Spoilers: None to speak of, though I suppose the later anime episodes/past volume 7 of the manga. But really, not too much.
Characters: Ed, Al, the Elric family
Summary: Ed remembers his childhood, even when he doesn't want to. Al believe in happy endings, because he has no other choice.
Authors note: This is my first foray into the FMA world of fanfiction. I've already been working on quite a number of pieces. I'm quite glad to have found a new fandom, and one that is active! I've enjoyed participating and reading through this community so far, so this is just a bit of my thanks. :) I hope you enjoy!
Ed enjoyed music. It was a vice of his, but one he rarely indulged.
Ed remembered the soft songs of their mother. She would sing them lullabies and tunes from her childhood. When she did laundry or cleaned the dishes, her soft voice would echo throughout the house. When she patched their clothes, or had to patch one of her sons, her soft humming would soothe them both.
When walking through the streets of the many towns Ed and Al visited in their constant journey, sometimes Ed would catch a few measures of one of his mother’s lullabies, and he would pause for a moment. The songs were familiar in these unfamiliar, sometimes unwelcoming towns. It was like meeting an old friend and finding he hadn’t changed at all.
His mother had owned an old music box. The case was glass and on the lid sat a child on a star, his feet dangling over the edge. His hair was blonde, and Ed used to imagine that child could be him. There were worst things to do than spend time among the stars. When Edward was very young, almost before memory, he would sit on his mother’s lap and she would weave stories about that boy on the star. He would travel by stardust, and his playground was the moon. Every night there was a new story, and every night she would tuck Ed in beneath the covers, and sang him a song about life among the stars. His father stood at the door and would smile. In those days, his father was not the evil figure that caused so much pain to his mother. He was someone Ed looked up to unquestioningly. When Edward chose to remember, though he rarely did, his memories were filled with summer days spent on his father’s shoulders as they traipsed over the hills of Resempool and its nearby forest. His father taught him the names of trees and flowers, and which berries he could eat and those that would make him sick.
When Ed burned the house, he’d pocketed the music box. Its song was tinny now, and the child was faded. And although he had sworn to himself that he would leave everything behind, he found he could not part with this one thing of his mothers. It was the source of all his favorite memories of his mother, when she had been alive and happy. Ed kept the music box in a loose floorboard in the room he stayed at when he was with the Rockbells. He had never pulled it out—not since the day he’d put it in its hideaway. He could still remember the picture of the boy on the lid quite easily, and sometimes when he was in that hazy state of half-consciousness right before awakening, the ugly nightmares of the night would leave him, and he would dream of that other Edward—the one that lived among the stars.
Ed stood before the new town. He glanced at his brother, who glanced at him with his glowing white eyes. The weight of the sun was unbearable, and Ed could not touch his brother for fear of burning his hand. His own automail was excruciating in its heat, and Ed knew he would soon have to find a place to rest. These summer days were the worst. Days that he spent riding on his father’s shoulder, days that he used to spend fishing by the river, his favorite days were now the ones he could no longer enjoy. Ed stumbled into the nearest café. The residents of the town fancied themselves progressive, and the little café had all the modern convenience including a radio that was playing tinny ballads. Ed found safety in the shade of the large umbrellas that covered the glass tables. Al crowded beneath it. He could not sit, for fear of breaking the chair. Ed ordered lemonade, and gave his brother a weary look. The next song came on, and he widened his eyes, glancing at the radio.
“Do you remember this song, Al?” Al paused, listening. He finally shook his head.
“Mom used to sing this.” It was the song about the stars. Ed realized their mother had only sung the song to him. He frowned. “I guess you were too young to remember.” Ed said with a sigh. He didn’t say anything else for a long while, and Al couldn’t help but look at him curiously.
When Ed was young, he had tried to learn the violin. His father had played it, and when he did, the strains of music would flow out of the house and across the fields. Resempool was absent of the sounds of the city, and so the notes of a violin could be heard for quite a distance. In the winter, his father would place fast songs, to remind Ed and a baby Al of the summer. Winter sometimes seemed especially long, and the songs would warm the house. Sometimes their mother would dance to the songs, and Ed would try to join in. He wasn’t as graceful or sure-footed as his mother, but she would laugh and it made him confident. She would grab his hands and they would dance across the kitchen floor.
In the summer, their father played all sorts of things. It was as if he could grasp everything that was summer, focus it into a song, and then play in harmony with the bright day. Their mother sat on the porch, drinking lemonade and rocking in the chair their father had made. In Ed’s earliest memories, she was always smiling, and her eyes were filled with life. In Ed’s later memories, her smiles didn’t always reach her eyes, and there was a dullness there that Ed didn’t realize until later. It was why he hated his father all the more—Ed was convinced that had he never left, their mother would never have given up the will to live. Ed knew it was heartbreak as much as her illness that had killed her.
Once their father left, Ed took up the violin. It was left in the main room, packed away safely in its case. Ed had first thought that because his father had left it, it meant he would be back soon. But as the seasons turned and their father never returned, Ed began realizing their father’s absence might be permanent. Their mother had nothing to say about it, but sometimes at night when she thought they were asleep, he and Al could hear her soft sobs. In an effort to cheer her up, Ed decided to take up the violin. It was too long for his short arms, and the only sounds Ed could produce were creaky and whiny. Ed thought that practicing a violin might be like alchemy—if he worked hard enough at it, he would be sure to succeed. But weeks passed and Ed grew no better. He finally carefully set the instrument back in its case. He was no good at it. His father’s music would never echo through the house again.
