redrose999 (redrose999) wrote in fm_alchemist,
redrose999
redrose999
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Last Chapter of Gilded Cage

Unedited
Fanfiction for Fullmetal/Alchemist and Doctor Who
Chapter 23: The TRUTH, beyond the Truth
Rating: pg-13 Violence
Warnings: Movie and end of Series Spoilers, Slash, Elricesty (if you want to use your imaginations), het, character death, lots of Whonobabble.
Pairings: Ed/Noa, Ed/hei.
Fic type: Action Adventure Crossover, with Doctor Who. LOTS of ELRIC Cuddles and love.
Characters: Ed, Al, Noa, Jack Harkness, Envy, mentions of Winry, and Pinako
Summery: The Elrics try to escape the real world....


A loud thundering echoed in his ears and a shower of plaster, brick dust and chunks of wood flooring rained down on them as Edward Elric and Envy crashed into the ceiling above and out of view.

A moment of confusion washed over him, as he stood staring blankly up, trying to place where he was. He could see Envy facing him and felt an unrelenting boiling anger as he swiped his bladed arm at the mocking homunculus. But that wasn’t him ... that was Ed…

Nausea and pain hampered Al’s stumbling movements as he sank to his knees at Jack’s side. The boy ran his hand though his hair, sorting out his thoughts and feelings in an attempt to separate himself from his brother’s driven and dominant force of personality.

“Hey, hey, Al are you with me?” Jack asked, touching his shoulder. “Noa needs you, you’ve got to focus and stop zoning, ok, kid?”

Shaking away the confusion, Al tried to focus on Jack and the jumbled machinery scattered before him. The man was trying to tell him something, but his words floated over his head, meaningless technobabble that he didn’t have mind to understand.

Roaring, screams, flashes of lightning flared around him. Al shivered, gaze shifting to the massive maelstrom hammering the room.

Noa was in the center, a small vessel in a sea of hell. Hadn’t Jack said, he needed his help? Why on earth couldn’t he focus? That twisting nausea filled him and he swayed against Jack.

“I, I did this.” Al whispered, looking at Jack, trying to fight his way back into mental control. “I, I, made us a single philosopher’s stone. It… That thing is in me…And it tried to make Brother and I…” He shivered, and found an arm wrapped about him, pulling him close.

“It’s ok, Al.” Jack’s hands held him out and his sharp blue eyes locked on to the boy. “I need that sharp cold head of yours all right?” He gestured to the pile of wrecked machinery. “You have to do that clappy thing, and put my equipment together so we can save Noa. Do you think you can do that?”

Noa, he forced his mind to the man before him, Jack was right, they needed to save her and he needed to use the truth to fix the gadgets in front of him with Alchemy. He tried to direct his thoughts, “What about that thing inside of me.” He felt his stomach twist. He had known it the entire long hadn’t he? The day he realized he needed to open the gate and face it was the day, deep inside of him, he realized the seed was there. But it terrified him too much to accept it.

Alphonse Elric licked his lips and swallowed. He had been used. He hugged himself shivering and a part of him didn’t want to touch the truth at all. “I don’t know if I can do it.”

“You can do it.” Jack informed him.

Out of the corner Al noticed a sleek gray form slipping from the shadows and trotting over to him. He had no idea how the animal survived the fray and the opening of the rift, but there he was. Einstein cocked his head; worry setting back his gray ears. It padded over to Al, rubbing against his hand and purring. The boy felt a glimmer of confidence. He nodded to the man, and kissed the kitten on the head. “Ok, we, I guess I am outnumbered… For Noa… What do I need to do?”

A crash from overhead, shook the foundation of the building as the boy let his mind shuffle though the infinite echoes of creation for any understanding of what he needed to repair….
*&*&*&
A freight train slammed into his chest, driving him up and into the ceiling overhead. The next thing Edward Elric knew he was slamming into a solid brick wall and feeling it buckle under the sheer impact.

Well, that's good, he thought. Brick buckling instead of me, that is. He'd always been able to use his alchemy to reinforce himself, take blows that would shatter ordinary flesh and bone to pulp and powder. Any of the better alchemists could do it – old Armstrong maybe better than anyone.

    He tumbled over and over across rotting floorboards and broken brick. Something was moving behind him – I know what THAT is… he rolled aside and came to his feet instantly.

