Sailor Mac (sailormac) wrote in fm_alchemist,
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FANFIC: Aduration (Part 1, 2/2) (RussellXEd, Lemon in Future Chapters)

Title: Aduration (Part 1, 2/2)
Author: sailormac
Pairing: Edward ElricXRussell Tringham, eventually
Genre: Romance, lemon, drama, a bit of action/adventure
Rating: PG now, will rise to NC-17 in later chapters
Spoilers: Through end of series
Warnings: AU (diverges from canon at the end of the TV series). This fanfic was written when spoilers for the movie were starting to come out. I have made it AU from the movie out of necessity. In this fic, Roy Mustang is still Ed’s commanding officer. Lemon and yaoi down the road.
Beta: dragonscholar
Summary: Two years after the end of the series, Russell Tringham just wants to right his wrongs of the past. And then, his life is turned upside down when a group of political extremists takes an interest in him -- and Edward Elric suddenly reappears in town after having supposedly vanished into thin air.
Disclaimer: Fullmetal Alchemist is property of Hiromu Arakawa, Square Enix and Studio BONES. No profit is being made from this fanfic.

Crossposted to fma_yaoi

It was a bleary-eyed Russell who pushed open the door of the house the next day, shielding his eyes from the sun with one hand as he headed out to the lemon groves.

No sleep would do that to a person.

He'd tossed and turned all night, seeing the image of Edward Elric transmuting his precious bin of soil samples over and over again in his mind, like a movie stuck in an endless loop.

As he walked into the kitchen, Fletcher was pouring out coffee for him. "Are you all right, Brother?" he said. "After yesterday . . ."

"I don't want to talk about yesterday," Russell said, sitting down hard on his chair and burying his face in his crossed arms.

"He didn't *know* what it was, Brother," the younger boy said, putting a hand on Russell's shoulder. "If he had, he wouldn't have touched it."

"He thought we were working for Sloane!" Russell said, sitting back up.

"You thought *he* was, too," Fletcher reminded him, gently.

"I don't understand," Russell said, burying his head in his hands. "He disappeared . . . just vanished into thin air . . . for two years. And then, suddenly, he pops out of nowhere, starts thinking I'm a political extremist and wrecks six months of my research. It's like, every time he and I meet, something bad happens . . ."

"Maybe if you'd *talk* to him, you'd find out what happened," Fletcher said. "I want to find out what happened, too . . . especially to Al."

"I doubt he'd talk to me," Russell said, picking up his coffee cup.

"What makes you say that?" Fletcher said.

Russell just shook his head. It was just a feeling he had, an impression from Edward Elric's whole demeanor . . . the boy had lots of secrets, and they were buried deep. And he wasn't about to share them with just anyone.

A knock came on the door. He knew that knock all too well. It was like someone pounding on the door with a sledgehammer.

The last thing in the world he needed today was Baddely. He doubted at this point things could get worse.

* * *

The red-coated figure was waiting for him outside. He was standing with his hands in his pockets, just fixing Russell with a steady gaze which the boy couldn't quite read.

*Why is he here?* Russell thought. "Did you come to say you're sorry?" he said, nonchalantly.

Edward's gaze was unwavering. "I came to talk."

"Fine, talk." Russell said, starting to walk away from the building, Ed keeping up with him. There was a long, uncomfortable pause, during which Russell didn't look at the other boy.

Finally, Ed said, "Al and I spoke about what happened when we got back to the hotel."

"You mean, he gave you a talking-to?" Russell said, turning a rather bemused gaze on the shorter boy.

"That's not what I said!" Ed snapped, spinning around to face Russell.

"No, but that's what happened," Russell said. He knew this all too well, because the same thing happened frequently with Fletcher and himself.

"What makes you think you know everything about me, anyway?" Ed said, looking away.

*I wish I did,* Russell thought. *I know nothing. And that's the problem.*

The two had come upon the fountain where Russell had talked with Fletcher the day before. He sat down on the edge. "I don't know why you disappeared for two years," he said, trying to sound as casual as possible.

"That wasn't what we were talking about." Ed plunked down next to him. "We were talking about what *Al* said."

Russell considered pushing the issue, but figured that would be like trying to move a stone wall -- without alchemy. "All right. What did he say?"

"That I should help you get back whatever it was I transmuted last night. I told him again that we don't have time."

*Of course, Al would think of that,* Russell thought. *And I'm sure his brother put up a fight about it.*

"It was six months of research," he said. "I don't think it could be gotten back so easily, especially if you're on limited time."

