[Author] Mara D
[Series] Fullmetal Alchemist
[Pairing] EdxAl (No real mention of it yet, but it’s coming.)
[Rating] R so far.
[Spoilers?] Yes. AU. Picks up after the series ends. The movie can bite my butt because it doesn't exist as far as I am concerned. I am also Taking a few tiny liberties with series facts, but should not be that obvious.
[Chatter] This is an experiment. It could go wildly wrong, or I could love it to pieces. Hard to tell which yet. Angsty Alphonse warning. This is a little plot bunny of mine, wondering just how much I can push Alphonse until he becomes like his brother in behavior and temperament. My Al is going a little off the deep end, but that’s okay. I think that once he sees Ed again and punches him in the eye, everything should be okay. ^_^
He awoke laying on a bed in what he recognized belatedly as the automail surgery room. He came bolt upright with a squeak of fear and tried to shove the blankets back to make sure he still had all of his body parts. His only problem was, as he quickly discovered with a grunt of pain, that someone had taped one of his hands to a board and there were several IV tubes protruding; and the other was heavily bandaged.
So, as he lowered himself back to the cot with a grumble, he realized he had no choice but to lie there and wonder. He was awake. Wet. Muddy. Not cold because he was covered with a blanket, but he should have been.
“Ahhh…so you’re awake now.”
Al looked down over the edge of the cot, and kept looking. Down and down and down until he met the eyes of Pinako Rockbell.
“Auntie.” He murmured, feeling a bit dizzy. “What happened?”
“We were hoping you would tell us, but for all the talking you have done in the last six months I have already guessed you will not answer us.”
“Us?” Al asked weakly just before Winry stood from behind a cabinet where she had been rummaging for something. So he wasn’t alone.
Winry was holding the biggest wrench he had ever seen, and was patting it menacingly against her hand.
“Forgive us putting you here Alphonse, but it had the equipment necessary for IV fluids. You were badly dehydrated. And you are still very malnourished. It was the best we could do. Why were you out in the storm, and how exactly did you get struck by lightning? It is a miracle you can hear…”
Alphonse thought hard for a moment, trying to make himself remember. Everything was fuzzy except for the rain.
/The rain falling.
Warm hands against his face when he had a nightmare, stroking his hair out of his eyes.
“It’s just a thunderstorm Al, we’re safe inside. Go back to sleep.”/
Al suddenly resurfaced in the room, staring at Auntie hard, and swallowing.
“What is it?” Auntie asked quietly.
“It’s nothing…just…leave me alone.” He murmured, sitting up dizzily and picking at the tape on his arm with his teeth since his other hand was so heavily bandaged.
“Lie down.” The old woman commanded threateningly.
“Leave me alone.” He repeated, his voice suddenly tight with the emotions that were running rampant just under the blank façade he was trying to provide.
He wanted to go back to that moment, when he was seven and scared of storms and his big brother had held him…
Winry was suddenly looming over him, wrench in hand. She had a glint in her eye that Al did not like.
He did his best to bolt.
That of course, did not work because no sooner had he cleared the edge of the cart that a strong hand grabbed him by the scruff of the neck.
He looked up into a disapproving face that he recognized right away.
“You’re no better than the Boss ever was…bigger, but don’t know how to do as your told either.”
Havoc. Jean Havoc. Al could not let on that he knew the man, but he couldn’t help but stare up into that familiar face.
He tried to pretend. He didn’t know if Havoc had seen the recognition in his eyes, but if he was a good actor, he could play it off as panic.
“Who the hell are you?!” Al yelped, struggling and finally managing to yank his IV line out. Freedom.
His feet were not touching the floor because Jean had managed to manhandle him into a headlock.
“You probably don’t remember me little Boss, but I knew you and your brother both. General Mustang sent me to fetch you. He has need of your services.”
Al was still struggling as best he could, he had both hands on Jean’s bicep and was pushing as hard as he could despite the pain from his bandaged hand shooting up his arm into his shoulder. Ishbala it hurt, but he wasn’t giving up, he didn’t want anyone to touch him. He didn’t want to go anywhere with Jean.
“No! I don’t want to take the test! I don’t /want/ to and you can’t make me!”
“I don’t know what the Chief wants, but I can’t let you say no. Best pack your bags shortstuff.”
“I am /not/ going anywhere with /you/ and I am /NOT SHORT!/”
The last two words echoed in the room and made everyone blink in surprise, including Al. Those two sounds of denial had not been made by an Elric in a very long time.
