Warning: Spoilers for ep 51
Notes: Since they didn't show where Al was found, I found myself wondering...
He woke to the warmth of sunlight upon his face. Blinking the world into focus, he stared for a moment at the bright blue sky in puzzlement. He didn't remember falling asleep outside. In fact, it had just started to rain when he and Niisan had -
He sat up abruptly.
"Niisan - " he called out, only to trail off as he took in the charred remnants of the building that surrounded him. Slowly, he reached out with one hand to touch the rubble. It was real, the charcoal crumbling between his fingers, marking them soot-black. Raising his gaze, his eyes were drawn unwillingly to the charred tree trunk nearby, and beyond to the more familiar landscape.
Something had gone horribly wrong.
"Niisan?" he called again, his voice catching in his throat. He pushed himself to his feet, rubbing the tears from his eyes with the back of his hand. "Niisan! _NIISAN!_"
There was no reply.
He stumbled around the ruins of his home, searching for some hint of his brother's presence, but there was no sign of him at all. Nor of their mother.
"Kaasan," he murmured, sinking to his knees amidst the ashes. "Niisan."
Had he lost them both?
Al curled up with his knees tucked under his chin, and wept. Overhead, the sky slowly darkened to the black of mourning.
When the chill at last had him shivering convulsively, he stood and slowly made his way to Winry's house. He almost cried again in relief to see it still standing, his faltering steps picking up and quickening into a run that left him breathlessly clinging to their doorpost. Chest heaving, he knocked on the door, and waited for what seemed like forever until it opened.
Obaachan stared at him in shock. "Alphonse?"
"Obaachan, I can't find Niisan! Something went wrong - "
There was a clatter of falling metal and footsteps. "Is that Al?!"
He stared at Winry, who seemed equally shocked at his own appearance.
"Al," she breathed, her voice oddly constricted. "You - you're - "
"You're grown up..." He couldn't help but stare at her chest. He turned to Baachan in confusion.
"Alphonse, you'd best come inside and sit down. Winry, go and fetch Alphonse a nice warm drink."
"But Niisan - " He found himself ushered inside without any chance of escape. He met Winry's gaze briefly. She looked like she was about to cry.
"Eh, who's the kid?" asked a woman Al didn't know. Winry grabbed her by the arm and hustled her into the kitchen, while Baachan sat him down at the table. Before he knew it, there was a blanket around his shoulders, a steaming cup of hot chocolate before him, and three women intensely observing him.
"I can't find Niisan," he again tried to explain. Winry started to speak, only to be hushed by her grandmother.
"When did you last see Edward?" she inquired sombrely.
"Last night, when we - " he broke off, staring into his cup. He knew he shouldn't speak about what he and Niisan had planned to do, but...
"Alphonse, _where_ did you last see him?"
He looked up cautiously. "At home. In - in Otousan's room. But when I woke up - it was gone. Our house - it had burned down!" He looked at each of them in turn. Baachan's expression was most serious, the strange woman seemed concerned, and Winry had bowed her head, her face hidden by shadows.
"What were you doing in your father's room?"
"I -" he bowed his own head again. "Niisan and I - we - "
"You tried to restore your mother."
Al's head shot up, his eyes wide as Winry slowly lifted her gaze to meet his. "How did - ?"
"But something went wrong. Al, your body was lost during that transmutation. Ed bound your soul to a suit of armour to save you."
He frowned in consternation, glancing briefly at his hands, wrapped around the warm cup.
"That was _four years_ ago."
"Four... years...?" His eyes drifted to Baachan of their own accord. She was nodding soberly.
"You and your brother spent those years searching for a way to restore your bodies. It seems that Edward has succeeded at last."
"But... I don't remember anything like that." A suit of armour... He remembered the armour that had stood in their father's room, hollow and cold. He shuddered. "And Niisan - where is he now?"
The three women exchanged long glances before answering.
"That, we can't be sure of."
"But - "
"Alphonse, you've had a tiring day. You rest, and we will contact those who might know what has happened to your brother." He protested, but Baachan would not hear otherwise.
"But what if he needs me?" he cried desperately.
The old woman paused at that. "Edward has always needed you, Alphonse. He loves you very much. But at this moment there is nothing more you can do for him."
He clenched his fists by his sides for several long moments before subsiding. She was right. He didn't know who else he could ask for help in finding his brother -
"Sensei! Would she - ?"
"We'll ask her, too," Winry promised.
He gave in at last, letting them tuck him into bed in the spare room. He didn't stay there, though, instead sitting with his back to the door, listening to their agitated conversation in the kitchen.
"He doesn't remember anything - "
" - hasn't aged - "
"What if Edward - "
He bit his lip at that last. He simply couldn't imagine his brother not being around. He couldn't remember ever being separated from him for more than a few hours, not even during Sensei's training. Now, however, he was faced with the possibility of never seeing him again. Was this the price he had to pay for attempting the forbidden?
Footsteps outside his door mad him scurry into bed, pulling the covers over his head. He heard the door open. After a moment it closed again, but the footsteps continued over to the bed. The mattress dipped as she seated herself on the edge.
"Al, I know you're awake."
After a moment's deliberation he pushed back the blankets to peer at Winry.
"I know that this must be hard for you to understand, but..." her words tapered off, leaving an awkward silence.
"I was really a suit of armour?" Al asked at last.
Winry smiled sadly, nodding.
"Four years... Why don't I remember?"
"I don't know. We'll have to ask Ed, won't we?" She still smiled. Al could see what it cost her, though. The ache echoed in his own heart.
"Niisan..." He could see her tense, expecting the question. He couldn't ask it. "Tell me about him?"
She blinked. "What do you want to know?"
He closed his eyes. "Everything."
She captured his hand gently in her own.
He drifted off to sleep with thoughts of his brother fixed firmly in his mind, warming his heart as sunlight never could.