[Author] Mara D
[Series] Fullmetal Alchemist
[Spoilers?] Yes. AU. Picks up after the series ends. The movie doesn’t exist in my world.
[Chatter] Warning for stupid Alphonse behavior dead ahead. >.>
Ed sat down behind Al, wrapping cool automail and warm flesh around his brother’s waist. They were alone in a private car, headed for Dublith. Al was worriedly sitting on the coffee table between the benches, and Ed had come right up behind him and was now nuzzling into his neck.
“What are you so intent on?” Ed asked quietly. “Did the other night…did that upset you?”
Al took an unsteady breath and then mustered a smile for his brother, turning in his arms.
“No, that’s not it.”
Ed frowned at him seriously.
“Then what? You haven’t been sleeping or eating, just studying. “
Al hung his head in worry, finally leaning in to Ed’s chest.
“Ed…dad’s getting so much worse. I have to find a way…I have a theory but…”
“Nothing can be gained without a sacrifice.” Ed said lowly. “Al, you can’t even /think/ about something like this. Dad made the decision. Dad should deal with the consequences. Not you.”
“That hasn’t ever stopped him from helping us! He went after Dante to protect us!”
Ed shook his head.
“Al…Dante was Dad’s fault too…it just came to haunt us and so he did the right thing.”
Al pulled away from Ed a bit, meeting serious gold with deadly honest copper.
“Ed, the right thing for me to do is help Dad. If I don’t even try, then I am not going to be able to live with myself.”
Ed gave his brother a worried look.
“Al, I understand but I just could not live with myself if you get hurt.”
Al closed his eyes.
“It won’t come to that.” Al lied more smoothly than he had a right to.
Ed bought it.
“Okay, but Al, let me help you. We can do this together all right?
There was a rap at the door and Al stood up and away a bit guiltily.
“Coming!” Al called softly, giving his brother a halfhearted nod.
The distraction couldn’t have come at a better time. He didn’t have to promise anything.
He answered the door, and a porter pressed a telegraph into his hands.
“Edward and Alphonse Elric?”
“That is urgent from Central. Please read it and tell me how you would like our communications to respond.”
“Yes sir.” Al replied, taking the telegraph from him.
He opened the paper:
/Due to the recent murders of State Alchemists you are to return to Central immediately, by order of the Fuhrer. Stop. Get off at the next station and catch the overnight from there. Stop. General Roy Mustang. Stop./
“He wants us to come back so he can kill us? What the hell?” Ed asked unintelligently.
“No Ed, someone had been killing state alchemists. Roy wouldn’t tell us to come back if the parliament decided to kill state alchemists. He would tell us to run.”
“Are you sure?” Ed asked sarcastically as he gathered together their coats and suitcases.
“Tell him we are on our way.” Al said politely to their perplexed looking messenger.
The porter saluted Al, and Al he.
“Dammit, and there was someone in Dublith I really wanted to talk to.” Ed groused as they sat knee to knee in coach.
Al gave Ed a sad little smile.
“Well, it saves us dragging trouble with us into Dublith.”
“I suppose, but why in God’s name would this bastard just start killing state alchemists? It didn’t work very well for Scar the last time he tried it.”
“Well, right now the top General in the military is a state alchemist and if I were a rogue alchemist, I would be afraid of facing what was hardest to kill in large numbers. If he located us all and took us out one at a time…”
“It would make a rebellion that much easier.” Ed said quietly. “But doesn’t that put the Fuhrer and Roy both in a great deal of danger?” He asked.
“Yes. Yes it does.” Al said worriedly. “Us too…and…Dad.”
Roy stood in front of the parliament, back ram-rod straight, shoulders back and dark eye serious.
“There have been four more murders in the same style since I asked for an audience with you. Seven more in the East that are more than likely related as well.” Roy said, his voice carrying authoritatively throughout the room.
“General Mustang, you realize that serial killings do not substantiate your claims that there is a rogue alchemist involved?”
Roy shook his head sharply, almost impatiently.
“The wounds of the four in Central are all the same, the killing style the same. All witnesses describe the same young woman and the same type of chimera. You all could be in danger. The Fuhrer is in danger. Our killer is relentlessly fast, too fast for us even to have intelligence lay a guess as to where the next strike will be, and is more than likely not just one man. “
“So what are you saying?”
“What I am saying is that the Fuhrer has declared a state of emergency. All soldiers are to be on high alert. You will all receive more bodyguards, and you are to be cautious. Don’t go anywhere alone.
