Disclaimer:

All established characters and all related established characters associated with Fullmetal Alchemist (be it manga or anime) are the property of their propitiators and I claim no ownership to them. However, any characters not established in either the manga or the anime included in this story are my creation alone and I do claim ownership of them. That said, here is my very first Fullmetal Alchemist story. But hopefully not my last.


FMA: Ch.1

ROCKBELL RESIDENCE

A dark foreboding enveloped Al, and he feared the worse for his brother.

He finally gotten his body back and was reunited with his brother after two years, but did all he gain come at too high of a price?

Three weeks to the day they were reunited, Ed had contracted a mysterious illness that was affecting his mind. It was also causing him to have unexplained hallucinations and delusions.

He referred to his brother's problem as a sleepless delusional state and dubbed what Edward was experiencing as Waking Hallucinations because he was experiencing them while fully conscious. All Ed could see was what his mind and sensory perception was telling him. When he experienced these Waking Hallucinations, his mind was transfixed on a certain event and couldn't brake free. He appeared to be fine, but he wasn't in real time.

Al had consulted some of the highest medical professionals in the country - he even consulted other Alchemists believing they might have an answer where medicine failed - but much to his hope, there was no one would could diagnose Ed's problem. And with every passing day Ed got worse.

Last night he had to finally restrain Ed in bed with an Alchemy binding spell. He was starting to get violent and was on the verge of physical harm during his last hallucination. And much to Al's surprise, Ed's emotions had progressively transversed from subtle to full-blown anger when he saw him. There was a hate in his eyes Al had never seen in his brother before, and it scared him.

Why would Ed be angry at him?

Distraught, he couldn't believe this was happening to Ed after everything they had gone through in recent years. It just wasn't fair.

Ed started to mutter something. Winry was at his bedside. He was talking in his sleep.

"What's he saying?" he asked Winry.

"I don't know, it's undecipherable," she said.

But then it started getting louder until both of them could hear his mutterings clearly.

Edwas taking to him in a calm and in a loving brotherly fashion, but he was having a one-way conversion with him on a topic they had discussed over six years ago when they first started their journey to restore their bodies. Al remembered the conversion. It was on one of those nights when they were studying to become State Alchemists. Ed passed, but Al backed out. They were discussing the material.

"He's getting worse," Winry said, tears falling down her cheeks. Her eyes were already red from crying the night before when Al had to restrain Ed for his own good. "Isn't there anything we can do, Alphonse?"

"I'm afraid not," he said distressed. "I've tried every conventional medicinal method I can think of, but--" He suddenly looked at his hands. "Damn it! All this power at my finger tips and there's not a damn thing Alchemy can do to help my brother. This is so unfair!"

"Don't blame yourself, Al, this isn't your fault," Winry assured him. "We don't know what's happening to him, so there's no use in placing blame until we do." And that was what scared her most. The worse disease was one that didn't have a diagnoses or a cure.

"The strange thing is no one has ever heard of these Waking Hallucinations, as I've dubbed them,"he said. "There's been no medical case of it in history."

"Nothing documented, that is," Winry confirmed. "We've discovered lots of things undocumented in the military and other secret society organizations they didn't want the public to know about in recent years."

"That's true. But if this is some of cotangent someone is testing out on Ed, I want to know why,"he said, his voice highly agitated. He clenched a tight fist at his side and felt his nails dig into his skin. "This might even be some new strain of mutated virus released to an unexpected population. We might be infected too."

With Al going off on a wild tangent, Winry thought she had to be the voice of reason at this point. "You're not thinking clearly, Al," she said calmly. "I highly doubt this is a new strain of mutated virus released on an unexpected population. We haven't experienced these waking hallucinations, as you call them. No one in Resenbul Village has, I've asked. This seems to be affecting Ed only. Almost as if it targeted him directly."

"There has to be something we're not thinking of,"Al said.

"We've already consulted over a dozen highly trained medical doctors around the country about Ed's problem, but no one can give us a definitive answer," Winry said. "They're just as baffled as we are."

"Then what if we're not looking in the right place?" Al suggested.

"What do you mean, Al?"

"I'm not sure, but what if this isn't a disease? What if his waking hallucinations manifest from a deeper source inside his subconscious?"

Suddenly their discussion was interrupted by Ed shouting, "MURDERER!" And with blood-shot eyes Ed turned his head and looked directly at Al. He gritted his teeth angry and he breathed heavy. And he fought against the Alchemy binding spell. Sweet dripped down his face. His muscles tensed. Ed also had a fever on top of everything and it added to things. "Murderer! You killed my brother!"

Al was awestruck at such an accusation especially by his brother who knew it wasn't true. "Ed, Don't you recognize me? I am your brother, Alphonse. Why would you say such a thing?"

"Because it's true! You're a Homunculus pretending to be my brother. I sealed my brother's soul in an empty, vacuous suit of armor until I could restore his rightful body. I don't see my brother -- only you! And you're not him! What have you done with him?" Then he started calling Al. "Al, where are you?"

"But I am your brother, Ed," Al said, trying to reassure him. Ed's eyes followed him. "You restored me back to my body nearly two years ago, don't you remember? I almost died, but you saved me at risk of you own life."

Tears began to trail down Ed's cheeks. Anger turned to sadness. He said, "Please give me back my brother. I'll give you anything. My other arm, my other leg -- anything! Al's suffered enough for my mistake. I was wrong. I shouldn't have force him to help me."

"What does he mean by that?" Winry wondered.