“Well…” Al concluded lamely as he ceased to struggle briefly. “I’m not.”
“I DON’T WANT A SHOWER!” Al shrieked as Jean upended him into the ceramic of the tub, clothes and all, and turned on the cold water.
“Cool down little Boss.” Havoc said cheerfully.
Al clawed at the door for a moment, trying to get away from the merciless spray, but Havoc was holding the glass shut and despite how he wailed, whimpered, and threatened, he was not allowed out.
Al briefly debated transmuting Havoc’s boots to the floor, but realized his hand was bandaged and would make it difficult to draw an array...all he had for that was soap anyways and it wasn’t like Jean would let him get away with it…
He could clap. He could just clap like he did last night…but…he still wasn’t quite sure how he had managed it…
Inspiration struck him then. If he couldn’t get out, he could at least turn the hot water on.
He did so with a small sigh of relief, sliding to the floor in a sitting position. He didn’t have a choice right now.
So he stripped his clothes moodily, tossing the fabric out over the top of the shower. His bandages were next, and the board that was still strapped to his arm, despite being bent now.
He winced when he saw the damage done to his hand. It was raw and red, bloody where slivers had been plucked free, and swollen where others were still in and working their way out. The bruises were twisting their way up his arm almost to his elbow.
He swallowed hard, feeling hollow and sick. The water pounding mercilessly against his skin felt painful, like the rain. Everything hurt.
He hugged his arms around his middle and stared resolutely at the wall for a moment.
He had lost everything and he felt awkward, broken.
Even when he had first gotten his body back it hadn’t felt this horrible…
He had tripped over his own two feet constantly. He forgot to swallow sometimes, or to take a breath. Sometimes he forgot how to move, or that the pain in his stomach that he ignored was actually hunger.
He had peed the bed, his pants, because he had forgotten that the pressure in his bladder meant he had to relieve himself.
Any touches to his skin were sweet torture, and if Winry had so much as thought about tickling him he had collapsed into hysterical giggles.
He had laughed when he had wanted to cry, he had cried when he had wanted to laugh. He had forgotten how to make his body match his emotions, show how he really felt, and so he had tripped all over himself, been awkward.
Everyone had been gentle, understanding with him, and at the time he hadn’t known why. Everything he had done had been inappropriate but everyone had been knowing.
He understood why now, well, fully when he was thirteen…
He was awkward now at best, still.
He understood what being human was all about now, and to his horror, he was doing his best to shut it off, to stop feeling. He was unconsciously trying to return himself to how he had been as a suit of armor. Steely, cold and dying inside slowly.
He was just as trapped inside himself now. Unable to show emotion, to know emotion, to know the right ones, to know if he was going crazy.
He took a shuddering breath.
Al looked up sharply to see Havoc hazarding the door open a crack to peer into the shower.
Al made sure his legs were drawn up tight enough to his chest to cover his nakedness, pulling his heels tightly to his butt and relocating his arms from his middle to around his knees.
“Little Boss…soap helps.” The big man said as he reached for a shampoo bottle, squeezing some out into his hand. He worked it into a slight lather, and then slopped it on top of Al’s head, beginning to massage surprisingly gently.
Al didn’t move because he couldn’t. Because if he did he would be exposed and Havoc would see him…naked. And besides, if he tried to get away he would just end up back here and probably with soap up his nose.
Havoc grumbled to himself.
“Little Boss…the old lady sent the Chief a letter telling him you were in a bad way. I see what she means. You’re at a hard age…and things are probably even harder for you that you’re telling. You don’t have to tell anyone anything, but you do need to get on with your life. The General wants to see you, and I really don’t know why. He knows you aren’t doing very well, and he probably just wants to help. Losing your brother was really hard on him.”
“Brother isn’t dead!” Al snapped without turning his head to look at Havoc.
The blond man sighed, not bothering to argue as he tipped Al’s head back further into the spray to rinse the soap.
Al cursed himself mentally. Had he given away that he had his memories back? He sincerely hoped not. Well, they told him his brother had disappeared after transmuting Al back from the dead.
He hadn’t given too much away. If he watched himself, he would be fine.
“I’m a civilian, you can’t make me go.” Al said softly.
“Actually, when the Fuhrer calls you, you really do have to go.”
“The Fuhrer?” Al asked dazedly as Havoc soaped his shoulders, scrubbing his arms and back, the tops of his knees. Whatever Al would let him reach.
