Hello dear readers! I've been gone for a while now, but I had my reasons. Head over to Tumblr to read all about it. So this is a new story I submitted for this year's FMA Big Bang (#fmabb17). The talented Dzioo created the art for it and the amazing Bayalexison, my beta, is helping me iron out the wrinkles in the story. They are both amazing people that you can find in Tumblr and/or AO3. All related artwork will be posted on Tumblr and AO3 under hirstories and le_confidant, respectively. You can find specific tags for this story on AO3.
Abraca—switch! Or The Tale of Edward Elric vs. the Mischievous Body-Snatcher
"Cano—" The folds piling up on the man's forehead smoothed when he gave out a long, tired sigh. "¡Que mucho tu jodes!" he added, hitting one of his knees for added emphasis.
Edward raised an eyebrow, somewhat surprised by the man's actions. He'd been warned beforehand by the people of Little Big Canyon that this man wasn't pleasant, that he sometimes was downright vicious. Good thing he spent a month learning the local language as best as he could so he would be prepared for situations like this one.
Edward kept his gaze fixed on the shriveled figure sitting cross-legged a few feet away from him.
During that moment suspended in time, Edward translated in his head what he just heard. Cano meant blondie an expression he has come to hate ever since he set foot in the Far West. And the rest...Edward paused. Did the old fart had the gall to call him a pest?
At that moment, the man snapped his fingers; Edward couldn't help but glare back at him. And of course, his glare bounced off the man like an alchemical rebound. If it wasn't for the dark void of the man's eyes, Edward would think he was facing the Ice Queen herself. He shook that disturbing image from his head then went back to the purpose of his visit.
"Don Paco," Edward began, this time his tone matched his growing irritation. "¿Me va a ayudar o no?"
The man didn't respond to his plea for help—no surprise there. The man kept staring down at him, eyes unblinking.
Edward did his best to keep his calm but that shriveled, old prune was testing the limit of his patience...and his courteousness. He flashed Don Paco a tight smile in hopes to elicit a reaction—any reaction—from him but the bastard remained as unmoved as before. Edward straightened his posture and squared his shoulders. His amber eyes narrowed ever so slightly wondering if there was something wrong with this man other than having a nasty attitude.
Right then, Don Paco's cold expression morphed as if he'd read his thoughts. The wrinkles on his face—especially his crow's feet—cut his toasted face the same way the canyons in the surrounding area cut the slick rock.
Edward caught a flash of gold amongst the man's gnarly teeth as Don Paco placed his hands on his knobby knees.
A thunderous cackle ripped through the arid air, a sound so disturbing, that made Edward regret wanting a response from Don Paco—even seeking him in the first place. But Edward had to make this detour.
The first time Edward first heard of Don Paco was when he reached the first outpost in East Creta. The locals there told him of a tribe in the Far West where all sorts of miracles happened. As he traveled deeper into Creta, those tales began taking more shape. Apparently, miracles did happen when Don Paco was involved and many folks braved the badlands for a shot at salvation. Of course, when he later found out, mercenaries made a decent living by helping these people cross the unforgiving terrain.
There was a moment during his impromptu investigation when he decided that Don Paco sounded like a tribal version of Doctor Marcoh—maybe even Father Cornello.
In El Paso, the gateway to the Far West, Edward had a fascinating conversation with the local bartender. The bear-of-a-man referred to Don Paco as something more than a healer—he was a sorcerer. When Edward kept asking the bartender for more details, the bartender left his station and went into the back room. When he returned, the bartender showed Edward a photograph. To Edward, the photograph looked a typical family portrait, except for one huge detail. The bartender was sitting in a wheelchair, his atrophied legs struggling to stay put in the foot rests. Before Edward had a chance to ask how he got cured, the bartender told him that Don Paco used some type of red stone on him.
The snapping of fingers brought Edward back to the present.
"Wandering can get you into trouble around this parts," Don Paco said with a mocking smile.
Edward glared like he did the first time the old man snapped his fingers at him. Just when he was coming up with some colorful words in the man's native language, Don Paco continued speaking.
