Series: Fullmetal Alchemist
Pairings: Alphonse gen
Warnings: A little drama, a little angst, and a little fluff.
Spoilers: For the end of the series.
Summary: Alphonse's grandson discovers an old photo in the attic, bringing back bittersweet memories.
Notes: Written for the fma_exchange
Alphonse glanced up at the loud thud from upstairs, smiling to himself and shaking his head. His grandson was like a miniature tornado, a tiny, self-contained force of nature that had more energy than one person had any right to. Al supposed he was probably much the same once upon a time, but that...that was a lifetime ago. These days he was lucky when his blasted knees would let him get around without his cane.
“Grandpa!” James bellowed from upstairs, and Al sighed. One of these days, he’d drill it into the boy’s head that shouting across the house was not his preferred form of communication. He didn’t reply, instead waiting patiently, and sure enough a few moments later he heard the pounding of feet as James came charging down the stairs.
The boy barrelled into the room, skidding to a stop in front of Alphonse and very nearly tripping over his own feet in the process. Al wondered idly if James ever walked
anywhere. “You rang?” he said mildly, then blinked when he got a good look at the boy. James was covered in dust, most of it smeared across his face and hands, and his hair a good sight closer to brown than the blond it should have been. He sighed, shaking his head. “You’re filthy,” Al made an effort to brush some of the dust from his hair. “What have you been up to?”
“I was in the attic--”
“The attic?” Al frowned. “What were you doing up there?”
“Playing,” James said dismissively, then thrust something in Al’s face. “But look what I found! Who are they?”
They? Alphonse took the item from James, digging his glasses out of his shirt pocket and putting them on his nose. It was an old, faded photograph of...oh. His heart twisted, just a little, and he smiled sadly. “This is a picture of me and my brother, Edward.”
“Really?” James perked up, leaning over the arm of the chair so he could see better. “Which one is you?” Al pointed, and James looked back and forth between his grandfather and the picture critically. “That must be really, really old,” he announced.
“Mm,” Alphonse agreed. “This picture was taken...oh, it must have been fifty years ago. That was before I came here from Germany.” Alphonse remembered taking the picture, not long after he had come to this world. A much younger Alphonse Elric grinned out of the old photo, arm slung around his older brother. And Edward...Ed looked like he was ready to take on the world. A new life, a new start. They had each other, and that was really all they ever needed.
He was surprised to see the photograph, really. They hadn’t managed to salvage much after the fire, and Alphonse had thought all of his pictures of his brother had been lost. “Where did you find this?” he asked.
“Like I said, in the attic. There’s a box full of neat stuff like that.” James plucked the photo from Al’s hand, fingering the curling corner. “I didn’t know you had a brother,” he said.
“I’ll make you a deal. If you go bring that box down for me, I’ll tell you about him,” Al said. Maybe more than just the photograph had survived.
“Kay!” James chirped, handing back the photo and charging back up the stairs faster than Al could blink.
He knew he really shouldn’t get his hopes up. Chances were the photo had simply slipped its way into an old box of baby clothes or something. Even if it was just one picture, it was nice to have something physical left of his brother. It didn’t seem to matter how many years passed, he never missed Edward any less. One year, ten, twenty, it didn’t matter. Some days Al might not remember what he had for breakfast, but he’d never forget the last time he saw his brother.I’m sorry, Al.
Don’t be, it’s not your fault.
You know I love you, right?
I know. I love you too.
“Here,” James said, depositing a box at his feet. Al blinked, shaken from his memories; he hadn’t even noticed the boy come back. “This is the box I found the picture in.” He flopped down cross-legged and started rummaging through the box. “So, how come I never met your brother?” He paused, looking thoughtful. “Would he be my grandpa too?”
Alphonse smiled. “He’d be your great uncle, I think. The reason you never met him is because he--” Alphonse took a deep breath, trying to ignore the sharp stab of loss. “he passed away, when your mother was about your age.”
“Oh,” James said, glancing down for a moment before looking up at Al. “Like grandma?”
Al’s wife had died a little over a year before, though under quite different circumstances. James hadn’t taken it well. “Sort of. Edward got very, very sick. There was nothing we could do.”A growing sense of dread; the realization that Edward wasn’t going to get better. A life that had seen so much, accomplished so much, was being stolen and there was nothing he could do. Edward faded a little more every day, and Al felt a piece of himself dying with him.
“I bet you miss him,” James said.
There weren’t the words to describe how true that was. “Very much,” Al said, smiling down at the boy. “He was more than my brother; he was my best friend.”
“What was he like?” James asked, pulling an old stuffed bear of Trisha’s out of the box. It was worn and well-loved, one of the button eyes long gone.
