So, I was bored and I wrote this. I wanted a different side of Alphonse, but it didn't work as well asI wanted it to. But anyway...I was gonna put this with the other drabbles, in 'Like Seeds in the Wind,' but since this ended up being 6 pages, I decided that it was too long and deserved to be it's own story. So, enjoy, and please review, I'd love to hear your comments!
It was so cold. It wasn't just because of the icy snowflakes that drifted slowly from the sky and onto his newly formed and delicate flesh. It wasn't because the temperature dropped to ten degrees below zero several hours before. He was cold to the world now. Everything was surrounded by ice, like frigid frozen statues, even if it was warm. The days were cloudy in the sun, and sometimes, it was night when it was day. He spent countless hours on the hill where his house used to be, and even more of his time was spent sitting in front of or next to two graves.
Alphonse Elric was alone in the world now. His body was flesh and blood again, but at a high price; his brother's life. He recalled how it all happened.
He and Edward had finally obtained the Philosopher's Stone, and Ed had nearly jumped in childish glee when he felt it in his flesh hand. After a moment of admiring the blood red gem, he decided to start the transmutation. Everything seemed to be going as planned, perfectly, but then the same darkness that had enveloped their house that night so many years ago draped itself upon them once again. Next thing he knew, he was in front of the Gate, with his brother at his side, as always. Slowly, the monstrous doors opened with a deafening creak as though on rusty hinges. Alphonse recalled a blinding light, and thousands of dark, hungry hands reaching for him….
When Alphonse regained consciousness, he was on the floor of the room where he and Edward began the transmutation. It was so cold, yes so very cold. But how? Confused, he lifted his hand to eye level, only to not hear the clanking of metal joints. When his hand reached its destination, inches from his face, he nearly screamed. His hand, no, his whole body was human again! Overjoyed, he let out a shriek of delight and cried out to his brother.
"Nii-san! Nii-san! It worked!" he shouted into the darkness of the room.
"R-really?" said Edward's voice to his far left. The question was followed by a rough coughing fit, and Alphonse heard something wet splash to the floor.
"Yes it did!" Al cried, rushing towards the sound of his brother's voice on his hands and knees. "Look, my body it's--"
He stopped dead and could only gape in horror and despair at the sight that stood before him. There sat Edward, his Nii-san, leaning against the wall. He was drenched in his own blood, his beautiful golden hair stained by crimson, his eyes, which had always been just as golden as his hair, were dulled to a burnished, lightless amber. A large gash had torn through Edward's chest, where his heart should be. He was dying. But how could that be?
"Nii-san! W-what happened?" Alphonse asked, pulling his brother into an embrace, trying to ignore the feeling of blood running onto his hands and body. "We…we had the Stone! We should have been able to ignore equivalent exchange!"
"Guess it…. Doesn't w-work that way…. Equivalent exchange really is a load of crap... But I had to offer something up… didn't have a choice so I…" Edward sputtered through coughs.
"So you offered your life! What were you thinking! Why did you do that?" Al's voice became shrill. Edward's weakening form shuddered violently in his arms.
"So that you could live a normal live," Edward said, looking up at his little brother with a smile, one that reminded Al of his mother before she died.
"But I don't want to life without you! I can't….I won't!"
"Yes, you will," Edward commanded weakly. "You'll live on, and be….happy. I'm just glad I got to see you in the flesh one more time. I love you, Alphonse…"
And with that, Edward fell limp in Al's arms, letting go of one final breath. His eyes shut as he exhaled for the last time, and Al's eyes widened in fear. Slowly, he shook his head, muttering 'no, no,' to himself, until finally, he shook his brother's cold shoulders, and watched his head follow the movements freely, until it finally fell to the side. Alphonse whimpered, tears already streaming down his face until, at last, he let out a cry that shook the entire building.
Shortly after the incident, Al returned to Resembool with Ed's body. Winry spotted her friend while he was burying him, and when she saw what had happened to Edward, she broke into tears. Al wanted to tell her to shut up, because he was going to start crying again if she kept going, but he reminded himself that she had a right to do so.
Since he had nowhere else to go, Pinako offered her home to him, and, at length, he accepted. She was happy that he wouldn't be sleeping outside in the cold, but that feeling quickly faded when Al holed himself up in the room he had been given. She became more and more distressed when he didn't come down to eat, didn't speak to anyone, and never left the room for anything. She expressed this concern to Alphonse several times.
"You have to eat something or you'll starve," she said after he hadn't eaten for three days.
"I don't care," he replied, facing the direction opposite her.
"And if you don't get out of bed sooner or later, your joints will all lock up and you won't ever move again."
"I don't care," he repeated roughly.
She left it at that. He was, after all, grieving for the loss of the only person he had had left in his life for four years. That conversation repeated itself for another week or so. One day after said exchange, she sighed and walked next to the bed and set a tray of food on the table next to it. She then sat next to him and ran her fingers through his hair. He stiffened at first, and then relaxed again, leaning his head slightly into her hand.
