“Alfons, hey! Dammit, the hell are you crying for?!”
There was a wetness against his cheeks, that was for sure, but…
That’s right. He was thinking about his older brother. That was the night before he left…the night before he had gone off to fight in the war and never come home. His mother hadn’t even told him about it, though Alfons was sure she knew long before (she had cried pretty hard a week before all that, come to think of it). It was funny that he even remembered that, since that was the start for…
“I won’t cry! I won’t! I’ll be strong, just like Edward!”
“Just like Edward”, huh? The same Edward he was in the same room as now?
The same Edward who was shaking him roughly by the shoulder?
What had driven Alfons to even say that back then? Looking at Edward now, he was hardly the sort of person that he could have looked up to.
At least, not older Alfons.
A younger, weaker Alfons, on the other hand…
“What the hell did I say to upset you, anyway?!”
Edward was leaning closer—he could feel the breath on his neck, and Alfons didn’t think before his fist flew out, slamming against flesh.
Within moments, both arms were wrangled above his head, and gold eyes were burning down on him, a body straddling him and pinning him down hard harder hardest into the floor. God, if he held him down anymore, his back was going to break! This was insane!
Though it was certainly his fault for punching him.
“The hell was that, huh?!” Alfons clenched his eyes shut; he didn’t want to see it. He couldn’t look into those eyes that were blazing at him. It was one thing to punch him…looking at him when he was like this was another matter.
It was the equivalent of looking into the eyes of death itself.
“You keep acting like you’re the only one suffering, Edward!” Dammit, his mouth was running off with him just like he told himself that it wouldn’t! “Just because you’re the only one who’s had a brother whose body was destroyed by a Gate, the only one who’s managed to fight Homunculi and live, the only one who’s been plagued with your kind of guilt, it doesn’t mean that you’re the only one suffering in this world, damn it!”
Crying, crying…dammit he could feel the tears start to prick the corners of his eyes and he told himself he wouldn’t cry anymore!
“There are others suffering here, same as you…quit thinking you’re the only one in this world, Edward!!”
“This world?! The hell is this world, anyway?! Once I find a way home I’m leaving; if you knew me so well, you would already know that! Hell, maybe this world isn’t even real—just a figment of my imagination and I’m already dead.”
“Al, don’t be ridiculous!! Ed’s—”
“…Going to come back home to us one day, Winry. Trust me. He’ll come home. If not now, if not a few years from now, he’ll come home. I know it.”
If Edward was already dead…
Then what was Al going to have to believe in? Who was Winry going to lob that wrench at when he went in the door? Who was going to yell at Colonel Mustang, wherever he was, whenever he was lazy and decided to give out dumb missions that didn’t have any meaning?! Who was going to visit their mother’s grave with the younger brother when her birthday rolled around, to put down her favorite alchemized flowers on her grave?! Who was finally going to waltz in the door and say he was finally fine, and give everyone that idyllic world that they had been yearning for, ever since this whole problem began?!
Edward Elric, you are the most selfish, diluted, self-righteous and conceited person I have ever met in my entire life!!
“You’re dead, are you?! This world’s just some sort of hell for you, is it?!” Alfons was shouting now…he was sure the entire building could hear him…though it was a wonder nobody had stopped the fight sooner. God, he could feel his stomach clenching, contracting, clenching, contracting…
Alfons’s head felt so light. His stomach was turning but his head was light…buzzing almost. God, he could hardly think, even as he kept on, shouting at the man with his eyes shut:
"Then you'd better explain that to your little brother and family and friends, crying at home! You'd better tell them quite clearly that you're dead, you're never coming back, and watch your little brother's heart shatter into a million pieces! Watch him cry as you walk out on him, just like your father did!!"
Alfons didn’t even bother opening his eyes. He didn’t need to; he knew what he’d see. Flashing golden eyes…taut, quivering lips…an impossibly angry glower, one that would make most sane men soil themselves and go running towards the nearest safehouse.
Only insane men tangled with Edward Elric.
And apparently, Alfons now fit in this category.
…Alfons felt the punch hit his face even before it connected.
He couldn’t even remember when he had first met Winry; it seemed so long ago, it was like he had known her forever. Always smiling, laughing in her loud, carefree manner that had always befit her, tossing her hair back maybe, or playing with some mechanical something-or-other. A wrench, maybe…or that train set that Mr. Rockbell had given to Ed for his third birthday, but Winry ended up keeping instead, since his too-impatient brother gave up trying to set it up and got bored with it after the third unsuccessful attempt.
Had he introduced himself first? Had she introduced herself first? Ed had probably been sulking in the back as per usual, and it was the most likely conclusion that Al had brought her to him, introducing them like the friendly, social younger brother he was. Did she smile? Did she kick up her feet?
No. That would have been a very Nelly thing to do. Not Winry. Never Winry.
She would have smiled and held out her hand…asking for them to shake.
