Author: Jordanna Morgan
Archive Rights: Please request the author's consent.
Characters: Alphonse and Noa.
Setting: First anime. Set in my Tiesverse, shortly after Noa crosses over to Amestris.
Summary: Alphonse has many reasons to welcome the girl his brother loves.
Disclaimer: They belong to Hiromu Arakawa. I'm just playing with them.
Notes: Written for the prompts "key to heart" at Cotton Candy Bingo, and "families" at Genprompt Bingo. I had considered including a scene along these lines in my plans for a sequel to "Blood Ties", but it fits the first prompt which I very much needed to fill, and it works well enough on its own. (Eventually, the timeframe of this fic will be during the earlier chapters of the "Ties" sequel. As such, I've tried to take care not to spoil any future surprises.)
Noa was everything Edward had said she was.
It was a fact Alphonse quickly began to discover for himself, after Noa's arrival in their world. In the days afterward, her newly reclaimed body was still recovering its strength—but her spiritedness more than made up for any temporary weakness of flesh. He now understood why Ed had so readily accepted her desire to become a State Alchemist. From the moment she was released from the hospital, she was eager to plunge into studies for the State Exam, and even General Mustang's mild reservations about her goal did not deter her.
To that end, Alphonse had agreed to help tutor Noa in alchemy. She already knew much from her sharing of Ed's memories, and she even had the ability to transmute without a circle, but not everything was fully clear to her. Even more importantly, it was only now—in this world, where alchemy could be performed freely—that she was truly capable of beginning to exercise those skills. Al found that she was a quick learner, and she had the creative imagination necessary for a good alchemist.
But above all else, he saw the way Ed was when Noa was around him—and he loved her for that. He loved seeing a spark of joy in his brother that had not existed since they were young children, if ever. The threat Noa had pursued through the Gate still posed a dangerous challenge to them all… but for the moment, as they waited for a new lead on that threat, Ed was happy. And that made Al happy too.
It was clear that Noa returned Ed's love in equal measure, and that she was excited by the possibilities of her future in her new home. Yet every once in a while—usually when Ed wasn't with her—Al had the fleeting sense that Noa felt troubled. He assumed it was when she thought about the other Hunters across the Gate, who she would never see again; well, not exactly, even though she could find echoes of them in their Amestrian counterparts. The faces were the same, but they did not share the memories and experiences that had bonded her with her friends.
However, as it turned out, that wasn't what concerned Noa… and Al was quite surprised when he learned the real cause of it.
"Al, I'd like to tell you something I've been thinking about," Noa said quietly one evening, as they sat on the floor in the library of the Elrics' house, with books and scribbled arrays scattered around them.
Edward was not at home then. Each year, he gave the latest class of State Alchemy hopefuls a lecture on the dangers of human transmutation, and today he was carrying out that self-imposed duty once again. He hadn't wanted Al and Noa to come with him, fearing their presence would only make him feel more self-conscious and awkward when he bared his scars to the students.
Caught slightly off guard by Noa's tone, Alphonse glanced up at her, and recognized the look of pensive anxiousness he had seen before. He closed the book that was resting on his knees, regarding her attentively. "Sure. What's on your mind?"
Noa's cheeks colored. She stared down unseeingly at the open pages in front of her.
"First, I…" She swallowed, tried to raise her eyes, did not entirely succeed. "I've said it before, but—thank you, Al. For what you did to save my life… to make my life here possible."
"It was nothing, Noa," Al replied warmly, feeling a tug at his heart. "I told you. All I did was restore the balance—and I wanted it this way."
"That's the other part." Finally she looked up at him, with a hesitant, vulnerable expression that he wasn't used to seeing in her. "Listen, Al. I know that all your lives, you and Ed have always been the most important thing in the world to each other. And I don't ever want to get in the way of the bond you two share. So… if you ever have any reason not to want me here…" Her eyes glistened with readiness for tears. "Then tell me—and I won't stay."
Something grew tight in Al's chest. He took a long moment to digest her words—partly so that his own voice wouldn't tremble when he gave his reply.
"To start with… I love you even more for saying that." Leaning forward across the books between them, Al cupped her cheek in his left hand, and lightly kissed the top of her head. Then he drew back, to look at her with a gentle firmness. "And now that you have said it, I want you to forget that you ever did. I have every reason to want you here with us—and I never want you to be afraid that I don't."
The tears escaped as Noa's eyes widened. "Really?"
"I guess it must be hard for you to start feeling secure here, in a whole different world. Maybe you feel like you don't belong here yet… but I promise, you do." Al smiled. "You saved Ed's life on the other side—and you sent him home just in time to save my life. Now it's only right that you're here to share our lives."
"I don't want you to accept me because you feel indebted," Noa murmured quickly, wiping her eyes.
"Oh, it's about so much more than that, Noa." Al crossed his arms over his knees, propping his chin on them. "You know Ed has always been protective. But since he came back… the truth is, he was driving me a little crazy with his fussing over me. I could hardly do anything without him worrying about it." He grinned. "But now that you're here, at least his attention will be divided between fussing over both of us."
Noa laughed at that, in spite of herself.
"And most importantly… you've made Ed happy," Al continued, more softly. "He suffered so much, for so long. And I could never do enough to make his hurt go away. Even after he came home, to me and the world he belongs in, he was still hurting—because he thought he'd lost you. And it made me feel guilty in the past few months, as Lucy and I became closer, because Ed couldn't be with the girl he loved. I was starting to be afraid he'd be alone."
He raised his eyes to Noa's, and his somber expression transformed into a smile. "So you see, in every way, your coming home to us was the best thing that could have happened for us both."
More tears spilled then; but this time, Noa was smiling as well. She leaned forward impulsively to throw her arms around his neck.
"Oh, Al… I love both of you." Her voice carried a trace of wonder. "What I saw in Ed's memories is really true. The way you care so completely about each other's happiness—you're the key to each other's hearts."
"We both have another key now. It's not just Ed and I as brothers anymore. We're going to be a family—and there's nothing I want more than that." Al's expression became more mischievous. "And you know… I always did want a sister."
He could feel the heat of Noa's blush against his cheek. She drew back, her smile becoming a little more crooked. "What about Winry?"
Al made a comical face. "Seriously? She used to be more like having another brother."
"Well… I'm not exactly pink ribbons and butterflies myself." The hunter of monsters chuckled self-deprecatingly. "I hope that's not what you were looking for in a sister."
"I think Lucy's got that covered. You're what Ed needs—and that's exactly how it should be." Al squeezed Noa's hand briefly. "And if you're going to help me keep Ed in one piece, you're gonna need your alchemy skills to be as sharp as they can get. Why don't we see if we can get through this next chapter before he comes home?"
With a grateful nod, beaming, Noa bent her head over her book once more. Al could feel that her uncertainty was gone, her heart finally at ease with the place where she belonged in her new world… and he was glad.
© 2014 Jordanna Morgan