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The End Is The Beginning

Author's note: OK, OK, I swore up and down I would never write angst, for I burn with optimism's flame. This may come off as so much pop psychology, but sometimes you have to stop running from the pain, turn and face it, then grab it with both hands. And no matter how badly it burns you, rips and tears at you, you don't let go because it will make you stronger. This story is partly inspired by my feelings for my late father, partly by feelings from watching episodes 50 & 51. You know how much better you feel after a good cry?

Disclaimer: I don't own FMA, yadda,yadda, yadda.

Warning: BYOT = Bring Your Own Tissues

Chapter One: Memories and Regrets

On the morning of the last day of his life, Alphonse Elric awoke just after dawn; opened his eyes, and briefly considered going back to sleep. He'd passed his 125th birthday just a few months ago, but living this long no longer seemed to be such a great thing.

Alphonse often wondered exactly how he'd reached such an advanced age; he often supposed it was a byproduct of those years his true body had been trapped inside the Gate. He had outlived virtually everyone he'd ever known: Roy Mustang, Riza Hawkeye, Denny Bloch, Maria Ross, Alec Louis Armstrong, Jean Havoc, and all the rest at Central HQ; also Elysia Hughes, Pinako Rockbell....

Even Winry, his beloved Winry who had given him six beautiful children; and his eldest son, Yuki had gone into the unknown before him. His throat tightened - now there was no way he would get back to sleep. He levered himself up off the pillows, gasping as his joints protested such sudden movement. He expected he must have exclaimed out loud as there was a knock on his door; and after a moment it opened to reveal his great-great granddaughter, Trisha. (An unwritten rule seemed to be there must be one Trisha in each generation)

Without even being asked, she had brought him breakfast - a steaming cup of coffee, a bran muffin (gotta have that fiber), and a banana. Trisha was just a teenager, she needed her beauty sleep, yet she still got up at dawn. He'd been doing it for a long time out of habit, it was a lesson Izumi-Sensei had drilled (or was it beaten?) into him when she trained him in alchemy. What was with him today? Memories of loved ones, and ones he cared for had always been too painful to touch. Trisha was giving him a concerned look, so he shied away from the memories again and tried to do justice to breakfast.

The coffee was excellent - rich and dark - the way he liked it; the muffin was moist and flavorful, even the banana seemed more delicious. He ate while Trisha talked about everything and nothing - school, boys, her friends, boysclothes, boys, music, boys, alchemy, boys - Alphonse was glad to see she had her priorities straight. Between mouthfuls, he asked her innocent questions, and she gave him innocent answers; it was a game they played each morning. Trisha thought she was keeping her own counsel, but Alphonse had her pegged: 125 years of observing humanity had taught him how to read people.

With a groan - and her help, he finally rolled out of bed. He shuffled painfully to the bathroom, then painfully washed his face, brushed his teeth, and combed his hair. Ah,the hair - his pride and joy. Once the color of warm caramel, his hair was now snow white, but thick as it ever was. Unlike Roy Mustang, who had eventually gone bald as a bowling ball. Alphonse chuckled at the memory of his former commanding officer, who had finally realized his ambition of becoming Fuhrer. Roy lasted eight years in that office before tiring of the political infighting - his last official act had been to abolish the position of Fuhrer and transfer all his powers to the Amestrisan parliament.

Trisha was looking concerned again, so he ruffled her hair - gently - she'd probably spent a good 45 minutes primping, plus almost all hand motion made his wrist twinge. "I'm just remembering, punkin". She blushed, he'd called her that from little on, but now it was just embarrassing to a self conscious teen. She helped him get dressed, then led him to the rocker which looked through the big window over the green fields of Risembool.

"I have to get ready for school, I'll see you at lunch time!" He blew her a kiss, she caught it and raced down the stairs calling "I love you, great-great granddad!" Alphonse carefully pushed down on one foot and set the rocker moving, then he let the memories - and the tears - flow. That one day, that awful day. The day the damn Thule Society came back and invaded their world again. He and Brother had led the remaining State Alchemists into battle - the screaming, yelling, Edward shouting orders, the crackle and snap of alchemical energy and it's ozony aftertaste on his tongue, explosions, more screaming, the coppery tang of blood and death in the air.

On the opposite flanks, Mustang and Armstrong were leading the regular troops into the fray, now the crack of small arms fire, plus the smoke and heat from burned gunpowder muddled events further. They'd mowed a superior enemy force down like farmers harvesting wheat, yet not without losses. He saw blue uniformed bodies fall, heard cries of "I'm hit! Medic! Medic!" Some he actually knew: Heymans Breda lay quiet and still, a large bloody hole in his chest and a slightly astonished expression on his face, Vato Falman grimacing in agony, blood coming from his mouth, he also died on the field. Brave little Kain Feury - he survived his wounds, but lost an arm - Winry later installed it's automail replacement.

