The funeral held that day ended an hour ago, and the sun was lowering it's bright orb slowly behind the hills of the Munich countryside. They had chosen a grass-covered, flower-filled area to bury the man who'd been murdered in cold blood at the expense of helping him. He had been Edward Elric's only friend; his best friend for the two years he lived in this strange world without his brother. His name was Alfons Heiderich, and he was almost identical to what Edward's younger brother looked like, except for his light golden hair and soft blue eyes. Alphonse had bronze hair and silvery-brown eyes. Those were the only differences between the two really.
It wasn't long before the two instantly became close and studied rocketry together. Those were the days of what seemed like youthful enthusiasm and optimism. Edward had been 16 years old then and Alfons 15. The blond was living in Munich in a small apartment with his father, Hohenhiem, and while he longed for home every single day he couldn't help but feel a tiny bit grateful for what he had in his current life. That was until the day his father had just mysteriously disappeared and was nowhere to be found. Knowing that his dear friend was alone, Alfons had then offered to move Edward in with him. Considering the young Elric couldn't cover the finances on his own in the apartment himself and his father had shared, the former alchemist had gratefully accepted. It was true that more than anything, the blond didn't want to be alone in this strange world. He knew no one really, except his father and now Alfons.
Alfons...he'd been brutally shot down the moment he released the rocket that encased Edward, sending the scientist soaring to the other side of the gate and back home again. Edward didn't know it had happened, not until he'd gotten back. At that time, the older Elric had truly felt like Alfons had done something meaningful for him, but at the same time he feared what would be happening all the same. He knew Alfons was dying and there was nothing he could do to stop it. Though Edward had to hand it to him, if it wouldn't have been for Alfons, he never would have been reunited with his younger brother, alive and in the flesh.
Now, that all seemed like such a distant memory as the funeral grounds became devoid of the mourners sobs, gentle whispering of their voices and the music that had played, to which Noah had danced her heart out to, offering her own traditional Roma custom of saying goodbye. The music and the dance had given off and put forth the strong feeling of sadness and poignancy to which the mourners all had been deeply moved by.
Now it was all over. People had left the outdoor service, paying respects, sending off final farewells and leaving flowers respectfully before the rocket engineer's gravestone. Now, they were the only three standing there now, watching the clouds hue slowly changing to elegant mixtures of pinks and oranges. He hadn't cried like Gracia and Noah had after the gypsy's farewell dance. He didn't shed a single tear for his friend, Alfons Heiderich's, death. Something inside of him just felt broken and empty, but he could not bring himself to cry for the youth. It wasn't out of disrespect at all. If he could cry, he would have, but he couldn't. His younger brother, who was slightly confused by it all, had shed a few tears for Alfons, but more due to the fact that he'd constantly dreamed about him and his brother together, and also because Alphonse was a tender-hearted boy. Yet with Edward, it nearly was almost like the time he'd killed Sloth, the homunculus that had taken on the form of his own mother. Maybe he was just in denial about Alfons's death.
It seemed like it couldn't be true. Edward didn't want to believe that he'd go back to the apartment, go to bed and wake up the next morning to discover no Alfons there to excessively discuss his new discoveries in rocket development with him. It didn't matter if Alfons was his brother or not, he was still his close friend. Edward cared equally for the young man as much as Alfons had for him. He'd been Edward's very first friend in this world and his best friend. The scientist, diligent as he was, had basically treated Alfons poorly while living in the dream of being back home and aching to leave this world and it's people behind.
He'd been blind to the fact of how his actions had affected the young rocket engineer, unaware that just hearing Edward talk about leaving made him hurt a little inside. The golden-eyed man never stopped for a moment to believe that Alfons was a real person like him and just like the people in his world. The whole place had seemed like a dream to Edward and that one day he'd awaken to find himself back in Risembool. It never happened, but Alfons had understood how severely Edward suffered from the nostalgia and hence, sent him back home. The last time he'd seen Alfons alive and heard him speak was a memory that would more than likely haunt Edward for the rest of his days. He could remember the words so clearly that they stung the back of his mind like a swarm of a thousand blood-thirsty hornets.
"Really, you're the lucky one, Ed," came his voice sound almost echoing and far away.
