He Who Searches For Himself
"We told Al for a while that Ed was in Central, but we eventually told him what happened; you know the rest (sorry about crying on the phone). Al was really upset with us; I would have been too. I think we lived in denial that Ed would go that far; and we didn't want to admit anything to Al since we couldn't accept it ourselves. Admitting that Ed had died felt sort of like admitting Al wasn't human for all those years. If Al at least thought Ed was alive, things were somehow better."
"We told Al for a while that Ed was in Central, but we eventually told him what happened; you know the rest (sorry about crying on the phone). Al was really upset with us; I would have been too. I think we lived in denial that Ed would go that far; and we didn't want to admit anything to Al since we couldn't accept it ourselves. Admitting that Ed had died felt sort of like admitting Al wasn't human for all those years. If Al at least thought Ed was alive, things were somehow better."
Chapter 58 – Violation of Soul
Hohenheim's eyes glanced up from his paperwork; it was odd at quarter after ten to have anyone knock on his office door. Pausing, he wondering if he'd been hearing things, perhaps it was meant for someone else in the hall. But when the second knock came, he called out.
Curiously, the door did not open right away. Calling out the statement again while putting the dip pen into its holster, Hohenheim watched the door open and a pair of blue eyes poke into the room.
"I think I have the wrong room," the young lady stood half way beyond the door, her overall style blue and green plaid dress and white blouse catching the puzzled attention of Hohenheim. With more of an amused curiosity than anything else, he decided to entertain his guest.
"Who were you looking for young lady, perhaps I can point you in the right direction," he folded his arms on the desk, relaxing for the moment.
Stepping into the room a little farther, Hohenheim eyed the oversized black shoulder bag weighing her left shoulder down. The tentative voice replied, "Edward Elric, sir. I was told I could find him here."
Hohenheim raised his brow, "Were you? And who told you this?"
"He did himself, sir," the eyes glanced around the room; it became obvious her curiosity was getting the better of her.
Hohenheim muttered something under his breath about his son's attempt to overrun his office before addressing the girl once more, "Well unfortunately you won't find him here today. Perhaps I can pass along a message?"
As if the question never existed, the girl's attention returned to focusing on Hohenheim, "Who are you anyways?"
Stuck between being impressed by her straightforward nature, and unimpressed with her abrupt line of speech, Hohenheim replied cautiously, "I'm Edward's Father."
"Are you!" the girl's expression lifted and her eyes grew bright, "that's a relief, I was worried I'd stumbled somewhere completely off track."
Hohenheim leaned back in his chair; an obvious look of confusion over the whole situation grew on his face. The expression was pushed aside as the girl approached his desk, offering her hand to shake.
"My name's Brigitte Schittenhelm, I'm a friend of your son's."
The only two things Hohenheim could think of were: 'since when?' and 'shouldn't you be in school?' Neither option graced his lips as he shook the delicate hand, "It's a pleasure to meet you Brigitte. I'm sorry you came all the way out here to find he wasn't around."
With the confidence of someone who seemed to know all, she gave a shrug and smiled back at him sweetly, "Oh I have a good idea where he is today. I was just hoping to catch him before he left, that's all."
"Really?" Hohenheim figured the opportunity was as good as any to find out where his son had vanished to this morning, since neither of them had said so much as 'hello' to each other since Friday night, "and where do you think you'll find him today?"
"Emelka," she gave a firm nod, "he went looking for someone."
Hohenheim's hand came slowly to his chin as he leaned forward in the desk, "Who is he looking for?"
With her sudden display of confidence, Brigitte folded her arms, "One of the owners, Robert Reinert. Nice man, kind of weird, but he's nice enough."
As she spoke, Hohenheim interlaced his fingers and his elbows came to rest on the desk. The look in his eyes distanced himself from the room while the pleasant demeanour he'd entertained Brigitte with washed away. Upon addressing him once more, Hohenheim refocused.
The elder man turned her way, "Yes?"
Narrowing an eye at him, Brigitte made it known by her expression that she'd caught some of the look on Hohenheim's face moments earlier. Though she'd unknowingly misinterpreted it, Brigitte questioned him anyways, "Are you mad at Edward?"
Hohenheim raised an eyebrow to her question, "Why do you ask?"
"I think he thinks you are. Well, actually, I know he thinks you are," clasping her hands behind her back she rocked on her toes, "he told me so."
It took a moment for Hohenheim to think over her comment before slowly sitting back in his chair, "Oh…" a bemused look crossed his face, "Does he really? Good. He can think that I'm mad at him all he likes, it'll be a nice change." Hohenheim's reaction shifted as he noticed the troubled look on the young lady's face, "Don't worry Brigitte, I know why he thinks I'm upset with him."
"You're not mad at him then?"
"I'm unimpressed with him," Hohenheim shook his head, the amused look still lingering in his eyes, "how on earth do you know Edward?"
Brigitte patted the hefty bag on her shoulders proudly, "He helped me develop my pictures!"
"… He knows how to develop pictures?" his face perplexed by the statement.
The young lady nodded her head with enthusiasm, "He does now."
Taking his pen again from the holster, Hohenheim tapped it on the edge of the desk; his head shook slightly, running the statement over in his head a few times, "Okay." He gave a light laugh before looking to Brigitte once more, a lingering thought hanging over him, "Dear, shouldn't you be in school?"
"No, it's lunch hour," she smiled at him sweetly and remaining unfazed as she watched the man give a doubting eye at the clock, "but lunch is over right away, so I should get going."
Giving a slow nod of cautious approval, Hohenheim told Brigitte to be on her way before she became 'late' for something. Even before his door had been shut, the telephone rang.
From the back seat of the car he rode in, Al's eyes kept a daydreaming look on the photograph sitting in his lap. His mind creating a life for each of the five faces captured within that moment of time, including his own. Al's fingers had never touched the glossy surface; he constantly handled it with precision at its edges. He stored it in the inside pocket of the blue windbreaker Mitchell had given him, so it would never fall out. His eyes glanced out the window, noting the building where parliament gathered regularly; what was once Central Headquarters had been divided between politics and military.
