AU. Alphonse waited at the end of the line, feeling as though he were luggage. But now that he and many other children had been evacuated from the cities and industrial areas, all they could do was...
Shrapnel - Prologue
Huddled in an oversized coat, ten-year-old Alphonse Elric stood against the wall of Rizenbul Station, with a tag around his neck and his belongings in a suitcase. Though he was for the most part absorbed in his own worries and concerns, he heard the excited mutterings from the fifty or so other children who he had travelled with, and wondered why he couldn't feel the same excitement.
"I hope I get to stay on a farm!"
"Maybe they'll teach me how to bake bread!"
"I wanna see the cows!"
Occasionally, a person from the village would come up, speak to one of the two schoolteachers who had taken responsibility of them all, and take away one or two of the children. Alphonse wasn't sure what to think of it - he knew that they were all here for their own safety, but hadn't they always been taught not to talk to strangers? He fidgeted with the name tag, uncomfortable. Why couldn't his brother be here?
It was all going slower than Alphonse had anticipated, and it was cold. Even with the thick, weighty coat his father had given to him before he had left their home in Central, he found himself uncontrollably shivering. 'Well, it is raining,' he considered. 'And about half of us have already gone. I wonder how long it'll take for someone to claim me?'
He lifted his head up to look at the clock. Maybe if he watched the minute hand tick by, he could be distracted from the memories of those horrible flying machines that sent bombs down on the city? In the pocket of his coat, he held a piece of shrapnel from the raid everyone believed had killed his brother, Edward. He gripped the metal tightly, before pulling his attention from the clock and back to the floor, glancing back up periodically.
Another fifteen minutes ticked past, and all of the other children had been taken away. 'Maybe there aren't any homes left?' the boy worried, before he sighed and walked up to one of the schoolteachers. "Excuse me," he said, softly. "Is anyone else going to come? Maybe I should go back home to my father."
The teacher shook her head, and reassured him that someone else would arrive for him. She gave him a cucumber sandwich wrapped in foil, and suggested that he take a rest on one of the benches.
As it had been made several hours ago, the water from the cucumber had caused the sandwich to become soggy, but it wouldn't be polite to reject the food. Alphonse smiled and thanked the lady, before reluctantly going to sit on the bench.
That air raid still felt like it had been only yesterday, Alphonse contemplated, attempting not to gag on the slimy bread. It had been completely unexpected. Aeroplanes were an entirely new invention from Drachma. True, there had been reports of them, but actually seeing them came as quite a shock.
'I hope Dad's okay...' he thought, giving up on his attempts to eat the sandwich and scrunching the foil up around it. 'He shouldn't have sent me away so soon, he'll be lonely.'
His father's words still echoed in his mind - the way he had told Alphonse that Edward had been caught up in the air raid. He had explained how the library where Edward was studying for a school entrance exam had been one of the worst hit, and how that if he had been in there, he couldn't possibly have survived.
Alphonse had rushed to the site of the bombing, in the hope of finding his brother alive. The sight that greeted him washed away any hopes he had; the buildings had turned to rubble. There were probably many people buried under there, crushed to death. The boy had been stunned, having no idea how to respond. He felt like he should be crying, but he couldn't. The shock had rendered him numb, and it wasn't until his father had taken him back home that the tears finally came.
That had been nearly a week ago. The city council finally put their plans of evacuating the children into action shortly after the raid, and his father had insisted that he should go too. He had agreed, though admittedly reluctantly, acknowledging that this was for his own safety. If only the evacuation plans had been completed a just a little sooner, Edward would have been with him, stubbornly insisting that he wouldn't be separated from his brother as strangers offered them a home.
Checking to see that the schoolteachers weren't watching him, he tossed the foil-wrapped sandwich into the bin by the bench, and dug his hand into his pocket to once again clutch at the piece of shrapnel he had picked up from the bombing site. Maybe if Edward were here somebody would have taken them home already.
He glanced up at the clock again, before looking to the teachers again. Two new people had arrived. One was a small, elderly woman, and she was accompanied by a girl who appeared to be of his age.
A few words were exchanged between the elderly woman and the two schoolteachers, before he was called over. Had they come to take him in? The woman asked him a few questions before she offered him a room at her house. Al wasn't sure how to respond, but knowing his manners he offered a polite, almost shy 'thank you' and apologised for any trouble he might cause. The woman, who introduced herself as Pinako Rockbell (though he was to call her 'Granny'), seemed somewhat amused.
Her granddaughter, Winry, seemed to be delighted.
"We just got a puppy!" she exclaimed, excitedly. "He's really cute, you can play with him too if you want! And we have lots of toys and games to play with, you're gonna like it at our house! And I make toys too, want me to show you how?"
She appeared to be an enthusiastic, optimistic girl. Alphonse couldn't help but smile. For the first time in the last week, it hadn't been forced.