Contains major spoilers for Full Metal Alchemist and some spoilers for Justice League Unlimited.
Watanuki was happy to say he managed to avoid the Gate for two months. In that time, he'd been dragged along on five crazy adventures across the country, been saved/humiliated by Domeki at least twice, and made a fool out of himself in front of Himawari four times. But at least he hadn't had to clean the Gate.
He had just made some tea when he noticed an American man thanking Yuuko and walking out of the shop. He blinked upon seeing the man; for an instant, he could have sworn he'd seen the man dressed in some kind of Egyptian dress and wearing golden wings.
"Don't worry, Mr. Hall," Yuuko commented kindly. "I'm sure the black-out was nothing. But perhaps you should see a doctor about that if it's bothering you so much?"
"Thank you," the American replied. "I think I will."
"Goodbye now," Yuuko answered, closing the door. She then turned to Watanuki and tossed him what looked like an ankh. "Put the Absorbascon next to the Mirror of Erised." But Watanuki was still frozen in place. "Is something wrong?"
"That man…he looked like…"
"Ah, the wings," Yuuko realized. "You caught a glimpse of his past self, then. Yes, Mr. Hall wanted to forget about his past life since it had been causing him and two other people a lot of grief. Of course, this was also what he treasured the most, so it was an equal exchange." She smiled. "It's not often that people realize why they have to give up what I ask them to." She pointed at the Absorbascon. "That made him remember his past life, so I took it away. Of course, since his memories of that life dictated most of his actions for the past few years—even to the point that he changed his name—he's going to have to create a few false memories to make up for what he's lost."
"So, are his problems over?" Watanuki asked.
"Not really. There are two others involved in this mess, but I doubt either of them will be coming here. One doesn't really need to and the other's just too stubborn." Looking at his still confused face, she smiled and said, "You'll probably want to put that away now and bring out the tea."
Watanuki hurriedly placed the ankh on a shelf next to the Mirror (which almost scared him as much as the Gate did) and ran back to the kitchen. He poured out two cups of tea and placed them on the table, watching as Yuuko took out a cup of sake for herself instead.
"Yuuko, why did you have me make tea if you were just going to drink sake?" he questioned.
"I'm expecting a customer in a few minutes," she answered, smiling, "and he'd probably prefer black tea over alcohol." She handed Watanuki a cup of tea. "Drink up."
It was only about five minutes later when a young man cautiously walked through the door. In a way, he was almost more startling than Mr. Hall. Watanuki couldn't pick up any residual past lives off of him, but he could definitely see something strange. The young man was hardly any older than Watanuki himself, his blond hair tied back in a braid and his gold eyes cautiously taking in everything in the store. His clothing was right out of the past somewhere—sometime before World War II, Watanuki supposed. But the strangest thing about him was his right arm and left leg. Somehow, Watanuki knew they were fake, and he could see the phantoms of the real limbs. Then the young man looked straight at Yuuko and his eyes widened in recognition. At the same time, so did Watanuki's—this was one of the boys Yuuko had told him about, one of the brothers that had played with human alchemy!
"It's nice to see you again, Edward Elric," Yuuko said with a slight smirk.
"You're…you're from the Gate," Edward remembered. "I didn't remember seeing you before, but now…"
"Sit down," she offered, and Edward took a seat on the couch. "I am Yuuko, the Time-Space Witch, and keeper of the Gate." She gestured to Watanuki. "This is Watanuki, my employee." She handed Edward a cup of tea, and he took a sip to calm his nerves. "Since you've been to the Gate at least four times in the past six years, we can skip the formalities. You know how it works: I can give you anything you desire, but for a price."
"Equivalent exchange," Edward murmured, and Yuuko smiled.
"Exactly. I take it your plans to return to your homeworld have failed."
"Yes." Watanuki looked at him in surprise. He hadn't thought there was someone else like the ninja Kurogane—unable to return home because of a spell or, in Edward's case, alchemy.
"Tell me, Yuuko," Edward continued, looking up from his tea. "What do I have to give in order to return home? To see Al and Winry and everybody again?"
