In maybe less than a second, Ed is right in front of him. “What is it, Al?”
Al knows he should be used at this point, but it always takes him off guard. Ed is faster than a Homunculus when it comes to Al’s well-being.
The younger Elric does take a while to say it. He wonders if his reason for calling his brother is really necessary… Al sees that he asks a lot from Ed – and yes, it’s part of his recovery in his fragile human body, of the consequences of his past actions… except the boy can’t help feeling a little bad for worrying his older brother all the time. Ed, who has gone through hell and back to get his body back, at the cost of his right arm still…
Despite the long, uncomfortable silence, Ed doesn’t rush Al to spit it out. Though the latter sees it in his eyes, the concern growing.
“I hope this doesn’t sound stupid, but…” Al hesitates, his voice low and small. “Could you hug me?”
Ed’s shoulders relax and the smile he gives him is maybe the sweetest Al has ever seen.
“Aw, of course, Al,” he says softly, about to reach him at the couch, when…
“Wait. I’ll…” Al looks down, holding onto his walking stick to stand. Ed gets it and gives him a little space.
Balance is still a challenge for him, as he struggles a little to let go of his only means of support, but Al manages to stand on his feet without falling. Ed is just a few feet away, ready to catch him if necessary.
Al takes a deep breath, determined to take the first step. Even so, he latches onto his brother, almost tripping and causing them both to fall back; thankfully, Ed gets a hold of him and they’re both stable enough there.
Due to so many years behind the Gate, Al is still relatively shorter than Ed – which he always teases –, but it’s not a bad thing. For years Al has been taller than everyone. Taller, huge… unreachable. He hasn’t been able to bury his face in someone’s shoulder in so long, but for all that it’s so odd.
Clearly, it’s not the first time they’ve hugged since coming back, but Al never asks for it. It’s pretty lonely, really, the constant craving. It might not go away in a long time, and it’s the reason why Al never touches on it. Because, well, this is something casual that any human being should be familiar with. Yet here is Al often needing this, and yet unable to say it.
So yes, Al sinks deeper in the hug – he almost cries while he’s at it. He’s shaking even, enveloped in his brother’s arms. They’re touching the fabric of his sweater, the alive pressure against his back, keeping him here. The right arm notably a little harder but soothing, nonetheless. Their hearts beat together, instead of the daunting metal that separated them.
Al can smell and breathe his home right here. It’s all so astonishing.
He raises his arms as well to pull Ed closer. “Thank you, brother,” Al whispers.
Ed squeezes him a little more. “Anything for you, Al.”
They’re impossibly close. To think they used to hug so often; they’d hold onto each other’s hands when everything seemed hopeless and far away. It used to be their language when they couldn’t speak.
Ed is clearly alive here, and Al can hear his own body. It hurts most of the time… but Ed is here to feel it now, too. The hand that holds the back of Al’s head is this very reminder and the younger Elric finally feels at peace.
Just a hug is enough to calm him, even when everything is over. Al needs some reassurance that things are fine. Right now, he can tell they are.
Finally, after long minutes that are maybe hours, Al exhales his previous tenseness and pats his brother’s back, a sign that he’s okay.
“… um, you can let me go now, brother.”
“Oh! Sorry! Sorry,” Ed releases him, though keeping his hands on Al’s shoulders so he sits again.
“Yeah… I guess I just…” Ed squeezes his shoulder. “I’ve missed that, too.”
Al smiles sadly in response, his eyes falling to his lap.
“Listen,” Ed speaks up, “you can always let me know when you want a hug, okay? It’s not stupid.”
Al bites his lip. “I didn’t want to bother—”
“Ah-ah-ah! You could never bother me with that. If it helps you, then I’m glad to do it. No need to hide stuff from me, okay?”
“Okay,” Al sighs dramatically. It’s useless to argue at this point.
“You need anything else?”
“No thanks, I’m fine now.” At Ed’s humorous glare, Al laughs, “I mean it.”
“You’d better be. But it’s okay if you’re not, so let me know, alright?”
“Okay, brother. Thank you, again.”
Ed smiles fondly, maybe a little emotionally at the fact he gets to see his younger brother’s face again. Because no matter how scrawny it is, Ed loves him all the way.
“Yeah, you’re welcome.”