redrose999 (redrose999) wrote in fm_alchemist,

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Gilded Cage Chapter 10

Gilded Cage

I would like to thank the folks here for all the information on the gatway of alchemy. It helped me to form some theories and get some real devious ideas for this fic!

Summery: After realizing Edward is dying, Alphonse heads to the lab, determined to save his brother.
Characters: Ed, Al, Noa, Alter Roy, Envy and Crossover with Doctor Who Jack Harkness
Rating: PG-13
Warning Metaphysical WHO-HA, angst, Al whumping, and mad science....
General Fic, Action Adventure, with lots of ANGST

Did I miss anything?
Oh yes...

Chapter 10
Painful Realizations

It was late and most of the staff was home. Kaiser left one security guard on duty in the evening, and that night, it was Jack.

Alphonse Elric stood, starting at the large suit of armor propped up in the hall near one of the many paintings hanging on the wall.

He blinked, looking at the thing, studying its seven-foot metal frame, as it seemed to stare across the mahogany and brick walls. It was polished metal: Aluminum or steel, with large rounded and broad chest plates and spiked shoulder guards. It vaguely reminded him of the suit his father had in his study; the same armor his soul was bound to six years ago.

There were three paintings in the hall, one of Noa, and the other two of he and Edward. Kaiser commissioned them from photos he had taken and insisted on hanging the pieces in their tower, claiming it made the place their home, rather than a prison.

It was ironic; Al’s painting was set near the armor. He was sitting stiffly in a fine brown suit, looking out with sad eyes and his hands folded neatly on his lap.

The boy preferred the photos from Rizenbol hidden in Edward’s suitcase. At least they were smiling or laughing in them.

Looking both ways, the boy made sure Jack hadn’t returned. He sent the security guard in to check on Edward so he could examine the wall, and confirm his hunch.

With luck, Noa would keep him long enough to allow Al some time to explore.

If his hunch was right, the secret passage’s entrance was near the kitchen. He dashed across the hall into the kitchen, secured a stool and plopped it on to the floor near the armor. In his many trips to the garden, he was sure he heard the clanking of metal, like something was being removed and put into place. He eyed the armor, aware it was the only metal thing in the hallway. It had to be what he was hearing. Determined to solve the mystery, they boy stepped onto the stool and lifted the head off the armor. The motion sounded familiar. Quickly, he checked the back of the wall. Sure enough there was a small switch.

Knocking on the wall next to the suit he heard a low hollow sound. The secret panel was hidden behind the painting. His painting.

With a sigh of relief Al found himself smiling. Hi senses hadn’t let him down. He knew the way out.

Touching the armor, the boy found himself staring into its chest cavity and at the dull glint of sanded metal. He felt a chill, recalling the day he first regained consciousness in his metal form.

He felt something bump his leg and rub against his ankle. Looking down, he saw Einstein. The kitten mewed and fidgeted, looking back and down the hall, toward their room.

“I know, Einstein. Just one more moment.” Alphonse whispered. Carefully pricking his finger, he traced an array on the back of the armor with his blood. He wasn’t entirely sure why, it was just an impulse. Or perhaps his gut drove him to do it for deeper reasons. Alchemy worked differently there, or so, that was his hunch. If they managed to make it work, the armor would be useful….

And it would be marked just like the seven others in the library…

He had been busy the last few weeks.

Now that Edward was ill, it was up to him to make things work. It never hurt to prepare ahead of time, just in case. Over the last week, he had been developing a plan based on Edward’s calculations and recent experiments with Noa.

Einstein pawed the stool. Drawing his attention to the animal. It whined and looked down the hall uneasily. The kitten must have heard something.

The boy cursed. Swiftly, Al placed the helmet on the armor and jumped down. He sprinted into the kitchen with the stool. He dropped it on the floor near the main cupboard.

“Alphonse?” It was Jack.

The boy froze, breathing deeply. How was he going to explain this? They weren’t allowed in the kitchen at all. In fact the door was locked; he had picked it open to get the stool. He stuck his head out, faking a large uneasy smile. “Just finding a snack for Edward.” He said. “Don’t worry, the cook locks up all the knives and silverware so I can’t find any weapons.”

The man slowly closed the door to the bedroom. “Edward isn’t hungry, Al. In fact he’s sleeping. You’re up to something.”

With an uneasy laugh, the boy scratched the back of his head with one hand. “Ah, no, really, what would I be up to?”

“Let me see, as I recall, it is the prisoner’s duty to find an escape route… “ Jack tapped his chin with a finger thoughtfully. “And humm, let me see, I think you know we have secret passages around here, am I right?”

Alphonse lifted the kitten into his arms and carefully backed away from the kitchen. “So, are you going to break my arm now?” He asked, well aware Jack was Kaiser’s eyes and ears. “But then again, you did screw up earlier, and not blindfold me the other day… so it really is your fault I figured out you used secret passages…”

Jack exhaled, dropping his chin. “God damn it, will you stop with the broken arm thing already. I hate it when you do that.“ He closed the distance between them and shut the kitchen door. “I bet you don’t do that to the other guards when they’re on duty.”