Upon the man's approach to the now idle car, Al tucked the photograph away in the envelope, slid it back into his coat and did the zipper half way. The door on his opposite side opened up as the Prime Minister entered; his breathing sounding exhausted as he came to rest in the seat.
"I swear, I literally had to run away from those beasts. What time is it?"
"Quarter after five, sir," announced the car driver.
With the firm wave of his hand Mitchell barked, "Well don't just sit here, get going!"
Al watched the tired man from the corner of his eyes. Mitchell slouched in his seat; hand over his face, trying to subdue his apparent frustration and exhaustion. Al turned to look out the window silently once again, though his interest elsewhere was soon interrupted.
"Alphonse?" Mitchell spoke to gain the young man's attention, "removing stitches does not hurt. Don't look so forlorn." Al grinned sheepishly at the misinterpretation of the look on his face; it was not what he'd been concerning himself with. The night before, Mitchell had encouraged Al to join them at the hospital to have his final few stitches removed and be checked up on once more. Mitchell believed it would be far more efficient to have Al join him while he saw his wife in the hospital; the doctors would be on hand to properly concern themselves with Alphonse – rather than calling them out to his estate.
"Thank you for helping me set up a room for our new child yesterday," Mitchell tried his best to distract Al from whatever he was concerning himself with; obvious it was making him apprehensive and nervous, "I wasn't sure if the papers I'll be signing today will allow me to take her home right away or not, but at least the room will be ready when she does arrive. It will be good for her to have someone younger in the house to talk with. A house full of stiff adults and a baby is somewhat daunting."
Al gave a nervous laugh at the statement, "I've done alright."
Mitchell narrowed his eyes at him with a playful tease, "Yes, but I don't think she'll sit there all day reading my alchemy books so intently like you did."
Continuing his sheepish grin, Al momentarily thought of all the knowledge he'd begun to acquire in the last day; far more than he'd anticipated with Izumi since she believed in training the body along with the mind. Al turned his attention forward once again; his hands firmly in his lap, summoning courage.
"My wife wants to meet you too," Mitchell's voice caught Alphonse's ear once more, "I've talked to her about you a few times, she's very interested in knowing about you and your Mother."
Al glanced away at the thought of Izumi; an ever present puzzle in his mind. To keep himself from being a complete ball of misery for the entire car ride, he stepped into the conversation, "Is your wife still doing alright?"
It was that comment that brought a sombre look into Mitchell's eyes; he brushed his hair away, "The emergency from the other night; as much as she tries, my wife cannot stop the deterioration of her legs. It's been causing her a great deal of pain lately. I tried to convince her that amputation will stop the spread of the disease and ease her pain, but she's been so very stubborn about the whole ordeal. She says she'll to stand on two feet again. I'm not sure if that's a trait I should slap her for, or applaud her for."
Al watched Mitchell's expression, a tired look in his eyes as the man spoke of his wife; the experience seemed exhausting for him. Al couldn't imagine what his wife was going through, what the couple were going through; his Mother had been far better able to hide the pain of the disease she died of. Al momentarily entertained what it would feel like to sit by someone you cared for and watch them suffer for a great length of time. Again, his only reference point was to place himself at his Mother's bedside. The train of thought ended there, he could not bring himself to think of her suffering any longer than he'd already witnessed.
"She sounds like a strong lady. I'm sure she'll be alright," Al's soft gaze fell into his lap, "then you can have your family just as you want it to become."
Mitchell reached over and ruffled Alphonse's hair, "Don't concern yourself over my family, you have your own to worry about. I'm sorry I dumped that on you."
Al's eyes looked up at the statement; he sank in the seat of the car, "Mr. Mitchell?"
Slowly taking his hand away from Al, the man's eyes grew concerned again by Al's tentative voice, "Yes?"
"I accidentally left with something from the Hughes residence when we were there. Would I be able to go back sometime so I can return it?"
"You're an honest young man," Mitchell watched with a smile as Al glanced out the window at the comment, "if we have time tonight we'll do it. If not, there's an entire day tomorrow."
With a nod of his head, Al kept his eyes gazing out the window. He felt as though he should take a cue from Mitchell's wife. It was about time he stood on his own two feet again.
"I think people would have taken him more seriously if he'd said he'd been abducted by aliens."
Ed raised his eyebrows at the comment, slouching in the reception lounge chair; a place he'd been for the last four hours, "It was that bad?"
Not more than half an hour ago, this younger, much more bubbly woman, had come to send the previous receptionist home. At least this person talked to Edward, which was a far cry better than anyone else in the building had done for him, "Oh God, he had the priests suckered right into the whole thing. They were afraid the devil himself would surface into Reinert and we'd all fall into hell."
Momentarily Edward wished he could quip, 'you mean we're not there already?' He simply shook his head at that, "The priests should have shown a little more caution before encouraging something abstract like that."
The young receptionist shrugged, "Apparently he told those priests some things he refused to tell anyone else. It scared them half to death," she twirled the pencil in her finger, "but until I hear for myself what he said to them, it's all fishy."
Ed gave a slight nod to her comments, "Defiantly fishy," it was then the mental debate began to determine how badly he wanted to pose the next question; Ed finally raised his voice, "whatever became of Reinert's relationship with those priests? Does he still see them?"
"It was so tragic!" Ed was slightly taken aback by the woman's exuberance, "when the flu came through around the end of the war, it wiped out that whole church! The priests went to help in the hospitals cope with all the people, and got sick themselves."
No matter how much he tried to understand it, he could never fully comprehend how much disease this world had. Even more astonishing was how slow medical technology was to keeping up. It never ceased to amaze Edward about how right his Father was, this world was simply full of death. Rolling his eyes in disgust, he turned his focus back to the puzzling oddity that was becoming Robert Reinert.