    Envy sprinted for him, hands bladed and deadly, a rictus of hatred pulling his mouth into a parody of a grin. "Time to end it, runt!"

    The homonculus slashed furiously at Ed, who backed and dodged and blocked. Funny… he looks like he's really trying to kill me, but the bastard isn't moving nearly as fast as he usually does. Still, he was pretty fast, and the problem with a homonculus was that even if you did get in a good shot, they just got back up. If only he could see some vulnerable spot…

    Suddenly he wasn't seeing Envy. Or rather, he was. In front of him was a titanic, moving constellation of uncountable particles, suffused and controlled by a matrix of energy, a matrix of mathematical precision.

    What the hell?

    A bladed wrecking ball ripped into him. "What's wrong, Fullmetal Pipsqueak? Run out of juice so soon? And I thought this might be fun!"

    Ed gritted his teeth as he was battered through another wall. This is bad. Just took serious wounds. He forced himself to look down.

    That might have been a mistake. It was worse than he thought. Funny how he felt no pain, the moment twisted into a surreal landscape of confusion and fear. If he’d fail here, and Envy would kill everyone. Even as Envy streaked toward him, Ed realized it might already be over. The homonculus' terrible edged hands had opened his gut, impaled one lung, and blood was spurting from a hole in Ed's leg. Too bad you can't just fix THAT like a broken radio, he thought, flashing back to the time he and Al had entered the desert town dominated by the false priest Cornello.

    Envy threw him again, inhuman strength crushing the automail arm, sending him tumbling back the way they'd come.

    He fetched up against one of the crumbling walls, gazing down at the hole in his stomach. If only he could do something about that…

    Suddenly EVERYTHING dissolved into the uncounted, and uncountable, particles and shimmers of energy. But he could count them. Edward Elric in proper health was composed of 1.3681 x 1027 atoms, mostly oxygen and hydrogen with some carbon, nitrogen, calcium, and other materials. The floor under him was composed of several orders of magnitude more atoms, mostly cellulose – a polymer of glucose, C6H12O6. Envy was slightly larger than Edward, 1.6418 x 1027 atoms. More interesting were the energy fields surrounding both Edward and Envy, which permitted them to move as individual units. These were complex fields of multiple energies. Understanding the interaction of that many energies and atoms was…

    Trivial. It's all mathematics. Edward understood, suddenly. For a moment, everything was completely clear. He could see himself, and Envy, and the building they were in, the repairs and redesigns and reconstructions of decades, and Jack and Al working desperately on Jack's machine, and Noa…

    Noa! His Noa needed him! I have to live so I can save Noa!

    Simple. It's all calculations. Just change the equations.

    The knowledge came into his head so immediately, so completely, that he didn't even question it. Edit the computational matrix here, add a reinforcing function there, restore base values…

    What about Envy? The homonculus was on his way, moving, yet caught in the frozen crystal of this alien perception. Not easy to destroy; energy fields self contained, cannot be directly altered without more work.

    But… the Rift...

    Vectors were calculated, transmutations of a thousand billion billion billion atoms determined, all in the space of time it took a heart to start a single beat.

    No, I can't be like this. It's too much. Was this what the Truth beyond the Gate was? That he and Alphonse were nothing more than mere machines, components to some holdover from an ancient fallen civilization? It's the Truth beyond the Truth and he, Edward Elric, realized how easy it was to let it take him. “I'm losing my SELF, Dammit!”

    Then let go. The calculations are complete. No further effort needed. Finish the action and revert.

    What…?

    Process initiated. Dematerialization and rematerialization begins. Block-transfer calculation finalized.

    Time restarted.

    Envy streaked towards him, a juggernaut of hate and insanity… skidding suddenly to a halt, an expression of utter disbelief on his face as he saw Edward rising from the wreckage, shimmering blue and red matrices of light appearing around him, erasing his wounds like mist in morning sun, restructuring the automail to full function.

    And then the Fullmetal Alchemist brought his hands together and down. "SEE YOU IN HELL, ENVY!"

    The floor beneath the homonculus dissolved instantaneously. "NO!" Envy screamed in frustrated rage, but even his speed and strength was useless against remorseless gravity dragging him downward, dropping him directly into the center of the Rift.