Edward's head felt slightly heavy as his golden orbs fluttered slowly open. With a low groan escaping his lips, he tried to gather his bearings and figure out if he were alive or dead. He'd been shot by Dietlinde Eckhart after all. The blond gasped as he came to realize he'd been strapped tightly into one of the rockets inside of the Villa. Shifting his head back and forth he was trying to work out how he'd ended up here in the first place. Edward was about to open his mouth when he heard footsteps coming towards him on the metal platform.
"Shh!" Alfons shooshed him swiftly, holding a finger up to his mouth, blue eyes darting back and forth.
"What is this?" Edward stated in barely above a whisper, gazing up at the blue-eyed boy.
"I've set everything up so you can go back home," Alfons replied quietly. "You can take this second rocket while Eckhart isn't looking. You ready?"
Edward just stared at him incredulously. He didn't say he wanted to go back. It wasn't a good idea at all, not after the uneasy and complicated feelings that had been left between the two the night he left the apartment to go and sleep at the factory. The engineer had told Edward that his work was in it's final stages, and he left after a brutal coughing attack that sent blood spewing into his hand. He'd put the golden-haired man in a state of shock and remorse as he came to realize how he'd been towards Alfons. He made to chase after him, but felt Noah's hand close around his arm to stop him.
"Wasn't...didn't I...I could have sworn Eckhart shot me," Edward breathed, reaching up to his chest and feeling it, but there were no bullet holes.
Alfons leaned over a bit, resting folded arms against the side of the aircraft. "Right in the fake arm. Good thing she's a bad shot," he added with a hint of amusement in his tone.
Edward looked down at his right arm at where the cloth had been penetrated from the bullet and tugged it down, slightly ripping it to reveal the bullet lodged in his counterfeit limb.
Alfons inclinded his head, stealing a glance at Edward's arm and keeping his usual smile planted onto his handsome face. "Our rockets peak at two kilometers a second. Should be enough speed to punch through the pressure, and get out safe," he told his friend, gazing upward to where the portal was located. "That's Haushofer's theory anyway. This one-seater shouldn't have any problems," he added, confidence imminent in his voice.
"Wait a minute I never said I wanted to go!" Edward began to protest, but Alfons just grinned.
"I'm not giving you a choice, Ed," The rocket engineer told the Elric with a slight chuckle.
"Because I'm in the way? You're trying to get rid of me?" Edward questioned, furrowing his eyebrows and hoping against hope that this wasn't true. Had he upset his friend so much the previous night that he'd go to great lengths to get rid of him?
Alfons closed his light-blue eyes and shook his head slowly. He opened them back up and gazed seriously at his friend. "We're real, Edward. We're not just part of your dreams like you think."
Edward gasped, feeling a small lump rising in the back of his throat. He really had treated Alfons so badly in his eyes and now, all he was left with was regret.
"I care, and I make mistakes," Alfons continued in a slightly, wavering tone. Edward stared back at his friend, golden orbs beginning to tingle, glimmering as Alfons's azure ones closed painfully. His eyebrows were furrowed inward. "I may not live much longer, but I'll still be here," Alfons told him, placing a hand over Edward's gloved, flesh one. "Just don't forget me."
I'll never forget you, Alfons. Edward had somehow known that his death would be inevitable. He was jolted in a horror-stricken state as the sight of the boy's blood-soaked chest and the blood covering Noah from clutching the cold form of the rocket engineer filled his vision the moment he'd stepped off of the aircraft. This wasn't the death that the older Elric had expected in the least. He was sure that Alfons was eventually going to die from the deadly coughing disease he had succumbed to. He'd wanted so badly to come back and apologize to his friend for everything that had happened. That ache weighed heavily on his heart as the sun began it's descent behind the hilltops, and the wind whispered through the surrounding trees, rustling the branches and green leaves. It blew back his long, blonde ponytail as he gazed upward at the swaying, wooden appendages.
"Brother, we should probably head back. It's starting to get cold," the younger Elric told him, placing a hand on his older brother's shoulder and squeezing it gently. Edward opened gold, dull eyes to gaze back at Alphonse.
"Yeah, you guys can go on back if you want to. I just want to stay out here for awhile," Edward's voice croaked. He'd barely spoke during the funeral and so his voice sounded cracked and worn from no use of speech. His throat was dry from lack of water, but he didn't care. He just wanted to know how to fill the empty void that had entered his heart so undesirably and unwelcomingly.