Their conversation was halted by a convoy of men and women emerging from beyond the doors Edward had not been permitted to enter. He watched as they began to say their good byes to each other. From the corner of his eye he caught the receptionist stand up from her desk and move to mingle within the crowd. Returning to slouching in the chair, Ed stared blankly across the room; wondering how much longer he'd be able to survive before falling asleep where he sat.
Ed turned his head up to the receptionist, unable to wipe the bored look from his face.
"You wanted to speak to Mr. Reinert?" The woman motioned to the man on her right.
Startled by the announcement, Ed scrambled to his feet. He looked to a tall, heavier set man, sleek dark black hair, with a curling black moustache, "Good to finally meet you, Mr. Reinert," Ed offered a light bow as opposed to a hand shake.
Reinert smirked at Ed's odd gesture, "Like wise, Mr. Elric it was?" Ed gave an affirmative nod. "I can't say as I can recall your name, young man? Are you someone's apprentice?"
"Apprentice?" Ed shifted his posture, confused by the question.
"Yes," Reinert gave a firm nod at the statement, "you're a journalist, are you not?"
Ed slowly shook his head, "I'm not."
Folding his arms, a disgusted and unimpressed look spread across Reinert's face, "Why are you wasting my time then?"
Edward quickly searched for something to appease the man, "I'm a fan of your work…"
Still obviously unimpressed by Edward's motives, Reinert's expression lifted slightly, "What can I do for you, I haven't much time left in the break."
"I wanted to discuss your work on the Homunculus features you created," Ed began to explain, though his original questions somewhat modified by the awkward experiences the secretary had divulged to him, "I'm interested in the background work and information you uncovered to develop the character. What sort of resources you ha-"
"Bugger off little boy," Reinert dismissed his presence.
"Little?" a vein in Ed's forehead was about to snap.
Turning away from Ed, Reinert gave a wave of his hand in an attempt to cease acknowledgement of Edward's existence, "I don't have time to deal with people like you. I have nothing to do with that film any longer."
"No wait, really, I'm here with some serious reasons and interest," Edward began to peruse the man walking back into the sanctuary of his studio, "just hear me out!"
The darkened expression upon Reinert's face startled Ed as the man turned around, "If you don't leave, I'll have security remove you."
Tightening his jaw in frustration, Edward tried to remain diplomatic in his conduct to further his quest, "Isn't there something I can offer you in exchange for twenty minutes of your time on this? Some sort of equivalent trade?"
Instantly taken aback by the man's startled and wide-eyed reaction to his comments, Ed took a step back. He watched as a sudden fear briefly ran across the man's eyes; the two stood motionless within the room. Ed tried to pin point what he'd said to startle the man like this.
"Get out," Reinert's cold voice rang out finally, "get out now, because I'm calling security."
Ed's left fist clenched shut as the urge to bark at the man grew stronger, he debated on his next actions; should he back down like this…
"Maybe if I see you on my way out tonight, we can talk," the comment caught Ed's attention, "Until then, get out of my building."
"Look, it's just a simple bit of information. It can't hurt to just say yes or no because I know he was here," Winry leaned over the reception desk to the young man in hospital scrubs sitting in the chair.
"And you look, for the hundredth and final time I will tell you that unless you have a police badge, military uniform or signed government documentation saying you are so and so and you have such and such authorization to this and that…" Winry wondered how far she could jam a wrench down his throat, "…I cannot and will not disclose any patient information to you," the man with curly blonde hair folded his arms on the desk; leaning forward into her face. A lightning bolt of aggravation existed between their two annoyed expressions.
"Drop me a hint then! A clue! Something," Winry's voice challenged as she wrinkled her face in frustration, "this is important, and you're not understanding that! Is there nothing I can do to get you to give me a hint!"
A sly smirk crossed the man's face, as his hand reached out and started to pull down the zipper on the front of Winry's jacket, "sure there is…" Without ever seeing it coming, Winry's rectangular shoulder bag of tools left a permanent impression in the side of his face. She marched off down the hall, never looking back to see the man twitch on the ground.
"Disgusting waste of space," Winry folded her arms across her chest as she powered down the hall, her eye twitching as she moved, "my body's a temple, how could he think I'd be easy like that." Abruptly turning the corner, she marched down the hall to another wing of the hospital. No one interrupted her as she stormed through the halls, slowly growing more irate at everyone's refusal to give her information. She had to eventually find someone who was out of the loop. The staff's suggestions of 'the police' or 'the military's information's department' for help would have gone over better if she hadn't quickly discovered she was a wanted person the night before. Never the less, come hell or high water, she wasn't leaving until she found Al or some information about him. Putting her hands firmly out in front of herself, Winry burst through a pair of swinging double doors… and stopped dead in her tracks.
It was only the backs of their heads but Winry instantly became alarmed. Both Breda and Falman stood with two members of hospital security; she was not close enough to hear the conversation that kept them distracted. Their presence froze her so abruptly she wasted several seconds standing in the hall before slowly stepping backwards. Not letting the heels of her shoes click on the ground, Winry backed out of the swinging doors without a sound. The moment the door shut to conceal her presence, Winry spun on her toes and took off down the hall. The running could not raise her heart rate any higher than it had gotten in the last few seconds.
"Would you like me to park the car and wait, Sir?" the driver called out as Al shut his door.
"No that's fine, use the time to your leisure; just make sure you're back in an hour," Mitchell stood next to Alphonse, two assigned security guards graced their sides upon arrival. As the car sped off, Al walked inside with the Prime Minister, the boy's hands in his jean pockets. Glancing up, Al caught the looks in the officers eyes; they seemed disinterested in taking part in escort duty. It had been Mitchell who had requested their security services earlier in the day.
Stepping into the somewhat crowded early-evening reception area; it became apparent that every staff member had been informed of the man's impending arrival. Everyone smiled and greeted him, as if scripted by some greater authority. Frowning, Al wondered how many of these people actually approved of Mitchell's presence.
"Your wife is actually up on the third floor Mister Prime Minister, she requested a more private venue and we had a space available for her. She was quite energetic around noon today, very excited for you to meet her young guest," came the words of a man who'd made his presence as a senior doctor of the facility obvious.
