Type: Oneshot, General, First Anime
Characters: From Alphonse's PoV, Edward, mentions of other characters
Summary: Alphonse contemplates the passing of time from his childhood in Rizembool to his current life.
(Written as a tribute to the first FMA anime for the 10th anniversary, and of course a bit for 'Never Forget' Day)
In any year, on an autumn day such as this, a traveler in Rizembool could be surprised with a lingering summer heat so strong that it left some doubt in the mind whether the season had actually passed on for the year. On such a day, the dust from the roads seemed to rise up, clinging to the clothes and leaving a faint aroma that when mingled in with the smells of recently harvested grain, sheered sheep, and the not so common smoking of the season's first dried tobacco, created almost a sedation of the senses and some deep-seeded need to connect with nature. That, and to connect with some recently baked pie that somehow had the perfect blend of the summer reaching its climax.
Of course, on any given year, on an autumn day such as this, a traveler in Rizembool could also be surprised by unusually early winter snows. A violent white washing of trees, fields, houses, and livestock if a farmer was irresponsible enough to not be paying attention to the weather. On such a day people gathered in the local tavern or around home fireplaces to keep warm. There might be lamb stew simmering all day, caressing the nose and causing even the strongest man to look longingly toward the pot like a love-sick girl at the start of spring; yet even the most brave of those men would not risk incurring the woman of the house's wrath by trying to snatch some of that culinary delight early. That feat of bravery was left to those young enough as to not know any better.
But this autumn day in Rizembool was neither of those extremes. This autumn day was that perfect autumn day where summer had given up its strong hold and winter had yet decided to lay claim. The air had a crispness to it that could only be replicated by biting into an apple recently gathered from a local orchard. There were pumpkin patches giving up their yield for the year, and mothers were making pumpkin pie, toasting the seeds, or roasting the insides while the children cut faces into the now empty shell. On this perfect autumn day the leaves were changing from their lush green to the vibrant colors of burnt orange, fiery red, and lively yellow only to escape their home and fall to the ground to be gathered, jumped in, gathered again, then eventually burnt.
For Alphonse Elric there could be no more perfect autumn day, and so it was perfect. He was dreaming, he knew he was, but he didn't mind the dreaming of such things. There had been many nights over the years that he'd dreamt of his home, of the reality of such things that had slipped away from him for so many years during his adolescence. During those dark and lonely nights he couldn't dream. On those nights he would lose himself in thought and try to remember what it was like to dream. He would try to conjure up the smells of the seasons, the warm feel of the sun on his face, the taste of his mother's homemade apple pie. He would remember what it was like to run through the grass with his older brother Edward, or carve the faces on the pumpkins with the girl, Winry, whom both he and his brother had fought over, and whom neither of them had ever had.
Alphonse could see it all so clearly in his dreams because his dreams were vivid and intense, almost a different reality. And in his dreams he could walk the dusty roads of his home town, or the halls of his childhood home. In his dreams he could feel the excitement in the pit of his stomach and the wind on his face as he swung on that rickety old tree swing, or the soft and loving caress of his mother's hands--rough from cooking, cleaning, and the constant maintaining of a home that was one person short of their four person family unit--as he lamented the loss of a newly acquired frog, or the scrape on his knee from playing too hard with Ed, or even the simple show of love at the end of a bedtime story before she got up, turned off the lights, and left him to sink into the then unappreciated escape of dreams.
But all of that was long ago and far away. It was a life he had left, a door he had shut. He had made a decision years ago to follow his brother into a world beyond his own; or, at least, to a world that lay on a sort of parallel universe.
In his dreams he would remember traveling all of Amestris--his home country. His brother--who had been well known by sight in those tight, black leather pants, and that eye jarring red coat--and he had wandered and searched, they had had more adventure than most story books allowed. They had known wonder, terror, excitement, fear, and a wonderful science that was now all but unattainable to them both.
That hadn't stopped when they'd moved on and they had seen the world. Countries that didn't exist to them before had opened up their wonders and shown them cultures that had been beyond either of their limited imagination. They had seen great and terrible wars, and found that simple yet profound kindnesses were to be had no matter how dark the hour.
With a sad smile, Alphonse, still in his perfect autumn Rizembool dream, began to walk down the hard-packed dirt road. He waved to neighbors and friends he'd never see again as he breathed in the nostalgic scents of his surroundings. He walked past the big yellow house that belonged to the Rockbell family and saw Winry waving to him from the porch. She looked so young in his now old eyes. Young, strong, and full of life... they all had been at that age. And so he waved back, wishing to go to her and enjoy her company again, if only in a dream.
But that wasn't why he'd come here on this night of dreaming. Even subconsciously, his waking mind had known he would come here tonight of all nights in this dream, to a place that was only a memory now. So, he kept walking, wistfully remembering all of the good times and none of the bad, selectively keeping his dream from reforming into something dark and just as real, if not terrifyingly so.
