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Reta McClain
title: Sinner's Path
author: Reta McClain
genre: Gen, Angst, Adventure, Fluff
rating: T, maybe R
pairings: EdxWin, Royai and few others
warnings: Spoils the end of the series, has details, background information and characters from the manga (in later chapters, that is, if we ever get there) THIS FIC HAS A PLOT!
summary: Edward wakes up in a place unknown to him and now he has to adjust to his new life and new friends while he struggles to find a way back.
disclaimer: I do not own Fullmetal Alchemist, any of the countries, languages, inventions or places mentioned in this fiction. HOWEVER I own some of the characters and the story itself.

A/N:
Okie dokie, folks, this is my very first multichaptered FMA fanfic and first I would express my gratitude for clicking the link and (hopefully) reading this fic. Then I would like to point out that this fic doesn't include the movie (Conqueror of Shambala) as I don't like it.
So, the idea formed from post-series FMA fanfic overload I went through last summer but I started writing this only last January and I've almost 120 pages written already, so I've something to post when I get writer's block.
This story will be written in four main Story Arcs and the prologue (which I'm posting now) and the epilogue (if I ever write it) are outside of them.
I would also like to warn you that this fic has an army of OCs that will all probably disappear at the end of 2nd Story Arc.

Prologue
(word count: 1 222)

He let his gaze sweep over the room he was in, he let his gaze rest on pillars standing at the sides of it. Golden light illuminated the room and the music that had played there only an hour or two ago had died and now the whole underground city was engulfed into a silence. It reminded him of a grave. And it shall be his grave as he was going to leave this world and leave it for others to live. Mainly for his younger brother, lost to the Gate of True Knowledge. He was going to bring that young, innocent and carefree boy, who he was so many years ago, back and at the same time ask forgiveness for his sins. Yes, he had sinned, committed maybe even worse sins than anyone. He knew that it wasn't a sin to love and long for a mother's lost touch but to go through with a plan of regaining it, was. He had committed the taboo of Human Transmutation at a tender age of eleven and survived it, even though he should have died back in that day...

He raised his face towards the high ceiling of the room. He couldn't see it clearly as it vanished into shadows. He himself was standing in light that fell upon the room from a huge crystal chandelier. He closed his eyes and felt that even though his body was surrounded by light, his mind and soul were prisoners of darkness. His eyes, equal to the colour of his golden hair, opened slowly and he lowered his gaze again. His eyes held sorrow in them, sadness and grief, desperation and determination, love and longning.

He wa standing in a middle of a complex transmutation circle, its long and black curves cascading around him, towards the sides of the huge room. He let his gaze fall upon it, looking over it for missing details. He didn't want this to go wrong. He had only one chance to give Alphonse the second chance to live the way he wanted. With his whole body.

He shut his eyes as he felt the tears threaten to fall down his smooth cheeks. He took a deep, calming breath before clapping his hands together and walking out of the circle. One thing needed to be done before he could achieve his final goal. He brought his hand down onto the floor, concentrating hard. He felt as the energy brizzled through him as he took an access to the Gate. He fought against disgust as he now knew what the power he cherished was drawing its energy from. Human lives. In a weird way it made sense to him as the Philosopher's Stone he had spent so much time looking for was made from the thousads of souls of human beings. Everytime he had used alchemy, he had caused someone to die. He felt disgusted of himself as he opened his golden coloured eyes and looked at the dagger that was now resting in his hands.

He rose to stand once again and slit his a small wound to his upper arm without a second thought. He felt as the warm blood slowly trickled down his arm. His right arm. His lips twisted into a bitter smile. Ironic. His life was just a big joke. He had worked so hard to get his real limbs back and now he was planning to die so soon after regaining them? He gave a sad laugh and threw the dagger away. He could hear as it clattered onto the floor few meters on his left. His fingers rose up to touch the blood on his arm. It felt warm to his fingers as it had felt to his arm. He brought his hand to his chest, gently drawing a simple circle with his blood. A simple array with a smaller in the middle. Three straight lines exited first from the inner one and then from the outer. Between each of them were small Vs, with their joining points outwards. He sighed softly and copied the same array to his forehead and both arms. The one on his left arm was the hardest for him for two reasons. He was left handed and to make the matter even hatder he hadn't really used this arm, his right arm, for years.

He let his arms fall to his sides with a sigh. 'I really am hopeless', he thought as he raised his right hand and flexed his fingers. Human fingers. Soon he wouldn't have them. He wouldn't have anything. He turned and walked slowly to stand in the middle of the transmutation circle again. He ignored the trail of blood on his arm as he lowered his gaze to the ground.

”If my father's words about the Gate are true, then Al's body, mind and soul should still be there. Maybe Equivalent Exchange doesn't exist, maybe you can give everything you have and gain nothing in return...”, he raised his gaze with determination etched into his features. ”But even then, I have to try. Come back, Al.”

He brought his hands together before him. His very stance told of decision to achieve the impossible. His hands met in a resounding clap, and to some people this would have looked like he was praying the God for forgiveness. Maybe he was doing it in a way. But he wasn't praying for God, he was praying for his only little brother to return and to live. He shut his eyes and placed his hands to his chest, letting the alchemic energy run through him and to the transmutation circle on the floor. He could see the electric blue light to simmer through his eyelids as the transmutation took place.

He opened his eyes after a moment or two. The sight before him was more familiar than he dared to admit. A huge gate surrounded by pure whiteness and emptiness. He looked up at the huge and black Gate, skillfully engraved with non-existant hands.

'What do you whish for, mortal? You have been here before... Didn't you get enough?'

He shivered as he heard the Gate's voice echo inside his head.

”I want to give myself to you... but in exchange, you return my little brother's body, mind and soul to where they belong”, he sounded braver than what he felt. He was scared ....less, anyone would be when dealing with Gate.

'Ah, is that so? How peculiar indeed...'

He wanted to retort but decided that it would be wiser to be quiet.

'Yes... I'll return your brother to his home in one piece, but you won't be seeing him.'

He shut his eyes and said with a choked voice. ”I expected nothing less from you and I'm ready to make that sacrifice.” And he was. He wouldn't be here otherwise.

He heard the Gate to laugh inside his head and he fought against an urge to shudder before the God-like being.

'Come, alchemist. Face the rules you have sinned against during your life, face the First Law of Equivalent Exchange.'

He took a deep breath before stepping forward and into the opening Gate. He felt the black hands lach into him, taking a grim hold of his limbs and torso.

And he screamed as he drowned in the darkness.




A/N: Comments and criticism are very much appreciated and I'd like to now if someone is interested to be my beta. My native language is Finnish which is probably as far from English as possible so I'd like to have someone point the mistakes in grammar (+ typos) out for me.

I will be updating next week, I think, but after that it goes how I have time. This summer is pretty hectic and I don't have an access to the computer for at least four weeks (maybe in few weekends between those) because I'm A] out of country B] in my lil' summer paradise or C] at the Prometheus-camp for those who don't go to confirmation camp.


And a little gift to you all:
(done with Paint, again)
GeGGuli-Chan
I really like it! I'm not saing this just because you're my friend, but because you can write! I enjoid a lot of the whole Gate-chatting thingy...Just keep posting this! ^^
Tombow
@Reta McClain - I like it!! I agree with Jenna.. the gate stuff fascinates me, and I'm looking forward to reading the coming chapters!! happy.gif
Oh, and a nice drawing bonus!! ^^
Night Shadow Alchemist
thats pretty awsome im wirting a long fanfic atm awsell, but uts still in the planning stages. You have done a great job nice one smile.gif
Reta McClain
Aaah, you don't know how unbelievably happy I'm right now. I got reviews!
Jenna: To be honest... I don't know why i wrote them chatting XD
Tombow: Had to add it, dunno why, though biggrin.gif I don't know why I do most of the stuff I do (Confusing, isn't it?)
Night Shadow Alchemist: Thanks for the comment biggrin.gif


A/N: Soooooo, I'd like to point out that this chapter is what was first written to this story. Heck, I wrote the Prologue after I'd written 80-90 pages. So this is not... verbally as beautiful as the prologue (I do like the prologue... more than this, actually sleep.gifU). And I'm being a lazy ass and not checking how many words this one has. Around 3 500 is my best guess.

1st Story Arc

Moving Forward


1. Awakenings

It was dark...

And warm...

'Was being dead... like this?....'

'Am I dead?'


He opened his liquid golden eyes slowly only to see grey, cracked ceiling to loom above him. He started to turn his head slowly. He had had his share of trouble and hospital visits and one thing was sure; if you woke up in a place you didn't recognize or you woke up even though you weren't supposed to wake, something was wrong and your head is without a doubt sore as hell. A pain exploded in his brain with blinding force and he shut his eyes, trying to lessen its effect. As the pain quieted into throbbing in the back of his head he opened his eyes again. Now he registered that his head wasn't the only thing that ached. His whole body felt like he was lying on a top of burning coals. It felt like it was almost literally on fire and he wanted it to stop. Hadn't he suffered enough? His right shoulder and left thigh stung and burned but he almost missed them under the searing white pain in his chest. Oh God... Automail surgery was nothing compared to this pain.

He took deep breath, ready to try turning his head again. But stopped when he heard a rasping sound that his lungs made. It wasn't normal. His breathing wasn't supposed to rasp. His thoughts were muddled and disoriented from the pain and confusion. Why was his breathing labored and heavy? Why did it feel like something heavy was on his chest or like thousands of needles were throbbing him? He closed his eyes again, letting his breath to normalize. Breathing f*!@ing hurt.

'What's wrong with me?'

He opened his eyes and turned his head slowly and carefully to look around the place he was in. Or room, the be more particular. It was small and gray, there almost wasn't enough room to a huge wardrobe, a mahogany desk with writing utensils and a bookshelf. To put it into as few words as possible, the room was cramped. If he wasn't already feeling confused and in pain he would have been depressed. Nobody could find this room cheerful. Well, maybe Dante but she was an old hag with god-complex anyway so no one asked her. The weather outside the glass window on the west – he guessed – wall was gray and the heavy clouds held a promise of soon falling rain.

'Where am I? What's this place?'

He could see that it wasn't hospital as those were white and clean and their entirely too clean smell was nauseating. This room was relatively clean if you ignored the smell of dust, but that smell put him at ease. He spent most of his time in dusty places and they were his own little sanctuaries.

A soft tapping sound from the other side of the door interrupted his musings. The noice was slowly growing louder, like the maker was coming closer.

'Footsteps...? Could it be the owner of this place? Who could it be...?'


His gaze moved automatically to the doorhandle as it turned down and the door creaked open.

In the doorway was standing probably the last person he wanted to see. His eyes widened in shock.

"Old M-!"

The pain exploded in his chest as he broke into a coughing fit and his left hand rose automatically to keep saliva from flying to every direction. In an instant he felt a big and rough hand land onto his shoulder, gripping it tightly. His poor excuse of a father helped him to sit up, supporting him. The new position helped him a little but he still felt nauseous. His vision was blurring... He couldn't breathe...!

The fit ended slowly and he took a weak breath,opening his eyes. He felt awful. His throat hurt like hell and he was lightheaded. He turned to look his left hand. The only hand he had at the moment. There was blood on it. Not really that much but enough to make it alarming. Was this what Teacher had to go through everytime she overworked herself? Was this what she felt like when she fought with too much vigor and too long? He shifted his gaze slowly to the person standing beside him. The man had long, blond hair pulled into tight ponytail and beard the same colour. The eyes, that were the same golden colour as his own, shimmered worriedly behind the wire-rimmed glasses.

"Wha-?" he started to ask weakly.

"Don't talk" Hohenheim of Light said gently. "Your lungs are too damaged for you to talk."

He shut his eyes tightly, wanting to yell and bash at his father but suspecting that it would probably kill him if he tried. He nodded weakly and regretted it a moment later as the nauseous feeling overtook him again. ...., this was far worse than when he had lost his limbs.

"Here" he heard Hohenheim's voice. "You should drink this, Edward."

