De Cruce Apostolica

I have accepted Qoheleth's Malachy Challenge and he gave me a title in Latin to inspire a story: De Cruce Apostolica means Of the Apostolic Cross. As opposed to my other fics, I tried to delve into religious overtones (mainly b/c with a title like that I can't avoid it) but since I've never done this before I might not do it very well.

Anyway this is based just 2 months after events in the FMA movie but I had to do a major time-jump. Whereas the movie was based in 1923 when Hitler was imprisoned, I chose to place this story in 1938 right after Czechoslovakia was taken over by Germany as if no time has passed. Just pretend.

Chapter 1: Found and Lost

How did we happen to meet that one day, in that place, while I was seeking an answer to that question, and at that precise moment? Perhaps I will never know the methods or the reason, but what I do know is that there is no such thing as coincidence.
from the journal of Hohenheim written a week prior to his death

Munich was filled with people crowding together in the streets near the market and nearby shops. The small streets seemed smaller because of the hulking buildings rising two or three stories up above them and casting shadows. Added to the traffic of cars, bicycles and pedestrians it felt like being crammed in an anthill. Not to mention the noise.

Two teenage boys strolled along, unimpressed by the wares and the people, though as Edward Elric passed a mechanic shop he glanced in with a trace of nostalgia.

"Looking for someone?" his brother, Al, asked suggestively from behind.

"You kidding? I was just looking to see if they had anything worth my money. I'll need some oil pretty soon to keep from squeaking." He flexed his right arm experimentally, but the metal joints hidden beneath long-sleeved shirt and gloves were as silent as a real arm would have been.

Al scoffed at him. "You really think I believe a pathetic excuse like that? Winry didn't make your arm and leg to break. You have months yet before they even start to give you any real trouble. Admit you were looking for her, not oil."

"It wouldn't be her," he replied under his breath before moving on, hands in the pockets of his brown trench coat.

Parallel worlds. It was the simplest explanation for seeing people he knew in a different place, under different circumstances. Familiar faces, unfamiliar people. Even if he had found Winry, she might not be a mechanic or she might not have that fierce temper that was always foremost in his memory. He couldn't imagine that tall blond girl without the temper, though, and he didn't want to.

So maybe it was a good thing that he hadn't met her on Earth.

"Where do you think we can find Noah? She was supposed to meet us a week ago. You don't think she got caught, do you?"

"She's too smart for that, even if she wasn't a psychic. All she was supposed to do was help some of her gypsy friends get out of Munich. I have a hunch on where to look, so it's not like we're just roaming the streets randomly."

"Knowing you, Brother, that's exactly what I'd expect your plan to be."

Ed steamed. "Well this time I actually know where I'm going, alright?! Noah told me about a safe place gypsies in Munich usually go when there's danger. We just have to find our way there. I think we take this way."

He turned down an alley near a bakery and at once deep shadows enveloped them. They passed several people, all of whom shrank away from them. The brothers silently regretted appearing so German. No one they wanted to associate with trusted them.

The connecting alleys all seemed the same, and after a quarter of an hour Al was pretty sure that they'd gotten nowhere close to the gypsy hideout. He was ready to open his mouth and denounce Ed when he caught sight of a young brunette girl staring. It wasn't so uncommon, but her eyes were fixed on him. When she noticed his returning gaze she hid her face shamefully.

"What are you boys doing here?" a familiar voice asked from behind.

They turned around to see Noah carrying a covered basket beneath her arm. Despite the German clothes she wore, nothing could disguise the tanned skin or the raven-dark hair spilling down her back.

"I told you to stay away," she said without any trace of delight in seeing their faces again.

"Wow. Ed, I guess you were right. We were going the right way."

Relief was evident on his face and he grinned. "See? I told you I knew exactly where to go."

"I've been trying to get out of Munich for days. Only three of my friends are here, but without passports we can't take the train and no one will give us a lift without payment. Look, it's dangerous! Gestapo has been after lots of groups lately, including the gypsies, and they won't stop to ask why you're with us if we do get caught."

"You think that scares me?"

Noah stamped her foot and nearly dropped the basket. "Edward, I'm serious!"

His brother nodded in agreement. "She's right. It's safer outside the city."

