One week before.
Ed appeared at his office door, actually knocking for a change rather than just barging in (should that have been the first clue?), and making sure to close the door after he'd entered. Starting in without any kind of preamble:
"I'm going to tell you something that will make you gloat. But you might try a little moderation about that, all right?"
Roy had leaned back in his chair, glad for a moment of a break from planning for the raid on the rogue alchemists. Responding with droll humour, "Excuse me, did I hear the word 'moderation' coming from your mouth? Why Fullmetal, I never thought I'd see the day. Are you sure you're not an impostor?"
A long, deep breath, as though exercising infinite patience. A little indulgence in self-control, though the bright eyes were sparking dangerously. "Look, are you going to listen or not? It's going to be hard enough for me to tell you as it is, but this is important. It's about Al."
Finally, with just the merest twinge of worry, Roy had set aside the banter. He didn't often see this sort of concern on Ed's face. "All right, Edward, I'm listening."
"Now that things have settled down the last few months and I've been looking back on the years Al and I spent travelling, I've realized something. Don't you dare get all smug about it either. But…," the words coming now in a frantic rush, as though to get them over with, "…I've been a completely self-centred, irresponsible twit."
Every impulse to "get all smug" or take advantage of these words had been quelled by the astonishing fact that Ed had even uttered them in the first place. Roy folded his hands on his desk, saying only, "Go on."
The young man had drawn closer, stopping on the other side of the desk, chin jutting, a mix of defiance and bravado in his eyes. "I was such an idiot," he rushed on. "I was so single-minded about everything that I never thought…I could've gotten Al killed, all that time. Or I could've been killed, and then where would he be, all alone out there somewhere? He was just a kid – we both were – and I just never thought…but maybe I can fix some of that now… That's why – that's why – " He'd pulled a thin sheaf of papers from behind his back and slapped them on Roy's desk, finishing in another rush, "Will you be Alphonse's legal guardian if something ever happens to me?"
On his unusually pale face, beneath the bravado, a trace of real fear, that he was overstepping the boundaries, that he'd presumed too much – that Roy would refuse.
Roy slowly examined the first couple of pages, then laid them down and smoothed them out, frowning up at Ed's poorly concealed agitation. "Why me?" was all he asked.
"Because – because you tried to look out for us, when we were kids. I was so stupid then – I thought you were just trying to get in our way, but I can see it now. You were trying to help, and keep us as safe as you could. As safe as we'd ever let you. And you – you know us. You know Al. I think you could keep him safe."
But now that he'd begun, Ed couldn't seem to stop, as though he had to blurt it all now, or he'd never have the nerve again. Two spots of feverish colour spread over his cheeks. "Maybe you won't believe me after all this time, Mustang, but…you're the only one I know I can trust. I know I've never really admitted it before, but I'd trust you with anything. Even my life. And most of all my brother's life. Maybe that sounds really stupid to you, but – "
"No. It doesn't sound stupid at all. Ed…I'm honoured."
"So will you do it? If anything happens to me, will you take care of him? You have to mean it. You have to promise." (Why, why had he not wondered at the eagerness, the urgency?)
"I still don't understand why me. Surely the more logical choice would be Pinako Rockbell?"
Ed shook his head. "It might seem that way, but you're an alchemist, and you've seen a lot more of what Al has gone through the last few years. You'd understand him, in a way that Pinako – or even Winry – just wouldn't." Then, yet again, the uncharacteristic fear creeping into his eyes, as he mistook the reason for Roy's question. "But…if you really don't want to, I'll understand. It's a lot to ask, and I probably shouldn't have. They'll be glad to do it if – "
"I want to. I'll do it."
A sharp catch of breath. Hope cutting through the fear. "Really?"
Relief flashing into those over-bright eyes, relief so strong that Roy should have, should have wondered why. But Ed had already rushed on, "Thank you. General – Roy – thank you. He's always been the strong one, you know. But if something ever happens, you'd pretty much need to become his big brother. Because that's when he'd need a brother, more than ever." His eyes had widened as though he'd remembered something. "Not that he's going to need anyone but me," he added hurriedly, "for a long time to come," continuing with his more typical narrow smile as his brash confidence seemed to bubble up again (as he forced it up again?), "because I don't plan on going anywhere."
