Title- A Noble Soul
Author- D M Evans
Disclaimer- so not mine
Characters/Pairing- Alphonse POV, Ed, Roy, Christmas, Riza
Timeline/Spoilers- post FMA a few days after the events of 108 so spoilers for all
series - manga
Warning- sexual in jokes
Summary- Al needs time to rest and recuperate and he's grateful to those helping him when he needs them most.
Author's Note- I've done themes like this already but Alphonse wanted to explore them again. Thanks to SJ Smith for the beta
Gratitude is the sign of noble souls – Aesop
Al ignored his brother, scratching the head of the black and white cat resting on the bed next to him, one of the three resting with him. The purring creature's coloration reminded the young man of the cows back home. Maybe soon he'd see them again but right now, even hiking himself up in bed was too much effort. Ed was busy arguing with Mustang but what was new about that? Oh right, Ed had a real arm again and Mustang had just recovered from being blind. Al didn't really want to know how, even though in the back of his head, he knew exactly what Mustang had done when he went to see Marcoh.
At the moment, there were a lot of things Al would rather not think too hard about. He'd had too many good things he'd rather use to occupy his mind. If he didn't work on holding onto the happy thoughts, he'd think about the lone call Ed had been allowed to make home to tell Winry they were all right. Ed hadn't gotten the chance to tell her that he got his arm back or that Al had come back to them more or less whole before the military made him wrap it up. Thinking about Winry made him homesick.
"It's not fair, not letting us go home," Ed argued. "Al needs Granny and Winry to help look after him."
"Do I really have to point out just because Bradley is gone, that doesn't mean all his supporters are? You could get blamed by some pissed off faction and they won't hesitate to hurt your girlfriend to hurt you," Mustang said, lounging on the window seat. He looked casual but there was nothing of the kind in his tone.
Al noticed his brother didn't even protest Winry wasn't his girlfriend. Ed huffed then replied, "Fine, you're right, but does Al have to stay here? Couldn't he stay in the hospital until his muscles get strong? You brought him to a place called the Slanted Clam! This is not a hotel!"
"And you'd know that how? I didn't think you'd get the reference." Mustang laughed and Ed's cheeks reddened.
"Ed, I don't mind. The girls here have been really helpful. I like this place," Al protested. "I really like Caryn and Millie. Mr. Mustang and Miss Christmas said more girls are coming home every day."
"That's Madam Christmas, Al," Ed said wearily. "Do you know what that means?"
Al rolled his eyes. "I'm with Mr. Mustang on this. I'm surprised you do."
"AL!" Ed went even redder. "This is your influence, Mustang. You've surrounded my brother with…." He waved his hands. "You know."
"Intelligent young women who like helping him? Al was a target in the hospital, Edward. The Madam lost her last bar. No one knows about this new hotel and bar. The girls will make sure Al gets meals and exercise."
"And cats," Al said, trying to get his brother to be less uptight. It wasn't like the girls were propositioning him. Even if they were, his emaciated body wasn't going to do him much good yet. It wasn't that sort of exercise they were helping him with. He found himself thinking on the other kind of exercise though. It was hell to suddenly be plopped into a body full of raging hormones without slowly building up to it. "They have cats." He gestured to the three felines on his bed. In addition to the one he was petting, a tuxedo cat and a tabby kitten were curled along his stick-like legs.
"Hmmm, I remember the time Caryn dressed up as a cat for a …" Mustang broke off as Ed glared. "Cats are good. Your brother needs looking after, Edward and if it were safe, I'd go bring Miss Rockbell and her Grandmother here but it's not."
"Besides, I still need help with getting a bath and Winry and Granny would want to help and that would be too embarrassing," Al said. "It's better with people I don't know so well." That much was true. He also still needed a bit of help on the toilet as well and he'd never be able to look at Winry again if she had to help him.
He might never see these women helping him as his weak muscles found their strength again. Al didn't mind having to depend on them. The Madam's girls were so kind to him. His body showed its first signs of waking up after a bath. At least he had been able to get back under the covers before it was way too obvious he enjoyed being bathed by beautiful women. Al hadn't told Ed about the incident. He'd only get flustered at the reminder Al came out of his armor much older than when he went in. "They're taking good care of me and it's not like you're not here, Ed, to make sure of that."
"I just want to be sure you're taken care of, Al. This is a…hotel." Ed glared at Mustang. "Not a hospital."
"How much trouble can I get into? I can't get out of bed by myself and you watch me like a hawk. I'm fine. I have cats, books to read, good food," Al said then slyly added, "Pretty women to look at."
