Warning : OOCness, shounen-ai, human transmutation, alchemy, mild violence, mature themes, character death, slightly coarse language, screwed-up concepts of science, AU, etc, etc. No real spoilers on the anime, Full Metal Alchemist, but rather, I'm altering the things that happened in the first 21 episodes, before jumping towards my ending for this fanfic :D
Disclaimer : I don't own anything XD
Inspired By: Isn't it obvious? Full Metal Alchemist :) Actually, it was staring hard at Roy Mustang since he's too hot despite his age, but whatever XD
Notes : This is actually just a drabble-type oneshot, so I wouldn't go into the details of everything :) It is better if you at least have an idea of what alchemy is, or have watched at least one episode of Full Metal Alchemist. Though I'll still try my best to let you all understand what's happening. The title means universal remedy, the thing that ancient-world alchemists' are searching for. This particular oneshot is going to be divided to 13 sections, which are indicated by proper labels. Please read on, and enjoy.
The Failed Revival
There's no other possible explanation for what transpired inside this abandoned house. He risked everything for that one trial—he researched for years, he took out all the elements needed, he risked his life in exchange for another…
He could faintly hear the steady pounding of the raindrops against the rooftop; he could somehow hear the clash of thunder on the sky above.
His vision is blurred—by tears, by sweat, by fatigue? He doesn't have a single clue. He could feel murky blood dripping from his amputated right arm and left leg. It doesn't feel as painful as it looked like. The pain of failure is worse than this. The pain of losing Iruka and failing to bring him back is worse.
He made his way away from the horrendous globs of flesh staring right at him with hollowed eyes. He hurriedly leaned against a reading table, staining the papers (researches about alchemy) with the crimson liquid splattered all over him. He couldn't bear to see the result of Iruka's failed revival—a creature made of dripping flesh and empty spaces.
Iruka's un-finished face stretched out, its un-covered-by-skin arms inching closer to him. He took a couple of horrified steps away from his failure, before abruptly bolting out of this basement, out of this house, unto the rain-slicked surroundings.
The Fated Visit
He opened his eyes with fair struggle, squinting a bit at the harsh, blinding light poking at his cerulean irises. He couldn't exactly remember what happened after he dashed out of his house.
Well, he could remember seeing Old Lady Tsunade's shocked expression when he slumped on her door, covered in blood, rain, sweat and tears—with two of his limbs lost forever. He couldn't remember anything else—not Tsunade's frantic yells to Jiraiya to hoist him away from the assault of the raindrops, not Tsunade's barely-held tears at his foolish attempt, not how the cold raindrops made him feel more alone than ever…
After a few minutes, his eyes managed to adjust to the room's brightness. He simply stared at the golden-yellow hue of the ceiling. He couldn't move his body much—that told him how much damage has been done to his physical form during his failed human transmutation.
After all that he has done—he found everything funny, actually. He should've known better than to hope that he could rely on his thorough reading and studying. He should've known why human transmutation is a mortal sin, why nobody succeeded, why is it banned now.
He should've known—but he still did it all the same.
Is it really too much to ask, for Iruka to remain at the living world, to continue inspiring him to live through his days with his paternal love and generous kindness?
The door opened suddenly, two sets of footsteps going inside this room. "…I don't see why the military has to send you here," That's the Old Hag's voice, but it's directed towards another person.
Military, huh? The bed-ridden male thought quizzically, closing his eyes in a pretense of remaining asleep. He heard an unveiled snort at Tsunade's icy welcome; he could only think that this person from the 'military' is stupid to try to irritate the strong blonde woman.
"…That's such a cold greeting, Tsunade-hime," A deep voice said, reminding the bedridden boy about the voices of the suave and the classy. Even though the words are nothing serious, there's an undercurrent of steel, telling him that this military-person's presence here has an important purpose.
"I came here to check up on this young boy," The military-person continued, footsteps coming closer to the bed, "I happen to know that he survived a human transmutation…"
"…You knew—and you didn't stop him!" Tsunade exclaimed, adding to the confusion inside the youngest one's mind. He didn't open his eyes, though, in fear of being discovered as an eavesdropper.
"I'd like him to come to the State Alchemist Exam next month," The person then moved away from the bed with an almost-imperceptible sigh. "Look for Uchiha Sasuke," The person directly told the figure on the bed; he probably noticed that he was merely pretending to be asleep.
"I wouldn't allow him to be like you!" Tsunade exclaimed, the sound of her fist hitting the wooden door echoing in the whole room.
Only a series of cold chuckles answered her rage.
