"Well, you seem to check out, Alphonse. I imagine he'll be pretty happy to actually hear from you." Roy pulled out a pad of paper, flipping through it to see what he'd actually assigned Edward to do that day.
Al fidgeted a little in his chair. He wanted to wipe the perspiration from his forehead, but he wasn't sure that he was supposed to. He hadn't expected to be grilled like he'd been. "I hope you'll pass my message on to him. I'd really like to see him."
Al stood up and looked for Balamb. He didn't expect that he'd see Ed today, and it was getting a little late. "If he wants to contact me, I'm at Balamb Garden."
Ed had changed quickly into a clean uniform once he received Aerith's message, intrigued by what the librarian had said. What on earth could be so important that he needed to go see Mustang for? He left the room an headed quickly towards Mustang's office. If this was anything other than deadly serious, he would not be happy.
"I'll pass on the message," Roy replied. It probably would've made sense for him to jot the note down or something, but he made no move to do so. "I can probably track him down in a few minutes if you want to wait, though. He'd have a stroke if he found out you were here, and I sent you away."
Ed knocked loudly at the door to Mustang's office and then fidgeted a little as he waited for an answer.
Al stopped in the middle of reaching for the baby chocobo. He straightened and looked at Roy with bright, hopeful eyes. He opened his mouth to reply, then turned toward the door.
Great. What was it now? Roy almost growled before composing himself and clearing his throat. "Come in."
Ed scowled at the annoyed tone of Mustang's voice. He was supposedly the one who wanted him there. Git. He pushed open the office door and stomped inside. "What is it?"
Al blinked at the new person. Then he blinked again. He looked...familiar. Could it be? "Uh..."
Ed absently noticed the presence of another person in the room and glanced over for a split second before turning back to the Colonel. "Well?"
Aerith. Roy rested his head in his palm and sighed again. She'd set him up on purpose. Oh, well. Not much he could do about it now. "Edward. Good this saves me the trouble of sending someone to find you." He gestured to Al wearily. "There's someone here to see you."
Ed? The Colonel said THIS was ED. "Ed?" Al's voice was soft and breathless, his eyes wide as he stared at the alchemist.
Ed blinked in slight confusion. He had definitely not been expecting that kind of response. "Right..." He turned as the stranger gasped softly and stared impassively at him. "Yes."
Al took a step closer to the newcomer. "Edward...Elric?"
Ed nodded sharply, eyes narrowing slightly as he looked the kid over. "That's me."
Roy was getting impatient now. He certainly hoped he hadn't let in some imposter. Better to find out now than later though, he assumed. "Isn't this your brother, Elric?" came the annoyed inquisition, as though they were both wasting his time.
The hair, they eyes. Yes, they were the same. "Brother. Brother!" Al could restrain himself no longer. He took the two steps distance between them in a single leap and threw his arms around Ed.
Ed gasped as he suddenly found himself with his arms full of blond. He tensed, fighting the ingrained reaction to shove the kid away and fight. 'Brother'? What the hell was going on? He looked up at Mustang desperately and tried to think of something intelligent to say. "What?" Was what came out instead.
Al held tightly to Ed, almost afraid to let go. Afraid that if he did, Ed would fade away like a dream. "I found you. I finally found you!" he exclaimed against Ed's neck. He didn't hear the alarmed chirps and warks coming from the baby chocobo, who seemed to believe that his mother was in trouble.
"If this is all a joke, I swear..." Roy muttered under his breath. Ed looked like he'd never seen this boy before in his life. Still... everything had seemed to check out. He cleared his throat again. "It checks out, Edward. You've been bothering me about your brother for how long now? There he is."
Ed stared in shock at Mustang for a moment and then turned back to the blond in the SeeD uniform, currently clinging to him as though he'd never let go. Al? Could this person really be Al? His brother? He swallowed thickly, squeezed his eyes shut for a minute and then gently pushed the kid away from him before turning to Mustang once more, rage in his eyes.
"You think this is fucking funny?!?! Did you even lie to Aerith just so you could make fun of me?! It isn't funny!" He could feel tears prickle at the corners of his eyes and he clenched his fists at his sides. How could Mustang do this to him?!? They didn't always get on, but he had thought there was some kind of respect there. "You know what this means to me! How can you lie like this?!?"