Edward opened his eyes and looked a glass of water in his father's hand. Hohenheim lifted the glass up to his son's dry lips which were covered in blood. Edward drank thirstily as if he hadn't drunk in ages. Maybe he hadn't. He didn't remember. When the glass was empty, Hohenheim helped him to lay back down. He let his head rest on the fluffy pillow, closing his eyes from the dim light of the lamp and from his father's intense gaze.

Edward felt as something wet and cold was placed on his feverish forehead. He opened his eyes weakly to look at his father, trying to maintain a hateful look but found that he really didn't have enough willpower to do it. Now, as he was closer, he could see grey strands that streaked his father's golden mane, few more lines had appeared under his eyes and he looked older. More tired. Not exatcly what he wanted the man to look. He was angry and hurt and he wanted to shout at his father about Mom again but couldn't because of the pain. The man wasn't supposed to be tired! Or... this old. 'But that doesn't make any sense... I saw him just couple of hours ago! Well, maybe days, depending on how long I was out of it... But still... No one can age that quickly. What the hell happened to him?'

Hohenheim probably noticed his odd stare because he smiled faintly and chuckled.

"You're wondering my looks, aren't you, Edward?" his question was quiet.

Ed blinked in astonishment. Did his father really know him that well? After traveling all those years? He nodded carefully, not wanting to get nauseous again and wanting to know what was wrong. Yes, curiousity killed a cat but human beings were curious creatures. It was in their blood so why fight it?

Hohenheim sighed. "I don't really know how to explain. It's quite complicated, even to a genius like you and myself. ”

Edward just gave him a blank look. Why did adults always dodge the questions, both asked and unasked ones?

”It's been... four years since I saw you last”, Hohenheim said finally.

Ed stared at him, looking shocked. 'Four years?! How is that possible?'

His father wasn't looking at him. ”I've spent four years here after you occupied the other Edward's body for a short time. After he died in that zeppelin raid. It was 1916 back then...”

'... So it's now 1920', Edward thought. 'What the f*!@ is wrong with Gate? Why does it mess around like this? ...., why am I even wondering how that damned thing works? This is insane... and confusing.'

"Though I don't think it has been four years since you saw me last time. Am I right? You don't look any older..."

He nodded faintly, confirming Hohenheim's thoughts.

He shut his eyes, taking deep breaths. Or as deep as he could with the pain in his chest. He looked down, noting the bandages around his torso for the first time. They were wrapped tightly around his chest and his right shoulder. He lifted his left hand and let it trail along where automail socket should be. He didn't feel anything. Not the hard and unforgiving steel. Only rough fabric of bandages. His shoulder tickled faintly where his fingers had trailed. The nerves were still intact, then. He frowned. What had happened? It had something to do with the Philosopher's Stone... His eyes widened as the memories flooded into his brain. The Tringhams's diary, his final discussion with Mustang, arriving to the opera house in a lost city beneath Central, in a city that his father destroyed to create the Philosopher's Stone, dancing with Rose, Dante arriving to the scene, the other side of the Gate, the fight with Envy and the revelation that he was his half brother, the death and the pain, Alphonse using the Stone, him waking up, Dante, Envy and Al gone, shooing Rose away, the sacrifice... Oh God... He got his flesh limbs back at that point too. The Gate must have taken them when he crossed over...

His hand moved to his chest. He pressed his fingers gently to it. The pain shot through his nerves with more force than before. He whimpered softly and brought his hand back beside him. As he closed his eyes, he could feel his father's gaze lingering upon him sadly. He didn't want any sympathy from that man... Why did he have to stare? He wasn't any kind of zoo animal. He was human and humans had a right to privacy. He kept his eyes closed. 'The pain must be from the stab wound... Damn you, Envy...' That still didn't answer to the question how he was alive.

"Do you want me to leave?"

He heard Hohenheim's question. Did he want him to leave? Ed didn't really know... He was so confused... Things were happening too fast for him to digest. And if that pain would just go away... He was alone on the other side of the Gate with Hohenheim as his only companion. Only person he could trust... 'Trust? Do I really trust him after he left us? After he left mom... and Alphonse... and me.' Not that he had a choice. This world was full of complete strangers who wouldn't think twice of him.

"So you were with that woman!” he shrieked. It couldn't be true... It was against everything... It was wrong! Hohenheim had to be wrong. ”'There's no Equivalent Exchange'? You two say the same thing!" his voice weakened with every word. In the end it was desperate. He was so desperate that he could taste it.

"So you've met Dante..." Hohenheim's voice was quiet. He had apparently been hopeful that his son didn't know.

"I also saw the love letter you sent to her four hundred years ago! You extended your lives by swithing bodies over and over again! Isn't that right?!" his voice was accusing and hurt. The thing they had done so many times was wrong. It was a
sin.

"Why... why did you marry Mom? Did you want to play some normal person?" he clenched his fists. His nails dug into the palms of his hands. He didn't care if they drew blood. Nothing mattered but his father's answer. He felt familiar prickling behind his eyes. Oh f*!@... he wasn't going to cry... Was he?

Hohenheim looked surprised by his words before his expression softened and he answered after a moment: "I loved her. I loved your mother, Trisha. That time I learned what the true love was."

"You're lying! Then why did you leave us?!" anger and hatred were evident in his voice. How dare he say that? How dare his father say that looking so sure and calm? Didn't he understand how he had hurt Mom?! And Al?! And HIM?!

He was silenced as his father raised his hand and pulled the sleeve back, revealing oozing and rotting flesh. He could catch a faint, sweet aroma in the air.

"Because I didn't want to show you this rotting body”, his father's voice was thick, like he was trying very hard not to cry.


And his father was the only person who would understand him...

'We're both sinned... And we both had to pay for it. We both had to suffer for the sake of our loved ones.'

He kept his eyes closed as he shook his head weakly. No, he didn't want him to leave.

~¤~¤~¤~¤~¤~¤~¤~¤~¤~

As the days passed Ed became accustomed to the daily routine he and Hohenheim had developed. He would wake up around 7 a.m. and lay on his bed thinking about verything and nothing at all. Then Hohenheim would come in with his breakfast and help him eat about an hour later, sometimes telling about this side of the Gate. Ed heard that they were currently in a country called Germany and that they lived in a city called Munich (or München, like it was called by locals). Then he would help Edward take care of his needs in a bathroom and help him back to bed. He would hand Ed a book, sometimes history, culture or languages. Mostly German. The rest of the day was like that also. Hohenheim fed him during the meals, helped him to bathroom after that and handed him a book. And sometimes Hohenheim would hand him a book about machinery and mechanics in general, normally explaining it by saying that mechanics was this world's alchemy. Edwrad had raised his eyebrow at that, wondering how it could be that way. But he didn't really have anything better to do so why not to study them. After a week Ed had learned what was so fascinating in mechanics. They were logical and followed the laws of nature which made them easier to understand. It was all just laws and mathematics. He actually suspected that Winry would throw a fit if she ever heard that Edward Elric the I-Break-Your-Auto-Mail-And-Don't-Care-A-....-About-It had studied machinery. The thought made him chuckle in mirth to himself as he imagined what her expression would look like, before he remembered that he might never see Winry again.

He learned to appreciate Hohenheim's presence. As the time passed, he noticed that his father wasn't really that horrible. He was actually rather nice. He didn't like him yet but he didn't want to torture every cell of Hohenheim's body anymore when they were in the same room. And the fact that Ed was currently handicapped wasn't the only reason in the matter. Ed learned to respect his father at some level though he still wasn't sure what level it was. As a mentor? Probably. A friend? Not yet. A father? He wasn't ready to even think about it yet.

He also learned that his father's cookings tasted horrible. Well, not really that horrible. It was edible but that was all. But it made him want to conquer Hohenheim's kitchen. You can't eat that man's cookings for long until it starts to come out of your ears or you've gone insane. But he couldn't claim the kitchen to himself for various reasons. For one; he had only one good arm and leg, and he couldn't talk even though Hohenheim suspected that Ed would be able to talk at the end of the summer. Which was a good thing because being not to be able to talk sucks. Oh, he really learned that one.

Which lead to the fact that he was designing new pair of automail for himself at his free time. And he had a lot of free time, more than anything else, actually. He used all books his father had handed to him during his stay this side of the Gate, all the little knick-knack information Winry had muttered durings maintenances, hell, he used all information he had about mechanics. He found out pretty quickly that he couldn't make as smooth looking and as fluently moving auto-mail as the ones back at home, but it didn't really bother him as long as he could move by himself. And he didn't believe he knew enough for perfect pieces and secondly there weren't probably all the needed parts. And of course there was the problem of the surgery. He needed to have proper doctor to do the surgery to place an automail socket onto his shoulder and thigh. When he had passed through the Gate, he had been stripped from his automail, old sockets and the newly restored limbs. Now he had to go through the pain of getting automail twice. What a bother. Ed couldn't really do it himself and his father probably couldn't do anything either... Not that Ed would even let him do it for that matter. He was teaching chemistry at the äLudwig-Maximilians-Universität München (or Munich University as Edward preferred to call it), not mechanics or medicine. Well, he wasn't really teaching now, since it was summer...

~¤~¤~¤~¤~¤~¤~¤~¤~¤~

Edward Elric sighed as he ran his left hand through his golden bangs that framed his face as he stared the papers scattered all over his bed. Migraine was forming itself in the back of his head and his eyes were sore from squinting. He rubbed his eyes. 'I think I need glasses...' He blinked at his thoughts. 'No', he decided. 'I don't need glasses.' It had been five weeks since he woke up and today was July 10th 1920 and it was Saturday, which meant that his father was in a living room (where Ed had never been in) reading newspaper. Or destroying today's lunch in the kitchen. Ed grimaced at the thought. He didn't want to eat anything Hohenheim had demolished, since the un-demolished products weren't that good in the begin with.

His gaze shifted to the papers. They were full of complex educations and he had doodled many prothestic arms and legs on the edges. He sighed again. 'Heck, I'm starting to act like Winry...' He flinced at the thought. He had tried to avoid thinking about home. No, not home, really. He didn't have one so why would he think about it? Just the people. 'I wonder how Winry and Auntie Pinako are doing... Are they still making automail?'

'Idiot, of course they're making automail. Are you a complete dolt?'


Ed crimaced to the small part of him that sounded like Winry. Before he had gotten stuck here it had actually been the only part of him that was concerned about the condition of his automail. Now it was different. He didn't have her here worrying about him and his automail and fixing him up everytime he got into trouble. Now every fiber of his being was worried about the possibility of not moving anymore.

From Winry his thoughts turned to everyone else. 'How is Teacher doing? Or the Military Gang? Did Mustang kill Bradley?' He sighed. 'No use of worrying about that now. But... Is Alphonse okay? Did I... succeed? Is he even alive?'

Edward felt something tickling the corners of his eyes.

'No, don't think about it.'

He blinked rapidly to keep himself from letting the tears fall. He wasn't going to cry.

"You two never cry... So I cry for both of you..."

'Winry...'

"It is okay to cry, Brother."

'Oh, Al...'
Ed shut his eyes tightly and let the tears fall.

'I'm so sorry.'

~¤~¤~¤~¤~¤~¤~¤~¤~¤~

Alphonse stirred and tried to open his eyes. It didn't work. He fought against the weight of his eyelids, trying to pry them open with willpower. He was tired and even the said eyelids felt so unbelievably heavy. He wondered if he was dead. But if he was, then he wouldn't feel tired, right? He opened his eyes slowly and blinked once. Twice. Yes, he recognized that ceiling. He was clearly at Rockbell's but why, he didn't know. Al's brow furrowed. He remembered he and Brother drawing the transmutation circle to the floor... How they put all ingreditents in it... How they placed their hands on the edge of the array. Then the golden light that emited from it as the transmutation took place. Then there was purple light...

'What happened?'

He sat up slowly and flinched as his joints ached. He felt like hadn't used them for years. But that didn't make any sense. And he was still ten so it was impossible, too. He glanced around the room with two beds. This was the same room he and Brother would always sleep in when they were having sleepovers at Winry. Plain room with white walls and a hard wood floor with a dresser in the corner and a desk in the other. His gaze moved to the other bed. There wasn't anyone sleeping in it by the looks of it. No one had slept in it last night, he was sure. But there was a big, folded piece of blood red cloth and a small, tattered suitcase.

