Title: Two Good Legs
Word Count: 3340
Summary: AU after episode 50. A possibility in how the Al's body was restored. If you fear dying, don't read. I warned you (no character death involved, tho)
When those bloodied fingers broke through the surface of the packed earth, he sobbed. It was in choked, wheezy breaths as he fought to catch fresh air and not suffocate on the mud that threatened to snuff his life out. Once his fingers broke through, he felt wet and a torrent of chilled water slid into those narrow openings, trying to complete what the mud could not. It was raining outside.
Haven't seen rain like this in 60 years.
Rain indeed. If it kept raining like this, the river would flood over, and Teacher would come to raise the wall and rescue lower Risembool. And he and Alphonse will beg to be taught Alchemy so they could bring back Mom. Mom...
Edward's breathing shuddered as he slowly dug through another handful of sludge, jumping as much as a moving corpse could move as thunder crashed over and deafened him. He couldn't feel the pain anymore. That died a long time ago in the cold earth. His teeth stopped chattering after he managed to break through that...that box. His coffin.
This was his grave.
He had to get out of the earth. Had to get out of the rain. His limbs were nothing but dead weight. Heat sucking dead weight. The numbness of his mind informed him that he was suffering from hypothermia, that he needed heat and warmth and he needed it now. His fingers weren't working right anymore. Ed clawed again, exhausted from that simple motion and he rested again, loosing himself to the memories.
That was all he had. Memories of the past that slipped away before he could take hold and examine them. Analyze them. Decipher the code in his brain that would tell him whether or not Alphonse was alive. He was alive, wasn't he? He couldn't be dead. "Please....god...." Ed must be going insane. Invoking a diety! That illicted a high pitched and thready laugh. It would have chilled his own blood if it weren't already slush.
His last memories were of that array and the suit of armor that had been Al for the past four years. That array that took up the whole floor of that abandoned warehouse, that he spent weeks in painstaking research and crafting and then a few days drawing out. Geometric designs that needed precision. Al wanted to help, he insisted that Ed's limbs should come first. One again Ed would have none of that. What's an arm and a leg compared to true life?
The once the circle was completed, Ed plunged ahead with all the exhuberance his 16 year old psyche held. There was no room for mistake. He had it perfect this time. Perfect. He most likely wasn't going to survive. Edward kept speaking to Al, assuring him that this would be successful, that there were no errors, that he would be in his real body soon. And at the same time, Ed spoke to Al with his back turned, knowing that if Alphonse saw the look in his eyes, Al would put a stop to this once and for all.
Brothers knew each other inside and out, and he could never hide anything from Al if his eyes were involved.
Edward remembered the alchemic burn, memorized that smell so that it would remind him of his brother. Not the brother of metal and cold, ungiving hardness with the small and tinny voice that echoed, but the warm and soft baby brother that squawked for mealtimes and cried tears when his knees scraped. The baby brother he fought and protected and loved with all his heart and soul. The baby brother he swaddled in steel, waiting for the day when he could swaddle him back into flesh. Flesh he would never see.
His voice cracked as lightning flashed overhead, blinding his unused eyes. He'd gotten the hole large enough so that his head was through. It was pissing outside, and whatever warmth he thought he had was gone. Gone with that plea into the howling wind.
It was a soft sigh, cracked and hoarse as if the body hadn't used its organs in years. He couldn't move, but he wanted to. Oh, heavens above did he want to, at the very least turn his head so that he could see the prostrate form of his brother. He distinctly heard the brush of hair against the concrete floor, feel the odd vibration of his skull reverberating off the bumpy texture. His vision was still blurry, and everything was stark bright even though only a few candles lit the entire room.
There Edward was. Face down, eyes closed, and his face in Al's direction. For once, his face wasn't tense or taught with stress. Ed looked like he was sleeping. Only this sleep was actually restful. Alphose's old/new mouth upturned into a smile. "Brother." He didn't realize he was naked and he didn't feel the cool air. But the sensation of his arm drawing along the concrete illicited a gasp from the younger Elric. He could feel.
And then it all came. The kiss of the very air stung his skin. Al bit down on his lip and yelped in pain. He could feel PAIN. The floor was drawing out what little body heat he had and he shivered violently. His eyes closed with a soft moan, and if he could, he would lie here forever and just feel.
If he did that, he'd freeze to death.
Alphonse took his time, savored every pull and push of the heart in his chest, every scraping sound of his own skin on rough flooring, how heavy he felt as he dragged himself toward his brother. "You...you did it, Brother." His voice was crisp and young in his throat after the initial croak. It was new. He was born from his brother, and everything was right. He crepted over the array, savoring the feeling and hissing at the pain until he managed to lay beside his brother. With achingly slow movements, he managed to pull Ed's arm out of that blood red coat and cover himself with it, snuggling tight up against Ed's side.