"You'll get sick if you stay out here too long, Edward and it's an hour walk back home," Noah told the blond, stepping cautiously towards him, not sure how Edward was going to react. After Alfons's death, he'd treated the gypsy rather coldly. "Why don't you come back to the apartment with us and I'll make us something warm to drink?" the dark-haired woman offered kindly. Her long, white skirt and brunette tresses blew back as a heavy streak of wind rushed past them. Edward closed his golden irises, holding his face to the sky and breathing in. He wasn't sure, maybe he was deluded from not wanting to face the pure and simple truth, but the scientist was almost certain he could feel Alfons's spirit mixed in the air that surrounded them.
"Yeah, I suppose you're right," he agreed before heading to the truck that Hughes had lent them so they could go back home when they were done at the gravesite.
Edward reluctantly climbed into the driver's seat while Noah and Alphonse climbed into the back of the truck. He started up the engine, feeling it rumble underneath his seat and accelerated. There was an overwhelming sensation that rushed through his body as he turned the wheel to leave the funeral grounds. Edward was abruptly inundated with a wave of not wanting to leave the gravesite. He felt like if he'd left, then it would really be true and final. The blond didn't want to say goodbye. Yet at the same time, he felt like he hadn't even been able to say a proper goodbye to his friend. Edward figured he'd just drive them back to the apartment and then drive back out here after everyone had gone to sleep. That would give him some time alone with his friend and to his own sentiments. Edward lost himself in thought as he drove the truck down the desolate road, the towns streetlights slowly coming into view and not hearing the conversation between Alphonse and Noah in the back of the vehicle.
"Do you think Edward will be okay?" the brunette questioned the younger Elric as silently as a possible. The last thing she wanted was for Edward to overhear her. "He barely spoke two words today at Alfons's funeral and has hardly talked at all since he was killed."
"Yeah, Brother will be alright. This is just his way of dealing with things," the bronze-haired boy tried to explain. "I'm sure you know of all the hardships we both encountered in our lives, don't you Noah? I mean, Brother told me of your ability to see into a person's heart. So you know how much loss we've encountered, right?"
Noah was a little taken aback by the young Elric's words, but she just placed a small smile on her dark-painted lips. "Yes, I did see some things, but I never delved so deep into his heart to discover his hidden secrets. That would've been cruel of me. I saw one thing that was very precious to him and I vowed never to allow myself to see that deep into his soul again. I didn't want to upset him. I only knew of your mother dying and your soul being attached to that suit of armor," the gypsy woman replied. "I didn't realize you brothers had lost so much, but still. Alfons was Edward's best friend. They were very close. Shouldn't he be grieving like anybody else would? I didn't even see him cry once at the funeral today. Come to think of it, Ed hasn't really mourned at all from the time he saw him dead."
Alphonse just shook his bronze head. "I think that Ed needs time for it to sink in. Right now, he's in a state of denial. He doesn't want to believe that his friend was killed. We went through this before with friends we've lost. Don't worry, it'll hit him soon, and when it does all we can do is be there for him if he'll allow us to."
"Hmmm," Noah hummed in a lucid voice. She hugged herself slightly, rubbing the white sleeves on her dress and peered over the back of the truck, catching a glimpse of the top of Edward's raised, golden bangs and long ponytail that streaked out behind him in waves.
Shortly after the conversation between herself and Alphonse, the trio had arrived back at the apartment. Edward shut the engine off of the truck and stepped out wordlessly, advancing towards the building without even bothering to look back at his brother or Noah. Another thought had been continuously tugging at his fragile mind; Hohenhiem. He hadn't even told the younger Elric about their father's death yet and that was something else that burdened his already-heavy heart. Even in this world, death was not something you could so easily overcome. In fact, tragedy seemed to be more imminent here than back at home. He would have to tell his younger brother sooner or later. Maybe he'd do it tonight after he got home. Knowing Alphonse, he'd definitely be awake. It was only his second night in this new world after all.