“I don’t like the other guards. They treat me like an object.” Alphonse replied. “A breakable object. You’re nice and not a sociopath. Now, what are you going to do? Hum? Tell the Kaiser I know too much?”

Jack shook his head and folded his arms. He wrinkled his brow as if he was considering his next action. Tension washed over Alphonse and he wondered if he had driven the security guard too far. Perhaps he shouldn’t press him too much.

Jack glanced down at him, and lifted a brow. “No, he’d have his thugs break your arm, and fire me. Money for this gig is too good kid. I’m taking you to the lab, like you asked.”

“And who is going to watch over Noa and Edward?” Alphonse exhaled, relieved. He knew he could count on Jack and didn’t believe the money part one bit. The man was too chatty with him to just be in it for the money. And he did nearly kill himself saving Einstein.

“They’ll be fine for the moment, Ed’s out like a light and Noa’s watching over him. So… Tell me. What’s going on? Is he ok?”

“A cold, that’s all.” Al replied. He started to walk down the hall, toward the lab, with Jack keeping stride next to him. “He hasn’t been taking care of himself. He’s been worried, and the Kaiser works him too hard. He expects too much of Edward.” It was a half-truth, but he couldn’t let Jack know how ill Ed really was. It had been a week since his collapse and even though his fever was gone, he just hadn’t fully gained his strength back.

Over the last week, Al and Ed devised a treatment for his illness. A cocktail of Arsenic Trioxide and vitamins mixed with a host of other chemicals to help fight the cancer and restore Ed’s health. The problem was, the tonic made Ed violently ill, and in his weakened condition, he was virtually bed ridden and unable to do Kaiser’s work.

Noa convinced the Kaiser that Ed was suffering from influenza, and needed time to recover, and the man appeared to be patient on the matter.

In the evenings, when Jack was on, Al visited the Lab, and worked on making a large supply of tonic and studied Edward’s notes. He was particularly interested in Flammarion’s research on psychic matter in its relation to the fifth dimension.

Al had already come to the conclusion that there was no true psychic matter, only the energy created by tapping or opening of barriers between dimensions, specifically the fourth and fifth dimension. Psychics like Noa were sensitive to the weaknesses in these barriers and were capable of looking into time and seeing possible futures. If they could devise a way, Edward planned on finding a technique to detect these weakness using Noa's powers. First, they needed to find a way to convince the Kaiser they had a way to measure and locate these rifts. But doing so was harder done than said. Edward planned on trying to convince the man they needed to travel to ‘mystical locations” in order to run tests on both Noa’s abilities and the Earth’s electromagnetic waves.

But Al wasn’t sure if they had the time to engage in the rituals used in the scientific method. Edward’s condition was in a rapid decline. If his treatment failed, Al would have to use a human transmutation to attempt an Alchemical bone marrow transplant.

Something he knew Edward would never approve of. So in secret, he spent most of his spare time, studying the human body in relation to bone marrow, the blood and oncology.

In the end though, the boy had to make Alchemy work regardless of the rules of scientific logic.

“Al, I’ve been a little worried about you.” Jack’s voice said as they rounded the corner and down a set of stairs. At the end of the hall, Alphonse saw the heavy wooden door of the lab.

He was so lost in thought he forgot where he was. Lifting his head, he met Jack’s gaze. “Why?”

“You’re distracted, that’s all.” Jack explained. He stopped in front of the lab and inserted the key into the door. Einstein wove his slender body between the man’s feet, purring.

Alphonse bit his lip, feeling awkward. He didn’t like lying to Jack, especially about Edward’s condition, but they couldn’t risk Kaiser knowing the truth. Besides, he knew Jack could spot one of his fibs a mile away, so he had to word himself very carefully. “I’m ok. I’ve been just trying to help brother with his work. And my head is filled with all sorts of things right now.”

“So much you don’t sleep these days.” Jack studied him. He placed an arm across the doorway, so Alphonse couldn’t pass.

Heaving a breath, Alphonse wondered if he really looked tired. It was true. He hadn’t been sleeping. “Is it that obvious?”

“Edward is more than sick, isn’t he, kid?” The words tightened Alphonse’s gut and put him on guard. Eventually he knew Jack would mention it, but he wasn’t ready for it, not tonight.

“He still has the flu.” Alphonse explained. “And I’ve been feeling under the weather myself. “ He gave a little cough, then ducked under Jack’s arm. “I’ll only be an hour or so, Jack.”

Jack shook his head. “An hour eh? The last time you said that I was here all night.” Pressing his hands on the door framed, Jack leaned into the doorway, looking into the room. Ed forbade him from entering, and he was pretty good about listening to the Alchemist’s orders. “You need your sleep. Especially if you are getting sick. You’ll be no good to Edward, Noa and Einstein if you’re sick.”