“The Fuhrer…there has been talk of an inquisition…they think you know more than you are telling, and besides, you are the first recorded successful human transmutation. Illegal, but now proven possible. I imagine they’re curious.”
“I hate the military.” Al spat. “I don’t want to go, I won’t go…don’t touch me…”
Havoc ignored Al and shoved him spluttering back under the spray to rinse the soap from his skin.
He stood at the door to his room.
His clothes were washed and neatly folded. His suitcase was on the now clean floor, lying open. The crate next to the suitcase was filled with all his books and papers, his fountain pen and ink bottles. The room was scrubbed clean, the dirty dishes gone, the bed made neatly, sheets washed.
He didn’t know whether to feel awe for the women whom had cleaned it, or horror that they were obviously showing him the door.
It made something low in his stomach clench in pain.
He accepted it though. He took it calmly, like he always did. He let no expression cross his face as he stared into his suitcase. Hair ties, comb, toothbrush and toothpaste, shampoo and his towel. All there already.
He slid his clothes into the suitcase resignedly.
Jean was watching him from the doorway, blue-gray eyes unreadable, but a bit of sorrow was etched on his face.
“I won’t go without my books.” Al said levelly.
“There will be room on the train.” The bigger man said, relief in his tone.
Relief that Al was going to come quietly after all. Relief that this hadn’t been as much of a fight as he had planned.
Al slipped his brother’s coat into the suitcase last, a look of pain on his face that he could not hide.
He was not welcome here. He would move on. He didn’t need to cause anyone else any more pain. He had never meant to hurt anyone here. He had just needed a place to hide. He was broken, he was wounded. He knew that. And the wound was slowly killing him. He wasn’t going to get better.
The memory of Sig’s face, slack in death crossed his mind. Eventually, that would happen to him too. Normal people got over this sort of thing. They really did. But he hadn’t just lost his brother, he had lost part of his soul. The part of him that had allowed him to laugh joyously, smile real smiles.
He clicked the suitcase shut with finality, feeling like he was somehow shoveling dirt from the bottom of his own emotional grave as he stood, bending to pick up the crate of books and balance it on his hip before reaching for his suitcase again.
Jean was a fucking idiot, according to Alphonse anyway.
But then again, he was feeling decidedly bad tempered. He had been sitting in this car listening to the blond man babble in his laid back way about everything that had been going on lately, all without a single response from Al.
Al sat with his back to the door of the private box and was staring out the window, resolutely refusing to give Havoc the luxury of human reply or encouragement.
Jean didn’t seem to mind, but if he smoked one more cigarette without offering one to Al, Al was going to shriek, jump across the car, and start beating the bigger soldier with his bad hand. (He had a splint now.)
“Listen Little Boss. I know you’re almost sixteen, and everything is twice as tragic at your age…but ignoring this won’t make it better.”
Al turned around, eyes narrowing dangerously.
“Give…me…a…cigarette…” He said lowly. “Or…stop…smoking…around…me.”
“Little Boss? What would your brother think?!”
“Brother’s dead! You said so yourself. Now give me one.”
Al’s hand was trembling.
“O…okay.” Havoc said, suddenly not daring to tell Al that he had blurted something quite to the contrary earlier that day. He didn’t mind that he was giving the kid a cigarette. Hell, Havoc had started smoking at a much younger age than Al… “I just didn’t know you smoked Boss…that’s all…”
“I’d appreciate you not saying anything about it either.” Al said lowly as the blond soldier handed him a cigarette and his lighter. Al could have tried to clap his hands and get a spark. He just wasn’t sure it would be a controlled kind of thing. He wanted this cigarette.
He lit it, and then took an unsteady drag, tossing the lighter back to Havoc.
When they pulled into the station at Central, Al had not said another word after having told Havoc to not tell anyone he smoked.
Havoc hadn’t minded. He had kept chatting. All day.
Al kind of wondered if the soldier wasn’t crazier than he was.
He gathered his crate of books, struggled into his sweater. (It was snowing here in Central. Vile weather the place had, honestly.) and picked up his suitcase.
Al said nothing when he was escorted by none other than Riza Hawkeye to a car he recognized all too well.
He pretended like he had never met Riza, and that he didn’t remember this station all too well. He was determined to be absolutely silent. To give nothing away. If he was ever going to save his brother, he couldn’t give the slightest hint. If they knew what he was doing he would try to stop him.