He shifted on a bed as he heard a noise outside the door on the side of the room. He looked it wearily as it started to open. Inside stepped quite tall, around sixteen-year-old girl with long blonde hair and cerulean blue eyes. Alphonse gogled at the odd girl. She looked exactly like Winry! Apart from being too old but that was beside the point. He couldn't help but wonder if Winry had an older sister... He should probably ask Brother... He always knew these things.

"Oh, Al..."

He blinked, looking at the girl. She even had the same voice as Winry! Was that even normal? Probably not.

"Umm..." Al said, unsure. "Uh, who are you?"

The girl looked at him for a moment before she bit her lower lip and tears filled her eyes. "Don't you recognize me?" she choked. She looked hurt and sad. Like she had lost someone dear to her... Maybe she had, he just didn't know.

Alphonse shook his head.

"It's me, Al... Winry" the girl said softly.

Al's eyes widened. "B-but y-you can't! You're too old!"

A pained laugh escaped from teenager's lips. "Am not. You're the one who is too young."

"What?"

What did this girl, who claimed to be Winry, mean?

She smiled sadly. "It's 1915 if you don't believe me."

His mouth went dry. "1915? But... it's supposed to be 1910... How can that be?"

"I don't know... I've never been into alchemy, remember?"

"No, you haven't" Al said slowly.

Winry just watched him sadly. He looked up at her, feeling need to ask one question that now burned his mind the most at the moment.

"Winry... Where's my Brother?"

Her eyes filled with tears again and many of them escaped down her pale cheeks. She walked closer the bed and bend down to hug him tighly against her chest. He felt fear and dreaded her answer. He knew that he didn't want to hear it, but he would nontheless. He braced himself but nothing would make him ready or strong enough to her next words.

"Oh, Alphonse... Edward... He... He's gone."



A/N: Yes, I shamelessly admit that I'm torturing Ed on purpose. I'm just evil like that, don't mind me. But reviews are still nice, they brew inspiration (mostly plotbunnies, but I've got those already more than enough). I'm updating sometime next week if I'm at home. Otherwise you have to wait two weeks or something. And if we get very unlucky, it may take even six weeks, depending on how busy I'm.

BTW, I'm going to start to post this to FF.net when I stop being lazy. Or when I have time.

ETA: And because I'm a git, I give you link to my FF.net profile. I've three one-shots, including edited version of Father and excluding Since Everything entirely. I'm posting it after I post chapter 3.
GeGGuli-Chan
"Well, maybe Dante but she was an old hag with god-complex anyway so no one asked her." <-- I love this sentence! Keep posting and I'll read them! wink.gif
Tombow
Aww.. poor Ed... But, in a way this all sounds strangely realistic. Like, this is how it could have happened, and it's fascinating!! Eagerly awaits the coming chapters!! happy.gif
Reta McClain
Jenna: The whole chapter was so depressing that I had to add something funny tongue.gif
Tombow: Realistic? Awwwww, you're making me embarrassed! (And it always did bother me how at the end of the series Ed suddenly lost his limbs again and the whole stabbing thing was just forgotten.) Maybe I'm just trying to be different from other post-series writers...

A/N: So, the 2nd chapter is up now. And at this point I would like you to note that I don't speak/understand any languages used in this fic except English (I may be using Swedish in the 3rd Story Arc, but I'm not sure. (I suck at Swedish, but I know some.))



2. Faces from the Past


August 20th 1920 was big day for one Edward Elric. He could talk again after two months without the ability to use his vocal cords to create sound. Of course his father forbid him from talking unless it was absolutely necessary. Something about losing his voice altogether if he wasn't careful. But he was happy. He could talk again. Now he would just need to get a painless automail surgery, magically appear besides restored Alphonse and his day would be perfect.

Ed was sitting his room, like he had done every day for the last two moths, waiting Hohenheim to bring him dinner. It's not that he waited to get food. No, he waited so eagerly only because he wanted to talk about getting prosthesis for his arm and leg. He wasn't going to sit on his ass all day for the rest of his life. He was going to find a way to open the Gate again. He wasn't going to live in this world to the day he died. He wanted to make sure Al was alive and if not...

He shut his eyes. 'Don't think that. Don't lose hope. Alphonse is going to be alive and in his original body. Everything is going to be fine. Don't sweat it, Edward.'

As he heard the door open, he turned his head and looked expectantly at Hohenheim. He was carrying a tray of food like always and staying quiet.

"So, are you hungry, Edward?" Hohenheim asked, rising his eyebrow at his son's intense daze.

"No, not really" Ed answered. "I just wanted to talk to you about something."

His father looked at him questionly.

Ed took a deep breath. "I want prosthesis."

"... You want... prosthesis? Isn't it a risk?" Hohenheim looked bewildered.

Ed snorted. "Like I don't know that already. I got automail when I was eleven, remember?"

Hohenheim regarded him silently for a moment, gazing into his son's determined eyes, before sighing. "So, I can't change your mind?"

"Not a chance" Ed grinned. "If I get an arm, I can cook."

"Do you even know how to cook, Edward?" his father asked, frowning.

Ed rolled his eyes. "Yes, I know. Mom never let us of the hook, she made us help her with chores. Cooking included. Teacher was the same though she made sure we helped, with more... violent way. And while travelling we didn't always find an inn or a restaurant."

Hohenheim shook his head. "I'll see what I can do."

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"I think I found just the right doctors for us."

Edward looked up from his research, startled. He hadn't expected his father to be this quick especially as he opposed his idea of getting prosthesis in the first place. "Really?"

Hohenheim nodded. "Yes. They know their stuff and I don't think they'll walk around telling everyone about your lack of limbs."

Ed smiled faintly. "Good to know. Say, when can I see them?"

"Tomorrow is Sunday so they've got a time to talk with you and listen your plans carefully because they have to connect metal onto your shoulder."

"You think they can do it?" Ed asked.

"I'm quite sure about it. They're brothers and the older one is a doctor while the younger is a mechanic" a faint smile graced Hohenheim's lips. "They know how to work together."

Ed laughed hesitantly. "Hopefully."

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On September 5th Hohenheim helped Edward downstairs to the living room. Or, to be more specific, carried him to the living room. Ed was glancing around interested. This was the first time he got to see any other part of Hohenheim's house (and his, too, even though it didn't really feel like home) apart from his bedroom and the toilet. The walls where as grey they were in his room and just as dull looking. There weren't any pictures on the walls. Ed wondered it for a minute until he remembered that his father didn't probably have that many pictures of their family or anything else for that matter. Apart from the pictures taken on this side of course and any of those weren't about their family.

As they entered the living room Ed's jaw dropped. All the walls were covered by bookshelves, all of them so high that there weren't any space between the ceiling and the top of the shelves. And they were all full of books. And he had wondered where on earth Hohenheim had gotten all the books that he gave to Ed for reading. One more mystery solved. Now if he could just figure out why Hohenheim was so incompetent cook...

"Holy ......." he managed to whisper as he stared his father's book collection.

Hohenheim chuckled. "My, thank you. Should I get your notes?"

Ed mustered a weak nod. He didn't have enough strenght to do anything else at the moment.

As Hohenheim put him onto one of the not too comfy looking armchairs he noted that the room was nicely furnished. So the University paid well. The covers of the armchairs and the couch were dark beige and the coffee table in the middle of the room was oak.

When Hohenheim returned with his notes and sketches, the doorbell rang. Edward stiffened and his father glanced at him worriedly. Ed waved him off, he didn't want his old man to fuss over his nervousness. It was normal for him to be nervous about this. He had always been a little touchy about his crippled state and never one to talk about how he lost his limbs in the first place (and the fact that Human Transmutation was illegal wasn't the only reason either). Hohenheim handed the papers to him and then hurried out of the living room door.

Edward strained his ears to hear what was said at the hall.

"Guten Tag. Es ist gut, dass Sie in solch einer kurzen Benachrichtigung kommen konnten" (Good afternoon. It's good that you could come in such a short notice.) he heard Hohenheim's voice.

"Es ist kein Problem überhaupt, Herr Elric" (It's no problem at all, Mr. Elric.) Ed's eyes widened as he recognized the voice.

"Nein, überhaupt nicht. Also, wo ist er?" (No, not at all. So, where is he?) the third voice joined to the conversation. Ed's eyes got even wider.

Oh, Hell...

"Mein Sohn ist im Wohnzimmer" (My son is in the living room.) Hohenheim answered casually.

Edward forced his eyes to return to their sockets as the footsteps of three people neared the door of the room. First inside stepped his father looking like nothing was out of the ordinary. Like he was welcoming clones of the people he knew into his home everyday. After him came to men in their late forties or early fifties.

"Edward" his father said. "these people are Timothy and Manuel Maurer, they're the doctors I mentioned yesterday" he motioned towards each of them upon saying their names.

Edward nodded. Timothy's hair was dark brown, almost black, with some grey on the temples and he had coconut brown eyes. He looked like a perfect carbon copy of Tim Marcoh from the pained look down to the fashion sense. Manuel Maurer's face was equally familiar. He was tall and had slightly curled dirty brown hair and brown eyes. He had a face of a person who Edward first killed by accident when he was still eleven and travelling to Central to take the State Alchemist Exam. A carbon copy of alchemist named Majhal. He decided to ignore the fact (and it was hard) and introduce himself.

"Mein Name ist Edward Elric. Nett, Sie zu treffen" (My name is Edward Elric. Nice to meet you.) he said politely with his nearly perfected German.

"Nice to meet you too, young Mr. Elric" Timothy said, frowning at his right sleeve that was hanging empty by his side.

Manuel only nodded curtly.

As the three men had sat down Manuel opened his mouth for the first time after he had talked in the hall. "So, why do you exactly need us?"

Edward and Hohenheim glanced at each other, asking silently who was going to talk.

Ed took a deep breath. "Well, Messers Maurer... Ummm... I've designed some prosthesis for myself."

Timothy nodded silently and Manuel's eyebrows rose to his hairline. ”What is the catch?” Manuel asked.

Edward tried to fight against the wave of familiarity that washed over him by the question. He always wondered the same thing when Mustang or someone else asked him to do something, be it some research or an arrest of a serial killer, he always asked what was the catch.

"The catch is, uhhhhhhh...” Edward really didn't know how to answer to that. In the end he decided to go with the truth and said quietly. ”They are machines."

The Maurers regarded him silently a moment before looking at each other. Being the older of two brothers himself, Edward knew that the duo was trying to reach an agreement without really saying anything. "That's a huge risk. Attaching metal to someone's body, especially onto someone's as small as you" Timothy said. He apparently won that match, but it still didn't keep him from saying probably the most stupid thing person can say to one Edward Elric.

"WHO ARE YOU CALLING SO SMALL THAT A NEEDLE CAN SUCK HIM IN?!" Edward shouted outraged, ignoring the flash pain that shot through him. 'Maybe shouting isn't the best choice...'

Both men almost fell from their chairs from shock. Hohenheim didn't look too surprised but Edward didn't care anymore. The pain attacked his chest. He slapped his hand onto his mouth as the coughs escaped from him. Heck, it hurt... He felt the blood trickling down his chin as he coughed. 'Note to self: don't ever anymore start defend your own height.'

When it ended, he wiped his mouth to his sleeve, not caring if he dirtied a perfectly good shirt in the process, and stared the Maurers fiercely.

"That's what I meant. I won't be doing surgery like that. It'll kill you" Timothy said, looking Ed straight into eyes.

"I have to agree with my brother. Metal is heavy, it won't work and you're sick already" Manuel said calmly.

"But I don't want to be a cripple!"

The men flinched. Ed shut his eyes tightly and took a deep, shuddering breath to calm his nerves. He felt a small twinge of pain in his chest as he inhaled. 'That frickking wound. Is it ever going to just let me be?!'

"I want to be able to walk around again. I want to be able to live. Trust me, I know the risks but I still want to try. Please" he looked the Maurer brothers in the eyes.