Yuuko lit her pipe and let the smoke circle around her in graceful wisps. "I've done this kind of deal before with four other travelers besides you and your brother. Alphonse paid for your passage with his memory of the four years you spent in search of the Philosopher's Stone, since he didn't want you to die trying to bring him back. In the case of Shaoran, Sakura, Kurogane, and Fai, I took something different—that which they treasured most."
Edward stared at her in horror. The teacup slipped from his hands and shattered on the floor, but no one paid it any mind. Yuuko was still watching him and Watanuki had joined Edward in staring at her. This wasn't the same as taking Sakura's memories or Fai's tattoo or Kurogane's sword—this was taking away a person.
"I can't do that," Edward declared, barely keeping himself from shouting at her. "Al gave his life for me when Envy killed me, and I tried to give mine for him. With all we've been through, you can't ask me to throw all of that away just to get home! The whole point was to get back to him!"
"Yuuko," Watanuki reasoned, "please. Isn't there something else you could ask for? Something else that would equal out in equivalent exchange?"
Yuuko inhaled from her pipe, looking as though she was considering it, and then exhaled with a smile. "I think I have a price we can all agree on. Ed, I'll let you go through the Gate unharmed by any of the homunculi. You'll reach your hometown exactly as it was when you left—only, a year will have passed because of your time in the other world. The year will be 1916. Barring any stupidity from your family and friends, they should all still be alive."
"And in exchange?" Edward asked.
"In exchange, I'll take your alchemy," Yuuko answered. "You'll be able to understand an alchemy textbook or any array, but you'll never be able to use alchemy again. The Gate within you will be locked." Looking to Watanuki, she asked, "Does that sound fair?" He nodded.
"All right," Edward replied. "It'll be tough, but I accept." A small smile spread across his face. "Maybe it's a good thing. I know how powerful I am—everyone called me a prodigy. Being a dog of the military gave me a lot to think about what I could possibly do if they tried to use me as a weapon. At least this way, I won't be their weapon."
Yuuko smiled even wider as she looked at him. "It's not often that someone realizes why they must give something up. You've grown since our first meeting. Watanuki, please show Edward to the Gate."
"What?" Watanuki asked in shock. "Why me?"
"Equivalent exchange, of course," Yuuko answered. "You wanted Edward to get back home almost as badly as he did. You're getting what you want by seeing him go home, but in exchange…"
"In exchange, you get to see me lose it in front of the Gate again," Watanuki muttered. Edward stood up, nodded his thanks to Yuuko, and followed him to the storage room.
"So this is where she keeps the Gate?" Edward questioned, looking around at the different artifacts. He glanced briefly at a star-shaped pendant made of seashells and explained, "I've only seen it in an empty space—I guess, summoned from the human transmutation itself."
"Yeah, Yuuko puts just about everything here," Watanuki replied, taking care not to knock over Kurogane's sword like he had last time. He straightened it better on the shelf where it lay, next to that old broken locket and an engagement necklace of some tribal girl of another world. It was as much as he could do to delay looking at the Gate. Finally, he turned and looked at it, knowing Edward was staring in horrified fascination. "There it is."
Edward took a deep breath and walked toward it. The Gate opened, and thousands of shadowy homunculi grabbed at him, stripping away his alchemical ability as they pulled him through to his homeworld. Just as he was about to disappear completely, he turned and said, "Thank you, Watanuki. This means a lot to me."
The Gate slammed shut, and Watanuki collapsed to the floor, trying his hardest not to throw up. Once he'd finally pulled himself together, he got up and headed back to the kitchen, feeling Yuuko's smug grin against his back as he got another cup of tea. He decided that not only did he hate the Gate, but the entire concept of equivalent exchange as well.
I honestly didn't plan on having a second chapter, but seeing the end of FMA gave me ideas. Adding to the disclaimer: I don't own Justice League Unlimited either or any other series, book, or game that I may have borrowed artifacts from. You can have fun playing "I Spy" with them.