Five Things That Never Happened to the Brothers Elric
by Edmondia Dantes
Disclaimer: FMA is not mine.
AN: LJ memes are fun.
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His brother is tiny, even smaller than he is, all soft and pink and squishy, and quiet and fussy and it always feels like his heart is going to burst when he's around him, like there's not enough of him to encompass the happiness he feels, and he rolls Alphonse Alphonse Alphonse Alphonse around in his head, soft and gold and perfect, but it comes out as a clumsy "Ahlfahns" and he hates that he can't say it properly, and spends long hours showing him shiny things and sitting close by, trying to make him smile, trying to make the name fit on his tongue, trying to make the fake smiles on his mother's face go away, trying to soothe the wracking coughs that make Alphonse turn red and scream and cry and fight to breathe, and now his father doesn't pick him up anymore when he cries and screams with him, shrieks his head off because he's hurting and hurting and hurting and nobody is helping him.
His father walks out three days before his fifth birthday. Later, he thinks it's because he knew, and later still, eleven years old and standing in the dark, he clenches the papers in his fists and thinks Thanks, old man.
He presses a kiss to his sleeping mother's cheek, softly closes and locks the door behind him, and heads for the graveyard.
When Winry's parents come home, it seems like a sign, and when a blond-haired stranger steps through their door, he grabs onto Al and pulls him back up onto the safety of the stairs, staring down through the slats at the man his mother loves. Beside him, Al fidgets with excitement, but Ed already knows that the only good that ever came of that man is sitting beside him, squirming in his hold.
They're human. They're human and this is wrong and this place shouldn't exist and this is wrong and they don't deserve this and he can't even breathe and he can't think at all and this is all wrong, this is wrong, this is wrong.
He traces out the circles with shaking hands and wonders why he doesn't feel like throwing up.
The pink is pretty, he thinks abstractly, and claps his hands together. The pink is pretty, and the people are screaming, and behind him, a homunculus is clapping her hands in slow, sardonic approval, but none of them matter anymore, because AlAlAlAlphonsemybrotherletitworkletitworkletitworkletitworkplease-
As the world is swallowed in light, he wonders who it is that's crying. He knows it isn't him - he's the one who's laughing.
"Fucking bastard colonel," is what he said, storming out of the office and down the hall in a huff, all clenched teeth and angry bluster, not all of it feigned - Mustang had some balls to try such blatant manipulation on him, and it made him want to put his fist through that smirking face, but he grew calm and still again as he slipped through the door into the dorm, smiled up at his brother and slung himself over a too-huge shoulder.
"How did it go?" Al asked mildly, and turned the page of his book, an older text containing more philosophical junk than any decently sound reasoning.
"Showing me off again," Ed told him, and gave a happy purr when Al chuckled and gave a gentle tug on his bangs, "but the idiot he wants me to kick out has a decent collection that we can raid in the aftermath."
"Hmm," Al said, and he rolled his eyes at what he didn't.
"No, he didn't hit on me today. Or yesterday. You're paranoid."
"You," Al said primly, "Have an Arrangement with a man who is both your military superior and twice your age."
"Not that kind... and even if he wanted to, he wouldn't dare, because Hawkeye is scary and Armstrong would sit on him while Hughes talked at him or something."
"And I would break every bone in his body, and then set him on fire with his own stupid gloves," Al said pleasantly, and flipped another page.
"Yes, and you would - wait, what?"
Alphonse smoothed his bangs again, empty gauntlet suddenly very heavy against the curve of his skull. "Human bodies are so fragile, you know?"
Edward stared. "...Al?"
"Ssh, brother. I'm reading."
A week and a half later, he did his best not to puke while Al outran the best alchemists of Amestris's army. He wasn't sure if it was the smoke or the grief that made his eyes sting so sharply, but he supposed it didn't really matter.
That life was dead now.
Life on the island was harsh, but the boys could adapt. The unexpected storm was harsher, but they could adapt to that too. The soft moist places that were left behind were difficult to navigate, but they came out of that venture with a decent amount of food that looked healthy and only a few bite wounds for their troubles. They grew stronger and leaner and faster and harsher, but in the end, they were only two very little boys who missed their mother.
So when their mother came to them, wading out of the sea with a smile like forever, they followed her home.
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It was a strange thing to realize that he was stronger than his brother. It was a stranger thing to realize that he was stronger than everyone.
Alphonse hated hurting people, but they were going to hurt his brother.
In the rain and the confusion, it would even look like an accident, and for once, the armor would be more protection than curse - metal, after all, could hold no expression that would betray him.
He pretends that he doesn't remember those years. It makes things easier, when wearing the coat still makes them flinch, when they avoid his eyes (just a little too dark) and his smile (just a little too wise) and his hair (just a little too loose) and even the sound of his voice (softer and sweeter, not echoing the way they're used to).
Mustang avoids him the most because he knows that he's lying, that the basic principles of soul transmutation (they invented it, he lived it, and it was obvious to anyone with the eyes to see it) mean that the body is only the housing, and the soul holds the heart of the mind.
Alphonse kind of wants to punch him on principle, but that's just the echo of Edward, humming through his thoughts and underneath his skin, real as breathing and the hereafter.
The most annoying thing about alchemy is that he needs hands to do it, and if he could, he would have sealed his cracks and protected her from Pride. But he couldn't, so he didn't, and even though her corpse was a dead weight inside, he managed to kill him anyway.
Edward is the most wonderful, most precious thing in his life, and even wearing a face that isn't his, he's still beautiful. They cut the body's hair, dyed it and styled it, and if it weren't for its soft curves and too-dull eyes, he would be close to perfect.
Next time, they decide, they'll use Russell and Fletcher instead.
They drink coffee in the mornings - no sugar and definitely no milk, and Edward eats oatmeal while he crunches on dry toast.
Edward startles, turns huge gold eyes on him, and then calms from his fluster, lips curling into a smile. "Yeah?"
"Nothing," he says mildly, and reaches over to brush his fingers over his cheek. "Love you."
Edward doesn't even flinch today. It's progress. "Yeah, Al. You too."
Alphonse smiles and kisses his cheek, and doesn't mind when Ed squirms, embarrassed, and gives his shoulder a halfhearted shove. "Sap," Edward mutters, but that token protest is all he gives before quieting, sliding an arm around his waist and burying his nose into pale hair, breath tickling against Al's throat.
Alphonse closes his blue, blue eyes and laughs.
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