Alphonse suffered a broken leg before it was all over, and at battle's end, he recalled Brother saying he needed to go through the Gate, to destroy the array on the other side. He protested loudly, for Edward to come back, TWO people were needed to open a portal, but Brother coldly told him to stay, "Al, you are needed here!" Mustang had found something to splint the leg with, then bundled him into Armstrong's grasp and told him to take Al to the field hospital. Even with the pain of a badly broken leg, and weak from blood loss, Alphonse had fought to get to Edward's side. He'd screamed his brother's name over and over, all the way to the back of the lines, until mercifully silenced by a sedating needle.

That was the end of the Thule Society's attempts at world domination, but Alphonse never saw his brother again. Once recovered, he threw himself into research, trying his hardest to find a new way to open a Gate and a road home for Edward. While reading late one night, he had fallen asleep, his head pillowed on an open book; only to wake with a start when dawn broke. Winry was standing before him with a frosted cake on a stand. He rubbed his eyes and asked what that was for.

"It's your birthday, silly!"

She lit the two candles on the top, the ones in the shapes of the numbers two, and five.

"Make a wish, then blow them out."

He made the same wish he always did, and Winry slid a small gift wrapped box over to him.

He opened it to reveal a plain golden ring; removing it from it's home, Alphonse held it up to the morning sun streaming through a window. His sleep muddled brain wondered what it was for. He gave her an inquiring look, "It's a wedding ring, Al." He continued to look at her owlishly, and she blew a sigh, exasperated. "Don't you get it?" she cried "I LOVE you, you big dummy, and I want you to marry me!" Alphonse had been astounded, if he'd been Texan, he would have been 'whomperjawed'.

"Winry, this - this is so sudden, I don't know what to say."

Winry then brandished a shiny wrench with a bow tied to it. "Just say yes, dammit!" With a persuader like that, how could he say no?

And they had been happy. The remarkably fecund Winry had conceived on their wedding night, and nine months later delivered a son they named Yuki, after her grandfather. Alphonse hated to admit it, but Yuki saved his sanity and his life. Having a child to care for took his mind off his sorrow; he found he enoyed being a father, and each addition to the family lightened his heart a little more.

After Yuki came a girl, Pinako; then another girl, Trisha, followed in close order. Winry rested from her labors (no pun intended) for two years before producing her second son, Daniel, named for her father. The third son was named Hohenheim, Winry had insisted on the name and Alphonse agreed. He'd barely known his own father, so Hohenheim didn't bring up negative feelings for him like it had for Edward. The final child, another boy, they named Maes and he was as brave as his namesake. When he fell out of a tree and broke his arm, he barely gave it time to heal before scrambling back up into the branches - only to fall out again and break the other arm.

They lived a quiet life except each Military Remembrance Day, then they all piled into the train to Central and spent the weekend in a nice hotel. They watched the parades, the military tattoos, and finally the Remembrance Ceremony where the names of the honored dead were read. The last batch of names was of those who'd died fighting off the second invasion - and Alphonse often took a turn at reading them off as a red poppy was tossed onto a symbolic grave. Until twelve years on, when he heard "State Alchemist, Colonel Edward Elric" intoned for the first time. He'd jumped from his seat and fled, in tears, to the back of the cemetary where he could cry in peace.
It was Riza who had found him later, given him a hankerchief, and urged him to come back. By then, Alphonse was feeling better for having had a good cry and he rejoined the others for the finale, a grand banquet, followed by a fireworks show.

They would sit on lawn chairs in the dusk and watch their kids shrieking and laughing as they chased one another in a giant game of 'Tag' - Riza had finally made an honest man out of Roy and they were raising a small tribe of smirking brats - and reminisce. After a while - and a few beers - Alphonse could actually chuckle whenever Havoc brought up the spectacular fits Edward would throw whenever Mustang taunted him about his height. He would still feel a slight depression for a week afterward until he found his own coping mechanism: teaching alchemy to his children.
Alphonse would start by sitting cross legged on the ground, and holding each child in turn on his knee. With a long stick, he would show them how to draw a basic transmutation circle, then trigger it. Then followed basic transmutation lessons: turning a rock into a sculpture, water into a frozen shape, air into a visible, wriggling 'something'.

Once he felt each was old enough to not to be too scared, he also made it plain there were two alchemic procedures they were forbidden to do: Human Transmutation, and making Human/Animal chimeras. When a beloved cat died, the children begged him to try a feline transmutation; so Al had to explain it was possible, but the cat might not come back with the same personality (Fluffy had been a loving lap hog). They didn't seem convinced, and it was Yuki and Pinako who had tried it - they succeeded - but Fluffy was just as Alphonse had feared: the formerly loving tabby acted like she was possessed by a demon.

