"Denial, Hope, and Forgiveness"-a Pointless Angsty one-shot
By me! (That is Battlejoy, in case, you are wondering.)

Disclaimer: This contains ANGST, SPOILERS FOR THE END OF THE ANIME SERIES, and hopefully, a fair use of copyrighted material that doesn't belong to me. No true pairings exist for this piece.

When word reached them, it was a hard hit. Al had not understood at first. He didn't understand so much of what the world was anymore.

His body was the only thing still the same. His home was gone. His brother was missing. His best friend was nearly a woman. It all didn't make any sense…

So when word came to him that they declared his brother officially dead, it all didn't seem real. He only sat there numbed and sobbing into the front of Winry's blouse until he had sobbed himself to sleep as she held herself tense and stroked his hair. Her choking tears dripped down the back of his neck as she bunched around him protectively, not daring to contradict his protestation that it couldn't be true.

The first few weeks were bad. Memorials always were awkward without a body. Only framed, smiling pictures of their loved one telling the world that he once existed.

Al looked around the room, not even recognizing half of the people that showed up to the memorial and sobbed on his small shoulder. Even more strange was the picture of his brother that they wept over; his face so familiar and yet so different. It was like the picture of a distant cousin rather than the boy Al could swear was with him a scant month before. It still didn't seem real. The quiet denial echoing in the tender eyes of Winry helped him keep some hope alive. It all was a nightmare…

He wasn't supposed to be there that afternoon. He was supposed to be visiting the next farmstead with Auntie Pinako. If they would continue on as they always had.Ed would come back. Winry had told him. She told him it was what she always did. No use getting worried over his absence since Ed would always were pop up when everyone least expected it. Al was happy to take that little bit of hope.

But he wasn't supposed to have witnessed that scene. Al didn't know what drove him to climb that woodpile that day to peek at Winry in her workshop. Maybe it was the fascination at watching a person that was at once so close and yet so much like a stranger.

He hadn't understood when she had first pulled out that box off the shelf or why she took out an automail arm from it with such reverence.

It didn't gleam much in the dim indoor light of the workshop. Al didn't understand. It looked like a well-made, expensive, adult automail arm but other than that nothing was special about it. But it had to mean something from the way that Winry gently danced her fingertips across its length. A look of solemn fascination was painted across her face as she curled and uncurled each finger of the hand.

Al didn't know exactly what details of the arm made it a masterpiece but he knew if he would have asked, Winry would have been able to rattle them off with the deepest, disarming furor. That thought reminded Al of the gleeful way Winry used to chronical her adventures in her grandmother's workshop, when they were all kids together.

Then with the suddenness of summer storm, Winry stop her study of the object in her hand, her shoulders shuddering with chuckling. With what he thought was the end of her odd behavior, Al was about to relax and call out to her. A nervous chuckle and a cheerful smile would surely dispel the hanging moment from the air. But Al didn't get his moment to alert her to his presence when she stood up.

Taking the arm by its hand, the gentle young woman that had so comforted him over the last weeks began clubbing everything in sight with it. The canisters of oil and drawers of nuts and bolts were the first to face her wrath, splashing and ricocheting across anything in their way. The loud, ringing syncopation of knocked over tools was next. Al didn't understand.

But through it all, the heavy thud of the arm rang out the most, as it took its abuse. Al turned away and flinched with every crash and crunch not bearing to see Winry systematically destroy her own workshop.

But the most frightening thing Al had heard that day wasn't the shrieks of "ED! YOU BASTARD! HOW COULD YOU!" his friend's voice strained. It was the whispered echo she whimpered that seemed to reverberate though his being.

"How could you…"

Al knew that with every spent sob that she soon descended into, that she was letting each little, fleeting hope for Ed slip out of her fingers like the battered arm that clanged on the concrete floor.

As the tears streamed down her cheeks, Al's wide eyes were dry. He couldn't do it just yet. His brother had to be alright. Ed was always alright no matter what…

Though he regretted witnessing the scene that afternoon, in a small way, Alphonse Elric was thankful his brother hadn't been there. The scene would have bled and blended too many old memories of a young girl sobbing over her lost parents, her head down on a dinner room table. Or with a gentle woman weeping behind a closed bedroom door when she thought her sons couldn't hear her.

It would have been too much for his big brother. Al still didn't understand much in the world now but he did understand that wherever he was, his big brother probably couldn't forgive himself.

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