"Why are you asking this now, Edward?" Roy had wondered, just before sending the young man out to bring in Hawkeye and Havoc as the legal witnesses. His mind already returning to the plans for the raid.
"Oh, no actual reason." Finally, Ed sounded like his more usual self, casually dismissive. (An act – all an act, dammit!) "I realized I should have asked you a long time ago, just in case. Only a formality, really."
One week before.
Two days before.
Roy had dashed to Central Library for one last double check of blueprints of the warehouse in which the rogue alchemists and their cohorts had hidden their lab, and on the way out, stopped to exchange pleasantries with another officer on the front steps. Then turned to go, banging into someone, resulting in the scattering of rather a large number of books on several levels of stairs. And then he'd realized who he'd bumped into.
"Oh, sorry, Ed, let me help you pick these up." He'd bent to help gather and stack the scattered tomes, some, he noted, rather large and heavy. "This is quite a pile of books – are you taking them out or bringing them back?"
Rather than being irritated – as he normally would have been – Ed seemed to be trying to shrug off the mishap. Going to one knee on the broad step, his red coat trailing on the step below him. "Bringing back. It's my third trip, actually." He'd managed a light laugh. "I've had some of them out for years, and they're starting to threaten me with eviction from the dormitory if I don't settle the fines."
He should have, should have caught that, such an obvious lie.
But something had distracted Roy, drawn his attention away – an older book, written a generation ago by an obscure alchemist who'd been forgotten almost as soon as he'd published. "Look at this one – I don't believe you're reading something this outdated. Alchemists have done a lot more recent work than this." He'd teased, "Ed, you're really falling down in your research if you rely on something like this."
Ed's cheerful façade had seemed to slip, his casual laughter fading. He'd lowered his gaze, continuing to stack the fallen books into a pile. Murmuring, "Actually, you'd be surprised, the sort of things you can find in the oldest books, that nobody pays attention to."
"Ed?" Finally (finally!) sensing some dampening of spirit. "Is something wrong?"
No answer at first, as the young man set the last book on the truly prodigious pile and placed his gloved hands flat on top for a moment. When he raised his eyes, they were as bright as ever, his smile flashing.
"No," he said lightly, getting his hands under the pile and standing up. His hands stretched down below his hips, and he could barely steady the top book with his chin. "I'm just saying, sometimes older is better. But that just applies to books, so don't let it go to your head, old man!" Impudent laughter trailing behind him as he'd staggered up the last couple of steps and through the library doors.
Two days before.
The night before.
Roy had sent all his people home as he saw the sky grow dark through the windows. The big operation, to root out the rogue alchemists and destroy their laboratory, was scheduled for the morning just before dawn. Hopefully everyone would be able to sleep, and be fresh and alert tomorrow. If they could just do this quickly, and didn't encounter too many surprises (Ed's scouting efforts had eliminated at least some of those), maybe they could minimize the damage and, most of all, the danger to personnel. This would be a tricky operation, in the middle of the city, and the quicker they could finish it, the happier Roy would be.
He hadn't expected to see Ed still there, just outside the main entrance of Central headquarters, leaning casually with his back against one of the high pillars in the portico, arms folded, one knee drawn up and the foot pressed against the pillar. He might have been hard to detect, half in shadow with his red coat, but for the bright hair that glowed a soft creamy white as starlight dispersed the shadows.
"Fullmetal, why haven't you gone home? You need to get some sleep."
Ed's face, lifted to the sky, as though drinking in the beauty of the glittering stars against the eternal, arching darkness. (That calm profile…the falling hair across his eyes…the slight upturn of the lips…seared into memory forever…) He hadn't really answered, at least not as Roy had understood it at that moment. "It's such a beautiful night," he'd murmured. "There's still time." Then he added, "I've been thinking about something."
Roy began to absorb some of his mood, that uncharacteristic calm penetrating his own worries about tomorrow and beginning to settle them down. "And what is that?" he'd asked, moving to stand beside the young man, lifting his own face toward the stars.
"I used to think you really overdid it, with all the guilt about the things you did in Ishbal."
Roy had peered at him in astonishment, but Ed remained as he was, gazing upward, continuing softly, "I think I finally get it, though. In fact, I think you're probably the most courageous person I know, to come through all that and be so sane, and keep going, and try to do something about what you'd done."