"How do you know?" Ed said. "I might be able to see something you didn't."

"As I recall, you're more someone who jumps in with both feet and sees what happens than a careful researcher," Russell said.

"You think I have no *research* skills?" Ed said, leaping to his feet. "You sure thought enough of my abilities when you were *stealing my name* so people would take you seriously!"

"You have *no idea* why I did that!" Russell said, leaping to his feet as well. "I wasn't going to do it unless I was desperate!"

"Well, that says a lot about *your* skills, doesn't it, that you couldn't get anyone to take you seriously just being yourself?" Ed snapped. A couple of people passing on the street turned and looked at the two boys, whispering to themselves -- in a town as sleepy as Xenotime was most of the time, some good old-fashioned conflict in the streets was fodder for a hungry gossip mill.

"You saw firsthand what my skills were like back then!" Russell's hands balled into fists, as his muscles automatically tensed, prepared to fight physically at any moment.

"You relied completely on that stone!" Ed said, visibly tensing himself. Russell braced himself -- he knew that the last thing in the world he wanted was to get hit with that automail arm.

"I made that stone *myself*!" Russell said. "You have no idea what I went through when we were at Mugear's . . ."

"And you don't know what it's like to *really* sacrifice!" Ed shouted.

Russell froze. There was a strange, haunted look on Edward’s face.

*What is he referring to?* he thought. *Whatever made him get the automail arm? His disappearance? Both?*

He suddenly relaxed, and said, softly, "Edward . . . what happened? After you went down to that underground city . . ."

There was a long pause, during which they just looked into each other's eyes. Russell could see some kind of conflict going on there . . . he wondered if Edward was considering opening up to him, clearing up the mystery at long last . . .

But instead, the other boy turned and walked away, saying, "I don't have time now."

Russell just stood, blinking. He was confused. Then, angry. How dare Ed just stalk away from him like that . . .

He turned and rushed back toward the farm, wondering why the hell he'd expect *Edward Elric* to open up to him, anyway. It wasn't as if they were close. Hell, they'd only met up twice.

Of course, there *was* the small matter of him having impersonated the boy for a good year. In a way, that was a binding tie between them.

He shook his head. This wasn't worth worrying about. His first priority had to be restoring his research.

He went straight to the lab when he entered the house. Maybe if he worked hard enough on the damn stone fist, he'd get at least *some* of its original properties back . . .

When he opened the door, he froze in place. The room had been ransacked. Beakers were overturned, stools were lying on their sides, notebooks were open and scattered everywhere . . .

And he knew for sure Edward Elric wasn't responsible, since he'd been with the boy.

His first thought was for Fletcher's safety. He rushed out of the room, searching the house -- the living room, the bedrooms, the kitchen . . .

To his relief, he found a note on the table in Fletcher's handwriting saying the boy had gone grocery shopping and would be back around 1 p.m. It was now 12:30. That meant he wasn't here when this happened.

Slowly walking back to the lab, he dropped to his knees and picked up one of the notebooks. It didn't look like any pages had been torn out. The same was true of the one next to it, and the one beside that.

Methodically, he went about the task of picking them up, one by one, checking through them and then placing them on a growing stack on the counter.

*It had to be Sloane and his gang,* he thought. *They couldn't get what they wanted from me voluntarily, so they decided to take it.*

Except nothing was *taken*. Every one of his notebooks were there, and intact.

He heard a noise behind him in the doorway as he was picking up the stool. "Fletcher, we've had a problem here," he said.

"I see there's a problem," said an all-too-familiar voice. "But I'm not Fletcher."

He whirled around. "You! Who the hell said you could come in my house?"

"You didn't answer my knock, but I heard you moving around in here," Ed said, walking over and picking up one of the other stools. "We didn't finish our conversation."

"You were the one who walked away!" Russell said, picking up some of the upended containers and putting them back where they belonged.

"You changed the subject," Ed said, picking up another container.

"Changed the subject?" Russell banged a beaker into the rack a bit harder than he had to. "As I recall, we were *arguing.*" He sighed. "And we're about to do it again, aren't we?"

"You started it," Ed said, picking up another beaker and placing it beside Russell's.

"I didn't!" Russell banged another beaker into place. "Look I just came back here, found someone had torn my lab to shreds . . ."

"Did they take anything?"

Russell shook his head. "I just found the notebooks thrown all over the place."

"Can I take a look at them?" Ed pushed a chair back upright.