"I don't want to live the rest of my life in the rooms of this house."

He felt his father's gaze upon him. A sad gaze.

The brothers glanced at each other, arguing silently. Finally they turned back to look at two Elrics. "We've decided."

Ed stiffened and felt the cold sweat on his forehead.

"Show us your sketches, Mr. Elric."

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The Maurers were very impressed by Edward's sketches and notes. There were many detailed diagrams of human body with all the nerves and even the smallest bones and all muscles. Many pages that explained how human body worked, it's chemical make up and so on. Pages after pages about machinery and automail in general, though Ed had made sure that he didn't use that word anywhere in his description. There were diagrams about how to build mechanical limbs and how to attach them to a body. He had even drawn detailed pictures of the limbs he was missing and the ports that were supposed to be on his shoulder and thigh. The only word to descripe the whole thing was incredible and even that didn't give it enough credit. Before he got trapped into this world he had known next to nothing about machines and now... It was hard to believe that he was still the same person.

As the men praised his work Ed couldn't help but be a little proud. He knew that they weren't as good as Winry's and that Manuel didn't know as much about what they were doing as her. But still he was proud of himself. Before he didn't have anything else to be proud of except alchemy. And cooking but that didn't count, right? He also knew that he would get better. You can only learn that much from books and nothing could compete against knowledgeable teachers. He knew that better than anyone as he would never had had guts to try Human Transmutation without having Izumi as a teacher.

"I guess we'll be able to get all the needed parts in a couple of days. Right, Tim?" Manuel said as he listed down all the parts that he would need to make an arm and a leg and the sockets for them.

"Yes, I can even get all the needed medicine supplies. What do you say, shall we do this next Friday?"

Hohenheim looked thoughtful for a moment before he answered. "I think it's September 10th, right, gentlemen?"

The Maurers nodded their heads in agreement.

Ed grinned. 'I'll be walking before the end of year that's for sure.'

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Alphonse was sitting dazed in his room at the Rockbells', trying to take in all the things he had heard during the day. It was all so confusing... He shut his ocean grey eyes, welcoming the peace of darkness behind the eyelids. He couldn't help but be a little bit skeptical about the things he had heard from Winry. Being an empty, walking suit of armor for five years didn't sound very believeable but the photographs had convinced him. They had also proven that his Brother hadn't had his right arm or left leg since he was eleven. And when he heard how Brother excatly lost his limbs... Alphonse felt like it was his fault. The pain burned inside him, eating away his logical thinking.

He balled his fists on his lap. 'I'm sorry, Brother... You... you gave your arm up to save me... And I... couldn't save you... I'm so sorry.' He felt how the tears threatened to come.

Al opened his eyes and took deep, calming breaths. He let his gaze travel around the room, trying to get himself out of his melancholy. Melancholy wasn't good. His eyes stopped to the suitcase and blood red cloth. "They're Edward's... " Winry had said. Alphonse stared them. Should he open the suitcase? He didn't really know if Brother would allow it... What if he didn't want anyone to dig his stuff? But... what if he... didn't have anything against it?

He rose from his bed and walked unsteadily over the small area between the beds. He sat down on the other one slowly, outstretching his hand to touch the cloth. His fingers brushed over the fabric. It felt rough and somewhat tattered like it had been through a lot. He could trace small amounts of alchemy in it, like it had been alchemised more than few times. It probably had, considering all the things Winry had said. Al unfolded the cloth and it was to be revealed as a blood red coat with a cross with a snake wrapped around it. Over it was a crown and a pair of wings. The crest of their Teacher, the Flamel.

Alphonse shut his eyes and brought the coat up to his nose, inhaling its smell. It smelt like Brother with a hint of metal and oil in it. He let it slip between his fingers hesitantly as he opened his eyes.

He bit his bottom lip as he turned towards the tattered suitcase sitting on the bed beside him. He let his hand brush over the lid before opening it carefully. On the top were several equally tattered notebooks with many yellowed bookmarks stickking out between their pages. Under them he could only see some spare clothes, mostly black and leather.

Alphonse reached his hand inside the suitcase and grabbed one of the notebooks, taking it out slowly and inspecting it carefully. The leather bound book was heavy and looked like it was going to fall apart. Al opened it slowly.

Humankind cannot gain anything without first giving something in return.

To obtain, something of equal value must be lost.

That's alchemy's first law of Equivalent Exchange.

In those days, we really believed that to be the world's one and only truth.

The Travelogue of Edward Elric, the Fullmetal Alchemist.


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After five days of waiting the Maurers to get all the needed parts and supplies, Ed was a nervous wreck. Yes, he'd had an auto-mail surgery before. And that was exactly the point. At that time; the Rockbell women had done the surgery, the people he had known his whole life and knew he could trust. This time, however, the people to do the surgery were complete strangers to him. And they didn't have all the knowledge mainly because they didn't know anything about automail if you forgot the notes Edward had written. The second reason, of which he was ready to rip his long golden hair off, was that he was afraid. He knew that it was going to hurt like hell and he had been through it before, but that time he hadn't known about the pain... Yes, Auntie Pinako had warned him but it was far worse than he thought it would be. He didn't even dare to think what it would be like this time around.

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On the morning of the surgery Edward refused to eat which worried Hohenheim somewhat. He knew that his son was stubborn but refusing to eat? That wasn't like Edward even though he didn't like his father's cookings. He still ate them. So the taste wasn't the reason.

"Edward, you should eat."

"Am not going to" Edward declared.

"Don't be such a mule. You need all the strength you can get" Hohenheim coaxed.

"Am not."

Hohenheim sighed. "You're going to eat your breakfast if you don't give me a good enough reason not to force it down your throat."

Edward glared the wall as if everything was its fault.

"I..."

Ed bit his lip, still refusing to look at his father.

"I... know it'll just come up... at the surgery... And it'll... be hard enough... without me puking up my breakfast" his voice was quiet as if he was ashamed.

Hohenheim blinked. '"It'll just come up"? What does he mean?'

Edward apparently could read him like a open book since he answered. Or he just continued because he had opened his mouth already.

"It hurts... The surgery, I mean. It'll just be easier to everyone if I've empty stomach."

"I... didn't know" Hohenheim admitted quietly.

"How can you be Auntie Pinako's drinking buddy and to not know anything about automail?" Edward asked interested despite the situation he was in.

His father's lips twitched into small smile. "We didn't talk too much about automail. We spoke about... other things."

Edward blinked owlishly at his father before muttering, horrified. ”Too much information...”

They sat in silence for a while; Edward too horrified to talk and Hohenheim both too ashamed and unsure to do so. At last Hohenheim opened his mouth and muttered: "You should at least drink something."

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Sometime before midday Hohenheim carried Edward downstairs to get ready for the surgery. Edward glanced around the living room as they entered. It had changed since he was there last time five days ago. The armchairs, the coffee table and the couch had been moved to the edges of the room. Now the middle part of the room was occupied by a high wooden table which Ed assumed was from the kitchen. Hohenheim lowered him onto the table and stripped him out of his clothes minus boxers. The wound Edward had received from Envy didn't matter now, as the scar was surpriningly faint and you could hardly see it unless you knew what you were looking for. They both had come to an unspoken agreement that the Gate had been messing around with the wound but they were relieved that it couldn't be seen thanks to it. Ed shivered as the air hit his skin. It was cooler downstairs.

The dreaded doorbell rang in the entrance hall.

Edward noticed his father to glance at him worriedly before hurrying out of the door.

"Sie sind früh Herren Maurer" (You're early, Messers Maurer.) he heard Hohenheim say after opening the door.

"Und wir bedauern es Herr Elric. Aber das ist zu uns allen besser, diese Operation aus dem Weg zu bekommen" (And we're sorry about it Mr. Elric. But it is better to all of us to get this operation out of the way.) answered Timothy Maurer's voice.

"Ah, natürlich. Verzeihen Sie mir." (Ah, of course. Forgive me.)

The three men entered the living room, Timothy his hands full of medical supplies and his little brother carrying clanking bags, apparently full of different metal parts.

"Ah, nice to see you also, young Mr. Elric. Are you ready for this?" Manuel asked.

"As ready as I can be, Mr. Maurer" he answered, smiling nervously.

"We can't ask anything more from you" Manuel said putting his bags down.

Edward glanced at them. It didn't sound like they contained two complete automail limbs and the parts for sockets. Sounded more like they were all in small pieces. Manuel apparently noticed his confusion.

"I didn't have enough time to build both limbs so I've started only building the leg."

Ed nodded. It made sense in some way since this was the first time Mr. Maurer the younger made any kind of prosthesis. He had thought that it would take them about three days to build both of them but apparently he was wrong. Manuel wasn't Winry and he was a fool to even think so.

"How much have you completed, Mr. Maurer?" he asked, uncertain.

"I've the parts that work as Tibia and Fibula pretty much completed. I've also managed to add some wires which'll work as nerves" now Manuel smiled. "Your notes are truly incredible, young Mr. Elric."

Edward felt a slight blush to make its way up to his cheeks. "Ummm... Thanks, I guess..."

"Let's quit the chit-chat. We should get this surgery out of the way, the sooner the better" Timothy said sternly, clapping his hands couple of times.

Ed, Manuel and Hohenheim all nodded.

¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤

Alphonse had met the odd child after a week in Rockbell household. He was about the same size as Brother, but he couldn't point out the boy's age. The boy had violet, almost cat-like, slitted eyes. His long dark messy hair made him even more odd. But the boy's limbs, or lack of them, made him the most interesting person in Alphonses's eyes. He was missing his right arm and left leg, the same limbs his Brother had lost years ago. Even though Al was more open-minded than his Brother, he didn't believe it was a pure coincidence. The other reason for his interest was that the boy refused to look at him after he had goggled him open mouthed for good five minutes during their first meeting. The boy had also refused to speak. He hadn't said a word in Alphonse's presence.

He was presented with the boy's name, with somewhat uncertain tone, from Winry.

Wrath.

It seemed like an weird choice of name to him, but who was he to talk with a second name like his? Alphonse shuddered, even though Brother had said it was a good name, meaning 'gentle' and 'merciful'. Seriously, who in their right mind would give their son a name Clement?




A/N: Behind the Names is my dear friend while working on this story biggrin.gif (I almost fell from my chair while looking up some names for my OCs and now I'm sure that the Maurers's mother goes to church at every possible occasion XD And one of their ancestors apparently made living by building walls.)

About Alphonse Clement Elric: I myself have issues about my name; my first name being way too long for it to be legal (10 letters O.o) and my second name being stupid and diva-like. I'm also transmuting transferring some of my own characteristics to OCs and the original FMA cast. Al apparently got the name issue XD

Reviews are my sugar and life force.

[offtopic]Is anyone of the readers a member at FF.net? I need help because I don't know how to edit after posting >.<
GeGGuli-Chan
Yay, again first comment! x) Keep this kind of stuff coming that everyone will be charmed!
Tombow
@Reta McClain - OMG, Marcho and Majahal!! I love that!
And, I like reading two parallel stories, Ed's side and Al's side!
I enjoyed this chapter very much!! happy.gif
Reta McClain
Jenna: Thanks^^
Tombow: I have lots of alters, around 30 if my memory serves me right. And the parallel parts stop after the first Story Arc is done so it won't last that long smile.gif

A/N: Sorry for the wait but I didn't have a computer (or internet, I was stuck on island in the middle of nowhere for a week). I would have updated yesterday, if my internet hadn't come crashing down on me . I'm currently on my parents's computer while I'm being angry with my laptop (though I'll probably go write this or make AMVs...) I would also like to let you know that next Friday I'll be leaving to Greece for two weeks.
Yes, I lied, this is only slightly over 4 000 words. But one of them was over 5 000 Dx


3. Memories of a Fallen


A cold morning breeze was softly blowing over the grassy fields of Resembool village which was more quiet than normal but also more crowded on October 3rd 1915. The villagers knew the reason to this and they knew also that Resembool would have been even more crowded if the people all around Amestris had known. But the military could be efficient at keeping things quiet. They had been with this funeral. The villagers all mourned at the lost of the young man that had been born and grown up in this village before leaving exatcly five years ago, leaving his childhood home to go up in flames. But they knew that they weren't the only ones that had lost that young man. The whole Amestris was mourning and the date and location of the funeral had been kept quiet, as the family had the greater need and right to mourn than people who had either never met him or had just talked to him in passing. The military was the other prospect that had the honour to join the funeral of Edward Elric, the Fullmetal Alchemist.