He had been so close to finding the answer…
“Colonel Havoc says you haven’t eaten in some time. Would you care to stop to eat somewhere?” Hawkeye asked politely.
“No thank you.” Al responded tersely but politely. It wasn’t Riza’s fault that he was here against his will.
“As you like.” She said softly, her tone cooling to match his.
Oh great, now she was pissed at him.
“It is after hours. You will be staying with General Mustang until tomorrow when you will meet with the Fuhrer.”
Al bristled as she let him out of the car.
/We will just see about that./ All thought to himself as he dragged his crate and suitcase from the trunk.
He stopped then to really look up at “The General’s” house for the first time since arrival.
It was massive.
Painted a crisp white with dark blue shutters, it was outlined by what would no doubt be beautiful gardens come spring. Right now the sticky snow was coating the ground and trees. It creaked strangely under Al’s feet as he shifted from foot to foot under the ache of his bad hand holding the suitcase and the weight of the crate on his hip.
“A palace.” Al murmured as he started up the walk at Riza’s bidding.
She escorted him smartly to the double doors, pausing to rap with a knocker handle on the plate.
The sound echoed inside the house before the door was brusquely answered by a stately looking man, conservatively dressed.
“Good to see you Mistress Hawkeye, you must be Master Elric. Please come in.” The man said, bowing graciously as he stepped back.
Al kicked his weather beaten shoes off at the door, setting them next to a pair of crisp dress boots that would most likely only belong to Roy Mustang and wincing as snow melted under his feet, soaking his socks.
He felt terribly out of place, shoddy compared to the house, the butler, and Riza in her neat uniform.
His hair was loose and tangled, his sweater was too short in the sleeves and there was a tear on the hem from when Den had jumped on him the last time he had worn the thing. The pair of baggy cargo pants were worn out from where Al had walked on the pant legs until his latest growth spurt that had left them now almost an inch too short, exposing the edge of his socks.
Yeah, well, whatever. He had had better things to do instead of clothes shop.
He set his crate and suitcase down just inside the door, standing protectively over them. It was the last thing he had to his name, he was defensive as they both stared at him strangely. He glowered back in a prickly manner.
There was a moment of awkward silence before Roy Mustang himself drifted into the breezeway.
Al kept glaring belligerently.
The man had a slight limp today, his eyes a bit pinched with pain. (Al wondered if the snow made old injuries ache.) He was wearing a pair of black jeans, a button down black dress shirt, and a thick burgundy turtleneck. He looked proper still somehow, despite his uniform and the much more casual clothing.
Al didn’t want to look around the house. He didn’t want to look into that pale face with its barely kempt hair and eye patch. He didn’t want to see the pain in that gaze. The pain that Roy Mustang felt looking at Alphonse. He looked like his father more and more every day. Moved and talked like his brother. All he did was remind people of what they were missing…and he was nothing…He was still growing and changing, and yet all people saw when they looked at him was Ed or Hoenheim.
Al’s shoulders were broadening, his legs lengthening. He was almost as tall as Roy, eye to eye with Riza Hawkeye at the least. He was fairly certain he had stopped growing, or would soon. Granny had promised him not that long ago that he would begin to fill out in a little while. Right now he was just bony and awkward. At least he had finally stopped tripping over his own two feet. He just wanted everyone to leave him alone, until he grew into himself, until he grew into his confidence, until he could bring his brother back.
Mustang would not be denied however, his remaining visible eye searching out Al’s gaze as he extended his hand.
“Welcome Alphonse Elric, it has been a very long time since I have seen you last. Please come in.”
Al eyed the hand extended towards him suspiciously, went to extend his right, and then stopped, remembering the splint.
“Forgive my rudeness.” He said lowly, not really meaning it and suddenly glad for the excuse of his hand. He waved the splint lightly.
“You are injured. What happened?” Roy asked, eyes suddenly fiercely attentive, worried almost.
“It was nothing, a failed…experiment. A few cuts and bruises mostly…no real harm done.” Al said, feeling distinctly lightheaded.
He did need to eat, to drink some water, to sleep. He needed something anyways, and certainly /didn’t/ need this.
Roy made as if to grasp his arm, and Al jerked it back so fast he smacked the back of the head into the door frame.
“What sort of experiment?” Roy asked, his voice sounding vaguely frantic.
Al cradled his hand to his chest as Mustang pressed him closer to the wall. He was tempted to try to transmute a hole in the door and run like hell.