"Thank you. I guess. But why – " (Why, indeed? Oh, Ed…)
"I just thought I should tell you. That was another thing I never bothered figuring out, while I was so busy concentrating on myself and Al all those years." He'd straightened up, arms and foot dropping, and turned to face his companion. Smiling. (Smiling!) "Sometimes even late bloomers like me finally grow up. Good thing, eh?"
Roy had smiled back. "Better late than never, I guess, Edward."
"That's right." A glance back up at the sky, for a different reason this time. "You're right, it's late, and I'd better get back to Al. We'll be there, first thing in the morning. Goodnight."
Ed had turned to go, but then stopped, smiling again over his shoulder, his thick braid trailing across it, and the fall of hair half-obscuring his eyes. "Don't worry, Roy," he said softly. "You'll do fine." And hopped down the wide steps, heading for the dormitory.
The night before.
The final hour.
The raid had gone almost entirely according to plan, and Roy had been right – Ed's prior scouting had made all the difference. Roy's people knew the weaknesses of the warehouse (and the identities of most of the alchemists), and just as the sun rose above the surrounding streets, they'd broken in with little difficulty. All the people holed up inside had been caught by surprise, and most had been trapped and held quickly.
Even when the rogue alchemists had fought back, Roy's alchemists launched counterattacks devised in advance to nullify their specific talents. Few could escape the stone barriers Armstrong erected, but Roy, Ed, Alphonse, and several others had ways to defeat those who did. Edward, with his talent for improvising on the spot and not needing to draw individual arrays, seemed to be everywhere. With Al, as always, never far away.
A few non-alchemists burst unexpectedly through a shipping door, and ran through the streets trying to escape. Lieutenant Havoc had led a group in pursuit, knowing that Lieutenant Breda's group was already on an intercept course.
In a nearby intersection, Roy and Ed had found a last, defiant group of three alchemists who had hidden while their accomplices were neutralized. Roy recognized the ringleader, a State Alchemist who had recently failed his recertification, who had a special skill with poisonous gases.
A quick exchange of glances with Ed – they'd talked about this one, and what they would do with him. They knew he'd fight to the death, having nothing to lose. They had few alternatives, with so many innocent citizens in the area, even knowing the other two alchemists would be collateral damage. Those two had made their choice.
A swift clap of the hands, before pressing them to the ground. A barricade of steel, springing into place behind the three alchemists, just as the dangerous one summoned his poisonous cloud. Ed clapped again as Roy raised his hand. The snap! of his fingers was followed almost instantly by another barricade of steel, enclosing the three alchemists and the chemical reaction Roy had induced in the gas cloud.
The explosion shook the ground, but the barricade held, directing most of the force upward. No one could have survived a blast like that. Roy and Ed were virtually finished the job now, having eliminated the most dangerous threat.
Or so he had thought.
Turning (so slowly turning, in slow motion, over and over in the memory, too slow, too slow) to see Ed behind him, staring down a cross street, seemingly frozen in surprise as one last rebel raised a gun and pulled a trigger. (But you weren't frozen, Ed…were you?) Snapping the fingers (too late, too late) to kill the rebel, but Ed –
Ed – flying backwards, lifted from his feet, tossed back like a doll to land with a sickening thud, limbs splayed, at Roy's very feet.
Gathered, gasping, into Roy's arms as the man frantically tugged at his jacket, trying to get at the wound (…the ghastly spreading bloodstain hardly visible in the fabric of the black jacket…), all the while yelling, "Somebody! Somebody! Get the medics over here!" Because of course they'd brought medical backup, of course they had, so it would be all right –
But it was not all right. It was very, very bad. Blood pumping steadily from the gaping wound in Ed's chest, his body so limp, unmoving, already so…lifeless. Their eyes meeting. And both of them knew.
"Get – Al!" the young man gasped. "Have to – see Alphonse!"
But there was no need to hunt for his brother. "Edward!" Half gasp, half scream as Al came running, shaking the ground again as his huge metal form thundered over, collapsing to its knees beside the wounded young man.
"Al…Al…" Ed managed a smile, partly relief, but mostly just…love. As it always had been. Just love.
"You'll be okay, big brother, hang on!" Al had cried.
"Where the hell are those medics?" Roy had shouted, though there had barely been time for their response. But time was running out – already – running out –
"Hold on, Ed! Help is coming!" Alphonse, frantic, helpless to do anything but try to keep his brother awake and alive until someone could come. "Hang on just a little longer!"