"Are they both there?" Mitchell's excited tone caused Al's lips to curl in amusement.
The doctors nodded affirmatively, "The young lady's been quite shy, though. She's sat quietly with your wife for a while now. Your Misses seems to enjoy brushing the long lengths of hair the child has."
Turning to Alphonse, any unpleasant mood he'd been carrying had washed away; Mitchell put his hands on Al's shoulders, "When you're done, the doctors will bring you back up to me on the third floor."
Al gave an affirmative nod as a doctor lead him in one direction while the rest of the congregation headed in the opposite way. Looking up to the doctor, the man's hair was sleeked back, his white coat floating out behind his scrubs. Al watched as he examined his clipboard, "You have a few stitches still at your shoulder, on your hip, and just behind your ear," the man looked down at him, "right?"
Nodding silently, Al felt somewhat relaxed by the man's casual demeanour; the pair turned the corner.
Before ever realizing he'd left his feet, Al found himself flat on his back upon the ground, the doctor next to him. Bringing his hand to his head, Al listened as the doctor's voice barked out, "What the hell are you doing running in the hospital!"
"Sir, I am SO sorry, I didn't realize anyone was-"
"Winry!" Al sat up sharply, his hand still on his head, eyes wide in shock. Winry's gaping expression stared back at him, no less than five feet away upon the floor. It was the doctor first to his feet while Winry and Al remained silent on the ground. Before either could speak again, the doctor pulled Al to his feet and brushed him off. The man wasn't given time to finish before Winry invaded their space and wrapped her arms around Al tightly, "Thank goodness."
With a puzzled glance to the situation, the doctor took out his keys and opened the first room in the hall for Al, then promptly turned back to Winry. His voice was sharp, "Get out of the examination hall before I call security. This is a patients and doctors only area."
"No! She's going to stay with me," Al piped up as Winry unwrapped her arms from him, turning to face the doctor.
The man's aura of annoyance grew, still displeased that he'd been knocked from his feet by some girl who did not belong in the hallway, "She's someone you know?"
Al and Winry exchanged a quick glance before Winry covered the situation, "A cousin who's just like his big sister," she flashed a sweet smile.
The doctor's eye twitched at the pair before turning away cautiously, "I need to grab the log book from my office, have a seat."
"You bet," Winry saluted, quickly ushering Al into the room and pulling the tiny room's door shut. Without pause, she spun on her heels abruptly, eyes wide with concern; her hands reached out for Al.
"What are you doing here!" Al sputtered out.
"Are you okay?" Winry's voice quivered slightly, she thought it best to simply hug him tightly one more time, even if it only made her feel better, "I was so worried you weren't okay."
Al's chin rested in her shoulder; she was wrong, the embrace made more than herself feel better, "I'm alright," he answered before stepping back; Al watched Winry straighten her jacket as he hopped onto the examination bed, "What are you doing here?"
"I came looking for you when you didn't show up in Dublith. I was worried, there were so many stories that didn't make any sense," she sat down next to him, brushing his bangs from his face, "You're all scratched up."
Al's eyes turned away from her, "I didn't think the problem was this bad originally, I've made it somewhat worse since then. I didn't want you to worry more than you already were."
"Al! Don't be silly," Winry's voice came out firmly, "I'm family. Even though Roze, Izumi and myself aren't related to you, we're still family. Families are supposed to worry about you, and we worry because you're important to us," Winry watched as Al's eyes lifted, not realizing he was taking her words and linking it with far more than the people he'd lived with the last seven months, "you're supposed to ask me for help when you're in trouble." Winry wrapped an arm around his shoulder; she found the most comforting thing about sitting with Al was that when she had something important to say, he would listen far better than his brother ever had, "Ed use to do the same thing, he'd try to leave out the people who worried about him; he thought he could carry the burden himself. It doesn't always work that way."
Winry's assessment of Al was correct, he let each word run through his mind; slowly the defeated expression lingering around began to lift. What remained was unwavering resolve; she'd answered any doubt that remained.
A washed out sunset sank over the western most row of housing. Reaching into his pocket, Edward pulled out his silver watch and checked the time. Sighing once more he returned to sitting with his head in his hands upon the sets of stairs outside the studio. The chilly light wind that existed into the evening had nipped his cheeks and turned them a potent blush-pink. Having lost count long ago, Ed had begun to ignore the opening and closing of all the doors he heard while people came and went. The most prominent exodus of people coming a few hours ago when the general staff ended their workday at 6:30. Yet even afterwards, the flow of people remained somewhat constant.
"Honestly," the voice from behind grabbed Ed's attention, "I never thought you would be so foolish and wait out here."
Ed frowned, looking over his shoulder; "I was hoping to catch you on your way out."
Reinert folded his arms over and made his way down the ten steps to where Edward sat, "You picked a bad time to bring that up, especially in front of all those people. That movie and I were once quite the gossip session; people thought it may have cost me my sanity. I'd prefer not to bring that shame up again and risk loosing the respect of my peers."
"I didn't realize..." straightening his back, Ed looked on at the man, not entirely certain about the entire issue they were discussing.
Sitting down on the cold cement stairs next to Edward, the man took out his package of cigarettes, "One of my runners mentioned that you were sitting out here still. I thought I needed a smoke break," an event that commenced at the strike of Reinert's match, "I can't imagine why you'd be so interested in this movie and my involvement with it."
"I think the information will be helpful in some research I'm doing," Ed grew concerned as he spoke, Reinert's gaze challenged his every word, "I want to know what your resources were when you created the character. Any inferences or texts..." Ed's voice trailed off, silenced by a crushing set of eyes.
"You should know that I scolded the receptionist for what she told you earlier. In doing so, she shared some of the questions you redirected at her once you had that knowledge. Don't humor me like a fool," with a deep inhale of his cigarette, Reinert continued his assault, "You speak English, don't you?"
Ed startled at the comment, having no idea to the purpose behind the question.