* * * *
Night had finally fallen over the dusty town, and the warm glowing lights of restaurants, cafes, and bars welcomed both visitors and the usuals. The heat from the sun had faded, and a light breeze from the west promised a respite from the harsh day. Ed slowly walked the streets, his brother trailing a half step behind him. The sounds of local performers wafted out from the buildings. Ed had been in a strange mood all day, Al knew. His brother was like that sometimes, and Al accepted it. His brother wore a heavy burden, and some days, it seemed that burden grew heavier. Al never understood the changes in mood, or what event had set off Ed’s thoughtfulness. It was a part of their strange life.
Because Al had so much time on his hands, he also had a lot of time to think. He could never have known how lonely it was to be alone with ones thoughts for eternity until he was actually faced with it. There was no sleeping for him—no rest from his guilt and his fear. Sleeping was for the brain, to keep it organized and rested. Al had no use of it. At night while his brother tossed and turned, Al kept vigil. Al’s favorite place was to sit at the window, and look out at the town and at the sky. He loved people watching. He wondered about the lives of those who passed beneath the window. Who they were going, and why they were out late. Which ones had lovers, and which ones went on lonely midnight walks. Sometimes Al would make stories up for them. There was the romantic girl, looking for her True Love. She would never find him because he would find her. He had watched her for a long time, and had admired her from a distance. And one day, as she stood on the old stone bridge that spanned across the picturesque river, he would come up behind her and tell her he loved her. There was the old woman that wandered the streets at night, talking to the ghost of her husband. She still had a few years before her, but they would not be lonely years. Her husband was always by her side.
Al only ever came up with cheerful stories, stories with happy endings. Al spent enough time among those with sad stories that only ended in death.
Some nights, when it was too cold for people to be out, or in those early morning hours when few were awake, Al was left with the memories of his childhood. They were Al’s happy stories, and he kept them close. He was only a year younger than Ed, but he felt sometimes he had missed out on a lot. His earliest memories consisted of their smiling father, holding him close. Their father was not the monster Ed seemed to want to make him. Al could never remember him raising his voice, or doing anything to hurt their mother. Al believed there was a reason for his leaving. Al hoped he would one day have the chance to see their father again, and talk to him. Al had a lot to tell him, and maybe his father would be able to tell him why’d he gone so long ago.
Al hoped he would stand before his father as a young man, and not as an empty shell of armor. He wanted his father to be proud of him. To forgive them for what they had done, and understand why they’d done it. He didn’t want to accuse their father the way Ed did. He knew that they would not have tried what they’d tried had their father been there. He also knew that perhaps their mother would not have died. Al had seen flowers wilt after a late freeze in the spring. As young as he was, he saw that same wilted expression in his mother’s eyes. She had lost that bounce in her step, and it was not longer after his leaving that she had grown ill. But because Al believed in reasons and believed in his father, he could not blame the man. And although both he and his brother had suffered considerably, a part of Al enjoyed their journey. He enjoyed seeing what they saw, and meeting the people they did. There was a positive side to this journey. He believed that he and his brother could return themselves to their bodies. Because Al believed in happy endings, the thing he could not believe was that it would be his fate to spend the rest of his life in the old suit of armor.
* * * *
Ed fell to the ground, coughing blood. Internal damage, to be sure. That was never a good sign, and if he lived through this fight, there would have to be several days spent in the hospital. And if he didn’t watch out, his automail would be ripped to shreds and then he’d have to answer Winry. His opponent advanced, another damn homunculus. They seemed to get harder with every successive one he fought. It hardly seemed fair, but there wasn’t much Ed could do about it but stand and fight. A cut on his forehead above his right eye rendered the eyesight from that eye nearly useless. He rolled to his feet and quickly dodged the next attack. But he wasn’t quite fast enough, and a clawed hand tore into his side, sending him flying back. He could faintly hear the cry of Alphonse in the distance, but then he was hitting the ground and the world exploded in pain and cold.
Ed lay in the snow bank, blinking dizzily up at the dark sky. The snow was falling fast, and Ed was sure there’d be another foot at least by morning. The world was silent, the way it always was when it snowed. Ed could very distinctly hear the footsteps of the homunculus advancing towards him. Ed knew he had to get up, knew that he would not live otherwise. But he was so comfortable—it was hard convincing himself his life was truly in danger. Ed heaved a sigh, only slightly perturbed to find it hampered by a pain in his lungs.
“Brother!” Ed heard Al shout again, and he flicked his good eye open to pierce his brother with a glare.
“Al,” Ed began, “Do you hear that?” Ed asked quietly of the armor that quickly knelt beside him.
“No.” Al said firmly.
“It’s the song….mom used to sing.” Ed said, almost wistfully. He winced as Al roughly lifted him. Ed saw that the homunculus had been knocked back several feet, and was sprawled across the ice, stunned. Al pulled Ed to his chest and took off across the cold land. They would head for the nearest military base. They would head for warmer grounds. Retreat was the only option viable. Al could not allow his brother to die, especially not in the cold plains of the North.
Because Al believed in happy endings, but there could be no happy ending if his brother wasn’t standing beside him.