Fluffy was attacking his children, biting and scratching viciously and Alphonse had no choice. Pulling on his white gloves, the ones with the arrays stitched to the palms, he'd clapped his hands to summon an alchemical reaction. When Fluffy launched herself at him, Al transmuted her into ethanol. Together with his weeping offspring, he watched the cat dissolve while it mewed piteously. It had been a hard and very painful lesson to teach them. Alchemy was not a game he told them, for their vanished uncle had used the exact same strategy to destroy a homunculus.

In his rocker, Alphonse let the tears fall, they blurred his vision even further than it normally was. He'd started to go blind a few years ago, and now could see only colored shapes. It was hard on a man who was used to being so active, osteoarthritis had finally stopped him in his 90s, and he was now in almost constant pain while awake. He used to be able to keep up with his great grandchildren, but now he could only sit and watch the great-great grandchildren run and play. No, living this long wasn't so terrific when there was no quality to the life.

A sudden pain ran up his left arm, crowding out the usual background aches of his joints, and he gasped. It spread across his chest, crushing it so he couldn't take more than shallow breaths. In the distance, he could hear Trisha calling as she came home for lunch, but her voice, and the world suddenly faded away on a tidal wave of pain.

Author's note: I was thinking of my late father one morning when this plot bunny came along and bit me so hard the tears flowed. This first chapter came together very rapidly, and I couldn't wait to get home from work and fire up the word processor.

The End Is The Beginning

Disclaimer: I don't own FMA, it owns ME. I only own any OCs I've created

Warning: More angst, but also some hope shines through. In, the classification of this story changes from Angst/Tragedy, to Angst/Spiritual.

Chapter Two: The End, And The Waiting Room

Consciousness came back painfully to Alphonse. He was back in his bed, and even with his limited vision, he could see numerous dark shapes around it. Every so often, a loud sob would break forth from one of them, someone was holding his hand, no, his wrist. Very gingerly, he turned his head, the figure of a woman, closer and therefore more distinct was taking his pulse. Doctor Hodgeson, the village practitioner, ironically, a descendent of the same Doctor Hodgeson who had attended his mother in her final illness. A thought of the more things change was cut off by a fit of coughing. Assorted anxious cries of "Father!", "Grandpa!" "Pappy!" and "Grunpah!" - the last from one of the toddling great greats filled the air.

Another figure came closer, she got face to face with him so he could clearly see her - Pinako - his eldest daughter. "I need to sit up." Both she and Doctor Hodgeson supported him, while someone else shoved pillows behind his back. That felt better, now it felt like a massive weight had been lifted off his chest, and he smiled to show he was all right. Even if he couldn't see them clearly, his family was all around him, surrounding him with their love. Now was as good a time as any to die.

"You're right Al, it is a good time" A familiar voice, a beloved voice, a voice he'd longed to hear for decades sounded to his right. He looked at the window, but it was gone, vanished behind a strange white mist; even his family had been swallowed up. What was going on? He looked to his left, both Pinako and Dr. Hodgeson had vanished as well.

He whipped his head around to the right again - wait, his neck didn't hurt - why doesnt it hurt? - and saw a pair of golden eyes looking down at him. They hung, disembodied, for a moment; then he saw the outline of a face around them. Now there was a smile he knew well, and untidy blonde hair, the color of the sun, framing it. A long ponytail appeared, hanging insouciantly over shoulders clad in a brown coat, which covered a white shirt, the collar standing up. BROTHER!

Edward Elric held out his right hand. "C'mon Al, time to go." Al took it without a thought of hesitation, it was strong - and warm - like Brother's real hand would be. "Brother? Where are we going?"

"To a place I call the waiting room, now c'mon sleepyhead!" Al slid off the bed, surprised to find himself in the clothes he used to wear in his early 20s - black wool pants and long sleeved shirt, boots, and that red coat. He goggled at his reflection in the long mirror next to the bed - he was young again - his caramel colored hair long and worn in the accustomed ponytail.

Now the whole room was gone and they stood surrounded by that mist - Alphonse looked around in confusion, was he dreaming?

"No, Al, you're not dreaming." Could Brother read his thoughts?

"You're dead." He paused to let it sink in. "I'm what they call a 'crisis apparition', and I'm here to take you to the waiting room." Edward tugged on his hand, and Al took a hesitant step forwards, unsure of his footing, he couldn't see any ground beneath him.

"It's O.K. little brother, you won't fall."

Alphonse's eyes were brimming with tears, he'd dreamed so long of this reunion - and he'd hoped it would have been while they were still alive. Al felt Edward let go of his hand, then immediately felt both of Ed's arms embrace him - so Al returned the gesture, grabbing the fabric of Ed's coat tightly. Al hiccoughed a few times before he started to cry. "Brother! I've missed you so!"

"Me too, Al, I've missed you too." If they both were spirits, why did they felt so real to each other? Al could smell his brother's hair and skin, feel the rough texture of his brown coat, hear the soft sobs he was attempting to stifle. Now his crying jag was winding down, he snuffled a few times. Like he always had before, he felt better after a good cry.