"You're very good at carrying a German accent. I can understand English clearly as if it were my first language; which is why I picked up on it when you spoke. Yet, my mouth has never provided an English word to anyone; beyond 'hello' and 'goodbye' I've never been educated in the language. I've never done an English film," from the echo of his own voice, he could feel Ed examine his every word, "I received the knowledge through the frightening term you used: 'Equivalent Trade'."
Glancing to Edward, Reinert was somewhat amused by the disturbed wide-eyed reaction he'd been given. 'Frightening' wasn't something Edward had ever associated with 'Equivalent Trade'. Indulging in his cigarette once again, Reinert faced out into the street, "The only other time I've heard a transaction phrased that way was when the Devil walked into my consciousness," tucking the cigarette package in his pocket the man stood up, "let's go for a walk, Mr. Elric. As long as my words don't show up in the tabloids, I'll entertain you."
Slowly Edward rose to his feet, briefcase in hand; his penetrating gaze trained on Reinert as if he were afraid to loose this information. The two stepped away from the building, heading down the quiet evening path. Their footsteps remained in opposite sequence as they moved silently through the sickly coloured orange light.
"Something tells me I should know you," Reinert continued the conversation, "And then I gave myself away when you saw how upset your comment had made me," the man's left hand found it's way into his pocket as the right handled the cigarette, "I use to fear sleep. I feared a demon lived within me and if I fell asleep once more it would again request ownership on my existence. It was a demon that I'd created for my Homunculus series. Though I never asked his name, nor purpose for existence; I knew so much about it the moment it entered my body" Edward's eyes never left the man, "I went to the church and asked for help; they told me that I had to cleanse my body of the Devil my mind had created and nurtured. I rid myself of all memorabilia and nostalgia that existed in my possession. It worked to an extent; the Devil itself did not return. By this time, word had spread around the theatre circles and I was loosing my mind."
Edward's ponytail swayed lightly with each step, "The Homunculus in your movie gave you a nightmare that caused you to disassociate yourself from this movie?" his voice hinted of curiosity mixed with confusion while he egged on the conversation.
As firmly as he'd been stepping each foot to the cement, Reinert stopped in his tracks, "No Mr. Elric, this was not a nightmare. It was a violation of my soul. I can remember everything I felt, everything I saw, everything I experienced, everything of the Devil's existence far more vividly than any memory I hold. I cannot explain most of it and when I try, I've been laughed at more times than any comedian should command his audience to."
The breeze flicked at the tail ends of Edwards coat as he reached back and smoothed the ponytail, trying to keep his disposition as calm and composed as he could, "I don't think a crime on your body by any entity is something to laugh at." Ed barely had enough time to complete his sentence before Reinert grabbed him by the chin.
"The longer I see you, the more I hear your voice... there's something connecting you. But yours is different, I can't put my finger on it," he sighed reluctantly, letting go of Edward, "As I slept, I was laughed at. I could not identify the source of the laugh and thought perhaps the noise had filtered into my dream since I was not yet sound asleep. What felt like partial sleep was described by the Devil as a severe disassociation between my mind, body and soul," Edward let the briefcase slip from his fingers; his mind never registered the sound of it hitting the ground, "It was an 'ailment' everyone suffered from, yet mine was more prominent than others. It was for this reason, as well as my knowledge of Homunculus's state of existence, that he chose myself as his candidate and prevented me from waking. I was informed I would be unable to regain consciousness until he had left, or until I submitted to his demands."
Edward felt his body stiffen as he kept a deliberate control over his own breathing, "… That's impossible. I didn't have that kind of recognition."
"Excuse me?" Reinert looked to Edward, unnerved by his comments.
Edward partially raised his hands in defence, "Never mind. It's not important enough. I want to hear the rest."
"Young man, you make me uneasy," Reinert flicked the ashes from his cigarette, his wary eye keeping close tabs on Edward, "you're only the second person to encourage my discussion on the issue who hasn't looked at me as though I'd lost my sanity or warranted an exorcism."
The man dropped the remains of his cigarette to the ground; he put it out with the tip of his shoe, "The other man frightened me so badly I thought perhaps I should simply return to Austria and raise cattle."
Ed's eyes shot around with a nervous anticipation, "Who? That Devil? Someone who looked like it? Sounded like it?"
"No," Reinert shook his head slowly, taking another cigarette from the package and lighting it, "Mr. Elric, the purpose of the Devil's several-hour intrusion into my soul was because he was looking for a vessel to coexist with; I refused to submit. By his presence, I could feel the need for vengeful satisfaction; there was no other purpose to his existence than that," his eyes focused on Edward, "a man named Hohenheim came to see me at my home nearly two years ago, carrying similar questions as you have. From the moment I opened my door, even before he spoke his name, I knew who he was. The Devil had made it no secret to me that he was searching for this man, and even after three years I could not forget the face that fuelled such a vicious demon. I wanted nothing to do with him and slammed the door. I told him if he ever came back, I'd shoot him where he was standing."
Edward slowly reached down to pick up the briefcase, only Reinert was aware of how pale he had turned. The thought of his Father's involvement did not concern him as much as the other implications did. The uneasy feeling that consumed his body made Edward feel light headed, "There's no way…" he took a step backwards, distancing himself from Reinert, "no way for him to exist here. No way he could have known."
Reinert's expression grew defensive and angered, "What the hell are you going on about?"
"When he left your body, where did he go?" Ed suddenly pleaded, approaching the man once more, "did he give you any idea. Any clue on what he would do, where he would-"
His voice fell to silence; Ed's eyes stared startled down the barrel of a quickly drawn handgun, concealed behind Reinert's jacket, "I don't need this, not anymore. The conversation ends now," the man's hand held steady, "you get the same warning as that Hohenheim. I want nothing to do with that problem, I am not involved."
"You ARE involved," Ed snapped back, irritated by the man's refusal. He found himself instantly silenced and frozen into place by the gunshot deafening his right ear.
"I have four bullets left. You have ten seconds to disappear."
