Genre: A/U, Horror
Rating: T / M
Warnings: Violence, death
Spoilers: Beginning of series
Word count: 1510
Final Note: I wrote the whole thing to Yuki Kaijura's "I talk to the rain", so I think I owe Rieka De-Volka a measure of thanks. :)
"This is it, Al" whispers the elder brother, fixing his hands on the chill stone floor, "we're bringing her back." The other nods and places his hands palm-down against the perimeter of the array. There is a blur of unfocused alchemical energy, and the design crackles to life, the heaped constituent materials at its heart vanishing in a twist of smoke. The boys' eyes widen with wonder as a blue glow suffuses the room, and they ignore the sharp-edged shadows thrown by the suits of armour in the corner, their visors dark pits staring blankly downward.
Edward's excited grin falters slightly as a new current twists the sheets of smoke apart, and the boys gape as the light turns a cruel violet and the air is wrenched from their lungs. Al turns towards his older brother, desperate for an answer, when an arm wreathed in inky blackness springs from the violet glare, fisting in his hair and yanking him forward. Edward is the only one who has time to scream as a score of new arms emerge, seizing his brother and dragging him forward. Al can't fight the writhing limbs as they sear whatever they touch, his skin decomposing in an alchemical frenzy before his suddenly blank eyes. His vision is a greying blur as he hears the report of cracking bone and his elder brother's frantic screams.
Ed has stopped screaming when Al stirs into wakefulness. He is looking down at his older brother, who stares weakly upward. Edward shivers like an animal caught in a trap, and Al can't help but marvel at how small he looks, sans arm and leg. The severity of his brother's condition strips away the caul of weariness, however, and he starts forward. Or tries to, rather. His body does not respond, and in his peripheral vision he catches a glimpse of dull grey steel. When he speaks, his voice is underlined by the ring of hollow metal.
"Brother?" Ed looks up at the suit of armour, his eyes brimming with tears that mingle with the arterial blood coating him.
"Al, I... a blood seal. Your memories will be safe-" his eyes crinkle further and his mouth distorts in a desperate moan. Al watches his brother shudder again and arch upward slightly. His eyes gradually unfocus, but his mouth remains fixed in a final stillborn wail.
"Brother!" Al wills his limbs to move, but they are cold, dead steel. He tries to shut his eyes, but there is no respite and his voice fills with tears as he stares down at Edward Elric. "B-Brother, hold on! There's... I'll get help!" Al's words rise shrilly as he cries again and again for help.
Ten minutes later, there is a crash of splintering wood upstairs as Colonel Roy Mustang forces the front door, urged by the hysterical screams from below.
The man pounding on the door of the Rockbell residence is wild-eyed, the blue tunic of the State Military visible beneath an open leather coat as he tries to push past the automail engineer.
"Wait a damn moment! Who do you think you are, barging in like thi-" He shoves the wizened woman aside.
"Where's your phone? Answer me, dammit!" he barks. Anger colours Pinako's cheeks as she draws herself up and opens her mouth- "there's been a serious accident at the Elric residence, and I need to get in touch with the police." At the other end of the room, a young woman party to the entire conversation gasps, her face whitening. Her grandmother's expression darkens further, and she darts aside, ducking into a side room and returning with a first-aid kit, marked with a plain red diamond. Beckoning Winry after her, she runs through the door and into the pouring rain. Mustang glares after the retreating mechanics for an instant before rushing after them, boots splashing through the dancing mud.
The Elrics' basement is a scene from hell. Blood has sprayed along the walls and floor, pooling at a small mutilated body near the room's far corner. From a suit of armour propped up against the wall comes a rattling wail, a pair of glowing pinprick eyes following the three as they pad down the stairs. Dead in the room's centre is a bubbling mass of pale flesh, the suggestion of a skull pressed through paper-thin skin and limbs sprawled in every cardinal direction.
"What... what the hell happened here? Oh Winry, don't look." The girl's hand is at her mouth and her eyes are wide. Mustang passes them by, his eyes running over the array chalked around the diabolical suggestion of a human form. When he'd first broken down the door and run down the flight of stairs, his attention had immediately been on the little corpse near the wall, the alchemist frantically checking for signs of life and gently laying the small head down, closing still-moist eyes. He'd kept his distance from the haunted steel figure resting against the brick nearby, hesitantly recognizing a bound soul when he saw one, but concerned first with the wounded child.
Now he crosses the room and peers up at the red eyes in the old helm, like embers in a dying fire. The little voice from within has stopped, and Mustang casts around the room before his eyes return to Al.
"You're the other brother, aren't you?" The suit makes an awful noise, a strangled sob with no outlet in tears and no throat to clench. Mustang's voice is gentler now.
"What happened?" Between metallic sobs an outline emerges.
"We... we wanted mommy back. We didn't want to be alone." The wail begins afresh, starting deep in the armour's hollow chest and resonating through the grilles of the helmet. The alchemist's eyes soften. Behind him, a tearful Winry has been sent back upstairs with a hushed order to get back to the house. Mustang turns as Pinako stops at the centre of the hissing array. He doesn't flinch as the heavy wrench comes down again and again, cracking the translucent skull and pulping grapelike sacs filled with gristle.
They bury Ed the day afterwards. Mustang has stayed overnight and does the lion's share of the work, digging a deep pit that seems to engulf the small coffin, and throwing dirt back over it, gradually obscuring the rough wood. The graves of Edward and Trisha Elric form a lonely couple on the hill's summit, reunited finally.
Moving Al up from the basement was a collaborative effort, and the dented plate mail needed to be disassembled. Mustang had seen the blood seal itself, daubed in blood behind the suit's gorget. A quartet of incarnadine fingerprints trail down from the squashed circle. With his dying strength, Al's brother had bound his soul and memories to the cold metal, succumbing to traumatic shock once the seal had been activated.
Unfortunately, there had been no provision in the blood seal for motive control on Al's part. The armour was no more animate than it had been beforehand.
Winry is the one who proposes an automail endoskeleton which will fill the hollow spaces of Al's new body and allow him to walk again. Now that the folly of human transmutation has been demonstrated so graphically, there is no question of returning Al to his body. He will remain an immortal child trapped within the armour.
Mustang is willing to keep quiet. The scene in the Elrics' basement had put him in mind of another room far away to the east, and he can't look at Winry without a tightening in his throat. On the beautiful day following Ed's funeral, he finds Al dragged to the shade of his favourite tree in the Rockbells' yard, the empty helmet staring down into the brook where three children had played not more than a year ago. He is very quiet now and for most of the day has been kept company by Winry, reading to him or simply sitting beside him in silence. Now, though, there is no-one else present as Mustang kneels to bring his head level with the recumbent suit. Quietly, he speaks about the original reason for his visit, and extends an offer to the last member of the Elric family.
A week after his departure, Mustang sends a belated parting gift; a parcel containing a thick sheaf of typewritten sheets copied from the archives at the Central Library. Culled from a wide variety of sources, they all relate to the mechanics of soul-binding. The information allows the Rockbells to set at designing an interface between Al's tenuous link to the material world and the gangling skeleton they've assembled.
Two weeks later, Al takes his first step. The whir of automail resonates within his armoured shell, a formless growl transmitted through the steel plate. His progress is faltering at first, but soon he stalks along the bucolic dales of south-eastern Amestris.
At the train platform, Winry blinks back tears as their steel colossus strides onto the boarding ramp and vanishes.