5

Equivalent Exchange

"Come in." Edward sighed at the sound of his voice. Roy Mustang. Edward opened the door and stopped into his office. "Well, look who it is. And here I thought you would have resigned from the military as soon as you got back your brother."

"Shut up, Colonel," Edward said as he sat down on the small couch.

"That's Brigadier General now."

"Congratulations. Yet again you managed to steal yourself another promotion." Roy gave Edward a stern look.

"Right, so what about you? Have you finished your report on the Philosophers Stone?"

"And how am I supposed to do that? By saying 'Yes I had the stone in my possession, but I used it to transmute my little brother back to his body instead of handing it over to the military'? Then Al would taken away."

"And you'd get court marshaled," Roy said seriously as he stood. "Don't get smart, Ed. Just do the report and make it good or else the higher ups will take you and your brother in for questioning." Edward stood up too.

"Whatever, I'm glad we had this talk," Edward said sarcastically as he headed for the door.

"Fullmetal," Roy asked, questioning if that was really Edward anymore. Edward stopped and turned to face Roy.

"Heh, funny," Edward said grabbing the right sleeve of his military uniform. "I thought that I would finally get rid of that name and get rid of this military business once and for all when I had the Philosophers Stone, but no." Edward pulled up his sleeve, revealing his automail arm. "Still have automail. Always will. It's just like when I attached my brother's soul to that armor, I only had to give up my right arm for my brother's soul. This time I had to give up getting my right arm and left leg for my brother's body. Neither of them sound like a fair trade."

"Still going by that law?"

"Yeah, I guess," Edward said fixing his sleeve and them opening the door.

"Don't forget your report," Roy said before Edward closed the door behind him. "Even with the Philosophers Stone you could fix both of your bodies." Roy sat back down and turned his chair to face the big window. "Your right, that doesn't seem like a fair trade."

"Ed," Winry said as Edward walked inside. "What took you so long?"

"It's nothing," Edward said as he took off his jacket. "Beside I told you that it might take a little longer than expected. So where's Alphonse?"

"That's what I wanted to tell you. Al didn't feel good and his been in bed this whole time."

"Is he all right?" Edward asked Winry as he walked into Alphonse's room. "Al? Are you awake?"

"Edward," Alphonse said softly as he sat up.

"Al, lay back down if you don't feel good."

"I'm fine, really." Edward looked at Winry who was standing in the doorway and looked back at Alphonse.

"Alphonse," Edward whispered so Winry wouldn't hear. "I'm serious, if something is wrong then tell me, okay?"

"I will." Edward nodded and left Alphonse's room with Winry following.

"Is something wrong?" Winry asked Edward.

"No. Don't worry about it."

Alphonse sat up in his bed coughing. He wiped his eyes, threw off his covers, and checked his watch. "6 in the morning," Alphonse said as he stood up and sighed. He walked to the kitchen, but stopped when he saw Edward. He was in his military uniform drinking a glass of water.

"Al? Why are you up this early? Is everything okay?"

"Everything's fine, I just have a cough." Edward handed him his water and Alphonse took a sip. "So why are you up?"

"I just have a few things to take care of at headquarters," Edward said grabbing his jacket and then he opened the front door. "I'll try to get home around dinner."

"Okay."

"Get some rest, Al," Edward said before he walked out the door.

The front door swung open and Edward walked in. "Welcome home," Alphonse said greeting him.

"Edward, we made dinner," Winry said from the kitchen.

"Thanks, but I ate before I left."

"That's okay. It's there if you get hungry."

"Ed," Alphonse said as Edward sat down on the couch. "I'm gonna go to the library. Do you want to come?"

"Sorry, but I just came from there. Have Winry go with you, okay?"

"Sure. Winry," Alphonse called as he went to the kitchen. Edward could hear them talking and he lied down.

"We're leaving," Winry called from the front door and Edward waved.

"Bye," Alphonse said before the door closed behind him and Winry.