Edward climbed the familiar flight of stairs before reaching their door and inserting the key to open it. Alphonse and Noah followed silently, at a loss for words as what to say to the blond scientist as he entered the apartment, back still to them. He went straight down the hall, heading for his bedroom and closed the door behind him. Edward tossed the keys on his desk and collapsed onto his bed, curling up into a fetal position. He buried his face into a pillow, drawing it up close around his head and clinging to it like a frightened child would their mother as though seeking some sort of comfort from it. Why did all of this even have to happen in the first place? What had Alfons really done to deserve to be killed? And himself, Edward hadn't done anything to rectify the situation, instead his actions had caused his best friend to be murdered.
I'm sorry, Alfons. I never even had the chance to apologize to you and explain why I acted the way I did. Did you leave this world with unsettled cynicism towards me? Do you hate me for being the way I was towards you, Alfons? Why couldn't I have just understood that he was as real as myself and Al? Edward slammed his automail fist down into the pillow. The young man began to tremble and felt a whimper try to escape his lips, but he held it back. He couldn't let himself to succumb to the emotions welling in his chest. He had to be strong for both Noah and Al. The last thing he wanted his little brother to see was him completely falling apart and losing composure.
Noah had been close to Alfons as well and he'd seen the gypsy woman and Gracia hugging each other tightly at the funeral, weeping and mourning over the loss of their friend. The entire crew that Alfons had worked so hard with on rocket development had been there as well and had wept over their youngest member's departure from the world. He was the one who needed to stay strong for all of them, just as he had at the funeral. He had hoped that he didn't seem too cold towards the mourners.
Edward rolled over onto his back, placing the crook of his automail over his eyes which were stinging with threatening tears. Two deaths in one day. The death of his father and his best friend. It was almost too much to bear. He hadn't even really taken the time to mourn for the loss of either of them, but what good would that do anyway? They were gone now weren't they so why waste time pining over someone that was gone now and couldn't come back, even if he wanted them to? He swallowed back the lump that had built in his throat and forced unshed tears back behind his eyelids once more. Edward was interrupted in his thoughts by a quiet knock at the door.
"Hey, Brother?" came Alphonse's feeble voice from the other side of it. "Can I come in, please?"
"Sure, it's open Al," Edward called back, peering from underneath his metal wrist. The door opened slowly and in walked his brother with hunched shoulders and head slightly lowered as if afraid that his older brother might lash out out at him. "I was just wondering if you'd like some hot cocoa. Noah made us some and-," he began nervously.
"Al, is something wrong?" Edward inquired, sitting up in bed, tilting his head curiously at his younger brother. "You don't have to be so neurotic around me you know," he added with a small smile. "I'm still the same old Ed."
A slightly relieved expression crossed Alphonse's face and his once tense shoulders relaxed. He crossed the room, advancing towards the bed as Edward scooted a bit, allowing his younger brother to sit down at the foot of it. "Well...in all honesty, I wanted to talk to you about something," the boy stated, his voice still sounding a little shaken-up.
"What is it, Al?" the older Elric questioned, leaning up on his elbows to gaze at his little brother. "Are you okay?"
Alphonse shook his light-brown head and looked at his older brother. "I just heard something from Noah, but you can't get mad at her Ed. She honestly didn't know," he began seriously. "Noah told me that...that Dad was killed."
Edward's golden orbs widened significantly, and the breath being completely sucked from his lungs. "She...so, she told you huh?" he sighed, resigning himself once more to fall back into the pillows and he placed his automail over his face again to hide the guilt in his eyes. "I'm sure she wouldn't have said anything if she did know I hadn't told you, so I can't be angry with her. It's just...I certainly hadn't planned on you finding out like this," the blond mumbled hesitantly.
"Why didn't you tell me, Brother? Why didn't you tell me that Dad offered his life to get you back home?" Alphonse inquired softly, staring down at his knees.
"Because...because you'd already gone through too much, Al. I didn't want this to be something else extra added on your shoulders. You've had enough to deal with already and I couldn't bear to see you hurting," the older Elric admitted. "It was hard enough on you without you having to know the truth."
"Brother, I appreciate the fact that you were just trying to protect me, but we can't let something like this go as if it were nothing. You should have told me no matter what my feelings might be," Al replied quietly, trying hard to get his older brother to look at him, but Edward's amber eyes were hidden underneath his automail. "It's okay though, Ed. I'm not mad," he reassured his older brother. A small stretch of silence plagued the room momentarily before Al spoke up again. "I think Dad deserves a funeral just like Alfons had," the younger Elric told him. "Maybe we should arrange one for him too?"
