Summary: A regular transmutation goes bizarrely awry and leads to a situation Edward and Alphonse never expected.
Previous Chapters: 1 2 3 4
Edward leaned against the back of himself, only encased in armor. He was exhausted, grimy and sweaty, and was currently stuffing his face. He swallowed a second sandwich in two bites and took a deep breath. His head was clear at last.
Abruptly, the Edward trapped in the armor moved forwards, which caused Edward to slide to the side. He whuffed as he hit the ground, not expecting the sudden movement. The noise caught his other self’s attention and he half turned. “I didn’t know you were back there.”
“’S’alright,” he muttered, rolling back into a sitting position. “Sorry, I shouldn’t have been leaning on you like that. It’s just that Al’s always..…” He trailed off helplessly, then shrugged.
He felt awkward even talking to this version of himself. Edana there wasn’t so much a problem with … they were essentially cut from the same mold, just from different sides of the gender barrier. This version of himself, though…
“No, it’s all right.” The armor shook its head. “Just warn me that you’re back there… it would have been bad if I had decided to flop backwards.”
Edward laughed despite himself. “Yeah, that would have sucked,” he agreed. He spotted his Alphonse coming around the house and waved him over. “Al! We’re gonna try to figure out what’s going on!”
His little brother acknowledged him, taking something back into the house first. Winry wouldn’t let them in the kitchen, she was apparently doing something in there. However, for some reason Alphonse got a free pass. “I’m not *that* destructive,” Edward muttered.
“Yes, you are,” Alanza said, sitting down.
Edward rolled his attention towards that suit of armor. “I am *not*,” he insisted.
“What did you do the last time Mustang-taisa called you a bean?” The other Alphonse seated himself between Alanza and his own Edward.
“I –“ Edward opened his mouth to make a smart retort, then remember that tantrum and a flush crossed his cheeks. “I… broke a chair,” he muttered.
He crossed his arms, put on his sulking expression, and flopped over to stare at the sky.
Edana and Alphonse joined them a few minutes later, Winry trailing and carrying a tray of drinks. “Brought some lemonade,” she announced, kicking Edward in his good shoulder.
“OW! What was that for?!”
Winry ignored him and he sat up, glowering at her and rubbing his now-sore left shoulder. Edana had rolled onto her stomach and had a book already open in front of her. “Hey, that’s –“ Edward started to protest, then realized how stupid that sounded and shut up.
“So, we’re not dead,” Alanza said helpfully.
“Thank you Al, master of the obvious,” Edana said, flipping through a few pages.
“Why’d you bring the book out?” Alphonse clanked as he looked over her shoulder.
“No real reason." She closed it and shoved it forward. “Just nostalgia, I guess.” Edward had to shift position to look at its cover, and shook his head, grinning slightly. It was their battered first alchemy book, something Winry had scrounged from the wreckage of their house. How it had survived the fire, he had never figured out.
“So,” his other self said, shifting position. “Have any of you run across anything like this in your experience?”
“In experience, no,” Edward shook his head. “I don’t think I’ve ever read anything about phenomon like this, either.”
“What about doppelgangers?” That was the flesh Alphonse.
Edana shook her head. “If that were the case, it would be an exact double and we’d be dead or insane. If you haven’t noticed,” she waved an arm over their group, “while we’re all the same people, essentially, none of us are exactly alike.”
“That’s true,” Alanza said. “I still think our initial idea’s the right one, we’re all just straight-out from different worlds.”
“Then why are we all in one world, now?” that was the other Edward, his voice sounding even more distant than usual. He was staring up at the sky.
They were all silent. There really was no logical explanation that they could think to explain this mess. “What were we all doing at the mountain?” Edana asked.
“Going to Central, both Alphonses responded at the same time. “It was ‘niisan’s idea,” they added, still in unison. They glanced at each other and laughed.
“Yeah, yeah.” Edward muttered. “So, we were all in that cave hoping for a shortcut to get us back to Central quicker. What caused the cave-in, then?”
“the fact that the cave is generally not safe in the first place?” Winry suggested.
They all looked at Winry as if she’d grown a second head. She rolled her eyes at them. “Of course, it’s not like the big, important alchemists have time to pay attention to small-time news. They were blasting in that mountain a few weeks ago, Some excitable miner thought he’d tapped another silver vein, but it was a false alarm.”
She glanced around the ring of faces, and threw her arms up in the air. “You mean you guys didn’t hear anything about this? It was all over the newspapers!”
Slowly, they all shook their heads. Winry groaned. “Of course.”
“Anyway,” the other Alphonse said, finishing off his lemonade to hide his embarrassment, “I guess it’s safe to assume that we all used alchemy at the same time to shield ourselves from the falling rocks, right?”
They all nodded. “Except, one of the smaller rocks got through.” Edana rubbed the back of her head and winced slightly. Edward remembered his own lump but resisted the urge to prod at it. “Then when I woke up, you two were already freaking out.”
Edward shook his head. “The only thing I can think of is that the transmutation had something to do with it… but that makes no sense. It wasn’t a complicated transmutation, or even a large one. Just a simple rock shield.”
The armor Edward leaned forward. “You know what we’re going to have to do, don’t you?”
