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All Those Sleepless Nights

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All Those Sleepless Nights

 

Alphonse ran at Edward’s heels back up the small dirt path to their house on the hill. The summer sun brought a hard sweat on his brow and the dust that flew up from their shoes stuck to their skin like paint. His breath was panting hard at the excursion, but he did not find himself falling behind. As he sprinted up the beaten path he tripped only once as his foot got snagged on an outcropping root. He let out a little cry as he stumbled but after two staggering steps caught himself and resumed his race. Edward scolded him about dropping the vegetables that were crammed into every crevasse of their arms. As told to by their mother, they had run down to their neighbor’s house and bought some of her homegrown produce. It was a bout a mile’s walk, but their mother argued that they were young and youthful kids and could make it faster than she could. They had attempted to surprise her by returning as fast as they could. That meant running all the way. Though tired, both he and his brother wore huge smiles on their faces as they stomped heavily up the steps with their arms full of ripe vegetables and fruits. Alphonse assumed that one reason why Edward was as happy as he was in that moment was the fact that he would be eating some of their mother’s delicious stew. He had to admit, that was also one thing driving him into doing a two-mile sprint.

“We’re home!” Edward exclaimed as he heaved the door open with hi body. Because his arms were full of vegetables it was quite a feat. They tumbled into the house and Alphonse gently used his foot to close the door behind him as Edward continued into the kitchen to drop his load. The instant the door closed, the house got strangely dark. Though the bright afternoon sun shone outside, the house was oddly dim as if all of the curtains were pulled over the windows. Lines of the walls turned fuzzy and the images before him blurred like he suddenly needed glasses. Silence was the oddest thing in the Elric house. It never happened. There was always either him or Edward storming around or their mother working on something. Alphonse gulped down the sudden nerves that had clotted in his throat. Something was off.

Suddenly he heard the heavy tinkling of multiple things being dropped to the floor. It sounded as if Edward had dropped his vegetables. Alphonse quickly ran into the kitchen area to see what was the matter but he only saw his brother standing frozen in the doorway with the tomatoes and cucumbers he was carrying scattered across the floorboards. He was as stiff as a board as he stared in shock at something that laid inside of the kitchen. His mouth was open to say something, but no words came out which made Alphonse worry. His brother always had something to say. He was brave. Nothing scared him.

Alphonse struggled to push his brother out of the way so he could see what was going on. It was like pushing a rock but suddenly he gave, and Alphonse stumbled into the kitchen. It was dark like the other rooms and a mess. A basket of apples laid toppled over on the floor with scattered contents. Behind it, the culprit was not their mother cooking dinner, but rather the horribly familiar sight of a dark and mangled human monster. A pool of blood spread out from around its twisted frame and glazed the apples like they were being candied. Through the silence of the house he could hear the ragged breaths of the monster breath and choke as a strangled hand reached out for him.

“Failure,” was all the gargled voice said before Alphonse jolted up from his bed with a scream lost in his throat. Eyes wide, his head spun around the room in search of the monster that had been before him but found his small room to be empty. The only thing he found was the bright moon’s shadows casted onto the worn floorboards. He wasn’t in his own house. He was in one of the Rockbells’ guest rooms. His hand found its way up to the collar of the plain tee shirt he was wearing and pulled it away from his neck. The fabric was drenched in sweat and clung to his skin like glue. He closed his eyes tiredly and took in a huge breath to steady his erratic breathing.

“It’s all right, it’s all right,” he told himself repeatedly which had been a gentle mantra over the years he was stuck in the armor during the late sleepless nights. However, that mantra seemed to only work with taming wandering thoughts, not nightmares. He didn’t know how to tame those.