The fiery glare turned his way but Ed couldn't hold it. He cuffed Al's shoulder lightly. "Don't you start."
A sharp rap sounded on the door jamb and Hawkeye peered in. Behind her was the madam. Al rather liked her. She brought him fancy pastries when Ed – who insisted on healthy food only – wasn't looking. She also seemed to have no problem finding any book Al wanted to read.
"I brought you a cheese cream soup from the colonel's favorite deli, Alphonse," Hawkeye said, holding up a brown bag. "It'll help put some meat on your bones. Feeling hungry?"
"I could eat, ma'am."
"It's a rare teenaged boy who can't," Christmas said. She held a bag of her own and books were visible peeking out of the vast bag she called a purse. "And a sandwich for you."
"Thank you very much," Al said, trying to pull himself up in the bed. Ed helped him while Roy brought over the bed tray. Al let them set everything up for him before taking a hearty bite of the sandwich. His eyes shut at the sweet taste. Date and ginger sandwich, oh he'd just tell Ed it was something boring like jam. "Very good."
Christmas put the books on the bed stand where he could reach them. "Mysteries. Figured you might enjoy those more."
"Thanks. You're all being so nice to me. I appreciate it a lot."
"You deserve it," Hawkeye assured him.
"Yeah, why are you being so nice?" Ed eyed Christmas suspiciously. Al wanted to pinch him. "I know why Hawkeye is."
Christmas turned to Mustang. "They don't know?"
"You know no one but Hawkeye and Hughes did and well…just Hawkeye now." Mustang grimaced. "We could tell them."
"Tell us what?" Al asked, spooning up some of the rich soup. He was going to get fat in no time.
"Christmas is my mother," Mustang said.
Al dropped his spoon, splattering some soup on the tray. Ed, for once, was left speechless.
"Well, technically I'm his aunt. This brat's dad was my older brother." Christmas reached over to tap Roy's cheek. "But he was orphaned when he was four so he came to live with me and my girls. And they're not what you're hoping for, young man." That she leveled at Ed who went a shade of red Al hadn't known he could achieve. "We're information gatherers."
"You're a spy?" Ed blurted out.
"I'm what I just said I am," she replied. "I've worked for the Armstrongs and Grumman and, naturally, my nephew."
"You were raised in a fake brothel?" Ed asked in a way that made Al think his brother had been raised in a barn.
"That's one way of looking at it. The only homes I ever knew growing up were with the madam and Hawkeye's father, my mentor," Mustang replied.
"You probably understood just how Brother and I felt," Al said, a realization dawning on him. Why had Mustang taken such an interest in them? Helped them so much? Many sleepless nights he had pondered that since what else could he do when the world found its rest and he was unable to? Now Al understood. "Understood why we did what we did."
"I was so young when I lost my parents. I don't really remember them but I used to find myself a kid, remembering a bit of story, a nursery rhyme, a hint of a song and I'd want my parents back so very much," Mustang replied. "So, yes, Alphonse, I guess you could say I sympathized."
"It's why you helped us all along, why you're helping now," Al said.
"In part. That's certainly why I started helping, that and a bit of pity, but once I got to know you boys, you were far too interesting to not help. Besides." Roy smirked. "Me simply standing and breathing seems to irritate Ed and that's just fun."
Hawkeye sighed and Al rolled his eyes.
"As I said, he's a brat." Christmas smirked.
"Perfect match for my brother," Al said and Ed stared at him. "That's why they need calm sensible people like me and Miss Hawkeye." Al stifled a yawn. He was not about to give up his rich meal just yet. Sleep could wait a few more minutes. He was making up for years of not sleeping or so it felt.
"I'm well aware of that, Alphonse," Mustang said, heading for the door. "Edward, make sure your brother doesn't fall asleep in his soup. The Madam, Hawkeye and I need to discuss what's happening now that Grumman is Fuhrer. Edward, I know you're not going to be a State Alchemist any more but some of this will pertain to you. When Alphonse is asleep again, feel free to come downstairs and join us."
Al watched Mustang leave with the women then looked up at his brother. "Really, Ed, it will be all right here. I have a lot of protectors."
"I know." Ed sat on the edge of the bed. A cat protested it. "You've earned them."
"Yes, I know. Just a few more bites, Ed and you can take the tray," Al said, knowing he wasn't going to be able to resist for much longer. Still, he'd been awake for more than an hour. That was progress. He would keep making it and before he knew it, he'd be not just whole but healthy, too. His future was waiting for him and he had big plans.