"Not everyone that comes to see me can be helped," he said, then inched forward to peer into Edward's eyes.
"What peculiar eye color you have—like a cat." After a short pause, he said, "Give me your hand."
Don Paco offered his open palm when Edward didn't do as he commanded.
Edward's eyes settled on the withered hand before looking at Don Paco's equally withered face. He gave the man a smart smile while thinking about his next move. Edward wasn't a State Alchemist anymore, nor he was an actual alchemist for that matter, but he wasn't going to give a free pass to a man he suspected of having a Philosopher's Stone in his possession, at least not before making sure the stone wasn't being used for evil deeds.
And that's how Edward humored Don Paco by going along with whatever he indented to do with his hand.
Long, spindly fingers connected by knobby knuckles encircled Edward's hand like a daddy-long-legs that's ready to attack an enemy.
Don Paco focused all of his attention on Edward's palm. After a few long minutes of quiet contemplation, Don Paco made a gurgling sound in his throat and spat on it.
"What the fuck!" Edward cried out. He even tried to pull his hand away but the man tightened the grip on it.
Don Paco looked up for a second, and said, "Patience."
Edward grunted in response. He was close to losing it when Don Paco began moving the spit around. Just when Edward was getting ready to sock the man, Don Paco's face went blank.
"There's a child inside a white void. He—no, 'It'—says it is the all encompassing Truth but he's no more than a Trickster."
Edward remained still, his eyes widening in both shock and awe.
"A life stained red by sin," Don Paco continued, "You—that is, your younger self—wanted to seek atonement, so you danced with demons in order to 'regain what was lost'." He moved the spit some more. "You were ready for anything—you were ready to surrender your own life if it would 'balance the equation'...for Al." Don Paco cleared his throat then smacked his dry lips together. "A blood sacrifice wasn't needed. You made a deal with the child that was now a young man. The Trickster was amused by your offer and took your gift without a second thought. He fooled you."
Edward narrowed his eyes at Don Paco. That man in the middle of nowhere was well-informed. But there was no way he could know about his personal struggles unless he has ties with the Cretan military, and even if that was the case, he doubted they would give this crazy, old man detailed intel on him in the first place.
Edward tried to free his hand again and break whatever the hell this man was doing to it (to him) but Don Paco wasn't budging.
Don Paco set his hard gaze on one spot in Edward's palm. With his index finger, he traced the line that curved towards his heart and index fingers.
A smile broke the man's contemplation; his ebony eyes met Edward's. "Your girl...she's quite the looker."
Edward scowled even deeper.
Don Paco continued reading his palm. His intense gaze was gone, replaced by a lewd grin.
Dirty old man! "Hey!" Edward snapped and yanked at his hand, but the fucker was stronger than he looked.
If Don Paco didn't let go of his hand soon, he was going to end up in a world of hurt. At the count of three, Edward curled his left hand into a fist. Just as he swung, Don Paco let go of his hand. The sudden shift in momentum made Edward lose balance, he had to use both hands so he wouldn't fall face forward.
"You've lived quite an interesting life, cano," Don Paco said as he confronted Edward's anger. "You're no ordinary human, that's for sure," he mused.
Tilting his head to the right, he mumbled, "Interesting indeed."
Edward didn't pay attention to the man's words, he was too busy cleaning old man spit and dirt from his hands with his handkerchief. He put the dirty handkerchief back in one of his pant pockets then stood up. He wiped the dust from his pants then leaned to pick up the hat he'd purchased in a Cretan outpost some odd weeks ago. The hat itself was an atrocity but it had wide wings that protected his face from the harsh sun.
Only after he put the hat on was when Edward returned his attention to Don Paco.
"Well, that was certainly creepy...and disgusting." His forehead crinkled as he thought of the strange experience. He glanced over his shoulder to locate his horse, who at the moment was enjoying the shade of the only large tree in the surrounding area. "I better get going," he said when he turned to Don Paco.
Edward leaned over to pick up his suitcase. He then did a one-eighty and walked away.
Red stone be damned.
