A/N- Okay... I don't think I like this, so I'm gonna call this the beta version and just not stress over any more editing. It's a bit wordy, but I think it does its purpose... sort of.
Lemme give a little background... Ehm... well, an AU from episode 42 sprouted in my head after in a debate of fanficrants, I was challenged to devise a new but very possible standpoint on the Ishbalite stance on homosexuality- that it's not against God's will, but is in fact, natural and part of Ishbala's plan with the world (Granted that they accept it is an attribute one is born with.)
Well, I had a big long theoretical AU in there, focusing on Scar and somehow Al weedled his way in, and it turned cute. However, it's not translating properly to words, and I'm very very stuck on it, so instead, I have this one which roots off that AU, in which we have- Restored everyone, Scar alive and without one arm, Ed and Winry married and living in an ishbal camp providing medical care. Al is with them, and he's taken to Ishbal culture like a duck to water. (He seems like he'd be very enthusiastically adaptable to most cultures he winds up immersed in.)
This was very musically influenced, even though the songs I was listening to while writing this were rennaisance/medieval european and not middle eastern. Dance songs are dance songs, dang it!
He raised his arms over his head, fingers spread with poise, as he spun and played as though only a sentient shadow through the licks of flamelight mingled with dusky orange sunbeams. He swung the scarf around himself, threading it through his fingers and across his arms with a smooth slip. Eyes closed, stepping in sure, fluid motions, moving by feeling and sound rather than sight, lithe body veritably floating through the evening air to the steady beat of drums; all who watched were mesmerised. It was undeniable that Alphonse Elric was truly beautiful when he danced.
The air was rich with the voices of village children and young women; boys on their drums, a spare artisan here and there had a flute or a bell to offer, but rarely was the music of Ishbal made complete without its worthy dancers, and all knew to look forward to it. It had once been said by an old Ishbalite scholar of some era long past that a dance is merely a prayer spoken with the body rather than the words, and few such worshippers had ever embodied that parable quite like those of this particular evening. In the meals, the music, the easy laughter, all parts of this night spoke of freedom and rebirth- an ultimate burden of release from dependence with no particular initiation at all, only that the time, for the first time in years, finally seemed right to celebrate Ishbal's new life; a praise to God for their perserverence.
And praise they did; the elders gathered around cooking fires among the clusters of tents and brick houses, bundled against the nonexistant night's chill, passing on all they knew with their lore of the years past and long gone from their nearly dead culture; the adults with their feasting, a testament to the hard work they had given to bring the dying race back to a sprout of hope by the grace of Ishbala; and the youth praised by their music and dance, for the revival of their culture- for the new tapestry of a future among their generation.
Alphonse's pale skin, even awash in the orange glow of the sunset, shone in stark contrast to the others in the circle who danced with him, and yet in his confident sweeps, he appeared as though he had been born into this country; just another native son, only extending the praises to his creator. Sandy hair, pale eyes and skin- he seemed the epitome of all that Ishbal was not. Still, he danced with all the grace of the rest of them, even rising above.
He let the scarf slip from his fingers, tossing it to chance in the cooling air, and found the end caught by another. They were drawn together, only by the length that the cloth allowed, and spun, hands joined by extension of the bright red silk, a respect to the limited contact of traditional customs that kept them at tentative, but playful distance. He raised and quickly moved the scarf, almost as a teasing challenge to see if his partner was proficient enough to keep up with his pace, and he was indulged in a surefooted response; a bright well humored glare, and further swirling into the maddening rhythms of the song.
The scarred man watched as Alphonse danced with this girl. She had been one of many on that evening alone; each of the young women wanting to land an opportunity with the handsome foreigner before the evening ended. He watched them, their livelihood with mild amusement. He might not have thought Alphonse to be the type to be easily socialable with girls, but then again, he never would have been able to hazard a guess that Alphonse was such an amazing dancer either, and one who adapted so well. Truly, it suited him, after having suffered through a waking hell of living with his unfeeling body, he certainly made use of what he had been blessed with anew. There seemed not a single imperfection in him as he slowly matured, day after day, shedding his childish mask and transforming into the handsome young man who all the girls giggled at and sought after the privelege of merely talking to. Surely this was ecstasy for them to see the gem of their village dance as such, and then to be able to take their turns in joining him.
This one's name was Marian- he knew at least that much about her. She was a fierce little creature, several years younger than Alphonse, but not in the least intimidated by him. She was half Amestrian, told by her family that a soldier had 'married' her mother, (that small white lie still brought unpleasant memories to Scar, even all these years after knowing of Rose's tragedy) and she was avid about learning everything there was to know about the other half of her culture. So naturally, when the Elric Brothers made their diplomatic debut into Ishbalite society, she (after easing up on the disappointment that the elder was already married; happily so with the woman who was also giving him crash course lessons in medicine and mechanics) quickly clung to Alphonse. They had made fast friends, and Scar wistfully wondered if she would end up being the lucky one who made it further.