When his breath finally calmed down Alphonse flopped back down to his mattress and closed his eyes tiredly. He needed to sleep because his body wanted to sleep. It had been like the world’s best drug to him after he finally got his body back. He craved it and looked forward to it every night. A nightmare though, seemed to have ruined it. He laid in his bed only staring up at the ceiling feeling every little stimulus that nagged him into staying awake. He felt the hot sticky air that clouded over his skin. He felt the heavy and sweat soaked sheets that clung onto him like static. The creaking of the house was too loud and yet all too silent for him to close his eyes. On top of it all, Alphonse felt a tickling in his chest, which ordered him to get up and do something. It was like a taunting urge, a spell he was put under. He had the uncontrollable need to do something. What? He didn’t know but he knew that this feeling would not subside until he conquered it.

Alphonse struggled to kick the sheets off and then pitched himself from his bed. He stumbled onto his weak and trembling legs and within a few steps stopped himself from face planting into the ground. He closed his eyes and massaged his forehead by running his hands through his hair. He felt like he did not sleep at all that night, but he was too awake to try again. He took in a huge breath as he shoved his feet into his slippers and grabbed his robe from the back of his door. He slugged out into the hallway and instantly was hit with a stream of cold air. The cool house froze the sweat to his skin which made him pull his robe tighter around himself.

Alphonse had spent years as a huge suit of armor memorizing the creaky floorboards in the Rockbell house to avoid making any more noise than he needed to. In the first few months of being a suit of armor, the Rockbells did not get much sleep with him rattling around their house cleaning. However, they got used to it just as he did. Now though, he was light and silent, and no one stirred from their slumber as he snuck down through the hallways by hopping from floorboard to floorboard and skirting across woolen rugs.

He made it into the main living area of the Rockbell house after a quiet slide down the stairs. His initial mission had been to get out of the hot cramped bedroom. Now that it was accomplished, he was lost. He glanced around the dark and empty house and wondered why he had gone down there to begin with. Why wasn’t he upstairs sleeping? The feeling he had before hung on him though and he knew that he had to keep moving. If he kept moving, he would get tired and then could go back to sleep.

He turned his sight towards the kitchen and another spiked nerve in his chest urged him towards it. He opened the fridge and the light flickered on with a light tinkling sound. Alphonse closed his sore eyes for a moment to let them adjust to the sudden change in light. As he opened them he caught sight of a carton of milk and a basket of raw eggs ready to be used. Other vegetables and fruits scattered the shelves, but Alphonse stayed as far away from them as he could for the moment. He pulled the milk and eggs out onto the counter and kicked the fridge door closed with his foot. He frowned as he stared at his new-found treasures. Why did he pull them out? But more importantly, what was he supposed to do with them?

Alphonse glanced up at the clock and saw that it was approaching five in the morning. It wasn’t as late as he thought. He hobbled over to the kitchen window and peeled back the curtain. Though the moon shone bright in the sky there was a small pink sliver against the horizon. It would be a full-blown rainbow within the hour. He pinned the curtain back so that he could watch the sunrise from the kitchen and a small smile grew on his face. He wished that his brother could see this. Edward would be up in a little bit to get ready for work. He had volunteered to help Mr. McCathity herd the sheep down to the train car. There was going to be a wool festival in the west and their elderly neighbor went every year to sell the knits his wife had made for a little extra money over the winter season. Though he had been doing it for years, transporting the sheep was difficult and his old age made it just that much harder. Edward offered to help along with some of their other neighbors. Alphonse would have gone with them as well, but his brother noted that he was still recovering. It has been a couple weeks since the hospital had let him out and due to Winry’s physical therapy he had lost the need for a crutch. However, he still acknowledged that he wasn’t a giant suit of armor anymore and lacked the superior strength that came with it. He had to stay home.

Knowing his brother though, Edward would undoubtedly wake up late and sprint off without breakfast. Not only that, but sheep herding was tedious and afterwards everyone would probably be tired and hungry. Alphonse could only see his brother staggering home that afternoon crying about how much work it was. He tried to stifle a laugh, but his hand brushed across the carton of eggs that he had set in front of him. He knew that he must have gotten them out for a reason, but he forgot what that was now. Shrugging, Alphonse decided to make his brother some pastries to take with him so that he wasn’t hungry. Though he couldn’t help with the sheep herding, he wasn’t about to let his brother go hungry. He could catch up on his sleep later.

