Author: Jordanna Morgan
Archive Rights: Please request the author's consent.
Characters: Alphonse, Edward, OC travelers.
Summary: A little kindness goes a long way.
Disclaimer: They belong to Hiromu Arakawa. I'm just playing with them.
Notes: Written for the prompt word "Mending" at Fan Flashworks.
Even though Alphonse Elric dwelled in a steel body that could not physically tire, he was still capable of finding his soul wearied by a stressful atmosphere around him.
This particular day was a case in point. He and Edward had just pursued a lead on the Philosopher's Stone to a far corner of Amestris, only to find yet another dead end. Now Brother was moody, and they had almost been too late to catch the day's last train back to Central, and they were surrounded by equally worn and irritable travelers who just wanted to get home after their own long hours of work. Ed probably would have ended up in a fight with a surly man he'd bumped into on the station platform, if the fellow hadn't simply looked at Al's intimidating form and decided not to start something after all.
The brothers had only just managed to gain the last two available seats, at the rear of a crowded train car. Following in Ed's wake, Al murmured apologies as he edged sideways down a too-narrow aisle, trying not to step on stray feet or knock into protruding shoulders.
When they reached the back of the car, Al noticed immediately that the seats across the aisle were occupied by a somewhat flustered-looking motherly woman, and a very young girl clutching a tattered and faded rag doll. Unfortunately, the child noticed him just as swiftly—and at the first glimpse of the towering, spiked metal giant coming in her direction, she launched into shrieking bawls of terror.
"I'm sorry, Ma'am! I'm so sorry!" Al gushed to the dismayed mother who hugged the girl against her chest, making futile efforts to soothe her with stroking and whispers. Almost falling over Ed, the armored boy hastily shoved himself as far over against the window as he could. When Ed sat down beside him, he further attempted to ball up his unyielding frame tight enough to hide behind Brother's own diminutive form. Even so, the child kept sobbing for a few minutes more, peering at him from over her mother's shoulder with big, wet eyes full of fear.
At least Ed didn't look as annoyed as he could have at the squalling. On the contrary, he looked more quietly sad than anything. Of course, it weighed very much on his own heart that Al couldn't help the way he looked, or the reactions it sometimes drew. When he felt so painfully that it was all his fault, he never complained about any trouble Al's condition may have caused for him too.
For the next little while, Al remained rigidly statue-still in his corner against the window, with his helmet bowed and hands tucked between his knees. If he had lungs, he imagined he would even have been holding his breath. He didn't want to make the least movement that would catch the eye of the little girl again, and remind her of his frightening presence.
The strategy seemed to work for an hour or so. From the corner of his eye slits, Al saw the girl slowly relax. Her terrified stare at him tapered off into occasional wary glances in his direction. She began to look around at the other passengers, babbling questions to her mother about what they wore and what they carried; and when she had exhausted her curiosity, she turned to playing with her rag doll.
Al found himself wishing he could doze off. In his fear of triggering the child again, he was reluctant to speak as well as move, which prevented him from trying to converse with Ed. That left him nothing to relieve the boredom of simply staring at the back of the seat in front of him.
…Until he heard a soft sound of tearing fabric from the opposite seats—followed by a small cry of distress.
"Mama—Agnes' arm came off!"
Instinctively, Al risked a slight turn of his helmet to look across the aisle. The girl's face was scrunched in anguish as she raised the floppy doll in one hand, and its torn-off arm in the other. Quickly her mother tried to calm her, promising to sew the arm on as good as new the minute they got home—but the child was not comforted by the prospect of any delayed solution. Once again, she bubbled up with fresh tears.
Suddenly Edward leaned over toward the mother and daughter, and spoke in his most polite, friendly tone.
"Excuse me, Ma'am? I think my brother can fix that doll for you right now," he suggested—waving a hand at Alphonse over his shoulder as he said it.
In spite of his previous efforts to keep still, Al flinched. "But Brother—!"
Ed flashed him a quick hushing gesture, and then smiled at the little girl, who was eyeing Al with renewed anxiety. "It's okay, I promise! Don't be scared of Al here. Because you know what? He can fix little Agnes there with magic. You'd like to see that, wouldn't you?"
Slowly, and very hesitantly, the girl nodded. Ed smirked at Al and slid out of his seat, making room for the larger metal sibling to move closer.
For the time being, Al decided to withhold any mutterings about what he would do to Ed later in retribution. Instead, he sighed and gingerly scooted over into Ed's seat, turning sideways so that he could lean into the aisle—and all the while trying to minimize the clatter of his steel as much as possible.
When Al twisted to reach awkwardly into his cuisse-pouch, the girl cringed. However, she relaxed a bit more when he withdrew only a pencil, along with a folded, wrinkled piece of paper that bore the train schedule.
Al spread the paper on the floor of the aisle, with its unprinted side facing up. Then he carefully drew a simple transmutation circle, doing his best to make the lines straight and steady in spite of the train's bumping and swaying. The result was good enough. He put the pencil away, and looked up at the girl, holding out one huge leather hand.
"Will you let me see Agnes for just a minute?" he asked softly.
The child whimpered and shied away, clutching the doll more tightly to her chest.
"…Okay." Al leaned back, spreading his hands open harmlessly on his knees. "Then, will you put Agnes in the middle of that circle?"
For a moment more, the girl hesitated. She looked up at her mother; the woman must have recognized the array as mere alchemy, because she gave her daughter a nod and a little smile. With that reassurance, the girl finally slid off her mother's lap and edged closer, to place the doll and its frayed scrap of an arm on the paper.
"Good. Now just keep still and watch, alright?"
With that, Al leaned forward and spread his hands over the array. It sparked to life, embracing the doll in a gentle blue light… and before the child's eyes, without any needle or thread, the worn-thin fabric of the doll's arm and shoulder simply wove itself back together.
The little girl gasped, breaking into a huge smile of delight. When the glow of the transmutation faded, and Al gently picked up the doll to hold it out, she barely paused before stepping forward to accept it from him.
"Th-thank you!" she murmured tremulously.
She quickly ducked back between her mother's knees after that; but this time, instead of fear, her gaze that lingered upon Al was full of wonder and appreciation.
Relieved that he no longer had to worry about upsetting her, Al slid back over to his place by the window. Ed reclaimed his own seat, grinning quietly—and Al briefly marveled at what it was that had just happened.
More often than not, Alphonse was the peacemaker of the two. He was the one always left to smooth things over when Ed rubbed people the wrong way. Yet today, for a change, it was Ed who had kindly and cleverly patched up a misunderstanding for Al's sake.
Feeling a warmth somewhere inside his steel, Al lightly bumped his vambrace against Ed's automail arm, and Brother looked up to return that unseen smile.
2017 Jordanna Morgan