"There's no body to bury, Al," Edward told him blankly. "When Dad sacrificed himself for me so that I could go back home, he transmuted himself and Envy so the portal would open. Envy bit into Dad. If there was anything left of him, it'd just be his blood spattered on the floor of that place and I do not want to go back there."
"Well, we don't need a body then, but still...Dad deserves a funeral! As his sons it's the least we can do isn't it?! We don't have to have a big poignant ceremony like Alfons had. It could just be the three of us. Me, you and Noah! Please, Brother!" Alphonse stated indignantly. "We need to pay our respects to Dad too."
Edward peered once more underneath his automail to stare into the determined, tremulous eyes of his younger brother and he couldn't help but smile a bit. "Alright then, we'll arrange a small memorial service for Dad," the older brother stated tentatively. "We can do it whenever you want, but I don't want Noah there, okay?"
Alphonse didn't bother to question his older brother on why he didn't want Noah there, he just nodded understandingly, knowing Edward had his reasons. "Well, if we're gonna do it then let's go do it tonight while everyone is asleep. That way we won't be disturbed. We should go back out to the place where Alfons is buried. I think Dad would have loved to be put to rest in the country since he loved it so much," the boy told him.
"You want to make his grave next to Alfons's?" the older Elric inquired slightly aporetical, sitting up in the bed now to watch his brother with a quizzical expression on his handsome features.
Alphonse shook his brown head. "Nah, not next to Alfons, but in that general area. The country was Dad's favorite place considering that's where we were born. He told me that the day he came back home," Alphonse replied fondly, eyes gazing up at the ceiling from the memories of the day his dad had come home.
"I see, that night you went off with him alone," Edward mumbled more to himself than anything. "I had been so angry with him for just up and leaving us the way he did. Once I came to understand his reasonings as to why he did it, my hatred for him just evaporated. If it weren't for Dad finding me when I ended up here, I'd most likely be dead by now."
"See? And that's why we need to do something for Dad's memory," Alphonse stated, as though slightly pushing the matter. "Gracia wouldn't mind if we took some flowers from her store and left her some money on the counter, right?" the younger brother asked curiously.
Damn...has he had this all thought out since Noah told him? "Sure, Al. I don't see why not. We'll just leave her a note and let her know so she doesn't wonder why flowers are missing," Edward said, nodding his head. He stood up from his bed and grabbed his brown coat that was hanging over the back of his chair. "Since it's getting cold out, I should probably wear a coat so I don't get sick, right?"
A broad smile crossed Alphonse's face as he watched his brother and he nodded his head. "That's right."
Ed grabbed the keys that he'd tossed hastily onto the desk the moment he'd entered his room. "I'm sure Hughes won't mind if we take the truck back out there once more tonight. He'll understand once I explain to him our reasons as to why," Edward stated. "C'mon. If we're going to do this, then let's go."
Much later that night, after Noah had gone to bed, the brothers secretly left the apartment. They pulled up next to the trees out in the country, a small distance from where Alfons had been laid to rest. Gazing over at the stone, Edward felt his heart clench painfully in his chest, and he averted his gaze. Alphonse had already jumped down out of the truck, carrying an armful of white flowers and a wooden cross he'd crafted himself for Hohenhiem. "I want to put his grave under the tree if that's okay," Al told his brother, gazing back over his shoulder. "Dad always loved sitting out underneath that big oak tree when we were little boys. That's why put that swing there, so he could be close to us and be in his favorite place at the same time."
"Sure, Al. Whatever you want," the older Elric told him, trying to speak past the mournful lump that had suddenly decided to rise unwillingly in his throat at his younger brother words. Hohenhiem had put the swing there so he could be close to his boys. That certainly did seem like his father. He could feel himself start to tremble slightly. Edward cradled a bouquet of flowers in his right arm as he headed for the spot Alphonse was standing in. It was underneath a massive oak tree, the branches hanging low and the green leaves rustling against one another. He hadn't changed out of his funeral clothes and neither had his younger brother. At least we're dressed for the occasion. Edward had to hold back a bitter laugh as he made his way to his brother and came to stop next to him. Alphonse had lowered himself down and dug a small hole, placing the wooden cross firmly into the freshly turned earth. He pushed back the rest of the dirt and patted it around the bottom of the wood so the cross would stay unmoving into the earth.