    A howl of hunger and desperation came from the Rift as the Gelth tore and clawed at this new entry, trying to forge their own salvation from the energies released.  But the Rift itself was beyond any control now, save the control of the girl who stood looking down with distant pity at the furious homonculus, the girl who simply shook her head and raised her eyes, dismissing him from her mind; and her mind was the Rift, and so with a scream of real horror, Envy was gone, gone as though he had never been.
*&*&*&*

Glassy eyed, Alphonse Elric clapped his hands together, reconstructing the bits and pieces of one of Jack’s machines.

Overhead, Edward stumbled his way to the stairwell. The elder boy was pale and his thoughts were muddled. Like Alphonse, he didn’t understand what had happened to them and was distressed by it.

 Noa swayed in the center, fighting the creatures crawling though the rifts, and embracing the tide of power. She now understood why Jack feared the brothers, and why it was important for Edward and Al to return home.

“Jack! Jack! Goddamn it!” Edward snapped. He burst into the room, golden eyes a blaze with worry. He sprinted over to Jack, gaze only straying to Noa for a moment. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

Fiddling with the newly repaired components, Jack gave Edward a fleeting glance. “Nice little trick you pulled there, dropping the old Flaming evil Palm Tree into the pit.” He gestured to Noa. “Looks like she’s holding her own, but we don’t have much time.”

Edward knew Jack was busy and he knew she was in danger but Noa saw so many things moving in and out of Edward’s mind. The universe, the vortex, time, the truth…. He saw them all, and it was gnawing at him as if it wanted to consume his soul and leave him a lifeless mechanical shell. The older boy shivered arms wrapping about himself as he turned to face the Rift and her. He was helpless and hated it. “Can we save her?”

“Brother.” Alphonse’s voice shook. He reached out, grabbing Edward’s hands and drawing him into his arms. “We’re almost there, she’s going to be all right.”

“I just need one more…” Jack began.

Yes, one more transmutation, but every transmutation brought the Elric brothers closer to accessing the parts of themselves the rift opened. It would inevitably destroy their humanity.

A risk she did not wish to take. But she was different. She had read Edward’s mind and in his memories looked into the truth. She felt it’s fury, and saw beyond the tide of space-time. She was no alchemist, nor was she designed to channel such forces like the Elric brothers but she felt the rift coursing though her, and could see the world about her as fluctuating currents of energy and time.

Beyond the rift was the space time vortex and the void. Beyond the void were many worlds, including the world of Alchemy. All she needed to do was to let them cross safely, but altering the rift to form a single tunnel leading to their home.

“Edward Elric.” Noa spoke, voice echoing with the screams of the Gelth clawing at her battered spirit. “It is too late for me, my dear husband.”

“It’s not too late, God damn it!” Edward shouted, straining against Al. “Jack, Jack, you tell her, we can stop it, we can free her!”

“And go where Edward?” Noa asked sadly. “Your pride would only make you seek out the forces that will inevitably destroy you.”

She felt his heart as it thudded against his chest and saw anguish fill his gaze. Edward Elric despised losing the things he loved. “Noa…”

“Noa.” Jack heaved a breath, meeting her gaze. He was confident he was capable of capping the rift. He was ready to run with them. Even he knew once the rift was closed, the Elrics would never return home, where they belonged. His life would change, he’d become a fugitive, and he accepted his fate, in order to save her… “Just a few more adjustments, and we’ll have you out of there…”

Al was wordless, he held his brother closer, resigned to accepting the loss of his world. He feared the rift, for the thing inside of him was still there and likely to take hold of him if he was not careful.

“No, our time is short.” Noa said firmly. “You must understand, other forces are coming. I can feel them rippling through time. We will not have time to run. Please Edward, trust me, and know this is the only way.”

Yes she felt them, breaking the barriers with their great invisible ships, traveling though the wormholes like steamers in a sea of stars.

Yet Ed made no move, he just glared at her, eyes wide and lost. He stared longingly at her, tears trickling silently down his face and at that very instant, Edward Elric realized he was indeed in love with her and that she was forcing him to choose his world over her, and that was unacceptable in his mind. For Edward Elric was about sacrifice, and he’d give his soul for those he loved.

She had been selfish all her life, living in his mind, feeling his pain drinking in his thoughts. All she had ever done was take from Edward Elric, but now, now that had changed. His fate was in her hands, and her gift to him would be life and freedom.

