Title: Stronger
Author: Jordanna Morgan (librarie@jordanna.net)
Archive Rights: Please request the author’s consent.
Rating/Warnings: G.
Characters: Alphonse and Edward.
Setting: Early in the Elric brothers’ training with Izumi.
Summary: Young Alphonse has a wish.
Disclaimer: They belong to Hiromu Arakawa. I’m just playing with them.
Notes: Written for the prompt word “Bruise” at Fan Flashworks. Aside from being a brotherly moment, it is something of an exercise in irony.

 

Stronger

 

“That crazy woman is gonna kill us before we ever learn anything useful from her,” Edward groaned, flopping back on his bed to massage the strained muscles in his arms. “What’s all this combat training have to do with alchemy, anyway?”

Following Ed across the room more slowly, with a slight limp, Alphonse could only shake his head in woe.

Normally, the younger of the Elric brothers tried to look at the bright side of things, but at the moment he was finding that difficult. Their newly-acquired alchemy teacher, Izumi Curtis, had an unholy love of physically attacking them at the slightest provocation—and today the thrashing felt especially intense. Al in particular was bruised all over his body.

Both boys had come to realize that forcing them to defend themselves was a part of Izumi’s training philosophy; even that it was a bizarre act of caring on her part, an attempt to strengthen the young orphans for their lives ahead. Still, it was exhausting… and often very painful.

Gingerly crawling onto Brother’s bed to lie beside him, Al couldn’t help casting a comparative glance between them. Where his arms and legs were dappled with numerous yellow-purple bruises, and even a few finger-imprints from being seized and thrown, he could see only one or two such marks on Ed. What the elder sibling did have was scrapes on his knuckles from getting in a few good strikes at Teacher—something Al had completely failed at.

“I wish I was tougher, like you,” Al mused wistfully, extending his arm to contrast his tender young flesh against Ed’s firmer skin.

Ed sat up, looking briefly surprised and thoughtful before he reached out to toussle Al’s hair. “Aw, don’t say that. I was just luckier today. Anyway, I like you just how you are. …You’re so soft, you make a good pillow, you know,” he added deviously, twisting around on the bed to drop his head heavily on Al’s stomach.

Hey!” Al yelped, half-laughing at the playfulness. “I am not a pillow!”

As he spoke, he shoved Ed hard in the ribs to push him off… only to freeze when his brother abruptly rolled aside with a sharp intake of breath. Just for an instant, Al caught the grimace of pain that flashed across Ed’s face.

“Brother, what’s wrong?”

“It’s nothing,” Ed insisted quickly—but Al knew better than to believe him. Quickly he squirmed onto his knees, reaching out to yank up the hem of Ed’s shirt.

Across Ed’s left ribs, there spread a bruise that was much larger and deeper than any Alphonse sported. It was an angry purple-red, and bigger than Ed’s hand that swiftly shot up to cover it.

Then Al remembered the moment, during that day’s sparring, when Ed lunged in front of him to block one of Teacher’s fiercest kicks. The force of the blow had landed squarely on him in his little brother’s place. Afterward, he spun back and launched a new counterattack so easily that Al thought it hadn’t fazed him… but now, the evidence was before his eyes.

Brother…”

Red-faced, Ed pulled away slightly, jerking his shirt down over the bruise. “I told you, it’s no big deal.” Rather brusquely he turned over onto his uninjured right side, and reached for the alchemy book that was tucked halfway under his pillow.

Al’s heart twisted, and his face fell. After a lengthy hesitation, he scooted closer to Ed, and curled up against his brother’s back.

Now more than ever, Alphonse did wish he was stronger. Instead of being the one Ed protected to his own cost, he wished he could be strong enough to shield Ed from anything that would hurt him.

Somberly he ran his fingers over his own bruises, and refused to let himself wince when they responded to that gentle pressure with twinges of pain. It wasn’t really that bad… and surely it would get better. If this sparring with Teacher kept on, he would learn to ignore the aches. His soft skin would harden to the constant bruising, and his body would grow tougher at last.

He would be strong enough someday—and then he would be the one who protected Brother.


© 2016 Jordanna Morgan