………..

Edward yawned tiredly as he nestled closer to the warmth beside him. He wrapped his right arm around it and pulled it close. He relished in the blissful sensation of being warm beneath the covers on a cool fall morning.  He pressed his face into what he assumed was his pillow and breathed lightly. There was a faint smell of coffee and oil. It was an odd scent and not what he thought his pillow smelled like. A faint chuckle made Edward open his eyes and he saw Winry twist in his arms to glance back at him.

“You look comfortable,” Winry smiled softly. Edward’s eyes widened in shock and he suddenly sat up from where he was laying which only made Winry laugh even more. He looked around him to find himself sitting on Winry’s bed and not in his own room down the hall.

“Oh my god, I’m sorry, what- what-“ Edward stumbled as he tried to stand up and leave but his feet got caught in the blankets and he fell face flat to the floor. He groaned at the pain and at Winry’s laughter which swiftly became a roar.

“Dummy,” she chuckled as she leaned down and untangled his automail from the blankets, “You had a nightmare again and didn’t want to disturb Al.”

“N-nothing happened?” he fumbled, pushing himself up to his frantic feet. He was relieved to see that they were both dressed, but he knew that if Granny caught him in Winry’s room at night, he would surely be dead. Winry rolled her eyes as she pushed herself up in her bed to lean against the head board. Edward had to beat down the subconscious thoughts of how pretty she looked with her bed ragged hair. He couldn’t think those things especially not now, when he was in her bedroom of all places.

“No, nothing happened,” she huffed with a teasing smile. Edward felt the blood rush to his face as she grinned at him.

“O-okay,” he stumbled nervously. “Good,” he said after the fact. Winry sighed as she kicked the covers off and stood up with an incredulous sigh. She rounded the bed and stopped only when she was near inches from him. Her large blue eyes smiled at him and stole his breath away. Edward found that he had stopped breathing all together. She reached up and placed a hand on his cheek and pulled his head down towards hers. Edward’s nerves panicked with both fright and jubilee. In the moment, he was very unsure what to do. However, Winry only pushed his head to the side and whispered in his ear.

“You’re going to be late.” Edward’s eyes widened as he suddenly looked up towards the window. He saw the morning sky had already grown blue, so it was nearing seven o’clock. He let out a string of curses as he ran towards the door. He needed to get back to his room so that he could get dressed and going. He couldn’t leave Mr. McCarthity to herd the sheep by himself.

Edward flung the door open and was about to storm out when something instantly stopped him in mid step. It was a battalion of delicious smells that assaulted his nose. It was pastries, bacon, toast, anything the mind could imagine at seven in the morning. He looked back at Winry to see her eyes wide as well. She smelled it too. Granny couldn’t be back from her trip yet. She said that she would be spending the entire two weeks down in Rush Valley for the automail festival. Edward knew that in that moment, he was dead. He sprinted over to his room, not trying to be quiet, only trying not to be caught in the proximity of Winry’s room.

To get ready for his volunteer work, Edward rummaged through his drawers and pulled out a pair of working jeans and a flannel shirt that he knew he could wash easily after dealing with dirty farm animals. He stumbled to put them on and managed to fall over and into his dresser at least three times trying to get his legs through the holes. He grabbed one random sock from his battered dresser and raced down the stairs with his shirt in the process of being buttoned. He bumped into the walls and his feet sounded like battering rams against the steps. He skidded across the smooth hardwood floors and screeched to a stop in the middle of the entrance way towards the kitchen, panting. His mind had flown through a million explanations as to why he was in Winry’s room to explain to Granny who he had expected to see in the kitchen. Even he didn’t know how he really got into her room, so it was a lot of effort trying to come up with a good story to tell a rather terrifying woman. However, Pinako was nowhere to be seen.