He was shaking now, torn between wanting to punch Mustang and wanting to burst out in tears. How could he do this? Because it couldn't be Al. It just couldn't. He'd spent so long searching and it wasn't possible!
Al reluctantly stepped back, but watched Ed closely. To his horror, he realized that Ed was angry and didn't believe them. "Brother...Ed, it's really me. Alphonse." He reached out and touched his brother on the shoulder.
Outwardly, Roy's expression hardened as he Edward berated him. When he spoke, his tone was calm, even, and incredibly serious for a change. "If you think I would joke about something like this, Edward, you're sorely mistaken. Take another look at him. He checks out."
Ed took a step towards Roy, hands clenched into fists. "You're lying! It isn't possible!" It was too impossible a chance to occur.
Al's eyes reflected his distress, and apparently it transmitted itself to the baby chocobo, who fluffed out its feathers and started making cheeping sounds. But Al's attention was completely focused on Ed. He'd not expected that Ed wouldn't recognize him or believe who he was. His heart dropped. "It's not a lie!" he exclaimed, "Look at me, Brother!"
Roy sat back, looking right at but not responding to Edward. His eyes glanced over to Alphonse for a moment, before returning to look straight at the angry blonde in front of him.
Ed swallowed thickly and returned Roy's stare. "Why?" his voice cracked slightly, revealing his hurt. "Why would you do this?"
Why wasn't Ed looking at him? If he looked, surely he would see. Surely he would understand, wouldn't he? Al swallowed hard and tried to think. Surely something could convince him. "R-remember when I got stuck on the Wutai cliff figures? How I got so scared I couldn't move, and you yelled at me for being such a sissy? Remember how I cried when we were separated? You told me to not be a wimp and that it would be okay. And we promised we'd find each other, right?"
Ed bit his lip and turned around slowly, looking the kid who was pretending to be Al over carefully. He had Al's hair, Al's eyes, but outside of Wutai, it wasn't such an uncommon combination. Unusual, not impossible.
But the things he was saying...
"Why now?" he asked softly. "How? When I've been looking for seven years?"
Roy stood up, then, adjusting the collar of his uniform as he quietly made his way to the door. Most people wouldn't be left alone in his office for a second, but for now. For now he was willing to make an exception.
Al ignored the colonel's departure and stared directly into Ed's eyes, trying to convey his sincerity. "I've been looking all this time too. I joined SeeD so that I could travel around looking for you. I looked all over the place, and I finally looked here." He gave Ed a shy smile. "I guess...I got lucky?"
If this did turn out to be a sadistic prank, then someone was going to die. But... but... it was difficult not to belive that voice and that smile. His little brother, Al. He'd searched for so long, given up so much. Was it really him?
He took a step towards him warily. "Really?" he asked softly in Wutaiin.
Al's smile wavered. Ed's voice was deeper, more mature, but it was still his; the same voice that he dreamed about. He nodded and replied in the same tongue. "Really."
Behind Ed, Balamb warked worriedly, but Al didn't notice, so focused was he on Ed's intense stare.
Ed was glad that the Colonel's desk was right behind him because suddenly it seemed as though his legs wouldn't hold him and he sat down on it. "Al?" he managed to croak out after a moment, mouth gone suddenly dry.
Al nodded until he thought his head would fall off. "Yup." His vision started to blur as he stepped forward. Close enough to touch, but not reaching out--not yet. "Sorry I'm late."
Ed just stared at him for a moment before diving at him and dragging him into a fierce hug, burying his face against his brother's hair. No matter how much he'd searched, how hard he'd tried, it had never seemed as though this would actually happen. And now...
Al swayed forward, falling heavily against Ed. His eyes widened in surprised, then closed tight as he wrapped his arms around his brother and pressed his face into Ed's shoulder. At last. At last, he'd found him.
Below, Balamb warked again, distressed by what looked like Al being attacked by this stranger. He jumped off his nest of paperwork and attacked Ed's boot, tugging at one lace until it came undone and biting at the edge of the leather.
Ed yelped as a small sharp beak hit his shin and he pulled away slightly to glare down at the little bundle of feathers at his feet. "Al..." he said quietly. "Why is there a chocobo eating my foot? What happened to kittens?" He liked kittens! They didn't try to peck him!