"Too bad we didn't have the use of alchemy here, huh Brother?" Alphonse told him, still working on getting the cross in place, making sure it wouldn't come out of the ground. "We could have just transmuted a stone."
"It's alright, Al. This is what counts right?" the older brother told him with a small smile on his face. "Dad would be happy to know we're doing this for him."
Alphonse stood up and brushed his dirt-covered hands off against one another. "Yeah, this is what counts," he reiterated as he gazed down at the cross, his flowers for his father once more gathered in his arms. "So, brother...can I ask what Dad's last words were...you know, before it happened?" the younger Elric inquired, his voice wavering slightly with the onset of tears.
"He...," Edward began, not really wanting to reveal everything that Hohenhiem had said about being a sinner. "He felt guilty for not being able to stop Envy from hurting me. He said that the only way he could atone for...for the things he'd done in his life in regards to the Philosopher's Stone, was to give his life so he could...well...bring us back together again. He also told me to give you his regards," the blond tried to explain to his younger brother without making it sound any worse than it should be.
"Dad...I can't believe he's really gone," Alphonse murmured, trepidation sounding in his tone before he lowered himself once more in front of the grave and placed the flowers on the fresh lump of earth.
Edward followed, lowering himself next to him on one knee as well and placing his bouquet next to his brother's. He rested his elbow on his knee and turned his head to look at Alphonse who had thin lines of tears steadily streaking down his cheeks, and he felt a surge of sympathy for the boy course through his trembling body. He placed a gloved hand comfortingly on his younger brother's shoulder and squeezed it gently, allowing the boy to cry and mourn the loss of their father.
Edward removed his hand from his brother's shoulder and reached out to the cross, running his fingertips down the wooden symbol and felt his heart break. It was almost as if he'd lost his father and his best friend all over again. The images of Envy biting through his father's body and all the blood that had spilled like a raging waterfall, crashing down to the floor flashed through the older Elric's mind. He could no longer fight the intense emotion that threatened to crack his being and he lowered his head, allowing his golden bangs to shield his crumpling face. Edward released a quivering breath. "I'm sorry Dad...Alfons. I'm so sorry," he whispered tremulously.
"Brother?" Alphonse said worriedly, gazing over at his older brother and wiping at his silvery-brown eyes with the backs of his hands. Edward was now on both of his knees, his head hanging in grief and hands planted firmly on the ground and fingers grasping the soil. His teeth were clenched tightly and visibly, and the corner of his mouth was quivering. Silent pain was slamming him from every possible direction like an avalanche of rock encompassing his heart. Alphonse saw a tear sneak down the older Elric's cheek, hidden behind his golden curtain of hair and fall from his chin, followed by another and the another. "Oh, Ed," Alphonse lamented in a whisper as he placed an arm comfortingly around his brother's quaking shoulders.
"I'm sorry, Al," Edward spoke hoarsely, his voice cracking as he allowed himself to be enveloped by his grief and a thin wail escaped his lips.
The blond buried his face in his hands, and his body visibly shook with grief. Alphonse knew that it would happen sooner or later, that Edward would have to allow himself to mourn over the loss of their father and his best friend. He couldn't keep himself composed and strong forever, and so he did just the opposite, allowing himself to completely lose control of the emotions he'd had in check. Edward succumbed to the tears, crying for Alfons and Hohenhiem both. He cried all the unshed tears for Alfons that he could have cried at the funeral but didn't. He cried for all the time they spent together lost, he cried for the way he'd treated the boy the night he'd left for the factory when he'd discovered that the Thule Society had planned on using his world for their uprising.
Edward cried for the cause of Alfons's death being his fault, or so at least he'd had himself convinced it was, and he felt a painful tightness surrounding his heart. He hadn't even be able to save his father from Envy's wrath and he blamed himself for that too, despite what Hohenhiem had said to him. He had wanted to get his father down out of danger's way and keep him from being killed. He'd had Alfons in this world and now he'd known where his father had been all that time he'd gone missing. He'd been determined to have him back as well, but that was lost to Hohenhiem's crimes of the past.
