ii.

An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered; an adventure is an inconvenience rightly considered.
G.K. Chesterton

"Why is sauerbraten so damn good?"

"I don't know, but it's evident you favour it." Scar eyed the piles of emptied plates next to Edward's beer, speaking now in proper German. The older man took only tea.

"You should try some!" Edward was not drunk, not even near, but he had topped off at least one mug. He waved a forkful of marinated beef in Scar's general direction. "I promise you, the taste is revolutionary."

"I told you. I don't eat meat." This was said in the patient but almost-had-it tones of a seasoned vegetarian.

"Yes. But I scorn your reasons." Edward shrugged, and popped the sweet and spicy bite into his mouth. "No merciful god would ever forbid something so delicious."

"So you say."

"SO DAMN GOOD!" Edward was getting a little loud. Scar shook his head and kicked Edward under the table as some of the other patrons looked their way curiously.

They had talked for quite a long time, over an hour. It was an oddly patched together series of revelations, as Edward did the best he could to bring Scar up to date on all the things that had happened after he had, as he put it, died. Edward wanted to ask how the man could think of himself as dead when he obviously was living some kind of life right here, but after a few philosophical starts he discovered the topic was mysteriously verboten.

Edward kept some facts back, of course. He did not reveal that Sloth had been his dead mother, nor that Envy had been some kind of half-brother. There was almost no talk about the things Edward found most important to who he was, Winry and the dead officer Hughes and his father, Hohenheim, being just a few of those tetchy topics. The one thing he could not keep in check was how much he missed his brother, and ultimately the conversation had looped around to Alphonse many, many times. To this Scar had no objection, and in fact seemed to egg Edward on, wanting to hear about all sorts of trivial Alphonse factoids as if they confirmed some pet theory of his. Edward tried, once, to figure out what had made Scar so protective towards his brother, asking what it had been that caused Scar that one time to tell Alphonse that he was in fact human. Scar had dropped into a glare so icy and menacing that Edward decided it, too, was a topic best avoided.

Maybe it had something to do with the fraternity of little brothers, everywhere. In any case, Edward decided to ignore it.

At some point he discovered that Scar had become a Jesuit and was in the novice stage of formation, approximately a year before taking his vows. Very weird and striking that Scar had joined one of the most urbane and erudite of religious orders... Edward never would have guessed that such a life held any attractions for a man of Scar's uncompromisingly pagan approach to the rituals of faith.

Some things were just a lot easier to handle after a bit of alcohol. Edward found himself able to accept Scar's presence here in this world and even hazarded a few positive feelings about the whole thing. Scar seemed to be attached to his new-found contemplative life and would not be any kind of bar to any of Edward's goals. He didn't even seem that curious. When Edward made up a little story about how he needed to stay in Köln in order to study Hegel and Max Planck, Scar didn't even seem to blink at the preposterousness of connecting those two men in any sort of serious investigation, let along wonder why Edward hadn't taken these queries to Berlin. Scar just did not seem to care.

Without rivalry, it would be... nice... to have someone familiar to talk to. Edward hadn't realized how much he'd come to resent eating alone.

One of the restaurant maids slipped the cheque to Scar after getting some kind of signal from him that the meal was over (never mind that Edward had not yet finished his seventh plate of god-defying deliciousness). This caused Edward to arch his very blonde eyebrows in presumptive outrage. He was almost twenty-one now. How did the entire female populace of Germany get off presuming that Scar would be the one to pay? Did he look like that much of a pea-sized midget in comparison? Well, probably, but still. It was an outrage. As soon as the girl stepped away Edward swiped the cheque out from Scar's fingers, only barely suppressing a pint-sized growl.

"I think I can afford tea," he said, attempting a dry tone that probably could fool no one.

Scar gave him the oddest look, but did not make any move to retrieve the bill. "You intend to supplant my hospitality with your own?"

"Well... yes." Edward made a face. "I mean, no. That's completely stupid. Just because you invited me doesn't mean you should have to pay for my banquet." He reached forward to tap Scar's glass with then tines of his fork so that it made a satisfying little tinkling noise. "Also, you didn't eat anything. I know what fair is."

"And I know what fair isn't," Scar responded, reaching forward to take the bill and moving so quickly that Edward didn't have any chance to respond. "There's a right way and a wrong way to do these kinds of things." Scar's glance was complicated, weighty. "Trust me. If I expected you to pay, I wouldn't have insulted you by eating nothing."