Our state alchemists are all being called back from wherever they are throughout Amestris. It would seem unwise at first to call them all back to the heart of our killings, but this killer separates them out. They couldn’t be further away from help than if they are spread out throughout Amestris.” Roy said lowly. “This killer is a coward. Instead of outright declaring himself, he is making guerilla style attacks. Picking the strongest soldiers among us off one at a time after singling us out.”
“But you say there have been killings in the east as well.” A young woman spoke up sharply.
“True.” Roy said lowly. “That is what proves we have more than one killer.”
There was silence.
“How do you know the killings are related?”
“The styles of execution are similar, except for the fact that the mastermind is standing back and using explosions to do his dirty work.”
“Yes. We have, in my opinion, a master and apprentice. The expendable apprentice earning her worth here in this city, closest to danger, the master far away and picking off Alchemists at the fringe. At first we thought the incidences were separate, but further study proves that they are likely not. The set of explosions that went off at Eastern Headquarters was synchronized with the murders here.”
“There have been reports of strange animals in the farms outside of the city, strange animals slaughtering sheep and other livestock. Are these your chimera?” The woman asked him sharply.
“Yes. That is my firm belief.”
“You realize you are warning against a potential civil war.”
“There are many that hold grudges against the military.”
“We will take the information you have provided us with into careful consideration.”
“Please take care.” Roy urged lowly.
Roy sat, sipping a cup of coffee, eyebrows knit as he went over the reports again and again.
There was a spot of pain at the base of his neck.
“They don’t believe us.” He said wearily.
“The Fuhrer still gets to make the definitive moves, the parliament merely advises him. The Fuhrer hasn’t met with them yet, and when he does, we will have better proof for them. Intelligence is working night and day and they are already making some headway.
They captured a chimera you know. It is quite dead, but they can prove from past photographs that it is the same type of animal.” Riza said.
“They don’t believe that the experiments at the fifth laboratory were real.” Roy said honestly, rubbing his fingertips against his eye patch. He had a headache.
“They will when Intelligence throws the reports down on their desks in the next half hour.” Fuery said frankly as he walked into the room.
Roy and Riza both glanced up.
“I thought the files were destroyed.” Roy said quietly.
“Schiezka.” Was all Fuery said.
“But…how would she have a chance to view such classified data?” Riza asked as she handed Fuery a cup of coffee which he accepted gratefully.
“Because Schiezka got into plenty of places she shouldn’t have been.” He said honestly.
Roy almost wilted in relief.
“What about Lex Dumere?”
“His file is a mile thick. They each get a copy of that too.”
“What about the girl?” Riza asked quietly.
“Sophia Karr only has a few things in her file. One being a picture, the other a copy of her state test results. And that was… a bit disturbing.”
“How do you mean?” Roy asked.
“In the margins, under every answer, strange things were penned: ‘they’re catching up’ and ‘I cannot fail’ things of that ilk.”
Riza blinked. “My god.” She breathed. “She is that insane?”
“So is Lex Dumere and don’t you forget it.” Fuery said. “She might be card carrying, but he’s a sociopath.”
Roy shook his head then. “We have pictures then, can we get an eye witness conformation in a lineup of photographs?”
Fuery nodded. “We already have had one witness be deadly accurate General. We need to ask about fifty more people.”
“Get asking.” Roy said quietly. “I have a bad feeling about this.”
The train arrived at seven in the morning.
Ed was sound asleep on Al’s shoulder, and Al had been reading the newspaper that had been provided at their last stop. On the front page was a large warning about chimera, and a picture of some man that Al did not recognize, and a smaller picture of a young woman that he did.
So that was her name.
She was unmistakably the girl he had defeated in the combat portion of his test.
He read the article underneath with sinking heart.
If he was a target, then so was Ed and his father.
Ed could more than likely defend himself, but Hoenheim was so weak that he could barely stand up, the disease eating away at him. If the illness didn’t kill him, Al had a feeling Sophia or Lex would.
He had to act soon.
He wrapped his arms gently around Ed, holding him close.
Ed whimpered in his sleep, and curled closer to Al for warmth, curling over his tattoo and his steadily beating heart.
“Ed…what can I do to keep you and Dad safe?” He murmured as they pulled in to the station, and he had to shake his brother awake.
Havoc picked them up at the train station, driving them both back to Roy’s house, his face grim.
He explained the killings that had been going on, all the case details, and gave blow by blow descriptions of Roy’s battles with parliament, who just this morning had declared a state of emergency for the military and the people of Amestris.
“Ho-lee-shit.” Ed murmured. “Chimera are attacking citizens?”
“Yeah Boss, and the chimera aren’t ours, but the civilians are blaming us for them.”