Then a thought – maybe he could do something, hold back the end, just long enough – just long enough –
Roy raised his hand, ready to snap, to cauterize the wound and hold back the terrible, deadly pumping stream of lifeblood –
-- then his wrist and hand, caught in an unbreakable automail grip as Ed clutched him in a sudden spasm of pain – he couldn't move – couldn't break free –
"Ed, let go! You have to let go!" He could do it, he could do this, if only Ed would let go.
But Ed's eyes – fixed on his face – not bleared with unreasoning pain, fully aware of what he did. Refusing adamantly, with everything he had, with all the strength he had left, with all his damned Elric stubbornness. Roy recognized it now. (Pinako, you were wrong, wrong.) Ed refused to let go.
And then –
Roy would never forget Alphonse's screams as long as he lived, nor the raging whirlwind of alchemic reaction that swirled around the three of them. He couldn't have concentrated enough to cauterize the wound now if he tried, even though he was dimly aware that Ed had released his iron grip.
His eyes proved that nothing moved, yet he felt as though the earth heaved beneath them, as though a chasm had opened up in the fabric of the world. He watched in awe and horror as the suit of armour began to disintegrate – began to unravel as though someone had cut the one crucial string that maintained its form and shape. It frayed away, coming apart at every seam, the metal softening, turning to dust, streaming away in tatters, falling in on itself, ribbons of metal powdering and cascading down like a rain of grey sand. And the voice of Alphonse Elric…screaming.
Roy had felt as though every atom in his own body was trying to fly apart in concert with the armour, in response to some utterly irresistible, demanding power. If that disintegrative force had been directed at him, he would instantly have blown apart in a shower of blood.
Yet his only conscious thought? He was losing both of them at once. He couldn't bear it – both of them, dying before his eyes, and he could do nothing, nothing to save them.
But then the miracle. The swirling cloud of random matter began to coalesce, as the screaming suddenly stopped. With a vertiginous whoosh Roy felt the tear in the world slam shut, and with a powerful rush of wind, the matter solidified swiftly into the form of a slender, brown-haired boy, naked, curled into himself, trembling hands over his head. The perfect, beautiful, truly human body of a teenaged boy, shivering in terrified, violent reaction to the trauma he had just endured.
"Good." It was the merest whisper, but it drew Roy's eyes back to Ed's face. The young man gazed at his brother, tears of joy streaming down his cheeks, a tender, happy smile unlike any Roy had ever seen before, shining on his face. "Good," Ed whispered again. "Good. Oh, Alphonse…" The fingers of his automail hand lifted and moved, trying with a final wisp of strength to reach out and touch his brother one last time. Then the hand dropped to the ground beside Roy's knee, and Ed's head lolled over his arm, golden eyes dimmed, seeing nothing.
"B-big bro-brother?" The voice was the same, without the metallic echo, yet faint and rasping, with no strength to it now. The vocal chords had been unused for a very long time. The boy before him had stirred and struggled to his hands and knees, wobbling like a newborn calf. "E-Ed?" he faltered, lifting his head, blinking, gradually remembering how to focus his eyes. Those wide, astonishing grey eyes so like and unlike his brother's.
Focusing on the limp, bloody form still clutched in Roy's arms.
And then the screams had begun again, strained squawks of hysteria as Al pitched forward onto his face, trying to crawl to his brother. He struggled up, but fell again, landing half on top of Ed, face and chest and one hand coming up covered in blood. Al clutched at the front of his brother's jacket, shaking him, screaming and screaming for him to wake up. Finally, mercifully, the medics arrived, flinging a coat around the trembling, wildly sobbing boy, trying to draw him away. And Roy had had no choice – Alphonse needed him, he had promised – he laid Ed's body on the ground and crept to the boy's side, drawing him close.
"I'm here – I've got you, Alphonse – you're safe, I'll take care of you, I'll never let you go – "
They would have to get him to a hospital immediately, to sedate him and try to help him begin the long process of healing, adjusting to his body, dealing with his grief. (So much, so much to face at once!) But as he picked up the boy to carry him to the ambulance, Roy took one final look back at Ed, and saw Hawkeye, newly arrived, now kneeling beside the body, weeping as he was weeping.