The Eternal Admiration
In the end, the Old Hag wasn't able to stop him. With a smile and a promise of trying out only to test his skills as an alchemist (and easily leaving out the fact that he wanted to research for a method to regain back his flesh limbs and replace the metallic automail), he set out away from Konoha and caught the first train that he could find that would send him directly to Central.
He should have known that since that creepy Uchiha Sasuke knew about his movements, he would also know that he's aboard on this train. To his headache and irritation, this train had a military troop ready to abolish a rebel's plan of hijacking this train and letting it crash to the huge Central Station, in hopes of taking away more than just a hundred lives.
After the impromptu show of his skills as an alchemist and as a combat fighter, he was congratulated by Hatake Kakashi, who proclaimed himself as Uchiha Sasuke's right-hand man. The pretty Haruno Sakura also introduced herself, after distantly thanking him for his help on stopping the rebel's less than favorable plans.
The train arrived on Central without any further troubles. He was shocked though, to see that there has been around thirty military personnel aboard the train. They all fell into a straight line and saluted an approaching person. The rebel was pushed forward, his whole body tied tightly with huge ropes.
He watched with some strange fascination, the apparent obedience of this person's subordinates. Even the goofy Kakashi looked subdued as a pretty-looking male appeared within eyesight.
"You—Uchiha!" The rebel cried, hands suddenly furnishing a dagger, freeing himself quickly from the binding ropes. In a split-second, he's already a couple of steps away from the addressed Uchiha, the dagger dangerously arched into the air, ready to cut a neat slice on the Uchiha's torso.
The newcomer, Uzumaki Naruto, could only watch as the apparently-hated (and respected) Uchiha merely raised his right hand (which is covered with that white glove with a red transmutation circle embroidered on one side) and snapped. Flames suddenly burst from the air—it took him a second to realize that Sasuke burned the rebel into ashes.
He murmured softly. "So cool…" He gawked in awe at the man, before he croaked out again, "Who-who are you?"
The other man simply smirked at him, his obsidian eyes glittering with some sort of twisted recognition and pride.
"I'm Colonel Uchiha Sasuke—also known as The Flame Alchemist."
The Alchemy Exam
"…You've certainly grown since I last saw you, Uzumaki-kun," The colonel drawled a bit lazily, left cheek leaning against one upturned palm. His penetrating coal-black eyes stared at the young blonde in front of him—who fidgeted self-consciously upon noticing his gaze.
"Err, thanks?" Naruto replied hesitantly, not liking the wide, feline smirk that crossed the superior's lips. He discreetly glanced at the entire office, noting the hustle and bustle of officers devoted to paperwork. It seemed that Kakashi and Sakura-chan are also directly under this Sasuke's command, seeing that their desks are positioned nearby the Colonel's.
"I wasn't expecting you to come to this exam this early, but—I was expecting you to take the Alchemy Exam nevertheless," The colonel said gently, though there's something lurking inside those unfathomable depths. He just knew it.
The soft, barely-there smile morphed into that challenging smirk, "I know that you'll pass." Sasuke said with the barest hints of trust and odd affection. It took Naruto years to realize that the simple statement showed how much faith the colonel placed on his abilities.
It seemed, though, that the colonel knew of all the things to say to get him motivated. It's irritating as all hell—since Sasuke is very smug with his uncanny abilities of knowing what exactly he wanted, but he figured that those things made him progress further.
He took the Alchemy Exam without hesitation, impressing the officials that watched, including the Fuhrer and the colonel bastard himself. He discovered that with proper control and concentration, his alchemic powers could be multiplied and transferred easily through his metal automail, allowing him the privilege of making the simple reactions without the need to draw the transmutation circle.
Everything passed as a blur after that. He could only faintly register Sasuke throwing the silver pocket watch with a dragon-like design at him—the watch was a sign of being a certified State Alchemist. He could only faintly remember Sasuke teasing him about his rather feminine figure (from his to-be-improved-on height to his body's slender physique). He could only faintly recall Sasuke telling him that he's to work directly under his command—all said with that smug smirk on the colonel's lips.
It was a little over six months after he was recognized as the youngest State Alchemist at the age of twelve, when he learned something from the sneaky Kakashi. He just arrived from another wild goose chase at a far-away town; he was trying to procrastinate reporting to the bastardly colonel, but his right-hand found him easily (well, he just hid under the bed of his dorm room).
"He was the one who voted highest for you, you know," That was all Kakashi told him, as the silver-haired man disappeared as sudden as he arrived. Naruto just blinked disbelievingly beneath the covers of his blankets.