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Alphonse shivered as the cold wind found its way through his clothes. Four months had passed since he woke up and now he was attending to his Brother's funeral. It was still hard to believe that Brother wasn't there... He would wait from time to time Edward to burst through the door enthusiastically, explaining some new alchemy theory. Al's gaze sifted to the cemetery that lay ahead. There were already many people, most of them dressed into military uniforms. 'I'm supposed to know some of those people...' He realized as he walked.

"You okay, Al?" came quiet voice beside him.

"I'm fine, Winry" he answered throwing a thankful smile at her direction.

'This must be hard to her too...'


"How about you?"

Winry smiled sadly. "I'm not really sure. After all the stuff he did... It's hard to believe that he's... gone" she stumbled over the last word.

Alphonse glanced at her sympathetically. Judging by her behaviour he suspected that Winry had developed some new feelings towards his Brother. She looked as broken as he felt. Years ago, when they had fought who would marry her, Al himself had come out of that as a winner and Edward had stomped off to sulk somewhere. They couldn't find him for hours which was pretty long even in his standars. Alphonse himself had went hopefully to ask Winry to marry him but she had refused for a reason she didn't say. After Edward had heard about this hours later, he had also went to ask her hand but had been turned down. Al speculated that that fight was still one of the reasons his Brother hated to be called short.

But that didn't change the fact that his Brother different place in her heart than he did.

Pinako kept silent as she walked behind them.

When they reached the cemetery they slipped near the freshly dug grave and a simple tombstone. Alphonse felt his heart clench as he read the words carved into the stone beside their Mother's grave. The grave was way too plain for someone like Brother who had touched so many lives while travelling...

Colonel Edward Aurelius Elric

The Fullmetal Alchemist

01.23.1899 - 05.30.1915

Excellent soldier, great son,

loved brother and missed friend.

Passed away too early.

May he rest in peace.


'Rich, golden guard and a noble ruler...'


Alphonse forced himself to swallow his tears. He wanted to cry. Heck, he wanted to tear his eyes out. Reading the words in the stone sealed the fact that Brother was gone. Now it felt like he was really... dead. He didn't feel that illusion he had felt wrapped around him for the past four months anymore. It was all gone.

"Ah, Mrs. and Ms. Rockbell" Al heard a deep masculine voice say behind them. "You seem to attend as well."

"It's our duty to see him off Colonel, no, Brigadier General Mustang" Auntie Pinako answered calmly.

Alphonse stiffened as he heard the name. 'Mustang? Is he the same Mustang who helped us during our quest?'

"Of course. But I must keep going and go over my speech once more" Mustang said.

Al heard rustling of a cloth and as a cane tapped softly the ground as the man started to walk away.

"A speech? I don't like the sound of that."

"Don't worry, Mrs. Rockbell. Against the common belief I actually respect Fullmetal, even in death."

As Mustang's footspets finally faded away Al relaxed. It felt odd to be around people you're supposed to know... even if they don't recognize you. Mustang certainly hadn't recognized him. Not that he had anything against it. He liked to be anonymous. He turned around to face Winry and Auntie Pinako's worried faces.

"Was that... the same Mustang who you've told me about?" he asked quietly.

"...Yes" Winry said softly.

Alphonse nodded and looked around them. Nobody was arriving anymore. Everyone was present. Except...

His gaze turned towards the cemetery gate. Through it walked six figures, carrying a casket. Al bit his lip as he felt tears trying to come. All six of them wore full military uniform, their heads were lowered towards the ground.

They came by and Al could see a green flag of Amestris with a white dragon on top was draped over the casket. 'Hero's funeral...' he couldn't help but think. 'Brother is a hero.'

After Brother's casket was lowered to the ground and covered by dirt and the people who carried it had joined to the ranks of military, a person Al assumed was Mustang, walked up to the tombstone and turned to look everyone present. He had short jet black hair and he was dressed into blue military dress uniform, black eyepatch covered his left eye. He leaned against his cane and started talking.

"Edward Elric was... a excellent soldier and a good subordinate. And short one, too. " Sad chuckles were heard among the attendants. "My whole unit, who he was part of, is here to remember and respect him. He had a big and kind heart even though he hid it from everyone apart from those close to him" Mustang took a deep breath and closed his only eye.

"If you ask me, he should have gotten a promotion year or two ago, for those things he did to civilians. He wasn't called the 'Hero of the People' for nothing" Mustang's smile was sad. "He helped others out even if he didn't want to. I think it was in his blood."

He glanced around his audience. "The Fullmetal Alchemist may be gone but the things he did and he himself will always be remembered by his friends and comrades. And especially by the people he helped" Mustang bowed his head and stepped away from the grave.

Everyone was quiet for awhile before Winry swallowed her tears as she walked to Edward's headstone and turned at the crowd. "Edward was..." she started, her voice trembling. "a good friend of mine. I've known him since childhood. We were always... playing together or fighting over silly things. Like who had to wash the dishes after dinner. Or be a tag when playing. That was when we were four, though."

She forced in a deep breath. "Now it feels stupid but that is how we are" she smiled a wistful smile. "He was here for me, with his brother, when my parents were killed in Ishval... And I was there for them when their mother died" she gestured towards the grave labeled 'Trisha Elric'. "And now... he's not here anymore."

She pushed some of her long lemon blonde strands of hair behind her ear. "I hope he feels better wherever he is. Since now he don't have automail to weight him down. I'll miss him a lot", Winry retreated from the grave, wiping her eyes.

Alphonse balled his fists as he stepped up to his Brother's headstone. He turned slowly to face the group.

He didn't recognize even half of them. The Teacher was there along with her husband Sig, Wrath was there too, he hadn't noticed that he was coming. He stood close the Teacher and looked Brother's tombstone with sorrow and guilt evident in his eyes. Their neightbours all attended. He didn't recognize any of the people from the military but that was expected. He bit his lip and opened his mouth to talk.

"Some of you may recognize me, some may not but that doesn't keep me from talking" he took a deep breath. "My Brother was a good person, like Winry and Mr. Mustang both said."

Many people in the audience looked shocked and some gasps could be heard. Mostly among the military. Possibly because many of them had only seen him in his armor self. "I may not remember the things that have happened during last five years... But Brother was good person even before that. Even though he swore that milk was his worst enemy above all" he smiled sadly. "I can't hope for a better brother and nothing can ever replace him."

He kneeled beside the freshly turned ground and drew a simple transmutation circle on it. He placed his hands on it and a eerie blue glow of a transmutation illuminated the cemetery. As the light disappeared there was a small patch of flowers growing on the grave. They were white irises, Brother's favourite flowers.

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Alphonse was standing in front of his Mother and Brother's graves as the sun started to set. He felt so empty and alone. 'Now I'm all alone. Father left... Mom died... and now Brother's gone too... What am I going to do?'

He had actually considered Human Transmutation when he first heard about Brother. But then he remembered all the things Winry said happened to them after their last attempt. He shut his eyes as he felt tears try to break their way through. 'Oh, Brother... I'm sorry...'

"Alphonse?"

He turned around, startled. It was Mustang.

"Ummm... Good evening, sir" he said, uncertain.

Mustang shook his head. "There's no need for formality. Roy is fine."

"Uh... Okay..." Al shifted his weight from one leg to another.

"Don't you really remember?" Roy asked as he walked to stand beside Al.

"No, I don't, sir" Al's voice was hesitant. "Nothing after we..." he snapped his mouth shut and turned his gaze away.

"You don't need to worry about that" man's voice was calm. "I saw when the light of that Transmutation faded and I saw both of you at the Rockbell's not long after."

He turned to look at Alphonse and the gaze of his only eye was intent. "I knew from the start what you had done and now..." his eye narrowed. "I hope you're not planning to try again, Alphonse."

He blinked, suddenly frightened by this man. "How did you...?"

Roy smirked tiredly. "I was Fullmetal's Commanding Officer, so I know the general Elric traits."

"Oh..." he lowered his eyes.

They stood in silence for a while, letting the autumn breeze ruffle their hair.

"I hope you realize that we never found his body" Roy said suddenly.

"What?"

Roy glanced him from the corner of his only eye. "We never found Edward's body, even after inspecting every inch from that damned underground city. The only thing we found was blood and his automail limbs in a huge opera house. And a knife with very little blood on it."

Alphonse looked up at him. "So it's possible that Brother is... alive?" he sounded entirely too hopeful even to his own ears.

"There's a possibility. Edward was never one to die easily so... he might just be alive" Roy looked at him sternly. "But I want you to understand that he might be dead as easily as alive."

He nodded slowly. "Of course but..." Al frowned. "What's in the casket then? If you didn't find Brother..."

"Automail" was Roy's non-chalant answer. "We put Edward's automails in it. They were a part of him after all."

Alphonse smiled faintly. "Thank you sir... I mean Roy."

¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤

Roy watched as Alphonse walked away without a word after they had stood before Fullmetal's grave in a companionable silence. Boy's eyes were downcast as he walked slowly away, heading towards the Rockbell residence. As Roy watched his retreating back he couldn't help but marvel Alphonse's fine features. Fullmetal had truly done an excellent job by restoring his brother back to his human state, with or without memories. When the boy was out of hearing distance, he turned back to the gravestone, following the strict lines of letters that formed his subordinate's name and rank. He smiled sadly and tucked his left hand into his pocket, leaning against his cane with more relaxed way than during the ceremony.

”You did truly magnifable job, Fullmetal”, he said simply. Why not to compliment him as he had achieved his goal. ”Alphonse is perfect as far as I can see.” His lips formed into a nostalgic smirk. ”I don't really see that well anymore.”

The grave stayed silent, as always. Hughes's grave was the same but Roy would still talk. Maybe he was asking for forgiveness in his part as he had never been too tolerant with either of his deceased friends. Well, Maes was dead, there was no doubt about that, but Fullmetal was a whole different matter.

”I can't really believe that you're dead, you know”, he said non-chalantly. ”You never did strike me as a type to die in something like this. You are too stubborn to get killed by the way it looks like.” He leaned more heavily to his cane as he sat down with some difficulty beside the grave, leaning his back against it. He let his gaze wander over the hills of Resembool, ignoring the cold wind of October. ”I don't really know if that blood was yours but there is a lot of it. The automail on the floor certainly was.” He sighed. ”What happened there? What was the purpose of that huge circle?” Roy had always thought that he knew pretty much everything that there was to know about alchemy, but the circle in that opera house... It was similar to one in Reole but not quite like it either. It was somehow related to the Philosopher Stone, Roy knew that much. ”Did you use the Stone to give Alphonse his body back? Then how come you disappeared? Doesn't Philosopher's Stone bybass the Law of Equivalent Exchance?”

He didn't get any answers. He hadn't expected to get any.

He regarded the grave silently for a moment. ”You know, I was serious when I said that you should have gotten a promotion year or two ago”, he chuckled a little. ”'Colonel Elric' has a nice ring in it, don't you agree?”

Roy knew that Fullmetal would either pass out in shock and later accuse all the higher ups for being nutters, or be smug for his promotion. Probably the faint and the nutter part first and then the shouts of thriumph. Roy knew that he hadn't known Fullmetal that well but he knew enough to predict how the short blond would react.

'Now you just have to watch out for a new rival'
, Roy chuckled at the thought. He knew Fullmetal would probably say something witty like that when the whole promotion had gotted through his head. And Roy would answer with a normal comment to shrimp's height. He smirked. Wouldn't that be funny. ”The Shortest Colonel of the Century” would be the best jab.

”Sir?”

