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17 July 2010 @ 03:12 am
Title: Tolerance
Author: inugrlrayn
Series: any
Word Count: 918
Rating: pg-13
Characters: Al,Ed
Summary: Despite the pain, waking up is worthwhile. Won second place for the fma_fic_contest prompt #64 "touching/touched".
Disclaimer: I don't own the characters in this story.

To say that he ached was an understatement. Every bone felt as if it had been battered to nearly cracking, every sinew stretched beyond its limit. His skin burned like it had never been used, delicate and acute in its pain. What was probably no more than fine sand scraped at the undersides of his thighs, but it felt like a file run across his poor, tender flesh.

The cold was probably worse. He was bare as the day he was born, save for a crimson coat draped over his frail, feeble body. It did little to shield him from the elements and he shivered violently in the dank air that threatened to crush the life from him. It was such a shame to get this far, only to feel like he was well and truly dying.

Awful as it was, he was enthralled by the agony. To suffer in ways he could outwardly express was infinitely better than the lifetime of empty numbness he had faced down, where only his heart still knew how to cry. His cheeks were wet now, and even through the torment of overstimulated nerves, his lips tipped in a broken, out of practice smile.

It was hard to say when the pain ebbed enough to be something less than all encompassing. He was still cold, shuddering violently against wall of flesh and fabric that he couldn’t quite grasp, and his eyes refused to open to piece that together. The cold at least, seemed to offer a faint taste of the bitter numbness he’d grown so accustomed to, devouring his extremities until they resembled what he’d known for so long now. Cautiously, he fought for enough coherence to wiggle his toe.

The ability to offer such a small approximation of motor control was hardly worth celebration, but his mind was frazzled. The sound that bled from his lips was somewhere caught between laughter and sobbing. He could hardly think beyond the fog of you’re human again, and there was something buzzing at his ear, words perhaps, but he couldn’t quite hang onto them. He did register the cradling clutch of something wrapped around him, soft and hard by turns.

Seconds might have passed, or endless hours, and he would not have known the difference. There was something innately soothing about the hand – and he clawed at his own consciousness trying to sort out how he put a name to it – that slipped from his shoulder to his scalp, tenderly combing through it. He was nestled against what he eventually worked out to be someone’s chest, the steady beat of their heart hammering away against his cheek.

Come on, Al. Stay with me. Wake up. Please please wake up. Pleading words in a voice he knew tugged at him, slowly yanking him back from an abyss he had no name for. Fingers that were soothingly warm in the chill that surrounded them pushed his hair from his face.

“A…l?” The voice that hovered somewhere just above him cracked as he finally began to pry open his eyes. There was what he worked out probably to be someone’s face, nearly pressed into his when he finally braved the discomfort that accompanied tipping his chin upward.

The blurred edges smoothed into a soft jaw and thick, honey bangs that drooped and tickled his face, though the unfamiliar sensation made him flinch and nearly shrink away. Luminous, amber eyes stared in wonder, and lips that normally spouted words faster than he could follow were parted in silent wonder.

“Brother,” he murmured, tasting the word and reveling in the press of his mouth and tongue as he formed each syllable. His voice was cracked, rasping with a throat that keenly felt its disuse. There was no echo now, no sad, tinny sound to hammer home his hopeless state. There was only a shaking, hurting living body that was caught up against Ed.

“We did it. We really did it.” Ed’s voice was soft, full of something warm and thrilled and almost disbelieving in Al’s ear. His brother, usually so boisterous, clutched him like a precious fragile thing and Al’s eyes slipped shut, relaxing in the safety of his arms. The pads of Ed’s fingers dusted his cheekbones and jaw with all the reverence he gave a particularly intense array. Al felt his brother’s face pressed against his cheek, accompanied by a suspicious muffled sound, and dampness against his skin.

Ed had touched him a thousand times. There were nights he watched his brother wake shivering from his nightmares only to lull himself back to slumber in the cradle of lifeless, steel limbs. He had watched sometimes when Ed would search the helmet that had offered a poor mimicry of his face for any trace of emotion. He’d watched caresses that trailed over the armor that meant so much and achieved so little save to remind him of all he could not have.

Even as they waited to be rescued, Al couldn’t find the words to complain. He no longer shivered so much as Ed rubbed at his arm and cradled him closer, wrapping the coat more tightly around his body. He still ached, and everything was beyond intense, but somehow he managed to tolerate the ground still sharp against his skin. His every nerve sang, focused on the sweeping touch of Ed’s hand and the press of Ed’s face against his throat, because for all he’d seen it for all these years, he could finally, finally feel it.
Hewene: Elricest!  It's canon!sayhello on July 17th, 2010 04:28 pm (UTC)
Absolutely wonderful. I love fics that explore what it must have been like for Al to return to his body, and you really paint a very convincing picture. And that he should come back held by Ed? As it should be!