Heshook his head uncertain.

Suddenly Ed's behavior turned violent and he began to thrash around in bed, but the Alchemy spell that bound him to it kept him secure. Ed screamed and shouted, he wanted to be free. But Al couldn't release him for his own safety. Then he stopped and rested. But moments later, he said tiredly, with his eyes closed, "Al, what's going on?"

Hewasn't sure if Ed was actually speaking to him or having another phantom conversion, but he answered anyway. "Brother?" he said. "I've used an Alchemy binding spell to keep you from hurting yourself," Al said. "It's only temporary until we can figure out what's happening to you. Please don't be angry."

Ed produced a mild tried smile but his eyes were still closed, and said, "I can never be angry at you, Al. We may fight a lot, but that's what makes us brothers. I trust you." His mouth moved for a few more words, but whatever he said afterwards was muffled and lost as he trailed off and fell unconscious.

Al rubbed his tried eyes with two fingers. He hadn't slept in nearly twenty-four hours. He choked back tears because he didn't want Winry to see him cry and wiped them away, masking rubbing his eyes. He had to be strong, he was the only person Ed could trust to help him. And yet he felt so helpless.

He clenched a fist frustrated. Winry saw how worried he was and put a hand on his shoulder in an attempt to ease his woes. Al looked at her hand and then followed her arm to her face. She smiled gently. He could see how worried she was, but for the moment she was trying to be strong. He smiled gently back, hoping his smile would comfort her.

He liked Winry. However, his liking for her stemmed deeper than friendship. But he couldn't pursue her because he knew she liked Ed. There was just this deeper connection between them that Al couldn't ignore. So he had to bury his true feelings deep down inside and forget about them. But it wasn't easy.

Al suddenly froze noticing a tiny scar on the base of her neck. He was surprised he hadn't noticed it before. It was then that his eyes widened wide as if he just remembered something important. "What is it?" Winry asked.

"Scar," he said.

"What about Scar? He's dead."

"Not him. Why didn't I think about it before? It just might work."

"What just might work?" Winry asked.

Al went on to explain. "A couple of years ago Scar introduced Ed and I to a powerful Ishbalan doctor when we visited an Ishbal encampment. He told us about a forbidden Alchemy technique called the Mind Mending. Even though it was a form of Alchemy, it was quietly used for medical relief of unexplained mental aliments and allowed. Instead of altering the state of matter it altered the state of the mind."

"Isn't that dangerous?"

"It's an evasive technique, however we were told it was very effective."He continued. "We weren't shown the technique first-hand, but the doctor told us of its mechanics and how it could be performed."

"And you think the Mind Mending technique can work on Ed?"

"I won't know until I try,"he said. "But there is a risk. If it isn't performed correctly both of us could die."

Winry gasped in shock. "Then you can't do it, Al," she said.

"I have to try, Winry," he said. "We don't have any other option. This could be Ed's only hope of surviving. I owe him enough to try."

"Why do you think that?" Winry asked.

"Because he risked everything to restore my body. So call it an equivalent exchange."

He went over to the head of the bed and crouched down. He placed the palms of his hands on Ed's temples.

"There's no way I can contact you even if I'm successful, so you're just going to have to trust me, Winry," he said. Winry nodded. "Oh, and this is very important. Under no circumstances break the connection between me and my brother. I'm using my hands as a conductor between my mind and his. If the link is severed I could be trapped in Ed's mind forever, or until he dies." Winry looked very concerned to hear that. Al then produced a comforting smile. "But don't worry, I'm sure this'll work."

"But you've never done it before, how can you be sure?"

"Because I have faith, Winry,"he said. "And nothing's gonna stop me from helping my brother."

Al closed his eyes and focused on the tremendous task that lay before him. Performing Alchemy without a circle was one thing, he had learned how to accomplish that from his brother. But to carry out a technique he had never attempt before was not only very dangerous but also very foolish. Any number of things could go wrong. But he had to risk it to see what was killing his brother.

Suddenly Ed opened his eyes and looked at Al with eyes full of hate!He shouted, "Get you hands off me, you filthy bastard!"

"No," he said. "I'm risking my life for you, brother." He pressed his hands against Ed's head and grabbed onto his head. He was not going to let go. "Like it or not, I'm going to help you. You risked everything to get my body back. Now it's time I do that same."

"No! No!" Ed shouted. "I won't let you!" And Ed thrashed his head around. But Al held firm.

Heturned to Winry. "Now remember, absolutely under no circumstances are my hands to be removed from Ed's head for the complete duration of this procedure. Okay, Winry?"

But with Ed continuously thrashing around like that it wasn't going to be easy, Winry thought.

Suddenly she had a thought and ran to her work bench carrying back with her a roll of thick black electrical duct tape. She pulled a strip off and wrapped it around Al's hands and Ed's head securing them together. Al looked at what she had done and smiled pleased. "That'll work. Thanks Winry." He said.

"Just bring him home, okay Al?" she said hopefully.

No promises, Al honestly thought. But instead said, "I will."And smiled.

He turned back to Ed who was still thrashing around. "For you brother," he said, and closed his eyes.

Speaking an ancient Ishbalan enchantment over and over again to enter the deepest recesses of Ed's mind. Al suddenly found his consciousness disembodied and engulfed in a bright flash of light. Momentarily blinded, Al ventured through Ed's subconscious mind. Thousands of jumbled images shot past him like streams of multi-colored light through a kaleidoscope.

Suddenly, everything went black.

-- tbc