Russell whirled around and fixed him with a sharp gaze. "Why do *you* want to see them?"

"Well, maybe *I* can figure out why they did this. Oh, wait, you don't want my help. Never mind that I've been investigating this gang and I know things about them nobody else does . . ."

Russell gritted his teeth. Ed had a point, as much as he hated to admit it.

"They're on the counter," Russell said -- but he couldn't resist adding, "If you can reach it, that is."

Ed slammed the chair to the floor. "I *can* reach it, thank you,” he nearly snarled.

Russell chuckled to himself -- he couldn't understand why he always found Ed getting upset over short jokes so amusing. "Just look at them."

Edward grabbed one book and started flipping through it, his eyes scanning the pages rapidly, one hand pressing against his mouth thoughtfully from time to time. Russell went back to his cleanup work, occasionally glancing over at the other boy.

There was something rather striking about the way he looked, standing there in deep concentration, brow furrowed, body still except for the hand that flipped the pages. You could almost see the wheels turning in his head.

Russell looked away, quickly. If he was going to stare at anyone, it was *not* going to be *this* person. He went back to straightening a stack of papers.

Edward looked up from the book. "Is *all* this work about the effects of red water on the soil around here?"

"All the notebooks I have in here right now, yes," Russell said. "That's what I was researching."

"They were copying this stuff," Ed said. "There's smudges on some of the pages, fingerprints . . ."

"So why not just *take* the notebooks?" Russell said, putting the stack of papers back on the shelf.

"Probably wanted to put it into their own code," Ed said, putting down the notebook he was holding and picking up another. "These notebooks pretty much spell everything out in a way anyone could read. They're afraid of getting caught with the goods -- they know the military's after them." He put the book down. "Which means we have even less time than I originally thought."

Russell whirled around to face him. "What do you mean, *we*?"

"I mean, you're going to have to work with me on this," Edward said, "since *you* are so familiar with this soil, and *I* am familiar with this gang."

"Work with you on *what*?" Russell said, stalking over to him.

"Well, it seems that Sloane and his friends have found out the soil around here has special properties, too," Ed said. "They want to turn it into a bomb capable of destroying an entire town. They call it a megaweapon."

"So why do I have to help you?" Russell said.

"We're going to make the megaweapon before they do," Ed said, giving Russell a lopsided, sly grin that, under the current circumstances, just looked irritating.

"What?" Russell said, grabbing the back of a stool as if to keep himself from falling over. "That's insane!"

"Hey, if we make the megaweapon first, and put it in the military's hands, it'll keep the extremists from using it -- because why launch a strike against someone who can launch a megaweapon against you?"

Russell sank into the stool. "And if the military doesn't get the megaweapon first . . ."

"Then nothing's going to stop these people."

Russell just sat there, thinking. After a moment, he said, “So how come nobody’s tried making this megaweapon before?”

“They have tried,” Ed replied. “There just hasn’t been a suitable base material for it before. Not until the soil around here was discovered.”

Russell winced. As if having the red water sickness hanging around his neck wasn’t bad enough . . . now there was the possibility of his family’s experiments ultimately resulting in a weapon that could change the course of modern warfare, bring civilizations to their knees.

*Enough people were hurt when my father and I were looking for the Philosopher's Stone*, he thought. *I don't want a single person to be hurt by his work ever again.*

And there was also the possibility that he might discover the gold formula in the course of the explosives research.

He looked at Ed, took a deep breath, and said, "Fine, I'll do it."

Ed gave him that grin again, and said, "Just don't try to take *all* the credit for the results."

"Hey! Do you think I'd do that?"

"You'd use my name, wouldn't you?" Ed put the notebook down. "I'm going to find Al and tell him, then I'll be back."

Russell just watched the red coat retreat, trying to comprehend what had just happened. He was still just sitting there when Fletcher came in.

"Brother," he said, "was that . . ."

Russell took a deep breath. "It seems that Edward and I are now . . . research partners."

* * *
Fletcher finished putting the last few pieces that had been scattered by the invaders in place. "I'm really glad you're going to work together, Brother," he said.

Russell looked up from the notebook he was studying. Was it a good thing? Both of them had flashpoint tempers, could be very stubborn about their work . . . it was either a formula for success or a recipe for disaster. "Why is that?"

"I think you'll get a lot done very fast," his younger brother said, hopping up next to him. "You can do things he can't, and vice versa."

"*If* he doesn't go into smug, stuck-up know-it-all mode," Russell said, putting the book down.

