New FMA Fan-Fic: "Threads of Time" Chapter 1 + ART

Premise: FMA Divergent AU where, among other things, it was Ed that ended up bound to a suit of armor by his brother, Alphonse, when their attempt to resurrect their mother recoiled and went horribly wrong. Their lives have been changed forever since.

This story takes place approximately two years after Alphonse Elric became the State-Certified "Full-Metal Alchemist," making the brothers 13 and 14.

Characters: Armor!Ed, Automail!Al, and many more to come!
Rating: PG
Pairings: None
Genre: AU, humor, angst
Spoilers: None
Length of this Chapter: 1,885

Writer: "TheRegalTigress" : LiveJournal: theregaltigress

Story-Inspired art can be found there as well. :)

"Threads of Time" – Chapter 1

The still pinpoints of light that littered the night sky reminded him of simpler times.

The world outside the train was dark, so dark, in fact, that as the armored countenance of Edward Elric stared out the window from within his metal cocoon, he could imagine any number of vistas hiding from beneath the cloak of perpetual darkness. Even the usually ever-present moon didn't seem inclined to show its face. Were it not for the steady vibration of the train that made his body subtly rattle, he wasn't even sure he would have noticed that they were moving at all.

As if sensing his thoughts, a voice across from him spoke up, "Are you sure you don't want to play another game of chess, brother?" Alphonse shook a small linen satchel that hung from between white-gloved fingers. The hidden chess pieces jangled and danced as they bounced lightly. He was obviously trying his best to appeal to Ed's competitive nature, which he hoped would win out over his brother's renewed fondness for melancholy. The young boy's smile pleaded with his older brother.

"Nah," came the predictable, metallic reply. It sounded fainter than Ed had intended it to and turned from the window to his brother, "You already beat me three times already tonight. I don't need to make it an even four."

"Oh…" Alphonse smile drooped a bit as he laid the satchel to the side and turned his head to glance out the window as the train sped by unseen scenery. There wasn't anything to see, but he pretended there was.

Ed observed Al for a moment before speaking up, "You should eat," he said crisply, "you've hardly haven't eaten anything since Dublith."

"M' not hungry," came Al's reply, as he continued to stare out the window.

This earned the younger Elric a glare. If he felt it, he chose to ignore it until the last possible moment.

"Just because both of us can't-" Edward began.

Al's head whipped from the empty landscape outside to where his brother's glowing eyes were baring down on him. Even seated, he had to look up to meet Ed's gaze. "Please don't start that, brother. It's not about that. I'm just not hungry, okay?" His voice was even; this exchange was nothing new to either of them.

The suit of armor shifted its shoulders, trying to manipulate its posture to relay its seriousness. But without a face that could show emotion, he was almost entirely at the mercy of his brother to interpret the glare he could feel himself making, but could not express.

Al wryly added, "You can stop glaring at me like that. It's not going to work." As if to solidify his standpoint, the younger Elric firmly crossed his arms.

Ed, who then crossed his more massive arms, met this bold move. One could have almost sworn the small, almost antenna-like flock of hair that looped over the brim of his head twitched in shared agitation.

Much as Al would have been the last to person to openly admit that his somewhat lackluster eating habits had anything to do with his brother's inability to consume food, he knew that deep down, it was something he had in mind each and every time he ate or drank. He felt guilty, though certainly Edward had never done anything to promote that guilt, but Al wasn't sure how in this situation it could be helped. He could eat. His brother couldn't. It wasn't that he avoided eating outright; he just preferred to do it when Ed was busy with something else, be it reading or whatnot. He didn't like doing obvious things like that, which would inadvertently remind Ed of what he'd lost.

Of what they'd lost.

The two brothers stared at each other in looming, stubborn silence, until finally one of them had to break.

Sensing this approach wasn't going to get him anywhere, Ed changed his tactic and reached over to pull a golden yellow pear from Al's dufflebag. He held it out in front of his brother as if it were an offering. His hollow voice softened, "C'mon, Al, eat this and tell me what it tastes like," Ed's foot lightly kicked Al's automail leg, as if driving home his point.

Al's face twitched slightly and his glare softened. Honey-colored eyes moved from Ed's glowing eyes to the pear as he stared at it, debating. Then, with a sort of resigned sigh, he took the fruit and placed it in his own palms. The dirty-blond boy sighed and Ed obediently placed his hands on his lap and waited for Al's predictable next move.

This, like so much between the brothers, was a sort of choreographed dance. They knew each other too well to be able to feign that they weren't subtlety working to manipulate the other. Yet, much as it was still manipulation, it was manipulation with only the best of intentions. In "Elric," it was called "caring."

A white, gloved thumb scanned the pear's outer skin. Alphonse had always been the more observant one before all of this had happened. He was also the more sensitive of the two brothers, certainly. Yet while even now Ed's vibrant, brilliant mind could sometimes put his brother's to shame, it was Al who forever clung to fastidious details of the world around them as if each and every one of them important pieces of a greater puzzle.

