Title: Moments In Time
Rating: M - Just to be on the safe side. I might change it later though
Pairing: Roy/Older Al
word count: 2537
Series: Post FMA Brotherhood
Warnings: Spoilery, angst, boylove
Summary: Sometimes life takes you to places you never thought you would go. For Al, finding his place in the world turns out to be harder than he first thought. Thank you to my beta Jazz_trousers, you are awesome and thank you for all the help!
Disclaimer: I dont own FMA, nor will I ever
Ch. 1 - The Prodigal Son Returns
Alphonse Elric: 20
Central City, Early Spring, 1920
I had been trapped in metal for countless years, unaware of the way a clap on the back might jar my shoulder, or how the brush of a lip might make me warm on the inside. I had been lost to those seemingly simple things for so long that it took a great deal of time just to get used to them again. Not just to how the texture of a warm piece of bread slathered thickly with butter might feel on my tongue, or the way exhaustion would suddenly set into my bones, slowing my thoughts and making speech clumsier, but other things. Like the smell of a pretty girl, the feel of her soft, smooth skin, voluptuous curves, bright eyes and soft smiles… But once I was back, I could tell something was different inside me.
It took some time to figure out that there was something… Not quite wrong but not quite right either. To be honest I didn't really understand it, and there wasn't any way to explain it, I just knew I wasn't the same as the other people that surrounded me and loved me. No one treated me differently, I don't think the feeling I had inside was able to be seen, but I could feel it, and it was always there, some constant reminder in the back of my mind that grew from something tiny and insignificant to a problem, however small it may have been.
The Winry I knew and loved, had wanted to marry so long ago, and even fought with brother over was still there, and more than once I had tried to tell myself that this was what I wanted, that she was what I wanted. She was the perfect girl in so many ways. Smart, funny, unafraid to tell someone exactly what she thought and still soft enough and sweet enough to laugh and cry and all those other things young women do. But when I looked at her, that feeling I knew needed to be there in my heart was just- gone. Had it been the Truth? After all those long years of being without my body, had it seeped away those emotions like it had with my muscles and energy?
The unanswered questions filled my head until there were no more words to accompany them, just one unanswered question mark that hung inside my head like the moon in the black of night. I couldn't tell brother. How could I? He had worked so hard, fought so long and with such desperation with every thought and action- I couldn't hurt him like that. If I had told him about it, he might have gone back to the way he was, forgetting about life and friends and future just to get back something that I wasn't even sure how to yet name, risking his life and wellbeing just for me… Again. It killed me on the inside, but I just couldn't do it.
When brother and Winry had finally chosen each other I was happy for them, and secretly relieved to be completely honest. I didn't have to put a show up any longer, and it left me open to search for that missing something that was feeling more and more like a hole inside me, festering without my conscious thought or permission. It left me open to travel, to see if maybe I could fix this on my own, and travel I did, not just because I couldn't look brother completely in the eye, but because I truly wanted to. I could tell brother was worried when I left, and after he asked question after question about what was bothering me and I wouldn't budge, he sighed as if all the air and fight had gone out of him, and let me go with his blessing and a rib cracking hug. He told me that no matter what, he would be there waiting for me when I got back and I told him I would be back to visit as many times as I could. I got to see some great things, learn alchemy from another land, see sights that no Amestrian had ever seen… But that not-quite-nothing-but-almost-something still followed me with every step I took.
I had tried to fill it with other pretty faces, because if that something wasn't there with Winry, maybe there was some other girl that could be found that would fill the empty spaces. There were a lot of girls that had taken interest in me; I guess there's something romantic about the great exotic explorer from a far off land. But time and time again their smooth voices and feminine bodies, although amazing and sultry and mysterious and beautiful, didn't fill my senses the way I knew they should have. The depth of emotion, the fire that you were supposed to have, it wasn't there, and one relationship after another seemed to crumble at my feet.
I had read enough books at night when everyone was sleeping to know what I was supposed to feel. There wasn't a whole lot to do when stuck in a shell and unable to sleep when everyone else is slumbering peacefully in their beds. Brother never wanted me to read them, but I couldn't figure out why. I mean, I had read much worse things about the darkest aspects of Alchemy that there ever was, how a few poorly written romance novels could sully my innocence now was a little confusing and a little funny. I made sure to keep that part to myself though. I could tell that he meant well, he was my older brother after all, he had a responsibility to me, and after the second book I understood why he told me to keep away from them.
There was a lot of things people did in those books that I would never be able to do, the warmth of another body, the contentment one could feel when in the arms of their lover. They were things I would never experience in the metal shell I had. They spoke of this soul deep connection with another person, and a love that was so strong you would do anything, become anything for that other person. The only person I ever felt a connection like that to was brother, but it wasn't the same and I knew it. His was a feeling of family. What I wanted was the ability to share with another being the looks Ed had shared with Winry, it was that look the two got in each other's eyes when they looked at each other. The one that said they knew there was no one else but them in the world for those few quick moments of shared silence.