“He’s trying to start a civil war, and it’s going to work.” Al said, his voice low with worry. “And he’s killing off the only people who could really move against him or stop him…the state alchemists…”
“What the hell are we supposed to do then?” Ed asked. “Any time a chimera has ever gotten loose its been the military’s fault, and they weren’t exactly honest about much back then…still aren’t really. The people aren’t going to just trust us to make it all better…”
Havoc glanced away from the road for a second to meet Ed’s stare in the rearview mirror.
“We try to keep you alive Boss.”
Al approached Hoenheim’s bed. (While Ed was busy shouting at Roy about not informing him of their father’s state, which of course was completely helpful in everyone’s already stressful day.) He sat down next to his father, who was sweat soaked and shaking. He flashed Al a weary smile, and it made something in Al’s stomach ache. He took the hand that was offered him, and held it tightly.
No one had bothered to tell them in that telegraph that their father was dying.
They had gone to Roy’s, showered, dressed, and dropped off their suitcases before Havoc had driven them to the offices. Central had been in an uproar, people running here and there, coffee being consumed by the gallon by people who were shaking with exhaustion. It was busy, far beyond its normal easy pulse of activity. There was something frantic and worried. Roy had clapped them both on the shoulders and asked them to follow him.
Here. To the infirmary.
He had only begun to explain it as he had lead them to the door.
“Hey Dad.” Al murmured, clutching that hand that even in his faintest memories had always been so broad and strong. It felt weak now.
“It’s bad now…isn’t it?” Al whispered as he reached out, catching the edge of his father’s hospital top and tugging down. What he saw took his breath away. The smell nearly did too. Rib bone and muscle gleamed wetly under a violet gray ooze. It was eating at his father’s body and…
He didn’t want to say it, but this was looking more and more like the end.
“They cannot bandage the wounds.” Hoenheim moaned quietly. “It aggravates them to bind them.”
Al nodded, understanding.
His father was giving him an apologetic look.
“Don’t worry Dad…it doesn’t disgust me. It just makes me want to find you a cure that much more.”
“I know.” Al said, not wanting the words to be said, selfish or not. “I really…already have the answer, I just need a few more hours time to accomplish the tests I need to, to make sure it’s safe for you.”
“Al…” Hoenheim said softly. “There will be a sacrifice…”
“I know that too.” Al cut him off. “It will be a…small thing. So don’t worry.”
“A sacrifice to the gate is never small!” Hoenheim said, golden eyes blurry with pain and worry for his son.
Al shook his head. “You have to believe in me Dad.” He whispered, staring into golden eyes that were so much like Ed’s. “You have to!” Al said again vehemently.
All Al knew was the he was holding another person’s hand while they died. Another person he loved. And this time, he wasn’t going to lose them before it was their natural time to go. He would fix this. He could fix this! He knew how, it was just a matter of being brave enough to do what had to be done.
He smiled at his father again, and this time, there was fear in it.
Hoenheim’s eyes widened.
“Al…you cannot do this. I have lived five lifetimes, I can go now. You don’t need me.”
Al just blinked away tears, and leaned forward, resting his forehead against his father’s as he stood.
“That’s what you think Dad.” He whispered. “Believe in me.” He said as he stood. “I love you…just hang on!” With that, he stormed out of the doorway past a still arguing Ed and a frustrated and worried looking Roy Mustang.
Roy had gone off after Al, calling to him in a tone that would have made Ed stop. However, Al did not, and so Roy gave chase with a frustrated growl, and that left Ed at Hoenheim’s side.
There had been moments like this before in Germany, moments where the pain would overcome Hoenheim and Ed had to treat him. They came and went, each time leaving a worse and worse wound in their wakes. And by this point, Ed knew what would help. He snapped into action, knowing the nurses here probably did not.
The doctors knew next to nothing about what was wrong with Hoenheim, and so when Ed assured the nearest physician that he knew what would help with the pain, he was immediately catered to.
“I need cool, damp cloths and a basin of cold water,” he said softly. “Bandages only aggravate the wounds but you figured that much out already… leave his shirt open, or even take it off and keep it off. It’s always worse on his chest.”
A nurse nodded and went to get what Ed asked for while another sighed at the wounds in worry. “They are occurring inside as well as out…its more like…the damage begins inside and you are only seeing it outside when it has become abominable internally.” The nurse said to Ed.
“I know.” Ed said as he set to work on removing the pajama shirt his father was wearing. “Don’t worry, Dad,” Ed whispered, trying to work past the fear rising in his chest, underneath his ribcage. “We’ll make it better, just hold on for now.”
