Summary: Edward Elric inherited more than his father's genius and his mother's love. A short life in fragments.
Disclaimer: Anything you recognize isn't mine.
A/N Each chunk of text is temporally removed from the others, sometimes by a few minutes, sometimes by a few months.
And now, our feature presentation:
"No, I can't come, I have a doctor's appointment; I need to take a few blood tests," Ed explains over the phone and Mustang can't help but raise an eyebrow. But, it's nothing, he decides and goes back to his paperwork.
The tests come back; Ed opens them, reads them, shrugs it off and transmutes the paper into a pile of ashes. Al asks why he's coughing; Al can't smell the smoke.
"I'm worried about Edward," Hawkeye says, "He's looking very tired."
"You know Fullmetal," Mustang replies. "But I'll order him to take better care of himself."
"Take a vacation; you're working too hard and you're going to get yourself killed," Mustang writes.
"Don't worry; I won't saddle you with more paperwork," reads Ed's telegram.
Ed's being nice. Too nice. He wants something. "Spit it out, what do you want?"
"If it's not too much to ask," Ed begins, sheepishly, and immediately Mustang knows it will be, "Could I be transferred to a desk job?"
Mustang is too surprised to be angry. But not surprised enough to forget to refuse on the spot.
The request comes again and again. It's two years before Ed has enough dirt on Mustang to be able to blackmailing him into that desk job.
"This must be very important to you, if you're willing to lord that over my head," Mustang comments grimly as he watches the ink dry on the transfer he's just signed.
"More than you know," Ed answers quietly.
Winry's in Rush Valley and Al's off in Lior, because Ed, being tied to a desk is too busy to go himself.
Ed finally takes his vacation time and catches a train to Resembool to see Pinako.
"Just the leg, please," he tells her, and Pinako puffs on her pipe and answers, "I see."
It's done. Ed doesn't smile as he transmutes something into something else. Pinako reads what it says; her only commentary: "I see."
Armstrong catches a glimpse of Ed walking down the corridor and wonders if he doesn't seem lighter somehow. He makes a mental note to bring it up with Mustang, but then forgets.
Before and after work, during the weekends, and even on his lunch break, Ed lives in the library. His obsession is becoming frantic. Frankly, Mustang finds it annoying.
Ed is tired, very tired, but Alphonse tells him he has to go to work, so gets up and gets dressed and walks to Headquarters.
He's not really in the mood to go to the library. He has the books brought to him, and poor Sheska's knees buckle under the weight, and she can't believe how rude Ed is when he doesn't offer to take the books from her arms.
Mustang is fuming. Fullmetal's kept him waiting for an hour now, and he's about to go find him when Hawkeye stops him. She'll go instead; she doesn't want him to incinerate Edward.
Edward's door is closed. She knocks and the door opens slightly. The lights are on, but Fullmetal hasn't said anything. She pushes the door ajar and feels her heart drop into the pit of her stomach when she sees Fullmetal sprawled on the floor, alchemic notes covered in spilled ink.
"This is why you wanted the desk job so badly."
"Why the fuck would I ask to do paperwork otherwise?"
"So what is it?"
"The same thing my mom had."
"I see. Are you getting treated?"
"Of course. The doctors here in Central have much more experience than they did in Resembool, and the treatments are much more advanced than they were."
"Good. So when are you getting better?"
"But you said..."
"My mother lived with it for five years. The doctors figure I've got fifteen. Would have been twenty if you'd given me the desk job when I asked for it."
"Does Alphonse know?"
"No. Don't tell him."
"He has a right to know."
"And I have a right not to tell him. I still remember what it was like when mom was sick. I'll do anything to keep that sort of pain away from Al, if only for a while longer. Besides, if he knows, he won't let me keep on researching, and I can't be stopped, not when I'm so close."
Alphonse is looking for Ed who isn't anywhere to be found. Instead, he finds Hawkeye, her eyes red, and he asks her why she's been crying.
"Someone very dear to me is very ill, and I just found out."
"Oh." Alphonse isn't sure what to say. Despite everything, he's still a ten year old at heart. "I hope they get better soon."