"Look, I know you're upset, but you can't go through the rest of your life like this. And you know that Ed would yell at you if he saw you moping around all day. Isn't that right?"
Slowly, he nodded. Of course she was right. Edward wanted him to be happy, he said that before he died.
"So how about this. You eat up and take a walk. You can bring Den with you for company. I don't care where you go, just be back by lunch, ok?"
Carefully, he rolled over and looked up at her. His face was puffy and red from crying so much, but also very sunken in appearance. She gave him a sad smile and ruffled his hair a little more. He shut his eyes peacefully at the touch for a few minutes, and when he didn't open his reddened eyes for a moment or so afterward, she thought he had fallen asleep. Then his hazel hues appeared again, with a little more light in them than what he been there previously, and he, too, gave a sad smile.
"So, how about it?" she asked, taking the pipe from her mouth with her other hand and blowing out smoke in little rings. Alphonse watched these puffs carefully, as though studying them. Finally he nodded. She smiled. "Good. Now eat up first. You'll need to get your strength up. And no more moping around, ok? The Pipsqueak wouldn't want you to get all sad because of his death. Of course, he also must be screaming his shrimpy little head off for me calling him Pipsqueak."
Al laughed, despite himself. He could imagine it perfectly; Ed screaming how he wasn't short and blowing the whole thing way out of proportion, accusing someone of describing him as something shorter than they actually did, and in turn, insulting himself. He wondered all of a sudden if Ed ever realized that he insulted himself, but he supposed he would never have the chance to find out now.
Slowly, he sat up in bed and set the tray upon his lap. Winry came in and witnessed this action and smiled warmly. She stood silently in the door as she watched him clumsily shovel food into his mouth. After all, he hadn't eaten since he got his body back. When he had finished, Pinako informed him of some clothes that had been set aside for him in the dresser drawer and bid him to change, as his current clothes were wrinkled and stiff from over-usage. Al stood and moved to the dresser on wobbly, clumsy feet and was reduced to skimming the wall in order to reach it. Pinako watched him carefully, and took a puff from her pipe before answering in an exhale of smoke.
"You gonna need help changing, kid?" she asked as he fumbled to get the drawers open and, when he finally did, as he reached into it to pull out an outfit.
"No, I want to try to do it first," Al said as he pulled out a white T-shirt, a red short sleeve over-shirt and a pair of jeans.
"All right then. I'll wait just outside the door, so if you need help, give a shout, ok?" Pinako said, walking out.
"Yes, Auntie. Thank you," Al called after her as the door was shut.
Al slunk along the wall until he reached the bed again and set the clothes upon it. He then seized the bottom of his wrinkly old shirt and attempted to pull it over his head. This resulted in a two or three minute battle between Alphonse and the cloth, or rather, between his mind and his body, as it seemed to have trouble obeying his orders. Finally though, he got it off and carefully slipped the new shirt over his head. He had slight difficulty with the sleeves, but the struggle lasted only a few moments before his torso, surprisingly muscular, was clothed. Then he tried his pants. Currently, he was wearing sweat pants, so all he had to do was shimmy them down his legs, which he did with little trouble. Then he slipped the jeans up his legs, shivering as he felt it slide against his skin, such a new sensation! He had no problem pulling up the zipper; it was just like pulling up his pants, but when he got to the button, he just couldn't get it into the hole, no matter how hard he tried.
"Auntie...I can't button my pants," Al said meekly, turning red in shame.
"Alright, I'll help you," she said, pushing open the door. She chuckled at the look of his face. "Don't be so stressed out about it, kid. You haven't done this in years. I'm surprised you got this far and it's all in the right place."
She walked to him and buttoned the pants carefully, showing him how to do it. She then unbuttoned it and repeated the process until he felt that he could do it on his own. At that point, she stepped back and told him to do it, and he did so with little difficulty.
"Now, you go out and get some fresh air. It's cold, so wear a coat and hat. There's gloves in the cabinet next to the coats, and a pair of shoes for you in front of the door. Are you gonna be ok walking?" she asked suddenly as she watched him wobble to the door without using the wall for support.
"Yes, I'm trying to get used to walking like this again, so I can't use the wall forever. I'll be ok," he replied carefully between steps.
"Socks," she said after a minute.
"What?" he asked, turning to look at her. He was almost to the door now.
"You need to wear socks with the shoes. If you don't, you'll get blisters, and those hurt."
After careful consideration, he stepped back to the bed, and then to the dresser, where he pulled out a pair of socks. Obtaining them, he walked to the bed again and sat upon it and pulled the socks over his feet, trying hard to remember which part the heel of the foot was to rest in. When he had them on and Pinako said nothing about them being on the wrong way, he sat up again and walked back to the door a little faster and with more confidence. The short woman walked by his side now and guided him down the stairs and watched as he put on a coat, hat, shoes and gloves. Admirably, he did so with accuracy and little struggle. When he had finished, she called to Den and he came in a trot and nuzzled against Al, whereupon he received gentle pets upon the head and occasional scratch behind the ear.
"Wanna go for a walk, Den?" Al asked cheerfully. Den wagged his tail and whined. "Alright, let's go."
