A note from the Hime no Argh herself—

Hello all, thanks for checking out the fic. Chain is a collection of flash fiction based on the characters of Full Metal Alchemist and their relationships with one another. In case you're not familiar with the term, flash fiction generally refers to very short stories that are between three hundred to one thousand words. All of these pieces are stand-alone, but since they're quite short I decided to post them in a collection.

Title: Chain

First link: Things He Has Not Seen

Summary: Alphonse has a driving secret.

Disclaimer: I don't own Full Metal Alchemist or related characters and concepts. In all other aspects this collection is my exclusive property and no part of it may be used without my express permission.

Rating: PG-13 for violence.

Things He Has Not Seen

Alphonse Elric didn't have much time to feel lonely or sorry for himself, mostly because Izumi worked him like a dog. It wasn't that she was cruel—in fact it was probably a kindness, to keep him so busy studying alchemy or with physical training that he had no time or effort left for despair. His teacher was someone to admire—strength and tenderness, harshness and compassion, fury and love all wrapped up into one splendid woman. Her temper reminded him—vaguely—of his brother, but then, everything about Ed was vague, even the years before those four he had lost. Al knew from Winry and Rose and others with their memories intact everything that had transpired in those four years, but to hear his friends speak about them was like listening to a story about characters who happened to share Al and Ed's names. The events that had transpired after the day they tried to transmute their mother were incomprehensible to him.

His memories of his brother were disjointed and broken, fading with each passing year they were separated. The fact that Al couldn't remember what Ed's voice sounded like or just why he hated milk so much filled him with panic and drove him to work harder than ever, holding onto the science he and his brother had once shared like it was a ledge on a steep cliff. He liked it when Izumi got sharp, if only because it reminded him of his brother's temper.

Shortly before he had left Rizembool with Izumi to study alchemy, Brigadier General Roy Mustang and his lieutenant, Liza Hawkeye, had come to visit the Rockbells. Al had stayed out of their way, irrationally upset with these two people who remembered the brother he had forgotten, but the day before they were to leave, Hawkeye cornered him.

"The Brigadier General wants to give you this, but he doesn't know how," she'd told him gravely, pressing a small package wrapped in brown paper into his hand. "Please take it. Even if you never look at it, that would be enough."

He took it, of course. He was at Izumi's when curiosity at last overcame him and he unwrapped the package.

It was a framed photo of a massive suit of armor and a blond-haired adolescent dressed in black, standing side-by-side. The accompanying note, written in Mustang's hand, told him it had been taken four months before Edward Elric disappeared off the face of the earth. Alphonse didn't need the note to tell him which was his brother and which was himself.

He didn't care about the suit of armor—he had no memory of it, after all. But on those rare nights when Izumi hadn't worked him to exhaustion, he took the photo out from its hiding place beneath his mattress and stared at it for hours, memorizing his brother's face. He looked different from Al's memory of him and from other photos he'd seen. He was clearly older, though not much taller. His face was tired, though he stood straight-backed as though determined not to give in to weariness. His shoulders were tense as though he were carrying a weight on them that no one else could see, and his eyes—there was pain in his eyes, so much of it.

Alphonse worked harder than he thought possible in the years at Izumi's house. He worked until he thought he would collapse with exhaustion; he studied until he couldn't sleep at night for the litany of facts and figures running endlessly through his brain. When it got too hard, he reminded himself that it was all for the sake of his brother—not the Ed he remembered, but the Ed he saw in that photo.

Whatever had put that pain in his eyes, Al didn't know. But he did know that he wanted it gone.

Next link: Another Entry