CHAPTER 43—A Better Ending:
The night skies glowed above the buildings. By the time day broke, the whole city would be ash. Naminé found herself walking through a city of fire. What she wanted to find was here. She knew it. Her feet instinctively knew where to take her despite the fear seizing her chest. It didn't matter if the smoke was filling her lungs because she couldn't feel it nor could she feel the heat from the surrounding flames. What should have felt like hell felt like nothing.
She stopped in front of a burning building. This was where she would find him.
She stopped at the sound of the voice. She turned around and faced the man that had called her. "Thad..."
He approached her. "What are you doing? Don't you know it's dangerous in there?" His voice was full of worry. It even reached his brown eyes. She wanted to appease him, to make up for hurting him but she couldn't. Not when she was so close.
"I know but I wasn't scared before."
"You should be." Romberg stopped in front of her. "You want to forget, don't you?"
It was so strange. He looked exactly as he had in Ishbal. He was still the same man who had wanted to give her everything and for some reason she concluded that she didn't need. What did she need? She turned toward the burning building. "I want to but I can't."
As she tried to walk away, he firmly grabbed her hand and pulled her back. "Stay. You don't need this. Forget."
Romberg stared at her. Then he dropped her hand. "He's waiting for you. Like always."
Naminé ran into the building, not caring whether or not the flames got on her clothes or burn her skin. She ran into a couple of rooms before finding him. His back was toward her, his long hair worn the same way she had seen him last. He was wearing his military uniform as well.
"What took you so long, babe? I thought you forgot about me."
Naminé started to walk toward him. "Come back. I don't want to be like this anymore."
"Be like what?" A burning beam fell down, blocking Naminé's path. It was then that Kimblee chose to turn around. His eyes were lifeless. "Dead?"
Just like that, the building collapses around her.
Naminé sat up in her bed, breathing hard. Unfortunately the dream still lingered in her mind. It was funny. During the day, she told herself that she was done with him. Yet when she was sleeping, she pined for him. Maybe because at night, she was aware of how empty her bed felt without him.
Seeing it was morning, she reluctantly got out of bed. It would be another long day.
She went to the living room. Any memories of her and Kimblee spending time on the couch was quickly pushed out of her head. She sat down and reached for the forgotten alchemy book on the coffee table. She had checked it out of the library to write her alchemy assessment report. However, with the chaos at Central HQ due to Fuhrer Bradley's death, the higher ups had neglected to follow up.
She started to flip through it, searching for something new to read. Before she could find something, there was a knock on the front door. Reluctantly she got up. The moment the door opened, Mel greeted her with a smile.
"Hi!" Mel said too cheerfully. "How are you this morning?"
"Have you had breakfast yet?" Naminé shook her head. "Then we should go out and get some. I'm buying!"
Naminé didn't protest. After the first few check-up visits, the brunette realized that protesting didn't work. The only reason Mel was like this was because she knew about Kimblee's death. Somehow, in her friend's head, this was a logical way to cheer her up. If only Mel could see how this wasn't helping. She felt like she was beyond help and nothing could save her from the emptiness she was feeling.
"I'm glad to hear he's doing better, Lieutenant Hawkeye," Naminé said over the phone. "Tell him I'll talk to him soon."
"I will," Riza said. "...You know, he was worried about you. He said he hasn't heard from you since Lior."
There was a sudden tightness in her chest. "I've been busy. Let him know not to worry about me. I'm fine now."
There was a brief pause. Then Riza said, "I'll tell him."
The women said goodbye to each other and Naminé hung up. Once Lior was mentioned, Kimblee came back along with the anger and bitterness. She needed a distraction. Already her hands were on her alchemy book again, flipping through the pages for something, anything. Briefly her eyes caught the word 'human'. She paused. Before she even thought about trying to find that page, she put the book down. She wouldn't, couldn't, think about that.
It was only three o'clock in the afternoon but a nap seemed like a good way to pass the time. She knew she would dream of him but that seemed like a lesser evil. Being conscious and thinking about him would hurt a lot more.
She went to her bedroom and threw herself onto the large bed. She closed her blue eyes but soon Kimblee was in her thoughts. His smirk was the first thing that came to mind. Usually it appeared when he was teasing her or was excited about something. The way he used to call her 'babe.' At first she had hated it so much but now she missed hearing it.
Naminé sat up and then opened her nightstand drawer. She remembered that out of embarrassment, she had stashed that romantic novel Mel suggested in there. But as her hand moved around, it touched something cold and metallic. She pulled the object out of the drawer and stared at Kimblee's pocket watch.
For the first time in days, tears were streaming down her face. Why? How could you do this to me? The anger was building up she threw the pocket watch at the wall and it fell open. Out of it fell a piece of paper. Naminé was still for a moment. Then she got off the bed.
