Title: Tribute

Author: S J Smith

Rating: Gen

Summary: Alphonse finds his brother at the remains of their old house. Post-108 story.

Disclaimer: Arakawa owns all.

Brother's often unaware of the calendar – traveling from place to place, town to town, now country to country, it makes hard to figure out which day is what. Their days' work often bled over into the night and then again into the next day, so tracking time isn't one of the things they do very well.

Still, the beginning of fall always marks a time when Brother becomes a little more surly, and Alphonse knows he, himself, grows more quiet. While the colors of the trees grow brilliant, they grow darker within themselves, in remembrance of that day.

Mom's death.

The day they burnt down the house.

Alphonse finds his brother at the remains of the house. Grass, weeds, ivy, it's all overgrown, but there are still a few broken beams that hadn't been completely destroyed by the fire or reclaimed by the greenery determined to erase the errors of their earliest lives. Brother stares down at it all, hands shoved deep in his pockets, the wind blowing his hair.

"Was it worth it, Al?" he asks softly. "Trying to bring Mom back…what happened to you." He doesn't look up.

"If we hadn't," Alphonse says, just as quietly, "maybe we wouldn't be here now. Maybe Amestris wouldn't be here now."

And Brother's shoulders twitch at that, and Alphonse wonders what he's thinking – that Winry might be dead, or Miss Gracia and Elicia, or Rose. That it wouldn't have stopped Nina's death, or the deaths of any of the other people Scar killed. There still would've been chimeras, but maybe the first Greed might still be alive, and Martel. "Yeah," Brother says, and his head slumps, his chin dropping onto his chest.

"Maybe what Rose believes is right," Alphonse says. He tilts his head back, admiring the the sky; how there are no clouds overhead, just a swatch of deep blue, studded with a small star, glowing gold and warm. Like his brother, he thinks, like him. "That everything happens for a reason, and we can't know it."

"Religion, Al?" Brother scoffs, shaking his head. He squats down, his elbows on his knees.

"There are a lot of things we can't explain." Alphonse wraps his jacket a little closer around his body, trying to block the cool of the breeze. It still trickles down the back of his neck like ice water. "We won." He whispers it. "We shouldn't have. Everything was against us – everything – but we're still here. All of us. Because of what we did that night."

Brother straightens, shaking his hair back, and Alphonse catches how dark his eyes are. "Not everyone," he grates out. "Not Hughes! Not – not Nina."

Alphonse lays his hand on Brother's shoulder, grateful when he's not shrugged off. "Not Teacher's baby, either," he says. "Or Mom."

Taking a deep, angry breath, Brother holds it, then finally exhales. He scrubs at his eye with the heel of his hand, then uses that hand to thump Alphonse's shoulder. "Come on," he says, and if his voice is rough, Alphonse isn't going to comment on it. "Winry's waiting for us." And he turns, and walks away.

Alphonse waits for a few minutes before following, remembering, for an instant, how happy they'd been –

- then thinks of what they have now, and follows his brother home.

- end -