Aka Ame: Red Rain
Upon the golden colored floor of a ballroom four hundred years or older crouched a lean form wearing a dark brown trench coat. Blood stained white gloves were clenched into fists as a dry sob broke out from the owner's mouth. Edward sucked in air as he pushed himself up from the floor. Beside him were a large brown suitcase and not too far away a raven which glared at Edward who didn't return it. He had paid his price to come from the other side of the Gate. Hissing he turned to catch sight of the glaring raven.
"Hey Hagane no chibi-san."
Ed covered his face with a gloved hand at the raven's words. "Don't tell me. The Gate sent you as my babysitter."
The bird shrugged its 'shoulders.' "Hey don't look at me. It's not like I'm happy to act as a damned telephone between you and that damned thing which didn't send me to where that bastard is. Thanks to you I can't change my form until you deem that I'm well behaved enough."
"Ah. Sorry to burst your bubble but the bastard is dead if you can't already tell by the blood on my gloves." He said pulling them off to reveal his hands, stuffing them into his pocket.
"You got your damned limbs back?"
"Hardly. It's just synthetic materials that look like skin covering prosthetic limbs, the other side of the Gate isn't very kind to invalids."
Envy choked on the word invalid. The Fullmetal Alchemist was anything but invalid given his fiery nature and hard punches. Come to think of it his jaws were still aching from the beating he received from his half brother. Damned automail. "You invalid. If my memory serves right brat, your damned automail sure as hell can give quite a shiner."
Edward stared at the floor for a moment tracing the lines of the transmutation circle with his eyes. That was five years ago and he had since learned to keep his voice silent. What he witnessed during his life in Munich gave him nightmares and what he just went through only moments before would only add to the pile of nightmares he suffered from. He took a deep breath as he screwed his eyes shut then let it out. He didn't have time to make light banter of anything not when he still had duties to fulfill.
Catching sight of his suitcase he bent over and picked it up from where it lay on the ground.
"Hey aren't you going to answer me shrimp?"
Golden eyes bore down into similar colored eyes. Envy saw that they were exactly the same as the ones he saw at the Gate before he jumped in. They were silent, assessing eyes burdened by personal experience.
"No." Edward replied as he crouched down and picked up the raven form Envy from the floor, stuffing him in the other pocket of his coat as he stepped out of the transmutation circle. With the clap of his hands the markings vanished. People from the other side of the Gate would never gain access to Amestris, not with him around to keep an eye on things.
"Come on, let me out of here! It's not like I'm some pet needing to be coddled!" Envy protested feebly knowing that in his current state he couldn't do squat.
"I'm not going to coddle you. Tell me where Dante normally did her work."
The raven sighed then directed the young man having no other choice in the matter. Moments later they were in a large library where Ed proceeded to head toward a shelf then reveal a vault which held currency. Withdrawing a sufficient amount he then returned the room back to its original state before backtracking and leaving the ground level walking on the high causeway which led to the cathedral in Central City. Silence permeated the atmosphere as it always did. Finally he reached the abandoned cathedral. Clapping his hands together he sealed away the passage to the underground city.
Edward noticed that it had recently rained from the puddles on the ground next to him which reflected his weary state. His clothes were still pristine but his face looked drawn. Drawing away from the puddle he left the ancient house of religion. Once outside he clapped once more as the ground shook after he slammed his hands down onto the ground. Slowly the cathedral sank into the ground until there was nothing left but earth. Turning from the now barren ground, he made his way from the outskirts of Central to the city itself.
People moved around him ignoring him in favor of going about their daily lives. His first stop was at a clothing store where he bought more formal clothes given that he was used to wearing such clothing after living in Munich for five years when he caught sight of the date from a small newspaper stand. It was only 1917, barely a year since he had left this world for the other beyond the Gate. Oh the irony. Edward moved onto various other stores.
He had to readjust to his former world before moving forward to search for Dante and prevent her from trying another massacre. Two wars and living in oppression for years left him worn for the wear. Darting around he found a small inn to stay for the time being. In his room he immediately set about planning what he would do.
"Oi. Hagane, what the hell are you doing? Don't you have a home to go back to, a brother to check up and possibly getting your limbs checked out? Prosthetic limbs can't do squat for all its worth."