Colonel Uchiha Sasuke
He was fifteen (still the youngest State Alchemist…) when he set foot in the colonel's office again after he bolted away after hearing Kakashi's cryptic statement. He was pretty confident that nobody else knew about his relentless search for the Philosopher's Stone—a powerful device (more like a myth, actually) rumored to have the capability of bypassing all laws of science, including the law of Equivalent Exchange, and have the power to perform a successful human transmutation.
He didn't want to revive Iruka—he had learned his lesson already. Dead aren't meant to be pulled back to life. He just wanted to regain the limbs he lost because of his foolish mistake, because of his aspiring dream, because of his misled goals.
He saw people that he couldn't remember seeing from before on the colonel's new and improved office. He snorted in disgust; the higher-ups are really blind, for they continued on giving Sasuke the ranks that he's sure the Uchiha doesn't deserve the slightest bit.
"Yo, you're the Naruto-guy?" A rowdy man with red face paint on the sides of his cheeks greeted him, an arm already draped on his dirtied shoulders. He was about to hurl this man (or dog-man, since he has a dog sheltered protectively inside his uniform) towards the cold, hard floor, but he saw Sakura-chan's stern disapproving noise.
"Uhh, yeah," Naruto replied a bit uneasily, rubbing his neck hesitantly as he felt a couple of eyes zoom in at his arrival. From afar, he could still see Kakashi's bright-orange porn book (Icha, Icha Paradise).
"Man, you sure are lucky you got assigned under Sasuke's command," The guy said, before grinning sheepishly and extending a long-fingered hand, "Sorry 'bout that; I'm Inuzuka Kiba," The guy continued, shaking the youngest state alchemist's hand.
"Those guys are: Shino, Shikamaru, Chouji and Hinata," He mentioned each of the names while pointing at the respective people. Naruto nodded, a bit taken aback at the greeting to this office.
"So, yeah—You really are lucky. Coz I heard that you didn't ask for a leave when you suddenly disappeared." Kiba continued, not noticing that Naruto averted his head, slightly embarrassed at his one-and-a-half-year of un-filed absence.
"I heard that the Uchiha Itachi was requesting you to be transferred to his command, since he said that his younger brother has been too slack with regulating your goings, and—man, it's a nightmare to be under that Kaleidoscope Alchemist—he's scary and strict as all hell!"
Kiba's ranting wasn't registering to Naruto's mind after the word kaleidoscope was uttered. The Fullmetal Alchemist (that was his formal title) was too stunned to properly react.
Superior and Subordinate
"I know everything, you know," Sasuke said offhandedly, waving the report on one gloved hand idly, as though emphasizing his point. The blond casually seated on the leather couch in front of the colonel's desk fumed silently, his cheeks growing red.
"If you know everything—why do you need me to report!" Naruto asked hotly, his fists (both flesh and metal) clenching and unclenching dangerously.
There was a minute of pause before Sasuke smiled softly—then the smile changed into something strong, edged, sharp and deadly. "I wanted to see you, Uzumaki-kun," He said lowly, something threatening brimming inside his voice.
Naruto's the type to unthinkingly dive into his problem before pondering about it—so he didn't really notice the intense stare the colonel shot him.
"Heh, whatever, bastard," Naruto said bitingly, ignoring his superior's passion-filled statement; after all, why would Sasuke say those words! It's just to play with his mind, he's sure.
Sasuke sighed deeply, before he stood up from his seat and looked out at the window—presenting to him the view of the storm-cloud-laden sky. "You're dismissed, Fullmetal," He said resignedly; his posture was still as regal and as arrogant as ever, but Naruto noticed that he looked rather weary—and—
Naruto went to his feet, planning to hit the National Library again and hoping to stay there until tomorrow morning (librarians' orders be damned) until he could get a proper lead about the Stone again.
"Next time you're going to search for the Philosopher's Stone, please tell me before leaving," Was Sasuke's statement as soon as Naruto's metal limb grasped the doorknob.
Naruto wanted to stay, if only to demand what the hell is wrong with the colonel, but instead of showing his unruly and bothersome concern, Naruto opened the door fully, and shut it tightly, hoping that his mind would get rid of ideas such as he wanted Sasuke to be as happy as possible.
It's the talk of the entire unit. Colonel Uchiha Sasuke refused a promotion, because it meant being relocated and stripped of some of his subordinates—including the infamous Fullmetal Alchemist. His staff thought it was a shame, since they all knew that Sasuke's major goal is to become Fuhrer. Refusing a promotion simply wouldn't help him.
Apparently, his older brother heard of that shocking news and that was the topic of their 'conversation' when the two Uchihas met on the Central Command, both going on opposite directions.