“I was working without a circle, okay? It backfired because I didn’t know what I was doing.” He hissed lowly, pressing himself further back against the door frame to try and get away from Roy’s close proximity.
“Without a circle? Like your brother? You are capable of that?”
Al shrugged as best he could, still pressed against the frame and, staring at Roy’s chest rather than making eye contact.
“Well…in that case…” Roy backed away then, a curious expression wrinkling his brow.
Roy had looked genuinely frightened. Had he thought Al had tried human transmutation?
It was a possibility.
“I apologize for making you uncomfortable. Please come in and have a seat Alphonse.”
Al slowly peeled himself from the door into the space he was offered and took an uncertain step forward. He didn’t want to come in. He wanted out of this mansion as fast as his feet could carry him. Instead he gave his suitcase and crate a look.
“You may take your belongings up to your room later. For now, come speak with me. I promise you, this is not a trap.” Mustang said lowly.
Al didn’t believe him as much as he knew brother had trusted this man. If he showed too much faith he would blow his cover anyways.
“How do I know I’m not just a science experiment that you are curious about…I read about the Fifth laboratory…” Al said suspiciously.
Al would play that card. That one made sense.
“Nonsense.” Roy said lowly, and then turned, walking away.
The butler fluttered off, and Riza Hawkeye dismissed herself after delivering her charge more or less in one piece. She didn’t bother to say goodbye to Alphonse, but he guessed that as prickly as he was being, she had no wish to speak to him. /He/ wouldn’t much want to talk to himself, so he didn’t blame her.
Al didn’t follow Roy right away, instead he stood in the breezeway, frozen out of rebellion as he paused and listened. One could almost hear the echoes in the place, echoes of laughter and parties and bustle long past…it was…oppressive. A sad lonely king in a sad lonely castle. That was what Roy Mustang was.
He had no idea what the castle looked like, because he almost didn’t want to know. This house was much too big for one man. For ten men. It would surely just overwhelm him.
Al sat for a moment on the edge of his suitcase, staring longingly at the door. It wasn’t locked or transmuted shut. He could run if he wanted to, but he knew he wouldn’t get far. Roy knew he wouldn’t get far.
Roy also knew Alphonse well enough to be certain that his natural curiosity would carry him into the house further.
He didn’t want to leave his research where prying eyes would find it, and yet, somehow he was also certain that Roy would not go through it. He too was an alchemist. Knew that that was the ultimate taboo to commit among the secretive group of men and women who shyly worked behind the scenes of the universe.
Roy would leave Al’s books alone.
His suitcase was another story, but there was nothing in there that he cared much about except for Ed’s coat..
He cursed himself as he stood resolutely, drifting at his own pace into the main hall.
His footsteps echoed weirdly in the hard wood floors, even though he was only in his socks. His heart was pounding in his throat as he suspiciously tried to get and maintain his bearings.
There were several doors on either side of the hall that were open, that lead to other hallways that were equally intriguing. But he ignored them for now. He was following the faint sounds of music that he heard, a warmth that undeniable came from the door directly ahead of him.
He was unprepared for what met his eyes as he paused in the doorway. It was a den, library and living room all in one. Several columns supported a vaulted ceiling. Shelf upon shelf of books lined the room.
There was a full bar near the outside wall with a massive fireplace. Around the fireplace were several heavy leather couches. An armchair closest to the fire had a book open, the armrest of the chair marking the reader’s place, and a glass of brandy was tucked against the side of the chair as if it had only been recently abandoned, to, oh say, answer the door.
There were several candles burning on a heavy coffee table, a journal or two sitting open next to a small but tastefully expensive looking piece of sculpture on the table.
There was a desk in front of a massive picture window, heavy mahogany and ornately designed. Papers were strewn messily next to several quill pens and a bottle of ink.
On top of the papers was a silver pocket watch. One that Al recognized because it was open. His brother’s handwriting still engraved the inside. He knew without being close enough to read it what it said:
“Don’t forget, three October, ten.”
Al’s ability to breathe seemed to be lessening with every second. A closer examination of the books on the shelves proved them to be rare, all of them.
The room smelled pleasant. Like it belonged to an alchemist. Like his father’s library had. Old parchment, candles, cologne and here…here there was faintly the smell of roses. A glance to the mantle above the fireplace explained that scent. The roses were a vibrant crimson, like the carpet and curtains.