"Al, I hope you're not wiping snot on my coat." chided his older brother. Alphonse couldn't help it,it sounded so funny, and he burst out laughing. So he continued to hold on to Ed's coat, and Ed to his while they guffawed their heads off. After a few minutes, the fit of hysterics finally passed, and they finally released one another in order to wipe their streaming eyes. Their eyes met, and Al put a hand over his mouth to cut off a snort of laughter. This set Edward off on another surge of merriment, he bent over slapping his leg. Alphonse was laughing so hard, he had to sit down, not worried anymore about the lack of an obvious up or down, left or right.

Edward helped him up again. "O.K., Al, we've got to get serious now, come on." They started wallking again, side by side in companionable silence, Al was bursting with questions, but he didn't know which to ask first.

He finally blurted out "Brother? What happened to you?" Ed looked like he didn't understand the question. "Where shall I start?" The beginning was good. "When you went through the gate, where did you go?"
"I wound up in Germany again, on the Thule Society's array. That b*tch Eckart was screaming at the rest of her army for retreating, and there was so much confusion, I slipped away pretty easily."

Al looked quizically at him. "I went looking for some explosives, but Eckart had already done the work for me, she'd wired the entire place to self destruct. All I had to do was start the sequence, then haul ass outta there."

"Haul WHAT?!"

"Machine world slang, Al, never take it up, it coarsens you."

"Anywho, where was I? Oh yeah, I took off running and got out of there just in time before the whole complex went 'kaboom'."


"And that's it, Al, that was the most exciting thing that happened to me, the rest was an anti climax." Ed shrugged "Oh, well, there was the second world war - also started by Germany - but I spent it in England, out in the country, away from the bombing of London and other cities."

"Doing what?"

"Hmmm", he shrugged again. "Overtly, helping Britain develop defensive weaponry, covertly, trying to find a homeward bound Gate."

"You found Gates?" Al was amazed.

"Oh, yes, I found lots of Gates, but they were all dead ends" he winced "So to speak." "Most of them led into other time streams, but all were machine world, I never could find THE Gate which led to the alchemical world."

Al spoke in a small voice "Oh."

"Yes, 'oh' indeed Al. I take it you tried also?"

Al nodded. "For years, I just couldn't find anything which would help. I thought I would go mad if I couldn't get you home again."

"And what happened to change that?"

"Um, Winry had our first child, a boy named Yuki. He took my mind off things, saved my sanity, actually."

"Hmm, yes, Yuki, I've met him. He's a fine young man, and I'm proud to be his uncle. He's waiting to see you again, y'know."

Al looked up in shock, "And Winry?"

Ed nodded. Tears began pricking his eyes again. "All of them, brother?"

"No, Al, not all. I'll explain everything when we get there."

A door appeared in the distance, an ordinary brown door with a metal knob and afrosted glass window. Words were written in arching script on the glass. When they got closer, Al saw they read "Waiting Room".

"So, it really is a waiting room, Brother?"

"Not exactly, Al, I just call it that, so the letters, and even the door just arrange themselves to look that way. This door is all things to all people. If you wanted it to look like the Gate of Truth, it would look like that Gate of Truth, staring eyes and all."

Now they stood in front of the door, Ed turned the knob and pushed it open. "After you." Al entered uncertainly, the light in the room was very bright, and he couldn't see anything for a moment. Then shapes began showing up, his eyes got used to the light, and the shapes began resolving themselves into people he thought he'd never see again. Much beloved voices called out his name; then a young man in his 20s ran up to him, crying "Father!" and Al's arms were suddenly full of his eldest son, who was weeping with joy.

He hugged Yuki fiercely - Yuki who had been struck and killed by a drunken driver the day before graduating from college - and Al was weeping too. Suddenly, he was tapped on the head [gently] with a wrench - Winry stood at his left shoulder, and she wanted his attention. Al loosened the hold of his left arm and used it to draw his wife into the loving embrace as well. He sensed, rather than saw Edward walking quietly past and he reached out blindly with his right hand, grabbed his coat, and pulled him back. If not all, at least some of the Elric family was reunited.
[b]The End Is The Beginning[/b]

Disclaimer: I don't own FMA, it owns ME! But I do own any OCs created.

Author's note: A little less angst as sunlight bursts through the gloom. Now you'll be smiling through your tears. This is what is known as a "catharsis". On, the classification changes to Supernatural/Spiritual

Chapter Three: The Good Place

The waiting room, as Edward had called it, was both huge, and intimate at the same time. Alphonse had the strangest feeling he could simultaneously see it's far wall - and yet not see it - it was full of people and yet populated only with the ones he loved and cared about. This afterlife business was really quite confusing. As Brother explained it, this was the place the deceased waited for their loved ones to cross over; even after they arrived, you could stay as long as you wished before moving on to something called The Good Place.