"You're being foolish again, little brother," Despite Itachi's acknowledgement of them being family, there's nothing on his icy tone that suggested any semblance of affection and closeness that relatives usually share.
"It's none of your business, Itachi," Sasuke shot back with an equally cold voice, their eyes glaring hotly at each other, creating a metaphorical fire inside the Central Command's dark, foreboding, secretive atmosphere.
"…It's a waste of resources and time to track down just one person's movements," The grayish-haired Uchiha said slowly, his ruby gaze unwavering. Sasuke swallowed, knowing fully well who exactly his older brother is pertaining to.
"The Fullmetal Alchemist has nothing to do with my decision," He ground out, though the protest sounded lame, even to his ears.
"…If you just let him fall into my command, you could have focused more on your ambitions, little brother," Itachi said evenly, eyes taking in his younger brother's defensive posture. Sasuke is otherwise predictable to the older Uchiha—right now, it looked like his brother is ready to burn him to ashes if he doesn't move away quickly.
"Naruto belongs to me," The younger one snapped hastily, blushing a bit upon recognizing his words' strength, but not taking any of them back.
Really interesting, indeed.
"…Do you really think the Uzumaki-boy is willing to be yours, just like that?" Was Itachi's cruelly-stated statement, before the feared Kaleidoscope Alchemist disappeared in just one flicker of the breeze.
The Misty Rain
Most of his acquaintances told him already that he has a particular talent for attracting trouble. He gritted his teeth, refusing to believe that Kiba's jibes were right, after all. Three years after he was awarded the title State Alchemist, he has seen more than his fair share of failures, deaths and tragedies.
Nothing (that he has seen before) could rival, though, the sight that greeted him at the moment. Blood was splattered messily to the nearby wall—further examinations confirmed that this particular state alchemist's head was punctured and that his brains were exploded from the inside. He averted his eyes as the paramedics (along with some soldiers) hauled his destroyed corpse away.
This was the hottest news around, actually. Shuukaku, the sand demon, was the one pointed to casualties such as this. It's said that the killer was from the village of Sand—a prosperous and religious village that was completely annihilated by the military some ten years ago.
Revenge is his motive, huh, Naruto thought glumly, his metal automail freezing from the steady drip of the raindrops from the heavy-looking dark clouds. All available members of the military were called for, since the feared Shuukaku might be actually still here.
He remembered Colonel Zabuza's order of capturing Shuukaku, dead or alive. That's a rather harsh order, but Naruto supposed that things already got out of hand—now that there are thirty-five state alchemist's killed, with some other casualties such as soldiers that got in the way.
He tugged his orange jacket closer to himself, trying to conserve as much body heat as he could. He wandered around the alleyways of this particular city, aimlessly trying to pinpoint the Shuukaku's location.
"There he is!" There was a frantic yell from a distance, as well as a couple of gunshots and screams. Naruto had three seconds before a figure leaped from the top of the wall beside him towards the same street he's walking on.
He narrowed his blue eyes at the newcomer. The person has a mop of red hair plastered close to his face because of the rain. He also has piercing green eyes filled with nothing but apathy and the desire to end a life. This, this is the Shuukaku!
"Shuukaku: You're under arrest!" Naruto yelled, clapping his hands together, before settling them to the wet ground. The blue thunder signifying an alchemic reaction (a reaction that's composed of destroying the substance, rearranging, then rebuilding into another type of substance) flitted upwards, telling the rest of the military their position. The concrete sidewalk raised steadily, a hand-like figure rising and capturing the redhead's body.
"Don't call me Shuukaku!" The redhead screamed back, his tattoo of 'love' on his forehead glowing eerily, along with the marks (that look like an unfinished transmutation circle) on his right arm. He destroyed effortlessly the cement hand that Naruto created.
"Fullmetal Alchemist," The green-eyed male rasped, walking slowly towards the blond. Naruto was about to ask how come the other knows about him, but he thought better of it. He clapped his hands again, this time, transforming his automail into a strong blade.
A hollow smirk crossed his lips, as he continued advancing to the alchemist standing in front of him. "I'm here to bring death to sinners like you!"
With widened eyes, Naruto could only watch Shuukaku appear in front of him in less than a second, right hand already glowing red with the unfinished alchemic reaction (stopping only at the destroy part).
I don't want to die—not now! He screamed mentally, his metal arm (which is still a blade) reflexively hurling towards his forehead to ward off the serial killer.
BANG! BANG! BANG!