And there was Roy Mustang, standing next to a record player, staring out the picture window that overlooked a peaceful pond.
Al padded into the room then, head still swiveling, taking in every tiny detail as he came up behind Roy.
He knew that Roy knew he was there.
There was a moment of contented gloating in the air.
Roy had won the battle but not the war, Al promised himself. No wonder Edward had found the man so infuriating.
This was absolutely and completely a trap. Al knew it, and so he crossed his arms over his chest defensively, already working on his glower.
When Roy turned, Al’s heart tightened in his chest, there was a funny look on Roy’s face, something that had nothing to do with gloating anymore.
“Please have a seat Alphonse.”
“I prefer to stand.” Al said quietly.
“Very well then.”
Roy closed the distance between them easily, until they were practically chest to chest.
“You have grown.” Roy said wistfully.
“I hope so.” Al sniped, a quiet fury escaping his gaze despite his best attempts.
“I am not your enemy Alphonse. I am here to help you. I will protect you.”
“From what?” Al asked lowly. “I am in no danger.”
“Right now.” Roy said levelly. “You are a danger to yourself.”
“You think a letter from my Granny is an end-all-be-all diagnosis?” Al asked.
“ I know a very depressed young man when I see one.” Roy answered.
“You know nothing about me.” Al said sharply, wincing on the inside.
“You are quite mistaken Alphonse, I know you all too well.”
Al took a step sideways then, not back away. He wanted to be away from Roy, but he would not give in. He would not be the first to step back. So he compromised by stepping sideways, turning his back to Roy and instead pacing towards the fire, still clutching his arms rebelliously.
“You don’t know me General. I don’t even know me.” Al said lowly, and he meant it.
“You need a goal Alphonse, a dream, or you will self-destruct.”
/I already have a goal you arrogant bastard…/ Al seethed internally. /I’m going to get my brother back, no matter what the cost./
“I have dreams.”
“I am going to become a great alchemist.”
“Sit the exam in a few months. Get your watch. I’ll give you a job.”
“I don’t need you to become what I want to be. Master would turn in her grave.”
“Alphonse. State alchemists have a choice now. They can teach, they can become civilian consultants…”
“And when war breaks out, we still get our leashes reeled back in. My brother is dead because of me. No one else should have to die on my account…or at my hands.”
He could almost hear Roy startling at his words.
“What?!” The tired young man spun on Roy then, eyes narrowed in real, cold anger. “What do you really want from me? You are a man of double standards. Everything has an ulterior motive. Why now, why are you interested in me now of all times? They tell me you recruited my brother when he was twelve. I will be sixteen in less than a month. Far past the edge of malleability to your designs!”
Al narrowed his eyes.
“You are an angry young man, aren’t you?” Roy said softly, not looking offended, but instead, saddened.
Al shook his head as a wave of dizziness washed over him.
“It’s nothing.” Al grunted as he sat on the arm of the armchair by the fire, feeling the trembling worsen.
Roy was at his side in a heartbeat, hand on his good elbow.
“You need to eat.”
“I’m not hungry.”
“You do not get a choice.” Roy said, hand closing like steel over Al’s bicep and dragging him from the chair.
As much as Al wanted to hit him, he didn’t. He couldn’t bring himself to. He was suddenly feeling tearful, cold and sleepy. The feeling had been creeping up on him until this moment, until his head ached and his vision blurred and he simply could not stop trembling.
Roy dragged him back down the hallway, but he was practically stumbling when they arrived into a large and brightly lit kitchen. He blinked owlishly in the brilliance, as Roy pushed him into a chair, and then disappeared.
Al rested his head miserably on the cool ceramic top table he was sitting at.
A moment later, a cold glass was nudging his hand. He was thirsty, ragingly so.
He drank it without Roy urging him to. At this point it could be poisoned and he could care less.
He winced when the cold liquid registered with his taste buds. Orange juice.
Oh well, it was good.
He downed the whole glass without a breath between gulps.
When he was done, he rested the glass to the table, and was still shaking.
Roy seemed to be busy with something at the counter.
As he laid there a moment, feeling his bearings return, the cold and nausea and shaking receding, he registered something that smelled like chicken.
He gave Roy a curious glance then.
“Feeling a bit better?”
“Yes. Thank you.” Alphonse said grudgingly.
“Chicken sandwiches. I am a terrible cheat when it comes to cooking. This is all I have that would be ready in less than an hour and you obviously need to eat.”