Winry's chatter had kept the trio in the examination room nearly an hour, no one would have given a thought to looking in this locked room for her. She'd hoped they'd conclude she was nowhere to be found. With the guise of innocence, Winry wandered down the hall with Al as they made their way, following the doctor, towards the flights of stairs leading to the third floor.
"He's fed you hasn't he?" a scowl marched across Winry's face as she quizzed him stubbornly.
"Yes," Al's eyes looked to the ceiling, already getting tired of the 'how've you been treated?' lines of questioning.
"He didn't lock you away in your room?" she folded her arms; her commanding questions had begun only moments before they'd left the room, once she found out the significance of the man she was staying with.
"I was in their library most of the time," Al's tone of voice had begun to protest the questions.
Winry's eyes snapped wide, "He locked you in his library!"
"No!" Al let off a tired whine, "he didn't lock me anywhere, he treated me with so much generosity. I wasn't even supposed to stay with him originally."
Winry gave a huff as she put her hands onto her hips, the heels of her shoes clacking on the stairs as they entered the stairwell; beginning their ascent to the next floor, "You'd think a man with all that money and power would have at least bought you something nicer to wear than jeans and a t-shirt."
The unimpressed look Al had begun to give Winry strengthened, "You're not being fair, Winry. You haven't even met him."
"I'm just say-"
The attention of Al, Winry and their doctor was grabbed while they moved to the next flight of stairs. Three doctors and two nurses flung open the stairwell doors, blew by the trio, and rushed up the stairs. One of them called to Al's doctor as they moved, demanding his presence in a third floor room. Whatever the significance of number meant, it struck panic into the man. Without a second thought for Winry and Al, whom he'd left behind, the man charged up to the third floor.
Standing in their wake, the young pair gave a nervous glance to each other; the urgency of the voices had sent shivers down their spines. Finally moving swiftly up the stairs following the physicians, the sounds of voices were clearly heard before they emerged from the stairwell doors.
Al emerged in the hall before Winry could summon the courage to move beyond the doors. White hospital gowns, scrubs and coats adorned the people in the hallway; the faces he could see were soaking in tears, huddles in each other's hands and arms. Al could not bring himself to ask anyone what happened; his ears remained alert and his heart trembled at what could have brought this mass of people to such a state.
A hand came onto Al's shoulder, the shaken eyes and voice of a nurse told him to go to another floor; this corridor had become temporarily sealed. Al moved to protest, but before the woman could argue with him further, she'd become distracted by a co-worker's need for comfort. Seizing the opportunity, Al continued to push through the gathering.
It was the Prime Minister's enraged voice that silenced and stopped all movement within the hall; so raised, so pitched, and so overcome with emotion Al found it deeply upsetting. Suddenly too frightened to move forward; Al, along with everyone else, found themselves brought to a halt within the hall. It was only after the growth of his confusion and curiosity that he could move again, faster than anyone else in the hall.
Al moved until he found himself standing within the hospital room centring the commotion. Numerous people had gathered, doctors and nurses alike. Some sat in chairs, their head in their hands, other's stood silently at the bedsides. Al watched as Mitchell gently ran his hand through the black hair of the woman lying silent in the bed, the man's choking voice enough to allow the youngest Elric a chance to confirm what he feared had happened. It was all too familiar; he could so easily replace his Mother's face in the bed where this lady once lived. The imagery and likeness to an image still hurting so much gave Al cause to back out of the room.
Never making it to the door, a hand was placed firmly at Al's back. He did not have time to properly react; the hand ushered him to the side of the room, away from the people who had finally begun talking. Turning to look up at his guide, Al watched the transparent gaze of the Mitchell family nurse turn solemnly away from him.
"Sir, perhaps you should take a moment and take a sip from the fountain?" her voice was the most prominent of the men and women speaking.
"I'm fine, I'll stay here."
The hurt in Mitchell's voice made Al feel as though he'd intruded upon something he should not have. This was not his family; this was not his place to be. Al's eyes canvassed the room, looking to leave once more. His gaze got no further than the little girl curled up in the cushioned chair along the wall from where he stood. Her knees brought up as her arms hugged them; though he could not see her face, her head was turned as it rested against her legs. She was able to watch the events within the room beyond the lengths of long pure-brown hair covering her back and shoulders like a veil.
Al moved along the wall, his mind trying to restrain himself from becoming engulfed by the emotions everyone carried. Sitting down in the seat next to the curled up child, he waited next to her in silence. Al watched her, making no secret of his interest in her presence; he waited to see if she'd acknowledge him before finally speaking up.
"Um…" his voice a low whisper as he tried to remain invisible within the grieving room, "are you okay?" Al watched as her head turned away from the scene and she simply hid behind her knees. He knew who she was; there was no other reason for a child of this age to be in the room. Al wondered if he could empathize with how out of place she must feel, "maybe we should wait outside and let them have their moment?"
"Okay," lifting her head, her forlorn gaze turned to look into Al's expression, accepting the invitation.
Unprepared, Al was taken aback by the rounded blue eyes he looked into, the curl of bangs that graced her forehead, and the baby cheeks she still carried. He stared into eyes of a familiar face he'd never met; somewhere beneath this confusion and sudden uncertainty, it frightened him. Not wanting her to catch his apprehension, Al moved to stand up, offering his hand as a guide. The white dress, with red buttons and collar, hung to her knees as she stood up; the matching red charmed necklace hung around her while the hip-lengths of hair fell over her shoulders. The girl's smaller palm and fingers fit perfectly into Al's hand as he led her out of the room; the pure blue eyes cast to the ground, never noticing Al's vigilant eye.
"We're going to wait with my friend Winry, okay?" Al's soft voice kept a gentle tone as the two walked. Finally he chose to take his hand away from her; worried she'd pick up on his raging heartbeat through the touch.
The soft child's voice simply replied, "Okay," once more. Al placed his hand at her shoulder as they approached Winry, who'd not taken more than ten steps away from the stairwell doors.
"Al," Winry's voice shook, feeding off the reactions of the people in the hall way, "what happened?" She knew by now, but posed the question anyways.