"It has many names Al - Heaven, Nirvana, Valhalla, The Elysian Fields, Paradise - like the waiting room, the Good Place is all things to all people. It's bigger than any religious idealogy - many have attempted to claim it for their God, or gods - but it doesn't really belong to anyone - except the dead like us."

Alphonse considered his next question, he didn't want to sound like an idiot. "So, is this Good Place mutable, like the waiting room?" Edward responded with a warm smile. "Now you're getting the hang of it, Al, it can be any place you were happiest when you were alive - BUT - once you are there, the clock starts to tick - in a manner of speaking."

"Wha - what do you mean?"

"It's hard to explain Al, because no one has ever come back to tell the rest of us what happens, but the theory is, you stay in The Good Place for only a certain amount of time. Which in and of itself makes no sense because there is no such thing as 'time' here; what feels like only 30 seconds could be a thousand years in the world of the living. No one quite knows for sure."

"We only know that people have suddenly disappeared from The Good Place"

"And you don't know where they go?"

Edward shrugged. "Our best guess is, they go - Elsewhere."

"But you have a different idea, don't you Brother?"

"I think - Elsewhere is a code for rebirth." Edward paused to gather his thoughts. "Think on it, if the soul is eternal, it doesn't make sense for it to have only one life. I think we will eventually be reincarnated in new bodies in the machine world. That is what the Gate's primary purpose is - for souls - not living bodies - to move from one world to the next. Before you and I were Edward and Alphonse Elric, we lived previous lives in the machine world."

"But in that case, since you died in the machine world, you would be reborn into the alchemical world?"

"I think where you were born matters; my next life will be in the machine world. My only worry is, will I also switch genders?"

"I just think I'm losing my mind" Alphonse muttered. He decided to change the subject. "So, um -" uncomfortable silence " - er - how does one go to this Good Place?"

A voice he didn't recognize said "You click your heels together three times and repeat 'There's no place like home', 'There's no place like home.' " a man with dark skin and brown eyes stood before Al. Edward gave the man a look, but he just grinned, turned away, and walked through the wall.

"Well I'll be," said Winry, "I guess it's done just like that!"

"Do you want to go now, Al?" Winry asked softly. "The kids won't be along for quite a while yet." She took his left hand, twining her fingers between his, smiling up at him. "What about Yuki? Isn't he coming?" She shook her head, smiling. "No, Yuki is waiting for someone, a girl he met and fell in love with not long before he died."

Al started. "A GIRL?! Yuki! You never said anything about a girlfriend!?" He hadn't seen where his son was, but suddenly he was there at his father's side.

"Sorry, father, I hadn't gotten time to bring her to meet you before I was killed. The worst part was, she was carrying my child too. She gave it up for adoption and went on to live her life, I want to wait for her, and our child before crossing over."

Alphonse gave Yuki one last hug. "Goodbye - son. I love you." He kissed him on the forehead, then Yuki was gone again. Winry reclaimed his left hand, and Edward took his right. "Ready? Now think Al, reach into your heart and think of the place you were happiest; and just walk forwards into the wall."

That was the easy part. Alphonse did as Edward suggested and suddenly he could hear birdsong, and a stream chuckling over rocks; he could feel a warm breeze on his cheek, and soft grass tickling his bare legs. Bare - legs? He opened his eyes and looked down at his feet; he was wearing tan shorts, a black sleeveless shirt, and sandals.

He looked over at Edward, and he was dressed just as casually; he turned left and looked at Winry, she was in a red sundress. "Risembool in the summer time, good choice my darling."

"Brother? Is this really ....?" "Yeah, Al, this is The Good Place."

Winry was laughing, she ran over to the stream, Al recognized it as a shallow spot in the Rain River; now she had jumped into the river and was kicking up sprays of water, giggling like a little girl - no - wait, she was a little girl!

"Brother?" Ed - who looked to be about 6 - grinned up at him, his hair was short again, but just as messy, he never did like to comb it. He turned away and ran towards Winry, jumped in and started kicking water himself. "Brother!" Al called, then stopped short. When had his voice gotten so high pitched? He reached the river and looked at his reflection - he was a boy again!

They had a fine time playing in the river, splashing each other, turning over rocks to find crayfish and worms, fishing poles appeared from nowhere and they used the worms to bait the hooks. They didn't catch anything, but that hardly mattered, because now Winry was chasing Ed around the meadow next to the river. Al joined in the chase and they ran and ran until they were winded, then they flopped down in the shade of a nearby tree and fell asleep.

It was starting to get dark when they awoke, Al looked up the hill and saw a familiar house - their house - before they had burned it down in 1909. The lower windows were illuminated, and just then, a light sprang to life in an upstairs window.