"Brother . . ." Fletcher pulled one of the small plants growing down the counter close to him, and started to examine it. "You have your moments too, you know." He turned a leaf over and scrutinized a series of tiny spots there. "You really shouldn't make fun of his height."

"I can't help it," Russell replied, watching with interest as his younger brother took out a piece of chalk and started drawing an array on the plant's pot. Just with one small glance, he could tell what was wrong with it, what needed to be done . . .

Only the sheer depth of his love for his brother kept him from being madly jealous of his natural talent.

"Why not?" Fletcher tipped the plant over, concentrating and closing his eyes. He touched the array, and it flashed white, shooting energy up through the stalk and leaves.

"He's just *asking* for it sometimes," Russell said, peeking under to see the leaf Fletcher had just been examining -- sure enough, it was free of spots now. "With that kind of attitude . . ."

"Asking for *what*?" said a voice at the door. Russell didn't even have to look to know who it was.

He whirled around and said, "Haven't you ever heard of *knocking*?"

"What good does that do when nobody answers?" Edward walked into the room, Alphonse following.

"We saw the light on in the lab, so we figured you probably wouldn't hear us," Al said. Fletcher looked at him hopefully, as if he expected to see a glimmer of recognition in the other boy's eyes -- then seemed crestfallen when none came.

Russell felt a bit of relief at the younger Elric's presence -- he figured he'd have a calming effect on Ed, and be a detriment to any conflicts. Unfortunately, his hopes were dashed when Al added, "I'm going back into town, Brother. I'll be back in a couple of hours." To Russell, he said, "We got a tip on another possible member of the gang."

Ed frowned. "Al, it's dangerous for you to be doing that by yourself."

"I can handle it, Brother. Besides . . . we *don't have time* when it comes to the megaweapon." He narrowed his eyes. "And you *do* owe Russell some help . . ."

Ed leaned over toward his brother. "Hey, that was an *accident*! If I was going to do something to him, it would be something more *interesting* than messing with his daddy's experiments!"

"That was no *experiment*!" Russell said, stalking over toward Ed. "You have no idea what that was!"

"Hey, I *said* I was sorry!" Ed said, fixing Russell with an icy gaze.

"I seem to recall *you* telling me the proper way to apologize was *on my knees,*" Russell said, returning the gaze with one twice as glacial.

"I am NOT getting on my knees for YOU!" Ed snapped. Out of the corner of his eye, Russell could see Al and Fletcher both had decidedly worried expressions on their faces.

"Brother," Al said, steadily, "you two can fight all you want *after* you find the formula for the megaweapon."

Fletcher glanced over at Russell, nervously. "Should I help out, Brother?"

Russell considered taking him up on his offer. But he knew that there were chores to be done on the farm yet -- the last thing in the world they wanted was for Belsio to come home and find things neglected, after everything he'd done for them.

"You need to take care of the groves, Fletcher," he said.

The younger boy nodded and got off his stool. "You can come get me if you need me." He headed for the door, looked at Al for a moment as if he was considering what to say, then just left.

"I'm going too, Brother," Al said. "I'll be back in a couple of hours."

Ed walked him to the door. "Al . . . be careful. Please."

"You know I will," he said. There was a pause when the two brothers' eyes locked, and it was the oddest thing Russell had ever seen. This was *not* the way siblings were supposed to look at each other. It was as if they were communicating volumes in a single glance, conveying years upon years of shared experience . . .

It was incredibly *intimate*, and he felt a bit embarrassed to be witnessing it.

Finally, Al turned and headed out the door. Ed stretched out, walking back toward the table. "All right. What do you know about the soil so far?"

"Well, I'd show you a sample" -- Russell pointed to the stone fist that was still on the table -- "but *somebody* seems to have turned it into a weapon that was used against me."

"Look, didn't you take any *notes* while you were doing your research?" Ed hopped up on one of the stools.

Russell reached up on one of the shelves, pulled down a leather-covered notebook and handed it to Ed. The smaller boy opened it up and began flipping through. "You put *footnotes* in here?"

"I cross-check everything against books," Russell said, sitting on the other stool. "And some of them are references back to my father's work."

Edward pulled out a notebook of his own, flipped a few pages, checked something there, and looked back at Russell's notebook again. "This matches up with what we found in *their* notebooks, all right . . ."

"Their notebooks?"

"Sloane left something behind in that tavern he took you to," Ed said. "We found it under the table. There was only a page filled out in the notebook, but it looks like they'd started research similar to yours."