Alphonse stood up from the oven and looked over his shoulder with a knowing look in his eyes. He slid a hot muffin tray onto the counter where a million other breakfast pastries already lied. They were stacked into towers on all the counters and tables. The aroma they casted was sweet and light. Edward thought it was no wonder why he could smell them from all the way upstairs. With the amount of pastries that his brother had made that morning, it seemed that Alphonse wanted to open a bakery.

“Edward, did you have a good night?” his little brother winked slyly as he smiled from him at a safe distance. With that comment Edward would have thrown something at him, but he did not have anything on hand that would do an appropriate amount of damage.

“What are you doing up so early? I thought you would still be in bed?” Edward changed the subject as he stumbled into the room. He collapsed down into one of the kitchen chairs and bent over to put his sock onto his right leg. His left automail one didn’t need a sock which meant he got two pairs of socks for the price of one.  As he was struggling to right himself in his appearance, he almost missed the pause of hesitation in his brother’s reply.

“I-I can’t sleep in forever. It’s been a few weeks since the hospital. You would think that I would have had enough of it by now,” Alphonse chuckled lightly. Edward looked up from what he was doing and suspiciously looked his brother over. Flour dusted his face and hair while splashes of muffin batter coated his robe and slippers. The flour puffed off of his body in clouds as he scurried around the kitchen grabbing some pastries to put into a basket. Underneath it all Edward could see tired lines underneath his brother’s eyes and an air of exhaustion that hung over him like a cloak.

“Funny,” he said questionably, “I thought I remember you saying last night that you would have liked to sleep for three years straight.” Alphonse let out a harsh laugh as he bundled up the basket and dropped it in Edward’s lap.

“Exaggerations, brother. Now, go or you are going to be late,” he chuckled. Edward glanced up to the clock in the kitchen and read that it was 7:15. He needed to run a mile in five minutes if he wanted to get there in time. He cursed the dictionary as he jammed his feet into his large boots and sprinted out of the house. He couldn’t be late or else Mr. McCathity would be upset. Whatever Alphonse was upset about, he would have to bring it up later when he got home.

But later, he would find his brother already fast asleep in his bed.

……………..

Edward stretched tiredly in his bed and turned over towards the window to watch the sunrise stream into the window. He didn’t see it. The only light he saw was the shining deep blue eyes of Winry.

“Ahh!” he exclaimed as he shot up from his bed. Winry was standing beside him with her arms crossed over her chest, rolling her eyes. She had her robe hastily thrown over her and her feet jammed into slippers. Her hair was in disarray but what Edward really noticed was how troubled her expression was. Looking around, he realized that it was not even morning. It was still the dead of night. He opened his mouth to question what she was doing there, but she beat him to an answer.

“He’s doing it again,” she said, her voice filled with worry. It was then that he smelled it, the sweet smell of a recipe warming in the oven. Edward groaned as he dropped his face into his hands and massaged it to rub the exhaustion from his face. Winry’s hand found its way to his shoulder and he dropped his hands to his lap as he looked up to her.

“I will talk to him,” he sighed. Sleep was still in his voice as he was gradually taking his time waking up. He pushed himself to the edge of his bed and shoved his mismatched feet into his slippers. Winry wrapped her arms around him and lifted him up into something that Edward would have loved to claim as a standing position.

“No, Edward, this needs to stop. It has been almost a week. He’s going to kill himself if he doesn’t sleep-“

“I know,” Edward said a little stiffer. He found himself wrapping his hands around Winry’s shoulders and taking a step back from her. He closed his eyes for a moment and took in a deep breath to beat his sleep into submission. He opened them again to see Winry staring at him, her eyes still shining in the darkness of their room. “Do you mind if I talk to him alone?” he asked. She looked disheartened that she couldn’t go down to help his brother and her childhood friend. However, she understood their brotherly connection and nodded. If Edward could not talk to his brother, no one could. He stepped away and motioned for Winry to wait there as he shuffled towards his bedroom door. He massaged his face one more time to wipe the sand from his eyes and hobbled out into the hallway.