Alphonse caught it first. “We’re going to have to go to Mustang-taisa.”
“NO WAY,” Edward and Edana shouted at the same time. They both turned to glare at the armor version of themselves as if it had betrayed their core principles right then and there. “What the hell’s wrong with you?”
“No, he’s right.” Alanza sounded thoughtful. “There would be more resources in Central, anyway. I’d imagine having that vast library system at our fingertips would be useful.”
“We’re not going begging to that bastard colonel for help,” Edana snarled, crossing her arms and daring someone to disagree with her.
Unfortunately, Alphonse took up that challenge easily enough. “He’s going to find out anyway. It’s not like any of you are subtle,”
“Hey!” Edward sounded offended.
“It’s probably wise to keep a low profile,” the other Alphonse said. “I think Edward and Alphonse should go to Central to get Mustang-taisa’s aid. The rest of us should stay here, where we won’t attract as much attention. That is, if it’s all right with Winry and Pinako-baachan.”
Winry shrugged. “It’s fine with me, as long as you four pull your shares and don’t eat all of our food.” She frowned more at Edana than at Alphonse.
Edward nodded. As much as he didn’t want to get Mustang involved in all of this, that was probably the best plan. However, Edana didn’t sound happy. “I don’t want to be cooped up HERE,” she snorted. “We’d be so much more effective in Central, looking for leads.”
“I agree,” the armor Edward said. “But, first we have to be subtle. THEN we can blow things up.”
“I like the way you think,” Edward said with a shark-like grin.
“There will be *no* blowing things up,” Alphonse said firmly.
In response, Edward glanced at Edana and the other Edward. They all clapped and slammed their hands onto the grass, throwing up small explosions of dirt straight into Alphonse’s face.
“AUGH! That’s playing DIRTY!”
Winry got up and fled back towards the house as a full-out sibling brawl developed. The last thing she needed was to accidentally get crushed by a flailing suit of armor.
“’That’s playing dirty’?” Edana snorted, one arm supporting Alphonse as he limped back towards the house.
“That’s me, master of bad puns,” he muttered, gingerly trying to put weight on his automail and it refusing to respond. “What’s the chance that Winry *won’t* kill me?”
“Sorry Al, it’s your funeral, not mine,” Edward said from his other side.
“Great,” Alphonse muttered.
They were almost inside the door when the broom came at their heads. Edward saw this coming and managed to duck, the bristles whistling over his hair by millimeters. Alphonse and Edana, however, were not so lucky.
“AUGH!” Alphonse shouted, getting a face full of broom.
“OUT!” Winry shouted right back at them. “OUT, OUT, OUT, OUT!”
“It’s not my fault!” Edward said. “I didn’t break MY automail!”
Winry stopped swinging the broom, a very familiar look in her eye. “What?” she asked; her voice dangerous. “What did you say?”
Belatedly, Edward realized that they were getting swatted for being walking piles of dirt and grime. Edana seemed to realize the same thing. They glanced at each other, then, as one, they slid out from under Alphonse’s shoulders and shoved him at Winry.
Alphonse gave a startled shout as he toppled forwards. However, Edward and Edana were already out the door and out of wrench-vengeance range. “Sorry, Al!” Edward tossed over his shoulder.
Alphonse balanced himself in the doorway, looking as sheepish as he could as Winry loomed over him. “BROKE your automail?” she repeated.
“I don’t think it’s broken,” he said in a hurry. “I think maybe it’s a screw or three loose…”
Alphonse’s resulting yelp of pain could be heard halfway down the hillside.
The three suits of armor were visiting the kittens when Edward and Edana walked around the side of the house. Alphonse glanced up first. “What was that shout?” he asked.
“Winry’s vengeance,” Edward said.
“Ooo,” the other Edward winced. “Poor Al.”
“Just a warning,” Edana said, “but you three might want to rinse off before you try to go back inside. Winry’s wielding a broom of bristly destruction.”
“Warning noted, ‘neesan. What about you and ‘niisan?”
Edward blinked at Alanza. “Excuse me?”
Alanza pointed at Edana. “’Neesan,” she explained patiently. She pointed at him. “’Niisan.” Then she pointed at the Edward armor. “Niichan.”
“Waitasec,” the armor-bound Edward said. “Why am *I* -chan?”
“Hey, that’s a good idea, Alanza,” Alphonse said, pointing at the other Edward. “’Niichan.”
“WHY AM *I* STUCK WITH THE –CHAN?!”
“Because ‘niisan would blow an exceptional gasket at any reference to being short,” Alanza said helpfully.
“WHO’S SO SMALL THAT HE’S IGNORED IN DIRECT CONVERSATION?!”
“See?” Alanza stood up. “’Niisan, you’re disturbing the kittens.”
Edward was about to yell again, then realized that he was faced with at least two unhappy suits of armor, and one still flailing at being called ‘chan’. He decided to cut his losses at that. “Come on,” he muttered to Edana. “The shower’s on the other side of the house, anyway.”
“I know that,” Edana said smartly. She looked irritated too.
As they passed under the open window to Winry’s lab, they heard Alphonse. “But it really WASN’T my – OWWW! … fault…”
Ack, to work, to work I go. ;_;