“Edward.” Hoenheim’s voice was quiet and weak as he reached up to clasp Ed’s hand. “I don’t want... ah...you to leave Al alone...he keeps talking about this way...this way he’s found to make me better...I’m afraid he’ll...”
Ed set his teeth. “Dad, if there’s a way to make you better, he and I will find it together,” he said resolutely. “Don’t worry, I won’t let him get hurt, if I can help it.”
Ed said as he picked up the cloth from the bowl the nurse had just brought.
Hoenheim closed his eyes and coughed once, and Ed set to work, soothing at the wounds.
Al had managed to slip away from Roy, losing him in the basement level of the research labs. It was a maze of corridors filled with paperwork, laboratories and offices. It wasn’t hard to ditch Roy considering that he knew the entire grid of this basement, and even a few of its secret passages like the back of his hand, and Roy had never once set foot down here.
He paused for a moment, leaning against the wall and rubbing at his temples. He had a headache, and he felt guilty for his deceit. Even guiltier for what he was about to do to help his father. He had to lie to everyone, and lies were Alphonse Elric’s least favorite thing. One would have thought then, perhaps that he would suck at them himself. Sadly, he found that a guileless smile and a shy look was more than enough to disarm half the universe. The only ones it didn’t work on were the Mustang Gang and Roy and Ed themselves.
He fought his tears valiantly then, because he realized there were things to do, and he was down here for a reason.
He was going to visit an old friend.
He forced himself to lose his stricken look, and instead took two familiar lefts and then a right and let himself into her office. Knocking over the hiss of a Bunsen burner and the clink of beakers, he let himself in.
It looked like a hurricane had hit this particular laboratory. Books and papers were strewn everywhere. The smell of green plants and hot chemicals was in the air, just like it always was.
The entire back wall of the lab was filled with plants. Al knew for a fact that he was only looking at the beginning of her collection. Another doorway lead off to the right, and from there was at least an acre of flora growing under specially manufactured lights. Sometimes in the dead of winter, he would come down here and lounge under her lights with his shirt off, the false sunlight still feeling good, and the smell of green things tiding him over until the grass grew again and the trees had leaves.
A greenhouse would have been better for her studies, but it wasn’t as secure. And she was researching some highly classified things.
“Hey Victoria!” He called into one of the doorways to his left where all the clatter was from.
She grunted and waved at him, not bothering to look up from where she was bent over a beaker.
She wiped some dark hair back away from her bronze skin when she caught Al’s reflection in a few glass tubes sitting on the counter.
“Oh, hi Al!” She said, immediately abandoning her work once she knew it was him. “Thank Ishbala you’re okay…how is your Father?”
The woman was a mole, and she could hear everything that came down through the heating vents into the basement. She knew a whole lot of things she shouldn’t. And she would tell all them gleefully to Al for the price of a few cigarettes, a cup of coffee, and a bar of chocolate. She didn’t get let out of her lab much during the day. Al secretly wondered when she found time to go to the bathroom, but then the more he thought about it, the more he figured that he didn’t want to know.
“He’s bad…I actually wanted to talk to you about that…do you think that there is anything in your great big book of botany that is completely natural, but would help him sleep through the pain?”
She smiled at him.
She offered her hand out to him. He gave her his last pack of cigarettes out of his pocket.
“Deal…now how much does he weigh?”
“About oh, 130.” Al said with a disarming smile.
“I remember him being a big man…is he that ill?”
Al nodded again, giving her the saddest eyes he could.
“It’s bad…he can’t eat for the pain.”
“Oh the poor dear…those doctors wont have anything that will help him if his wounds are alchemy related. Chemicals won’t make it better…but help the body help itself and all…naturally…”
“Of course.” Al said, encouraging her to keep talking.
“I have something that should put him out for a good twelve hours.”
“Oh that would be good, it’s so hard to watch him in pain.” Al murmured.
Oh god he hated himself.
Al wandered back upstairs, finding a ruffled Roy Mustang as he headed back towards the hospital wing.
“Alphonse! Are you well!? You cannot just go off like that!” Roy began to lecture, lone dark eye half squinted in annoyance.
“I’m sorry, I was just upset. I’m okay now.” Al said, smiling disarmingly.
Roy didn’t look like he trusted him, but Roy was also a busy man, and with death reports showing up on his desk at regular intervals, he was decidedly distracted.
“I’m going back to sit with Ed and Dad. Okay?” He asked softly.
Roy gave him an empathetic and very worried look.
“Do as you wish, just stay within these walls and do not go anywhere alone.”
“Yes sir!” Al lied smoothly.
