Title: Endings and Beginnings
Rating: PG-13, again due to violence/goriness.
Summary: In which we get a flashback to the past of the D!Rockbells and see D!Roy. Also continuing the arc started in 'Tools for Transmutation'.
Ever since Ed and Al had started studying alchemy, their previously friendly relationship with the Rockbells had evaporated. Now it was formal and cold, nothing but business. They remained cold and detached from the boys, despite attempts by Ed and Al to renew the friendship. Their reluctance to speak with the boys was tinged more with sadness than anger, though, and when Al had once inquired why, it had thrown Winry into tears. Pinako had taken the two aside and explained the situation.
"You know a bit about the Ishbal War, don't you?"
"It was really more a massacre than a war, a brutal and savage conflict that stripped virtually all of those participating of compassion. We were there--Winry, myself, and her parents. Sickened by the mindless slaughter, Winry's parents decided to use their skills as physicians to help anyone who was injured, regardless of if they were the 'enemy.' Needless to say, the Amestris military didn't like that."
"In response, they sent out one of their most ambitious officers, one Roy Mustang, to deal with the problem. He came in without warning one day, burning down the door with a snap of his fingers. He had no sympathy, just entered and did his thing. He separated Winry's parents from us with a wall of flame and then proceeded to torture and have his way with the two before he killed them. I can't believe that we were part of his mission, but after he had killed them, he turned his attention to us, again using a wall of flame as a barrier."
"His attention turned to Winry first, and the man's base nature revealed itself. As he had with her parents, he tortured her and had his way with her. Before he could kill her, though, Jean Havoc, a soldier fed up with the war, had entered and shot Mustang in the leg. He then escorted us safely from the city. Afterward, he was subsequently dismissed from the military and banished from Amestris."
"What happened to Mustang?"
"Oh, he lived, of course, even excelled in the war. His ambition later got the better of him, though. He tried to overthrow the Fuhrer and died in the process, a better fate than he deserved."
"We're not like him, though."
"Alchemy is power, and power corrupts. You'll change."
Now they stood before the Rockbells again, Al holding Ed in his arms.
"Can you help him?"
"Attempted a human transmutation, did you?"
"Our father made us do it."
"No, Ed. He asked us to. The decision was ours."
"Why are you defending him?"
"Enough!" Pinako interrupted. "Fixing him won't be cheap, and we won't coddle him to make sure he's ready for the installation. If he dies, he'll just be another victim of attempted human transmutation."
True to what they said, they did nothing to make the process more comfortable. They waited only for the automail to be made before installing it. Nothing was given to Ed to bite down on, and they were much rougher than necessary for the installation. The automail itself, however, was top notch. Anything less would have hurt their personal sense of honor. The price they charged the boys, on the other hand, did not.
Days later, Ed still ranted about the exorbitant price. "...and then they treat us like we're State Alchemists come to terrorize them again! We've lived--"
"Ed, speaking of State Alchemists..." Al interrupted and nodded towards a dark-haired one standing in the distance on the road heading to the ashes of their house.
"He won't find anything. I already went and checked."
"But he's an alchemist!"
"So are we. And probably better than he is."
"Don't worry about it."
"Worry about what, Elric?" replied a deep voice.
Startled, Ed turned to face the alchemist that Al had just pointed out. He wore a sly smile on his face along with a patch over his left eye. The top of white gloves protruded from his jacket pockets, adding an aura of danger to the confidence his posture and voice already exuded. Well-earned confidence, if one took into account that he was standing in two spots at the same time. As Ed looked between the two forms, the man's smirk grew wider and he chuckled.
"Fascinating, isn't it?" He held up a small multicolored disc upon which was etched some sort of alchemical array. "In essence, it's a three-dimensional photograph. The array holds a composite image of me gathered from a number of pictures of me taken from various angles. The alchemy behind it utilizes optics and local materials. Not believable up close, but there's no use for it in such a situation. You have yet to answer my question, though. What shouldn't you worry about? The fact that you performed a human transmutation?"
"H-How did you know?"
"Well, it was just a guess, but your reaction confirms it. First, you are the sons of the infamous Hohenheim Elric. Second, your recently installed automail. Finally, it sounds as if your brother's armor is completely empty. A successful soul bonding, then. I'd expect no less from his sons."
"What exactly do you want?"
"His services, or yours barring those."
"And barring either of those?"
"Then you can continue your lives without this meeting affecting anything. Of course, you'll always be on the run. Killing an old lady just because of the price she charged you seems a bit extreme."
"What are you talking about?"