One of the bullets grazed the redhead's left arm, causing him to stumble away from the blond. Naruto looked up at the slightly lessened rain, before he heard the rhythmic footsteps. Recognition and something akin to relief flashed on Fullmetal's face, as he saw Sakura-chan (she was the one who shot at the killer; only she could have that accurate shooting ability) and—
"Colonel," Naruto said with a voice that sounded suspiciously choked. The man, who's around ten years older than him, stepped forward, along with Kiba who's holding a large umbrella over him.
"Flame and Fullmetal," The redhead said slowly, a manic grin fitting against his lips. "This is a good opportunity to get rid of you two," That's all he said before he dashed forward, wheezing past Naruto, and aiming to destroy the Colonel's skull.
The use of the ridiculously large umbrella made sense when one glove-covered hand lifted away from the pants' pockets, and snapped. Sasuke must have taken into account that fire would never burn in liquid, because the fire that he created was very strong (so, that's why most of the officers stayed quite a distance away from him), enough to overcome the light drizzle.
Fire exploded on the air surrounding Shuukaku, and Naruto could only watch, mesmerized by the red-and-orange hues of the flame. He could faintly remember his first impression upon seeing the Flame Alchemist face-to-face. He recalled thinking that Sasuke was very cool. That tinge of admiration returned now, but the serial killer proved to be tough.
Shuukaku fled from the scene hastily, his fishnet shirt still smoking from the left-over flames.
"Hello, Fullmetal," The Colonel said lightly, that superior smirk planted on his face. The blond let his head fall to the side, his longer-than-before bangs reaching up to the ends of his ears.
"I didn't need your help," The blond said accusingly, idly noting that Sakura-chan was quickly ushered away from the two of them by the ever-smiling Kakashi.
"…Yes, you didn't," Sasuke surprisingly agreed with an amiable and softened tone, his smirk twitching into a resigned smile.
"…Then, why?" Naruto asked him, unmindful that the rain suddenly got stronger again, wetting their clothes, plastering their damp wet to their faces. "Why do you keep on following me?" He asked again, when his superior didn't answer.
"…I just do." That was Sasuke's plain answer; Naruto didn't resist when those strong hands capable of sending anything to flames closed over his shivering-from-the-cold frame. Instead, the youngest member of the military leaned his head against the colonel's—on an odd moment of gentleness and vulnerability—and smiled.
The Human Sacrifice
When he told Kakashi (while he was smiling so brightly, so cheerfully, that Naruto thought he might break down and cry) that he's going to quit searching for the Philosopher's Stone, he thought that it was the most untrue thing that he has ever uttered in his entire life. He was glad, however, when the others didn't question his sudden "change-of-heart". He was even more pleased when he overheard the conversation between Kakashi and Sakura-chan—Kakashi said that he wouldn't mention anything about his movements to the colonel.
He didn't really get Kakashi's reasoning, but it's for the betterment of his plans. The Colonel could be quite persistent (and frustratingly annoying) when he wanted to, and if he really decided to, he might be able to change Naruto's mind into plunging deeper into this mess regarding the Philosopher's Stone.
Almost four years into his exhausting journey, but this moment proved to be the most significant in all his research regarding the Stone. A revolting fact was revealed to him—the creation of the Philosopher's Stone requires human sacrifices, not just one, but an ample (think of a whole city) amount of live human sacrifices.
Am I really willing to sacrifice other people for my goals? Naruto asked himself dully, unsurprised when he received no answer. Compared to his goal of regaining back his limbs, killing an awful lot of people seemed gratuitous.
However, since he found out that some members of the military (along with some other criminals like Shuukaku)wanted the Stone, he reasoned that, hey, if the Stone is going to be created, it'd be better if I was the one who made it. It's not exactly an intelligent decision, but—
His face-off with the Homunculi (human-like creatures created from failures of human transmutation) a couple of days ago told him that the creation of the Stone is something that's going to be done, no matter what. Failing to possess it, at the end of the day, would only mean that the bad guys would just triumph over this whole land, and would probably bathe the entirety of the world with tangible terror.
"I'm going to find it," He muttered to the opened books sprawled all around him, the light of alcohol lamp burning brightly beside him. After the National Library was burned into indistinguishable ashes, he needed to search for journals on some secluded areas. If his journey thought him one thing, it's to never underestimate a poor-looking area. Most of the scientists and alchemists, who participated in various experiments regarding human transmutation, worked on inconspicuous places such as abandoned laboratories and deserted towns.
The battered door to this hidden book collection opened with a loud creak, alerting Naruto of another person's presence. He snapped his blond head up, away from the texts, and gasped at the sight that greeted him.
"It's been a long time, Uzumaki-kun."