“Don’t worry about me.” Al said sulkily. “I’ve eaten.”
“How many days ago?”
Al didn’t give Roy a reply because he honestly couldn’t remember.
“What happened with your hand then?)” Roy continued to pry.
Al could give him that much if it would get the stubborn older alchemist off his case.
“I tried to call lightning during a thunderstorm. I was not quite prepared for the amount of power I channeled and the speed at which it became available.”
“You got yourself struck by lightning?”
“Are the burns bad?”
“Not really. I am surprised. I have a lot of bruises though, a few scrapes.”
“Lightning doesn’t do /that/…” Roy gestured at Alphonse’s splinted hand with the spatula. “…unless it burns you too, and then you end up with an entrance and exit wound, like occurs with a bullet.”
“No, I uh…I slammed my fist into a fencepost.”
“What on earth inspired that?” Roy asked, flipping the meat frying in the pan.
“None of your business.” Al snapped.
The questions had gone far enough as far as he was concerned.
Al sat munching on his sandwich. It really was quite good. For some reason Roy Mustang being a good cook had never occurred to him, or at least, the concept hadn’t. He had needed to eat, and he was feeling a tiny bit better, though still cold, restless with emotional pain, and shaky with nerves.
Roy was being a completely polite host, despite Al’s best attempts to be…an undesirable guest.
When they were finished, Roy cleared the plates and rinsed them in the sink before making a sweeping gesture towards the hall they had come from.
“Would you care for a tour?”
“I’ll be lost in ten minutes.”
“Five minutes longer than it took me to become lost the first time I was here.” Roy said smugly. “I once got up in the middle of the night to use the restroom and ended up in the guest room.”
Al laughed despite himself. It wasn’t a truly happy laugh, but he was amused.
Roy was growing on him again, winning him despite his skepticism. That made him very quietly angry, but he stuffed the emotions down.
As he laughed, Roy tilted his head, and looked startled.
“What?” Al asked quietly.
“You remind me so much of your brother.” Roy said sadly.
“Stop talking about him like he’s dead. He’s not, I know he’s not.” Al said vehemently, and then clapped a hand over his mouth.
Roy turned on him then.
“We buried him, remember?”
Oh well, it was probably too late now, but Al could try for a save.
“We buried an empty casket. He isn’t dead. Not until I see him and he’s dead. Until I can prove it. Brother wouldn’t go without a fight.”
Roy was suddenly deeply pensive, as if a mask had slipped.
“For you, he would.”
“Are you saying it’s my fault?!” Al snapped.
“You said you thought it was.”
“I don’t know if it is or it isn’t. Don’t split hairs!”
“Alphonse, you have been and probably always be the worst liar I have ever met.”
“I am not lyi…”
Roy narrowed his eye.
Al sighed then defeatedly. He should have know he wouldn’t be able to fool Roy Mustang. Roy made a study of human reactions, and now that he was not a suit of armor, there was nothing he could do about it.
“Alphonse. How much do you remember?”
Al shrugged at Roy again, just trying to will himself through the floor and into the invisible hole he was digging himself.
He was sitting on the couch now, clasping a brandy he had no intentions of doing more than sipping politely at while Roy Mustang perched on the coffee table across from him, studying him intensely.
“Would you stop?” Al asked meekly as he finally bowed his head, admitting defeat blushingly.
“Alphonse, this is important. I need to know what you remember.”
“What does it matter to you?!” Al gritted his teeth, trying very hard not to cry.
“Because if you tell me what you know, we might be able to get your brother back.”
Al’s head snapped up so fast he almost gave himself whiplash.
Instead of replying, he slammed the whole glass of scotch.
It burned like fire all the way down. Forced him to struggle not to cough instead of forming words.
Roy took the glass from Al’s hand then, setting it on the table beside his hip.
“Alphonse.” Roy said softly, gently.
Al finally collapsed in on himself, hugging his injured arm to his chest and struggling audibly for air. The room was closing in, he was so cold, so cold…
He would not cry, he would not feel, he would not break or bend. He would sit here and he would endure. Everyone else’s pain was no doubt worse than his own. Even Roy Mustang’s. He would not cry, he would not think, he would not answer. He would endure.
He didn’t remember exactly when he became warm, he did not know exactly when the touch of cotton against his cheek began. He didn’t know who was making those hollow sobbing sounds. He didn’t know who it was, but he damn well wished they would quit. He felt bad enough without having to listen to someone cry.