With the power of her will, she commanded the opposing tides around her. “It is time.”
*&*&*&
The room around them shook and hot white lightning streaked across the rift. Noa’s form, a blazing star in the center of a supernova of twisting hurricane winds.  Her hands folded together, and her body washed away into pure white.

He was losing her. Edward Elric shoved his brother into Jack’s arms and sprinted into the circle. He was hammered by the screaming forces swirling around him but sheer determination drove him forward. The energy ripped at his limbs, driving him backwards.

Ignoring the powers around him gripping his extremities like fingers pulling on his flesh, Edward trudged on. His body tingled, as the rift threatening to tear him apart. Willpower guided him step by step to the center, until his arms, tingling into blazing red, blue gold energy, wrapped tightly about her. “Noa! God Damn it! I can bring us home! I can do it!”

Her brightly glowing form turned to face him, large eyes opening into hauntingly eerie red pools of fire. “Edward… Don’t.”

 “Without you I can’t-- I’ll be alone. I need your thoughts, touching my own…” He face twitched as he felt the wet of tears dripped off his chin and sizzled away from the bombardment of heat and lights around him.  It was true, he had grown so used to her being there, and only now, he realized if she died, he’d miss her contact.

“Equivalent exchange, Edward.” She said ethereal fingers tracing down his cheek. “My life for yours and Al. He can’t live for just me. He needs you. Do you understand? This is for the best for everyone…”

“No, damn it, no it’s not. I can send us home. I understand everything now. I know what the truth is. I know how I can use it to save us all. We can have everything we want. All I need to do is…”

“Give up your humanity for what lies beyond the truth? Do you want that Edward? Is being God what you really want?”

He couldn’t answer. The truth and what lay beyond it was understanding and accessing forces capable of altering reality itself. It was the mathematical code knitting the universe together, a code guarded by an ancient and extinct race.

Yes, Jack was right, they were machines, and as machines he and Al were capable of accessing the truth and understanding and processing it. And with the rift, they could use their powers, to control and guide space in time to their whims. All he needed to do was accept what he was, and become the closest thing he could conceive as a god.

But Edward Elric as he was would need to die.

“Brother.” Al pulled against Jack’s arms. Tears filling his eyes. “Don’t, brother, don’t!”

“We could rewrite history, Al.” Edward said, voice hitching with grief. “Mom doesn’t need to die. You don’t need to ever lose your body…Loir and Ishball never needed to happen. Winry could have her parents back! Everything could be perfect, and we could all be happy.”

 “You can’t change time and space to suit your own needs!” Jack shouted. “How many other people will suffer? Time flows the way it does for a reason.”

Al’s lips trembled as he shook his head. “No, brother, change things, and I won’t be who I am. I like who I am… Please don’t do this, I need you!”

“But Al…”

“We’ve played god once, brother, lets not repeat our sins, ok? I love you. I don’t want to lose you. I don’t need mother, or our home, I need you, Brother.”

Noa pushed Edward away, the world around them shifting and changing. “Listen to him, Edward. Our time together is over. This is my fate, one I gladly accept. I have been selfish too long. Go with Al, go home, let go of your sins.”

Suddenly he was standing beside Jack and Al. There was a thunderous crash from over head, and Edward saw the hole in the ceiling above was bathed in a blue light and growing.

Einstein hissed, back raised and fur standing and Jack’s gaze narrowed. “Damn it!” He released Al, and pulled out the small hand held gun he had used on Envy. “We’ve got 51st century company, boys. I’ll hold them off.” He glanced to Noa, face softening. “Make sure they get home.” Than to Al, he kissed the boy on the forehead. “Take care of him, ok? Make sure he doesn’t go God on us. It’s the last thing we need, ok? ”

Wiping away tears, Al nodded and swiftly kissed the man on the cheek than backed away. “Thank you for everything. Jack, don’t get killed on me, ok? I want to see you again, when I grow up. ”

 “See you later. Ed, stay out of trouble.” Jack saluted, than sprinted to the stairs. Einstein at his heels.