The Final Goodbye
"Why are you here, following me around, Colonel-bastard?" He asked moodily, carefully injecting irritation and utmost disdain in his voice. Well, he's really pissed that the colonel interrupted his thorough studying of the materials he found lying around on this abandoned town who once strived to find gold. Plus, he's also mad at the colonel for following him here, at the west end of the country, seeing that the colonel's office is on the Central (which, ironically, is located a few kilometers from the East Station).
"…I just do." Sasuke answered again—his answer the same with the one he gave after the first confrontation with the feared Shuukaku. Something like affection swelled inside Naruto's chest, but he ignored it pointedly, reminding himself that this is the colonel, the person who loved playing with his mind, who probably fed him those words to catch him off-guard. He reminded himself painfully that this is the popular colonel, the most sought-after bachelor in the whole of Central. He reminded himself achingly that this colonel isn't interested in him, a person ten years younger than him, under-age, a teenager, as something more than a disrespectful subordinate.
"Any progress?" The dark-haired man asked almost conversationally; his attitude all too different from his caustic façade when he's on the office, when he's commanding his other underlings. Naruto snorted; he should've known that this bastard would undoubtedly know all of his workings.
"…No." He lied, careful not to let any of his fright of his upcoming betrayal show on his face. All throughout his life, he had thought that Sasuke betrayed him—by not telling him of Kakashi's death (as the other struggled to get the information about the Homunculi to him), by not telling him about Shuukaku's true identity (he turned out to be his old friend, Gaara, who underwent some serious physical changes to not be recognized), by not telling him that he knew Tsunade and Jiraiya (who were once recognized State Alchemists), by not telling him a lot of things.
Right now though, he's the one going to betray Sasuke. He kept his lips on that firm, straight line; he kept his eyes impassively staring ahead, not meeting those enchanting obsidian orbs.
Sasuke didn't reply for a long time, before, "I see." His voice is tight, as though struggling to hide a certain emotion, but succeeding barely anyway. Naruto thought that Sasuke would know about his lie—because, isn't Sasuke an all-knowing person? The relief that filled him when Sasuke let the subject go is palpable enough to be manifested on his scarred cheeks, on his jaded eyes.
The colonel turned around—he didn't even sit on the wooden seat in front of Naruto—and didn't look back. Naruto could see those hands, uncovered with the flame-ignition gloves, adjust his jacket, tugging them closer to his lean form. The blond wanted to call his superior officer—his friend, his rival (well, the match between them, even for just an assessment, is truly breathtaking), his…—back, but his mind suddenly got control of his mouth, and soundlessly closed it.
"Uzumaki—Naruto," Sasuke said as soon as his hand was already on the door, palm placed calmly on the dilapidated door, not exerting any sort of physical force. "I—take care," He said hurriedly, though he didn't move from his position. He remained standing still by the door, as though waiting for the other alchemist's reply.
It wasn't the first time Sasuke told him those two admittedly caring words, but Naruto's reply to them were always offhandedly-made. Whatever, sure, just go, were Naruto's common answers to the odd display of concern from the younger Uchiha.
Now, however, Naruto's reply was something said with an almost-tearful voice, almost-resigned, almost-weary, almost-lifeless, and almost-depressed.
Beyond The Door
The alchemic circles drawn on his half-naked body glowed hotly, strangely blue, like the color of his eyes. The complicated transmutation circle drawn on the large expanse of soil—drawn painstakingly by his own crimson blood, glowed that familiar blue color, reminding him of his eyes before all this chaos happened, before he longed to bring back his father (who also acted as his mother) from the other side.
The next thing he knew, his enemies are standing dispassionately over his bloodied body, sneering at him. One of them—he couldn't recognize who, because his vision is already fading away steadily, even though his eyes are wide-open, staring at the darkened skies—roughly took the Philosopher's Stone away from his numb hands.
He could feel his own blood soaking his black shirt, his orange jacket, his cargo pants. He could feel his own blood stain his whole body with the color of death. His eyes are still wide-open, staring impassively above him, since he's lying down on the uncomfortable soil, but seeing nothing of any sort.
He could see the Gate again, with that gold-carved picture of a huge eye on the middle. The last time he caught a glimpse of this Gate was when he tried to transmute Iruka from the materials he collected—sulfur, potassium, magnesium, calcium, water, oxygen, carbon…
This is the Gate dividing the living with the non-living world.
He closed his eyes, hoping to find the end to this eternal struggle. He clenched his right hand, but it's numb, unable to tell him if it's still automail, or if he succeeded. One thing remained true, throughout this entire ordeal.
