(Yeah, I'm taking a small hiatus from my usual crack Fullmetal Alchemist fanfiction, instead writing about a more serious one. This one is based on the events of Bluebird's Illusion, so you will need some knowledge of the events in the game. I don't own Fullmetal Alchemist.)
By My Side
Prologue: Pretty Lies
As of late, Alphonse Elric has gotten into the habit of lying.
Dear Fuhrer Mustang,
I've gotten used to calling you that now, but I bet that Ed would still be referring to you as a colonel anyway! How is Miss Hawkeye, or should I say "Mrs. Mustang"? By the way, congratulations on getting married! I'm sorry that I couldn't attend the wedding. Winry told me about it though. It sounded great.
Brother is making a little progress. I took him outside yesterday, and for a few minutes, I saw him smiling! It took a little while coming back inside, he just looked so happy being outside in the sunny weather.
Maybe someday he'll tell me why he was smiling that day.
The pen pauses, pushing down hard into the letter and causing an ink stain above the sentence.
They were such pretty lies.
After a few seconds, the pen continues.
I think maybe he was just relaxed about living in Resembool again. No more dangerous missions and enemies to worry about anymore. Things are finally peaceful for the two of us.
I know that it seems hard taking care of Ed, but it's OK. I know people think he's not "there", but I know he is. He's just sleeping, that's all. And I know he'll wake up and get better someday and things will be right again.
More pretty lies.
Ed has not smiled. He probably doesn't even know what "happy" is.
A vegetative state. Most people don't ever get better from things like that.
Sleeping? Ed was clearly awake. So it was like sleeping with his eyes open.
Anyway, I just wanted to update you on how well I'm doing and wondering how you are. I'll let you know if there has been any more changes in Brother.
Another lie to add stacked on top of the others. There's never been any changes.
Al always was terrible at lying.
It was another letter to Roy Mustang, who for some reason despite his busy schedule, managed to keep writing to the younger Elric, when he was probably supposed to be doing something important, like paperwork most likely.
Al layed the pen down next to his finished letter. It felt shorter than usual, but lately he wondered if there really was any point to writing these letters anymore. Sure, he was just letting them know that he was doing well, but sometimes he always wondered if they sounded like cries for help. He sounded like nothing was wrong, when there really was something monumentally wrong with this whole situation.
He turned in his desk chair and looked over at the only other occupant of the room. The very subject of his letter.
Ed was sitting up in his bed, wearing simple white pajamas, looking somewhere straight ahead. His eyes were a dull gold color and had a blank expression to them. He was always staring at something, something that Al always wondered what it was. His long blond hair was no longer kept tied in a ponytail, simply just let down. After all, there was no point to keeping it tied up any longer.
Several months ago, Ed was once active and full of life, working for Central Headquarters as a colonel, no longer going out on missions in search for the Philosopher's Stone, after they had successfully found it and Ed had used it to get Al's body back. But somehow Ed's body had not been restored, but that didn't seem to bother him as long as Al's body was working. But then Al suddenly started coughing blood and passing out, showing signs that his body was starting to fail on him. In desperation, Ed had sacrificed himself to make another stone, making Al's body perfect again, but seemingly destroying Ed's mind in the process. He was alive, but was now in a vegetative state, forced to be taken care of since he could no longer take care of himself.
But Ed's body was deteriorating. Sure, he could eat, drink, and sleep, but his body could not move and there was no way Al could try to get him exercise, causing his body to silently waste away. So Al needed to find a cure as soon as possible before Ed eventually passed away.
Al watched him for a few minutes. One would think that Ed was dead with his eyes open, yet he was clearly breathing and blinking and every once in a while he would move his eyes or his head to look at something. But that was about it. That was all Ed could do; simply watch the world go by without him.
After the few minutes had passed, he looked around the room. He had ended up moving into Ed's room, so they both shared the same room. Two beds, one large for Ed and one small one pushed into the corner next to the desk for Al. Just in case he would be there if something happened. Not like it mattered, really. All their belongings were in this room, Al's left scattered on his desk or under his small bed, where as Ed's possessions were all neatly kept in the one dressing bureau.
It was probably the most quiet room in the house. Downstairs, Winry and Auntie Pinako would be doing their automail business or other things, where as Al would be all alone in a room with someone who doesn't talk. The only sounds made would be the scratch of pencils and pens writing notes and letters, or Al talking to Ed, who of course would not be able to answer back.
He wondered if others would think it crazy of the idea that he was practically talking to himself. Or the fact that he was expecting an answer in return.
It didn't matter what others thought about it.
It was better just to put on a facade and act like everything was fine.
Al mentally shook himself. He couldn't allow his thoughts to wander like that so much.
It's about noon. Brother is probably hungry.
"Brother", Al said, turning back to Ed, "Would you like something to eat?"
He paused, waiting for an answer. Ed blinked once at the question. No given answer.
"Maybe I could make you some soup? How would you like that?"
Another blink. Al just barely flinched. Sometimes it was uneasy being alone in the room with Ed. But he would never admit that.
"Soup it is then." Al smiled at him, slowly standing up from his chair. He left the room, starting to close the door with his back to the hallway, when he noticed that Ed's eyes had followed Al's path from his chair to the door, and he appeared to be staring at Al with a curious expression. Al couldn't help but pause. Normally Ed would just watch him leave with the same, blank expression, but this time there seemed to be a slight crease in the forehead, as if he was wondering about something.