Swallowing, Edward looked down, hands slipping around Al’s warm body and holding him tight. Their link had not faded, and he sensed the boy’s mind was filled with a mixture of worry and helplessness. The boy loved Jack dearly and was very sad to see the man go. “He’s too annoying to die, Al.” Edward whispered nuzzling the boy’s hair with his nose. “He’ll be fine.” Resigned, he looked to Noa. His lips parted as if to speak.

But she already knew his words. The world around them bled gold, then twisted, a turbulent centrifuge of colored lights and echoing sound, which faded into pure white, like the void before the gate.

A moment later, they stood in a dark, boarded-up church, with slivers of light burning though multicolored stained glass. The smells of must and rotting boards filled his burning lungs. It was all too familiar. Edward flashed a glance to the darkened pews and wooden altar with crucifix and dying god hanging on the wall.

Noa’s form wavered, her features pale as she stumbled. Releasing Alphonse, Edward Elric caught her. Her face was deathly cold, and he felt no pulse. Noa Elric reached up, feeble fingers brushing though Edward’s hair. “Please.”

She didn’t need to finish her breathless words her felt them in his heart. Edward sucked in a sob. “Yes, I do. I do love you…”

She smiled and the light faded from her eyes, leaving his thoughts alone. Trembling, Edward buried his face into her chest, and sank to his knees. He gave a lost sob, clutching the body and rocking her in his arms.  He was only vaguely conscious of Alphonse standing near by, hand on his shoulder.

She was gone, taken from him like Alphons, and his father…

It seemed to be his destiny to lose the people he loved.

Trembling, he looked up tear glazed eyes, barely focusing on the boy standing beside him. “Alphonse.”

“It is the church, brother.” Alphonse wispered. “We are in Central. “ He knelt down, gathering both Edward and Noa in his arms, and leaned his brow into his brother’s shoulder.  He held in a sob, face fluent with grief. “I was fond of her too, brother. Very fond of her, and I feel how sad you are, but, let's not let what she and Jack gave us go in vain. We have a second chance now. We are home. Where we belong…”

“Yes.” Edward kissed Noa’s brow. He closed his eyes against tears, and shivered. The pain was a dark lonely pain and her comforting touch was gone. Why did something that had threatened him so in the past become so important now? “Home. We have come home, Noa, and I shall take you to Risenbol and put you in the Earth beside my mother.” He gave a sad smile, smoothing her hair from her face. She was pale and lovely. He could see peace on her face, peace she only had in life when close to him. “You will like it there, there is a big tree and no one will judge you. I will never forget what you have done for my brother and I. Never…” He looked across the to the alter and the crucifix hanging over it. Hadn’t she been Christian, or was it Jewish? He wasn’t sure, but this place reminded him of the other world. It was a fitting location for the rift to open up to, he thought, very fitting.

With Alphonse’s help, he came to a stand. “I’ll be all right Al.” He sais, seeing his brother’s hollow gaze. “We’re together, isn’t that what matters? It was important to her, we stay together.”

“Yes brother.” Alphonse peered around, his brow furrowing. “Einstein was left behind.” He said sadly. “I hope Jack takes good care of him.”

“I’m sure he will.” Edward reassured him. Jack cared for Al. He’d look after the cat for them. With luck, the man would con his way out of the mess he had gotten himself into by helping them. He sighed, and with shaky legs, Edward Elric carried his wife out into the light.
7&*&

Epilogue

In the black velvet of night, Alphonse Elric bolted up, body slick with sweat a scream trembling off his lips. He could hear their ethereal screams, clawing at his being, crying for freedom as they spiraled helplessly into his being.

The boy trembled, brain filled with numbers and formula. The truth, echoing endlessly in his mind as he doubled over, panting horror filled breaths.

He felt a stirring beside him, and saw Edward startle awake beside him. The elder Alchemist turned to face him arms pulling him over and rocking him gently on his lap. “It is all right, Alphonse. I am here, it was just a dream.” The older boy’s words were soft, and lulled him back away from the dark foreboding horrors of his sins. Alphonse Elric shivered, holding tight to Edward, glassy gaze blinking at the starlight shimmering though their half open window. The sounds of crickets and gentle rustle of leaves helped to ease his fears and relax him.

They were home, in Rizenbol, living with the Rockbells, until Edward sorted out his affairs with the state Military.