Al rolled the fruit around in his hands, feeling the weight of it in the left hand, and the added weight of it along the scarred flesh of his right shoulder. He focused his mind on the sensations in his left hand, because he knew the automail would offer him no useful insight.

Edward watched him and bid his time. Originally when he had begun making such requests it had been acutely for Al's benefit. He didn't want to see Al get sick, or to put his body through any more torture than that damned automail already put him through. He needed his strength, and as such, he needed to eat. It was simple as that.

So when Edward had first discovered this coy form of manipulation, he'd listened to Al, certainly, but he didn't REALLY listen. It's not like Al could tell, after all, for among other things the armor had bestowed upon Ed, he had received an impressive "poker-face." So while Al customarily rambled on with his detailed descriptions, Edward instead chose to mentally distract himself with any variety of other topics, and once Al had finished eating thanks to his lengthy discourse, they could continue on their journey unabated. That was how Ed's plan worked.

In time, however, when Ed posed these questions to his younger brother he found he tuned in to every word and intonation his little brother spoke. His memories of such simple pleasures were hazy at best. It had been so long since he'd eaten, since he'd felt or sensed anything, and Al's sensitive words filled a void that had begun to deepen inside Ed's hollow shell. Al's words, his verbose and painstaking descriptions were a double-edged sword: at once reminding Ed what he'd lost, all the while reminding him what they were seeking to return to them both.

Edward's usually busy mind was focused. Waiting. Watching. Listening.

"Well…" Al began as he removed a white glove from his left hand and moved his fingers carefully over the fragile skin of the fruit, as if it were a sacred object, "well it's a little chilled." His face pursed in concentration, like this were some sort of exam where every painstaking detail counted as much as the next. "And the skin is smooth, but where the mottled parts are it's a bit raised. It's fairly hard, except I guess where there's this little bruise." He closed his eyes reflexively a moment and smelled it with the relish of a wine connoisseur. "It's very aromatic, and smells sort of… tart? Fresh. Ripe." He chuckled lightly, looking up at Ed's face, "I didn't know ripe was a smell."

The glowing eyes that were watching him seemed to smile a little. He wasn't sure how he knew. He just did.

Alphonse looked back to the fruit and slowly, carefully, closed his eyes and took a tentative bite. The armor leaned a bit closer, the soul that was locked to it trying to live vicariously through the young man's words.

"Al…" Ed began, bidding him to continue.

"Hold on, I'm thinking," Al reprieved his brother's usual impatience with the opening of a single, honey-colored eye. He could feel a bit of the juice slide out from the corner of his mouth as he spoke, and he promptly rubbed his sleeve along the corner of his mouth before he closed his eye and continued the pear "experience."

"It's really juicy and sort of sweet and tart all at once," he let the flesh of the pear dissolve inside his mouth as he at once tried to concentrate on the texture of it. "It's a little coarse and lumpy, like thick porridge or something, with a little bit of sand mixed in… kinda gritty I guess? But in a good way." He chewed again, "The taste is light. Very watery and very pulpy."

He stopped chewing to swallow and opened his eyes, "There's a bit of a tangy aftertaste. It reminds me of that feel when you're out in a field or something, you know? And you go inside and you can still smell the grass on you. It's just sorta stays around. The aftertaste is kinda like that."

"Are they better than the ones from the Melbrooke's farm?" Ed ventured.

Alphonse deliberated only a moment before firmly shaking his head 'no,' "Nah. Those ones were a lot sweeter, but this one's still pretty good." He broke eye contact with Ed the moment he could feel his own guilt start to predictably creep up on him. There was an uncomfortable pause as he added, "We'll have all sorts of good things to eat when you get your body back." With an affirmative nod, Alphonse went back to his pear.

Ed groaned, "We have to have gone over this at least a hundred times now, Al. And as the older brother, I'm telling you that we're getting your arm and leg back first," The armor leaned back, firm in its resolve. "And besides: you can't argue with me."

"Can to," came the predictable reply, which sounded a lot juicier than normal.

"Can not," came the echo-filled voice sitting across from him. A large, leather-gloved hand waved in the air between them, "And you should get some sleep. I wouldn't want to be seen having to carry around the famed "FullMetal Alchemist" tomorrow," Ed teased.

At this Alphonse rolled his eyes and took a final few bites of pear, "I don't know who's ego would be more damaged."

"Are you saying I have a big ego?" Ed asked incredulously.

"Me? Whatever would give you that idea, brother?"

The armor made a sound that to Al's own ears could only have been a defiant snort. "Like you're one to be talking, HalfMetal."

This remark earned Ed not his first narrow-eyed glare that evening from the little brother he loved more than life itself.

Feedback is greatly appreciated:) (And there is much more to come!)