"I'll take care of him, Roy," she promised gently, laying a soft hand on Ed's forehead and smoothing back his hair before closing his eyes. "Alphonse needs you."
So he had turned away, holding his young ward tightly against his chest, following the medics, leaving Edward behind.
The final terrible, glorious hour.
Roy called for a car, planning at first to be driven straight home. Then, realizing that he'd need some time to collect himself, he revised the plan and decided instead to have the driver just take him randomly around the city for a while.
But shortly after the vehicle pulled away from the building and began to circulate through the streets, he apologized to the driver for wasting his time, asked to be let out, and started walking instead. Because if he hadn't done so, the result would have been inevitable: a wave of gossip tomorrow, flaring through the barracks and among Central military personnel, spreading the news that General Mustang had spent several hours crying in the back of a staff car.
And nobody must ever have cause to wonder just what he had learned in the library today, that had been so devastating.
Therefore he wandered the back streets of Central, avoiding places where he might be recognized, going nowhere in particular…just walking blindly through neighbourhood after anonymous neighbourhood. He passed strangers leaving their homes on errands, heard mothers calling for their children from their front porches, watched as the occasional car drove down a tree-lined street. As the late afternoon sun began to sink in the western sky, lengthening the shadows of the houses around him until dusk finally settled its grey blanket over the city streets, he trudged with bowed head, hugging his arms across his chest, trying without success to contain the terrible pain.
So alone, Ed had been. Among all the unbearable truths, that one was the hardest of all to face. To have discovered what he'd truly done to his brother – and then make all the arrangements he needed so he could undo it, while presenting his usual brash, confident face to the world to make sure no one would guess (especially not Alphonse) – Roy didn't know how he'd had the strength.
'I used to think you really overdid it, with all the guilt about the things you did in Ishbal…I think I finally get it, though.'
Roy stepped into a shadowed laneway running between two rows of houses, leaned back against a high wooden fence, and pressed the heels of his hands over his streaming eyes. I would never have wanted you to understand that kind of guilt, Edward. But it was already too late to prevent it, the very night he had met the brothers for the first time. When Ed was eleven and Al was only ten. It was already too late.
And Roy could never have helped. That was another hard truth. There was no possible help with this, for Ed – no help, no comfort – anywhere in the world, from anyone. He had done what he had done, never mind how young he'd been. There was only one way to undo it. And he couldn't weep, couldn't tell anyone, couldn't ask for help or they'd have tried to stop him. (I would have, even though I knew it was the only answer.) And above all, he couldn't allow that.
Had he at least allowed the tears to come at the beginning, sitting by himself in that little white reading room adjacent to the vault, before donning his mask of normalcy and stepping back into the world with his awful knowledge? Roy hoped so. But it was more likely, he thought with a wry, painful smile, that Ed had begun plotting immediately how he would go about fixing the problem. He was an Elric, after all.
Within two days of his discovery, he had appeared in the office with papers all ready to sign, appointing Roy as Al's legal guardian. And five days after that, he'd returned all his library books. Swiftly tying up all his loose ends, getting everything done.
He'd even made sure that the warehouse raid had been successful first, another "loose end" to tie up. Ed had been committed to the operation for weeks, had been deeply involved in the planning, and would never have allowed his personal quest to interfere with its final success. He saw it through first, devoted all his efforts to it, and made sure it was done.
And then, immediately after he and Roy had defeated the ringleader of the rogue alchemists, when the opportunity presented itself...
You weren't frozen in surprise, Ed…were you?
Eventually, as evening drew in, Roy found his steps wandering to the district where Lab Five had once stood, before it had been razed to the ground. He stared across what was now a vast empty field, the streetlights along one edge revealing the desultory clumps of grass gamely trying to fill in the space. He remembered that among the many experiments conducted here, there had been other cases of souls sealed into armour, the fusions created by alchemists who had been more powerful than Roy had previously realized. (But they hadn't been eleven years old and ad libbing while bleeding from two missing limbs and facing a life-and-death situation. None of them could ever rival Ed. No one ever would.)
The alchemists who had created those fused beings – placing other souls in armour, to defend Lab Five from intruders – had all been killed when the lab was destroyed, as far as Roy remembered. But their soul creations had not been restored to their physical bodies, but instead died along with them. He knew that the bodies of those prisoners had already perished, so when their creators died and the seal was broken, the souls had no bodies to return to.