Weary, Alphonse let his body sag against Edward, and looked up to the young man. Wisps of long gold hair hung in Edward’s face, as he gently stroked Al’s back. “I was back in the rift.” Al said glancing over to the window. “Hearing them, and losing who I was.”

“It’s over with.” Edward said softly, pulling the blankets around them. Alphonse was not sleeping well, and his brother insisted on sharing the room with him until the nightmares stopped. “I know how frightening the memories seem, but it’s in the past now. It will be ok.”

Al shivered body curling closer to Edward. “But it isn’t it still there, that thing, inside of me?”

The older boy was unable to answer him. Rather, Edward looked off toward the window, thoughtful. Al watched aware his brother was incapable of answering him. Neither of them were sure if Al still carried the gate spawn. It was possible, and in the end, neither of them planned on testing it. Until then, Al lived with the nightmares, and prayed for the day for them to fade into oblivion.  He knew Edward had them too -- they were so closely linked -- and Al was certain Edward’s dreams were identical to his. The older Alchemist just grieved privately for the dreams had a different meaning for him.

“Brother, do you ever wonder what it would be like to let it take you?” Al asked. He drew away, hugging his knees and looking off into the dark shadows of the room.

“You mean give in and become a god?” A faint smile twitched across the older boy’s face. He patted Al on the shoulder. “The cost was too great and I would have lost the thing I had been fighting for all along.”

Knowing, Al nodded. They had fought for years to be with each other, to have a life of freedom and happiness. Becoming one with the truth would take all that away. In the end being human, vulnerable and finite was what mattered. Even if it did on more than one occasion hurt. “I wonder.” Al replied, “But the thoughts, they were so alien.”

“Yes, yes, they were.” Ed agreed. He stretched, and came to his feet. “It’s early, but I’ll never get back to sleep.” He informed. “I’ll make us some coffee.”

Grabbing his robe from a chair beside the bed, Al joined Ed. Already the dream was fading. “We’ll have to be quiet. We’ll wake up Auntie Pinako and Winry.”

“Yeh, let them deal.” Ed crossed the room to the door. He was dressed in a tank t-shirt and boxer shorts, and appeared not to mind the morning chill.

Slipping on his slippers, Al followed his brother out the door and down the hall. They had been living with Winry and Pinako since they arrived in Rizenbol a month ago. It had been awkward at first. Ed was moody and refused to discuss what happened to them in the other world. He seemed lost when it came to Noa, never once removing his wedding ring, and always gazing into space if Al asked how he was coping with her loss. Still, they were healing, the time home was helping, and Al even thought he and Edward would be ready to move out and make an Alchemy shop of their own in town.

It was something to look forward to and both boys had the support of their friends, which was in the end, very important. “I can make some toast, and there are eggs in the icebox.” Al said. “You went to the butcher the other day, isn’t there bacon as well?”

“Don’t know, I thought it was used last night.” Edward he checked his silver pocket watch, brow wrinkling. “We’ve got two more hours before the milk man comes. Until then, you’ll have to use jam on your toast. We have no butter.”

“I’ll live.” Al tiptoed after his brother careful not to talk above a whisper. Winry was cranky when she didn’t get her sleep and she spent long nights up working. She had become quite accomplished as an automail mechanic and surgeon and was now in high demand for her work. Neither she or Pinako had changed their lifestyles since the Elric brothers moved in. Rather, they gave the boys space, and encouraged them to take whatever time they needed to heal. All in all, Al was happy to be home. It almost made the complications with the rift worth it all.

Turning up the gas lamps, they entered the kitchen, and Al went to the icebox, opening it and removing the eggs and lard for cooking. He sliced four pieces of bread and placed them into the oven. Edward, boiled water, and hand ground coffee. They both worked in silence, savoring the tranquility of the peaceful morning.

The faint golden rays of the sun leaked though the window, bathing the cool room with it warm fingers. Edward scooped the coffee grounds into a small wire filter and poured warm water into it. When he was finished he had two steaming cups of coffee. He tasted it, and Al saw him wince a little.

“Is it strong?” Al asked breaking an egg into melted lard.

The Alchemist nodded sipping the liquid and sitting at the table. “I need it.”

Al grabbed a cup and tasted it. It was robust with a hint of bitterness. Letting the four eggs sizzle in the pan, he grabbed a bottle of milk from the icebox. There was still some cream on top, just enough to add to his coffee. “I miss him.” Al said softly, looking over at Edward. “I miss Noa, and Einstein too.”