He looked up at the voice. First Lieutenant (soon to be Captain if Roy had anything to say to the matter) Riza Hawkeye stood few meters on his right. He smiled to himself. She always made sure that when approaching Roy she would do it from the right side so he could see her nearing and thus be forewarned. He knew that from now on if they ever got into a combat situation Riza would take place on his left, guarding not only his back but his left side as well.

”I'm fine, Riza”, he smiled softly to the woman and proceeded to stand up. He grimaced as the movement pulled his bad leg. Oh, how he hated to be helpless. The wounds from both Bradley and Archer hurt still, even after so much time. Doctors had said he was lucky to still be alive after the shot that had taken his left eye. The blonde haired Lieutenant hurried to his side, worry evident in her amber, red tinted eyes.

He smiled at her. ”I'm fine”, he repeated his earlier comment.

He remembered when he had first awoken after That Night at the Führer's mansion. He had wondered where he was and so on. Riza had been there, dressed as a woman for once (he had rarely seen her out of uniform after his alchemy teacher, Riza's father, had died before their eyes), worrying for him. He had been moved by it as she mostly acted calmly and expressionlesly, distancing herself from others. His vision had also been a bit lopsided then but he hadn't asked about it until seeing Riza's distressed expression. He had been shocked to learn that he had lost his eye to one of Archer's bullets. Cheap shots as he had already been injured when the Colonel had arrived to the scene at the Führer's front door.

While recovering it had mostly been Riza who took care of him. Others would drop by from time to time, never staying for long. They always asked how he was doing and telling him news. Fullmetal's mysterious disappearance had been one of them. After that Roy had been upset as he felt like he had let the boy down. He had looked after the blond thunderball for four to five years and him suddenly vanishing was just absurd. He hadn't heard much news of that for a week or two. And then the Tringham brothers had appeared and led the military under close surveillance of Lieutenant Colonel Armstrong to the church and from there to the underground city. He had been kidnapped from his bed a few days later as they had needed his assistance on researching the mysterious transmutation circle on the floor of a huge opera house.

”Do you really think he is dead?” Riza asked softly, crouching down to trail Fullmetal's name with her fingertip.

”Not really”, Roy answered. ”He is too stubborn for his own good.”

”True”, she agreed before sighing. ”He would be Havoc's direct commanding officer now. Remember when he asked if he could work under Edward when he comes of age?”

”I remember, yes. He said that that way his commanding officer wouldn't be able to steal his girlfriends”, Roy smiled sadly as he remembered the day when Jean had made his request.

”Ummm... Colonel?”

Roy looked up from his paperwork, surprised to hear Second Lieutenant Jean Havoc's unsure voice from the doorway. The tall blond was standing there and biting his lip, blue eyes darting from bookshelf to couches and to the coffee table and then to the wall. Roy was confused. Havoc had to be really nervous as the ever present cigarette was absent from the younger man's lips.

”What is it, Havoc?” he asked, dropping the superior act as he knew that that didn't work with friends. Yes, he considered Jean a friend and he had probably been the closest after Riza as Hughes had passed on. He dismissed the fresh pain that made a move to surface again. Damn, he couldn't break down now. Not so close the nearing transfer.

”I...” the other man took a deep breath. ”I have a request for my career.” He was fumbling with his cigarette. Roy tried to keep his eyes on the younger man's face instead of the white cancer cause that moved around in blond's fingers.

Roy frowned. Did Jean want to be transferred to another unit? By his knowledge the smoker was content in this one, even with all the teasing regarding his love life.”You want to be transferred?” he questioned.

”No!” Roy was surprised by the fierce answer. ”Well... not... exactly.” Jean hesitated.

”Say it, Jean.”

Jean was quiet for a moment. ”You know Boss, right? Well, of course you know, it is just that...”

Roy kept quiet.
'What does Fullmetal have to do with this?

”You know that the higher ups are planning to promote him, right?”

Roy nodded. He was wondering why the shrimp hadn't been promoted already. He certainly deserved it, even with all the destroyed public property.

”Well... they're putting it off until Boss is of age so that no one against it would have a fit that a kid was a Lieutenant Colonel”, Jean chewed his lower lip. ”I'm wondering if I could be transferred under him when that happens.”

Roy's eyebrows shot up. That was... surprising to say at least. ”He already has one, who is going to assigned staright to him when that happens. Second Lieutenant Maria Ross, if my memory serves me right.”

”I know”, Jean hung his head. ”But... Boss is... Like the kid brother of the office. We agreed that someone will go with him.”

”Kid brother of the office” was certainly fitting name. The boy would trash around like a caged animal, all the while opening that foul mouth of his and letting the frogs loose... And still everyone liked him. They would come to his aide when he was in trouble and they all helped and supported him. So he asked the question that burned his mind right now more than any other, even the identity of Hughes's murderer.”All of you?”

”We talked about it”, Jean admitted. ”We know that he is impulsive, that is why we like him, and he needs someone to look his back. Sure, Al is here but he won't be staggering after Boss 24/7 and he doesn't know how military works.”

Roy snorted, amused. But the Second Lieutenant did have a point. ”And you know? Or do you just want to serve him so I couldn't steal your girlfriends so easily?”


This had left Jean stuttering something unintelligible but Roy had given him a permission that he would have a place in Fullmetal's unit whent hat time came. And now he wasn't there to have an unit.

”Ross would have kept both of them in line”, Riza mused, still looking at the gravestone.

”Oh? Like you keep me?” Roy smirked as Riza flushed slightly. A casual observer wouldn't have noticed it but Roy knew her too well. He leaned down and muttered to her ear: ”Ross would be too old for Fullmetal anyway.”

He kissed her.

¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤

"What is wrong, Edward?"

Ed flinced slightly turning his gaze away. Ed had refused to get up this morning and now refused to talk to his father. Hohenheim was, of course, worried sick. His son was acting strangely and didn't show his now normal trust towards him. He knew it could be the still present pains in his son's shoulder and thigh, caused by the sockets. The Maurers had been the best he could find and afford but it still pained Hohenheim to know that their work was causing Edward to suffer. The boy had suffered enough during his short life, he didn't need to suffer any more.

Hohenheim didn't know which one of them had suffered more during their lives. Wether it was him or his sons. But when he compared how long their lives were Edward and Alphonse surely came out as those who had gone through more hardships.

"...Go away" came Edward's muffled response from between the sheets.

Hohenheim sighed. "I'm not going anywhere until you tell me what's wrong."

The minutes passed in a complete silence. Neither of them uttered a word.

"...It's October 3rd..." the answer was quiet and filled with sorrow.

Hohenheim frowned. What was so special about October 3rd? To him, it was just a day like any other.

Edward didn't offer him any further knowledge in the matter for couple of minutes which his father spent wondering what that date would mean.

"You remember... when you came back... and the house wasn't there?" it was a hesitant question and Hohenheim turned his attention back to his son.

"Yes..." Edward's back was still turned. "What about it?"

His son took a deep shivering breath before answering. "I burned it down five years ago."



A/N: There you go. I kind of hope you cried... I almost did while writing tongue.gif And my first time writing a funeral.
I find Aurelius beautiful name and if we take into account that Hoho is 400-years-old, he probably would like one of his sons to have a royal-ish name. And Aurelius does mean golden if someone wondered (I'm sure you all know why I chose the name tongue.gif)
'Rich, golden guard and a noble ruler...' -part was Al thinking the meaning of his brother's name. Edward meaning 'rich guard' and Elric 'noble/elf ruler'.
And about irises... they mean wisdom, truth and some other stuff that I often relate to Ed tongue.gif

And because I'm just another review-hungry author, I demand your comments (not really, I just want to know what you think).
GeGGuli-Chan
And yes, keep posting and I read it. I love this kind of "Mystery - What happened to Edward" stuff, like no one really knows that is ed alive or not! Lets all hope that Ed some day finds back home. (This comment may sound weird, 'couse I've been awake hmm... 31 or 32 hours without sleep in this point... Live Earth, Save Our Selves!)
Reta McClain
Jenna: *snorts* This whole story would be pointless if Edward didn't get home some way, dead or alive or with an amnesia or turned into a Homunculus or something. (Yes, I'm listing all the possibilities so you won't know what I'm writing tongue.gif I know, tho.) And they get some light into his disappearance, don't worry^^

A/N: Like you can see, I'll update now before my two week absence. I'm sad though, because I don't get too many reviews sad.gif This makes me one sad author. I hope you make me happy and review, this being my first real fic in English and all... (Yes, you got it. I wrote all of those one-shots after starting this one. Except Father, but the original version sucks so no one really cares.)

And I was right. This is over 5 000 words! MUAHHAHHAAA! (And if my memory is in order, chapter 6 was... over 7 000. 5th one only slightly over 4 000 (Damn.))



4. Painful Memories

"This is the best I could manage with your notes, Mr. Elric, and it's definitely a masterpiece" Manuel informed him while bustling around the living room in excitement at the next day.

He was holding the leg in his hands as Edward was sitting in one of the not-too-comfy armchairs, trying to keep himself from rolling his eyes. 'Sheesh, he is worse than Winry... And that is saying something.'

Timothy wasn't present because he had some business to take care of. Manuel mentioned something about the Maurers' neightbour was going to give birth to her fifth child (Edward vacuely wondered how on earth someone would go through labour pains five times if the woman had something to say to the matter. He could still remember very vividly Gracia's actions when she gave birth to Elicia...) Not that Ed had anything against it but Manuel was causing him very uncomfortable migraine. And his head had been throbbing for some time already. Edward still hadn't figured out the reason to his sudden and now common headaches.

"Mr. Maurer, shouldn't we attach that leg?" Hohenheim interrupted suddenly.

Edward blinked and glanced his father in wonder. Why he was so eager to get it done, even if he hadn't supported this since the beginning. His father was one odd cookie in the jar.

"Ah, of course, Mr. Elric" Manuel said and stumbled hastily to Ed's side.

Ed rolled his eyes as he forced his muscles to relax. He knew from experience that attaching automail limb hurt much more if he was stiff. He had been stiff the first time his automail was attached and boy did it hurt... He shut his eyes as he felt Manuel to bustle around his thigh. Ed took deep breaths to calm his nerves.

"I'm ready."

Mr. Maurer shifted his eyes towards him once more before turning the switch that connected his nerves to the prosthetic.

The pain shot through his body from the stump to the tips of his fingers. He glenced his teeth to keep himself from screaming, his only hand balled into a tight fist. 'Oh, f*!@...' He felt his fingernails to dug into his palm. He was afraid that they would draw blood.

The next thing he noticed was that he was laying on the couch, panting painfully. He opened his eyes slowly only to see Hohenheim's worried face to loom above him. The pain was dulling into a faint throbbing.

"Are you okay?" he asked softly.

Edward shut his eyes and inhaled deeply. The pain shot through his body in another spasm. His eyes snapped open and his left hand rose to his mouth as a coughing fit consumed him. Ed felt something wet on his hand, he knew already what it was. 'Blood...' He barely noticed that Hohenheim was helping him to sit up.

As the fit ended he kept his eyes closed, breathing as deeply as he dared.

"Here" his father said quietly. "Drink this."

Edward felt that a glass was lifted to his lips. He drank thirstily and the faint taste of water filled his mouth and flowed down his sore throat. When the glass was empty, Ed opened his eyes again and looked straight into his father's worried golden eyes.

"I'm fine" he said weakly, wiping his mouth to his sleeve.

Hohenheim just shook his head. Edward could be bleeding from the head and various other body parts and he would have a concussion and still would insist that he was fine. Hohenheim couldn't help but wonder sometimes if his son had a death wish. Or maybe he was just stubborn.

"So, ummm... Can you walk?" Manuel asked douptfully from the doorway. Apparently Edward's coughing fit hadn't scared him but it had made him unsure about the whole ordeal. Not that either of the Elrics blamed him. They were quite unnerving pair. An old professor man and his crippled teenager son... 'We should get the ”Weirdest Family of the Year” award', Edward thought, amused.