Sort of like how Winry was the first day they had met ‘again’…Al standing embarrassed, blushing and awkward in front of that prettier, older Winry.
Except this time…
Her eyes were sad.
* * *
“Al? Are you sure you can do that by yourself?”
“I’m fine! Trust me!” I want to be more useful to you, Winry. I can’t keep sitting around anymore. If I keep sitting around, who’s going to find Brother? And besides that, who would take care of you?
“Well, are you sure you don’t want me lifting that? It’s a bit heavy.”
“It’s really okay! I got it.” I’m not going to let you lift these things by yourself.
“If you’re really sure…”
Al picked the metal spares up and held them in his smaller arms, walking up the stairs with a bit of difficulty in his legs, though he still somehow managed to stand upright. He could feel her hands at his back, holding him steady…almost burning into his skin as his face started to flush.
But he kept walking. Never would he let her see his blush.
* * *
…Of course, the stubbornness carrying those things up the stairs was what had made him lie like this, on his back on the couch with a warming unit under his back, covered with a blanket. It worked like a charm at times like this—Winry had built it back when he was having achy muscles in his legs and needed to ease cramping. Normally they fit around the legs like cuffs, but she adjusted the design for use on the back when the mother of one of her normal patients threw their back out after a routine maintenance. It was handy, especially during times like this, but…
I can’t help but feel useless.
It was true, too. Winry had already checked for fever and other bodily maladies (though why would she be checking for fever when it was just a hurt back? Muscular functions didn’t seem to connect to immune…) and run into the kitchen, already fixing him up a dinner that he told her he would have been able to fix, once he could stand. But no, stubborn girl didn’t listen and ran out into the kitchen anyway (It’s a wonder Auntie Pinako even let her use the kitchen…the last time I remember her cooking she blew up the stove and almost set the house on fire…but…she’s a lot bigger now. She probably had a long time to practice…), grabbing materials from the pantries and set everything up for dinner.
“What do you want, Al?”
His choice. It had always been his choice of food.
He hadn’t minded at first, but somehow those expectant, awed eyes that stared at him while he ate got to him. He didn’t mind eating his favorites every night, but over time, it just wasn’t fair.
Why was it always his choice as to what they got to eat?
“I dunno,” he called back, trying his best to sit up but failing miserably—God, his back hurt; too much lifting so soon could carry quite a strain on the back—"I kinda wanna have curry tonight.”
“Al, are you sure you’re okay? I thought you didn’t like curry all that much.”
“The last time I had it was when your mom made it a long time ago, Winry. I’ll probably like it this time.”
“Are you sure you don’t want anything else?” she asked.
“No…” Al said with a smile. “I think I’d like to have your favorite food for a change. You do like curry extra-spicy, right?”
She almost sounded like her old self again…as much of the old Winry as this older version could be, anyway.
“Then let’s have that.” Al said.
“Are you really really sure? I do like it spicy, you know.”
“I know. But you like it, right?”
A laugh. He actually heard her laughing in the kitchen! “Al, you’ve always been so nice. That’s going to get you into trouble one of these days.”
“You think so?”
“I know so. Even after all of what happened, you still…”
Al pricked up his ears and tried to sit up for the umpteenth time, but a sharp pain shot through his back, so he laid back down, resting against the pillow.
That must have been about something that happened…during the time he couldn’t remember. The ‘lost years’.
The time that Alfons had to have known about. He definitely acted like he knew something…
But he was only seeing this through a dream, if it was real at all (it had to be, but…). It wasn’t like he could wave his hands and say “HEY ALFONS! DO YOU SEE ME?!” He’d look like an idiot…maybe even be considered certifiable and sent to the closest mental institution. He shuddered at the thought of what kind of psychotic crazy-men had to live in one of those…people that maybe were possessed by ghosts…or killed their families or snapped during the war…
Alphonse shuddered again.
No way. He wasn’t risking going to one of those places.
That would have been too scary.
And if he was locked up, who was going to find his brother?
“…oh well, what’s done is done, and you don’t have to worry anymore!”
There was the fake cheerful voice again. He had upset her without realizing it…or maybe she upset herself? It was like Winry was one of those…what were they called? Bipolar people? He had remembered reading about mental issues when he was studying with brother…
No way. Winry isn’t crazy. She’s just depressed. Or something like that…But she’s not crazy, I know that.
That sounded better.
Not like ‘crazy’.
But…she was never like that before. What had happened to make her like this…or was it just his brother’s disappearance?
I don’t know…
“…If you say so.” Alphonse whispered, though he knew that he didn’t agree with her at all.
He had to worry about it.
After all, any man would want to know what happened during a time that he couldn’t remember.
“…can you move?”
God. He could hardly move at all…not a finger, a toe…Edward had got him good, that was for sure…after the way they had torn into each other after that comment, fists raised, feet flying, and grunting in the open air…it was a wonder that nobody had stormed in, much less that the two were only lying bruised up on opposite sides of the room.