Edward looked at his plates, evidence of his gluttony causing him to blush scarlet. "I don't want you to have to pay for all this," he muttered. "Not everything. It's... embarrassing."

"I enjoyed watching you eat," Scar said, with no change in his expression, except perhaps in becoming even more unreadable. "Very artistic."

"You can do that for free," Edward said, scrunching up his shoulders and huddling at his seat. "Ack. Now I'm going to feel bad."

"Do you always reserve your hesitation for when it becomes clear that the cost is not just shared by you?" Scar looked away, this time wearing a look of judgmental disdain. "If it is your nature to consume food so recklessly, don't apologize for it. But don't pretend that spending your own money somehow puts the weight of the consumption only on you. There is always a cost for others... even if you don't see it."

Edward stiffened. Not only was it surreal for him to be schooled in the core principle of alchemy by an avowed hater of the practice, it was extremely unexpected. He stared at Scar, taking deliberate large breaths through his nostrils as he tried to figure out how to answer without lashing out. His mind worked quickly and he loosened his jaw only when he felt that the result of his many mental calculations was correct. "If there is a wrong way, there's also a right way," Edward said at last, guardedly. "But a right way is not necessarily the right way." He took another breath. "I never thought you really intended to pay for all that. Honestly."

Scar's expression softened. "I want to."

"You can if you want." Edward nodded, at first with hesitation, but then decisively. "And... thanks."

. + .

As soon as lunch was over Scar left to return to his monastery, and Edward started in on his previously intended task: finding a place to stay. He didn't intend to be picky, but experience had taught him to weigh his options before making a choice. The sun hung heavily in the western sky; despite his residual tipsiness, Edward hunkered down for a long, grueling afternoon of apartment hunting.

The nice thing was that the city was so fresh, vivid even, the smell of spring clear on the air and the gorgeousness of the weather causing even the grimmest passer-by to seem a bit relaxed. The streets were narrow and cobbled, and people with bicycles passed the pedestrians in an orderly, courteous fashion. Edward splashed some water on the back of his neck from one of the fountains he passed by. It seemed to Edward that every person either had cornsilk or sun-kissed warm brown hair, coloring that was so like his own and his brother's that sometimes Edward startled, thinking he saw someone else that he knew from back home. It was all an illusion, of course. Just because he had met Scar didn't mean that there was any power in coincidence, and Edward didn't really anticipate any more unexpected meetings.

The hours passed quickly but almost from the start Edward's feet were dragging. Everything was so similar. The prices quoted, the situations... nothing distinctively outrageous, but nothing particularly amazing stuck out with him. Eventually he turned down a street towards the last name mentioned on his list, and Edward had made up his mind that unless it was totally horrible or expensive, he would take it.

The first thing Edward noticed were the potted flowers on the porch, red and yellow tulips lining the steps. It was a three story building, and on the second floor patio Edward spied a kitten, which looked down at him impassively before disappearing off on an adventure. Edward knocked on the front door, smiling. This was not a bad place.

The landlady ushered him in, a pretty older woman in her forties with pink cheeks and blazing white streaks mixed in with her brightly blonde hair, braided in the back with a red ribbon. Ilse. She turned out to be something of a character, and after agreeing on arrangements that would allow Edward to stay for as long as he felt he needed, she treated him to tea and an intricate discussion of her various physical ills, including dyspepsia and recurrent bouts of the flu as well as new problems such as swollen ankles and periodic warm flushes that came for no reason. Following this she embarked on a lively discussion of her various travails in trying to find homes for all of the new kittens her cat, Fritzi, had recently given birth to. After talking to Scar Edward wasn't as annoyed with this oversharing as he might have been, but as soon as it was humanely possible he excused himself to check out the flat he would be renting.

Thank goodness for the fact that his place on the third floor had its own door and stairway on the side of the home. Edward climbed up the white-painted wood stairs and let himself in. It was airy and cheerful, decorated quite simply in light greens and yellows. A grey cat lounged on his pillow. Edward walked around and looked into everything carefully. No dust or grime to be seen anywhere. His landlady might be a pain, but she certainly could clean. After unpacking, Edward collapsed onto what was to be his new bed, causing the cat to move over with a displeased meow. He felt totally spent.