Edward sobbed silently, brokenly into his hands, tears seeping through his clamped fingers and falling onto the fresh soil, nourishing Hohenhiem's symbolic grave. He didn't know how long he'd remained there on his knees in front of the grave and Alphonse never once questioned him or tried to move him. He'd just allowed his brother this time to grieve, and time to mourn over what he could have saved. It was almost like bitter irony slapping him harshly across his face. After a while, his tears slowed and his weeping had calmed down to hitched breath. He placed his hands firmly on the ground soaked from his tears and stared at the cross.
In a way he wished that he'd had something of his father's to bury, but at least they were able to do this much for him. It was the Elric brothers' memorial for Hohenhiem. Something that would remain a secret just between the two of them. Edward couldn't help but vaguely wonder if he and his mother had been reunited upon his return to the Gate and he couldn't hold back a small grin at the mental imagery of his mother and father's reunion. He could picture her radiant smile broadening on her beautiful face with emerald eyes sparkling lovingly into Hohenhiem's golden ones. The blond stood up from the ground, his hands hanging down at his sides in loose fists. The night wind was rustling the tree branches overhead and he felt it rake through his hair as if Hohenhiem's large hand was brushing back his son's bangs like he'd done when he'd found Edward two years ago missing his limbs once more. The young scientist closed his golden orbs and turned his face towards the sky to gaze up into the star spangled blanket stretching across the atmosphere.
"Brother?" came Alphonse's uncertain tone from behind the older Elric. "Are you okay?" He felt his younger brother's warm hand close over his left bicep.
"Yeah, Al. I'm just fine," Edward assured him, lowering his face to incline his head and glance at his brother both with tear-bright eyes. He smiled sheepishly at him and wiped the back of his hand across his face. "Sorry for that. I didn't mean to just..." he began hesitantly but was cut off by a shake of his brother's head.
"Don't be sorry for mourning your losses Brother, that's just stupid. It's only human and we're only humans. Those were your words once," Al told him, pulling a face.
Edward just chuckled a bit before turning towards his brother. "I was thinking of a lot of things. You remember I told you that we can't keep living like we're all that matter in the world?"
"Yeah, I do remember that and I stand by what you said, Brother," Al told him with an indignant nod of his head.
"Well, Dad and Alfons were living proof. If we can help the world in any way possible, then maybe we can help at least prevent other deaths like the ones they had. That'd be one more life saved from the chaos and apathy of the world, wouldn't it?" Edward told him, staring seriously into his younger brother's eyes. "I truly believe that Dad and Alfons would have wanted us to do this. Don't you agree?"
"I most certainly do, Brother," the younger Elric told him, staring down at his father's memorial. "Dad would want us to keep moving onward, one step at a time."
"Dad or Alfons wouldn't want me to just give up. I have to keep living for them and accomplish the goals that they couldn't or goals that they would have wanted to see from me. I...we need to live for the people in this world, no matter how foreign or strange it may seem, this place is home now. We have no choice but to keep moving forward," the older Elric explained to his younger brother, his hands placed firmly on Al's shoulders. "I thought for a long time as I traveled this world searching for a way to find you again, that I was unsure of myself, that it wouldn't be worth it to move forward. I questioned it and for the longest time, and I just didn't know but now I do Al. So, let's live for Dad and for Alfons and do good in this world for their sakes and for the sake of others."
Alphonse gave a swift jerk of his head in agreement with Edward to which he returned with a smile. Yes, the lives of Alfons Heiderich and the Elric brothers' father, Hohenhiem, were lost, but he and Alphonse were still living. They had many things left to accomplish in this world. They would continue to move on and walk forward. The sun was just beginning it's morning peak over the grassy hills and plains as dawn neared ever closer.
"Ready to head back then?" Edward asked, turning back towards his brother.
"We probably should," the bronze-haired boy replied.
"Yeah, Noah will be up soon and knowing her, she'll probably worry if we're not there," the blond added as he cast one last glance at the small, wooden cross for his father. We'll do this for you guys and for all the friends that we couldn't save. We'll live our lives for you. And so the brothers ascended up the hill. All that could be seen was their backs as they left behind the sorrow and headed towards the awaiting truck to go back home. It was the start of a new day, a new life and adventure awaiting just beyond their reach.