"Al, are you saying we should just leave her?"

"No. I'm just saying we shouldn't get caught, in which case we'd better make plans for leaving. The sooner the better." He stepped aside to let someone by and only after the person had brushed past did he realize it was the girl that had been staring at him.

Abruptly Ed shot after her yelling, "Hey, you! That's my brother's!"

The girl broke into a run and darted toward the main road. The young man was right on her heels, nearly within reach of her when she made it to the bustling street and took a sharp left. Ed skidded to a sudden halt to avoid being hit by a car and swept his eyes about, trying to locate the pickpocket. There came a shout from a vendor half a block away and he caught sight of the girl's dark brown hair. Noah and Al came up just as he took off again yelling at her to stop.

He saw a man in uniform seize her by the arm, effectively preventing her escape. The three pursuers approached to see a very frightened girl cringing from the man shouting rapid German in her face. Noah covered her mouth and stepped back a few steps when she noticed the red band with its swastika on his left arm. Luckily his attention was elsewhere.

"She stole something from my brother," Ed interrupted fearlessly.

The Nazi turned a derisive gaze on him and sneered. Without uttering a word he yanked his prisoner toward Ed, but as she stumbled a necklace slipped outside the loose collar of her blouse. The man's grip tightened and he grabbed the swinging crucifix with nearly a poisonous response that bespoke some private abhorrence.

"What's this? A thief and a Catholic! You won't be roaming the streets anymore, girl." His sadistic smirk was cruel enough for her to choke out a sob and try to pull away. The Nazi's gloved hand only tightened more and a tear slid from the corner of her eye as he began to drag her away.

Ed had heard enough whispers to know where this man would take her. Prison camps were stationed out in the countryside and rumors had it that they had furnaces to burn their dead so no one would find the remains.

"Brother," Al murmured, casting a meaningful glance at the girl.

Ed gave a slight nod of his head and strode to catch up with the captor and his prisoner. "Hey, she still has my brother's property! Or are you planning on stealing it yourself once you're out of sight?"

He spun around ready to tell the impudent kid what he thought, but a solid steel fist hit him with enough force to throw him a few yards back and land on the street, senseless. The girl dropped to the ground covering her head, but Al pulled her up again and they began running back toward the alley. He threw a few words at his brother as they sprinted.

"You could have done that more discreetly! And you didn't have to hit him in the jaw."

"That jerk deserved it, Al!"

The whole block turned to look at the unconscious SS officer and his attackers. Several people were already shouting and raising fists. A couple even stepped in to block their way, and Al joined his sibling on the offensive. They cleared the way for the two girls and escaped under the eyes of a hundred spectators, but even after they were in the shadows of the alleys they didn't stop. Noah guided them along a twisting maze of backstreets until the shocked noises of the crowd were left far behind.

The rescued girl dropped to the ground and breathed hard when they finally rested. With tempest-gray eyes she stared at the three strangers standing over her. "Why? Why did you help me get away? I stole from you and you don't care?"

Al knelt down to her eye-level and held out an open palm. "It wouldn't be stealing if you returned it."

After a moment of stunned silence she placed a pocket watch carved with the symbol of Amestris's flag in his hand.

Ed crossed his arms and grunted. "I knew she took something. Didn't Colonel Mustang give you that before you—" he shot a wary gaze toward the thief and then finished, "—followed me here?"

The younger boy closed his fingers about the watch and stood up. There was no anger in his features. Only a sort of calm understanding. "It's silver. She could have sold it to survive. I don't blame her."

"That's not why," the girl said. "The engraving. I saw a picture just like it once."

The two teenage boys stared quizzically at her, too surprised to say anything more than, "What?"

Instead of answering her face grew pale and she staggered to her feet. "Oh no!"

They followed her gaze and saw half a dozen Nazis running down the long alleyway. Their gray-green uniforms with the red armbands were easily identifiable. Instantly all of them were fleeing in the opposite direction. As they turned a corner and headed toward another junction the girl stumbled and nearly pitched to the ground but Noah reached back to help.