He handed Ed an all-too-familiar photo. "Pinako Rockbell, reported missing two days ago. Aside from her granddaughter, you two were the last ones to see her."
"That's impossible! Brother wasn't feeling well then. He was in bed all day!"
"You've been with him the whole time?"
"I went into town to get medicine once. Ed wouldn't do that, though."
But strangely familiar images flashed through Ed's mind. Pinako struggling in her bed sheets. Entering a cave with her over his shoulder. Pinako tied up in the center of a transmutation circle. Bright light and no Pinako. What had happened to him? Why was he remembering actions that he knew he hadn't taken? Why was this State Alchemist seeking the aid of a supposedly infamous man? He gave voice to the last question.
"Because I'm not a State Alchemist. Haven't been for some years now. Just come west when you're ready to help me."
"Just 'west?' No other details? No name?"
"Just west. Ask around for Fiero and you'll find me."
With that, he withdrew his right hand from his pocket, snapped his fingers, and began walking away, the path he took lined by fire on each side.
After 'Fiero' had left, Al spoke up. "Ed...you didn't really do anything to Pinako, did you?"
"This is the first time I've been in town since I got the automail installed, and despite their pricing, I still respect their reasoning. We were friendly once, and I'd never do anything to hurt them."
The phantom memories haunted him nonetheless. They appeared as if fragments of a dream forgotten upon awakening. Startling, but static, with no narrative thread linking them together. Crusty, dried blood on his automail. Pinako inside the circle again. A bizarre, pale-skinned creature looking ravenously at a red stone offered to it. Winry with an expression of terror. He looked down at his arm and stopped in his tracks. Maroon flakes rested in some of the joints of the automail. More than an overactive imagination, then.
"Is something wrong, Ed?"
"We need to go see Winry."
"You automail isn't working right?"
"No, it's fine. But whatever got Pinako might go after Winry."
"The authorities probably already thought of that. They'll be protecting her."
"I'd still like to be sure. She might have given up on our friendship, but I'm not going to abandon it."
"You do realize that you're probably their top suspect?"
"So we'll go covertly."
Al's reluctant nod of acquiescence did nothing to ease the growing dread Ed felt.
The scene greeting them when they arrived did nothing to disperse Ed's worry either. Numerous policemen stood in the yard, nervously examining the mutilated corpse of Den. Not that there was much of a body to examine. The canine now existed as entrails splattered across the lawn, its automail leg the only means remaining to identify the scattered bits of flesh. Shocking as Den's fate was, Ed found himself more concerned by the doctor speaking to a policeman at the front door of the house. After a short while, the doctor nodded and entered the house, escorting a battered and frightened Winry when he returned to the porch.
Ed had stumbled out of their hiding spot before Al could stop him. His approach instantly drew the attention of everyone in the yard, but he saw none of the hands that reached for guns. He remained completely dumbstruck at the bruises that had obviously come from an automail limb. He knew he hadn't caused them, but coupled with the memories that weren't, no other explanations seemed feasible.
"Winry, what happened?"
"As if you don't already know. You happened, Edward Elric! You and that-that thing of yours!"
"Thing? What are you talking about?"
She didn't seem to hear him. "You had it tear poor Den apart and then you came for me, raped me, told me what you'd done to Pinako and that I was next! You're not even human anymore!"
"No! I wouldn't--"
But you did, and you know it. a vaguely familiar voice interrupted.
"I don't know it and you can't prove it!"
You do realize that they think you're talking to yourself, don't you?
"Actually, Mr. Elric, we can. It rained last night, and we found tracks of a regular foot and an automail one in the mud. The imprint matches with the designs of the automail done by the Rockbells. We've also found several people who claim to have seen you approach the residence. And then there's that nasty-looking welt on the side of your head."
"I was having a nightmare and hit my head on a rock."
Why don't you just let me help? Then this real-life nightmare can end. We can take them.
"I beat you off with a wrench aft--"
"SHUT UP!" Ed screamed at an unoccupied space to his left.
"Brother, there's nobody there!"
You see, you're talking to the air. Now you won't ever be able to lead a normal life.
"Get out of my head!"
It's just as much mine now as it was yours.
"Mr. Elric, please calm down!"
I tire of this game, son. Go join your mother.
Searing pain overwhelmed Ed and he found his vision fading to black.
You're on your way to a better place. At least, one suiting my purposes better.
The last things Ed was aware of before sentient darkness entombed him came in the form of a gunshot and his brother's subsequent cry.
I now have details and rules posted at divergentseries. That said, I'm out!