The first thing he was going to do when he returned to town was to make a quick phone call to Central Command. Colonel Bastard should know that there might be a Philosopher's Stone in the Far West—
"I thought you wanted my help!"
Edward stopped, rolled his eyes, and let out an annoyed sigh.
"I'm no longer interested," he said, then continued walking.
"Weren't you listening to what I was saying, pendejo?" Don Paco yelled. "I can help you with your alchemy. That is what you're ultimately seeking, isn't it?"
Edward kept walking to his horse.
"I know you crave it!" Don Paco added, "That titillating feeling coursing through your body as you connect with the Most Sacred Energy." His face twisted into a cheeky grin before he let out a loud cackle. "It's better than una paja, right?"
Even though Edward wouldn't go as far as to compare the energetic surge to jacking off, he couldn't deny that Don Paco was right in his assessment of its mechanics.
"You're not interested in my offer, not even in the least?" Don Paco insisted when he didn't receive an immediate answer to his question.
What the hell is his problem? Edward waved a hand and said, "Not at all!"
He kept walking.
"I don't believe you."
Edward stopped abruptly and turned around. "Weren't you listening, asshole? I said I'm not interested," he spat.
An even bigger smile slithered across Don Paco's face. "Is that what you're going to tell your brother and your girlfriend when you return home?"
Edward blew off right then and there. "You leave them out of it!"
In his rage, he didn't see Don Paco's eyes narrowing in satisfaction.
"Have they ever told you how they feel about you losing your alchemy?" Don Paco said, his words punching past Edward's offense as if it was made out of paper. "Are you that dense that you can't see the guilt your brother carries every day because he knows you surrendered your alchemy, your sense of Self"—he punctuated—"for his sake?"
Edward dropped his suitcase, the heavy luggage raising a soft cloud of dust all around him when it hit the ground.
He then pointed an angry finger at Don Paco before cutting the man off. "I'm warning you—!"
"And what a terrible boyfriend you turned out to be!" Don Paco said, feigning dismay while at the same time retaking control of the conversation. "That hot babe of yours is hurting on the inside because she knows you haven't really returned to her side"—he shook his head in disappointment—"she's afraid that your loss of alchemy will always get in the way of your relationship."
"Shut your trap, old man! You know nothing about them!" Edward snarled.
Don Paco was talking shit. Both Alphonse and Winry understood his choice—his sacrifice!
But Edward went silent when an unsettling thought caught his attention.
Alphonse persistence of traveling separately so they could cover more ground and learn more about alchemy. And Winry's insistence for him to get on the train—
"Not only I can tap into your consciousness, cano, I can also tap into the energetic imprint of everyone that's interconnected with you," Don Paco said, picking up where he left off. "Look, I already said that I'm willing to help you with your problem, and believe me muchacho, that is considered an honor around these parts."
Don Paco's words brought Edward back to the moment; his face darkened.
"Let me guess, next you're going to tell me that you're going to perform a miracle?" he scoffed. "The Philosopher's Stone can't restore the ability to use alchemy." His words were dripping cynicism but he didn't care. That old bastard had overstepped his bounds a long time ago.
Don Paco blinked like an owl. Moments later, a low rumble started in his chest that exploded into a full fit of laughter. "Cano"—he waved his index finger in playful reproach—"You're even sharper than I gave you credit for. I'm liking you even more than I already do."
After a minute or so, Don Paco's amusement dwindled, and after wiping off some mirthful tears, he said, "No stone, cano, only magia, magick—and that is magick with a 'c' and a k'—not its bastardized form." A pause. "If you accept my help, I will be using on you a type of ancient art form the likes you've never seen in your life."
Edward opened his mouth to object, but closed it. For some odd reason that went beyond all logic, that old prune piqued his interest.
Don Paco stood up and approached Edward. "I don't blame you for not trusting me, cano." He looked at Edward from top to bottom. Amused, he added, "I would be doing the same if I were in your shoes."
Edward's brow tensed. The way that old man talked and moved reminded him of a snake that had encircled its prey.
"There's no point in hiding it from you," Don Paco said when he saw he was losing Edward's interest.