Edward swallowed hard. “Better watch those eggs, they’ll be like eating rubber.”

He was avoiding the subject. Al expected that. He flipped the eggs and after a moment slid them onto two plates.  After removing the last of the toast from the oven, Alphonse placed the plates on the table. “They’ll be fine.” He studied Edward. He was turning the wedding ring on his finger, looking distracted. “Do you think her soul is still in the rift?”

“It’s possible.” Ed said. He turned his attention to the food. “But I doubt it. She wasn’t designed to channel that kind of power. Not like we were.”

“Jack knew it all along too. Or suspected it. What do you think?” Al slathered his toast with Gracia’s home made peach jam. When they arrived in central, Colonel Mustang arranged for them to stay with Gracia for a few days until he arranged a leave of absence for Edward.

“I think he was wise to not tell us.” Edward replied. “I’m still pissed at him for not saying anything, but…” He dipped his toast into an egg, breaking its flesh and bathing the bread in golden yolk. “I would have done the same thing.”

Al dumped several spoonfuls of sugar into his coffee until it was very sweet. “Yes, well, even if he did hide things, I still miss him. You know, brother, good things did happen… Despite the Kaiser, and the cancer…”

After washing his toast down with coffee Edward looked down at his plate. He shook his head, tears rimming his eyes. One hand strayed to the ring on his finger. “That’s why I keep you around, Al.” He said, voice hitching with emotion. “You always find the cloud with the silver lining.”

Al smiled. “Someone has too. If we were both cynics, we’d get no place in life and I for one don’t fancy spending my soul existence locked up in a lab and library because I’ve lost hope in people or the world around me.”

“I can’t argue with that.” Edward agreed, his mood lightening. “I just wish I hadn’t been so…”

“Blind?” Al asked, knowing Edward was talking about his feelings for Noa.

“Defensive.” Edward said. “I… We had something special, I didn’t need to say a thing to her. She knew me, and understood me, and I spent far to much time pushing her away.”

“Brother, she accepted that.” Al informed. “And, in the end, you did tell her.” He reached out, fingers curling about Edward’s hand and squeezing it. “She did what she did because she knew it was for our happiness. And you trusted her in the end. You trusted her, and I. That was very important. You did well, brother. I think we’ve both learned a lesson there and it has made us better for it.’

“You make it sound so simple, Al.” Edward sighed.

“That is because in the end it is, brother.” Releasing his brother's hands, the boy returned to his meal, swallowing bits of egg, and eating toast.

Edward finished his meal in silence, and dropped his dishes in the sink. “I think I want to visit mom and Noa today.” He said leaning against the sink.

Outside Al heard some thumping. “The milk man is here.” He said, straying his attention to the toast. “I think I want to have another cup of coffee. Plenty of cream now.”

Edward nodded. He grabbed for the kettle and put it back on the stove. “Are you sure? It’s too early.”

“Positive.” Al came to his feet and crossed the kitchen to the door. He opened it, to see a cardboard box, with several books, a phonograph, and a gray kitten cleaning himself on top.

In the distance he heard a low groaning and wheezing, like a needle scratching repeatedly over the face of a record. The boy frowned. Squinting in the morning light, down the porch to something large fading out of sight.

A machine?

“Brother.” He said, reaching down and picking up the kitten. He held it up, seeing a set of very familiar green eyes. The animal hadn’t changed. It didn’t look a day older than the day they left. “We got a delivery.” He announced. He hugged the kitten close and turned to face a startled Edward. He held the kitten out arms length, eye moist. “Einstein!”

Einstein purred, and wiggled in Al’s hands, tiny claws batting the air. It was a good thing Den was sleeping in Winry’s room that morning. Poor Einstein needed a slow introduction to the dog.

“Einstein?” Edward lifted a brow. He pushed past Al looking down at the box and things on top. “My note book!” he flipped though it, scrutinizing its contents. “All my research is there! Everything, including my notes on the rift.”

Letting his brother pick up the box and carry it into the kitchen, Al couldn’t help but feel excitement. He embraced the kitten, feeling it wiggle in his arms. It was Jack he was breaking the rules again… For them. “Yes, and I bet mine is there too…”

Edward riffled though the box again until he pulled out a large bound book triumphantly. “My Sherlock Holmes collection.”