Certainly Alphonse deserved it- a quaint happy life with a sprightly beautiful young bride; he had probably yearned for it with more depth than any other boy his age could have hoped to understand. And when God had passed over His blessing on the brothers, it was to open to a life of peace and normality. In companionship, the Elric boy deserved more than a scab from his old lifestyle; another sinner, wounded and deemed invalid by his own young age. Scar knew this perfectly well, and yet there was still that part of himself that flouted God's will in spite of himself and wanted; wanted to share that life with Alphonse on his own; wanted to be the one to comfort and protect him.
Perhaps it had always been that way, even if in a detatched abyssmal sense in the earlier days; back when they were both still condemned sinners- both still children at heart, really; stuck on their stubbornly set views of the world, stuck under the heavy shadows of their troublesome elder brothers. And yet while Ishbala had granted them all breath for another day, he knew that his fate as a forgiven one would still be different from theirs, for he had taken the murderer's path, and they had only ever acted in sin out of love. Perhaps it was jealousy that had always drawn him to the younger of the Elrics; jealous of his love, his ability to forgive his brother. Perhaps it was mere lonliness in his immature soul made insane with grief and wrath. Perhaps even in these days, it was the sinful sentiment of desire, which lead him to want the handsome young man just as strongly as he had truly loved the soul within.
But... even as his intentions may have proven true and possibly somehow sacred, the scarred man knew he could never allow himself to burden Alphonse with his sinner's heart. He was headed towards a beautiful life, and Scar had seen it; seen the way he looked so lovingly upon his older brother and sister-in-law, who was now heavily pregnant, but who was no less strong in her work ethic as she still set up to provide medical services for the small village each day, whether or not her husband worriely advised against it. He had seen Alphonse wishing for it; there were no words needed to understand that. A beautiful loving wife, a darling child born of their love; nothing that a crippled old sinner could provide for him. He was better off not knowing.
The beats of girls' bracelets intensified in perfect time with the drums and all at once came to rest. The dance was over, and the dancers scattered, catching their breath and giving encouragement to their neighbors. The sky was perfectly blending into violet rays, and the first crisp chill of night blew through as though on cue with the halt of drumbeats, carrying upon it the comforting scent of firewood. The scarred man, having been entranced with the Elric's dancing along with the rest of them, relaxed his gaze just as the alchemist had settled down and turned to the girl to offer the theatrical bow of an Amestrian gentleman.
He smiled, in spite of his petty side, and had to himself a moment of sheer contentment, knowing that at least- no, by the grace of God, Al was going to be a happy man- there was no doubt. That could only be his greatest wish; that Alphonse could find happiness.
He faintly registered the start of new music as he busied himself pouring a cup of water with his only arm, and the voice that called to him was so soft at first that it seemed to blend in with the chorus of women who had begun to sing again, into a new, slower, but upbeat tune. It took a light tug on his sleeve to make him aware of the presence before him. He stared into the earth-toned eyes in content acknowledgement (Al had learned by now that simply not-frowning was usually the closest 'Mister Scar' would ever get to a smile), and was completely taken aback by the happy little proposal given.
"Dance with me!" the young man said to him jovially, eagerly taking his wrist. Scar, quickly getting over the surprise, brought his arm back and set it firmly on his knee, leaning forward with an utmost strictness in his voice as he responded.
"Alphonse Elric," he said with deliberate patience, "I absolutely do not dance."
This was responded to with only a merry laugh of patronizing agreement,
"Of course you don't."
And the young alchemist proved himself quite strong (or perhaps it was the persuasive power of his bewitchingly innocent smile...), managing to pull the scarred man to his feet with little resistance. Both hands eagerly hanging on to the large wrist, he practically hopped backwards in time with the rhythm of the song, moving in dancelike steps even as he laughed and dragged his humiliated companion forward. And when he finally decided what place was right, he stopped them decidedly, looked up, smiled, drew his comrade nearer, reveling in the closer contact they were allowed as men; as friends. Yes... only as friends.
Scar had to wonder if Al wasn't intimidated by his height; for even after having grown into an adult himself, his new height was a far cry from the armor in which they had first met eye to eye with.
His worries were dashed, for Al was as placid as ever, resting against his dance partner with beautiful confidence in more of an embrace than a stance for dancing, though he kept the steps perfectly.
"Alphonse..." Scar muttered, thoroughly convinced that his knees were turning to wood.
"Hmm?" The shorter man asked, raising an eyebrow.
"We look ridiculous."
Another warm smile, and a contented laugh.
"Of course we do."
Of course they did... and even so, there was such ease in that declaration that Scar couldn't help but to relax and allow the music to take them where they went. In a sway, a step, a spin and another sigh and embrace, he spoke his prayer to the heavens.
With his tentative touches, he prayed with all his body, prayed in earnesty; only that Al would find safety and happiness come what may; for this moment was bliss enough to the heart of the lonely nameless Ishbalite.
(Nyaaaaa! Fluff overload!)