He came back to himself to find that he was somewhere dark, trapped and confined, and afraid.

He tried to move his arm, but he could only lift it a few inches before it struck against something and stopped, with a shock that rattled his entire body. He gasped, mind blanking white with pain and confusion and fear, he was so afraid, how could he be so afraid? He tried calling out to his brother, Niisan, Niisan, but his voice wouldn't work, wouldn't make a noise. It was like there was a blanket of fog over his voice, thick and choking. Over all his thoughts. What was happening? Why did he feel so wrong?

Oh God, this was one of those nightmares, the ones where the blood seal stopped working properly and he couldn't move, couldn't speak, couldn't do anything but lie there and watch the world change around him. Only now he couldn't see anything, why was it so dark? He tried to remember last night, tried to remember going home and going to sleep, with his brother just in the next bed over—but nothing. Just a whirl of darkness, and confusion, and fear.

He turned his head—it banged on something, hard, and another wave of whiteness washed through his mind. The darkness shifted a little. What did that mean?

He tried to force himself to think, through the whirlwind of why was he so afraid? why? fear blanketing his mind. Moving his arm again—again it hit hard after a few inches, and when he pushed, the pressure wouldn't give. But he could shift around in this tiny space, drag his arm back out of the trap and pull it free. With his arm shaking—why was it shaking, why?—he put out his hand and felt the edge of what was blocking his vision in front of him.

And froze, disbelief and confusion cresting in him again. He knew this shape, this hard surface, knew it intimately, but he'd never touched it from this angle before. This was the inside of him, of his own chest plate, and the hard edges bit into his fingers, and—

And he could feel pain, and his body was making him breathe, and he was trembling with that pain and the fear that filled him real and chemical, surging through space that was filled with flesh and veins and blood again.

His body.

His body was back. He was...

He was trapped inside his own armor, and it was dark, and hard to breathe.

Something was obviously wrong here.

When he tried, he could take a deeper breath, although his chest kept seizing up and not wanting to move. When he tried, he could make his mouth move, and his throat, the mechanics of it long forgotten through the years of only having to will his voice into being. He still couldn't manage words, but at least this time he made a sound, a hoarse-sounding cry that rattled painfully in the crevices of the armor. Surely his brother was somewhere nearby, and if he called him, he would come and find him, and help him. Another gulp of air, and this time he managed to form the familiar word: "Niisan!"

What was that—an answer? Al tried to still, to quiet so that he could listen, but it was hard, when the rush of air was so noisy, when the pulse of his blood was thunderous. No, there was a noise thaat was not him; he heard voices, speaking from somewhere far away, and grating sounds like rock on rock. "Niisan?" he called out again, and he thought the voices moved closer.

Another breath, and he held it this time, trying to listen. He could make out a few words, muffled by distance and white noise.

"...over here?" Someone was calling.

"Here!" He tried to move, but couldn't, only causing a rattling and another flare of pain as his pinned arms and legs struggled. "Here, I'm here!"

"...someone... underneath!" the voices called, in great excitement, and the shuffling and grating noises were much closer, suddenly. Light blared into his world, filtered through the cracks in his armor, but still bright enough to make his eyes blink and water. The dizzy whiteness rushed over him again; bright, hurting, noisy, afraid, hard, can't remember, Niisan...

Things got very blurry, for a while. More voices, painted in tones of worry, excitement, anger, and relief; some familiar, some new. Movement, that was not his own doing. More light. More voices, but none of them his brother, so he couldn't answer them.

Then: his world cracked open, like a shell, and the light was suddenly too bright to ignore, and he flinched, bringing up his stinging free hand to shield against it. The voices suddenly became clearer, and the words made sense again.

" that?" one of them asked, in tones of hushed disbelief. "I can't believe he's really—"

"It must be," someone else was saying, "look at his eyes, his hair, but it's not Edward..."

Niisan? Al dropped his hand, and tried to answer, but nothing would come out. His blurry vision picked out a face, leaning in towards him, dark hair and dark eyes and a kindly expression.

"Alphonse," Maria's voice was saying kindly. "Alphonse, it's going to be all right. We've got you, we've dug you out of the rubble. We're taking you to the hospital right now, and we'll take care of you there, I promise. You'll be okay."

She was reaching in as she talked, into the hollow of the armor that had been him for so long, and she took hold of his arm and pulled.

His last coherent thought was that her hands weren't as soft as he'd somehow expected them to be.