"Brother, do you see that?" Edward nodded "It's our signal to come home for supper. C'mon, I'll race you!" With that, Ed hared off up the hill, but Al hesitated, what about Winry? "I'll go to my old house, Al, and I'll see you tomorrow." "But, Winry, what if Granny Pinako isn't there?" "It's O.K., Al, this is The Good Place."

She skipped away in the general direction of the Rockbell house, Al stood there for a moment, then ran after his brother. Ed was already inside when he got to the yard; he hesitated at the door, then turned the knob and went inside. The house seemed empty, but there was hot food steaming on the kitchen table, he could hear water running to his left. Ed called "C'mon Al, gotta wash your hands!" He wandered into the bathroom where Ed was indeed washing his hands - and without being told! Would wonders never cease?

Apparently not. When Al came out of the bathroom, Ed was already sitting down and tucking in to a full plate. Al sat down and gawked: the table was groaning with all his favorite dishes: corn on the cob, meat pies, fried chicken, green beans, grilled sausages, mashed potatoes, egg salad. His mouth watered, what should he eat first? Then he goggled at Ed, who was drinking - MILK! He could only gawk as his elder brother drained the glass in one gulp, put it down with a satisfied 'Ahhh!' and wiped off the milk 'mustache' with his arm.

"Don't be shy Al, you can eat what you want and all you want!" Ohhh kaayyy. He was game if Ed was. Al loaded his plate and followed his brother's lead - every bite was absolutely delicious - and he ate until his stomach hurt. Once Ed was done eating, he simply jumped down from his chair and ran off; but Al stabbed up the two green beans remaining on his plate and chewed them thoughtfully. Then he drained the last swallow from his glass of milk, dabbed his lips with a napkin, and looked around for the one responsible for this feast.

He couldn't see anyone - wouldn't their mother be here? - so he just said "Thank you" to the empty air, and went looking for Ed. He found him in their father's study, sitting on the floor, and reading an alchemy text. This was apparently his idea of heaven, so Al found an interesting book on the shelves and sat down next to his brother. They read for he didn't know how long, Al had been laying on his stomach and reading when his eyes started to get heavy. He laid his head down on the book, intending only to rest his eyes for a bit - and fell fast asleep. And so passed Alphonse Elric's first 'day' in The Good Place.
The End Is The Beginining

Disclaimer: I don't own FMA, it owns ME!

Summary: Alphonse Elric has died of a heart attack at the ripe old age of 125 years old. At the moment of his death, he sees a "crisis apparition" of his older brother, Edward, who has come to escort him to an ethereal way station called the Waiting Room. After a while there. Ed, Al, and Winry left the Waiting Room for their next destination, The Good Place, which has many different names. Soon after arriving, all three become children again: their good place is Risembool in the summer where they can play all day, and eat all they want.

Chapter Four: The Beginning

Alphonse woke with a start, and found himself laying in his own bed. How had he gotten here? His last memory had been of falling asleep on the floor of his father's study. He looked over to his brother's bed. Edward lay motionless, a soft snore issuing from the lump under the covers. Alphonse closed his eyes and dozed off again. When he woke up a second time, the light coming through the window was brighter, and the clock by his bed read 8:30. He closed his eyes again, then suddenly jerked back awake: he had to pee. He threw back the covers and discovered not only had his sandals been taken off, but he'd been undressed to his briefs!

How strange. He padded to the bathroom and did his 'business', then washed his hands and face. When he got back to the bedroom, he discovered his bed had been made, and fresh clothes were set out for him. Strange, and getting stranger. The biggest surprise came when he entered the kitchen: the table was set for breakfast! As if on cue, his stomach started to growl. He climbed into his chair and viewed the spread: bacon, eggs, cheese, cold cereal, oatmeal, fruit, pancakes, waffles, butter and syrup, orange juice, toast, and jam - everything to delight the appetites of little boys.

He took a smaller selection than last night, and chewed thoughtfully while he formulated new questions to ask of his brother. Speak of the devil - he heard thumping footsteps upstairs; after a while, the toilet flushed, and he heard water running.


Al called out "Down here!" Ed charged down the steps like a juggernaut, "Ah! Breakfast!" As a child, Edward had the usual healthy appetite, but after he hit puberty it had gotten really scary, for he ate like his remaining limbs were auxillary stomachs! Ed was exhibiting his teenage appetite here, and it was truly remarkable, he filled his plate and cleaned it off to the last crumb, while downing multiple glasses of milk and orange juice. Maybe Ed's view of what he considered paradise was all the food he could stuff himself with - and then some.

"You done, Al?" He nodded. "Let's go then! Winry's probably waiting for us down by the river." Edward jumped down and charged for the door, pausing only briefly to grab his sandals and pull them on while still running. Al was about to jump down, when he paused and said "Thank you" to the empty air again. He probably couldn't explain why, except he felt it was a good idea to be polite to whomever - or whatever - was putting all this delicious food out.