"I'm going to take care of you, now. Until you can wake up." Al didn't understand, exactly, but he knew in his heart that what Edward needed recovery time. And he didn't understand what that exactly entailed, but he was okay with it. He would take care of Edward like Ed did for him, and he would do with a glad, vibrantly beating heart.
They tried to explain it to him, after they found the boys in that basement. Edward was dead. He wasn't coming back. Al just denied them flatly, not able to explain his knowledge, but he just knew. They wouldn't listen. And Al was took weak to make them understand.
He sobbed as hard as he did at his mother's funeral, only he added the screams that he wasn't dead! Don't bury him! Colonel Mustang was standing beside Al's wheelchair, torn between being the good soldier and wheeling Alphonse away. They decided on the sedatives when he clocked Winry and lunged out of the chair to follow his brother into the grave.
After the funeral, his friends kept watch on him. After two days of depression, Al burned with a new determination to become stronger, and his rehabilitation was short of remarkable. So much like Edward and his automail. Alphonse was never left alone, not even the one time he had tried to sneak out of the bathroom window to go to the freshly turned earth to save his brother. When Al was good, he could go outside. When he wasn't good, he was sedated and left in bed with Winry holding his hand and tears leaking down her face.
The boy refused to cut his hair. His rantings and claims that Ed was not dead chased away Roy and the Military comrades of his past. Izumi came to visit once, but even then, she only stayed for about a half hour, coughing up the occassional bout of blood. She didn't even stay for dinner, but turned back around and headed for Dublith.
Some days, he would make it to the graves, his breathing harsh in his ears as he stared at the second tombstone. Behind him would be the calls of his adoptive family, all rushing up the hill to keep him from clapping his hands. One time, Al did manage to get that far, only to scream and flail like some wild thing when his hands were torn apart and he was lifted high into the air, the jab of the needle already dulling his senses with it's potion of sleep.
"NO! I have to help him! He'll wake up and be in the dark! Ed hates the dark!"
He knew this was taking it's toll on Granny and Winry. He hated that, he really did, but this was his brother and Ed never gave up on Al. Ever. Al didn't have to think that he needed to do the same. He knew the nights when they were awake when they thought he was still in a drugged sleep, Win wimpering and grieving at the loss of not one brother, but two. Pinako was starting to suggest that perhaps it was time to think of other alternatives. Obviously, staying so close to the grave was taking it's toll on Alphonse. Winry would gasp in abject horror and deny that Al needed to be 'put away.' He was a bright boy with a bright future, he just had to open his eyes to see that. Get up and walk on. He still had good legs to walk with.
The rainy season started early this year. Al seemed fixated on that steady drumbeat on the roof interjected by staccatto thunder. He sat at the window during the storms and a couple times he was allowed outside under a watchful eye to swing around and feel the cold drops of water slap him in the face. Never was he alone. Never. And Al had never felt more alienated in his life.
Ed took his first deep breath in four months and nearly choked on the stale air. It was pitch black. Woody, damp. Cold. Ed shifted a little, trying to stretch out a growing muscle cramp and swore loudly when he hit his head. Hands moved upwards to find them blocked about a foot above him. Same thing with his feet. His first thoughts were that this was most inconvienant, and then he slowly discovered that he was encased in solid darkness. Where the fuck was he?
The realization slipped in like some cold serpent. It was too cold in here, and he started to call out, pounding on the wooden surface above him. Did he get locked somewhere? His voice did not vibrate the walls, his hands hit solid and not hollow. Edward licked his lips slowly, the fear pouring out of his very being. All he knew now is that he needed to get out. He needed fresh air, open sky...warmth.
Where was Al? Al would never had let them do this! "Alphonse? AL!" The pounding grew, cracking the wood and raining damp soil on him. Tears squeezed out of his eyes as he panicked, wheezing short breaths as he pounded and thrashed and screamed for his little brother. If he was down here, was Al down here too? Did they bury him too?! Was he alive, or was he dead? Where was his brother? If he was alive, he'd never would have allowed this.
He needs me! Please, let me help him, he's afraid of the dark. Ed! EDWARD!
Edward was listless, the pain having left him some time ago. It was pleasantly warm now, his breathing slow while he felt the shoulder port grate on his bones. When he heard the crack, he screamed in his prison, the sound deafening him. Ed knew he'd knocked the anchors to his collarbone and shoulderblade out. It hurt like hell to move his automail. But he had to, he had to get out of here. But he didn't exactly know where 'here' was. And it was getting hard to think.
