When it Becomes Clear

Disclaimer: Characters and settings are the property of Hiromu Arakawa. I'm just borrowing them for a bit of non-profit angst.

Izumi stared down at the stone marker, seeing the writing on it was like having her guts torn out all over again.

When she learned of Ed's escape from the military Izumi decided that it would be for the best if she didn't pursuit him right away; she didn't want to lead anyone else to him and she didn't want to instigate another scene like the one that got Ed caught in the first place. So Izumi decided that she would pick up the reasonable Eldric brother first.

Edward had told her that his brother was in Resembool. So Izumi had gone there, to the Rockbell's and demanded to be told where Alphonse Eldric was. Pinako Rockbell had glared at her angrily then gave her directions to this place.

Pinako hadn't mentioned that she was sending Izumi to a cemetery. She hadn't said anything about Alphonse being dead.

Edward had told her his brother was in Resembool. There hadn't been any grief in his eyes; no pain, no anger. He'd said it simply; as if there was nothing wrong.

Izumi turned away from the stone and walked slowly back to the Rockbell's as if the weight of the world had fallen on her shoulders.

She knocked on the door.

"You're back," Pinako said distastefully.

"Edward is insane isn't he?" Izumi asked softly.

As Pinako glanced away a look of pain crossed her face. "You spoke with him I take it?" she said. "Yes, he's lost his mind; but that Mustang person stopped him from shattering completely."

"How did Alphonse die? Was it-" Izumi's voice broke. "Was it when they attempted human transmutation?"

"No," Pinako said shortly. "They both survived that; but neither was left whole. They turned to the military; the resources available to a State Alchemist; to try to get their bodies back. That's how Alphonse Eldric died."

"I never should have taught them," Izumi muttered.

Pinako snorted. "I wanted to blame that bastard who got them involved with the Military in the first place. But Mustang's taken good care of Ed these last few years; it's not as easy to hate him as it used to be. If you hadn't taught them they would have found someone else. Those boys were always determined; it was always their best quality... and their worst."

A faint, wry smile twisted Izumi's mouth as she nodded her agreement. "So, you approve of this Mustang?"

Pinako rolled her eyes. "Never, but he cares about Ed." She gave Izumi a piercing look. "Several months back Ed went missing then Mustang tried to assassinate Fuhrer Bradley. Now Mustang's a fugitive but he got Ed back. I'm starting to think the military confused a wolf with dog when they put a collar on that one."

"So he's the one who's been stirring up trouble?" Izumi asked. "I've heard rumors that Alchemists are coming out of retirement - or hiding, and heading east. A few have even tried recruiting me. They think that because I refused to whore myself out to the military that I'll climb in bed with the first person who comes along to oppose it."

"Mustang's got support among the Alchemists?" Pinako asked. "I didn't think he could possibly have done that many favors."

"They think he'll restore our reputation to what it was before Ishbal," Izumi said with a shrug. "Or that they'll find redemption for the things they did during the war by following him. What happened in Ishbal left a whole generation of Alchemists scared. Even those of us who didn't fight felt the backlash."

"Not just Alchemists," Pinako said. "And not just one generation."

"Not just," Izumi agreed.