The train station kept its aura of impregnable silence, even as the would-be patrons stepped up towards the platform. The summer heat in Central did that to people; made usually chatty busybodies still their tongues lest the exertion heat them up more than the sun already was. But it was that time of year again, and that called for the usual heatwave to annoy just about every person who came in contact with it, and that included plants and animals, as well.
The young man glanced around at the other patrons, though it was hard for him to keep from staring as he watched people enter and exit the train, passing him by as he sat on that little bench by the ticket station. He couldn’t help but feel a little awkward—all he had on was a simple crisp white shirt (much like the one when he first came here…though that was bloody beyond repair) and his old pants which seemed a little too ratty (even though they were in perfect condition, especially after washing them several times to get the oil and grime out) for the occasion. His hair, unruly though it was, didn’t seem to look too bad. Unfortunately he didn’t use a brush on the train, but he was far too nervous for that. He didn’t think that even standing was an option…he was sure that his legs would betray him and send him toppling ungracefully to the ground, and maybe make him want to crawl under a rock with shame.
Usually he’d have a coughing fit right about now. Though with the way his body was reacting now, it seemed almost appealing, horrible as that sounded.
But he hadn’t had one of those since he’d first arrived in Resembool. Not with that fresh air going into his lungs, or the warm breezes that would brush across his face and run through his hair. The countryside was a far cry from this, he had to say. Before it was like a grassy paradise…complete with a river, blue sky, and smiling faces that his own home had never seemed to touch, not even on their best days…
But here…this was close to home. This was the closest he could get to the home that he knew so well. Bustling streets, busy people, going back and forth and going about their daily life…
The only things missing were the limbless men and the charred people…
The young man shuddered despite himself.
This felt like waiting for a sponsor, back in the old days. Well, sort of like the old days. Back then, he’d had to sit and wait patiently and deal with Edward’s grumbling as background noise (in half-German and half-English), annoying him to the point where he’d have to kick the moron to shut him up.
Where the hell was he, anyway?
One minute he was next to him, in that damned rocket of his, both of them in the seat, flying through that yellow ‘gate’…going through…
And then he hit his head, going unconscious.
Then the next…
He shook his head, fierce, forcing the thoughts out. This wasn’t the time or the place for such reminiscing. Save that for when he was in the hotel with a pen and paper with enough of a sense of mind to write it all down and try to think clearly through all of this.
That sounded nice.
Alfons Heiderich checked his watch once. Twice. Three times. As the top of the watch flipped shut his eyes would glance up, as if to scan the crowd for a familiar face.
This is ridiculous, he thought, shaking his head. I don’t even know what this man looks like. How can I possibly identify him if I haven’t seen him? He didn’t even give me an identifying description. Come to think of it…I don’t think I gave him one, either.
Though…he hadn’t really asked for one. This man that he was going to see.
He sighed, and let his legs fidget a bit on the concrete, cursing himself for showing his nervous habits like a child. Fidgeting, fidgeting. Normally children would get hit with a ruler for that…and look at him. Seventeen years old and he was still plodding his feet on the ground with anxiety.
Some man he was growing up to be.
But it wasn’t as if he could help it…after he came here…
Everything seemed to return like a tidal wave. His nervous habits, his twitching, his humming…even his accursed shower-singing, which had been the subject to numerous jokes and bouts of teasing back at the University.
It was like with a healthy body came the childish habits he had once shucked off, never to see again.
He was pathetic.
But where was he? He had specifically told Alfons to wait right outside the train, and to sit there and not to move until he was called to. To keep his suitcase close and his wallet even closer in case of thieves, and that was that. No questions, no “I’d like it if you did this”, no “Could you please”…it was that way or not at all.
So he sat…hands in his lap, fists clenching and unclenching…waiting.
But…wasn’t it around an hour late…?
What was going on?
Resembool, 2 days before Alfons Heiderich arrived in Central
“Alfons? Are you sure?”
The girl had looked at him with such worried blue eyes, blond hair wisping down over pale shoulders with an expression that could have sent him running back in the door and unloading his suitcase all over the living room floor in haste. Workclothes clung to her like a second skin, and the sun had almost given her cheeks an exerted, soft red glow.
The young man smiled, adjusting his suitcase in his hand. He couldn’t help but feel bad for the poor girl…first she had lost her best friends…and now he was walking out the door.
He had only been here a few months…he didn’t want to have to leave. But if he didn’t, he knew he’d never leave. And if he never left…
“Yes, Winry. I have to go. If I don’t go, I’ll just be wasting my time freeloading off of you forever. Edward may have been okay doing that in my world, but I’m at least going to give you the courtesy to not eat up your finances for the next two years.”
