Author: Jordanna Morgan
Archive Rights: Please request the author's consent.
Characters: Alphonse and Wrath.
Setting: First anime. Takes place at the end of the series.
Summary: As Al struggles with his lost memory, Wrath struggles with something else.
Disclaimer: They belong to Hiromu Arakawa. I'm just playing with them.
Notes: Written for the prompt word "amnesia" at Hurt/Comfort Bingo. This isn't going to go down as one of my favorite works, but it filled the requirements of the word, and it possibly offers a very small glimpse into Wrath's reason for disappearing. (And for any fans of my revisionist opus "Blood Ties"… this also provides a slight foreshadowing for its future sequel.)
The photographs lay scattered in front of Alphonse on the dining room table: irrefutable evidence of five years he couldn't remember.
Edward sitting with Den on the front porch, as sunlight gleamed on the automail arm and leg Al still couldn't believe his brother had come to possess. Ed standing outside a large and beautiful house, dressed in shades of black and red he had never favored before, proudly holding up the pocketwatch of a State Alchemist—and then indignantly snatching it back from the jaws of an enormous white dog, as a sweet-looking little girl laughed. Ed on the steps of the military headquarters in Central, glaring up furiously at a slim, dark-haired man in uniform. Ed at a birthday party, looking embarrassed as another, broadly grinning man set a toddler on his lap. Ed growing steadily, startlingly from the boy Al knew, into a lithe and handsome teenager whose eyes were too full of shadows.
And in every single picture, Ed was accompanied by the suit of armor that once stood in their father's study.
Yet the armor was intangibly different. No longer the cold, inert thing Al had last seen glowering down over their forbidden alchemic circle, it somehow reflected a sense of warmth and life, even in these static images… and sometimes, Ed was caught looking at it with an undisguised love that made Al's chest tighten and his eyes well up.
Winry and Pinako said that for the last five years, that suit of armor had been him—but he had no memory of that. It was unfathomable that his soul had dwelled within steel, devoid of touch and living sensation.
All he knew was that if he could have felt such love from his brother once more, he would gladly have been the armor again now.
It was hard enough to be suddenly thrust into a world where five years were lost to him, as completely blank in his memory as if they had never passed. It was hard enough to be unchanged, still a boy of ten, when everyone he knew had aged. It was hard enough to be known and fussed over by people who were strangers to him, like Rose and General Mustang; he knew they just wanted to help, but when they spoke of him as a person he couldn't imagine himself being, it only added to his confusion.
These things were all hard enough in themselves. But being forced to face them without Brother—without his only family, his leader and his guardian, the one who anchored his soul in ways far beyond the blood seal he had been told of…
That was more than he felt he would ever be able to bear.
If the speculations were true, and Ed had traded himself for Al's body… it was stupid of him. He was Al's flesh and blood, too—and by far the more important part of it.
…But Ed wasn't dead. He wasn't. Even if he had sacrificed himself that way, he wasn't gone forever. Everything within Al's heart told him Ed could yet be found: whether physically, or only his soul, waiting in the place from which Ed had once retrieved Al's own soul.
And Al was going to get him back, if it took every last moment of his life.
The memories he had lost were the only starting point he could think of. If he knew what had happened at the end, in those ruins underneath Central, he would surely know what Ed had done. Then he could figure out what to do, where to search, how to undo the exchange that had left him far more incomplete than he ever could have been inside that armor.
So he spent every waking moment striving to remember. He sat there at the table for hours, poring over the same pictures until he could close his eyes and recall every last detail of them; but the moments they depicted remained a void. He made Winry recount every experience she had shared with the brothers, over and over again; but her incredible tales were only words, stirring nothing in his mind.
With a flash of frustrated despair, Al spread his hands over the photographs on the table, roughly pushing them together in a pile.
"Don't give yourself a papercut. You can bleed now, you know."
Al gave a start, opening eyes he hadn't realized he had closed. Across the table from him stood the boy who called himself Wrath, poised near the doorway with his back slouched against the wall. His arms—one flesh and one metal, just like Ed in the pictures—were folded tightly over his chest.
On top of everything else, it was unnerving to have a homunculus in the house.
Even if Wrath had not admitted to his inhumanity, Al suspected he would have known. As docile as the boy's behavior had been, there was… an aura about him, a feeling of wrongness and impurity that made the young alchemist's skin crawl. Wrath was living sin, a creature born of a forbidden act, and the evil of it was woven into every fiber of his being.
Yet it wasn't really his fault. As far as Al had observed in their brief acquaintance, Wrath resented his own nature, and was repentant in some sullen way for misdeeds that Al could not remember and no one else would discuss. He kept very much to himself, spending most of his time wandering the hills and woods alone, even sleeping out under the stars on most nights. When he did come indoors for food, he spoke very little to anyone.
Wrath had never thanked Winry for giving him automail limbs. That was something else Al would have counted against him… were it not for the fact that he seemed to feel strangely guilty about having them at all.
"Have you ever thought… that maybe you're better off not remembering the things you've forgotten?"
Surprised and incensed by the question, Al looked up sharply. Wrath's eyes were narrowed, but his lips were set in a pensive line, absent the perpetual trace of moody hostility that seemed to cling to him. In fact, if anything, he seemed to look almost… regretful.
And there was something in his eyes that was maybe just a little bit scared.
"I have to remember," Al shot back, pulling the photographs toward him with both hands, as if on the verge of hugging them possessively. "It could be the only way I can find my brother!"
"Maybe you can't. Maybe he's the only one who can find a way to reach you."
Al's eyes widened, and he slumped back a little in his chair, staring at Wrath in somber amazement.
Ever since he awakened to Ed's absence, he had been thinking of nothing but his own efforts: of what he could do to seek and rescue his lost brother. The need to act in some way was the only thing he could focus on. But the thought that Ed was out there somewhere at that moment, fighting just as hard to find his way home…
"I still have to try." Al dropped his gaze to the pictures his arms encircled—partly to hide the rising wetness in his eyes. "Even if I'm still not as strong as Ed, and I can't do it on my own… I have to try."
Silence stretched taut between the alchemist and the homunculus. A tear traced its way warmly down Al's cheek, and splashed onto the picture under his fingers, blurring the faded image of an automail hand resting affectionately on a spiked steel shoulder.
After a long moment, Wrath pushed off from the wall. Still limping on his own new automail leg, he strode quickly past Al, but his mismatched steps paused between the table and the kitchen door.
"Someday, you will remember… and you'll hate me when you do."
The heavy weight of those words made Al's heart skip a beat. Hastily wiping his eyes with his fist, he turned to ask what Wrath meant by that; but all he saw was the young homunculus disappearing into the night, as the screen door creaked shut behind him.
From that night forward, Wrath never returned to the Rockbell house again.
© 2013 Jordanna Morgan