And Edward…how had he managed to hit Edward that hard? Through his swollen eyes, Alfons could see a bruised cheek, bloodied lip, beaten face…actually, when looking at it from his vision, Edward looked more worse for wear than he did. That didn’t seem to be right. This was Edward Elric, the Fullmetal Alchemist (who apparently could still hit just as hard with a prosthetic as he ever did with automail. Ouch!). The Fullmetal Alchemist who had fought inhuman monsters and survived…had gone through Hell and back and survived enough to end up here in the first place. It just didn’t seem right to think that Alfons Heiderich the Puny managed to give him such a beating.
Maybe he’s been slacking off on his exercise since he’s been here. I wouldn’t doubt it…Al was his most common sparring partner, wasn’t he?
Alfons almost flinched at the thought of that.
Poor, poor, Al.
He was probably watching this, or at least will see this sometime in the future.
His big brother…
Beaten by him…
Yeah. Pigs were going to fly by his window right about now.
“Damn, you hit me pretty good there.”
“With what? The kick to the shin, or the elbow to the sternum?”
“Fuck you, you skinny bastard.”
“Didn’t this skinny bastard just beat you to a bloody pulp? And for shame Edward—Your normal German is incomprehensible, and yet when you speak vulgarly, it comes out just fine.”
“Keep your opinions to yourself.”
“Or what? You’ll throw your arm at me? You can hardly move.”
“I’ve still got my other limbs.”
“Your fake ones, right? It’s sort of hard to use them when the rest of your body is battered like that. A man can’t walk on one unfeeling foot, you know?”
“And dammit, you’re just fucking obnoxious. How the hell do you know so much, anyway?”
“And I keep telling you—”
“Well you know what? It’s creepy. Don’t even know why I thought you were anything like my brother; you’re nothing like him at all.”
“Besides the fact that I beat you senseless, you mean?”
“Are all Germans as racist as you?”
“I believe you started with the racism first, Edward. Don’t pin your bigotry on me.”
“Fuck, I really wish I could hit you right about now.”
“I don’t think my poor body could take it, to be honest. You gave me a bad enough beating as it is.”
“You compared me to my father.”
“You underplayed not only my suffering, but your brother’s suffering as well.”
“How the hell did I underplay Al’s suffering? He might not even—”
Alfons should have stopped himself from speaking. It wasn’t as if Edward believed him, and with this tacked onto it, he was just asking for another beating. Just asking for another punch in the face when Edward was able to stand, and then his body really would have shut down. Really would have become bloody wall paint.
But instead, Alfons’s mouth, for the third time tonight, had run away with him:
“Al’s fine. He’s alive…he’s depressed, and searching for you, but alive.”
Edward let out a sigh.
“If this is your fucked up way of making me feel better Alfons, then you really need to have your head set on straight.”
“I’m not trying to make you feel better.” Alfons closed his eyes…God, they were so heavy... “I’m simply telling the truth. If you don’t want to listen, that’s fine. Just trust me when I say I know that he’s all right.”
“Your ‘dreams’ again, Alfons?”
“Something like that.”
It was strange how much Alfons could feel and hear when he was full of pain. The air against his skin, stinging his bruises and making the open cuts on his lip and arms tingle. It was…an interesting feeling. Edward’s breathing was heavy…almost heaving as he lie on his spot across the room (Alfons might have thrown him there, but everything went by so fast it was hard to tell who did what). It was amazing enough that Alfons had heard him over his own heavy breathing…God, his lungs felt like they were going to collapse in on themselves…he was already wheezing. Damn it. His lungs never were very strong.
“…So you really know he’s okay? That Al’s okay?”
“He’s fine, Edward. I’m not sure if he knows that you’re okay…or even that I see what’s going on, but …”
“Tell me then.”
“What?” If Alfons could blink, he would have right then.
“Tell me about Al. If you really know. Knowing my luck this conversation probably isn’t happening, and I’m lying around unconscious somewhere, but what the hell?”
“I’m barely able to keep my eyes open, Edward. I’ll tell you tomorrow. After we get these cuts and bruises treated.”
“Figures that even in dreams I can never win.”
“I’m not saying that I’ll never tell you; I’d just rather tell you when I don’t feel like several trains hit me.”
“Forget how puny you are.”
“Do you want me to hit you again?”
“…Oh fuck it, fine. Tomorrow it is. It’s not like this is really happening anyway.”
“So if I walk up to you and let you know at some point that I’m going to tell you about your little brother, does that mean that you’re not going to swear this world is a dream and hit me again?”
“Hey, you crossed the line.”
“…I really did.”
So he was already asleep? How did the man suddenly talk with only a slight slur and then fall over asleep? Besides, he hadn’t hit him that hard, had he?
Maybe he was just exhausted.
Like Alfons was feeling now, his eyes starting to droop, and his arms slackening at his sides.
He felt so tired…
And before he knew it, his eyes were closed, body relaxing in sleep.