Title- Still Learning

Disclaimer- Arakawa owns them. I'm just playing without profit.

Characters/Pairing-Alphonse, cameo by Edward

Timeline/Spoilers- post 108 so spoilers for all

Summary- He is still learning

Author's Note- I had two really good ideas the moment I saw this prompt. This is neither of them. It's what came out when fingers touched keyboard.

XXX

It was different now. They still studied together, but the changes were profound. Ed's eyes would light up whenever they'd uncover a new passage, then the gold would dull as the alchemic meaning skittered off the damaged pieces of his brother's mind. The Gate ensured that Ed would never be able to grasp the intricacies of alchemy again.

Ed said he didn't mind, that it was worth the sacrifice to get Al back from inside the Truth. Al knew part of Edward believed that full heartedly, but he couldn't help missing his alchemy. Al had heard Granny say more than once that the early loss of a job was like losing a loved one. No matter what Ed said, he had to miss being an alchemist. It had defined both of the brothers from their earliest years, and Ed now had a large hole in his life.

Alphonse almost wished Ed had allowed their father to pay the toll. Hohenheim probably had known he was dying. Ed hadn't saved their father – not that Al was entirely sure Ed's motives were to spare him – and in the process his brother had lost part of himself. Still, it might have been something Ed felt was necessary. It was his sin that he needed punished for.

Thinking on the other ways he could have regained his life, Al picked up a book off the table, running a finger over the spine. It was written in ancient Xerxes. His father had owned the book. In his jacket pocket, Hohenheim had left a list of his personal caches that he had stashed across the world. Al could picture his dad as a young man, looking like Ed if empowered Father was anything to judge by.

Hohenheim had said he hated studying at first, found it so hard. It was not his nature to be studious. He hadn't even been able to read until the homunculus had taught him. It was odd to think of just how old Hohenheim was, that he'd been born into servitude, abused and used. What must it have been like to not even have a name to call your own? Al wished he'd had more time to get to know his father.

Putting the book aside, Al picked up another one. This tome he would give to Mustang. Al hadn't told Ed for some time that he had begun studying alchemy with Mustang. Al wasn't sure what Ed would think of the arrangement. He knew Ed would feel left out, but he could no longer share in certain things. Teacher had no interest in expanding into alkahestry, content with her life as a housewife in a small town.

Mustang, on the other hand, had a whole new world to explore. When he and Al were alone, the older alchemist could get positively giddy as he pushed the limits of circle-less alchemy. Mustang hadn't asked to open the transmutation circle so Al could forgive him for allowing Marcoh to restore what had been taken from the man. Ed had refused to allow Marcoh to try.

Of course, Mustang managed to make several gigantic missteps with the clap alchemy, trying to overreach his current skills. His imagination was nearly as wild as Ed's, but he was older and more difficult to rein in. If Mustang wanted to research his newfound abilities, Alphonse was content to let experience be the man's teacher. The only 'I told you so's' needed were a raised eyebrow and a wag of Al's head. Alphonse wasn't at all surprised at how fast Mustang picked up on it or just how brilliant the man was. Even Ed had to admit that.

Granted, his brother hadn't wanted to. Ed hid his hurt very poorly when he first learned about Alphonse's new partner. Ed trusted Mustang, but their rivalry hadn't faded much. Ed still hadn't returned those cens either, but he finally conceded it was a good idea for Alphosne to have someone who could actually perform the alchemy, too, as they broke new ground.

Al flipped through the book he'd selected for Mustang. It was in Xingese. While Al was in Amestris, Mustang tutored him in his mother's language, and Mei took up the task when Al was in Xing. The alkahestry was new to all three men, and Al harbored a hope that maybe Ed could learn it since it was fundamentally different. Of course, they had to translate it, and the Xingese had an insane amount of letters to learn. It was slow going. His father must have been able to read it since the book was his, but then again, wasn't he the Western Sage?

Al decided he'd take the book to Mustang tonight. Roy – he'd have to remember to call him that – had introduced Alphonse to his Aunt and his 'sisters.' Al loved going to the hostess bar. That was an education of an entirely different sort. Roy have provided books for that, too, and upon hearing his brother's footsteps coming up quickly, Al wondered if he'd remembered to put those away. Ed had no idea where Al went at night.

Ed came in with one of the books in question, holding it out. At a quick glance, the cover had what looked like a Xingese couple sitting in a well-painted bamboo forest. It took a second look to realize that she was sitting on his lap naked. "General Jackass or Ling?"

Al sighed. "Does it matter who gave it to me?"

Ed glanced at the cover and shrugged. "Can I borrow it?"

That request could mean only one thing where Al was concerned. "Just try not to break your mechanic in the middle of one of the more intricate positions."

Ed snorted, heading off.

Learn something new everydayAl thought. Alchemy, sex, new recipes from other countries, it was all waiting for discovery. Studying might be somewhat solitary. Education, however, was very communal, and Al couldn't imagine a better community to than the one he shared.