Every decision came with good and bad. No decision was ever entirely perfect and no action was ever wholly bad. Sometimes great things were formed in the midst of calamity and sometimes great intentions came with darker outcomes.
That was how Al chose to see life now, a far cry from his and his brother’s naive beliefs on equivalent exchange and that the world was entirely fair. Their world was chaotic and random and bizarre but something lovely could still be formed anyway.
And that was how he liked to see the life he’d forged with Ed. They’d decided to live together and he’d taken a risk and confessed his feelings. At first, Ed had been confused and scared and uncertain. He was ever so afraid to hurt Al, when they’d both worked so hard to make him human again. Ed had been afraid he was stealing Al’s life away - he’d confessed as much, even as he confessed how much he loved Al back.
Maybe it was a mistake to let himself become so attached but it was the sort of mistake he wanted to make. He had believed that there was something precious to find. And he’d found Ed - the gentler, more sensitive side to him that he didn’t dare show anyone else.
There were consequences too however. They’d agreed it best to keep their relationship a secret and for the most part it was easy to pretend. They kept their moments of real intimacy private (like the both preferred), occasionally paid lip-service to the idea of dating and just kept to themselves, letting everyone else assume what they would. It was sometimes irritating but usually nothing more.
Today though, it was harder than normal. They’d made other choices too, tied themselves up with other people, and those choices came with their own consequences. Ed had let the new democratic assembly set up in place of the old military state use him and his reputation as the People’s Alchemist to help rally support for the radically changing Government and had unwittingly gotten himself involved in politics. It wasn’t a field suited to his impulsive, temperamental brother at all and it placed him under far more scrutiny than they could really afford.
Despite the issues, Ed was in a position to make a lot of positive change. Their past of dabbling in human transmutation had had to remain unknown and it had been recommended that they kept Al out of the spotlight as much as possible. (Al was far too small for the massive suit of armour he'd occupied for so long and it was best not to draw attention to it.) Therefore, it was a choice they’d both hastily agreed to - perhaps too hastily, for it had lead to them being apart with increasing frequency.
Al had prepared for many things when he’d deepened his relationship with Ed, but he hadn’t prepared for just how much he’d miss him when he was gone. Their little house felt empty without being filled with Ed’s animated chatter, the sounds of his uneven gait marching about the place or even his overly intent alchemy research. Even when Ed was working quietly, he had ways of making his presence be felt.
It was quite ironic how easy it was to grow used to his dynamic presence such that all his many quirks and habits were taken for granted. But the second he was gone, Al was dwelling on them.
It was a temporary separation, he reminded himself. It wasn’t an accident or a sign that things were wrong. It was a life they’d chosen with all the good and bad that came with it. He knew where Ed was, he wasn’t lost or in danger so he didn’t need to worry. So what if he hated sleeping alone?
But his eyes kept being drawn back to the newspaper he’d picked up just this morning. A few pages in, there was a lovely picture of Ed, smiling brightly and dressed up as the Fullmetal alchemist. (These days, he had a more varied wardrobe but his look had become very distinctive. Just as he’d intended all those years ago.) It was discussing some new initiative to help alchemists to be viewed as the builders of society rather than human weapons of the military state or something of the sort and Ed’s involvement had been heavily requested.
Just seeing and reading a story about him which Al had no role in was slightly wonderful but also terrible. Was Ed really so comfortable and at ease? Was Al wrong to be feeling so lonely?
The worst part was a second (thankfully smaller) image below the first one which also featured Ed and a girl right beside him, exchanging grins. It meant nothing, Al knew, yet why did he feel so anxious? So what if Ed didn’t get on well with most government workers? It was just a single picture, so what if the article had a single line where it mentioned that his brother was allegedly single?
Next time, he promised himself, he would insist on coming with Ed - risks be damned! He’d take those negatives if only to avoid this anxiety. Ed would argue about the problems but Al would welcome such an argument right about now.
Ed wasn’t usually a heavy drinker. This evening though, he decided he didn’t care.
It was strange to think himself lonely in a room filled with people but just the effort of plastering on a large grin was becoming tiresome. His companion was nice enough, a girl who disbelieved practically every story she’d heard about him and his chaotic life. It had been a good distraction to insist that, yes, they were all real. Yes, the military had given him a massive budget to wander around causing havoc. No they hadn’t supervised him. Yes he’d been twelve years old.
Of course, her coppery coloured hair and eyes reminded him strongly of Alphonse. (She didn't really look much like his brother, he knew, and yet Alphonse was on his mind.) Al would have responded to her questions so dryly, she’d realise he had to be telling the truth, forcing her to concede where Ed was struggling to sound convincing. Alphonse was much better at remembering useful details from some of their more esoteric adventures.
Al deserved to be here far more than he did. Al had done most of the research and planning for his contribution and Ed was just playing the part of the figurehead. Usually that was more than fine, but not when Al was a hundred miles away and left out again. It wasn’t fair.
Next time, he assured himself, (because there would definitely be a next time), he wasn’t going to be too afraid to ask Al to come with him.