(Go here for Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3)
Word count: 4085
Rating: whole thing ranges from PG to R
Summary: AU after episode 50. With Al's body freshly restored, the Elrics now must face each other's sins and hopefully survive their own trial by fire. After Edward is buried alive, he must recover and eventually learn to forgive himself for the past.
"Time to get up! Let's go, Ed."
There was a grumble and the teen pulled the sheets over his head
more. "Too early."
"No it's not, lazy. You've been in that bed for weeks and it's time
to start moving." Winry was never soft when it came to
rehabilitation. Compassionate, yes, gentle, yes, but never soft.
She was brisk in yanking down the sheets, smirking inwardly at the
yelp Elric made and the weak scramble to cover himself again.
"Stop. You've got boxers on, and it's summer."
"Winry..." It was a warning that matched his glare. He shot a look
at Al as the younger brother tried to stifle a giggle. "You're no
"I'm sorry. You're right." Al rose from his chair and finished
pulling away the sheet. "I'll help you to the chair, Brother!"
Ed still glared and complained even though he knew he had to start moving or
else the rattle in his chest would get worse and develop into a full
blown pneumonia. Already his remaining limbs felt weak and he'd
probably have to work twice as hard to regain that muscle tone in his
left thigh. His shoulder still itched, and answers to his questions
about it were avoiding glances and quiet murmurs that it was a part
of the healing process. Ed didn't feel like pressing for more
information, at least for the time being.
Winry basically brushed off his return to consciousness as something
normal and every day. She was always headstrong, stubborn and mindful
of healing wounds. She forced him to eat when he wasn't hungry, move
when he was too stiff to do so. She cleaned his wounds and struck up
conversations with him and Al. But her eyes were cool and a little more
distant than what he remembered. Edward, even though he was resting and
recovering, had yet to get a moment's peace or even time to actually
talk to Winry.
Al had become his shadow. Day and night, should Ed need anything, Al
was right there getting it for him or helping him. At first, Ed
chalked it up as Al just grateful that he was back, but of late, he'd
begun to notice things. When he'd lay awake at night, Al would
whimper out in his sleep, curling tighter around Ed's side. He'd
catch a glance Alphonse would give Winry, a look of a beaten dog wary
of his master. He had no idea what could have happened between the two.
Edward didn't quite remember what happened after waking up in the ground.
It was typical, he mused, that his mind would protect itself from the worst of the
trauma. He knew he had damaged his automail and he remembered waking
up in the dark. But he didn't realize the passage of time. How long
had he been out of it? Winry said weeks, but....
His hair was longer. That much he knew. And his nails were
overgrown. Ed grunted a little as he slowly swung his legs over the
bed. His automail needed a hand though. For a moment, the few
inches from the bed to the floor seemed like a cliff. When did he
become so weak? Alphonse's gentle and shockingly warm hands slid
around this bare torso and gripped his remaining arm.
"I've got you, Brother."
The sound of Al's voice was a shock too, and Ed sucked in a small
breath, turning to meet the almost there smile on his brother's
face. That's right...Alphonse wasn't seven feet tall, anymore. And
he wasn't a suit of armor. Would he ever get used to that?
Ed stumbled and would have fallen if Al didn't have him. The sudden
pull on his partial femur took his breath away and brought tears to
his eyes. And suddenly the few feet it took to hobble to the chair
by the window seemed like ten miles in quicksand. Though his face
was impassive, his mind was screaming over the fact that he needed
his brother's help, that he was missing an arm, that he was ten years old
again, just starting to learn how to use his automail.
Alphonse carefully seated him, drawing a foot stool closer to carefully
prop up his automail. "See? You'll be fine in no time." He
flashed another bright smile before he draped a light blanket over
Ed's lap, just in case. "Let me know when you're ready." The
younger Elric headed back to the other side of the small room,
chattering amicably with Winry as they changed sheets and cleaned up
the room a bit.
The chair faced the window. Ed supposed it was good therapy and
motivation for some of the automail patients to get better. But he
craned his neck to peer at his brother and friend. He wanted to
watch them, to convince himself that he was indeed a part of this
world. Their banter was light, almost reminiscent of the old days
when they were children. Only today, there was a heavy air
of...distance, a coolness. They weren't children anymore, and no
one's innocence had been spared. Edward's hand went up to rub the
new healing skin that graced his naked side. He noticed it hadn't
been bandaged tightly like the last time. The most Winry did was
drape a light gauze over it, and most of his treatments had been done
when he was asleep, or when they thought he was asleep. He doubted
that they knew there were some times he was awake with his eyes closed,
feeling the odd motions of manipulating the area where a shoulder once was.