At the library, Winry went back to the table that they we're sitting at, but Alphonse wasn't there. "Al," Winry whispered. "Alphonse," Winry called a little louder as she looked through the isles of bookshelves. Winry gasped when she saw Alphonse on the ground not moving. "Al! Al!" Winry ran to Alphonse and kneeled down beside him. Alphonse was breathing heavily and was sweating a little. "Hold on!" Winry ran to the front desk. "Please! I need to use your phone!"

"Calm down," the lady said as she picked up the phone. "Now who would you like to call?"

"Edward Elric." Then lady flipped through a couple of pages and then dialed and number.

"I'm sorry, but there's no answer."

"Try again. Please!" She dialed again and she shook her head.

"Still no answer."

"Damn it, Ed!" Winry thought for a moment. "Oh! Can you call Brigadier General Roy Mustang?"

"I can," the lady said as she flipped through some more pages before she dialed another number. "Excuse me, sir. There's a call for you." The lady handed the phone to Winry.

"Roy! It's Winry Rockbell!"

"Winry? Calm down," Roy said.

"But Alphonse! He's unconscious!"

"In the library?"

"Yes!"

"Is Edward with you?"

"No, he's at home, but he wouldn't answer the phone!"

"Okay, just stay with Alphonse until I get there. I'll be there shortly."

"Thank you!" Winry handed the phone back to the lady and ran back to Alphonse's side, waiting for help.

Edward sat up slowly, rubbed his eyes, and looked at the ringing phone. Edward got up and answered it. "Hello?" Edward yawned.

"I wonder, is your sleep really that important?"

"What do you want Mustang?" Edward sighed.

"No need to get mad at me Edward."

"Just get to the point or I'm hanging up."

"Hang up, and I'll tell HQ what really happened to the Philosophers Stone," Roy said angrily. "Because right now, it's becoming pretty obvious!"

"What in the world are you talking about?"

"Come over here right now," Roy said ignoring Edward. "Or you'll have a bigger problem." And with that Roy hung up.

"Wait! What's going on?" Edward yelled at the phone. "Ugh!" Edward hung up. "What was that about?" Edward put on his shoes and left the house yet again.

"I just talked to Edward," Roy said to Winry as he stood up. "He should be on his way over here."

"That's good," Winry said as she looked at Alphonse, who was lying on the couch in Roy's office.

"Winry," Roy said as he stood up. "Stay here with Alphonse, all right?"

"Where are you going?"

"Just going to get Edward." Roy opened the door. "I'll be back."

"Okay Mustang," Edward said. He was outside of Headquarters with Roy. "I'm here. What do you want?" Roy just stood in front of him. "Mustang—"

"So, Edward," Roy's voice was sharp. "Is there anything that you would like to tell me?"

"What? No, not that—"

"Ed! Instead of lying to me, how about you just tell me what is going on!" Roy didn't ask Edward, he demanded him. Edward was taken back by Roy's sudden anger.

"It's just…"

"Why didn't you say anything? I could have helped you! I could have—"

"No! You couldn't do anything! No one could him," Edward shouted as tears came to his eyes. He continued in a softer tone, "I knew that something was wrong, but I didn't know what it was. Then Al started getting sick and it just kept getting worse. By then, I knew what was happening." Edward wiped his eyes before the tears could fall. "I'm sure you figured it out by now."

"But Edward," Roy said grabbing his shoulder. "I still want you to trust me a little more. I want you to tell me if something's wrong. Your brother…maybe he could have gotten help…"

"Alphonse's body was trapped behind the gate for so long just sitting there," Edward continued. "So when I did manage to get his body back he was vulnerable to all these diseases. His body was so weak that he couldn't fight any of it off. I know that…that he…" Edward dropped to his knees. "…He won't stay for much longer." Roy knelt down next to Edward.

"In all honesty, I hate to see you beat yourself up over this. Maybe Alphonse can't be helped, but he is here now. So let's go see him," Roy said as he stood back up.