Was he wondering where Al was going? Was he wondering why Al was getting soup for him? Was he wondering on the identity of this person that took care of him?
But the expression left as quickly as it came, and Al dismissed it as hopeful optimism that Ed had actually expressed an emotion, even if it was something like curiosity.
The smile slid off Al's face as he came down the stairs, knowing that Winry or Auntie Pinako would be at the bottom of the stairs. If he came down the stairs smiling, they would see right through his mask and would worry about how he was handling the situation. If he came down the stairs with an equally blank expression, then they would be shooting allegations in the dark, not knowing whether they missed or not.
But everyone would just be happy being in their own world, believing that nothing was wrong with Ed. These days, they were just happy to see Al come down the stairs. He spent so much time upstairs, researching journals and medical dictionaries trying to find a cure, so he barely came down at all except to feed himself and Ed, or to take Ed outside, but lately, days of being able to do that were getting shorter and shorter until eventually it would be rare to be able to attempt enjoying the weather outside. Yesterday had been the first time in over a month.
Al shook his head. His thoughts were starting to wander again.
He found himself hoping that Winry and Pinako wouldn't be around as he started going into the kitchen. But it was no surprise to him when he noticed Winry standing in front of the fridge, watching him with a curious expression, as if the question, "How is Ed doing?", was on the tip of her tongue, but was being held back. Why ask a question that you already know the answer to?
Instead, she says, "Good morn-well, actually it's afternoon now."
He gave a small smile of acknowledgement. "Well then, good afternoon, Winry."
"So what are you doing?" Winry asked, watching him as he opened a cabinet.
"Getting some soup for myself and Brother. I accidentally slept in and forgot to get him something this morning." he said as he pulled down a can of tomato soup. He turned around, fake smile in place.
Another lie to add to the ones he already had today. But it seemed Winry believed him as she smiled in turn, "Sounds good."
Maybe she was just humoring him. Or letting him believe his lie actually worked.
He even allowed himself to hum a little as he began to heat the soup up. It's another ordinary day, right?
"Hey Al...have you made any progress on Ed?"
He had been wondering when Winry was going to ask that.
"Well, I've been reading some old medical textbooks on the brain, and it seems that they have this theory that..."
As he prattled on, he watched the soup bubble ever so slightly, a dark red color escaping to the surface before making a slight hissing noise when they popped. Funny how he could find such interest in things like that.
"Sounds interesting." Winry nodded after he finished. "I hope you find a cure."
Al's shoulders visibly tensed before he nodded. "Yeah, I hope so too."
He started spooning some of the soup into a bowl when Winry spoke up again.
"Al, can you promise me something?"
"Sure, anything." Al said, hoping that whatever it was would make Winry satisfied enough to leave the room.
There was a tiny pause of hesitation, before...
"Promise me that you won't try human transmutation to cure him."
The bowl of soup had slipped from Al's hands and fell on the floor at his feet. The red substance had splashed all over the place; spreading slowly in a pool at his feet. The bowl, a delicate white porcelain bowl, had shattered, jagged shards lying in the puddle at odd angles. But even as the substance started staining his shoes, Al didn't seem to have noticed. He had not reacted to the soup at all, keeping his back to Winry. Not until he heard her saying something like, "You must of had a bad grip on it. Don't worry, I'll take care of it."
He blinked once, grabbing a washcloth nearby and wiping his hands of the splashed soup. He turned around, kneeling down to help Winry clean it up.
"Sorry about that. I must of not have been paying attention." Al apologized.
Winry didn't say anything as he picked up the broken pieces of the bowl, wincing slightly when one of the jagged edges had made a small cut in the palm of his hand. She wiped the rest of the floor after Al had cleaned the soup off his shoes and was throwing the broken bowl away. He calmly returned to the stove, spooning the rest of the soup into two bowls.
"But you did hear me, right Al?" Winry asked, slowly standing back up.
Al didn't answer as he put the two bowls on a tray with some crackers. Yes, he had heard her. It was the fact that she would ask that question that had stunned him.
He had considered human transmutation. Mostly as a last ditch resort.
After all, Ed had practically thrown his life away just so that Al could have a body. If human transmutation could be a cure, then would it be wrong of him not to consider it?
"Al, promise me that you won't do it." Winry said, her voice taking a stern edge.
Al seemed to ignore her as he started to walk away with the tray of soup, but Winry grabbed his arm, lightly gripping it to make sure that she didn't make him drop his tray and make another mess again.
"Al, you can't be thinking of it. That's how Ed ended up in this situation. How would it really accomplish anything?"
Al could understand the logic in her words, but it wasn't quite reaching his ears. It almost felt like a low hum, but he knew what she was saying. It was like an odd, light fog drifting over his mind.
"Al, please promise me." Winry said for a third time, and she almost sounded close to tears. Al blinked once; the fog seemed to lift. He smiled, nodding once.
"I promise. After all, Ed wouldn't be happy with me if I did try that, would he?"
Winry smiled, nodding. "That's right."
She let go of his arm, allowing Al to leave the room. As he went up the stairs, the smile on his face twitched.
That was probably his best lie he told so far today.
If he could cure Brother by using human transmutation, then he would do it in a heartbeat.