Ed's face froze when he felt the open wound. A bolt used to be
there. Would it be there again? But there was something else now,
something moved that wasn't his pulse or the unconscious twitch of
skin and muscle that was overly sensitive. Something not him. He
felt the bile rise up in his throat before his brain could really
register the fact that the white worm was happily wriggling on his
fingers, seeking out the warm wet of his body.
His insides heaved then, making the same wet sound as guts and gore
would hitting the floor, and he followed quickly after. Ed's pain
was eclipsed by his disgust and panic. He slid in his own vomit as
Winry called out to him and Al was by his side, trying to pick him up
and calm him. Ed just panicked all the more when his right arm
didn't push the person away and all he could do was punch weakly with
his left. A choked sob came from Ed's throat, the questions
screaming in his brain never making it to his voice. He was dying,
the worms were already eating him from the inside out. The walls of
the box were closing in on him and he wailed to be let out.
"Al? Al, where am I? Let me out! Mom!"
"Brother? Brother, I'm right here!" Al tried to keep hold of Ed, but
the adrenaline coursing through the smaller boy and the slime of
stomach contents made him difficult to hold onto. What was happening
to his brother? "Ed!"
Winry moved quickly to fetch the sedative. She would have never
thought that Ed would break down into some sort of flashback. He was
the strongest of the three of them, his mettle was as unforgiving as
his automail. "Keep a hold of him, Al. I almost have this dosage."
She had to remember to subtract the weight of his automail so that
she wouldn't over dose the sedative, and the tension of the situation was
making her fumble the numbers in her head.
Edward kicked and hit against the box, screaming. His mother
couldn't hear him and his brother was nowhere around. He could feel
the worms squirm under his skin, eating away at his flesh, pulsating
with a life of their own as his started to eb. Why was if difficult
to breathe? "Get me outta here!--Why can't you hear me?!"
Al's efforts to keep his brother calm and still were failing. He was
going to have bruises, and his cheek smarted when a lucky punch
caught him off guard. Even uncontrolled, that automail leg was still
damaging, and the fighting instinct their Teacher instilled in them was stronger
than whatever fear and event his brother was re-living. It only took
Al a moment for him to realize what Winry was implying and suddenly,
his demeanor changed when he turned to face her on his hands and
knees. Ed was all right, he could scream and flail for a little bit
on the floor. But he wouldn't be all right if Winry got that needle
"Don't you dare give him that shot, Winry Rockbell."
Alphonse's sudden change in tone shocked her so badly that she
dropped the syringe, the glass shattering at her feet. Winry's eyes
met Al's, but they weren't his. They were cold and fierce, warning
her away. "Alphonse, he'll hurt himsel--" Her voice wasn't as sure
as it should have been. The color drained from her face and for the
first time in her life she felt afraid of the Elrics instead
of for them.
"I'd rather my brother hurt himself before you drugged him!" Al's
voice was raw and so full of venom that it cracked. He was on his
feet now, taking a defensive stance as he stood between his childhood
friend and his brother. "I won't let you drug him like you did me!
Winry jumped at that and nearly tripped as she scrambled to leave. The door
slammed open and then shut and she didn't bother to stay in the
hallway to listen in and make certain they were okay.
Once released, Ed's mind slowly came back to him. He wasn't in the
dark, there was sunlight listening in the windows. Shouting nearby.
His brother was shouting. He needed help. "Alphonse?" The slime
was sickening him and his right side and automail leg were in agony.
How'd he make it to the floor? The realization that this started
when he found the white grub made him wretch all over again, his
stomach twisting in knots and whole body writhing in agony. Oh God,
is that what they were keeping from him? Was he rotting from the
inside? Had his sins finally come to manifest themselves and consume
whatever sanity he had left?
"Ed?" It was a soft question, a meek tone as if it were afraid of
triggering something else. Edward looked up to finally see two
worried, hazel brown eyes peering at him. Al was crouched beside
him, afraid to touch his brother and so his arms were hugging his own
knees. "Edward, do you know where you are?"
He rested his cheek in the sickening puddle, too exhausted to care
how his stomach roiled in threat. He wanted to swallow, but was
afraid to and tried to take a calming breath through his mouth. He
suddenly couldn't stand the smell and gagged. "Yeah...." Mortified
didn't quite cut his emotion as his pain-filled eyes avoided his
brother's stares. "I'm....not in the ground."
There were only a handful of times that Al heard that broken and
defeated sound in Ed's voice, and like each time before, it broke his
heart. This was not how Edward should ever be like. "No...Not in
the ground. And you're not going to be forced to sleep, either."