Al stalled; Winry's statement distracted him from his current train of thought and directed it back to the issue everyone else concerned themselves with. He glanced over his shoulder towards the thinning assembly of people.
"Mrs. Mitchell said mean things to Mr. Mitchell that made him cry, so she died," the little voice spoke up, as if she were unable to understand the severity of the information she'd provided. Winry and Al glanced to each other, wondering if they should some how correct the child's misinterpretation of events, "her body was shaking when we held her hands. The doctor said she had things called seizures. She scared me…" Her gaze traveled to Al; again, he found her face hard to comprehend.
Winry knelt down in front of the little girl, and hugged her tightly, "I'm so sorry you had to see that."
"Winry," Al glanced to her, "I'm going to the washroom, I'll be right back."
She glanced up quickly, taking a swift breath, "Al, wait! Are you going to be okay?" Winry's voice called out, watching as he did not turn back. The child turned within Winry's arms to see Al run down the hall.
Al pushed through the doctors and nurses who'd begun to wander away from the scene; it was his mind that hurt the most, not his chest nor heart. He tried his best to ignore the guilt created from his lack of immediate concern for the Mitchell family; something bothered him far more than that. Finding himself leaning up against the tile wall within the men's washroom, Al took a moment to reorganize his thoughts. His eyes turned to the door, not wanting anyone to intrude; he slid down the wall until he sat upon the cold cement floor. Existing in the sound of his own breathing, Al finally reached for the inside pocket of his jacket.
Upon turning the deadbolt on the door, latching the chain, and dumping his coat into the closet, Edward dragged his tired self across the house to the fireplace; wanting nothing more than to put his feet up. Falling into the cushioning of the couch, the first thing Ed did before his right heel ever came on to the coffee table was remove the false left leg. By doing so, it was the most relieving feeling he could have wished for in the evening. Pulling it out from the bottom of the pant leg he propped the contraption up at the side of the couch – out of sight, out of mind. The decision to fashion an AutoMail for his leg had never been taken to the production stage; Ed had found himself able to manage with the custom made devise he and his Father had commissioned before they'd left London. The AutoMail arm, finally completed over a year ago, had always been top priority.
Ed, too tired to get up and tend to the sore stump of a leg, flopped into the decorative pillows adorning each end of the couch; he buried his face in them as the clock rang out 11pm. The remainder of his leg throbbed and burned from the hours of walking he'd embarked on when he'd chosen to use his feet to home, rather than attempt to retrieve the car he'd arrived in. His frustration with Reinert and greater frustration with his Father was subdued at the point in time his legs had started to ache. He wasn't use to feeling so tired from standing so long; his main method of transportation back home had either been his feet or the train. The lack of refined mechanics that Winry had once equipped him with, and the comfortable boots he missed, could simply not be replaced.
Buried within the pillows, Ed's eyebrows rose as he heard some attempt to unlock the front door – only to be stopped by the strong chain he'd latched. The wannabe intruder pushed on the door again to no avail. The door clicked shut as Ed cautiously lifted himself up, displeased that his chance at relaxation was being interrupted. Finally the doorbell rang with a firm knock on the door.
"EDWARD! Unlatch this door."
The sound of his Father's voice gave Ed cause to scowl as he rolled off the couch; he stood up on the right leg, it too sore from hip to toes. With spite for the wooden leg that gave him so much grief throughout the evening, Ed used the couch and walls for support while hopping down the hall, "I'm coming, hold on!"
Giving the chain a noisy detachment to ensure Hohenheim was aware the door was open, Ed reached into the closet while his Father entered the house.
"Why did you lock that when I wasn't here?" came the first words from Hohenheim's mouth, even before he was fully in the house.
Ed snapped back at him as he jerked a crutch out from the closet, "I'm supposed to know you weren't locked away in your study? You're never out this late. Don't scold me because you didn't come home before eleven," Ed mused over the fact his Father didn't know he'd only gotten home 10 minutes ago, "where the hell were you?"
Hohenheim's displeased expression from being locked out of his own house fell away as he eyed the empty pant leg, "What did you…?" he dressed his jacket onto a hanger.
"In the living room," knowing by the look in the man's eyes, Ed answered the ensuing question with a snitty tone, "because my leg is sore." He shifted his weight primarily to the crutch.
He did not dignify Ed's response with another 'why' question; instead, Hohenheim chose to answer a question offered up previously, "I was with a few Thule members down in the cathedral hall."
Edward's tone mellowed at the puzzling response, "This late?"
Walking past his son, through the hall, and into the living room, Hohenheim stood behind the couch and looked into the unlit fireplace, "Some interesting things were happening today, so I stayed behind," he gave a stretch to his arms, "I take it you planned on having an interesting day too," Hohenheim's parental eyes turned around as Edward made his way down the hall, "is that why my car isn't out front?"
Ed stopped dead in his movements, "… Well…"
"Will I get it back in time so I can drive myself to work today instead of walking again?"
"… Probably not," Ed's wide eyes glanced away as a sweat drop trickled down his cheek; he proceeded to turn away, "I'm going to get something to drin-"
No transition statements were offered as Hohenheim's stiff commanding voice stopped his son before he could wander away, "What did Reinert have to say to you?"
Turning as sharply as his body would allow, Ed's attention shot back to his Father, startled by the comment; never mind the change in tone. The look in Edward's eyes voiced his 'how did you know that?' statement.
"A young lady came to visit me today, she told me what you'd gone off to do," Hohenheim looked out into the hall Ed stood within, the displeasure embedded in his eyes was potent; yet not entirely directed to his son.
Somewhat challenged by his Father's reaction none the less, Ed's hand gripped the crutch tightly, "If you had any idea what was going on, why didn't you tell me! Don't you think something like that would be important? Something I have every right to know about!"
"And what sort of information would I have provided to you?" Hohenheim's gave a hefty sigh, releasing the tension growing around himself, "I was left in the dark by that man. The only certainty I had was someone made him aware of my existence; I have no clear idea how. I had only vague speculations that could, in no way, be proven. It was impossible to deal with someone that would rather have me shot dead than entertain my presence for a few minutes."