Al was now sitting on the floor of the hospital room, leaning against the bed next to Ed. They had talked quietly for nearly an hour while Hoenheim finally slept a bit. Ed had hugged him to his shoulder for a second. Al was grateful for the gesture, more so than even Ed would probably ever know. He was currently both extremely determined and terrified. He didn’t want to keep this secret from Ed, but he also was determined that he would not let Ed get hurt.
“Dad told me you found a way to cure him.” Ed finally said softly.
“I’ve learned enough to be dangerous anyway, I’d wager.” Al said, giving Ed an exhausted smile. “And speaking of, I’m going to go hit the books…” He continued as he stood achingly, giving his father a sad and loving look. “You take a nap or something Ed…I’ll work the rest of this out in the research room.” Al said wearily.
Ed stood up too and grabbed on to Al’s elbow with an automail hand.
“I don’t think so, Al,” he said softly. “We’re doing this together. He’s my dad too.”
Gold clashed with copper.
Al realized then that Ed was feeling very clingy and very upset this morning, and despite the fact that he tended to clash with Hoenheim and after his many years of undying hatred, Ed had spent six years with the man. And they had mended the hurts between them. Ed had grown a deep and lasting respect for his father, and though it was hard for him to say it, he loved Hoenheim. Al knew that.
“Please...let me help you, Al,” Ed whispered again, more fiercely.
Al gave his brother an understanding look as he reached out and patted his shoulder. He couldn’t deny Ed a bit of peace now. If he thought Al would let him help, he would rest easier even if it was just for a bit. He was going to put his brother, hell, his father through so much pain, but he couldn’t live with himself if he let another person he loved die in his arms. Even being hated for having to lie this much, he could live with that. Just so long as Hoenheim got to live out the rest of this life content and die a very old man.
“Okay Ed…just…let me go for a walk first, I need to sort out how I feel, walking helps me think.” He said quietly. Take a quick nap here, in case Dad needs you.”
“No way, it’s not safe out there,” Ed reminded, still holding on to Al’s arm. “That Dumere guy is still out there! Besides...,” Ed added, his expression changing just minutely. “It’s going to take a sacrifice, isn’t it...?”
Al shook his head and tried not to panic, instead he just thought fast.
“I don’t know Ed…but I do know that I am going to go nuts if I stay in this hospital room one more minute. I would invite you with me, but Dad might need you and then what? Just…I can handle myself. Trust me okay? Please?” Al asked.
“Goddamn it, Al, it’s too dangerous,” Ed pleaded. “Don’t...leave me here alone...Al...”
He would lose now, after all this? Hell no. He had to buy himself time. Just a little time.
“I won’t be gone but twenty minutes. Tell you what, you time me, and If I’m half a second late walking back into this room, you can call out the cavalry, okay?” Al asked, stroking the top of his brother’s head lovingly.
“Ten,” Ed replied grumpily.
“Fifteen.” Al bartered.
Ed crossed his arms. “Twelve,” he tried.
“Done.” Al said with a reassuring smile that was almost…relieved. “When I get back we can have some tea and I’ll show you all my research over a cup, okay?”
Al leapt over the hedge to the wall to the gardens and kept running. He pulled out two sticks and a long piece of twine from his pocket. He set to work on drawing the array. It only took him five minutes, considering the design was indelibly etched into his mind.
With two minutes to spare ((what happened to the other five?)), he raced back into the hospital wing, and took a few slow breaths to steady his heart and his nerves, and then dropped by the room, pink with the winter cold, to tell Ed that he was back and was going to make tea now.
He fingered the packet in his pocket, frowning as he made his way to the kitchenette just a few doors down from the General’s office. He didn’t want to give Ed too much, but then again, too little would be equally bad. Besides, Victoria was a trained doctor and botanist, and she had followed the directions for Ed’s weight and fast metabolism to a T before putting it in the test tube for Al to use when the time was right.
Now was that time Al realized, feeling a pang of remorse.
He put the kettle on, dumped two teabags into mugs, and in the one that said “I like my attitude problem, thanks.” He emptied the packet. By the time the tea was done, Al had steeled himself, tucked himself in emotionally and physically. This was how it had to be. Everything would be all right this way…
He turned off the burner and poured the water.
With a guilty heart, he headed back to the hospital wing.
He un-tucked a book and a few journals from under his arm, setting them down next to a worried looking Ed. He then handed him his mug of tea. Al focused on the wall in front of him to keep from showing any nerves.
“It was a nice walk.” Al said quietly. “I fed the pigeons.” Al continued, giving his brother a disarming smile.
Inside, he was praying.