His voice was quiet, but it had a hard determination to it that made
Ed look back to him.
"Forced to sleep?" What was Al talking about? Why did he have that
look on his face? It reminded him of the suit of armor. Cold,
And then the look was gone and Al reached out his hand. "Let me help
you up, Brother. Get you back in the chair so I can clean you up."
Edward reached out with a trembling hand, not trusting himself to
speak again until he was seated once more in the chair and Al had
cleaned up the room to get rid of the smell. He watched with a
detached expression, finally taking note that Alphonse worked in
silence. He saw the bruises blossoming purple and black on the boy's
cheek, and he kept licking at the corner of his mouth where blood
"Sorry, Al...I ....I wasn't in my right mind." Ed's apology seemed
hollow in his own ears, as if he were apologizing for more than the
Al's eyes lifted up to where his brother sulked and he offered a
small smile. "It's okay, Brother. I forgive you." He went to clean
out the basin and returned with fresh hot water and soap, intent now
on washing Ed before returning him to bed. "You must really be
hurting now.... are you okay?"
"Nothing I haven't gone through before." Ed was grateful for the
conversation, even if they didn't really say anything and
communicated volumes at the same time. When Al came closer, he
caught a whiff of old bile and acid. Ed turned away and made a face,
swallowing hard to prevent another dry heave. "Your shirt's covered
"Sorry, Brother." Al wiggled a bit, carefully taking off the soiled
shirt and tossing it across the room. "There. That should be
better." He started to lather up the wet cloth, preparing to wash
away traces of blood and gore from his brother's body.
Ed turned to watch. He was staring as if he'd never seen a naked
body before. Like in his dreams, Al was perfect, a perfect sculpted
young man with just a little gangliness. Muscles were full and toned
without adding too much bulk to Alhponse's slender frame. Almost as
if he still had some baby fat to grow out of. His chest was broad
without being overbearing with a flat stomach that defined his abs.
It made Edward look like some ugly duckling. He was short, scarred,
and had a scrappy, wiry musculature that carried none of the formed
lines Al had underneath his skin. A God was bathing the body of a
Ed looked away with a small flush, inwardly chastising himself for
the warm pooling reaction and yet giving him the excuse that he
hadn't seen his brother in the flesh for so long that he was entitled
to look a little. He decided to concentrate more on the sound of the
cloth sloshing in the water and the tinkling of water hitting the
basin as the cloth was wrung out. Ed tried to think of other things
when his brother's hands gently soaped up his skin and used the cloth
to wipe up the grime and soap. It was relaxing, more or less, and he
sank back a little into the chair with a small cough.
Als eyes flashed up to meet his brother's for a moment, worry and
unasked questions hiding under the surface while he turned back to
the basin to rinse. "Do you...do you remember any of it?"
Ed's eyes were closed but he was still aware. "I remember the
basement in the ware house and drawing the array...Waking up in the
dark to stale air..." He frowned a little, pushing other fleeting
thoughts aside. He did not want to remember them now. "I--why,
Al?" His gold eyes pleaded with a desperation as Alphonse pointedly
looked away. "Why did that happen?"
"They wouldn't believe me, Brother." The boy's voice had taken on
that quiet, hollow quality again and he half expected it to echo.
"They didn't understand that you weren't dead and that you couldn't
be dead." He continued on with the motions, carefully bathing
irritated injuries and focusing his eyes on the shoulder wound,
picking out anymore stray intruders before Edward would notice.
There were only a couple left with the majority long gone after the
Edward's eyes screamed at Al, but he refused to ask the question he
was afraid to find the answer to. He didn't want to know why Al
hadn't helped him. His eyes caught something else as Al's arm passed
his vision and his left hand took hold of the wrist so he could get a
better look at it. Small indents on the inside of his elbow that
looked like pock marks. But he and Al never caught the pox when they
"What are these?" The helpless sound was gone from Edward's voice as
he looked up to see the side of Alphonse's face. "Why are those
marks on your arm?"
Al's voice was too hight and breathy to be telling the truth. "Th-
they're nothing!" Dammit, Al was a terrible liar, even in the armor
Ed knew when he was lying. "They're nothing to worry about-"
"Did someone hurt you, Alphonse?" He may have been still sick and
weak, but that didn't stop the boiling rage that was festering in his
gut. Ed's teeth grit into the beginnings of a snarl, his hand
tightening around his brother's wrist. "What happened to your arm?"
"Nothing!" Al tore his wrist away, throwing his brother a pleading
look. Now wasn't the time to go down that road. "Please, Brother,
you shouldn't be so upset! You'll hurt yourself more."
