Yeah, I know I should be working on Lost Fullmetal Heart…but, this idea has been bugging me for a while. And I want to practice writing Alphonse. So, for now, you can read this while I work on the chapter. I hope you enjoy it!
Note: Takes place pre-Promised Day, when Al, Winry, Scar, and company stop in Liore/Reole/whatever-it's-called and run into Hohenheim.
Dobby's Polka-Dotted Sock
He Never Needed Him
Though Alphonse could not physically feel, he somehow sensed every little surreptitious glance sent between himself and the blond, broad-shouldered man across the road from him. Most of these glances could be traced back to his friend, Winry, who knew the most about his relationship with his father.
Well, Alphonse supposed it wasn't much of a relationship. He hardly remembered anything of his father; those privileged memories belonged solely to Edward. Sometimes, he felt a little—dare he admit—jealous and left out, but there were other times where Alphonse thought those scarce happy past moments between father and young son tortured and taunted his brother all the more than a lack of them ever could.
That being said, Alphonse was not sure how to approach his father. The old, ancient really, man had explained himself and his actions, and in his ever-increasing maturity, the boy-turned-suit-of-armor could see the reason behind it all. But there was still a sort of rift caused by empty rooms and long absence.
Alphonse knew, however, what Winry would say before she even sidled up to him.
"You should talk to him," she said in a low tone that didn't carry too far, but their chimera friends and even Yoki turned curious eyes toward the pair. "Get to know him a little."
"I don't know, Winry," he replied just as quietly, "Brother—"
"I know Ed wouldn't like it, but this is about you, Al. I mean, you have a dad right now," even as she smiled encouragingly at him, her eyes were misty. But Edward's promise held, and no tears came. "He's here, in a way, for you. Why not take the opportunity?"
He could have pointed out that the fact they had met up with his father was an accident, but he also had to admit to a growing curiosity, fueled further by Winry's words. This was him; his father, the man to whom he owed his birth. Certainly, it wouldn't be an insult to his brother, a show of disloyalty, if he talked to Van Hohenheim.
So he nodded, turned away from the girl, and made his clanking way across the street. Hohenheim turned at his approach, and looked a little surprised to see his younger son standing before him.
"Yes, Alphonse?" He asked, adjusting his spectacles, and Alphonse had the sudden absurd thought of why a Philosopher's Stone personified would need glasses. This tied his figurative tongue for a moment, and Hohenheim nervously continued speaking. "Does anyone need anything? Something I can do?"
"Oh!" he finally exclaimed, "No, I just—I thought maybe, we could talk?" He wondered if a suit of armor could look awkward, for that was what he felt at the moment. Hohenheim blinked for a moment, then nodded.
"Alright, that's a good idea. Actually, we should discuss what it is that needs to be done in the coming days. We're going to be very busy—"
"No, I sort of mean, uh," was it selfish of him to make such a request, when so many more important things were happening in the world? "I just wanted to talk, catch up, maybe?"
Again they stood, Hohenheim blinking up at him before taking a breath.
"Alright. Yes, sure—of course. We could get some lunch, there's a place I saw yesterday—"
"Um, I don't eat," he reminded the man, and was almost thankful for his metal body. He felt if he were human his cheeks would be blazing red.
Hohenheim himself flushed in embarrassment and stammered, "Right, yes, I- I knew that. Well then, we—"
"But if you need food, that's okay," he hurriedly corrected. Hohenheim nodded gratefully.
"Yes, I think I could go for something to eat. Follow me." His father led him down the street, away from the others, and they eventually turned into a tiny little place that for being on a heavy-traffic street was surprisingly empty. Alphonse managed to squeeze into one side of a booth and Hohenheim slid into the seat across, picking up a menu and distractedly flipping pages. "This is nice," his father observed, and he nodded politely.
It was silent while they waited for a server, and a muscle in his father's jaw twitched nervously, as though he was constantly on the verge of saying something. When he finally spoke to a waitress, it seemed to loosen his tongue, and he asked, "How was your day?"
"Oh," Alphonse said in response to the rather vague inquiry, "it was fine. I've been here before, so it's been nice to see some people again." He looked down at his large hands folded together on the tabletop and added, "I travel a lot."
"Ah, yes. As do I. Well, I used to travel for fun. Now it's for—work. Well, you know what I mean." He wanted to tell the man that he and his brother were not just travelling for fun either, but that would seem rude. He was the one who suggested this after all. "But I remember just wandering around wherever I felt like, when I was younger. Before I met Trisha."
"Right," was all Alphonse could come up with. His father's sandwich was placed on the table, and the man began to eat. Alphonse fidgeted slightly in the seat.
"You read a lot as well, don't you?" His companion asked after a long pause.
"Uh- yes," he replied to the rather random question.
"That's good," Hohenheim remarked, with a little smile as though satisfied by the answer. "You know, I remember when I was first beginning to read. I absolutely hated it. The lessons the Master tried to give me were so boring. Most of us servants dropped out, you know. Preferred spending our time doing work that we felt actually counted for something. But, I stuck with it, even though it seemed like torture."
Alphonse could only nod at the little story.
"And then, after Xerxes, I found myself…" he chattered on and on, and Alphonse had the feeling that if he were able to eat he really would not be feeling very hungry. It seemed that the curiosity that had pushed him to suggest this outing had left to be replaced by a force that repelled him just as equally from the situation. He grew more restless by the minute, and could only wait for Hohenheim to finish his lunch. Every once and a while, his father would repeat, "This is quite good," indicating the sandwich, and he would simply nod to show he understand. When he was done, Alphonse extricated himself from the booth as fast as he could without scraping the wood table.
Hohenheim stopped his babble of words that Alphonse now saw as the man's attempt to fill the silence between them and looked around, surprised at the sudden stillness.
"It really is quiet in here."
"Yes," Alphonse replied, trying not to sound terse at the weak attempt to draw him into conversation.
"Yes, well," Hohenheim stood, placing a few coins on the table, "I've got to be getting back to working. This was—nice."
He found he was again only capable of nodding.
Later as he sat in the gathering darkness, the others turning in for the night, felt sick. How pathetic, how petty he was. His father had been throwing a line out to him, with his stories, his talking, and yet Alphonse had refused to take it. He had put up a cold wall to his own father.
And yet, gradually he found he could not find any fault in it. Perhaps under different circumstances, at a different time, he might have listened to those words with rapt attention. But Hohenheim's little anecdotes had come years too late for them to have any effect on his son. It wasn't even clear why he was trying.
After years of wondering what it would be like to really have a father, Alphonse realized that he didn't care.
Perhaps it was foolish. Perhaps he was taking what he could have for granted. To someone like Winry, the chance to have a father was something beyond value. But Mr. Rockbell hadn't chosen to leave his daughter. Hohenheim had chosen to leave his sons and wife.
A father shouldn't—couldn't—choose when to be a father. They either were or weren't. And their children knew the difference.
He may owe Hohenheim his birth. But to his mother, his friends, and most of all to Edward, those were to whom he owed his life.
So, yeah. I kind of wanted to show how Alphonse might react to Hohenheim's attempts for a reconciliation. I admit, I drew inspiration from Indiana Jones (The Last Crusade), especially that scene in the blimp-thing. But this one-shot also was born from my own experience, and feelings. I'm not going to burden/bore you with my personal life, however, so I'll leave it at that.
Funny thing is, I actually like Hohenheim sort of, as a person. I don't condone what he did to his family, but I like the man. I always seem to show him in a really negative light, though. Oh well, maybe someday I'll cut him a break.
Let me know what you thought of this. Thanks for reading, and please review!