"No. As much as I want to, I have a job to do which concerns your mother's affairs." Edward replied calmly as he took out some sand and metal. With a clap of his hands they became a pair of glasses. He then began to mix hair dye.
"I may be a bird but I swear if you hurt my-"
"I'm not looking to hurting Dante. It's not what he would have wanted because in the end he still loved her in a twisted way perhaps as a fellow buddy for four hundred years. However I can't simply ignore my 'job.' What the Gate wants it gets." The dye traveled up his hair until all traces of blond vanished leaving black. Next were the eyebrows.
Envy ruffled his feathers in a disgruntled manner. "If you're not gonna hurt her then just what the hell are you going to do?" He demanded.
"Take away her alchemy. The Gate never stated how I went about doing the job as long as it was done."
"You're a heartless bastard you know that?"
Edward cleaned up his mess then gazed at the raven sitting on the headboard of the bed. He had been called cold by the women on Earth. Dante had called him cruel for not returning Roze's affections and Winry had always looked so depressed when he didn't return her affections. It wasn't that he didn't like them, it was just he couldn't bring himself to be too close to anybody but his brother who was the only family he had left. Anything outside of that didn't matter. He had grown up too soon and knew his burdens which he bore.
However he wasn't heartless. Edward had gone through hell and back for the sake of those he came to care during his travels. He went out of his way to help those during his excursions as the dog of the military. On Earth he learned what it was like to be persecuted and live in fear that his irregularities would be found out and exploited. He hated it. It left him distant but not wholly without heart that was why he proposed on only sealing away Dante's alchemic abilities rather than outright killing her when he had the right.
"I'm only being reasonable. You're the one who's acting rashly for a four hundred year old half brother."
The raven flinched at the soft tones. It was just like the bastard's in a way with intensity behind them. Then again this Edward looked vastly older than the one he killed. Envy couldn't argue with the fact that Edward Elric was being reasonable. A while ago the blonde would have killed the woman outright. Though he would never show it in public, Envy feared his younger half brother more than any other being, his mother included. One just didn't mess with the appointed Guardian and walk away to live the tale. There was the inconsistency to take into factor about Edward Elric. The man was unpredictable.
One minute he could be childish about certain things like height then the next he would be hell bent in murdering for the sake of his younger brother. Wait, that happened quite a few times. Now as an adult who had experienced God knew what from the Other Side, Edward Elric was even more dangerous. So far everything had been pretty good considering that Edward hadn't strangled him yet. (It was bound to happen soon…who would be stupid enough not to take advantage of their murderer if given the chance?)
"You sound like the bastard. I liked it when you were yelling and being a brat." He sneered as he pulled from his thoughts.
Edward gave the raven an amused grin. Envy however saw flashes of weariness in them. "I never noticed. Al always had more of mother's genetics than me. Then again you look just like him and at least can get away by changing your appearance. I on the other hand don't have that luxury. There were so many times I wanted to hurt him for making my mother suffer more than abandoning Al and I."
This was new. Envy never heard of this. "He abandoned you?"
"It was shortly after Al was born. My mother soon fell ill afterwards and did nothing but watch out the window waiting for him to come home. Then she died. The rest as you know is history." He replied neutrally as he headed toward the door of his room, ready to leave.
"What are you doing?"
"I have to get a job don't I? The best paying one without raising any suspicions would be the job of a State Alchemist."
Envy shifted his weight onto his left 'leg.' "How sneaky. I thought you had morals about honesty or something along those lines."
"Sometimes I have to do unpleasant things to protect those I care about."
With that he left the room but not before Envy hopped off his perch and landed on Edward's right shoulder. Together they made their way to Central Headquarters. Military personnel milled about running errands. A few stopped momentarily to throw odd glances his way as he made his way up the marble steps as he did years before. At the desk he was greeted by a secretary who handed him the application with a pen all the while blushing deeply.
"So, what brings you to the military Mr…"
"Holderlin, Madame. I'm only trying to apply for a State Alchemist title." Edward answered as he flipped through a few pages of the application before swiftly filling out the necessary requirements. One could easily create an entirely new identity without having people know the better when applying into the military since there was no way of having international records when the world was recovering from various states of war be it civil or otherwise.