The moment the psychic's hand touched the stranger's skin, her pupils dilated to see something with her second sight. Her basket dropped to the ground as she gasped and this time the girl had to help Noah keep upright. She pulled away and leaned suddenly against a wall, eyes closed and breathing hard. The others stopped too. A few seconds later she looked around. There were three alleys to choose from, one bordered by a filthy water channel.

Turning to her friend she grasped his real arm and pointed to the girl. "Take care of Gina, Ed! She makes it work! The watch, key, crux, home, the—the—" she said all in one breath, then paused to find words for a concept she couldn't quite understand. Noah's grip tightened as she grew desperate. Their pursuers could already be heard. "The apostolic cross! Now hide!"

Immediately she gave him a shove and he flew backward into the canal. Al and the girl she had called Gina stared at her while Ed sputtered in the water. She gestured wildly for them to get into the water and they would have refused if the seriousness hadn't been so apparent in her face. The former thief was first to obey and dove in without a word.

Yet the other Elric stepped closer. "Noah—"

"Go or I will kill you myself!" she nearly screamed as she pushed him away. "Do you hear what I'm saying?"

She ran then. Al had no choice but to join the other two in the channel. The tromp of heavy boots and cries to halt from the angry Nazis were upon them. All together they breathed deeply and hid beneath the surface of the cloudy water. Most likely they would never want to find out exactly what they were swimming in, but at the moment the only thoughts in their minds were focused on Noah's words and staying concealed.

Gina heard nothing besides rushing water in her ears and the pounding heart from within. Her hands gripped a mooring chain, but it seemed that the seconds of roaring water and throbbing heartbeats drew out into minutes. Fear gripped her mind, speeding her heart and slowing her wits. She was starving for air!

Her fingers loosened and she strove to reach the surface. But cold metal seized her wrist in a grip that dragged her down! Fear turned to panic and she screamed air bubbles while striking out with water-softened blows. The ineffectual attack only served to darken her eyes and fill her lungs with water.

:Q:

Gina became aware of harsh pressure on her chest. Someone cupped her chin and she suddenly coughed, spewing foul water everywhere. After a few moments of disorientation she recognized the boy leaning over her as the one she'd stolen the watch from.

"You alright?" he wondered with some relief.

"Yeah, I guess. Something grabbed me." She felt embarrassed that he would be concerned about someone like her. Especially after their initial meeting.

"That would be Ed. He saw you trying to reach the surface and pulled you back. I guess his hand surprised you."

She looked over at the young man where he leaned up against a wall, arms folded and a sullen look on his face. He pointedly avoided looking at her. Gina stared in astonishment at the glint of metal between his glove and sleeve.

"What is that?!"

"Automail," Edward growled, still not returning her gaze. "And if you keep gawking at it I'll show you how much it can hurt!"

"Brother, that's rude."

He turned on Al viciously, swinging one accusing finger toward Gina. "Those Nazis caught Noah thanks to her! Do you think I'm going to ignore that?"

"I didn't mean for any of this to happen...but how did she know my name?"

Al ran fingers through his hair as he debated how best to answer her question but Ed beat him to it. "Let's just say our friends tend to be extraordinary and leave it at that. Now let's get out of here. We're not far from that channel and we've gotta keep moving." He turned to face Gina for the first time. "I will protect you, but only because she wanted me to. Got that? No other reason."

He spun about and headed off. His brother helped Gina to her feet and they followed.

"You don't have to listen when he gets like that," Al apologized. "He's afraid for Noah. We both are. My name's Alphonse Elric but everyone calls me Al, and I guess you've already figured out he's my brother, Ed."

"Gina Matusek," she replied softly.

War and pain in and of themselves give birth to nothing. Perhaps my original theory on the source of Alchemy was based on guilt. It is an act of metamorphosis using a science related to re-creation rather than destruction, which means its source should be something life-giving instead of life-taking. What am I missing...?
from the journal of Hohenheim 2 years prior to his death

For those of you who have read my other stories, yes it's another OC-based fic. I like those kind. And since I haven't finished writing the whole thing yet, this one will probably take a long time to update. But I'm working on it.
Now, one thing that bothered me in the movie was how they caught Envy-dragon. (Ok, nets I can understand, but driving
spears into him? That's going way too far!) How would you have done it?