“I told you that you could stay as long as you like, at least until you get back on your feet, anyway. You’re still not used to things here—”
“And what better way than to go to Central?” Alfons couldn’t help but smile wider. He shouldn’t have…he knew that. But somehow he just couldn’t find himself helping it at all. Central…the home of operations, the hub of this country. A city filled with the excitement that he had only dreamed of in Munich, he was sure…
“That’s like tying your legs down with chains and teaching yourself to swim. It’s a dumb thing to do and I don’t think—”
“Please. I’ll be okay.”
“You said that when you were lying down, coughing up your own lungs in the middle of that machine wreckage too. When Ed was clapping his hands like crazy to try to keep you alive until some sort of doctor came.”
A sigh. Edward again. She said all of those things, but…
“I’m sorry, I…”
“I know. You can’t remember. You hit your head pretty hard, and you were bleeding pretty bad all over…I’m not surprised.”
“Yes…I wish I could remember some of it though. I would have at least liked to say goodbye.”
Her eyes darkened then…just for a moment, a quick flicker of a moment before she lifted her gaze towards him and smiled.
Though the smile in itself seemed…broken, in a way.
“Yeah…but trust me when I say that he didn’t leave before saying goodbye to you.”
“That’s a relief. I wouldn’t have left him without saying goodbye, either.”
“You two really were close, weren’t you?”
“He was my closest friend—of course we were close.”
“Is that all?”
Alfons had to hide the blush forming on his face at that remark. God, the implications…“Of course.”
Winry’s smile faltered only a little before she smiled once again. “Just…call me when you get there, Alfons. Let me know that you’re safe.”
“Of course. Should I give the General your regards?”
“I think you’d be thrown in jail for the ‘regards’ I want to give him, Alfons.”
“I’ll take that as a no.” he laughed. “ But I should be going…I need to hurry to the station or else I’ll miss my train.”
“Just call me when you get there, Alfons Heiderich,” Winry said firmly. “I mean it.”
Central Station – Present time
Smooth and easy, a single male voice cut through the silence hovering over Alfons with a hard jolt, sending him crashing down into reality. Oh God, why hadn’t he been paying any attention…?! He could have been standing there for five minutes and he wouldn’t have noticed…though given the situation, he didn’t think he’d have time for the usual self-scolding and mental chastising session that usually accompanied such times.
Shit. Had to fall off the bench like an idiot, sending the luggage flying in front of him, most likely hitting the speaker somehow before it crashed onto the ground. Nice first impression there, buddy. Alfons pushed himself to his feet with a blush, looking up at the man who had addressed him.
Black hair hanging a little over an asianesque face, an eyepatch covering one eye, and a half-smirk, half smile that was sure to knock a girl flat on the ground just by a mere glance. Was he from Japan? No, that wasn’t right; there was no “Japan” or “China” here…there was “Xing”, but Alfons himself wasn’t sure how close that was to his world’s equivalent. Edward had told him plenty of stories, and he wished he’d paid more attention. Though the man was tall…probably too tall to be one of that race…half then? And the blue-and-white uniform seemed to fit on him perfectly…almost as if it was made for him.
Military issue…so this was the General he had spoken to?
“I’m General Roy Mustang. We talked on the phone before—”
“In Resembool, yes.” Alfons nodded, though his stomach was starting to knot up already.
“Were you able to find your way around all right?”
“Yes. I admit, English is not my first language, but I’ve managed to speak it quite well since I’ve come here.”
The General quirked a brow. “English?”
“Yes. Ah—I’m sorry. That’s my world’s equivalent of the language you speak here.”
“As yours is to Drachman, I’m told.”
“Drachma? Isn’t that one of the countries that you’re at war with?”
“Hardly. After that assault on Central a few months ago, they backed off our borders for some reason…though I’m sure you wouldn’t want to hear all about something like that. Not after coming all this way.”
“Yes…” That’s right. He hadn’t come here for small talk.
“I’m sure we can talk more later. For now, let’s just get out of here before the crowds swallow us alive, shall we?”
Alfons nodded…then paused.
“Wait…is it all right if I use your phone?”
Another quirk of a brow. “A phone?”
“Yes…” He shuffled where he stood. “I was told to call Winr—err, Miss Rockbell when we met up, to let her know that I made it here safely.”
“Then you should do that. It wouldn’t do to have her carry on worrying.”