He had been sure to write down the address of a small, rural area like Risembool quite a ways to the West. Nobody would question the reasons behind his address. Alchemists by nature tended to be rather reclusive when not part of the military preferring to research. Finished with his application packet, he handed the pen back and followed the secretary to a small room where she took his picture.
"The test is about one and a half months away Mr. Holderlin. Good luck." She said.
Edward nodded his head politely as he left the military headquarters.
Meanwhile on the second floor in a large office sat General Roy Mustang currently buried in piles of paperwork looking rather peeved as Riza Hawkeye glared balefully at him, her hand resting at her hip ready to whip out her gun any moment. He prayed somewhere for a deity to take pity on him and give him a break from all the boring paperwork when suddenly there was a knock at his door. He nearly cried out in joy but restrained himself just in time. Instead he looked up slowly from his paperwork and called out, "Come in!" before resuming his work…
Slowly the door opened to reveal the receptionist Amanda who held a packet in her hands. "Sorry to interrupt you sir but here's the newest applicant for the State Alchemist Examination." She said with a bow, handing the packet over politely as Roy took them.
More paperwork…at least if was more interesting than the ones he had to deal with. Casually he flipped through a few pages before coming upon the photograph of Thomas Holderlin's face. The young man had every feature that every woman liked in attractive men. Well proportioned face framed by jet black bangs and hair tied up in a neat ponytail with a pair of molten gold eyes behind thin wire rimmed glasses. His clothes were extremely formal by normal standards which could suggest a wealthy background.
Roy had seen plenty of the wealthy alchemist types before and never liked them much. (With the exception of Alex Armstrong…if one could ignore his eccentric tendencies…) However something in the man's eyes told him that Thomas Holderlin wasn't soft from years of aristocracy. In fact those eyes seemed rather old for a face so young. He scanned the information filled out neatly, almost mechanically in the provided spaces. All applicants for the State Alchemist Exam were given a small preliminary test before allowing them entrance and Thomas Holderlin answered them to the utmost detail. He continued on reading a brief description of the man's specialty which revolved around mechanics along with research into bioalchemy, which seemed rather contradictory given the two fields were vastly different from each other.
'This year's Exam should prove interesting.' He thought with a smirk.
Roy had very little idea how true it would become.
When the one and a half months passed, Edward found himself once again at Headquarters ushered into the very same hall he once sat in to take the written exam. Once again there weren't very many people there. The written exams didn't differ much from the one he took when he was twelve. Yet there were subtle differences. Alex Armstrong along with Roy Mustang was proctoring the exam instead of standing to the side. Unlike last time, Edward finished the test down to the last question, finishing earlier than the other candidates. He caught a few glances from the others knowing that they were meditating on the fact that he finished early. The pressure was on.
He leaned back against his chair to stare up at the plaster ceiling of the room. Soon he fell into a daze where his surroundings vanished as memories rose up from his mind.
Snap. Snap. Snap. Snap.
Repetitively the cover of the pocket watch snapped open and shut as Ed stared out the window of the train he was currently riding in. It had been that one particular train ride while he was fleeing from Germany that he came across a mother with two children. They reminded him of his family years ago before it all went downhill.
"That's a beautiful pocket watch though the craftsmanship is reminiscent of the military. Were you in the war?"
The cover shut with a soft snap as Edward put it away.
"A friend crafted it for me as a keepsake."
Edward suddenly started when a hand landed on his shoulder and looked up to see one of the personnel looking down at him.
"The exam's over, you may now leave."
Slightly embarrassed, Edward apologized profusely as he made his way out of the military building noticing a few alchemists throwing glances his way. He calmly ignored their glares and inquisitive glances at him.
"You tend to make a lot of enemies don't you?" Envy asked as the blonde haired man made his way down the steps carefully minding that he still had his damned prosthetic limbs to take care of.
"Not intentionally." Edward replied as he took out a small schedule from his pocket. He saw that he had a week before they started the interview. Seeing how he had a good amount of funding from the underground city with sufficient amount of time he could get his prosthetics replaced with automail given he would need better mobility in the future.
Jamming the schedule in his pocket he turned to the bird perched on his shoulder. "What would you say if we took a little detour to my hometown?"