But Al's body had never died, and that was the difference. Ed would have understood that as well as he did.
Therefore the dauntless young man had wasted no time, making his arrangements and getting the job done. It wasn't even a matter of equivalent exchange (Ed would have appreciated the irony: his life was not required in equal trade, and yet…). Rather, it was simply a matter of breaking the life-seal, the vital force that kept Al's soul trapped in its prison and prevented it from reuniting with its natural physical counterpart. And so, nine days after he had learned the truth, Ed simply did what was necessary.
And had smiled, without regret. Had been truly, finally happy as he'd watched his brother dramatically, miraculously restored. He had been granted that much grace.
'Good. Good. Oh, Alphonse…'
Roy wiped his eyes with the backs of his hands, and finally began to make his way home. There had only been one motivation, ever, for anything Ed did in the last seven years. And Roy understood it now.
He crept quietly into the house, opening and closing the front door as silently as he could. Hearing the murmuring voices in the living room, he paused in the front hall, listening.
"I read a book about cats the other day – Roy brought it home for me. Did you know there are 32 muscles in a cat's ear? Humans only have six." Alphonse, mumbling a little, sounding drowsy.
"Why does a kitty need so many muscles in its ear?" Six-year old Elysia, hanging on his every word, as usual.
Roy inched toward the entryway and peeked around the corner, making sure to stay back in the shadows. He saw Alphonse half-reclining, knees up, brown hair glowing in the firelight as he leaned his head against some cushions propped at the end of the couch. Elysia sat at his feet, cross-legged, braids dangling down her back. And in her lap slept a tiny marmalade kitten, its chin propped on one of her ankles, while its little calico sibling stood on Al's chest, kneading and kneading with half-closed eyes as he petted its head gently with his forefinger, smiling contentedly.
The surprises Roy had arranged for Gracia and Elysia to bring when they came for dinner this evening. Alphonse's promised kittens, at last.
Gracia herself, curled up with a book in the chair where Roy usually did his reading, watched the girl and her current idol, smiling. Her book, in which she held her place with a finger between the pages, seemed to be forgotten for the moment as the woman surveyed the happily domestic human-feline scene, the fire crackling companionably in the fireplace between chair and couch.
The boy replied, "The muscles help the cat turn its ear back and forth so it can hear even the tiniest sounds." His lips turned up faintly. "Like Roy sneaking into the house when he doesn't want anyone to know." The grey eyes lifted and fixed directly on the older man, still concealed (as he'd thought, anyway) in the shadows.
His eyes had been dry for a while now. He hoped the redness had faded; maybe the soft light of the fire would soften whatever signs of grief still remained. Because Alphonse could never, ever know what he had discovered today. It would completely destroy him if he found out. And Ed had died so that the boy could finally be freed from the prison of the brothers' past, and live to plan a happy future.
Whatever it cost, Roy thought, he would do, to fulfill that hope. Not just for Edward who had paid such a high price, but for Alphonse, whom he loved as though the boy were his own little brother.
He stepped into the living room as Al straightened up on the couch, with one hand patting the space he'd opened up, and with the other cradling the clinging kitten against his chest. Roy sat down between the two young people, putting an arm around each of them and smiling across the room at Gracia. Time to begin the future Ed had given them.
"Sorry I'm so late," he said. "Tell me everything I've missed. What are you going to name the kittens, Al?"
'Whatever it takes,' he thought again. 'I hope I'm up to this.'
'Don't worry, Roy. You'll do fine.'
You may not believe this, but it wasn't till I was halfway through this chapter that the thought occurred to me, 'Hey! This story is similar to "Apotheosis"!' Duh.
I hope that's not too troublesome. Maybe it's that I've always thought Roy and Ed were, at heart, rather alike. So it stands to reason that they'd both be the sort of person who would make this kind of sacrifice if it was called for.
But I also really liked having the chance to explore what life would be like for Alphonse, once he got his body back, especially if his brother wasn't there. And I REALLY enjoyed going through Ed's books, with Roy, and finding out what information would have taken Ed from the alchemy knowledge he started with, to the final solution he discovered. Most of the time, I didn't know any of that stuff till Roy did. So that was challenging, and fun, to write and discover.
Anyway, I hope that while this story shares a basic idea with "Apotheosis," that it was still different enough that people didn't go, "Oh, THAT again."