, and he’s got those big, intense black eyes, and I think he eats smaller spiders, but I know he’s a sweetie on the inside.”
Ed is amazed and kind of depressed that it took him until now to realize that his precious baby brother is officially, completely, irretrievably insane.
“Aren’t you, Mustang?” Al coos at the nightmarishly large arachnid on their tabletop. “You’re a big softie, huh?”
If tarantulas could purr—and it’s a good goddamn thing they can’t, because Ed would be out the window and running down the street screaming if that were the case—this one definitely would be.
“Okay,” Ed says, loudly and distinctly. “You can keep that monster on two conditions—one, you become an expert, immediately. Two, I never, ever, ever see that thing out of its little tank and unattended. If I wake up with that in my face even once, it is gone.” Gingerly he moves around the table and holds his hand out to Al, pinky extended. “Deal?”
Al crooks his pinky around Ed’s tightly, and they shake. “Deal.” Al releases Ed’s hand, gazes at his new friend again, and looks positively blissful. “Come on, Brother, isn’t he kind of cute?”
“No,” Ed says, starting down the hall. “So it’s a good thing you named him Mustang. G’night, Al. Provided that I can ever sleep again.”
“Goodnight, Brother!” Al sings after him. “I love you!”
Damn it. Damn it. One of these days, Ed just knows he’s going to emerge groggily from a good dream with a faceful of tarantula, and Al’s going to beg and plead and make cookies until Ed lets the eight-legged horror machine stick around anyway. When did he become such a freakin’ pushover?
Except… Ed smiles a little as he shuts the bedroom door quietly on Al’s delighted giggles. He knows exactly when—at exactly what moment.
Ed’s resigned to the fact that there’s not much in the world that he wouldn’t let his brother get away with now. No crackpot plan for tarantula adoption or what-have-you ever seems to matter very much compared to the fact that Ed’s finally gotten the only thing he’s ever really wanted.
He’s brought his brother home.