He buried one hand in his shirt and pulled out a long silver chain. At the end of the chain hung a silver skull and in its jaw, glistened a red stone. "When magick fails—and that doesn't happen often, I must add—then I use the Sanguine Star to accomplish what I started, which is to help people in need."
Don Paco looked the Philosopher's Stone for a brief moment then turned his gaze upon Edward.
"Like you, I know what this is made out of," he continued. "This stone contains the souls of the People of the West." His gaze became lost for a second. "It was handed to me by a Cretan deserter who was against the genocide of our people."
Edward remained silent. He couldn't help but think about the similitudes between Ishval and these People of the West. One thing was for sure, the Philosopher's Stone always leaves heartbreak and misery behind.
"The Being living on the other side of the Gate isn't God."
Don Paco's comment snapped Edward back into awareness; Don Paco noticed this and smiled.
"Don't get me wrong," he said, then added, "'It'—Truth, as you better know it—possess immense power, but this Being isn't the Creator. This Being controls a power similar to magick to 'pass judgment' upon us mortals, and we let it this Being abuse us simply because we don't know any better."
Edward gave the old man an incredulous look.
"Tell me, cano, why would God pass judgment on us lowly humans?" Don Paco rushed to ask.
Edward raised an eyebrow. The old man was certainly pushy, and he also knew how to ask the right questions. Don Paco kind of reminded him of Rose when they first met in Liore. She also asked him questions. Should he amuse himself at this man's expense like he did with poor Rose all those years ago?
"I don't know." He wanted to hear what the old kook had to say about the subject.
Don Paco grinned. "The answer is: he doesn't."
Edward suppressed a snicker.
Don Paco went on to say, "All religions preach that God is perfection, so it's safe to assume that God's creation is also perfection. Wouldn't 'passing judgment' contradict all this?"
Don Paco's words struck a chord. He's thought among similar lines especially after Truth took his stupid Commanding Officer's sight even though he wasn't at fault for performing a human transmutation. Truth—God, Goddess, Creator—shouldn't have taken anything from Mustang, yet it did.
"I see that my words had an effect on you."
Edward returned his attention to Don Paco. He pressed his lips into a thin line and paused before saying, "In my final transmutation, I exchanged my Gate of Truth for my younger brother's mind, body, and soul. Tell me how the fuck can you cancel this exchange without using the stone?"
Don Paco shook his head. "Well, that was stupid," he tsked.
Edward curled his upper lip. "You know what? Go to hell!" he turned around and continued walking. "That's what I get for listening to crazy people," he mumbled as he moved along.
"I'm sorry if I offended you!" Don Paco said. "I'm a hermit, cano, that doesn't help with social skills."
But Edward couldn't care less.
"To tell you the truth, even my fellow tribesmen can't stand me," Don Paco admitted. And when Edward didn't stop, he added, "To answer your question, I'll be conjuring a gateway between the physical realm and the White Void then I'll astral travel to the White Void and persuade Truth to give you back your Gate of Truth."
Edward slowed his pace until he came to a full stop. He gave out a tired sigh before turning around. "And that's it?" Maybe it was the relentless sun, maybe he had enough of Don Paco's bullshit, or maybe it was a combination of the two, but he couldn't stop himself from being bitterly sarcastic.
Instead of being offended, Don Paco offered Edward a sympathetic smile.
"Cano, you always had your God-given gift within you. In its natural state, it was active but now is dormant. The connection will be restored once I speak with Truth." He waited a few seconds to see if Edward would walk away. When Edward didn't, he added, "I'll tell you something. It takes me one day to make the preparations for the Transcendence Ritual. The passage to other realms is the strongest at midnight. If you're feeling lucky, and want to gamble with fate, then be here tomorrow at least one hour before the clock strikes midnight."
Edward simply stared. After a brief pause, he turned around and left without saying a word.
This is quite different from what I usually write. There's words in Spanish and there will be Japanese honorifics too. There's canon pairings, but this story is pretty much GEN. Would love to hear what you think, so please R&R!
Chapter 2 should be posted in about a week. n_n