Once again I must apologize for a shamefully slow update. Writers block coupled with my busy schedule has given me nearly no time/inspiration to write. But here I am again with the final chapter of this fic. DUN DUN DUN!
XII: Heaven Help Us
"I don't understand, why can I remember now? Why was I... alive there?"
Nina looked pleased with herself. "It was a present ... from me ... that you could see that girl. But your memory is something... special. It has to do with this place." She looked at the gates on either side of them casually. "The Gates are familiar with you, big brother." There was something in her voice that seemed out of place, though Ed didn't notice it. He was too busy listening to what she was saying.
He almost appeared hopeful. "What do you mean by that?"
"They love you and hate you at the same time, that's what they tell me anyway. Goodness Ed, you're such an idiot. You've played around with the Laws so much that they cannot wait to take you!"
The voice that had just spoken was definitely not Nina's. It was an older woman, with a warm, raspy tone of voice. Ed could never forget that voice...
He felt his blood run cold as he uttered a single word, so quiet that he could barely hear himself. "... Sensei ...?"
Izumi Curtis' boisterous laugh echoed through the abyss, you could tell that in some far off place.. she was smiling.
"It's about time Edward!"
Alphonse was near hysterical as he closed the door behind him. It took every last bit of strength for him to not lose his head and start smashing things. Emotions were so much more potent when he was bound to a real body, and he wasn't used to the feeling. He had grown accustomed to living inside that suit of armor and the protection it gave him.
With shaking hands he reached for the receiver and held it to his ear.
" H-hello? ...Operator?"
But there was no sound, the line was dead. He stepped back - stunned - and watched as the phone clattered to the floor.
Without thinking he slammed his fist into the wall and slid to the ground with quiet sobs. He was startled when a framed picture fell from the wall, jostled loose by the force of his angry outburst. Upon hitting the hardwood floor it smashed, sending shards of glass in all directions. Al lifted his head tentatively and stared at the black and white portrait framed behind cracked crystal. It was of the Landlord and his family. His smiling wife stood beside him holding a little bundle - his son. Al blinked back his tears and leaned forward to grasp the photo to get a better look - but he stopped himself. His eyes glowed strangely in the candlelight and they reflected what he saw with a sinister glow.
A particularly large fragment of glass lay before him and it was like a mirror as he held it closer to his face. It was triangular, almost knife-like in shape, and it was sharp. Al knew this well as he ran a finger along the delicate edge. He didn't even flinch as a tiny ball of crimson began to form on his fingertip.
Hands maneuvered the object in a circle, until he held the point facing toward his chest.
Suicide. He had always thought about it, especially when he lost his body, but the idea of leaving his brother seemed like blasphemy at the time. It was just not an option. Why kill himself when there were plenty of people who wanted to take his life themselves?
But his brother wasn't here anymore, and this time there wasn't a philosopher's stone lying around.
We just need to live and be content while we can...
Al clenched his teeth as the memory of Ed's voice bounced around his skull. Without a second thought he tossed the glass away and buried his face in his hands. He was just about to close his eyes when the sudden sound of horrified screaming sliced through the air like a hot knife through butter. Without a second thought or any regard to his own emotions Alphonse leapt to his feet and threw the door open.
"Noa?! What-- What's going on--"
Noa was standing backed up against the wallpaper with her hands to her mouth, frozen in shock. Her hazel eyes were wide and focused on the white shroud spread across the sofa.
There was no body under the sheet. Edward was gone.
Nina's voice was fading; Ed could no longer see her.
"Nina?! Wait! Don't go! Don't.. Where are you going?"
"NINA!" He screamed into the great expanse surrounding him, his chest feeling incredibly heavy and hollow at the same time.
"Are you ready to die then? Nina's waiting for you." Izumi's voice was all he could hear now.
"N-no! I'm not ready... how could I be ready?!" He snarled at her with the same amount of impertinence that he had possessed back when he was young, and Izumi chuckled softly in the distance.
Ed felt shivers race up his spine... something was very wrong. He felt cold, almost deathlike. He could feel the warmth being sucked from his skin. As he looked down at his hands he noticed... he was fading away. Slowly but surely.
"Izumi... could you tell me... what's happening?"
"I'm helping you out, the hard way."
A piercing screech sliced through the air from inside the gate and Edward clamped his hands over his ears. The world spun sickeningly for a moment, then Edward felt the wind knocked out of him. It felt like all five of his senses had stopped working. He could feel nothing, he couldn't see or hear or smell or touch...
The world turned gray, he could hear the rain, and he felt very cold and wet.
Normally he would have hated to be in such a condition yet he was happy enough to cry.