It was the photograph she had given before Lior. She thought that maybe he had ignored her wishes but he hadn't. She had been wrong.
Once Kimblee had been buried, Naminé believed that she would never visit Kimblee grave again. It was a decision made out of anger and frustration but now, since most of that was gone, she wanted to visit. She hoped that by visiting him, the confusion would leave her as well. She still couldn't comprehend everything. She didn't completely understand Kimblee and his motivations. She didn't understand how things played out the way they did. She supposed that was where most of the pain stemmed from.
The next day, she went to the cemetery and found his tombstone. She had kept it simple. There had been no funeral, no wake, nothing to remember his memory. She didn't think anyone knew him the way she had and she wouldn't know who to invite. Even Isabelle wasn't a possibility.
The brunette sighed as she looked at Kimblee's engraved name.
"I think I'm going crazy," she said. "Not many people come to talk to the dead. But there're so many things I want to tell you. I hate that you left me. I hate that you consume my thoughts. I hate that you have all this power over me when you're not even here. You said that you loved me and yet you put me aside just because you want to satisfy your own irrational impulses. I hoped things would be different this time but they're not. And you know why I'm going crazy? I want to try again. I want to bring you back. I spent the whole night trying to work out the equivalent exchange for a human life."
"I thought human transmutation was taboo." Naminé turned around. It was Isabelle. The blonde took a few steps closer, her green eyes on her former friend. "I swear you bring the worst luck to men. First Romberg, now Kimblee. Although you didn't love Romberg enough to try to bring him back to life."
Naminé swallowed. "Kimblee always had me."
"But you didn't deserve him."
Naminé could feel her jaw clenched. She wasn't going to listen to this now. She started to walk away but then Isabelle said something that caught her off guard.
"You'll need more than what makes up the human body."
Naminé halted. "What do you mean?"
Isabelle acted nonchalant but it wasn't fooling the brunette. "People have tried it before. Have you wondered why no one knows more about it?"
Naminé started to walk away. She hated to admit but Isabelle had a point. If it was that simple, human transmutation wouldn't be impossible.
The next week or so consisted of nothing much but the necessities and research. Unfortunately she couldn't find much in any books but Naminé drew her own conclusions. Following the laws of equivalent exchange, a life should theoretically equal another life. However that seemed wrong. Was she supposed to sacrifice someone in the process? Would an arm and leg do? How about half of own her life? She would happily give that just to bring him back. Even though she was still trying to figure out the logistics, she had felt better than she had in days. Somehow the hope of being reunited with Kimblee made her happy again. It was the only thing that motivated her to get out of the house.
After a late night of research, Naminé ended up sleeping later than she would have liked. It was incessant knocking that got her rolling out of bed that morning. Before she even opened the door, she knew it was Mel.
"Did I just wake you up?" Mel asked, studying her friend's face.
"Kind of," Naminé replied.
"Well, it's eleven o'clock," Mel told her. "Why don't we go out for lunch?"
"I can't," Naminé said, heading back into her apartment. "I want to go to the library today."
"For your assessment?" Mel asked, closing the door behind her.
"Yeah," Naminé lied. There was no way she was cluing Mel in on what she was thinking. Once Mel knew, Vi would know and they would both try to discourage her. "I still have a lot of work to do so I would appreciate..." Her voice trailed off as a strange feeling came over.
Mel came over, concern in her eyes. "Is something wrong?"
Naminé suddenly felt nauseated. Her head felt light. After she realized what was happening, she ran to the bathroom. She barely made it to the toilet. There was nothing in her stomach but she was surprised that there was so much to heave. She could feel Mel holding her hair back, something that she had forgotten to do.
"Did you eat something bad?" Mel asked.
Naminé shook her head. At least she didn't remember she did.
There was a momentary silence, then:
"Did you have your period yet?"
Naminé stood up and flushed the toilet. "What does that have to do with anything?" She asked slowly.
"Well," Mel started, biting her lip, "I'm not an expert and I guess Vi would know more about this than I would. But just let me know if it happens again."
Naminé blinked as it dawned on her. "I'm not pregnant. I can't be pregnant."
"I didn't say you were."
"But you were thinking it."
Mel shrugged. "It could be late."
But Naminé could tell Mel was just saying that.
Vi had no intentions of going to South City. She had taken a vacation too recently from work. However, an emergency was an emergency. Mel had called, sounding frantic over the phone. Apparently Naminé hadn't been heard from in two weeks. Vi had told Mel to get the landlord but the woman had insisted she couldn't. She didn't want to be alone if something terrible was found. Vi had even suggested calling Kaili but according to Mel, Kaili had her own growing concerns about her sick mother and saw no point in worry the young woman about a possibly suicidal sister.