The Inerasable Sin
He simply floated in this unknown place, letting the dense water, air? carry him around, drifting lazily around nothingness. He couldn't feel anything. He doesn't know if his eyes were closed or not, because he couldn't see anything, nevertheless.
He most probably is dead now, so, where's the harm of pondering over every sappy and gut-wrenching thought he has?
He looked back at the time when this first started—to the time when he came home pretty late from sending Gaara off at the train station, only to find out that Iruka passed out on the kitchen floor, the vegetables for dinner still un-chopped. He called Old Lady Tsunade, who lived at the house beside them (though their houses are separated by a big chunk of garden area). The ex-doctor (well, she was a doctor for the military during the Great Schism) told him that Iruka had this sickness since before he was born to the world. Naruto, naturally, felt put-off by that—but his momentary resentment at Iruka's secret bounced back to his overwhelming concern. Tsunade already warned him, but he still found his heart broken irreversibly when Iruka's large, brown hands (which have been gripping his own on a tight, bonding grip) suddenly slackened their hold, before slowly slipping away.
He studied alchemy extensively since then, ignoring Tsunade's mighty punches on his door, ignoring Jiraiya's irritating shouts through the bedroom window. He didn't eat much, he didn't sleep much—all because he wanted to bring back his beloved father back to life.
He managed to pull off an impressive human transmutation—after all, Iruka's mainframe was there; the only things lacking were his skin and the soul itself—with him only losing two of his limbs, instead of his life. He rushed to go to Tsunade's place, despite the fact that he knew that if the blonde wished, she could not treat his fatal wounds. His lost arm and leg were replaced by a high-class automail; he was too grateful and in-shock to actually question Tsunade's sudden expertise in making that sophisticated artificial limb.
He knew that human transmutation is a sin—yet he still did it, anyway. He knew it, yet he still wanted to bring back Iruka from the world of the dead. He knew it, yet he still wanted to regain his lost limbs, still wanted to live a life without the wispy echoes of his sins.
He eagerly took the bait Colonel Uchiha placed enticingly in front of him, knowing that becoming a State Alchemist meant being a dog of the military, a pawn to its ambitions, a tool to its needs. He took the exam, showed off his skills, impressed the higher-ups, and landed a position under Sasuke's watchful eyes.
The Colonel used his abilities to iron out the wrongdoings of the small, isolated, un-checked military units at certain towns; he used his abilities to help the oppressed people and kick the butt of abusive personnel. All of the Fullmetal Alchemist's achievements were directly placed under Sasuke's name, increasing his appeal, his charm, his control, his power, and his rank.
Naruto used the Colonel's unwavering protection over his missions to search for the Philosopher's Stone. He used the Colonel's name to get the research journals he needed; he used the military's power to seek out things that were hidden from ordinary civilians' knowledge. He used the Colonel's rank and influence to wreck everything (due to his uncanny ability to attract trouble) and to search things forbidden, even to most members of the military.
Colonel—colonel, colonel, Uchiha, Sasuke—SASUKE, SASUKE!
He tried to close his eyes—a futile attempt, he belatedly realized, seeing that he couldn't even recognize if his eyes were opened in the first place—to block out the images bombarded to him by his mind. He didn't need anymore warnings about getting involved with the colonel possessing that taunting smirk, that testing expression, that warm touch, Sasuke!
He took a deep breath, as though to steady his rapidly pounding heartbeat, but then he remembered that he's not supposed to have any heartbeat now.
He supposed it's one of the side-effects of thinking of that infuriatingly-smirking Colonel. Ever since the time they're working together in a normal superior-subordinate relationship, thinking about Sasuke always made his pulse speed up, his palms clam up, his eyes widen, his cheeks burn hotly, his mind dizzy with some drunken admiration.
That didn't mean that he forgave Sasuke for hiding the most important things from him.
He didn't know that Old Lady Tsunade, also known as the Legendary Sucker, was—no—is the well-known Strong-Arm Alchemist, who also happened to be the Fuhrer before the Great Schism happened between the Fire Country and the Sand Village.
He didn't know that the perverted old man, Jiraiya, was known as the Legendary Frog Hermit, and still is the holder of the title Earth Alchemist.
He didn't know that Kakashi was killed by the Homunculus Envy—who happened to be the Legendary Snake, and is also the current Fuhrer, the one Sasuke was hoping, no, aiming to defeat and dethrone.
He didn't know that his childhood friend Gaara was Shuukaku—whowas killed a week ago (by that Homunculus Pride, who is also Hyuuga Neji, a high-ranking official in the military).
He didn't know—
He didn't know a lot of things.
He felt defeated, cheated and failed.