He hit the floor running, bent down to grab his sandals and he was out the door after his brother. He could hear distant barking, and Edward shouting "Den! Den!" Alphonse looked down the hill and he could see Winry standing still, a furiously barking Den - as a puppy - racing around in circles around her, with Ed chasing him. Or was Den chasing Ed? When he reached them, Winry looked at him with her blue eyes shining. "Look, Al! It's Den! I woke up this morning and she was on my bed, licking my face!"

The puppy threw herself at Al and they both went down in a pile, Den reaching for his face with her long pink tongue, Al was giggling, his questions forgotten. Only after a serious day of energetic play, did Ed stop long enough for Al to ask "Brother? Who is feeding us? We fell asleep in father's study, who took us to our beds? You seem to know more about this place than I do."
"Mmmmm" Ed didn't answer at first. "I dunno exactly what they are called, the Christians would probably call them "angels", the Hindus call them "devas", and so on; but they work behind the scenes of this place, they make it idyllic for the dead."

Al was silent for so long, Edward finally looked at him and said "O.K., Al, I can see you have more questions, so ask, and if I know, I'll tell you."

"Did you ever marry, and have children?"

"Ummm, marry? No, but when I was in England, I - erm - had some "intimate encounters". Edward blushed red to the roots of his hair. "Becasue the men were needed to fight on the front lines, women took over their jobs at home. Some had boyfriends, or husbands - inevitably, they got lonely, so most any available man would do. Or the boyfriend/husband would get killed in action, and they would sometimes come to me for - ah - "comfort."

Al shook his head. "Oh, brother!"

"Yeah, that's what they usually said to me after sex." Ed grinned and ducked a slap from Winry. "None of them ever came right out and told me if I'd gotten her pregnant, but I have to assume I left a few illegitimate brats here and there."

Now Al was blushing, because this talk was reminding him of the many blissful hours he'd spent doing "adult things" with Winry. He decided to completely change the subject:

"How do you know so much about this place?"

"Well, for one thing, I've been dead for much longer than you have. I've been cooling my heels in that waiting room for a good long while, and I've heard things."

"What things?"

"Well, the - 'angels' are whatever you call 'em sometimes pass through the waiting room, and if you ask respectfully, they will answer your questions. They don't go into detail, but they told me enough to satisfy my curiosity - mostly."

"Just for the record, Brother, how long have you been dead?"

Ed frowned for a moment and scratched his ch. "Well, lessee, it was, um, in the 1960s, I can't remember the exact year anymore. I had moved to the country of America after the war, to a state called California. It's warm all the time there, y'know."

"Warm all the time? That must have been nice."

"At first, Al; but then it got rather boring. No seasons there, unless you count the rainy season. But I digress. There was an earthquake there the day I died, and a wall fell on me."

Alphonse gasped. "Oh, Brother! I'm sorry!"

"What for?"

"It must have been painful!"

"Nah, I was in bed, sleeping, I never knew what hit me, never felt a thing. But I will tell you I was surprised to open my eyes and find our father standing over me, telling me to get up."

"You saw Father? Oh, I wish I could see him again, we never got to finish our talk that day in Risembool."

"Yeah, hell of a time for him to fill me in on this, that, and the whole thing. I wish he'd told everything that day too, it would have saved us a whole lot of grief."

"Well, brother, you were too busy kicking, punching and yelling for him to explain anything."

"Well, I didn't feel like talking with my mouth, so I let my fists do it for me. I was such an angry teen, I didn't trust any one but you. Well, I might have trusted Maes Hughes, but then he got killed and no one bothered to tell me until later."

"So, for how long did you see him?"

"Umm, not too long; we got to the waiting room, and Mother was there, it was really nice to see her. We had a lot to talk about, but I didn't get to talk about half the things I wanted to tell her before Father came up and said it was time for them to go, and I should wait for you."

"You mean, they just left? Just like that? I would have liked to seen Mother again!" Alphonse didn't realize he'd raised his voice, and he was gestulating wildly.

"Calm down, Al" huffed Winry, hugging a whining Den. "I only had a few minutes with my parents too, before they went to their Good Place. The waiting room is a nice place, but it can get old quick for some people."

Al took a few deep breaths. He couldn't believe it, he would never see his mother again. Another question occured to him. "Brother? Do you think our parents came here - to this Good Place?"

"They - they might have. You might actually meet some people who grew up here, who also see Risembool in the summer as their personal paradise."

"You think we might see them - Father and Mother?"

"I doubt it. After so long, they probably both have gone Elsewhere by now."

Al hung his head, and tears stung his eyes. How he longed to see that loving face once again.

"Al, please don't cry." Winry hugged him, and kissed his cheek. "The 'ang' - the ones who maintain this place can grant you dreams of what you most want to see." This cheered Al up a bit and he sniffed back his tears. Winry went over to Ed and straddled him. "Wake up, lazy butt! Get up or I'll pee on you!"

