Temporary title: The good, the bad
Summary: Two possible endings for Ed's quest
Warnings: fluff and angst
Rating: Pg for angst I guess
Note. totally unbetaed, (Where do I get a beta?? argh...)
Spoilers: nothing (I've seen only until FMA 15 so far...)
He hadn't noticed at first.
Overwhelmed by his achievement, it had taken him several weeks to realize. It was pretty logical he would, after all, both he and Al had been waiting years for this moment. A minor detail was easy to overlook, specially under their circumstances.
Among the State Alchemists ranks Edward Elric, the Fullmetal Alchemist, was well known- among other things- for being someone who could overcome impossible odds. But even he had seriously doubted years of research, clues, dead-ends and dangers would ever bring any kind of result.
But there had been victory at the end of the road. And he had celebrated it properly by giving his brother the first true hug in years; not cold hard metal awkwardly trying to ignore the differences in size, but warm flesh embracing him tightly. Edward was sure he could only feel the tip of the iceberg of what Al was experiencing. He had lost two limbs, yes, but his brother had even lost the memory of what it was like to touch another human being. It had been a moment that would live forever in his mind and, hopefully, would give some balance to the nightmarish night when it had all began.
After the fact, there had been a long period in which both Elric brothers had gotten slowly reacquainted with their lives. Alphonse had to get used to such simple things as eating, bathing, dressing and walking around without having to care if he bumped on someone because of his size. Edward was gladly surprised he still remembered how to write with his right hand but continued to write with the left one mostly because of habit. Someone else might had been a little bothered by the loss of strength the auto mail gave him, but Edward didn't care. It had been, after all, an equivalent trade, and his powers in alchemy were more than enough to make up for strength.
Those who knew the full story- namely Roy, Hughes, Hawkeye and Winry- had been happy and impressed. Ed would never forget the look on the colonel's face when the two of them had entered his office unannounced. Roy had blinked twice before assuming his usual smirk even if this time there had been a glint of pride in his eyes.
Weeks passed and eventually life fell into a comfortable pattern of normalcy. Alphonse didn't show any interest at all in becoming a State Alchemist, the only reason he had tried in the first place was now gone. He spent most of his free time with Winry, almost as if he was trying to make up for the years he couldn't do simple things like returning a smile. Apparently, thought Edward, she was more than enough to keep him occupied at the moment.
Personally he had no clear purpose in sight anymore, but still remained a State Alchemist. Not only because Roy Mustang thought he was "still too much interesting (a.k.a. useful) to let you go", but because had seen far too much to let himself quit. The only way he could find a new goal and the means to achieve it was to remain the way he was.
One cold night of winter, two weeks before his birthday, they were having dinner at Hughes house. (Hughes had insisted they *had* to hear how Alice played the piano and that she was an angel just like her mother who was pregnant again and he was going to die from utter joy). Among a couple of other guests there was an old friend of Gracia-san, an elderly lady which was in charge of helping the library acquire new books. She apparently enjoyed herself so much that she had invited the family to have dinner at her house. Turning towards them she said:
" You and your little brother are both welcomed to join if you wish"
The woman's words had been directed at Al, no at him.
And only then did it hit him: Alphonse was taller than him.
Nature was far more cruel than alchemy.
Things weren't supposed to go like this.
He still remembered his own screams while he fought to get free from Armstrong and Roy's grasp. He hadn't really noticed when they had banged into the room. His mind had only realized when strong arms had hold him in place, preventing him from reaching the still blazing array or the blood red stone in its center, already cracking and turning to dust.
It had taken years and lots of sacrifices to find the perfect philosopher stone, it had taken even more years to figure out the way to use it, but in the end the Elric brothers had succeeded and proceed with their plans. Apparently, his brother's plans had been slightly different than his own.
Until the last moment his brother had acted normally, asking him if he would like to go fishing " like when we where kids" after this was over. He did noticed his voice cracked a little, but he thought it was because of excitement, not because the other had decided he wanted to say something nice as his lasts words.
Actually, the biggest idiot was himself. He *should* have noticed. He *should* have done something.
Only when the light dimmed and things stopped flying around the room the others let him go. He fell to the floor defeated: it was already too late to do anything.
He buried his brother not very far from their mother's grave. He would have like that.
It was a quiet funeral, even smaller than hers. People eventually left, one by one, some of them murmuring words of comfort and some, like the now General Mustang, in a pained silence. Winry stayed until the end by his side, but even she eventually realized he needed some time alone.
He didn’t care about their words or about their thoughts. They had just stood there and done nothing.
Looking over and over at the name in front of him, he felt something break down inside of him along with the uncontrollable urge to cry. But he would not cry, he didn't want to loose himself in the flood of images that name evoked. Trying to find something, anything, to hold on he screamed and punched the gravestone with all his strength. It nearly surprised him when the only result was too make his knuckles bleed, he had been so used to the non feeling of metal he had almost forgot what it felt like to *bleed*. He stared at his hand so fascinated by the sight of the red liquid he didn't even felt the pain.
And then it occurred to him that he had always known how things would end. It was, after all, a basic principle in alchemy. People cannot gain anything without sacrificing something.
Edward Elric sacrificed his life in exchange for his brother's body.
You must present something of equal value to gain something, that is the principle of equivalent trade in alchemy.
But sometimes, thought Al, it wasn't a fair trade.