Ed smiled at him as reassuringly as he could at the moment and turned sideways on the couch. His head felt dizzy but he still planted his prosthetic leg carefully on the floor, followed quickly by his flesh leg. The floorboards felt smooth and slightly cold under his toes. He gripped couch's armrest tightly as he rose to his feet slowly. He wobbled slightly and almost fell over before Hohenheim caught him. He breathed slowly as he felt his legs get steadier. He straightened himself and let go of his father's hand. He felt a small amount of happiness rush through him. 'I can stand on my own again!'

Edward's first step in four months was careful and slow. He stumbled and Hohenheim caught him. Ed shut his eyes, inhaling deeply before opening his eys again and starting to walk. His father never left his side, hovering there when he managed to take one or two steps, steadying him as he swayed and taking a hold of him when he fell over. The distance from couch to the nearest bookself was barely three meters and it took almost fifteen minutes from him to reach it. He leaned against it heavily as he stumbled unsteadily to it. He didn't care if his steps were shaky and that he would need help at walking for a next few days. He didn't care that he wasn't in Amestris anymore. He didn't care that his mother had died and that his father had left... He was purely happy for the first time in ages and he felt like a heavy weight had been lifted from his shoulders. As he turned around his smile was so wide that looked like his face was going to split in two.

"I... I can move forward again" the boy said beaming to the two older men. "Thank you."

¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤

During the next two months Edward managed to relearn to walk properly for the third time in his short life. Of course this time wasn't as hard as it had been during his first rehabilitation process. He hadn't gone outside their house during that time because he didn't really want to get himself in trouble while having only one arm. Sure, he could defend himself without a problem and hold up in a fight. That is, if he had both of his arms and he was otherwise fine. But now he would be hopelessly outnumbered and his body wasn't in the best possible condition. And his lack of limbs wasn't the only reason.

Now as he could walk again, he noticed that if he got too tired or if he strained himself too much, the pain would flare through his body and if he didn't sit down he would start coughing. And that resulted that he would lose some blood. It wasn't pleasant at all and after couple of times trying to continue as if nothing had happened, he accepted his fate and sat down quickly.

When Hohenheim was at home, he'd rush to Edward's side and demanding to know if he was okay. That was very good reason to Ed not to tell about his dizziness moments during the hours Hohenheim wasn't present. He had decided to keep his mouth shut after first incident of that kind. He didn't want his father to fuss over him for such a reason.

The other thing that made him itchy was that Manuel Maurer hadn't completed his arm even after two months. A life without his other arem was becoming more irritating by a moment and he didn't do anything to hide the fact either. He'd complain and sulk but he still didn't have his right arm. Hohenheim would get tired with him always quite soon and make his leave, usually to do something university related stuff. Like grading papers.

One of the good things for not having his metal arm, was that it didn't weigh him down. Sure, his balance was off and he needed help while dressing, but it didn't stunt his growth. Yes, he was getting taller. He was up to Hohenheim's shoulder already, which meant that he had gained couple of inches. He was proud of this fact, even though he hadn't bragged about it after he first noticed. He smirked. People wouldn't be able to call him shrimp or pipsqueak anymore. If everything went well, he would be able to reach his father's heigh. All the crap with genes and so. The bastard actually was able to be useful.

¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤

"We are going to go to... a dinner?" Edward said in a disbelieving tone at December 6th when his father had come home looking entirely too smug for it to be legal.

"Yes, to dinner" Hohenheim answered as he searched his son's wardrope for clean shirt. How Edward managed to live in this chaos his room was in was beyond Hohenheim's understanding.

"And has it occurred to you that I'm not the most... suitable for some dinner?" Ed asked as calmly as he could. "I'm missing an arm here, Old Man."

Hohenheim glanced up at the name. Edward had started calling him 'father' after three months, though the boy still called him 'Old Man' when he was either bored, irritated or angry. Though he would use father at those times too, if he wanted to be sarcastic. Like ”Dear father of mine” or some other remark.

"I'm perferctly aware of that fact, Edward" he said calmly, returning to his quest for suitable clothes.

He heard Edward snort from his spot on the bed, surrounded by mountains of papers. His son spent most of the hours he was awake researching and squinting down to the papers filled by boy's small and neat handwriting. He would destroy his eyesight permanently if he continued this way.

Hohenheim shook his head disapprovingly. "Quit squinting, just admit that you've inherited my eyeproblems along with my looks."

Edward glanced murderously at him. "I. Don't. Need. Some. Frickking. GLASSES!"

"Of course Edward."

He huffed angrily and returned to his reading, refusing to admit that he couldn't see his texts clearly. He was stubborn (or just plain stupid) and he knew it. But he looked enough like his father without adding glasses to the mix.

"But we're still going to go to that dinner" Hohenheim said calmly, fishing out dark dress pants, a white button up shirt, a dark brown vest and a black tie from the wardrope for Edward to wear.

"FINE! Then we go!" Ed said angrily.

Hohenheim let a small victorius smirk grace his lips before he turned towards his disgruntled looking son and handed him his clothes.

"Put those on. Let's make you as suitable as possible."

¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤

Around 5 p.m. the two Elric's emerged from their current home both dressed into long trench coats and wearing their hair in a high pony-tail, the younger (and albeitly shorter) one of the two looking rather annoyed to the situation at hand. His right sleeve hung empty by his side as he walked quietly beside his father. The winter wind was cold and Edward shivered in his coat and pulled it tighter around himself, trying to prevent wind from blowing through his clothes.

"Care to tell me where exactly we're going?" Edward asked.

"To the Trumbauers. They live next to us and Gratia is an excellent cook" Hohenheim said, motioning towards the two story house next to theirs.

Ed glanced it thoughtfully. "And how do you know she is?" he asked.

His father smiled down at him. "They asked me over to eat from time to time and I became good friends with them. Simon is an intelligent person to talk to and they've two nice daughters."

"Okay..." Edward didn't sound too convinced.

As they walked to the front stairs, Hohenheim turned to look at Edward. He blinked up to his father. His expression was serious.

"Edward, I may not know everything about your life or anything."

Edward snorted, that was the understatement of the century. But he nodded anyway, encouraging his father to continue.

"You know about the alternate-people theory that I explained to you when you first entered this world and we've seen some of them already. I don't know anything about people you've met during your travels, but if you come across an alternate, don't show it. They'll just be scared."

Ed bit his lip. Was Hohenheim making him even more nervous on purpose? It sure as hell felt like it. "So... you think these Trumbauers might be alternates?"

"Of course they are. I don't myself know who their versions on our side are but they definetely have them" Hohenheim's face was stern and somewhat worried.

Edward shut his eyes and took a deep breath. He didn't know if he was ready to face more familiar faces so soon after the Maurer brothers but looked like he didn't really have a choice. But if he got lucky, he might not have known these Trumbauers's alternates back at Amestris. If he got lucky that is. He had never been the Golden Boy when it came to things like this. But crying over spilled milk didn't help. (And why milk? Why not... apple juice or something less disgusting?)"I'm ready."

Hohenheim nodded to him and rang the doorbell. All the while Edward stood there nervous, waiting for someone to open the door. Soon he heard two pairs of pounding footsteps and two voices giggling. Girl voices and judging by how high pitched they were, the before mentioned girls couldn't be older than eight at the most.

The door swung open, revealing two girls standing in the doorway, out of breath, their chests rising and falling. He had an sudden urge to drop his jaw on the stairs as he looked those two. They both appeared to be around six-years-old. The slightly taller wore her long light brown hair in two braids. The other's hair was about same shade of brown, hers in two high pigtails. Their big green eyes peered up at him as the taller turned to shout inside the house.

"Vati! Onkel Hohenheim ist hier! Und jemand ist mit ihm!" ( Dad! Uncle Hohenheim is here! And someone is with him! )

Ed shivered. The girls looked identical to Nina Tucker and Elicia Hughes. Was this even normal? 'Thank heavens that I was warned before hand.' But he still couldn't help the familiar tinge of guilt rising in his chest as his golden eyed gaze rested on the older girl.

"Rufen Sie sie, Nina herbei! Seien Sie den Gästen nicht grob!" ( Call them in, Nina! Don't be rude to the guests! )

Edward's hand balled into a fist in his pocket. He knew that voice too. Why him, of all people he could have met? He didn't know if he would be able to keep himself from pounding that man's face in if he bore that face. He had almost done it a few times before and they were not in his 'Most Pleasant Memories'-list. The memories of Shou Tucker never were.

"Are you okay, Edward?" he heard a voice ask.

He looked up from his shining shoes and smiled weakly to his father.

"Yeah. I'm fine."

Hohenheim frowned. He knew his son was lying but he couldn't really do anything to it. Edward would tell him what was bothering him when he was ready. If he told him, that is.

"Eingegangen" ( Come in. ) Nina said then and stepped out of their way. Elicia's alter was hiding behind her and she peeked at Edward shyly.

Ed smiled the best he could to the two girls. The whole situation was a bit unnerving but it really couldn't be helped. This Nina wasn't his Nina. This was someone else entirely. This Nina hadn't been turned into a chimera by her nutcase of a father. This Elicia wasn't his Elicia. This Elicia wouldn't call him 'big brother' whenever he stopped by. Nor would this Nina. It hurt more than he dared to admit.

"Hallo ist mein Name Edward. Was ist Ihrig?" ( Hello, my name is Edward. What's yours? )

Both girls turned suddenly scarlet, Nina stared the floor and stuffed it with her toe and Elicia's alter hid herself so well he had to wonder had she even been there.

"I-I'm Nina" the girl whose name he had already guessed answered stammering. "Th-this is my little sister Aloisia" she motioned behind her back to her pigtailed companion.

Edward smiled to them slightly. "No need to be scared, I'm not going to eat you." Not many knew it, but he actually liked kids when they weren't trying to get him play dress up and other embarrassing games and those he would avoid like a plague. Who wouldn't?

His father took his coat from his shoulders and put it on the rack to keep company to his own coat. Ed noticed that Aloisia's gaze lingered on his right shirt sleeve though she turned her gaze quickly away when she noticed his eyes on her. She probably had been taught not to stare. 'Or not to get caught staring', he added mentally before smirking.

Nina apparently ignored his condition. "Come on, Uncle, Mister, Dad wants to talk to you."

Hohenheim smiled down to the girls. "Thank you Nina, Aloisia, you're good girls, helping your parents out."

Nina beamed up at him and Aloisia peeked from behind her sister and smiled hesitantly.

"Follow me" Nina said with a military woman like air around her, motioning them to follow her.

Edward strode down the hall, following Trumbauer sisters and his father who was talking with Nina about her newest drawings. Ed glanced around the hall, noticing the simple carpet, the walls that were lighter shade than the walls at their house. And there were photographs on the walls. He stopped to stand in front of one of them. He recognized both Nina and Aloisia. Along with them in the picture were a man and a woman, both easily recognized by his golden gaze. The girls's father was indeed an alter of Shou Tucker. He had glasses and the same hair style and from his smile he suspected that he wasn't same kind of madman as on the other side. The woman beside him had short hair and kind eyes. Ed had seen that pose before and what kind of woman carried it. Gracia Hughes' alter. He sighed softly. Then he felt something tuck his empty sleeve - or someone.

He looked down and became aware that he was looking straight into Aloisia Trumbauer's green eyes. He blinked. Last time he checked she was supposed to be shy and hide behind her older sister. Well, he had never really managed to figure out any member of the opposite sex so this shouldn't be so surprising.

"You should come, Mister" she said. "Dad said he wanted to talk to both of you."

Ed smiled faintly. "No worries, I just stopped to look at the pictures."

He turned back to the family portrait. "Are they your mother and father?"

Aloisia looked as he motioned the alters of Tucker and Gracia.

"Uh huh. Those are Mom and Dad. And there are Sister and me too."

He smirked as he glanced down to the girl. "I can see that."

Aloisia smiled to him and then grabbed his empty shirt sleeve, pulling him after her. "Come on, Mister!"

Ed shook his head still smiling.

As they reached a open door on the left side of the hallway, she guided him in. Nina and his father were already there but there was also a man he had seen in that photograph, the alter of Shou Tucker. When the man heard his mismatched steps, he turned around with a smile on his face, eyes twinkling like he knew a joke no one else did.

