Title: New Year's Eve
Author: Jordanna Morgan
Archive Rights: Please request the author's consent.
Characters: Edward and Alphonse.
Setting: Takes place when Ed is fifteen.
Summary: As another year fades, Ed questions whether his choices have been the right ones.
Disclaimer: They belong to Hiromu Arakawa. I'm just playing with them.
Notes: Written for the prompts of "Midnight" and "Resolutions" at Fan Flashworks. This fic got away from me a little, becoming both longer and more emotional than I intended… but anyway, it fits my mood this holiday season.
An indistinct noise caused Edward Elric to awaken with a flinch, momentarily startled. Swiftly he scanned the shadowed room around him, and his heartbeat slowed when he saw the familiar gleam of Alphonse's metal hull in a shaft of moonlight by the window. He slumped back into the pile of old flour sacks that formed a makeshift bed, his mind sifting the current when and where from the blur of several long days of travel.
It was New Year's Eve, and the Elric brothers were passing through a middle-of-nowhere village. On arrival shortly before dusk, they had knocked at a farmhouse door, soliciting alchemic repairs to the sagging porch in return for food and lodging. The kind farmer was happy enough to accept the trade—although with relatives staying over for the holiday, the only room he could offer was a drafty attic half-full of old junk. It was cramped, dusty, and none too warm, but it would do until the young travelers left early in the morning to catch the next train.
Ed remembered now. After a hearty meal of farm-fresh food, he had wrapped up in his coat and fallen asleep. He hadn't even remembered that it was the last day of the year.
Maybe because he hadn't wanted to remember that another year was passing away with his promise still left unfulfilled.
Further noise drifted from somewhere below. Talking, laughter, the scrape of chairs at a dining table. Sounds of a large family gathered for a celebration.
A dull pang rolled over in Ed's heart, and he sighed.
The sound must have caught Al's attention, because he looked over at that moment. Seeing Ed's open eyes, he noisily began to uncurl from the surprisingly compact steel ball he was somehow able to fold his vast frame into.
"Oh, you're awake! It's nearly midnight, Brother. Mr. Gessel said there will be fireworks."
Hooray, Ed was just barely able to resist muttering. Cross off another year of wandering the country, fighting other people's fights and getting our own hopes crushed. How much longer?
Nevertheless, he kept that gloom to himself. He merely stood up and went to stand beside Al at the cracked attic window, pulling his coat around his shoulders. At least the view was not unattractive. A broad snow-dusted front yard sloping down to the road, bare white fields stretching away beyond, the distant buildings of the village center silhouetted in the glow of public festivities; all of this lay beneath a crystal-clear starry sky. It was the kind of scenery Al seemed content to gaze at for hours, and probably must have yet again tonight.
It wasn't fair.
It wasn't fair that Al could only watch and listen to other people's holiday happiness—not just because of the numbness of his armor shell, but because anything so normal seemed as unreachable for them as those stars. It wasn't fair that Al couldn't experience a warm fire and a feast and a gathering of loved ones, as the family downstairs was. It wasn't fair that after suffering the most for Ed's sins, Al should furthermore be compelled to follow him through this distant and lonely quest to make things right, when there was no guarantee that they even could.
Was all this searching and struggling really futile? Was Ed only wasting precious years that could be spent giving Al a life that was at least halfway normal? A life back in Resembool with the Rockbells, or in Central with the Hughes family: a life with people who accepted him as he was, and made him feel things on the inside that were even more important than his lost physical sensations.
It had never even occurred to Ed to offer his brother that choice. He had assumed Al never could have any kind of a life as long as he was trapped within steel. …Or rather, he had been too selfishly obsessed with correcting his own mistakes to consider Al's feelings about the price they continued to pay.
Feeling a tightness in his chest, he turned from the window view to Alphonse, and swallowed hard.
The question he meant to ask was preempted by a sudden flurry of distant pops and booms. Fireworks blossomed over the village square, lighting the night sky with bursts of red and orange and green. The family downstairs chimed in with their own cheers and clinking of glasses.
"Happy New Year, Brother." The warmth of the cheerful smile in Al's voice was unexpectedly strong, pushing back the shadowed chill of the room. "You know… I have a good feeling about this one. I think this will finally be the year we find a way to get our bodies back to normal."
Ed's heart skipped a beat. He was forced to blink several times before he dared to look up at Al's faceplate.
"…You really think so?"
"Sure I do." Al's big leather gauntlet fell onto Ed's shoulder, offering a fond and encouraging squeeze before he innocently turned back to admire the fireworks display. "And when we do, everything we've done for the last four years will be worth it."
It took a few moments before the elder brother remembered to breathe again.
New Year's resolutions were not usually something Edward ever thought of. Even during the holidays, his life was too busy for such frivolous traditions; and besides, he found it silly to regard one day as being better than any others for taking up personal goals. He was firmly of the mind that if one decided to do something, one should simply go ahead and do it right away.
Yet just this once, with festive fire in the sky and Al's hand resting on his shoulder, he thought he could see why people saved up a special determination for when the last day of the year became the first.
This is the year I'm going to get your body back, Al. It's going to happen this time. I swear it.
It was a promise he had spoken aloud a thousand times, and whispered in his heart a million more… but this time, even he had to admit to himself that it felt just a little different.
2017 Jordanna Morgan