"Idiot. He endangers more people by saying nothing to us," Ed grit his teeth, angry at the thought. He gave up on his beverage quest and moved past his Father into the living room, "I don't remember you ever going to meet anyone named Reinert."
Hohenheim shook his head, somewhat nostalgic at the memory, "You were on a war path to get that arm working correctly. I wasn't going to distract you with something potentially trivial," Ed rolled his eyes at the comments, "before I'd gone to see him, my interest was simple curiosity. Dietrich and Karl mentioned the movie to me, I hadn't heard the term Homunculus used on this side before. The moment I realized that man knew who I was, my entire opinion changed." Hohenheim made his way across the room; he gave a glance to Ed as his son flopped down in the corner of the couch. The elder Elric moved to the front of the room, crouching down before his idle fireplace. Removing the screen, he struck a match and tossed it into the kindling, "The problem remained: what opinion do I form? The man was mentally unstable I'd been told. But…" he tossed a second match, "if he had given this reaction to anyone other than myself… then maybe I could have thought differently. I was the only one."
Ed leaned on the arm of the couch, resting upon the pillows tucked in that corner. Watching as his Father fought to get the fire going, Ed's body and voice sank into the what little comfort the cushioning could provide, "When I was first in London, my mind and soul had been attracted to the body of the Edward existing here. My actual body remained at The Gate. The second time, I offered myself and found all three pieces on this side. If a Homunculus is able to make it's way through the Gate, only two of those three pieces exist…"
"Only one," Ed's eyes looked to his Father as he encouraged the fire with the poker, "A Homunculus' body is created through alchemy and sustained by the red stones. Even if it looks, feels and acts as a human body should, it is not human. With neither element being possible across the Gate, the alchemized body would not be sustainable once it crossed over."
Ed's left hand came up to his forehead; his fingers slowly combed through his bangs as he thought of the scenario Reinert had provided for him, "If only a Homunculus' mind was able to cross over, it wouldn't be attracted to anything because it doesn't have a mirror existence on this side. Without that attraction… how would it exist in this world?"
Hohenheim replaced the screen upon the fireplace and rose to his feet. His shoulder and weight soon came to rest against the wall as he stood in thought; the fire's glow gradually filled the room. Hohenheim brought his hand over his mouth; it had been a long time since he'd examined these prospects, "As a parasite…"
"… trying to select a host," Ed's troubled eyes watched the immediate mixed-emotion reaction Hohenheim had to his son's input. The elder man's shoulders fell, a disheartened feeling overcoming him. Ed lost sight of the emotion in his Father's eyes, the man's head tilted so the glasses he wore protected the gaze. Ghosts followed him everywhere, even to this dead existence.
Reaching his arms out in front of himself, Ed stretched his shoulders and back before hunching forward in his seat; a cloud of unease lingered in the room. Edward provided the information before his Father could take a deep enough breath to ask, "The 'parasite' invaded Reinert because of his understanding of Homunculus and the 'severe disassociation between his mind, body and soul'. It demanded coexistence. Reinert refused to live like that and fought the 'demon' off because of how frightening it was," Ed's fingers slowly kneaded the pillow he leaned up against while Hohenheim moved to sit down at the other end of the couch; he watched Edward speak as if reciting a story, "it's vengeance streak frightened Reinert, and you were the embodiment of what encouraged the rage. That's why he was afraid," his gaze toiled in the newly burning fire, "You went to see him two years ago, but all of those events happened nearly five years ago. What's gone on in these last five years?"
To Be Continued...
R&R would be lovely!
I never mentioned it (ambiguity!) but I'm sure you figured out who Hohenheim and Ed are referring to (turn back now if not). However, Ed is showing no realization to the fact he told Envy where to find Hohenheim. The reason for that is because Ed doesn't remember doing it. While Ed stood at the Gate when Envy went through he was crying, when Ed wakes up with Roze he's still crying and goes "Why am I crying?". Moral of the story is, Ed doesn't remember he sent Envy through the gate with Hohenheim knowledge.
Now you're going "Ed told Envy that Hohenheim was in London, why didn't Envy end up in London 5 years ago?" Episode 51 Envy asks, "Where does it lead to?" and Ed goes, "for me, it was some place called London." Ed goes on to hint that the Gate's transportation method to the other side is highly unstable. An open-ended plot statements like this make fanfic writing more interesting.
I'm looking for Winry to be more of an older sister figure than a best friend figure for Al, because of the age difference now. It's still sort of awkward with them currently. I'd like to expand on Winry's character some.
I liken Reinert to Marcoh, a man very much involved who does not want to be involved what so ever.
Chapter 57 Feedback
Maaya – Glad I exceeded your expectations X3
SidhePrincessAislinn – I'll eventually disclose what Ed came down with :)
Anonymosity – One of the funnest things about the fic is all the famous people I have to wrap my head around and not screw up XD
chibi-sherri – Ohh long... I've actually not had anyone complain about Roy, he's just a character I worry about getting wrong because all of his angst and animosity is internal, not external. I want to make sure I can portray his external cockiness and internal angst with a good balance. I'm not a Roy fangirl, but I have a lot of respect for his character. I actually kept episode 43 in my mind when I was writing Roy's tirade on Sheska, because that episode showed a whole other dimension of Roy. For Hohenheim, I fell in love with him in the anime, something about his character was very endearing, very sad and lonely. I can see him being a really caring Father who lives with a great deal of guilt and shame he cannot atone for -gives the shattered Elric family. As for Santa, I had Santa spoilt for me when I was 4 or 5. I know that I read the story about where Santa originally came from, but I can't remember it off hand. I know it started around the mid 1800's. Santa craze exploded when Coke used him as a winter marketing tool in the 1930's.
Rogue Shadow – XD I love you too, your reply made me happy. I take pride in the fact I was able to save(?) you from this horror known as homework X3. I'm glad I was able to entertain you this past weekend... and I hope to entertain you some more today :D!