The floorboards creaked underneath his mismatched feet as he made his way down the stairs an to the kitchen. The usual sight of Alphonse baking or cooking in the kitchen grew more chaotic as the days had passed. Edward and Winry had found out after the third night in a row that Alphonse had a habit of stress baking. Their countertops were buried under piles of pastries and their cabinets were emptied of all ingredients aside from a small jar of honey and their fresh vegetables that their neighbor Mrs. Lathy grew in her garden. They were constantly throwing out old pastries or giving them away in town. Alphonse made three trips to the grocers in the last week to get more flour and eggs. It seemed like it wouldn’t have an end.

They continuously asked why he was baking, especially so late at night, but he would never give them a straight answer. The seen was very familiar to him in a way he wished it weren’t. Edward had a hunch as to what was really going on, but he didn’t confront his brother how he should have. He had selfishly hoped that his brother was strong enough to figure it out. Over the years, Edward looked up to his younger brother for emotional support because Alphonse was the strongest person he knew. Living in armor was difficult yet he had always pushed through. But now, as Alphonse’s stress was building, his health was failing, and Edward knew that anymore nights spent in front of the oven would result in a case of sleep deprivation. He did not want to see his brother in another hospital bed.

Alphonse was leaning heavily on the kitchen table. His body sagged like he could barely hold it up and his head was nearly resting in the basket of newly made brownies. Edward had the slight hope that he had fallen asleep but he saw his brother lazily flip the pages of the recipe book he had been using for the last week. The bags underneath his eyes were hollowed and dark and he appeared to be more of a zombie than a human being.

“Al,” Edward hummed tiredly. His brother did not look up from his work nor did he acknowledge him in any way. Edward sighed as he stumbled over to the table. He repeated his brother’s name but still no response. He let out a small curse as he reached down and pulled the book out from underneath his brother. It took Alphonse a few seconds to really understand that it was missing. He looked up and blinked his owlish eyes at Edward, then to the clock on the wall, and then back again. Alphonse smiled tiredly up at him which strangely only seemed to make him look worse.

“Hey, Ed,” he whispered as he rested his chin tiredly on one of his hands, “what are you doing up?”

“I should be asking you the same thing,” Edward retorted stiffly. He lazily pulled out a chair from the table. It screeched against the floors and caused a huge headache to grow behind his forehead. Edward was about to take a seat in it when he looked down to find a fully decorated two tier wedding cake. He blinked at it once then looked at his brother. He removed the cake from the seat and gently set it on the ground before taking his place in it.

“Al,” he breathed, “what are you doing?” A frown grew on Alphonse’s face and he glanced away shamefully.

“Nothing. Just baking,” he lied but Edward didn’t need to be psychic to see through it. Alphonse had never been a good liar.

“I would ask if everything is alright, but it obviously is not. Why do you not want to sleep?”

“I am not tired.”

“No. You are exhausted,” Edward stated flatly. Alphonse’s brow turned down as his weary brain tried to come up with any counter statement. However, Edward left no room for argument and Alphonse knew that he was going to slowly squeeze the answer out of him one way or another. “Keeping it in won’t help anything, only make it worse. You can tell me.”

“But brother I- “Alphonse stumbled before biting his lip. He seemed unable to find a way to fight him. He knew that he was right. His brother let out a whimpering sigh as he melted down onto the table, curling his arms tiredly over his head. He was a beaten man, something that Edward never had thought possible.