Something about Al seemed a little off to Ed, but the entire damn situation was a little off. He took the cup of tea from Al’s outstretched hands and sniffed it appreciatively. “Thanks, Al...now, show me what you’ve got, okay?” he said.
Al paged through the book while Ed sipped at his tea and then explained a complex theory that, granted, might just work. He understood the theory behind it, but the concept of equivalent trade in this aspect was a little lost on them. Flesh for flesh and bone for bone...but where were they going to get flesh and bone without killing someone?
His brain couldn’t quite close around the concept that they had plenty of flesh and bone between them, and what Al was planning to do, before he realized...he was very, very sleepy...
“Al,” he said suddenly, in the middle of a sentence, and put his hand down in the middle of the book and knocking over what was left of his tea. “Something’s wrong. I feel really weird.”
He was dizzy, extremely dizzy, and it was scaring the hell out of him. “Al...there’s something wrong with me. Al...? Al, I can’t see right...Al?” he murmured, panicking more and more with each passing moment.
Al sighed. So it was working.
Right away he enfolded Ed in his arms, holding him close and tucking him under his chin.
“You should go to sleep brother.” Al murmured. “The drugs I gave you are kicking in. Don’t worry, I have nothing planned for you. You just get to take a nap for a while, okay?” Al swallowed hard against the tears behind his eyes. “With any luck at all…this will be over with quickly.” Al soothed, stroking his fingers through Ed’s hair.
“You...you...Al!?” Ed cried, attempting to struggle, but his limbs felt heavy and numb. He couldn’t even remember how to work his automail, and...
“You can’t...you can’t do this to me...Al! Al, don’t leave...don’t you dare...please...please, Al, don’t...I can help...let me help, please...Al...I feel so strange, I don’t...Al? I can’t see...Al...please don’t...Al...,” Ed moaned, Al’s arms around him not helping things in the slightest.
He pleaded a moment longer, until he could no longer keep his eyes open and he finally just rested against Al’s shoulder with a tiny sigh.
Al was crying as he lifted Ed onto the bed, settling him in on his side.
“I am /so/ sorry.” Al whispered as he then bent, and with a bit of struggle, picked his father up.
The big man stirred, groaned, and then buried his face wearily against Al’s shoulder. He was completely out of it from the pain medication, eyes unfocused and sleepy.
“Just a minute Dad…everything will be better in just a bit.” Al whispered.
A severely wounded man had just been admitted to the hospital, and all of the staff was in the surgery room. This made it easy enough for Al to carry Hoenheim right out the back door of the hospital wing and into the snow. It was along walk to the gardens…
The nearer he got to the gardens, the more nauseous with fear he got. He had to stop at one point and lean against a small sapling as his stomach flipped. Besides, his father was heavy. The snow was slick too, and that didn’t help.
Hoenheim was making tiny sounds of waking in the cold winter air as Al laid him in the middle of the circle in the snow. Nothing like arctic temperatures on bare skin to wake you up out of a drugged sleep. Fortunately, the medication was given fairly recently, so it was still working quite well.
“It’s okay Dad…just close your eyes and rest.” Al whispered as he pulled out a pocket knife. He slit his fingertip open, and then forcing drops of blood into the gaping wounds on his fathers chest and arms. He wasn’t sure if the blood had to touch every one, or if will would carry it through.
Al pressed a kiss to that broad forehead, even as Hoenheim finally registered what was going on around him, golden eyes just wide enough to show confusion.
“Just be still, this will be over soon enough.” Al comforted as he staggered nauseously to the outside of the circle. He was so frightened he could barely breathe, but if this would save his father…
He knew full well what was going to happen before he even activated the array. The only problem was, that there was no choice. No other way that he could see, and no time left.
He steeled himself, thinking of nothing but Hoenheim, and sparing Ed this pain.
He clapped his hands together, and activated the array.
It all happened much too fast. One moment there was blue light, and the next? The next there was a numb agony shooting up his arm, and cold snow was biting into his cheek. There was crimson everywhere, and he couldn’t move, even to check on his father.
“Dad?!” Al called weakly over the smell of ozone, blood, and the fact that he was strangely dizzy for some reason.
Hoenheim had known what was going to happen from the moment he realized he was outside and that Al was carrying him, but he couldn’t do anything for the medication. Not when the blue light hissed over him, swirling around him like a snake, a living thing. Not when it touched him, his arm, and fused there, growing new skin over old, new muscle and bone and tendon, fusing together to recreate him.
Not until the snow was crimson with blood, and he realized that Alphonse was lying on his back in the snow, calling for him. And that his left arm was missing from about halfway between his shoulder and where his elbow had once been, down.