Noa rushed outside into the pouring rain, wild-eyed and frantic. Alphonse looked exhausted standing there inside the building, but he didn't stop her or even bother to raise his voice in protest. He was just as confused, though held a strange look in his face... Something in his eyes that almost looked like hope.
"Ed? Are you... are you there?" Noa called out into the dark street cautiously. It was clear that she had no idea what was going on and she was beginning to panic even though she was already drained of all energy. "Edward?!"
For the longest time there was not a single sound that could be heard except the rain. Al and Noa stood numbly underneath the eaves trough shivering, simply staring with hollow eyes. There were no tears, they were too tired for that, yet a stubborn glimmer of hope held them there... as if simply hoping would bring back the dead.
Thunder rumbled in the distance.
".. Noa ? "
The gypsy felt her heart jump to her throat as the two spun around to face the beautiful sound that was Edward Elric's voice.
Like from a dream he emerged from the shadows into the lamplight. His hair and clothes pressed against his skin from the pouring rain, though his eyes were bright and-- most importantly... there was life to seen behind those honey-gold irises.
The streetlight gave him a warm yellow glow and he literally sparkled as he moved to wards them. Even from such a distance down the the street... he was like an angel.
Dead and reborn again. The lucky bastard had a huge grin on his face, you couldn't blame him really.
'It's too perfect to possibly be real, but I'll take it,' Noa thought.
Inhibitions were useless at a time like this, so without shame or doubt she ran to him with arms outstretched and tears running down her face. To her surprise he did not reject her- but instead he enveloped her in a warm embrace as the rain pounded down on both of them. Soaking wet and all.
Weakly, Noa beat her fists against his chest until she could no longer lift her arms. Instead she collapsed against him and let him support her. "Are you really here for good this time?" Noa was a whirlwind of emotions as she sobbed into his shoulder, "Are you going to stay and not leave ever again? I don't... I don't think I could handle it if you... left for good."
Edward pressed his lips into her hair and sighed, "Is that what you want?"
Noa was about to nod indignantly just as Alphonse stormed over to stand beside her. His hair was practically standing on end with outrage.
Al grabbed his brother by the collar and lifted him clear off the ground, an action that nobody could have predicted from him.
The look on his face was reminiscent of the old Edward's - pure unadulterated outrage. What with the burning eyes and furrowed brow you could definitely see a resemblance between the two.
"What the hell was that all about?! Why aren't you dead? Was this all some kind of sick scientific joke?!" Al continued to glower at him for a moment before suddenly abandoning his rage and wrapping his arms around Ed's torso, "If you ever 'die' again I'm going to bury you in the fucking ground, understand? No more crazy wheelchair stunts or..." He blinked slowly and looked down, it had finally dawned upon him that Ed was clearly able to stand without the aid of a wheelchair.
Ed merely laughed and ruffled his brother's hair, flattening it against his skull, "I feel better than I have ever felt in years Al! Good enough to..." he laughed sarcastically as his voice broke suddenly and turned his attention over to Noa again, "I feel good enough to something as crazy as this!"
Noa made a strange noise as she felt cold arms snake firmly around her body to grip her back and neck, she could hardly even let out a gasp before he had pressed his lips against hers. He held it there for a moment and was about to pull away when Noa surprised him as she frantically gripped his shoulders. Her hair was now completely sodden and plastered against her neck, Edward couldn't help but think that it made her look very beautiful, with her hazel eyes simmering and her cheeks flushed with chill. So, like any man would do, he smiled warmly. Rather unaware of the fact that Noa was an emotional train wreck at the moment. He was quite taken by surprise when she suddenly shoved him away furiously. So surprised- in fact- that he tripped over his own feet and fell back onto the ground with wet thud.
"You!" Noa growled. She simply stood there and pointed at him, so overwhelmed by the whole situation she could barely speak. Ed could do nothing but quake as the angry gypsy towered over him like a thundercloud.
Al was holding his sides laughing.
"I... what?" Ed asked meekly.
Noa knelt down in front of him with a very unimpressed expression.
"There are so many names I could call you..." she sighed heavily and took Ed's face in her hands, tracing his cheekbones with her fingers, "... It's too bad I like you too much. Way too much."
Al muttered in the background, "Just kiss him and get over with it, I'm cold."
A/N: Well... it's all said and done folks. Thank you all for one hell of a ride and for all your wonderful reviews and encouragement.
I would just like to mention that I do not in any way consider this fanfic to be of amazing quality and as such I would ask that reviewers refrain from any sort of 'constructive crit'. I know some parts are complete crap. I wrote it so trust me, I know.
What I would like to hear now is what you did like so I can keep in mind what aspects I can re-use in other works.
One thing I've learned is that depressing fics are a bitch to write. Never again!
Thanks again for putting up with my rampant procrastination, you're all awesome.