A boy with long golden hair and eyes of the same color stopped sweeping. He looked up from the floor. Andal, slave number Nineteen, stood in the entrance to Master's laboratory. Unlike Twenty Three, Andal had had a name, because he wasn't born a slave. He was sold by his father at the age of seven to pay family debts. Twenty Three's mother was a slave, so by the law, he was one as well and his old Master didn't think a name was necessary.
It was a common practice among slave owners. Names didn't make slaves more hard working, or more obedient, or more eager to please their Masters, or less prone to fall ill and die. Which was all they cared about. Every slave was given a decent place to sleep, a set of clothes, a wash in the evening (Masters didn't like their slaves all dirty and smelly) and two good meals a day, but that was about it.
It didn't bother Twenty Three that much. He never had a name, so he couldn't miss it. He didn't need one to do his work. The teenager's ambitions weren't exactly high. He wanted to become a trusted slave in his Masters eyes, to get new privileges and less exhausting chores. Every slave wanted that.
Twenty Three looked at Andal, wondering why he was interrupting him in the middle of sweeping. He got this job a short while ago and barely got started.
"What is it, Nineteen?"
"It's Andal, dunderhead," Nineteen snarled. He never liked Twenty Three. The two could never get along and often got into fights when Master wasn't looking. "Master is calling you."
"W-why?" Twenty Three couldn't help but gulp nervously. He glanced at a bandage on his left arm. The last time Master called him, which was yesterday, he made a deep cut in his skin and collected his blood, saying he needed it for an experiment. But Master said he wouldn't be needing anymore. So why was he calling him again? The slave could only hope they weren't going to cut his other arm.
"A guest was asking about you. Master said to make yourself look presentable before you come."
Twenty Three blinked. A guest? Asking about him? What interest could anybody have about him? He was just an ordinary slave, there was nothing special about him. But he didn't question it.
Twenty Three was given a wash, a new set of clothes and even some fragrant oils. This was unusual. He couldn't remember if he ever received such treatment. Was Master's guest a rich nobleman, or perhaps the king's counselor? It would make sense. Master was a royal scientist, an alchemist, so he knew a lot of important people.
He hissed quietly when he changed the bandage. The injury wasn't deep, but it was still fresh. He hoped that Master's guest wouldn't mind it.
Finally, Twenty Three was ready and entered his Master's chamber, his eyes on the floor.
"You called me, Master?"
"Ah, Twenty Three, you're here at last."
Twenty Three dared to lift his eyes, to see who the mysterious guest was. What he saw was nothing like he had expected.
Sitting on an upholstered chair was a boy about his age, his arm and legs heedlessly crossed. He was wearing a standard Xerxesian robe, nothing fancy, one of those you can get cheap on the market. His right hand and left legs were entirely covered in bandages, not letting even a glimpse of skin show. When Twenty Three looked at him, the boy's eyes widened in recognition for a split second. The slave had no idea why. He was certain he had never seen this person.
"Great." The boy got up and shot him a slightly condescending look. Then he smirked. "You finally decided to show up."
Twenty Three felt his temper rising, but he wisely held his tongue. This boy, may have been a spoiled brat and much shorter than him, but he was Master's guest and a free man. He way, way above him.
"Are you sure you want him? I'm certain the experiment would go just as well with any other..." Master started, but the boy interrupted:
"Yeah, yeah, you told me, but I want to make sure. He looks strong enough. So, do we have a deal?"
Twenty Three was too flabbergasted at first that the boy was talking to Master with such disrespect to notice what they were talking about. Then it hit him. He was being sold… to this brat. He scowled. This was not his lucky day.
When the transaction was done, the boy folded a parchment on Master's desk and put it into his robes. "I'm eager to hear how it goes with the Homunculus, Roshan. I'll see you in a couple of days."
"I can't wait to have you here again," Master said with such admiration in his voice it dazed the slave for a moment. Just who was this kid? He spoke to Master with such ease like they were on the same level. "Your input is of utmost value. With your help, I could finish my next project in just a couple of weeks instead of whole years."
Twenty Three's new Master ginned widely.
"Well, I shall be off now. Let's go, Twenty Three."
Twenty Three followed, peering curiously. The boy, or should he think 'Master' from now on, didn't dress like a nobleman, but it didn't mean he wasn't rich. He had enough money to buy a slave, which was quite expensive. His previous Master appeared to have a lot of respect for him, so perhaps he came from the royal family? The thought exited him. Being a personal servant to a snotty brat could turn out to be a pain, but a richer Master usually meant more privileges for his slaves. Maybe this wasn't such an unlucky day after all.
They were walking along the street when Master suddenly spoke.
"So… 'Twenty Three', huh?" He was looking at him with a strange expression in his gold, piercing eyes.