Like they had agreed, Vi and Mel met outside of Naminé's apartment complex. The two women looked at each other and sighed.
"I'm glad you made it," Mel said.
"Let's head up," Vi suggested. The two headed inside the building. Before they took the stairs, Vi had the idea of the checking Naminé's mailbox. After fiddling with the combination lock, Vi popped the mailbox. She picked up a few letters. "Either she didn't get much or she's fine." She stopped and paused at letter in a manila envelope. She raised an eyebrow.
Mel appeared over her shoulder. "Fuhrer Roy Mustang?"
"Hey, Vi, Mel."
The two women turned around. "Kaili?!"
"So she really is pregnant, huh?" Mel asked Kaili as they neared the apartment.
Kaili nodded. "She's been calling home often but I haven't had a chance to visit her until today. She says she's fine but I think she might just be saying that."
The three women stopped outside the door. Kaili knocked. They waited for a while. Then the door opened. Naminé looked at the three of them. "What are you all doing here?"
"To check up on you!" Mel exclaimed. "You haven't ben answering your calls!"
"Because I don't want to talk about it," Naminé admitted. "I think about it too much as it is." She stepped aside, allowing them to come inside her apartment. Already, she could see their eyes scanning the room, making their own assessments about her state of mind. Like expected, Vi's eyes landed on the alchemy book. If she was thinking what Naminé thought she was, Vi didn't voice it.
"Are you still throwing up?" Mel asked, taking a seat on a nearby couch.
Naminé shook her head. "I still can't believe I'm actually pregnant."
Kaili looked down at her hands. "Are you happy?"
Naminé shrugged. "I would have preferred a different time but I can't change that, can I?" Vi and Kaili joined Mel on the couch, leaving only the lone chair to sit on. Taking the seat across from them, it made Naminé feel like she was facing a tribunal. All eyes were on her. "Is it wrong that I'm not excited about this?"
"Of course!" Mel said immediately. "I mean, Kimblee was the one – I mean, forget I said Kim—I mean, his name." In her peripheral, she caught Vi shaking her head. "I didn't mean to say his name, Vi!"
Naminé laughed. Vi, Mel, and Kaili looked at her like she was crazy. "It's not that big of a deal. It was an accident but a needed one. I've been trying to forget but this baby is a constant reminder that I'm still in love with Zolf. But I feel like I hate him, too."
"But you don't," Vi said. "You only hate what he did. Trying to forget isn't the right way to go about this because you can't forget."
"Then what is?"
"I don't have all the answers."
Naminé looked at the alchemy books on the coffee table. She had thought that the right way had been in those books and she had held so much hope in them. However, she realized she didn't know what equaled a life and with the dangers of performing a human transmutation, she might lose her life or worse, her unborn child.
"The dead don't come back to life, Roy."
"I know that. But the living should go on living."
It was like Roy knew what she would have considered even when she had been denying it. She only had one thing to live for and that her baby. She had thought it would destroy the remainder of her world but surprisingly it was now the only thing keeping it together. If she didn't take care of herself, then she would be hurting the baby. She couldn't do that.
"I got your mail for you," Vi said, holding up a few envelopes.
Naminé took them and went through them, eventually stopping on the one from Roy. Fuhrer Roy Mustang? She looked up but her friends were looking at her expectantly. They had seen it. Naminé opened the letter and read it.
I hope that you are well but considering the recent death of Kimblee, I'm not sure how you're holding up. You haven't been answering your phones in the past week. But I digress.
Things have been changing at Central HQ. I have been elected Fuhrer by the higher ups as a way to appease the soldiers and civilians. Since exposing the King Bradley for what he was and the crimes he had committed, I have gained supporters. I have also gained enemies.
In order to get rid of the corruption in the military, I need people who would push me and keep me at the top. I need those people close by. So I have a proposition for you. I don't need your permission to transfer you to Central HQ but I would prefer you coming here of your own volition. I think we would both benefit from this. I'll have another ally nearby and you can have that change of scenery that you need.
"What does it say, Naminé?" Kaili asked.
Naminé looked up. "Roy would like me to come to Central."
"Just like that?" Vi asked. "You were just there a few months ago."
"I know," Naminé said slowly. "But I think a change of scenery would be good and Roy want his allies close. Roy seems to have big plans for the country and I want to be there."
"I think it's a great idea," Kaili smiled.
Central City seemed to be her go to place when things got terrible in South City. It was what she had done seven years ago after Ishbal. But this time it was different. It was not about getting a fresh start, running away from it all. It was about the continuation, finding a better ending and that sounded a lot better.