Al considered the question. “Edward was...brilliant, and the strongest person I’ve ever met. He could do absolutely anything he put his mind to.” Maybe that was why his death was so hard to accept. It seemed wrong somehow, after struggling through so much, that something like an illness was what finally got the best of him. Edward should have gone down fighting, not wasting away in bed; a pale ghost of his former self.The doctors couldn’t seem to agree on what was wrong with Ed, but it didn’t matter what they said. Al knew. He recognized the signs, and he knew that the illness that had killed their mother was now killing his brother. Just like their mother, Edward was dying by inches, and just like their mother, he had struggled to hide it. For years, he’d kept his secret, but there was no hiding it now.
And there was nothing Al could do but sit helplessly by, and watch.
“Who’s the baby he’s holding?”
“What?” Alphonse leaned forward and saw that James had found an old photo album. He was pointing to a picture of Edward holding a newborn Trisha, looking starkly terrified of the tiny baby in his arms. Al smiled.No, Al! No! I’m not holding her! What if I drop her? What if I squeeze her too hard? What if she cries?!
She’s not going to break, Brother. Now come here and hold your niece.
“That’s your mother.”
“No way!” James gasped, peering down at the picture. “But she’s so little!”
“Everyone starts life as a baby, even your grandpa.” Al said, taking the album from him. Most of the pictures were of Trisha, but there were several of Ed as well. He wasn’t sure how it had found it’s way into a box of his daughter’s old things, but he was grateful it survived the fire.
“I know that,” James muttered, but he didn’t sound entirely convinced. “What’s this?” James asked, pulling a plastic wrapped package from the box.
Alphonse shook his head. “I don’t know. Go ahead and open it.”
James tore into the package like a present on Christmas. There was a flash of red, and Al stared. It couldn’t be. James pulled the coat out of the package and held it up.
Edward’s red coat. A little worn and a little faded, it was in remarkably good condition considering it was almost as old as he was. “Neat!” James said, climbing to his feet and pulling it on.
The small blond boy looked up at him and grinned, and Al’s breath caught. The coat was too big on him, sleeves covering his hands and ends nearly dragging on the floor. “That coat belonged to my brother,” he said after a moment. “I never really realized it, but you look a bit like him.”
“Really?” James ran over to the mirror hanging on the closet door, turning a circle and craning his head to get a look at the back.
It was nice to see someone wearing that coat again. The doorbell rang, and they both looked towards the front door. Al got to his feet; it was probably Trisha. “That would be your mother.”
James sighed and began shrugging out of the coat. “Actually, you keep it,” Al said.
The boy’s eyes went large. “Can I?”
“I think Ed would like that.”
James beamed at him and dashed off to answer the door. “Mom!” he said, throwing open the door and tugging Trisha in by her hand. “Look! Look what grandpa gave me!” He flapped too-long sleeves in her face.
She smiled at Al over her son’s head. “It’s very nice. And how on Earth did you get so dirty in three hours?”
James ignored the question. “Grandpa said it was his brother’s, and he said I could keep it.”
This time Trisha gave Alphonse a startled look. “Uncle Ed?”
“James found the coat along with some old pictures in a box in the attic, I thought he should get to keep it.” Alphonse picked up the teddy bear and handed it to her. “He also found this.”
Her eyes widened. “Mr. Fluffy,” she breathed, “I remember when Uncle Ed gave him to me. I thought I lost him ages ago. Thanks, dad. I always wished I had some sort of memento of him.”
Al smiled. “Once I sort through the photos, I’ll give you some.”
She reached out a gave him a quick hug. “Thanks. I wish I could stay longer, but we have to get going. Do you have everything, sweetheart?” she asked James, and the boy held up his backpack in reply. “You’re still coming for dinner on Saturday, right?” she asked Al.
He nodded. “Wouldn’t miss it.”
“I’ll see you then.”
She ushered James through the door, but the boy paused and turned back. “Thanks, grandpa.”
“You’re welcome. Take care of that coat, you hear me?”
“I will,” James promised solemnly, and then he was gone, tearing off down the walk towards the car.
Alphonse chuckled and closed the door. I wish you had told me, Brother.
I didn’t want to worry you.
Maybe, if we had known sooner...maybe there was something we could have done.
I’m sorry, Al.
Don’t be, it’s not your fault.
You know I love you, right?
I know. I love you too.
I’m so tired.
Then sleep, Brother. We’ll talk in the morning.
Except they hadn’t, because the next morning, Edward was gone. He’d died in the night, and it tore at Al that he hadn’t been at his brother’s side when the time came. He was never quite the same after that, not really. Edward had been the one constant in his life, the one person he could always count on. Even after his long illness, Al wasn’t prepared for the terrible sense of loss
when he died.
He glanced out the window, at the blond boy in the red coat climbing into the car, and he smiled a little. Ed was gone, and nothing would change that, but he liked to think his brother would be proud of him; of his family, and the things he had done with his life. James probably didn’t appreciate the legacy that had been passed to him, but that was alright.
Alphonse was sure his brother would approve.