The boy winced.
"Don't call me 'Master'." An angry frown creased his smooth features. "Don't you ever call me that again."
Twenty Three got nervous. Just five minutes with his new Master and he managed to make him angry already. Not a very good start.
"Forgive me, Ma-" Fortunately he caught himself before he finished the word. "-um… sir. What should I call you, sir?"
"Call me Ed." Master closed his eyes in contemplation and hummed. "'Twenty Three'… that sucks. Who do you want to be?"
Twenty Three blinked, baffled. Was Master asking him about his opinion?
"Is there a name you always wanted to have?" Master looked at him with open curiosity. There was no superiority in his attitude. This was so strange.
Twenty Three didn't know what to make of the question. "I don't have a name," he replied.
"I know that!" Master huffed impatiently. "That's why I'm asking you."
"I… I don't understand, Mas- sir."
Master groaned and covered his face with his bandaged right hand. He muttered something in a strange language.
"You really are hopeless, aren't you?" he said. Then he thought for a moment. "I guess that leaves us with one option, then. 'Van Hohenheim'. Is that good enough for you?"
Twenty Three looked at his Master with confusion.
"I asked you, do you like that name?" Master stated slowly.
Twenty Three really couldn't understand. Why was Master asking him that? Slave owners didn't do that. They didn't care if the slaves liked or didn't like things. Twenty Three supposed the wise thing to say right now was to agree and just leave it be, but he was just too confused to think normally right now. He didn't understand his Master at all.
"What?" he said stupidly.
"'Van Hohenheim', do you like the name?" There was exasperation in his voice. "Man, you are such an idiot."
The comment broke Twenty Three out of his stupor. I'm not an idiot! He thought angrily, but pressed his lips to avoid saying anything out loud. Master noticed the change in his expression.
"What?" A smirk appeared on Master's face. "Aren't you going to talk back at me, Hohenheim?"
The slave blinked twice. "That's… my name?"
"Yes!" Master stopped walking and threw his hands in the air. "I've been saying that for ten minutes now! Truth, you're so stupid it's frustrating!"
"Me? Stupid?!" The words escaped his mouth before he could stop them. Twenty Three couldn't help if he had a temper. He was just a teenager, and so was his new Master.
"Yes you!" Master poked him in the chest with a finger of his left hand. "You're slow and a complete moron!"
Twenty Three's face reddened and pushed the hand away. "Why, you little…!"
"WHO ARE YOU CALLING SO SHORT THERE AREN'T ANY CLOTHES HIS SIZE IN THE WHOLE COUNTRY?!"
The loud rant should have scared him, but it only enraged him more.
"I'm not stupid! And you're such a brat!" he shouted, then froze in fear.
He just insulted his owner face to face. Twenty Three called his Master a 'brat'. Oooh, he was so doomed. What was going to happen to him for that? Whipping? A month sleeping on the floor? Two months on bread and water only? That would be a light punishment. He should be worried about keeping his head.
But Master, to his extreme surprise and relief, smiled. This must have been the strangest, luckiest day of Twenty Three's life.
"Good job, Hohenheim."
The slave was confused to no end. "What did I do, sir?"
"You finally stopped acting like a pushover." Master explained happily. Then, his expression fell. He took a deep breath and started talking with a quiet, serious tone. "Listen. I know you've been a slave your whole life. I get that, and I'm sorry. That must have been hard." The sympathy in his voice caused Twenty Three to stare at him in shock. Was Master consoling him? After he just insulted him? "But you're a free man now. I don't want you to act like a slave anymore, alright? Just… be yourself around me. Like you were just now. And stop calling me 'sir'. I told you my name is Ed."
Twenty Three didn't respond. He was way too dumbstruck to say anything. Master just told him that he was a free man. I'm a… free… man?
"I guess you need time for this to sink in." Master – no, Ed. His name was Ed. He put his hand on Twenty Three's shoulder. "Come on, Hohenheim. You want to get some food? I'm starving."
The resumed walking. Hohenheim could do nothing but wonder if he was going to wake up any moment, because this had to be some bizarre dream…
But for some reason, he didn't want to wake up from it.
I want to continue, but it depends if people want it or not. I have a good feeling about this story, but it could be a one-shot if nobody is interested. I am not abandoning my other stories, this was just a small idea I had.
There are some good time-traveling fics out there with Trisha, but none with Hohenheim, which is a shame. I really like him as a teenager. I want to explore his character and build a friendly relationship with Ed. Edward might hate his father for leaving, but he doesn't blame a teenager who is not only not a father yet, but a slave. There are so many possibilities in this scenario.
But like I said, I need your support to continue this ;) So please follow, favorite, leave reviews, comments or questions! And thank you for reading!