"Yuck! Girl cooties! Get away from me!" Ed jumped up and ran off along the river bank, with Winry laughing and Den barking after him. A splash told Al he'd fallen in, so he got up and went after them. Sure enough, Ed was sitting in the shallows, while Den energetically 'washed' his face.

After a few 'days', or maybe it was a lot of 'days', Alphonse had lost track of time, not that time mattered here. He was having a lot of fun reliving his childhood, and he found Winry's suggestion did work. When he drifted off to sleep at night, he thought he could hear - if he lay very quietly - a familiar voice humming or even singing a lullaby to him. He dreamed his mother was there with him again, stroking his hair as she sang him to sleep. When he was in the kitchen, he thought he could smell a faint whiff of her perfume - lily of the valley.

His afterlife was made more bearable, until the 'day', he was running close behind Edward, Winry and Den on another adventure when the strap of his sandal broke and he stumbled, then fell. The trio disappeared around a tree, after getting to his feet, Al tossed aside the now useless sandal, then the other one, and ran after them barefoot. He rounded the tree and - they were gone. He looked for them, calling their names until he was hoarse, and it was dusk. Maybe they'd gone home. First he went to the Rockbell house, but it was dark and silent. He searched every room and every closet - expecting them to leap out and yell "BOO!", but one one was there.

He shuffled slowly home - looking up the hill, he saw a light glowing in an upstairs window. Maybe they were there, so he ran all the way up the hill. He was huffing and puffing by the time he made the back door - he ran into the kitchen - the table was set for dinner, but only one plate was set out. His. Where had Edward and Winry gone? He washed his hands, but ate only a little food, after eating he said the now standard "Thank you" to the empty air again, then paused before jumping down. "Please," he begged "Where is my brother?" But no answer came until he was alone in their bedroom and drifting off to sleep.

Elsewhere whispered a voice which was everywhere, and nowhere at the same time. It sounded like his mother, but it could have been his father as well. The next morning, he ate only a piece of toast before addressing the quiet house "I want to be Elsewhere too. Please." But no voice came to him, and he wandered glumly out, stopping only long enough to pull on a mysteriously repaired pair of sandals.

He heard voices down by the river, and hoping it was Edward and Winry, ran down to greet them. But it was some kids he'd never seen before - he would have left, but they were new here, and wanted to play. Alphonse thought his heart wouldn't be in it, but he was surprised to realize he was having a good time with his new friends. When the light shone from upstairs, he said "goodbye, see you tomorrow" to them and went home, ate supper with a lighter heart than that morning and read in father's study until he fell asleep.

And that is how his existence in his personal Good Place went, he still missed his brother, and wife; but playing with the other kids helped to ease the ache in his heart. Until one 'evening', he found he had more trouble than usual climbing up the hill to the house. He looked down at his legs, they seemed shorter, and so were his arms. Alphonse barely made it to the yard, because he was suddenly so tired, his legs didn't seem to support him anymore, and he had to crawl.

He stopped after a few feet, exhausted. There was a pair of bare legs, and feet in sandals in front of him. A female voice said, "Oh, there you are, my little man, come to mommy!" Arms lifted him into the air, and he saw the face he'd been longing to see for so long.

"Mommy!" She kissed his cheek,

"Hello, Alphonse, my darling."

A deep male voice sounded, "Hello, son". A large male hand ruffled his hair. "Dada?"

His mother spoke again. "We love you Alphonse, but it's time for you to go Elsewhere now."

"Ma-ma?" His parents faded away, and suddenly he was in darkness. Now an undefined force was squeezing him, pushing him along a dark corridor towards a bright light. As Al crept closer to it, he thought he could hear muffled voices, now a woman's voice, crying in pain. Something grabbed his head and started pulling on it, and now the voices were louder.

He heard a man's voice say "C'mon honey, just one more push, just onnneee more! Yeah! That's it!" And just like that, the squeezing and pushing and pulling stopped, and Alphonse Elric was free.

A newborn infant girl cried as nurses wiped blood and mucus off it's body, and weighed and measured it, before wrapping it in a pink blanket. Given back to the new mother, it quieted down and gawked at her, while looking around at it's new world, blinking in the light. It began crying again when a bright light, the flash of a digital camera recorded the first images of a new life. "Enough, honey!" laughed the mother, "You're scaring her!" The father smiled and put away the camera. "Can I hold her?"
He'd never held an infant before, and he handled his new daughter like she was made of fine china, for in her father's eyes, she was like a priceless museum piece. He rocked her gently, so she stopped crying and peered curiously at him. Then he brought her up close to his face and kissed her forehead. "Welcome to the world, sweetheart; welcome."

Author's note: It is said that for every death, there is a birth. I like to think that the same day my father died, he was reborn - maybe as a girl.. And while lying in a bassinette somewhere he was thinking "What's going on? Where am I? Where's my pants? And why am I wrapped in a pink blanket?"

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