Envy started at the question. He might have been a rather rude homunculus before the Gate decided to hook him up with Ed playing the telephone between the two but he knew from years of being around his mother that an invitation much like the one his half brother was giving was personal. What sane man would go around inviting his murderer to his hometown? It was something one did with close friends. For God's sake they weren't even remotely chummy with each other, having tried to kill the other for quite some time. (Four odd years come to think of it) Just when would the damned man (yes man) stop being so unpredictable?
Yet the fires of hatred and envy were somewhat damp after hearing the offer. Was this what he had been looking for? Acknowledgement from a family he never had? A father who abandoned him? Envy just didn't know exactly. "Exactly why are you inviting me to come along? It's not like I have much of a choice."
"You do have a choice. Everybody does. You may be a homunculus and five years ago I considered all of you inhuman for being created rather than born but I was wrong." Edward said quietly as he looked at his gloved hands. "We all are wrong. In ways you do have souls if you can feel emotions as strongly as any other regular person. Many would have considered Al as an animated object…to consider him otherwise…I was wrong, Hohenheim was wrong and so is Dante. I guess I want to atone for whatever sins that we both committed and I can't very well go around ignoring the fact that you are my half brother." He finished as he shoved his hands into his coat pockets, making his way through the city to the inn.
The raven sat in stunned silence. Just what the hell happened to make him think like that? It wasn't that Envy didn't like it or anything- it just was a new experience for him. Nobody ever treated him as a human not even his own mother Dante after Hohenheim resurrected him from the dead so to speak. Then again Ed's actions only added more to the list of oddities about him. Acceptance wasn't something easy to give out and by all means the time he spent with the Fullmetal Alchemist taught him that everything that the young man did held sincerity.
Sighing he shook his head. "Why the hell not, it's not like it'll kill me or anything. From what I heard is it truly a hick town?"
Edward chuckled at the question. "It's rural but I'm not sure if it's deemed a hick town just yet when it has an automail shop."
Three hours later Edward stepped off of the train carrying his suitcase in one hand and coat in the other. He had forgotten how warm Risembul got during April when Central was still moderately cool. He took his time walking down the beaten path saying hello to a few farmers who stopped occasionally to greet him despite the fact that he was technically a stranger.
"It's different from the other places I've been." Envy commented softly as he ruffled his feathers. "Quiet."
"It's always been this way from as far as I could remember. People here are generally nice and hard working people." Edward replied as he continued to trek his way toward the Rockbell household asking for directions along the way even though he knew how to get there just fine. It was rather ironic that no matter how he tried to turn away from his past it always caught up to him or rather how it always pulled him back to the beginning.
He didn't mind as much as he used to, seeing how badly he missed it after five years of being stuck in a world where color seemed to have vanished from all existence, where the world was one cruel day after another with people who glorified in war…No, he wouldn't dwell on those thoughts today. He had plenty of other nights to do so. Still on the dirt road he continued to walk toward the growing yellow house which stood at the top of a gentle sloped hill.
As he drew close to the property boundary he heard pattering of feet behind him. Out of curiosity he turned to see a small blonde haired boy running toward him and further back a dark haired woman at a slower gait…His eyes briefly widened as he recognized the woman. Izumi Curtis his former sensei. Then the boy…it couldn't be could it?
"Come on sensei! We're almost there!" Alphonse yelled as he caught up to the dark haired man making his way toward the Rockbell residence carrying a large brown suitcase and folded up coat. "Hello!" He said cheerfully, missing the look of shock running through the man's eyes before they gentled.
"Hello." Edward replied as he let the shock fade away into content that his brother was alive.
"Are you coming over to the Rockbell's for a check up?" Al asked glancing up at the man.
Edward smiled down at Al. "I heard that the Rockbells were some of the best automail mechanics around in Amestris. I've been contemplating on replacing my prosthetic limbs with automail for some time now." He replied honestly.
"Sorry if my student is being rude." Izumi said as she caught up to them with an apologetic expression.
"Ah. That's not a problem. I was heading toward the Rockbell residence in hopes of getting myself proficient limbs given how prosthetics can only go so far." He replied as they reached the front porch. Edward brought his right hand up and knocked on the door, almost making it look natural from years of practice.
The door jerked open to reveal a grinning Pinako Rockbell with a pipe stuck in her mouth. "Welcome back Izumi, Al and welcome young man. Come in." She said, opening the door wider to allow them entrance to the house.