“How long?” A deep voice murmured close to his ear. “How long have you had these memories and told no one?” Roy asked.
Was he the one crying? Was he the one that was resting against Roy Mustang’s chest and trembling? Was he the one who could hear Roy’s heartbeat, could feel the fabric of dress shirt wrinkling under his hands where it was clenched tight.
It was…wasn’t it?
“Almost…three years…three…since…Master died…since she left me. I knew…Roy…I missed you! I missed everyone!”
“Alphonse…Alphonse…everything is fine. You are safe now, you aren’t alone. You can tell me when you are ready. I wondered if this had happened…you were a happy young man, serious but happy…to have this transformation of heart in you…Pinako said that you were changing, and it was worrying her. Is that why you have been hiding from everyone?”
“I miss Brother.” Al whispered. “I miss him so much.”
Roy’s fingers were tangling through his hair now, pulling out the knots, soothing somehow. This should be scary, Roy Mustang touching him, holding him. But the hands carding through his hair were trembling too, and it wasn’t scary. It was sad.
“I miss him as well Alphonse. I miss him very deeply.”
Roy was trembling.
Roy was hurting.
Roy was broken without Edward too.
“I get so angry at him. He just left us all behind. Selfish bastard. He told us all the way it was going to be and then he left. Just like Dad. All that tells me is that if I was gone, no one would really notice. Ed would miss me but he would move on because he’s so strong…I’m not Roy. I’m not…”
“Don’t even consider it. If he isn’t dead, then you don’t need to sacrifice yourself to bring him back. It isn’t a “him or you” sort of thing.”
“Roy…I don’t want to keep doing this…”
What? When had that come out of his mouth. Why was he telling this to, of all people, the one he should least be telling it to? Because it was eating at him. It was destroying him from the inside like a cancer and it ached, it tore him open, ate away at his resolve, his courage, his self esteem. Because god help him but as much as he distrusted the man he could count on him to support him. Because Roy wasn’t half as self serving as he pretended to be. Because if Roy said he would support him, he would do it. Because, while Roy was dishonest, he seldom lied.
“What do you mean by that?” Roy asked, his voice much softer now, closer to Al’s ear. He could feel the tickle of that sleek black hair against his jaw and neck.
“I don’t want to keep living like this, empty.”
Roy was suddenly crushing him forcefully into an embrace that pulled them so tightly together that it felt as if the beat of their hearts could almost touch.
“Don’t you leave me too…your brother left me and I will never forgive him. If you leave me…”
Al did and did not understand what Roy was saying. Roy felt he had let someone down. Someone he cared about. How much Al would never pry into. That had been between Roy and his brother…but now…
“Every day I wake up, praying this has all just been a nightmare, that he will hug me and tell me to ‘go the hell back to sleep,” but I don’t wake up Roy. I don’t wake up…it keeps getting blacker and blacker and I cannot sleep thinking there is a way, that brother would not rest until I was back, that I am resting, that I am eating and laughing and smiling and I /shouldn’t/ be. I don’t /deserve/ to be.”
The room was silent except for the crackle of the fire, the sound of Al’s ragged breathing, and the buzz forming in his head from alcohol too hastily consumed when exhausted. He was slumped against Roy, the barest beginnings of the agony of the last three years lying open in the space between them.
“Alphonse…” Roy began slowly. “You cannot do him any good exhausted, hungry and weak. You need to eat, sleep, exercise and be strong. All of that is necessary to help him. You need to make something of yourself. Need I remind you that a state alchemist has access to things that a civilian does not? Rest, be strong, sign up to take the test. You will have no difficulties with it, and then you are free to be under my command, as your brother was. I will sponsor you.”
Al shook his head wearily.
“I can’t…I promised her I wouldn’t…”
“Alphonse, you need your friends, your other family. We are your family too. Havoc, Breda, Falman, Fuery, Armstrong, Hawkeye, even Brosch and Ross. They all have missed you terribly and wanted to see you. They support you, will support you. You cannot do this thing by yourself.”
“And what…what would you get out of it?” Alphonse asked roughly, pausing to cough where he was choking on the thickness in his throat.
“I am a selfish old man, perhaps I simply miss the company of my Elrics.”
“You want me to bring Brother back so you can punch him square in the eye…don’t you?”
“That’s the long and the short of it.”
Cross posted to: fma_yaoi jadedsilk elricest