"I wouldn't be so upset if you and Winry haven't been
keeping things from me!" There was the real Edward
Elric. All spitfire and rage and a burning passion that was always
under the surface. He whacked the basin out of frustration,
ignoring the fact he splashed water on his shocked brother and the
porcelain cracked on the floor. "I know you're not telling me
things! And neither is she! You say I've been unconscious for weeks,
but maggots don't lay dormant, Alphonse! What the fuck is
"Watch your language, Brother!" Al snapped, setting the cloth on his
lap. "You haven't been well enough to be able to listen to anything
and the reason why we don't say anything is because you go and react
like this!" His hand motioned to the small flood. He sighed,
frustrated with the knowledge that his brother was too stubborn to
give it a rest and let things be. It may have kept them alive, may
have gotten them the Stone, but it didn't make it less annoying.
"When we got you in the storm, you were unconscious for a long time.
And the places where you had the bolts were getting really infected
and the medicine wasn't working and you were</b> dying</b>,
Ed." The more Al talked, the quieter his voice got and it was to the
point where his brother's name was barely a whisper. "Winry chased
me outside one day because it was nice and she was trying to be
helpful and I saw this deer by the woods." His eyes flew up in a
small panic. "I don't know how I knew, Brother, I just did! If the
infection was taken out, you'd be able to get better."
Ed relaxed as he listened to the explanation. "So you used them to
get rid of the infection." It didn't make it any less revolting, but
at least he understood more. He covered Al's fidgeting fingers with
his hand, frowning when the boy gasped, froze and then relaxed. If
nearly six months passed and Al was still jumpy when people touched
him, Ed had done him a great disservice. "It's okay, Alphonse.
Really. I'm sorry."
Al nearly collapsed in a relieved heap. That explained the way they
had to treat Ed's shoulder, but it didn't explain why he'd been
buried, though. "What happened before this? Why is everyone walking
on eggshells around here, and you have those marks and it's like
Winry's some sort of enemy?"
Ed grew even more perplexed when Al shrank back and looked away.
"Can we...can we talk about this when you're a little better? When
you have your shoulder port back? Recovering is so hard and this
isn't something you should be dealing with, right now."
Something happened, and it wasn't good. But Ed relented for now,
watching with interest as Al lightly clapped his hands and made the
room smell like fresh Alchemic burn. It was the easiest way to
clean up the mess Ed made. And the elder Elric didn't look surprised
that Al could perform the transmutation without a circle. When one
saw the Gate, It changed you.
He closed his eyes and leaned forward some when Al washed his hair.
Ed was quiet for now and let the pieces to this puzzle swirl in his
head. Maybe there was something more going on than he realized.
Alphonse slept in this room with him. He automatically assumed it
had been out of habit, but now he began to wonder. The marks on his
arm, the way he would cling to Ed in his sleep. This was more than a
simple "I missed you too much to be away right now," thing. Another
thought crossed his mind. Maybe it was so that Al could feel safe.
But...if Al couldn't feel safe in the Rockbell home, where could they
call home now? Maybe it wasn't for Al's protection at all. Ed
recalled that one shout that seemed to draw him away from his
stupor. Had Al been drugged? But why? Why would they drug his
When Ed's hair had been combed smooth and braided, he endured the
excruciating trek back to his bed. No, he wasn't hungry right now.
No, nothing hurt too much. Ed craned his head and eyed his shoulder
as best as he could, suspicious of the wounds now and shuddering a
little when he thought he saw something move.
Alphonse watched him quietly, not knowing what to say. Ed seemed to
be off in his own little world and once he got into one of these
episodes, it was a little hard for him to break out of it.
"Something on your mind, Brother?"
Ed looked up and shook his head slowly. "Don't worry about it, right
now. You should get something to eat."
"I will if you will."
Al hesitated a little. He didn't want to leave Ed alone, not like
this. But his brother looked up and waved him on. "Go on,
Alphonse. I promise not to run away ." The joke was followed by a
little smirk with a glimmer of the old Ed in his eyes.
He rose up, fussing with the sheet as he made his way to the door.
"I won't be long. Promise."
"Take your time, Al. I'll just take a nap, or something." The smile
wasn't reassuring though, not like he wanted it to be. Edward
lowered his head once Al left and then leaned back into the pillows
with a soft cough. They wouldn't be able to keep the truth from him
for long. He will find out what happened. His brother had been
hurt, and to have his closest friends, those people he considered
family, do it was the worst betrayal he'd ever felt.
It was like Mom dying all over again.
Unbeta, but there was a spell check involved and a read through. This chapter was really hard, I think Ed was fighting me on this. :-p