Hawkeye sobs suddenly, and pulls Alphonse into a hard embrace. He doesn't say anything, but he's scared, because he's never seen Hawkeye so sad.
His eyes fall again on the prison he can see from his office window. He hasn't got much time, and it would be so easy, he thinks. But then he draws the shade and goes back to his paperwork. Mustang would never, ever allow it.
When Ed calls, his voice is so full of excitement that Al almost can't make out the fatigue buried underneath. "I know how to do it. Without the Stone."
Mustang looks over the arrays. "I have to hand it to you Fullmetal; I'm impressed—this crazy thing should work, but you really should let me do it. Such a tiny alchemist might not have the strength to—
Well, he has the strength to punch Mustang.
Mustang can't believe his eyes. In front of him is the most beautiful, perfect boy he's ever seen, looking just like he should. Besides him however, Fullmetal has collapsed, and he looks somehow, older. His blood freezes.
Alphonse has finally found out. "Why couldn't it have been me? I didn't even have a body; I wouldn't have died."
"Well, in that case, I think it's time to go to back home."
When Winry, home for holiday, sees the blond boy marching slowly towards the house, she can't resist the instinctual urge to throw her wrench. It's only when the boy doesn't react in all-consuming ire that she realizes this isn't Ed.
"I came ahead," Al says between mouthfuls of apple pie (it's so good, sweet and tart, gooey and crunchy, he can't believe that it tasted this good before) "The train's a bit rough for Ed. He's taking the road."
Winry's too excited, feeding Al her apple pie to notice the logical fallacy, but Granny Pinako sits back and puffs on her pipe.
Winry notices right away that something's off about Ed's walk, and she thinks Ed's been reckless with the automail again. It's only when he gets closer that she realizes he's not wearing her automail leg at all, and it's just Al's quick hand that keeps her from throwing her wrench again.
She sees why as Ed gets closer.
"Ed, what the hell have you been doing? You look like you're dying."
He in turn smiles weakly.
He stands there as if though it were yesterday, closes his eyes and claps on the ground. Before him rises a house like the one they burned. If he can't return his brother's limbs, then at least he can give him a place to rest.
Ed can't transmute anymore, and he explains to Granny Pinako that the automail arm should go the way of the leg. Without a word, she goes to get her tools, and annoyed, Ed tells her, "Not yet you old hag."
Ed can't transmute anymore. That doesn't mean he isn't an alchemical genius. He slowly traces out an intricate circle on a sheet of paper, taking care to draw each line, each curve, each angle perfectly. When it's done, he hands it to Winry and asks her not to show it to any alchemists. This is of course the first thing she does.
"Idiot." Says Colonel Mustang.
Al breaks into tears.
Armstrong looks at the design. "Well, it's to transmute carbon and gold."
Winry tells him to stop. She knows what it is, and she has to admit Mustang was right. She breaks into tears, and wishes she'd listened to Ed.
Mustang notices that every day, at the same time, Al is no where to be found in Resembool. Finally he sends Hawkeye to track him, and she finds the boy sneaking off to the village church to pray.
Caught, he confesses to Ed.
"Oh, Al," he sighs.
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry."
"It's ok. I guess it's true what they say."
"About atheists in foxholes."
"No, no. I'm just stupid. What about you?"
"Me?" Ed smiles and tries to ruffle his brother's hair. "I'm not the one in the foxhole."
So it ends as it began. Edward is on his deathbed. The same bed that saw their mother die. Al can't help but wonder if he was right to raise the house out of the dust.
Ed calls in Mustang, wearily, and hands him an envelope. "See," he says cockily, "I told you I wouldn't saddle you with more paperwork."
It isn't quite a tombstone. Still, the shining metal slate reads:
"You aren't thinking the same thing I am, are you?" Mustang asks Alphonse after everyone else has gone.
"No. I've been down that path before. I don't think I could do it again, not without Brother, and I don't think he'd like it."
So it doesn't quite end like it began.
A/N I'd say this is possibly the laziest way to write a story, but I actually like this kind of fic when I read it. Lemme know what you think. (Translation: Reviews are love.)