Alphonse stopped at a tree whose branches had not yet completely gone barren and took several multi-colored leaves from the tree, holding them in his hand and enjoying the feel of their light texture momentarily before kneeling down and drawing a simple array in the dirt. He laid the leaves in the middle and touched his hand to the array, feeling almost sentimental at the upsurge of power in his body that extended through his hand to the array and formed the leaves into a multi-colored leaf wreath. There were no flowers this time of year, and though it was a dream and he could have made it so, Alphonse knew that once the dream was pushed out of it's realistic realms, that it would soon begin to unravel and he would wake much sooner than he wished.
Gently, he picked up the wreath, then smoothed the dirt over the array before he was on his way again. It didn't take him long to reach his destination, and he stopped at the small gate of the cemetery, feeling a small lump form in his throat now that he was here. But he pushed on and wound his way between the grave stones, then slowed at the bottom of the small hill his mother was buried at. He could see the stone, and he could see a figure standing over it, head bowed, hands clasped solemnly in front of him.
Alphonse wasn't a man who really understood much about dreams, just like he understood little about how there could possibly be more than one plain of existence that mirrored another, but he did know that at times his brother and he crossed paths in dreams. He had never asked Ed about it in the waking world, feeling that it was too private to put into words. And there was part of Alphonse who surmised that seeing Ed in his dreams at specific times such as these could just be his mind bringing to the forefront what Alphonse wanted most deeply at that moment.
Walking up the hill now, Alphonse stood next to Edward and looked at him. It wasn't the child or the teenager who would fit perfectly in this dreamscape, but the Edward of his current life. During their travels when they were younger, they had both found many places in the world they loved; but for some reason, one that Alphonse thought had to do with his first couple of years in that world than anything else, Edward always found himself longing to return to Germany--which is where he eventually settled down and took up a position teaching mathematics. It had been a while since they had seen each other in person, given that Alphonse had taken up a somewhat un-lucrative--in terms of money--medical career traveling through the countries of South America and using his skills to help those in need.
Alphonse laid his wreath on top of his mother's headstone and stood next to Ed, silently thinking about his mother, which turned into thoughts of life in general. He had long wondered if there could possibly be more than two different 'worlds'. Perhaps somewhere out there was a world where he and his brother had been able to stay in Amestris. In such a world, maybe one of them had even married the beautifully vibrant Winry Rockbell and made a life with her. Perhaps in such a world there wouldn't be the influence of Dante. Maybe in such a world would still be able to use alchemy, or maybe he would have been able to get to know his father more than just one night of talking.
In that world, could there be a chance that Roy Mustang had been able to change the government and he'd had something more with the beautiful Riza Hawkeye--with whom Alphonse had always suspected there might be more than just duty involved between the two of them. He wondered if in that world Nina or Marta would have been a chimera and if they would have had to die, or if the Tringham brothers would still be causing trouble; or, maybe, just maybe, Maes Hughes would have been able to see his daughter grow up like he did in the world Alphonse currently lived in.
And in more fantastical terms, could there be a world where his father never had left them, that his father had lived, and that his mother had never gotten ill nor died a premature death, leaving two young boys confused and hurting.
Alphonse supposed there might be. He supposed that there could be millions of other worlds or plains of existence. Perhaps even this world of dreaming was simply just another world in which people could exist, one that was easy to cross over into despite its instability. Was there one world that was the most real, the most correct? Alphonse didn't think so. He felt that whatever world someone lived in, that one was the most real to those who lived in it. His current world and life was no less real or important than any other ones.
He reached out and touched Ed's arm, watching his brother silently.
No, the world of Amestris, or of Rizembool, or of Germany, or of Chile, Brazil, Peru, or any of the other countries and cities he'd ever visited.... they were all real, correct, and important.
At the touch, Ed turned his head and looked at Alphonse, a small smile playing on his mouth.
"Hallo, Alphonse," Ed said softly.
Alphonse gave his own small smile in return. "Hola hermano."
Ed shook his head with a wry smile, and switched to Amestrian. "My Spanish was never good."
"Is that why you like Germany?" Alphonse asked, switching to Amestrian as well, a touch of humor in his voice now. "Because you're lazy and Amestrian is basically German?"
Edward gave him a light, affectionate punch on the shoulder, then gave put the same arm around Alphonse and gave him a small and quick side hug.
"I'm glad you're here," Alphonse said.
"I didn't forget," Ed said, looking at the headstone again. "I would never forget."
Alphonse smiled a little. "I would never forget either, brother."
And so they stood there, side by side, in the perfect autumn day with the smell of hearths being used for the first time that season and that of spiced pumpkin coming from several houses filling the now chilly air, enjoying the closeness even if it was just a dream, or in a world that was no longer their own. They stood there with all the experience they had gained in the life they'd lived in only two worlds of many, after all the years that had gone by, remembering all of those things that were most important, most personal and private, most dear to the heart, never to return.
Remembering, and never forgetting.