“Oh...Ishbala...Alphonse,” Hoenheim whispered. Whatever drugs were in his system, a father’s motivation to protect his son and a bit of healing alchemical work seemed to have put whatever it was out of commission.
He was only clad in hospital pajama pants, so he ripped off Al’s shirt and used it to make a quick tourniquet over the severed limb. And then, he scooped his son into his arms, got his bearings (Quickly recognizing the main building of Central.) and carried Al back inside as quickly as he could.
The transmutation had been amazing, that much was for certain. Hoenheim had not felt this strong since he had first inhabited this body a good twenty five years ago. Flesh for flesh and bone for bone...he understood the concept, but the circle itself was yet a mystery. And Edward...where was Edward? A sudden chilling thought crossed his mind then...if the brothers had been in this together, and the results were the same as when they had tried to transmute their mother...
But he had not seen the discarded automail or clothing, so he would hope that Ed was knocked out and stuffed in a closet or some such thing, seeing as that would be the only way Al could have gotten away with this.
Al was moaning and shifting in his arms, eyelids heavy, but copper eyes were expressive and staring up at him. “Don’t worry, Alphonse, the transmutation worked,” Hoenheim told him gently as he staggered in the front door, ignoring the shocked looks he got.
He was also met by one Roy Mustang, and a smaller state alchemist named Michael.
A powerful array of that sort did tend to draw mass quantities of attention.
“What in hell’s name happened!” Roy asked, horror and disbelief crossing his lone dark eye.
He immediately rushed up to take Al from Hoenheim’s grasp.
“Call a medic!” Roy said sharply to the receptionist who was just sitting there with her mouth open and her face a nice shade of pasty gray.
Al was bleeding out all over the floor, the bandage doing no real good at all.
“Roy.” Hoenheim murmured quietly, his expression stricken. “I don’t know where Edward is.”
Roy swallowed hard as he handed Alphonse to Michael then. What had happened was really quite obvious. Hoenheim was standing before him, healthy, bare chest and arms slightly blue from the cold but perfect, and Al was missing his arm. There had been such a massive backlash from the transmutation that it had rocked the building…
Roy patted Hoenheim on the shoulder, trying to calm the frantic father as much as he could.
“Let’s split up and look for him, Michael, you are responsible for guarding Lightning until I return.”
“Yes sir.” The slighter man breathed, shifting uneasily under Al’s superior weight.
He didn’t have to wait long for help. As Roy dashed outside into the snow, Hoenheim headed back into the building, wondering about his original guess regarding closets. He would start in his hospital room.
Roy followed the blood and snow trail out the front of the building, past the hedges and to the circle that Al had used, now painted crimson. The footsteps in the snow were too scrambled and uneven to tell how many people had come this way, and there was no sign of Ed at all. Roy returned to the building then, immediately knowing what Hoenheim had been thinking, and his stomach dropped to his knees.
Heading inside, he decided to search the hospital room as well. There was only one way that Al could have gotten Ed to stay behind while attempted something so foolhardy. He found Hoenheim cradling Edward where he had been dead asleep on the hospital bed.
Ed was a heavy sleeper, but no amount of shaking and yelling between the two of them would wake him up. Roy checked Ed’s pulse and breathing, and both seemed to be normal...he had no obvious injuries. Al had to have drugged him. There was an overturned cup on the floor, a bit of the dredges from the bottom staining the carpet. That had to be--that was the only way Ed would have let Al out of his sight. Roy had been right.
When Al awoke again, there was nothing but blinding pain. Something told him though to keep quiet about it. He grit his teeth, and struggled to open his eyes. Someone was holding his right hand. He tried to move his left, and he swore he did, but try as he might, he couldn’t reach out with it.
It then occurred to him exactly what had happened.
He sat up with a low cry of fear, and then promptly threw up.
His head was spinning as someone folded up the blanket he had been sick onto, and settled him back onto something soft.
His ears were ringing and it was kind of hard to breathe, like he was sleepy to the point of death.
He found though, that after a bit of lying still, the pain eased, and the gentle hands that were now stroking his hair made it tolerable.
His arm was gone.
A quick glance at the right showed two IV ports, one with something clear, and the other running crimson…they were giving him blood?
Slowly he glanced up to find Hoenheim looking down at him. Vaguely he remembered those words. “Don’t worry, Alphonse, the transmutation worked.”
“Dad?” He moaned quietly.
“Good morning, Alphonse,” Hoenheim said softly, stroking his son’s hair. “I would ask you how you’re feeling, but you’ve already demonstrated that. So instead, I will ask you what you gave to your brother, because it’s been hours and he’s still out cold.”