Once in the living room, Pinako turned away from the guests and faced the stairs, bringing her hand near her mouth. "Winry get down here! We have some guests!"
Seconds later came a storming of feet upon wood floor as a young woman with blonde hair entered the living room rushing toward Alphonse and Izumi, immediately immersing herself into conversation. Pinako only puffed for a few moments before turning to Edward, a slight smile on her face. "My, you're a new face around these parts. Is there something I can help you with?" She asked as Edward gave her a small grin.
"Yes. I heard rumors that the Rockbells were rather good automail mechanics. I'm in need of automail seeing how my prosthetics can only go so far with movement." He said apologetically.
Pinako scrutinized the young man. "Eh? It looks like you still have your limbs." She said pointing at the small portions of flesh limbs showing through his sleeves and gloves.
Edward pulled off his gloves, rolled up the sleeve of his right arm then dug his nails into the fake flesh.
"What are you doing!" A voice cried out. Ed tossed a swift glance at Winry, Al and Izumi before digging deeper.
Silence permeated the air as he ripped away the synthetic skin to reveal metal. A pipe fell to the floor in surprise. "It's been covered up by synthetic skin to keep it from deteriorating at a fast pace as well as a safety measure." Edward casually said.
Winry stared at the taller man unsure of how to act at the sight of metal peeking through synthetic skin. Just a moment ago his hands seemed so normal, so natural as if they were really flesh. It wasn't disgusting or anything but a bit strange. Never in her life had she witnessed somebody cover up synthetic limbs to that extent. Ed had covered up his automail with long sleeves and gloves very much like the man standing in their living room but never went as far as to cover them up with something resembling flesh. Yet there was a beauty in that as well. It meant that automail could serve to recreate limbs to the perfection of human limitations.
"Well, we'll have to look at your limbs then, don't we?" Pinako asked, bending down to retrieve her fallen pipe. She then went over to Edward and dragged him into the surgeon room where she made him sit on the surgical bed. In a commanding tone she made him strip down to his boxers causing him some discomfort. Envy had sense enough to perch himself on a high shelf out of the elderly woman's way. Moments later Winry entered the room wearing scrubs and an apron.
"So which limbs are we going to look at today?" Pinako asked.
Edward bent down to his left leg and removed parts of the synthetic flesh nonchalantly before working on detaching them from his body to reveal stumps of flesh. Pinako whistled as she whipped out measuring tape taking his measurements swiftly.
"What did you do to lose your limbs in such a fashion?"
"A car accident. Apparently drinking and driving don't go hand in hand." He said with a light chuckle.
"You were drunk!" Winry exclaimed as Edward removed his clothes from the right side, allowing her to examine his right shoulder.
"I wasn't the one drunk. It was my driver. Poor man kept blaming himself about it." Edward ran his flesh hand through his hair. "I guess in the end I was stupid as well, I should have at least offered to drive instead of him."
Pinako nodded her head at the man sitting on the table. "Not many people would look at the situation as maturely as you Mr. Holderlin."
A few days later Edward went through the pains of attaching automail for the first time in five years. The pain was no different from all the other times. Envy who had never seen or heard of automail attachment gave him some sympathy on the matter.
"Is it always that bad?" the bird asked when Edward pushed himself off of the couch to test out his automail. He did a few tentative stretches getting used to the automail and its vague familiarity.
"Well it's not a pleasant experience not when wires are being attached to nerves. I almost wanted to scream but that wouldn't be good for the baby now would it?" He said lightly as he put on his clothes.
When he came out of the room he met Winry at the door along with Al. Over the past few days he had gotten to know them once more even though he wasn't revealing himself to them no matter how much he wanted to. His gloved hand landed on Al's head, ruffling downy hair lightly as he took his coat off the coat rack. "It was nice meeting all of you. Thanks for your hospitality." He said turning to Winry who held out his suitcase with a small smile.
"That's no problem Mr. Holderlin. Be sure to drop by every six months for regular check ups."
Edward smiled at them both. "I will Ms. Rockbell." With that he took the suitcase from the young woman and walked out of the Rockbell household.
For some strange reason Winry couldn't say but when she watched the broad shoulders vanishing down the dirt road she felt as if she were watching Ed. Why she thought of Ed that moment she couldn't explain but it left her unsettled until she felt tears prick her eyes.