Russell pointed to an equation at the bottom of the page. "*That* is different."

Ed shook his head. "Probably a whim one of them had. Doesn't look like it would get them anywhere to me."

"I think it looks like it would work out very well," Russell said. "Maybe we should try it."

Ed looked up. "Are you nuts? This would set the entire process *back*!"

"Or speed it up." Russell grabbed a bin of fresh, untouched soil he had collected earlier. "We're going to try it."

"And waste a whole hour? No thanks, I have better things to do with my time." Ed went back to the notebook.

"What if it *works*?" Russell scooped out some of the dirt and put it in a beaker. "I wouldn't call that wasted."

"What if it *doesn't*? And I think it *won't*?" Ed glanced up.

"How are we going to know that unless we try it?" Russell was already beginning to sketch a possible transmutation circle out on a nearby pad of paper.

"Look, I can tell just by looking at the formula! It's uneven! It *won't work!" Ed slammed the notebook down to the table for emphasis.

"And just how must *agricultural* alchemy have you done that *you're* the expert?" Russell sketched faster, pressing hard on the pencil.

"This isn't agricultural alchemy, it's *mineral* alchemy.”

“Minerals are the very foundation of agricultural alchemy,” Russell said. “We have to be *very* familiar with the interaction of soil and plants.”

“Well, how much *non-agricultural* mineral alchemy have *you* done? Besides, you have no *idea* about . . ." Ed suddenly stopped. "We're wasting time now, aren't we?"

Russell put his pencil down. "Edward . . . maybe this is a bad idea, you and I working together."

"Look, we have no choice. Nobody else knows enough to be able to do this before these people do." Ed picked up the notebook again.

"But if we can't agree on what to do . . ."

Ed studied the equation in the notebook again. "Fine. We'll try it your way first. But if it doesn't work . . . I take over from here."

Russell was going to protest that, but he knew he'd scored one major victory -- Ed had agreed to do *his* equation first.

*And we're not even going to have to worry about doing yours, Edward,* he thought. *Because *mine* is going to be *right.*

* * *
An hour and a half and several equations later, they had gotten nowhere.

Russell had his heard buried in one of his father's notebooks, combing and re-combing familiar formulas and diagrams. Edward was looking back and forth between an alchemy text and Russell's own notebook.

"Your notes are confusing in a couple of places," Ed said. "I can't quite figure out what you mean."

"*I* know what it means," Russell said, simply.

"Well, would you mind explaining *this*?" Ed help up the book and pointed to the scribbled lines beneath a diagram.

Russell looked at it. He couldn't believe Ed couldn't read *that*. It was as plain as the nose on his face.

"It's a listing of mineral abbreviations." He shrugged. "Common ones."

"I've never seen *those* before. No wonder we're not getting anywhere -- are *all* your notes in code?"

Russell put down the book he had been studying. "That is *not* a code! And the reason we're not getting anywhere is because of *your* insistence that *this*" -- he pointed to the formula they had disagreed on before -- "was unworkable!"

"And we haven't been able to do anything with it yet, have we?" Ed said, pointing to the notes he himself had been making.

"If you just give me a bit more *time*. . ." Russell picked up the book again.

"We don't *have* time!" Ed jumped up and started to pace. "That's the problem! If you weren't so damn stubborn, you'd realize how *important* this is!"

"It was *always* important," Russell said, quietly.

Ed stopped in his tracks, blinking -- in surprise that Russell hadn't responded with a cutting remark of his own, he guessed. "What do you mean?"

"This research . . ." Russell pointed at the notebook Ed had been reading. "It was the most important thing to me in the world."

Ed sat back down, giving him a sardonic grin. "More of *Daddy's* projects?"

"That is *not* the reason I'm doing it!" Russell slammed his notebook to the counter with a *bang*. "It's based on my father's research, but I'm doing this for *me* this time. It's for . . ." He looked down. "It's to put something right."

That haunted look crossed Edward's face again. Russell wondered if he'd inadvertently hit a nerve of some sort. He just said, quietly, "The effects of the red water?"

"You *saw* it," Russell said, raking a hand through the fall of hair that perpetually covered one eye. "The sickness. It never went away. We've had people die from illnesses . . . the doctors keep saying it's not related to red water exposure, but . . . I don't believe them. Nobody does." He looked down at his notebook. "I have to live with the knowledge that my father and I did this to these people. I want to give something back . . ."

