“I’m home,” Rian called as he shut the door behind him. Snow had snuck in through the open door behind him, swirling in the hallway before disappearing forever against the walls and the floor. Rian stomped his boots on the large mat just inside the door to clear them of snow, before kicking them off to leave them in a heap next to Edward’s desperately-in-need-of-a-shine military boots.
He did not get a response, but Rian only half-expected one. He unwound his thick scarf and left both scarf and jacket on the coat rack, before popping his head around the corner to check in the den.
Edward was sitting, as expected, on the couch. Well, he hoped it was the colonel, because most of what he saw was a blanket-covered lump slowly baking in front of a large, recently-stoked fire. Edward always seemed to gain about seven sizes in the winter because whenever he was home there were clothes, then a second layer of clothes, then a dressing gown, and whatever blankets he felt like dragging around behind him.
He was always cold. Rian knew that it was because of the automail, the heavy metal prosthetics that leeched heat from his body. Rian dreaded getting brushed by Edward’s automail foot in bed, the chill was usually enough to jar him out of a deep sleep.
Rian leaned over the back of the couch, prepared to poke the lump a few times to see which end Edward’s sleep-tousled head would emerge from, when he hesitated. There was an arm hanging down from the side of the couch - and dropped to the floor, fingertips barely brushing its spine, was an overturned photo album.
Edward did not have many photographs. He rarely displayed pictures, which was the complete opposite of his brother. Whenever they visited Alphonse and Winry in East City, there were photographs everywhere. There was a distinct gap in the photos - lots of Edward, Alphonse and Winry as children. A few here and there of Edward as a teenager, usually in states of undress while Winry worked on his automail. Lots of Alphonse and Winry and their family - even Rian, now, was included in a few of the photos that graced their walls.
Rian gently picked up the photo album, sitting down carefully with his back to the couch. The fire was warm, chasing away the chill in his fingers from the freezing temperatures outside. The majority of the photographs were of Edward and his brother - Rian had seen most of these before at Alphonse’s. Pictures of the wedding - Edward with his brother in the dress uniform, their hats knocked to the ground and Alphonse in a headlock. Picture of friends and family; Winry sitting on Alphonse’s lap, one hand resting on her protruding belly, a contented smile on her face. Rian smiled fondly himself, turning the pages slowly.
There were also pictures of him and Edward, together. Rian sitting on Havoc’s desk and pulling a face at someone out of the camera’s sight. A picture of Edward looking at Rian with a fond expression on his face. One from Yule a few years past, with Rian asleep, his head on Edward’s shoulder and Edward too, asleep, his cheek on top of Rian’s head.
There were not many pictures after those - Edward did not own his own camera, most of the photos that he had were given to him by the friends and family who had taken them. There were a whole lot of empty pages past those pictures, Rian flipped through them with his thumb, listening to the pages fan as he watched the fire crackling in the hearth.
And then, a picture caught his eye. It had been tucked away between the pages, near the back of the album. The picture was slightly out of focus, but Rian recognized Edward in the military uniform. He did not look as comfortable in it as he did now; he was slouching. Edward’s back was mostly to the camera, his hands shoved into his pockets as he grinned up at the man beside him.
His back was also to the camera - and his face was turned slightly away. Rian looked at the picture quietly. Edward looked so happy in the photo, almost carefree. He touched the photograph with two fingers, straightening the way that it sat on the page before closing the album.
Rian leaned his head back against the couch cushion, twisting his head so that he could look Edward in the eye. “How long have you been awake?”
Edward’s head was unearthed from the pile of blankets, resting on his automail arm. He could not resist yawning, now that Rian was looking at him, and so he turned his face into his arm in lieu of covering his mouth. “Not long,” Edward mumbled sleepily.
“You’re ridiculous,” Rian said fondly, setting the album on the table beside the sofa and hoisting himself to his feet. “You are a giant slug in the winter, colonel.”
“Not a slug,” Edward said, sounding insulted. “I don’t ooze.”
Rian gave him an incredulous look. “I hope if you find yourself oozing, you would, you know, get that checked out.”
Edward sat up, which in his nest of blankets was a kind of flailing, rolling motion. Rian watched in amusement as Edward finally located the end of the blankets so he could free his arms entirely. And then, with his fists balled in edges of the blankets, he lunged at Rian, pulling him down onto the couch with him.
Rian yelped at the surprise attack, going down in a flurry of blankets as Edward wrapped two heavy, warm arms around him. “WARM,” Edward demanded.
It was warm. Rian’s feet had already twisted in several of the quilts, his legs tangled up with Edward’s own. After a long moment of struggle Rian gave up and flopped on top of Edward like a dead weight, and Edward crowed in his triumph.
“I always win,’ Edward said, poking Rian in the forehead with the fingers of his left hand.
“Well, most of the time,” Rian amended. He rested his head on Edward’s chest, turning his face toward the crackling fire. He really should not be drowsy, but there was something comforting about laying on Edward like this, wrapped in blankets in front of the fire. There were no lamps on, the only light the warmth from the flames.
Rian closed his eyes and listened to Edward’s heartbeat as he thought. “Ed?” he asked, as Edward put his hand in Rian’s hair.
“Mm?” Edward sounded drowsy.
“Tell me about him.”
“About who?” Edward stroked his hand through Rian’s hair, staring not at Rian, but at the dancing flames in the fireplace.
Edward’s hand stilled. Rian lifted his head and looked up at Edward, a little frightened of the expression he might find there. However, Edward did not look angry or upset … he had a far-off look in his eyes, and he smiled wistfully for Rian.
“Please,” Rian said.
Edward settled back against the couch, causing Rian to shift with him slightly. “You would have liked him, I think,” Edward said thoughtfully, looking not at Rian but back into the dancing flames of the fireplace. “He was the perfect combination of scholar, soldier and scoundrel.”
Rian smiled at the expression on Edward’s face, settling against him as the fire crackled, flames licking against the grate hungrily as the night slowly wore on.
Promises to Keep: Prompt 03 - "Cuddling by the Fire"