"You don't need to cry. He'll be back in due time. He always will."
Winry looked down at her grandmother in surprise as did Al. "You know him?" She asked incredulously. "Why didn't you tell me?"
"No, but he's the type. Someday you'll find out." Pinako said mysteriously as she watched the man's figure completely vanish from view.
'He'll always come back no matter what. That's just the type of person he is, no doubt about it.'
Back in Central, Roy Mustang ran a hand through his hair as he glanced down at the train schedule in exasperation. Alright, the military didn't have any control over State Alchemist candidates but even so! It was common sense that one would stay in the city to avoid being tardy for any part of the test. He couldn't really complain when Mr. Holderlin passed the written exams with flying colors, nor could he complain when Risembul was a few hours away from Central station on its newest train.
Oh well, there was nothing he could do about the fact that Mr. Holderlin left Central in the middle of an important exam. The man's papers said that he was a traveler by nature drifting from place to place. However that wasn't the only thing nagging him during the day. From the old sector of Central he heard rumors of Hohenheim being spotted about two months ago then simply vanishing to God knew where after that. If one person knew where Edward Elric was, it most definitely was Hohenheim the ever elusive all powerful alchemist who happened to be the boy's father. Roy Mustang opened a drawer and withdrew a thick folder from within, slapping it down on his desk as he flipped open files on Hohenheim which also included a photo which flew out of the file landing over Mr. Holderlin's.
As he moved it aside he froze. The resemblance between the two was undeniable down to the passive face. Could it be that Mr. Holderlin had a tie to the Elric family? Hadn't he heard that there had been a third child from the elusive Hohenheim from a previous marriage? A smirk formed on his face. Well he'll be damned. If that was the case then perhaps the damned man would know something about Edward Elric.
The next two exams came and went by swiftly. Mr. Holderlin passed them exceptionally. It was a disappointment on Roy's part that he wasn't able to witness the man's alchemy given that the young man submitted designs for a flying machine with equations on how to build it and even added alchemic equations to explain the process of creating the 'plane' in alchemic terms for alchemists. Odd yet completely acceptable in military standards, what he couldn't wrap his mind around were the various derivations of the same machine presented in vague sketches after the main sketch. Roy himself had looked at the alchemic equations for air pressure, accounts of gravity and such. He found a whole world of possibilities opening up to him.
So on the day Mr. Holderlin came in to receive his watch and second name, Roy Mustang took advantage of the man's initiation to the military with an inquisition.
Edward had entered the General's office when he came face to face with the infamous 'bastard smirk' as he aptly called it when he had been a teen. (He considered continuing tradition…) He replied with a neutral face. Roy Mustang hated neutral faces, especially unmoving ones. Edward had plenty of practice in Germany to pull off the perfect poker face.
"Congratulations in joining the army Mr. Holderlin." Roy smirked as he pushed the envelope with the silver watch and photos on top across his desk.
A dark eyebrow rose as golden eyes gazed down at the photos for a moment before pushing them off to retrieve the envelope and the watch. "General you must have forgotten to put away the photos."
"On the contrary Major Holderlin, I must say that the resemblance between you and the man in the photo are rather uncanny. Or would it be better if I say Major Elric?"
Edward passively gazed at the dark haired man. Roy Mustang had squat. There wasn't enough evidence to prove otherwise. "Ah. The Elric family, that's a family name that hasn't been mentioned in the West for quite some time, especially in my small village."
Roy blinked in confusion. "What?"
"My village used to serve a noble family by the surname of Elric until they nearly vanished four hundred years ago; it had something to do with the eldest son dying or vanishing…or something of that sort."
The dark haired man slumped against his chair. Just when he had thought he had found a connection! Damn it! Well, Holderlin did have a connection with the family after all…a four hundred year connection. Given what he knew of small rural areas, people tend to look alike from 'inbreeding.' It would seem that Mr. Holderlin was no exception from that theory.
"That's alright." Edward replied with a smile as he opened his envelope to look at his second name. "Avian Alchemist?"
Roy smirked at the young man. "I find it rather suitable don't you?"
Edward knew a dismissal when he heard one. He took the silver pocket watch and put it in one of his coat pockets. In ways the name was rather ironic. Yet he found strong symbolism in it. He left the office carrying the weight of his new watch which rested next to his other one.