Al looked down, rubbing his wet eyes, and saw Balamb. His face colored. "Uh...well, you see, I sort of watched his egg hatch, and now he sort of thinks I'm his mother...I couldn't just leave him, Ed. He was so helpless!"
Balamb ignored the two humans. He pecked the toe of Ed's boot, then stepped on it as if he weighed more than the mere pound that he did. "Wark! Wark!"
Ed rolled his eyes and then smiles slightly. That sounded just like his Alphonse. Anything like that and Al would adopt it. He glared mildly down at the chocochick that was now happily perching on his foot. "Don't get comfortable, bird," he said firmly.
"I'm sorry, brother." It took a moment for Al to move out of Ed's arms and scoop up Balamb, who glared right back at Ed. "Balamb, stop that. That's my brother. Your uncle."
Balamb ignored Al's words, warking several complaints at Ed before burying his head against Al's chest.
Ed couldn't hold back a soft laugh."I don't think he understands you, Al." He frowned slightly at the chick's name. "You're a SeeD?"
Al nodded. "Uh-huh?" He picked up his ID card from where he'd left it on Roy's desk and showed it to Ed, rather proud of his accomplishment. "Seventh Level." He then shifted Balamb to the crook of one arm. "I had to become one, because I couldn't think of any other way to be able to travel around looking for you."
Ed looked at the card blankly for a minute and couldn't quite suppress a small scowl. It was reasonable, he supposed. He himself had joined SOLDIER because they had resources that he would never have. It didn't mean that he had to like it. He swallowed his displeasure though, unwilling to sour this moment because of that. He smiled at his brother. "That's impressive. I didn't know you could even take the exam this young."
Al's smile was bright. "I was told I was one of the youngest. But I really worked hard to pass." He sobers a little, thinking of the long talks with the counselors and the peer isolation he'd gone through. "It wasn't easy, but I didn't think it would be. Equivalent exchange, right?" Al's smile widens again. He'd known it would be hard. What he'd wanted was too big for it not to be.
Ed smiled back slightly and nodded. "Yeah, Equivalent Exchange." The main principle of Alchemy. He was suddenly desperately glad that he was wearing his gloves to hide the automail. Life didn't always follow that rule, he'd learned that a long time ago. No reason to ruin it for Al though. "Where are you staying?" he asked instead. "How long are you in Midgar?" It would hurt to have found Al only to find out that he could be here for only a few days.
"I've been stationed at Balamb Garden." Al noticed a piece paper on Roy's desk that didn't seem to have more than some scratches and doodles on it. He grabbed a pen, ignoring Balamb's indignant protest at being shifted around, and wrote his journal id. "Here, this is my journal. Since I'm at Balamb pretty much until I request a transfer, we can see each other all the time."
He offered the paper to Ed; but Balamb stretched his neck out and his beak clamped down on it, pulling it away, and chewing it. "Balamb!"
Ed reached out to take the paper only to be beaten to it by the little fluff ball. He narrowed his eyes and glared before snatching the remaining paper away. Well... it was legible enough for him to read anyway. Just about. "Thanks," he said, and then scribbled down his own journal name and put the piece of paper on the desk, out of reach of the monster bird.
"I'll leave it there," he said wryly.
Al picked it up, keeping it well away from Balamb's destructive beak. He looked down at it, memorizing it just in case, then tucked it into his pocket quickly. "Okay."
Al paused, uncertain of what to do next. There was just so much to say, he couldn't figure out what was most important. And of course, they were using someone else's office. And now Balamb was being annoying. "Uh...do you..." Al shuffled his feet awkwardly. "Do you think you have some time? Now I mean? Maybe...maybe we could find somewhere to...uh..."
Ed nodded and smiled reassuringly. "Of course I do! I'm supposed to be off duty today since I only got back yesterday." he frowned and thought for a moment. “There's my quarters, or the cafeteria. Or we could go into the city."
Al beamed back, glad that he didn't have to leave his brother just yet. "Whatever is fine with me!" He started to make an expressive gesture, then stopped when Balamb warked again. "Uh, that is, wherever that might not mind me and a chocobo..."