"You mean he's here," Edward said surprised as he looked up at Roy. Roy nodded and held his hand out to Edward.

"Come on." Edward grabbed Roy's hand and quickly followed Roy in Headquarters.

Roy held open the door to his office for Edward, allowing him to go first. Edward ran in, straight to Alphonse. Edward knelt down by him next to Winry and he just stared. He was speechless. "How could I have let this happen?" Edward felt a lump in his throat.

"Edward…" He looked up expecting Winry to be trying to get his attention, but it was Alphonse. "Brother…" Edward gently held Alphonse's hand with his left hand.

"It's okay, Al. I'm here."

"Brother…I…" Alphonse's voice sounded strangled.

"Alphonse, save your energy and just get some rest." Alphonse closed his eyes and sighed.

"But I know…about me…" Edward took in a quick breath.

"How did he find out?" Winry immediately looked over at Edward. She stood up and continued to stare at him.

"Edward?" He knew just what she wanted to know.

"Winry, please…" Edward looked up at her with pleading eyes. "I'll tell you later. Just right now, let me stay with my brother." Winry let tears fall down her face.

"You're always trying hide something from Edward," Winry whispered and turned to leave, but Roy grabbed her before she could reach for the door. "Let me go, Roy!" He turned her around back around to face Alphonse.

"You need to stay," Roy said calmly. "Stay until the end."

"The end?" Winry bit her lower lip. "Could he mean…?" Winry's thoughts got the best of her and she began to shake, scared and sad, but she couldn't turn away. Edward looked back at his brother.

"Alphonse…" Edward couldn't put anything into a sentence.

"Ed…it's okay…I'm okay with this." His words were slow and dull. "I'm glad that you could bring me back even if it wasn't for long. Edward, I'm really okay with that. I happy that I finally got to experience what it was like being in the flesh after so long. I'm glad that I got to spend my time with the ones I love." Edward was holding back his tears.

"And I'm just as happy that I could give you what you wanted for so long."

"But I…I do have a regret."

"Regret?" Edward asked wondering what he could possible mean.

"I regret not being able to get your arm and leg back." Edward felt horrible for having his brother worry about him at a time like this.

"Alphonse, I've always told you to never worried about that." Edward smiled. "I mean come one," Edward said pulling down the sleeve of his right arm, revealing his automail. "I'll never lose an arm wrestling contest again!" Alphonse smiled along with Edward. Alphonse's smile didn't last long. He soon cringed in pain.

"Edward…I'm so happy," Alphonse said as tears rolled down his face. Alphonse's words became very slow and quiet. "That I…have you…as my brother…"

"Al," Edward panicked when he saw Alphonse's on the verge of death.

"I sorry…I guess…I get to…see mom first…" Edward hugged his brother quickly.

"No! Please don't leave!" But his words were all for nothing. Alphonse's body went limp in Edward's arms. Edward gripped the back on his shirt. "No," Edward repeated weakly. "No!" Edward's began to lightly cry into Alphonse's chest. Winry by that time was sobbing, and Roy nicely spun her around and held her. Roy also had a tear in his eye, not letting it slip though. He had to be strong for both of them, but mainly for Edward. Roy cleared away the lump in his throat.

"Edward, stop it. He's gone." Edward slowly laid Alphonse's body back down on the couch. He stopped crying and dropped his arms to his side. Edward looked as if he was dead himself…maybe that's how he felt.

"Human kind cannot gain anything without first giving something in return. To obtain, something of equal value must be lost. That is alchemy's first law of Equivalent Exchange. In those days, we really believed that to be the worlds on and only truth.

"But how is it that one person can sacrifice so much that there couldn't possibly be anything he could gain that would be equal? Sometimes we can gain so much and sacrifice nothing. While other times, we can sacrifice everything and get nothing. Why is that?

"Equivalent Exchange may just be the law of the world, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's the law of human beings. Maybe humans lie on a much greater plane. One that's not bound by these rules."