Edward Elric had been dead for five minutes.

Edward Elric was completely incensed.

"I don't care how it happened, I'm not taking another step!" Ed shouted at the white figure looming before him, so bright that even the whiteness around it was gray in comparison.

"Truth," as it liked to be called, sat before the Gate, the only other discernible object in the painfully white expanse. Ed could make out no expression on its face, but Ed couldn't care less if the immortal being was pleased or annoyed.

"If I didn't know any better, I would say you didn't understand how this works," Truth said, its multi-toned voice most certainly annoyed. "When you die, Alchemist, you are dead. You don't get to stop and negotiate on the way out."

Ed thought fast, mind spinning through scenarios and possibilities. "If you weren't interested, you would have sent me on through by now. But here we are! So, what, you're bored, right? What will it take, huh? What kind of stupid game do you want me to play?" Anything. Anything to get back to Al.

"Anything?" Truth asked, a cheshire grin slowly appearing on his otherwise blank face. "Is that so?"

Truth's sudden willingness gave Ed pause. He watched the white figure, but all he could see was that unsettling smile.

Ed had learned over the years that when dealing with Truth, Truth always won. Somehow things always worked out in its favor, and Ed could either accept that and leave Alphonse behind, or defy it.

Without Al, what did he really have to lose?

"What did you have in mind?" Ed asked cautiously. He could offer up a kidney, but for some reason he didn't think a kidney quite equated a human life. He didn't have time for another automail surgery, either. Things were moving too fast, changing. This stupid side mission of Mustang's had been nothing but trouble since the beginning—a major distraction from getting Al's body back in the first place—and with the homunculus starting to act up, Ed needed to be at the top of his game.

Being in the game at all, though, would be a good start.

"How about a friendly wager?"

Ed narrowed his eyes, because nothing Truth ever did was 'friendly.' "Like what?"

"How about I give you one week to solve your own murder? If you do, then you get to live again. If you cannot find your murderer in that time, then I get of yours whatever I want."

Ed didn't have too much recollection of the actual event. "I was murdered?"

Truth offered a half shrug. "It's a simple bullet wound to the neck. You died from blood loss. It's nothing a few blood transfusions wouldn't fix. With immediate aide, you might have lived."

So all this from a lousy bullet? And if Alphonse had been allowed to be there with him, Ed might not be in this mess in the first place?

Ed was going to kill Mustang.

"And all I have to do is find who pulled the trigger?" That sounded much too easy. 'Easy' wasn't Truth's style.

"That will be harder than you think," Truth informed.

That did make a fair amount of sense. Things always were. "So I have to go find my killer. How does this work? Do I get my body back?"

Truth made an irritated noise in the back of its throat. If Truth even had a throat. "Your questions are starting to bore me, Alchemist."

"Hey, I'm going to be making an informed decision here! What happens to my body?"

"Your body is unavailable at the moment. You'll get it back when you complete your objective. In the mean time, you will get along just fine without it."

Ed grunted. "That sounds like load of crap. What does that even mean?"

"You are a self-proclaimed genius, Alchemist. I trust you can figure it out."

Ed would be getting no more answers on that front, then. "And what will you be helping yourself to if I don't make it in the time limit?"

At this, Truth's grin returned full-force. "I haven't decided yet."

Ed tried and failed to suppress a shudder. "Two weeks."

Truth's smile evaporated. "One."

"Ten days."

"One week, and not a minute more. Remember, Alchemist, I don't need to bargain. I can easily just force your soul through the Gate and move on with my day."

"And what fun would that be?" Ed muttered under his breath.

"Do we have a deal, Alchemist?"

Ed didn't like Truth's eager tone of voice. But what choice did he have? If he died, he would be breaking his promise to Alphonse. He had to get Al's body back. There was no way he could leave him like that.

He had to try. He owed Al at least that much.

"Answer one more question," Ed said, crossing a flesh-and-blood arm over the metal one. "Why? What do you get out of this, besides whatever body parts you're going to harvest if I don't make it?"

Truth smiled again. "To put it simply, the world is not ready to part ways with Edward Elric just yet. There is more yet for you to do, and if you are diligent, you'll have more than one week to accomplish it in."

Ed frowned. "You're being awfully unspecific, Truth."

"Answers are for those who have sought first."

"What kind of poetic nonsense is that?!" Ed demanded.

"A final warning: you will not find yourself in the world mere minutes after your death. It date is now the twenty-first of April."

"Three months?! I've been dead for three months?!"

"Your body is safe, but only for one week. Good luck, Alchemist."

That smile was the last thing he saw before the white dissolved into black and he was no longer standing in front of the Gate, but in a vacant field. It was dark, the sky above black and heavy with threatening clouds. Lightening briefly illuminated the surrounding forest, trees lighting up like dozens of pale skeletons before darkness once again consumed them.

The light had lasted just long enough for him to get a look at the green grass beneath his slightly transparent body.


"Well," Ed said to the dark sky. "This is going to suck."

Well, well, well. Look who couldn't stay away from the fandom for too long xD

I just love FMA. I cannot keep out.

So, I've been re-reading the Dresden Files (ermygosh, favorite book series ever), and I'm pretty sure Jim Butcher has had heavy influence on my writing style over the years. Anyway, I was reading Ghost Story and this idea came to me. So expect some influence from that particular novel.

I'm making absolutely no predictions on my updating schedule. I rarely keep them anyway :'D I have four unfinished FMA fan fics on my computer, but this is the one that's holding my muse right now. Hopefully I can wrap the others up and let them see the light of day sometime this year lol.

Please drop a review if you have the time :) See you in chapter one!

God Bless,