"Ah, I assume that you're Edward? Your father has told me so much about you!"

Ed blinked. He hadn't even considered this kind of behaviour from a man who bore Shou Tucker's face. This place was getting even weirder by a second. "Um..."

"Of course he has mentioned your current condition, I do hope that your arm prosthetic will be ready soon" alter Tucker sounded honest and Ed thought that he'd probably like the man if he wasn't like his alter and would take a break from talking. The familiar throbbing of migraine made itself known in the back of his head.

"Uh... Thanks... I guess..."

"Ah! How rude from me! Sit down, sit down Edward" the man tackled him on to the couch.

After that the man sat down himself onto one of the more-comfy-looking-armchairs-than-the-ones-at-home. "I think I forgot to introduce myself. My name is Simon Trumbauer and I've been friends with your father for some years now."

Ed nodded, not seeing anything suspicious or wrong information in that. Hohenheim had lived in Munich for three years as he had heard during one of their long talks that his father called 'father and son bonding moments'. Honestly, Hohenheim was even harder to figure out than any female he had come across. It probably had something to do with Hohenheim being techinically very well survived fossil.

"My name is Edward Elric but that old man there" his left wrist flicked towards his father in another armchair. "apparently told it to you already, Mr. Trumbauer."

Mr. Trumbauer chuckled. "Yes, indeed."

"You're Uncle's son?"

Edward blinked and glanced down to Aloisia, who was still standing by him. She looked surprised as did her older sister beside Hohenheim.

"Yes, I am" he answered.

"Why didn't you say anything?" Nina asked as she jumped up from her seat and ran to him.

"Umm..." Ed really didn't have a clue what to say next. These two were very weird even by his standards.

Luckily Mr. Trumbauer decided to save him from his two daughters, who were bombarding him with questions that didn't have anything to do with each other. (”Why are your eyes yellow?” ”Do you like me?” ”Ain't I pretty?”) ”Nina, Aloisia, why don't you go to help your mother in the kitchen?"

Both girls turned to look at their father simultaneously with pleading looks in their eyes. Mr. Trumbauer just shook his head to their faces and the girls looked back up at Edward.

"We'll talk later, Mister" Nina said in threatening voice.

The sisters walked then out of the living room, leaving there one very bewildered Edward Elric with two amused adults who apparently thought that a teenager who was threatened by two six-year-old girls was extremely funny.

Edward didn't agree with them, though.

¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤

About half an hour later, Aloisia walked down the hallway from kitchen to the living room. Her Mother had send her to call her Dad and Uncle and the new Mister to the dining room to eat. Mom had put Sister to set the table, wich she had agreed to do, even though Sister wanted to see the Mister too. Aloisia understood her Sister's thoughts somewhat.

Neither of them had never seen someone like Mister before. No man, young or old, they had seen had had only one arm. Then he had a pretty long blond hair too and eyes the same colour. Mister looked like Uncle but that was understandable because they were closely related. But Mister was prettier. He was young and he was kind as far as she could tell.

She peered around the doorway of the living room. Dad, Uncle and Mister were all sitting on chairs, Dad and Uncle in heated discussion about something called 'äthe Treaty of Versailles'. Mister didn't look interested in whatever they were saying. He was trailing his only hand's fingers over the sofa cushion beside him.

"Dad" her father looked up at her, as did the others in the room. "Dinner is ready, Mom says you should come to eat."

"Ah, thank you, Aloisia, darling" he smiled to her as he rose from his seat.

Mister and Uncle rose too, Mister a little bit unsteady. Uncle helped him to regain his balance and Mister said something to him, though Aloisia couldn't hear what, then he hurried to walk by her father, leaving Mister to walk on his own. She glanced at Uncle in wonder. Why would he leave Mister on his own? Didn't he see that Mister couldn't walk that well?

Because Hohenheim apparently couldn't read her mind and return to his son's aide, she decided to be a good host and waited for Mister to catch up. Mister's gaze sifted as he noticed her presence beside him and she could see him smiling faintly.

"You okay, Mister?" Aloisia asked.

"I'm fine, don't worry about me, Aloisia" was Mister's answer.

She just nodded and was quiet for a minute before asking: "How old are you, Mister?"

He looked surprised by the question and it took him a moment to comprehend an answer. "I'm sixteen, going to be seventeen in January."

"Wow, that's old”, she said, eyes wide like saucers. ”I'm only five and Sister is seven" Aloisia informed.

Mister smiled. "Really? You're both big girls."

She beamed up to him. "Thank you, Mister!" she said happily. She knew it! He was nice!

The group reached the dinning room, Mr. Trumbauer and Hohenheim entering first with Edward and Aloisia on their heels. The scent of many delicious foods was flooding around as Ed set his foot on the floor for the first time. He came to a conclusion that Mrs. Trumbauer's cookings smelled as good as anything by his own Mother. Nina was standing there beside a woman from the photo in the entrance hall. Her short hair was light brown, lighter than her daughters'. Her eyes were the same shade of green than the girls. She smiled to him as he entered.

"You must be Edward. It's nice to meet you at last" her voice was even the same as Gracia's. "I'm Gratia Trumbauer."

He smiled politely back. "It's nice to meet you too, Mrs. Trumbauer."

Gratia smiled gently at him, apparently pleased by his response. "My, you look like well-mannered young man. Ladies must be all over you."

Ed's face flushed as red as a tomato. Heck, he hadn't even had a time to think about girls! And she sounded like she implied him to be some kind of womanizer! But he wasn't one! Mustang was and he was back at Amestris wooing over anything with chest that moved. He had once touched woman's breast and that was an accident!

Three adults chuckled and Mr. Trumbauer was laughing outright. Aloisia and Nina didn't apparently understand what was happening, they glanced at each other confused.

"You don't need to feel embarrassed, Edward" Hohenheim said smiling. "I've had many women running after me over the years and you'll get used to the idea."

"'Many women'?!" Ed squeaked. "Where the hell you got that one?!"

"He is your father" said Gratia. "And your resemblance to each other is uncanny and if he has been ladies man before, it's possible that you'll be too" her expression turned more serious. "I hope you'd watch your tongue. I don't want my daughters to start swearing."

"Umm... Of course, Mrs. Trumbauer" he said, uncertain.

"Let's eat!" Mr. Trumbauer announced.

¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤

During that dinner Edward learned that Mrs. Trumbauer was an extremely nice person like her counterpart Gracia Hughes back at home. She knew what to say and when to say it, but she'd also chat if it seemed approriate. She would scold her daughters if they didn't act like "fair ladies with somewhat healthy background in a dinner with old friends". Ed's opinion was that Nina and Aloisia acted like two kids would at that age. He had been surprised to learn that there were many ways for a girl act at dinner.

Gratia had actually noticed this and said that if he wanted etiquette lessons he should just say so. This had left Edward with very peculiar expression on his face and Hohenheim had come to his rescue telling that he was working on it. 'Like hell you're, Old Man.'

But he kept his mouth shut because he wasn't going to get any etiquette lessons until someone got an axe, a cleaver and milk to force him take them. Though he still wouldn't go there. He was just stubborn like that.

They didn't only sit on the table talking though. No, they actually ate. And extremely good food for that matter. Gratia was an excellent cook and he promptly said so. This of course sparked yet another discussion about Ed's possible future among ladies.

"Do you have girlfriend, Edward?" Gratia asked without warning in the middle of dessert (strawberries and cream).

Edward dropped his dessert spoon and felt as blush made its way up his neck to his cheeks. "Uh..."

He felt all of their eyes on him. His father and Mr. Trumbauer's mindless chit-chat about taxes ceased as they went all ears. Aloisia's spoon had stopped in the middle air and her mouth was open, ready to welcome spoonful of strawberries. Nina's spoon was going back to the bowl and her big green eyes stared him. Edward shifted, uncomfortable under Gratia's intense gaze.

"Well... uh... No, I don't have" he replied and hoped that he could transmute hole in the floor and disappear.

"Really?" Hohenheim didn't sound too convinced. "What about Winry?"

Ed flinched. He told them the truth, he hadn't dated ever in his short life. Why Hohenheim had to bring Winry up? Living in this side was hard enough without someone reminding him constantly about people he had left behind, thank you very much.

"Winry?" Mr. Trumbauer asked. "Who is she?"

Before his father had a chance to answer, Ed stood up.

"Excuse me. Would someone tell where is the bathroom?" his voice trembled but was overall calm. Only someone who knew him well would catch the trembling.

"Down the hall, second door left" Gratia said frowning.

"Thank you" he said quietly and hurried out of the door.

¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤

After Ed managed to shut the bathroom door, he leaned against it, shutting his eyes tightly. His breath was ragged and he knew that if he had ran, he'd be right about now coughing his lungs out. He slid heavily down the door brought his knees to his chest. It hurt. He shivered but didn't straighten his legs.

'Why did he bring it up?'
he asked from himself, eyes still closed. 'Doesn't he understand that it hurts to talk about them?'

'Of course he understands.' A small voice in his head answered. 'And probably better than anyone. He had to leave you behind to keep you safe.'

'But we weren't safe.' He argued. 'Mom died and we wanted her back and got ourselves into this mess.'

The voice didn't answer.

¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤

The Trumbauer family didn't bring Winry up again after he emerged from the bathroom, once again calm and collected. Bet Mustang'd be proud. The dinner ended in silence for Edward's part. He wasn't particularly fond of talking right now and others understood it and didn't try to have any discussions with him.

When Edward and Hohenheim were leaving, the whole Trumbauer family was standing in the tiny entrance hall, saying that they'd come again any time they wanted. His father helped him into his coat without a word. Hohenheim opened the door and stepped out and Edward went to follow him when he felt a slight tug on his empty sleeve. His gaze turned down to Nina and Aloisia who were standing there, watching him silently.

"Don't be angry, Mister" Aloisia said with a pleading look in her eyes.

"Uh huh" Nina nodded. "Mom and Dad didn't mean it."

His gaze shifted between the two for a minute before his lips curled into a smile. A real one. He crounched down to one knee and took both girls into a one armed hug in a spur of a moment. He felt them both stiffen and let go of them.

"I'm not angry" he said, still smiling to the girls. "Just a little sad because I remembered some things. I'm not angry with them or you."

Nina and Aloisia looked uncertain of this new turn of events. He noticed Gratia and Simon's relieved expression from the corner of his eye. He rose back to his feet and glanced at the Trumbauer sisters.

He chuckled. "Go to play, you two."

Their eyes lit up as they started to smile.

"Okay!" Aloisia said happily and gave a quick hug to Edward's knees before darting up the corridor with her sister.

Edward shook his head, still smiling.

¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤

That evening Edward and Hohenheim were both sitting on the kitchen table in their house. Edward was drinking water and staring of to the space while his father read a newspaper and drank tea from a simple white mug. Their kitchen was just as dull as the rest of the house, completed with grey walls and dark cupboards.

"Edward, I'm sorry."

He blinked and turned his attention to Hohenheim who had folded today's piece of .... and was now looking into his son's eyes with a dark look in his own.

"For what?"

"About earlier. When I brought Winry up."

Ed's gaze turned towards the door. "Don't think about it. It was nothing."

Hohenheim shook his head. "It wasn't 'nothing', Edward. I started talking about her in order to tease you and caused you pain."

Edward had a slight smile on his lips as his eyes rose to meet his father's. "I said already. Don't worry about it."

"I didn't really think that you'd have feelings towards her..." Hohenheim continued as if he hadn't heard his son.

Ed's eyes widened. "What?!"

Hohenheim blinked and turned to look at him. "You don't?"

Edward's cheeks burned. "Of course I have! She is like a sister to me!"

He abandoned his half full glass of water and retreated from the kitchen, face flaming red.

Hohenheim smiled to the empty room and said defiantly and in a calm voice. "He is in denial."

Then he emptied his tea cup, brought it and his son's glass to the sink and went upstairs to sleep.



A/N: Chapters are getting longer, you should be happy. And you got some implied EdWin tongue.gif I just love it wub.gif .

And you would make me happy by clicking that "Reply" button and writing how much you hate/love/worship/despise/stand this story.
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