Al blinked at his father…gave his brother? What /had/ he give his brother? Drugs…he had drugged him…valerian root…a mildly narcotic pain medication…some other stuff…a mix that he had been assured was safe…Ed wasn’t awake yet?
“Mhh…Valerian root.” Al whispered, his voice harsh in his own ears. “She said…an anti-narcotic shot would reverse it fairly quickly…try that?” Al groaned then lowly. The pain was searing now, and it was all he could do not to writhe.
“Easy now, Alphonse...since you’re awake now, they can probably give you some pain killer,” Hoenheim replied quietly. “Let me find a nurse and inform Roy of what you just told me, and then I will come back, all right?”
Al nodded once, and Hoenheim disappeared for a moment.
When he came back, he settled by Al’s side again. “The nurse will be here in a few moments,” he assured.
There was silence then for a moment, when Al tried very hard not to feel, to not exist, but he broke the trance when he glanced then at his father, needing reassurance again.
“Did it work?” Al whispered then, the tears finally starting. He was shaking so badly he didn’t think he could keep from rattling the steel gate on the cart he was lying on. “Dad?”
“Yes, son,” Hoenheim said softly, looking down at Al. “Yes, it worked. The rot is completely gone, and I am bound from it by your flesh.” He gave Al a rueful and weak smile. “Thank you, but do know if you ever do anything like that again, I will kill you.”
Al grunted in reply then, still horrified, but now relieved.
“Don’t worry Dad…I think I’m running out of arms…”
He barked once, a sound more of pain than laughter before he fell silent, making tiny sounds of distress in the back of his throat.
Hoenheim let out a chuckle. “That is a very good point. Between you and your brother, we might just have a whole person,” he replied with a smile.
Al was still shaking then, as he closed his eyes and shakily returning his father’s smile.
“Dad…can you…please…hug me for a little while?”
“I think I can manage that,” Hoenheim replied softly, sidling on the side of the cot next to his son and very carefully pulling him into a hug, careful to avoid needles and Al’s injured arm.
The enormity of what he had just done crashed in on Al like a ton of bricks as he clung to his father with his good arm. He was trying with his bad, but nothing would come of that, and he knew that now. There was nothing there. It was gone forever. He didn’t mind the sacrifice, but for some reason he felt even sicker knowing he had chosen this path. Known full well this would be the result.
“Oh Goddess…what did I do…” Al whimpered as he buried his face against the spare shirt the hospital had given his father. “Oh what did I do?!”
Hoenheim could do nothing more than to hold his son tightly to his chest and hurt right along with him. There was simply nothing harder to do than to watch your child realize something like this, the enormity of everything that had happened, of decisions made.
“I’m sorry, Al,” he whispered. “I truly am.”
Al began to whimper between silent paroxysms of pain, He was still shaking violently.
“There was so much blood.” Al whimpered into his father’s shoulder. “Oh god…what did I do…oh god…why.”
“Shh...be still, Alphonse...be still...,” Hoenheim shushed tenderly, rocking his son gently, even as the nurse finally appeared at the door.
Politely, she explained to Al that she was going to put the pain reliever right into his IV line so that he didn’t have to get a shot. Al simply remained face down in the fabric of his father’s shirt while she did so, and then she bowed and excused herself.
Al shivered only once at the feeling of cold medication running through the tubing in his arm. It was cooler than what was in the IV bag, and he whined, burying himself further into his father’s shirt. It took only about ten minutes, and soon Al was losing focus, the pain easing. He was exhausted, and when he fell limp, he was tucked back into the blankets with care.
“I wouldn’t take this back, my arm is not worth the death of a human being, especially someone I love. I just regret that it hurt you…that it hurt Ed…that I had to lie and to…to actually follow through, it was hard because I knew full well what the consequences would be. I just didn’t think…it would…bother me this….much…” Al whispered, his sentences slowly losing comprehensiveness until he simply dozed off. “I didn’t know…” he murmured once more before he was out could.
Hoenheim listened as he rocked Al to sleep, and just that was all he could do, he knew. That was the worst, not being able to take the pain away, the pain from his arm, the pain from his heart. Al was hurting and there was nothing his father could do to help him.
Once Al was asleep, Hoenheim gently laid his son down on the bed and kissed him on his forehead. And then he rested his head in his hands and cried.
Go Back To:
((Chapter Seven - Part One ))
((Chapter Seven - Part Two))
Cross posted to: fma_yaoi fm_alchemist elricest fullservicefma