He let himself fall into the deepening hold of this murky, gooey darkness, but he could feel a bright light piercing the lid of his closed eyes, making him seem to see the color of red. He could make out the faint sounds of rain hitting the ground, the scratchy quality of the voice screaming at him almost pleadingly, the strong, warm hand clutching his growing-cold body—
"Naruto—wake up! Please, wake UP!"
Strange—the voice sounded a lot like the Colonel's.
…But that's impossible—since he already quit Sasuke's command, already surrendered his silver pocket watch, surrendered his title as the Fullmetal—and Sasuke's on his way to the rumored plan to oust Orochimaru from his position as Fuhrer.
He opened his eyes groggily, feeling his eyelids unexplainably heavy, upon feeling drop after drop of warm, crystalline liquid hitting his cheeks. His eyesight is blurred, but he couldn't be wrong—
He saw a pale-skinned male holding him tightly, face etched into a pleading, desperate look, crimson eyes filled with fear and relief, crystalline tears edging their way down those high cheekbones, blood splattered on some parts of his normally-clean face, bluish-black bangs touching his own tanned cheeks—
Welcome Back, Naruto
He sat up slowly, feeling his muscles protest and his bones creak. He recognized this place as somewhere unfamiliar, but there's that certain aura that urged him to feel secure in this area. He sighed deeply, adjusting slowly to the navy-blue-covered bed, blue eyes drawn to the wounded flesh right arm, before traveling down to his bandaged flesh right leg.
The door opened softly, letting inside a stream of pale yellow light from the corridor outside. The owner of the house stepped inside with confident strides, which clashed with the apparent concern swimming on the male's pale face. "Congratulations, Naruto," The Colonel said with a tone filled with care and relief.
It hurt to smile—he was probably sliced near his cheeks—so he simply settled for silence (since he couldn't move his head without pain).
"You look beaten-up," Naruto observed thoughtfully, earning a snort from the older male (who now made himself comfortable by sitting on one side of the bed). The blond thought that it's rather weird for him to say that, given his condition, but luckily, his ex-superior didn't comment further.
"Well, I had to defeat Hyuuga after I ousted Orochimaru…" Sasuke said calmly, as though he's just commenting about the weather. He shot the bedridden male with the familiar confident smirk.
"You defeated TWO Homunculi, successively, by yourself!" This is simply too unbelievable to the blond's ears.
"Didn't you know? I'm obviously stronger than you," Sasuke plainly said, causing his ex-subordinate to fume on his bed.
"B-but, TWO!" Naruto still sounded disbelieving; Sasuke doesn't know if he should feel insulted by the obvious doubt on his skills.
"…I had to save you," Sasuke admitted quietly, but it was said furiously, fiercely. His black eyes snapped to meet Naruto's blue ones, as though challenging the younger one to deny his words.
"I—I always believed that you'd never let me down," Naruto confessed softly, without the usual spark and enthusiasm seen on the Fullmetal Alchemist. It's true—despite Sasuke's erroneous decisions to suddenly ally himself with the Homunculi (which turned out to be a strategy to learn of their weaknesses and plans), despite Sasuke's obsessive attachment on defeating his older brother, despite Sasuke's seemingly pointless commands… He never really left Naruto's side.
And that… is more than enough.
Sasuke looked like he's smiling, but Naruto could never be too sure. Instead of smiling happily like most normal people do, he inclined his head to one side, his long, unruly bangs framing his face gently, making him look momentarily ethereal.
He spoke in a soft, affection-laden voice, without any traces of the witty, manipulative, power-seeking, smug Colonel. "Welcome home, Naruto."
It's as though all the years of them being together made sense. All those fleeting touches, all those gently-spoken words, all those passing glances, all those inquiries about each other—
"I'm back," Naruto whispered back, without the traces of the easily-angered, determined, passionate, loud, courageous Fullmetal Alchemist.
This time, Naruto accepted the seemingly-innocent brush of lips with open arms.
I never stopped believing in you, too, Naruto.
Well, how was it? I feel very nervous and anxious for this piece, and I've thought through it big time, so… yeah :P Feedback is really, really appreciated :) I love the concept of this one, and I truly hope that there are people out there who likes this as well –smile, smile- It's rare to see a Naruto betraying Sasuke (see excerpt X)fanfic, so –grins-
Vocabulary: automail (the metal limbs that replaced Naruto's lost flesh limbs); Fuhrer (the name given to the Head of the military); Homunculi (creatures that are not human; created from failed attempts at human transmutation).
I'll try to answer your questions via review-replies or email :D
Reviews are fully appreciated. Thank you to everybody who supports me and my other writings :) You guys rock XD