Einstein slipped into the room, between Jack’s feet and jumped on Edward’s desk in the corner. There, he curled up on a stack of papers “I will really try, Jack.”

Alphonse lifted a hand, placed it on Jack’s chest, and gently pushed the man out and closed the door behind him. With a sigh, the boy leaned against it, and looked across the room, troubled.

“Crap, Einstein, how the hell are we going to make this work?” He sighed, and slid down the door, staring across the room at the wooden floor. “Experimenting is important, but it takes too much time.” He said out loud, “but what about what we already know about the gate. Perhaps I need to take brother’s notes, and recreate what the Thules did to open the portal and work from there…”

The kitten lazily lifted its head, and yawned. “Yes, some assistant you are.” Alphonse came to his feet, and nudged the animal from Edward’s desk. Predictably, Einstein was lying on a stack of papers, and on Edward’s notebook. Al had left it in the lab the night before accidentally. Fortunate for him, Edward was too busy vomiting to take notice and scold him. Al was well aware the notes could have been stolen by the guards, and felt awful about it. A mistake he was not going to repeat.

Luckily, the book was where he left it, untouched. With a relieved sigh, Alphonse opened it and flipped to the beginning.

It was a good thing he understood Edward’s code. Still, it was going to be a long night and Al seriously doubted he’d get any sleep.
The clock on Edward’s desk said it was 4 am. Al had been in the lab close to six hours.

Alphonse straightened his stiff limbs and worked out the pins and needles. He ached. He had been hunched on the floor for five hours, drawing. It was an array based on the array he saw in the underground city. Edward had copied it in his note shortly after his arrival in London.

He wasn’t sure why, but he abandoned the Thules’s research and focused on Edward’s previous notes. It wouldn’t help him return home. Neither he or Edward were willing to pay the cost but perhaps it could help him understand the gate’s power. Was it just a rift? Or something more?

Looking down, he studied the intricate design aware it was more complex than he thought. In fact, it didn’t quite match the array Edward sketched out in the book. It was beautiful, yet dark, like the gateway itself. He shivered involuntarily and dropped the calk and stepping away form the array. He was shaking. Confused, the boy looked around, the lab. He barely recalled scribbling down the symbols, they seemed to flow out of him as if he were calling on something internal as he worked. The truth? His legs felt like rubber and it was difficult to stand.

Suddenly, he needed to leave, escape, and be away from that thing…

He felt cold. The Gateway wasn’t just a place. It was a living thinking omniscient thing that digested souls and spat them out as mindless energy.

To him, it was the monster that dissolved his body and held it hostage for four years in its abyss. It made him, his flesh and bone, a part of it. Edward did more than just save his soul. He saved his humanity.

He and Edward avoided discussing it, but Alphonse knew, souls from this place were destined for it, and now when he and Edward died they’d share that fate. Was that why the Gate let him crossover without equivalent exchange? Because it knew his life there was short and it would get the powerful soul of an alchemist to fuel it?

Was that why Edward was dying?

Alphonse shook his head, phantom tendrils from his past reached out, seizing his flesh and pawed at his limbs. The boy batted them away and then came to the realization it was only his imagination.

He wasn’t being attacked. The gateway didn’t exist here like it did at home. Not, until they died.

But why did mediums and clairvoyants claim the dead talked back to them? Were they charlatans? Certainly Edward’s research proved their power existed. Was it possible the Gate didn’t draw on every soul there?

He looked at the floor and the swirling lines in an attempt to tell himself it was an array and without the power of Alchemy, it was only a picture and nothing more.

Yet, that thing he drew, it made his flesh crawl.

The boy sucked in a breath and rubbed his arms. The hairs were standing on end as if there was something was squirming under his own skin.

It, it was there. His soul was spared four years of madness, but his human brain endured the truth of it for four years.

The boy swallowed. The memories of squirming blackness yawned before him, threatening to break free of their confines.

The truth.

Not even the truth, the understanding of creation at its atomic level, could spare his innocence.

It was maddening.

Without thinking, Alphonse turned and opened the door.
He was sweating and it was difficult to stand.

Good old Jack looked down at him, cool blue eyes assessing him where he stood. “Al?”

“I’m ready to go back, Jack.” His mouth was dry, and his tongue felt thick, like something had wormed its gooey, sickening, way there. It was hard to stay focused. “I’m tired you see. I really do need rest, and you’ve been standing here far too long. I’m sorry.”

“That’s ok.’ Jack put a hand on his shoulder. “You look horrible, kid. I suggest you take a day off, ok?”

The man’s words became a dim echo and Alphonse found his mind drifting and himself staggering into his arms. Why was he so terrified? “Damn it, what does it make me if my body was trapped by the gate, something that changes everything that it touches? I’m so bloody close, Jack, but I just can’t face it. He’s dying… And I’m too much a coward to save him.”

Jack looked at him, confused.

It was only after he had said the words that he realized he'd betrayed his promise to Edward. A moment later tendrils of blackness took him.
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