"Be back by lunch, remember that. I'll make a nice warm stew, alright?"
"Sure Auntie, later!" Al shouted as he and Den walked briskly into the frigid air.
It was so cold. Al hugged himself and shivered as the icy air attacked his uncovered face. For a moment, he was destitute. He recalled that Pinako said she'd make a stew. Ed had loved Auntie's stews, even though it had milk in it. As he was dwelling on these memories of his brother, he watched as his breath came from his mouth in puffy white clouds. This made him realize again that his body was human and he began to skip and giggle as Den followed after him playfully. For a moment, he was so happy to be there, to be in a human body once again. Then, the reminder that his flesh and blood was only a reality because of his brother's sacrifice, and he became sullen again.
He walked for a long time and, without realizing he'd come here, found himself standing where the remains of his house stood, despite years of weathering and decay. In his mind's eye, he saw the fire burning, just as brightly as it had been when the set it that day so many years before. He sighed and stood there for a very long time, as though scrutinizing it, and then finally turned and walked onward. Den followed close after him.
Soon, he was wandering again, and found a few people he very vaguely recognized from his childhood, although the memories were very blurry. They greeted him with a smile, and one person, a young girl, hugged him tightly.
"I heard you were back, Alphonse," she said quietly after releasing him. "Look at you. You've grown so much. Where have you been these past four or five years?"
"Uh...around," he said, avoiding her gaze. He shifted on nervous feet and cleared his throat uneasily. He couldn't tell her about the transmutation, the homunculi, of the Stone.
"I'm so sorry...about Edward I mean," she said after a moment. "You must be so upset."
"He was all the family I had left," Al said quietly, looking at the ground.
"I'm sorry," she repeated, hugging him again.
He couldn't stand it much longer, if he stayed there, listening to them offer their condolences, he'd cry again. So he politely excused himself and walked as swiftly away as his legs would carry him.
As he walked down the path, he looked around him, with looks of wonder in his eyes. The trees were barren, and the grass was brown and dead. So this was winter. Snow hadn't yet covered the ground this season, but he recalled Pinako commenting that it'd, 'be here any day now.'
Soon, he found himself at the graveyard, standing in front of two graves that were placed close together. They were that of his mother, and his Nii-san. He sighed and sat next to Edward's grave, shivering again. Darkness seemed to fall upon his gaze again, and he failed to notice Den laying down next to him, letting go of a soft sigh.
"Hello, Nii-san," Al said abruptly. "Auntie told me to go out for a while. My legs carried me here. I went to the house too, or where it used to be. Some of the old boards are still there. It's really cold here, right now, since winter's here. Auntie says it'll snow soon. My body's doing fine, by the way. I thought you might be a little worried, since you didn't get the chance to see me walking or anything. I had some trouble at first. But I'm getting the hang of it. Everything's very new to me. Like this cold weather. It was hard to remember what it all felt like.
"So, are you there with Mom? I bet you are. Must be nice to see her, although I suppose she's upset that you're with her so soon. Could you tell her I love her, and that I'll come talk to her tomorrow? I have to be back by lunch, so I really can't spend too very long. Oh, I almost forgot, Auntie called you a Pipsqueak and a shrimp. Sorry I didn't say anything in your defense, but I was too busy laughing. I know, I know, you're not short, we're all too tall, except for Auntie of course. It turns out that I'm taller than you though; one hundred eighty-five centimeters. That's fifteen more than you. Sorry, guess you're the only short one...
"I'm really sorry, Nii-san. That you sacrificed yourself for me, I mean. I feel so bad. And I have even been staying in bed since you died. Auntie was worried about me, since I didn't eat or anything. But then she reminded me of what you told me. That you wanted me to be happy, and not sad. But...I'm still sad. I can't help it. You were everything to me, and you still are. It's so hard. I see this body, feel the cold and taste Auntie's cooking, and I'm so happy that I get to experience all this, but at the same time, I'm so sad, because you gave up yourself so that I could have this. But... I don't know what to do. On one hand, I'm happy. I forgot how Den's fur felt, or how warm the blankets are, but on the other hand, I feel like I don't deserve it. But I won't give up. You told me you wanted me to be happy, and I won't let your sacrifice go to waste."
For a while, he sat there, staring out at the horizon. Soft, fluffy clouds lined the distance, and Al supposed that Auntie was right, it probably was going to snow soon. To his dismay, almost as soon as the thought completed itself in his mind, small speckles of white dotted his vision. He looked up at the sky and giggled a little.
"Look, Nii-san, it's snowing!" he said, smiling.
The pure, pristine snowflakes fell more numerous by the moment, and Al gleefully stuck out his tongue and allowed them to collect on it and melt away. Then, as if Edward were smiling at his younger brother, the clouds separated to allow a ray of sunshine to fall on the boy. Curious, he looked up and could have sworn he saw his Nii-san just beyond the clouds, with that all famous grin painted across his playful boyish features. And, as a wind blew past Alphonse, he thought he heard a distant voice that said but one word; "Smile."