"Equivalent exchange," Edward said, looking thoughtful -- and still a bit haunted.

"Exactly," Russell said. "Fletcher keeps telling me we're not to blame, but . . . I know better." *And why am I opening up to *him*, after he refused to tell anything to me?* he thought. *I've never discussed this with anyone but Fletcher . . . * "I can't leave this town until I've restored the balance."

"And clearing your father's name doesn't hurt, either." Ed sat back down, picking up the notebook again.

"Wouldn't you do the same thing, if it were *your* father?" As soon as the words were out of Russell's mouth, he regretted them. It was a well-known fact that the Elrics had been abandoned by their father as children.

"*My* father?" Ed's eyes hardened. "I don't know if I'll ever understand him, or what he did. When I left him behind. . ." He broke off abruptly. "Forget it. We're wasting time." He picked up the notebook again, beginning to copy out the mineral list into his own notebook.

Russell frowned. This sounded strange -- there were as many rumors about Hoenheim Elric as there were about his son, and most of them were that he had just *vanished*, into thin air.

*Just like his son did,* Russell thought. *And Ed said *he* left his *father* behind, not the other way around . . .*

He knew he wasn't going to get any answers about that, or about what happened to Ed in the last two years -- the abrupt way he'd broken off the conversation was proof of that.

He busied himself with the notebooks again, trying to lose himself in numbers and figures, knowing that he *had* to apply himself to the task at hand -- after all, in helping Ed fulfill *his* mission, he could find the solution he was seeking to his own.

And it would keep questions that had nothing to do with what they were doing at bay, as well.

Another hour of work later, Russell felt they'd made minimal progress. They couldn't say they were completely stalled anymore -- but they were nowhere near a solution, either.

Ed put down his notebook, glancing at the clock on the wall. "Al should be here any minute," he said, a note of worry creeping into his voice.

"If he's not . . . do you want me to help you look for him?" Russell said, putting his own notebook down.

"He'll be here," Ed said, getting to his feet and stretching, his voice conveying that he wasn't even going to consider the possibility of Al not coming back.

Russell watched the boy raise his flesh-and-blood arm over his head, folding the one he knew was metal behind it. He knew all too well what that arm was capable of, he'd had it pointed at him in the form of a lethal blade.

And before he knew it, he was blurting out, "The automail arm . . . why do you have it?"

Ed frowned a little, then said, "A mistake. And like you said, things balance out."

*Just like him,* Russell thought as he watched the boy sit back down and glance nervously at the clock again. *He's telling me absolutely nothing again. And after I told him about what *I* was doing . . .*

The door to the lab burst open just then, and Alphonse Elric rushed in. "Sorry, Brother -- I was talking to Fletcher outside . . ."

"Al!" Ed leapt off his stool. "Did you find anything out?"

"A couple of leads, but not what I'd hoped." The younger boy smiled at Russell. "Hello, Russell -- did you get anything accomplished?"

"Same as you," Russell said.

Al looked back at Ed. “I *did* find something out about . . . what we talked about last night. And it seems . . . you may be right.”

They exchanged another of those long, peculiar glances in which they seemed to be looking straight into each other’s souls.

Then, Ed closed his notebook and said, "We'll talk back at the inn, Al.”

"Wait a minute!" Russell said. "You're leaving? You were the one who said we had no *time*!"

"We have something else we need to look into," Ed said. "I'll be back as soon as I can."

When they were gone, Russell banged the notebook to the counter in frustration. What was going *on* with them, with this case, with everything about them? The brothers obviously knew something about this case that they weren't willing to share with him, and that annoyed him a bit -- wasn't *he* part of their mission now, too?

He went back to the soil sample and reopened the book. It would be *very* satisfying to him if he could find the solution to the megaweapon before Edward Elric did.

But the cryptic words Ed had said before kept rolling around his head -- that his arm was a mistake, and it was the result of things balancing out . . .

The notebook hit the counter with a thud as the full realization hit him.

Losing body parts as a result of a mistake . . .

"Human transmutation," he said, aloud. "They must have attempted human transmutation!"

No wonder, he thought, they were so reluctant to share any information about their lives . .. .

He wondered if that were the reason Al had always been seen wearing armor when they first met . . . maybe he'd lost body parts as well, and was embarrassed to have people see it . . .

*But why does he seem intact now?* he thought. *And why the lost memories?*

He picked up the book, trying to force himself to work again, although it wasn't easy.

The brothers Elric were more mysterious than any alchemical formula or cryptic diagram.


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