He was tired. After who knows how long of sleeping, he was tired. He grit his teeth and shift that heavy automail. It sucked the breath out of him, squeezed his lung capacity on his right side to nothing as he pressed his hands together and then held them out to the wood above. Edward took his second deep breath, the air not so stale, anymore. That very act exhausted him.
"You got two good legs, Ed. Gotta use them now." His voice sounded weird to him, but he obeyed it. "Don't think of where you are, but where you need to be." If he just Alchemy'd the wood above him, the weight of the earth would crush him. He needed to do this carefully. He had to be six feet under. That was the minimum depth to keep animals from snffing him out and digging up his corpse.
The chuckle started softly. It was accented by the shifting of his legs. And it was contageous. Ed's corpse. He was dead. Dead and cold and buried in the ground! He was going crazy. This was a dream.
Was he buried next to mom?
"Mommy?" The laughter didn't leave, but trickled intermittently as he turned to look at one black side, his left hand sliding along the wall and piercing his skin with coarse splinters. "Mommy, are you there? Are you next to me? Did you wake up too and want to get up and walk?" The chuckling changed suddenly, smoothly as if he were turning pages in a book. Tears streamed from his face.
"Do you miss us, Mommy? Al and I made you the ring of flowers, they were so pretty. You should have seen them. You think Al made flowers for me? Is he on your other side? Answer me. Answer....me. ANSWER ME!!!!!!!"
The raging lasted a while. Maybe a few minutes, maybe a couple hours. Ed didn't know. But he screamed and cried and sobbed and screamed some more, beating his body against the walls of his narrow box and replenishing the oxygen in his home. Shit, he had to piss. Someone had to be looking for him. Someone had to have heard him. Someone was up there, looking for him right now.
This was all a joke. Ed laughed again, huge giggles that would have had him doubled over had he the room to move. Any minute now, someone was going to throw open the door and there'd be this huge party waiting for him with everyone yelling 'Suprise!' and there Al would be with the bright smile he hadn't seen in six years.
Well. That was pitiful. The great State Alchemist asking for help.
You really should put some more lungpower into that, Fullmetal. No one's going to hear that through six feet of earth. Funny.
"Help. Me." Why the hell did that other voice sound like Mustang?
Is it me, or do you find it ironic that for every year you were looking for your brother's salvation, you've been rewarded with a foot of dirt over you? No, you'd have to see it too. You're a bright boy.
"Help. ME." He pounded a little on the 'ceiling' of his tomb, cringing.
So, what are you going to do now? Zapping the air around you so you can breathe when you still need food and water is pretty stupid, don't you think?
Ed's pounding started to get desperate, his voice tinged with madness. "Help me!"
You didn't want our help before, Fullmetal. Why the hell do you want it now?
No one's going to help you, not even your little brother. They forgot you, Edward. Just lie down and die, for once.
Envy? "Fuck! HELP ME!!!"
Edward woke with a start, instinctively moving his hands together and crying out when his right protested violently. After he breathed, resting and listening for help, he shifted again, his fingers feeling the top of the box. He'd have to make the hole here, over his belly. It'd be no use if he suffocated himself by dropping dirt on his face.
The earth didn't drop down, and he felt it with renewed vigor, clawing at it and pushing it into the corners of his prisons with a frantic hopefullness. Don't think, just dig. Don't think, just dig. He paused a moment, turning his head to that side and brushing his fingers on that wall. "Mommy...I still have to take care of Al. I need to make certain...I promise, though. I promise. I love you."
The path to salvation is never an easy one.
He'd soiled his dress pants a long time ago, the dirt had dug under the shoulder port and he arm went limp. Ed did not give up. No way in hell was he going to give up. The earth was hard packed though, settled over time. He had no idea how long it had been, but he was not going to give up. Don't think, just dig. Don't think, just dig. Up.
Edward broke through, was born again, given his second chance. He made his way out of the earth, sprawled in the rain and his nose pressed against freezing stone. Edward Elric.
He didn't register the calls. Could have been more thunder for all he cared. "BROTHER!" So faint. Al was calling out to him. Was his brother by the river again? So wet, wet and cold.
"BROTHER! ED!" He heard the slide of legs into mud and someone lifting him, turning his face into the rain. Ed screamed at the pull on his shoulder and a fresh gout of blood leaked from the steal. "Oh God...Edward!"
"A---Al?" Ed opened his eyes, blinded for the moment by lightning. Then he saw Al. Al that was soft and warm, the Al he held at night, now was holding him. "Al...you're alive."
"'Course I'm alive, Brother!" He squeaked at that, his voice tight and high. "You really think your Alchemy's that shoddy?" Al buried his face into Ed's body, sobbing. "Stupid brother. I'll take care of you now. Promise. I promise!"