Title: Inseparable
Author: Kristen Sharpe
Date: May 24, 2009
Series: Fullmetal Alchemist (based on the first anime)
Genre: Slight AU (alternate universe)/General
Rating: K
Warnings: None.
Disclaimer: "Fullmetal Alchemist" belongs to Hiromu Arakawa, Square ENIX, Studio BONES and various other parties.
Author's Note: This an alternate take on the original anime's finale. And, I've once again stepped briefly into a new fandom because a plotbunny attacked me and would not let go. Many thanks to SageSK for being my beta.

The whistle of a train split the crisp morning air, and the blond teen inclined his head toward the sound. Then, he offered his companions a rueful grin.

"I'd better be going then," he said.

"I hope you have a safe trip, Alphonse." Riza Hawkeye gave the boy a warm smile.

Alphonse Elric returned it. "Thank you." He shifted the suitcase in his hands. "I don't know when I'll be back, but I'm glad everyone is alright after… everything." His hazel eyes subtly shifted to the figure standing at Hawkeye's side.

Colonel Mustang met his gaze with his remaining eye. Half of his face was still swathed in bandages, and, from the list in his stance, Al suspected he would need Hawkeye's help to get back to their car. But, the Colonel wasn't going to let Alphonse - or anyone else if he could avoid it - see such a weakness.

"If there's any way I can help you in your search, don't hesitate to contact me," said Mustang. His lips twitched into a faint smirk. "And, when you find him, remind Fullmetal that disappearing indefinitely generally constitutes desertion."

Al bobbed his head in acquiescence. "Thank you," he said sincerely.

But, there was something in his answering smile. Something familiar but somehow misplaced. Before Mustang could identify it, the train whistle blew again. This time, the engine began to lurch into motion.


Al lunged for the nearest boarding access. Halfway there, he spun briefly to shout another goodbye, his free arm waving wildly. Then, he was gone, leaping onto the slowly accelerating train and ducking inside.

As Mustang watched the train pull out of the station, he felt Hawkeye shift closer to him, discreetly offering her shoulder for support. For once, he allowed himself to accept the gesture and rest a little of his weight against her.

"Do you think he'll be okay?" she asked quietly.

"He will."

Of that Mustang was certain. Alphonse might have been overshadowed by his elder brother's bombastic personality, but either Elric was a force to be reckoned with. That in mind, he finally placed that familiarity he had seen in Alphonse's ostensibly honest smile.

Well. He supposed it shouldn't be a surprise to learn that Alphonse shared Fullmetal's smirk, however hidden it might have been.

But, to have seen it when he mentioned…

"Yes," he reiterated suddenly, "he'll be fine."

Yes, Alphonse would be fine. At least until he worked out just exactly what stunt the Elric brothers had pulled this time.

The blond teen found Izumi Curtis waiting for him halfway down the only slightly crowded passenger car. He quickly slipped into the seat across from his old teacher and settled his suitcase by his feet. Then, spreading his legs and leaning back, he released a gusty sigh.

"That was harder than I thought it would be."

Izumi watched him critically. "If you come back for any length of time, Mustang will probably realize," she said after a few minutes.

The teen opposite her avoided eye contact and instead watched the streets of Central slide past the window.

"I know," he said after a moment. Then, he shrugged. "But, it's not like he can prove anything."

He did not ask how she knew. He had known she would. She always knew.

Izumi Curtis watched the blond teen try to pretend he wasn't fidgeting under her stare. But, his hands betrayed him. They rested in his lap, fingers interlocked, thumbs rubbing against the smooth skin as though constantly making sure it was skin. Skin and not armor. Skin and not automail.

"Are you going to be okay?" she asked after a moment.

The boy shifted his shoulders in what might have been another shrug. "I don't really have a choice."

He stared out the window, lost in his own thoughts, and his former teacher stared at him lost in hers.

His face was as familiar to her as it was foreign. Like his eyes. Hazel and not brown. Hazel and not gold.

Out of the corner of his eye, the teen saw Izumi's stern face falter into something gentler, something sad. Quickly, he faced her with a sudden smile. "It's really not such a bad thing," he said. "Everyone will expect me to travel for at least a little while. So, I'll have time to adjust and decide what I want to do."

"But, you'll be alone."

"Not really."

The pair lapsed into silence after that. He didn't know how to explain his assertion, and she didn't know how to ask.

He would be alone in every literal and technical sense. And yet, everything that had ever defined "not alone" for him through most of his life would be with him. Always.

He would have to tell Winry and Granny Pinako. Because they would see what his teacher saw.

They would see Ed's eyes with Al's smile. They would see Al's patience when they expected Ed's temper. They might never make the impossible leap of logic to state the truth in so many words or even thoughts, but they would sense it.

So, he would tell them.

It would be different. But, they would adjust. He would adjust. He would travel and search for the elder brother he had supposedly lost. And, hopefully, what he would find and bring back would not be a brother who was not and could never again be lost, but the self he had yet to discover.

Then, he could go home.

And, get a cat. Maybe several.