“I can’t. I can’t. I don’t know how,” Alphonse mumbled into his arms. “It’s so much, and so stupid. I shouldn’t be upset about this-”

“Nightmares?” Edward said which made his brother stiffen a little bit. A golden eye poked out of the nest of golden hair and looked at him. Edward smiled gently in understanding, to let his brother know he wasn’t alone. It only took a few seconds after that for Alphonse to fall apart. His eyes watered up and he buried his head back down into his arms to stop the tears from flowing down his cheeks like a waterfall. It didn’t help much. Chest racking sobs escaped Alphonse’s body as he let everything he had built up in the past five years out. It was about time.

Edward got up from his chair across the table and tiredly shuffled his way through the kitchen to his brother’s side. He pulled out a chair next to him and sat down as quietly as he could. Sitting next to him, his little brother looked microscopic. He was thin, and worn like a ratty old rag doll. His clothes didn’t even properly fit him yet. Alphonse was a mess but not broken, just tired from a journey his body didn’t know had ended. Though the end of things never really is the end.

Edward reached his hand out and rested it on Alphonse’s back. The deep circles that he rubbed into his back seemed to soothe his brother’s pain. Edward remembered that Alphonse used to do that to him when he would have a bad nightmare. It seemed to have a powerful effect on his little brother because within minutes, he was silent. It must have been the warm touch that he was missing for so long. It was now a source of reassurance that he was back. He was not a suit of armor anymore.

Alphonse continued to sniffle, and Edward smiled weakly.

“Yeah, I get them too,” he mumbled as he continued to pat his brother’s back.

“I-I haven’t had dreams in so long,” Alphonse whimpered. “Now, I get millions at once and they’re this! I-I don’t know what to do anymore. I don’t want to sleep. I don’t want to see-“ His words were lost as sobs swallowed his conversation. He quickly buried his head once more. Edward watched his brother cry for only a couple more seconds before he leaned over and turned his chair towards him. He pulled his brother’s shoulders into a strong hug. Alphonse crumbled in his arms and pressed his tear stained face into his shoulder. His cries were loud in Edward’s ears but he held his little brother close, knowing not to let go before it was all over.

“I can’t do it. I can’t do it,” Alphonse wept. Those words broke Edward’s heart. He always thought Alphonse could do anything. He didn’t think that something as silly as a nightmare could stop him. But then, nightmares weren’t at all a funny thing.

“Al, it’s alright. Calm down,” he tried to soothe his brother but little seemed to help now. He was a bumbling mess and he was letting out everything he had.

“I-It’s mom, a-and Nina, and P-pride. All of them! Every night. I can’t get away from it-“

“Shh, little brother, just calm down and look at me for a moment,” Edward said, pushing his brothers shoulders away to an arm’s distance so that he could look at him. However, Alphonse refused. Tears had turned his cheeks flush red and he seemed very content with staring at the ground. “Al, come on, just look,” he urged him once more and suddenly gold caught gold. Alphonse sniffled and waited for him to talk, but acknowledging each other’s presence was a good focus to stop his mind from derailing. Edward knew that from experience. He had often focused on his brother when he was having a panic attack to keep him mind from falling off the tracks. Hopefully, his little brother would be able to do the same. Seeing him calm down even a slight bit made Edward smile gently.

“There’s nothing to be afraid of,” Edward stated firmly.

“You don’t think I know that?” Alphonse growled. “I-I am not a child! Yet they still haunt me like no tomorrow. I know I shouldn’t be afraid, and yet I still am! They only get worse and worse and worse. Do they ever go away?” he exclaimed which made Edward pause. Alphonse wanted an answer that he knew couldn’t give. The thing was, they didn’t stop. He has had nightmares since the first night long ago and even now he has nightmares after the promise day. They don’t stop. But they get better. He didn’t have them as frequently as he once did, and they surely were not as bad. He could sleep and not worry about what his dreams might hold even though they might not be the nicest of visions.

Though the truth was a sour pill, Edward could not bring himself to lie to his brother. It wasn’t something he was capable of doing.

“Not that I know of,” he admitted. His brother bit his lip and shoved down the spite of frustration. He nodded his head while trying to cover the disappointed look on his face. It only made Edward more upset to see his brother look so damned. So lost. Edward straightened himself out and took in a huge breath. He let it out slowly and tried to force the small smile on his face to stay.