When I finally came back to Central a few years later, older, more travelled, and feeling weary beyond my years I almost felt defeated. Sure, I smiled and laughed and told everyone about all the sights I saw, the food I ate and even showed them the Alchemy I had learned. But through all my travels, the search I had made for myself had come up empty, and I felt the weight of that hole when I looked at everyone's smiling faces. I wasn't able to fix myself. And if I couldn't do it, if I still couldn't put a name to that emptiness, then what really was the point in it all? I was frustrated with it, frustrated with myself, and to make things worse, I felt broken. But it wasn't even a real breaking. If there was some kind of audible snap, if there was some kind of external pain to accompany the nothingness inside at least there could have been a doctor that could look at me, prescribe some kind of tablets maybe, then call him in the morning to see the progress that was made. There was no gaping wound to mirror it, nothing that was visible to the eye, and that was the most infuriating aspect of it all.
I saw the curious looks I was given at the celebration party of my return when I was asked by the soldiers what kinds of girls there were out in the world beyond. I tried to tell them as best I could, but the words stuck in my throat because wasn't that supposed to be the most interesting part? To meet all those exotic women and fill their beds while I learned of the cultures and languages of the countries I saw beyond Amestris? I didn't know. After the drinks and the food and the laughter I slipped out without too many people noticing. I know I probably shouldn't have. All these people were there to see me, to welcome me home, make me feel at peace; congratulate me on a job well done. But how could I accept those compliments and praise when I couldn't fix myself?
Then I saw him. The moment still stands out in my memory so bright it's like a beacon to my soul. I'm probably being a little melodramatic… But it… It was like there was a click inside and everything finally made sense.
I hadn't seen him in over three years. He hadn't changed much, although the pressed and starched uniform he was wearing had. He was leaning on the balcony, the same one I had slipped onto in order to get away from the laughter and the 'good job Al's' that sat in my stomach like a weight. He was staring off into the lights of Central, and he seemed so far away, or at least his eyes did, like he was still dreaming of that ever elusive future that he had always been striving for. Then he looked at me. Really looked, like it was the first time anyone ever had. Suddenly the far away city lights against the black of his hair made my fingers itch to know the softness of it, his skin glowed in the pale half moon, and that mouth of his that always seemed just shy of a lopsided smirk curved fully into a welcoming smile that was just a touch sad around the edges.
"The prodigal son finally returns I see."
"I guess so." I replied and his eyes were so intense and strong I had to look away. I leaned next to him and looked out at the city alongside him.
"Shouldn't you be inside?"
I shrugged. "I probably should, but…"
"Is there something wrong?"
"Nothing's wrong, not at all! It's good to see everyone, and it's great seeing brother and Winry again."
"But?" And he looked at me again with those dark eyes that seemed to look inside me, eyebrows raised, curious for the answer, but willing to let it lie if I shrugged it off with a laugh. Ed had warned me many a time not to trust the General, but I think the man had a bit of a soft spot for me, and whenever I had a question for him he always replied to me with honesty, or at least as much honesty as he could muster at the time. And wasn't I an Alchemist? Didn't I believe and live by the rules of equivalency? A bright laugh sounded, just barely reaching my ears. I could tell from the voice it was May. Another girl that I was supposed to be with, another person who I was supposed to have that connection with that wasn't there.
"General, have you ever felt like although nothing is wrong, it isn't right either?"
There was a long pause and I could feel his eyes searching my face, but I couldn't look anywhere other than the bright lights of Central far below the wide balcony. I was afraid to see the confusion and worry on his face, the possibility that he might think there really was something wrong with me, confirming my long time fears. "You've done some growing up since I saw you last I think." He said quietly. His words surprised me enough to look back and see that old smirk gracing his features, but there was warmth in it this time, and it made me warm on the inside. "And yes, I know what you mean. I've had that feeling since I got this position. Where things are right, but they're not. Takes some getting used to." His voice sounded bitter, like the drink he had taken a sip of had suddenly gone sour somewhere between the tasting and the swallowing.
"What if I don't want to get used to it? What if I want it gone?"
"Then you'll do it." It was such a simple answer, said with a hint of a shrug and a touch of surprise, like it was the most sensible answer in the world. "Al, listen to me. You're strong and you're brave, your body might not be able to take the same amount of punishment your metal one had, but you can still take a lot. You're also as brilliant as any top Alchemist or surgeon in this country, possibly even the entire world, and to top it off, you know what it is to fall and get back up again. If you want your answer, then you'll find it. And send me a postcard once you do."
He looked back out to the cityscape and took another sip of his finely aged scotch, I knew because I could smell it, permeating the cool air that brushed against the fine hairs of my wrist and ruffled my hair.
There was an almost amused sigh. "You're not part of the military, and neither is your brother. Call me Roy."
We ended up talking for hours that night, and I even got to hear him laugh, it was rich and masculine, and it showed a side of him that I had so rarely seen. His eyes seemed older, but there was an ease now that he didn't have before, like he was comfortable in his own skin, a problem that I found many people had.
I also found he was kind, sly with his words but still upfront about the way he felt about things. He had a strong belief in Amestris, that it really could recover from all the hardships its people had gone through time and time again. His hope and his belief infected me, and for the first time in a long while, the smile I felt wasn't forced or used to cover some unknown wound up. It was real.
Realization dawned like the rise of a summer sun at the end of the night, warming my soul and filling up that emptiness I thought would never come. It lifted the tiny hairs on the back of my neck, and the weight that was sitting in my stomach since I had gotten back into my body seemed to lift and change, soothing those tender places like a balm. It had all happened so quickly I almost didn't understand, but looking at Roy looking at me with that slow smile and easy grace, with his wind-mussed black hair and almond eyes. I knew.