“Yes, well, you definitely need something to complain about.  Doyle and all.” Al smiled. He let Einstein climb up to his shoulder and settle against the nape of his neck. With his hands free, Al poked into the box himself. He came across a framed photo. It was of Edward and Noa on their wedding day. The boy’s eyes filled with water as he lifted it out and studied it. There was an envelope tacked to its back.

“Brother.” Al took the envelope and handed the picture to Ed. “Do you want this?”

“The worse day of my life.” Edward said, taking the picture and looking at it. “I don’t know if I want to remember her that way.” He placed the photo down, eyeing the letter in Alphonse’s hand. “From Jack?”

“Yes.” Al said, scanning the parchment. The handwriting was impeccably neat, and the paper itself was lightweight and smooth. In the corner was an address and date on it: Torchwood December 13, 2006.

“Almost 80 years from now. “Al informed amazed. Jack had returned from the future, granted it was not the 51st century. Perhaps he was on the run. “It says:  Al, Edward:
sorry it took so long for me to get back to you. Things got a little complicated when you left. I’m only now starting to remember my mission and the day we met. The time agency erased my memory. They weren’t exactly pleased with the outcome and it’s taken until now for me to remember everything clearly. But I wanted to let you know, it was worth it in the end.

I hope the two of you are well.

I’m sorry about Noa, she was one hell of a gal. I enclosed her things in the box. She KEPT the wedding picture. I’m not sure why, but it was important to her.

The phonograph and records are there too. Al, I found a good recording of Rhapsody in Blue and some ragtime you’d like to listen to. Enjoy. Miss you kid.

If it wasn’t for you, I don’t know if I’d ever understand the difference between being good at what I do and being a decent human being…I’ll always cherish that.

Ed, your books are there, along with some of the books from the 51st century. I trust you won’t abuse them. I’m giving them to you because I damn well know you’ll be digging into things on your end, and finding more trouble. You know what they say about the cute ones. They’re nothing but trouble. Especially when they’re blond.

I’m sorry I can’t stay, crossing over is difficult, and without certain powers in place, unregulated and strictly forbidden. It’s best your world is left untouched and undiscovered by the other powers existing in our universe. Some things need to stay dead. I’m sure both you and Edward understand that.

I’m not sure about this gate spawn thing inside of Al -- it might have been burned out when Noa blasted the two of you out of the rift. I would have to run a few tests to verify it; but if you’re not planning on traveling though rifts in temporal space, I honestly wouldn’t worry about it.

Take care Al, I doubt we’ll meet again, have a good life, and remember to keep your brother out of trouble.

Ed, we’ve all learned our lessons, keep in mind you’re not the only one in your life. And believe it or not, I’ll miss you’re smiling face and cute little ass.

Love
Jack Harkness.”

Edward snorted, folding his arms. “Damn bastard had to get the last shot in.” He looked at the letter shaking his head. He’s face was red with a rosy blush.

Al giggled, fingers tracing over Einstein’s soft fur. “Well at least we know he’s alive and well. Makes me feel a world better.” Al folded the letter and shoved it in his notebook. He was less stressed now. The letter gave him some hope perhaps them being happy wasn’t a bad thing.  “Well, I think we should take this and read it to Noa, now. Don’t you?”

He saw Edward smirk. He scruffed Al’s head and nodded. “Ok, Al, I’m sure she’d loved to hear it.”

“I’m sure she will, brother. It’s what she wanted you know. For us to be free and happy…”

Edward Elric lifted his head, peering up, with light glinting in his golden gaze. The young man gave a curt nod and wrapped an arm around the boy. The hurt was still there, but Al could recognize he was healing. “Yes, yes she would, Al. I guess she did the right thing, didn’t she?”

“She did, Brother. Really. I believe that. We all need to make sacrifices for love. And Noa didn’t think any differently, you know.” Al took his arm and led him into the hall. It was time to move on. “We have two good legs, it’s time to use them. But until then, I think we have to get dressed!”

“You’re starting to sound like Jack.” Edward moaned. “Please, knock it off, or I’ll have to kill you….”

The two of them laughed, ducking their way down the hall. It was a new day, and for the first time, the nightmares seemed just a little less painful.


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