“Al, do you remember, after our encounter with Scar, how I would wake up in the middle of the night? Or how I couldn’t sleep for days after Tucker’s house?” Alphonse frowned and closed his eyes. It seemed that those memories plagued him as well and he didn’t want to remember them at all. If Edward could erase just one memory from his mind it would be the Tucker Mansion. It seemed Alphonse would agree with him on that one.

“How can I forget?” Alphonse muttered weakly which only seemed to make him look that much more exhausted.

“I still get dreams of those moments. They are each twisted and different but are nonetheless disturbing. But… they aren’t scary. I can sleep now.”

“But you’re brave. You always were. Braver than me-“

“Pfft. Ha! You must be kidding!” Edward barked as he heard those words come out of Alphonse’s mouth. He chuckled, thinking it was his brother’s odd sense of humor, but seeing the firm look in his eye, Edward suddenly realized that he wasn’t. “Oh, Al! You can’t be serious!” Edward exclaimed throwing his hands in the air. “You are a million times braver than me. Hell, I get scared whenever Winry walks in with her toolbox. I always looked up to you…. And don’t you dare think it’ a height thing,” Edward warned teasingly which made his little brother grin a little bit, no matter how much he wanted to stay bitter. “You could do a shit ton more than me in a day-“

“Except I am still terrified of stupid dreams,” Alphonse mumbled pathetically. Edward tightened his lips for a moment and rubbed his brother’s shoulders reassuringly.

“I am not scared of my dreams anymore because I know that they are only dreams, and everything I have done, good or bad, has led me here back home with Winry, you and Granny,” Edward told him. Alphonse struggled to bear a faint smile but it was there, and Edward was glad to see it. “They might go away eventually, but at least they will get better.”

“How long does it take?” Alphonse asked quietly. “To get better?” Edward shrugged tiredly.

“Depends I guess, but you are the strongest person I know. So, I believe you will pull through. Don’t forget either, that me and Winry will always be here for you.” Alphonse beamed sheepishly as he wiped the dried tear tracks off his face. His nose was still sniffly but he seemed to get better. There was an accepting nod of his head and Edward grinned as he pushed himself to his feet.

“Come on. Let’s get you to bed.” Alphonse let out a yawn and weakly pushed himself up. He was drained of most energy and Edward knew that he couldn’t get to his room on his own. He wrapped his brother’s arm around his shoulder to support him and lifted him gently to his feet. Alphonse gave him a grateful nod as he struggled to push his chair in. All fine motor skills were out the window. Just as they were about to make their way out of the kitchen, however, Alphonse stopped suddenly.

“Something’s burning,” he mumbled, trying to remember what he forgot. Edward sniffed the air and sure enough, there was a bitter smell of burnt bread. Alphonse’s eyes went wide as it hit him. “Oh no! My crème puffs!”

………

Edward fell asleep immediately after he got Alphonse to his room. His brother didn’t even bother to take a shower to get all of the flour off himself. He hit the bed and was out like a light. Though Edward was hoping for another undisturbed sleep, he felt a nudge on his shoulder which stirred him from any dream he was having. Edward groaned and cracked an eye open. Soft sunrays scattered through his bedroom window. The earth was greeting the morning no matter how early it was. It was the type of hour everyone wanted to see, but no one had the energy to get up for. A slim shadow loomed over him and Edward blinked it tiredly into focus. It was his little brother, Alphonse.

“Brother-“

“Another one?”

“Y-yeah,” Alphonse mumbled shamefully. Edward sighed as he scooted his back to the far wall of his bed and patted the now empty space for Alphonse to take. His little brother laid down beside him and once more he was asleep within the minute. Edward smiled as he rested his head back down on his pillow and closed his eyes. His brother would be alright.

That evening, the house stood quiet.