Where would he find an ally? Edward rested the back of his left forearm on his forehead, covering his eyes and sighing. Who could he find to help him get what he needed?

. + .

The keys to infiltration, in Edward's opinion, were subterfuge and encampment. In this case that meant pretending to be Catholic and visiting the cathedral daily. The Catholic church had only recently been allowed to re-open the doors of its churches, as a part of the settlement following the last war. This made the Lutherans nervous, even so, and being Catholic still happened to be something of a rebellious and dangerous thing to do. Edward ended up acquiring a rosary but he kept it carefully hidden in his pocket when he was walking around town.

Pretending to pray in church for hours on end was agonizing, but Edward endured, and soon got himself pegged as a regular by a few of the priests and religious lay people who visited the cathedral on a daily basis. Taking a cue from his experience with Scar, Edward decided to act as though he had an interest in taking up a priestly vocation (although he made sure to lard up his fake desire with enough doubts and hesitations to make credible his double life as a scientist). Unfortunately, though, although many people began smiling his way, few stopped to chat. Edward's carefully constructed lie went completely unused.

It was a lonely way to work.

For many days Edward did not see Scar again. This was not surprising; Scar had to keep to a schedule whereas Edward did not, and had taken on responsibilities which probably took up most of his days. It wasn't until two weeks later, in fact, when Edward broke down and decided to go to an actual Sunday mass (instead of the lower-key weekday masses that he favoured) that he next saw the former terrorist.

Sitting in a corner pew next to a large marble column near the back of the massive church, Edward wondered what possible good any of the predominantly German congregation got out of the entirely Latin mass. For most of them it was not a matter of saying words but of making the right noises, kneeling or standing on cue, and listening to chants which could have no relevance to their day-to-day lives.

The only things that made sense were the organ concertos that opened and closed mass; these, Edward loved.

Twitchy over the fruitlessness of his search to date, Edward pretended to watch the priest attentively but on the inside he was fuming. Every day that passed was one more day not knowing what had happened to Alphonse. Every day that passed was one more failure. It was as if he'd traveled across a vast unknown ocean in search of foreign gold, and on finding land had come to discover that he still had half of the world left to traverse. Reaching his destination would be meaningless if Edward could not find a way to unearth the secrets he needed to know. In bored frustration Edward scanned the faces of the people in the side pews, and it was then that he saw Scar.

The Ishibalite stood out among his group; although he sat with Jesuits and nuns and other religious persons under vows, he did not look like any of them. Scar was taller and his skin was much darker; from far away the difference in coloring was striking.

Actually seeing Scar again was like some kind of jolt to his limbic system, upsetting Edward's carefully controlled sense of reality. Considering the many marathon hours he was clocking at church (and considering Scar's inexorable devotion to practices of faith), perhaps it was inevitable that Edward would see Scar again, even in this relatively large city. But even an anticipated reunion could come as a surprise when it was unlooked-for. Scar was proof, solid proof, that Edward's own exile was real.

Edward did not take communion; the thought of participating in that particular ritual sickened him, particularly when he considered what it represented in terms of sacrifice. Eating the transmuted flesh of an incarnate god might appeal to some, but for someone who knew that transmutation could be real, the thought could only offer nausea. Sniffing, Edward quietly scorned the believers who filed forward. If they really believed in the mystery that they were celebrating, how could they accept it with such equanimity? Where was the transgressive fear? Such holiness seemed cheap. Edward noticed with some interest that Scar did not take communion either, and wondered why that was. Perhaps it was because he refused to take meat; of all of them, Scar would be one to believe in such a mystery wholesale.

Mass ended in routine solemnity, and as the high priest forsook his dais the parishioners began to mingle and disperse. Standing up quickly. Edward beelined Scar, tracking the other man as he began to walk with one of the priests towards the exit. He had to catch the man now, or it could be weeks until he saw him again. For right now Scar was his only lead, his only in. He'd have to see if Scar could introduce him to the right kind of person, but without letting Scar in on his plans (which the other man would probably find blasphemous). Catching up from behind, Scar seemed to be in pleasantly casual conversation with his companion, who appeared to be one of the Jesuit priests and probably was one of his superiors. Taking a deep breath, Edward reached out with his left hand and tugged on Scar's coat sleeve from behind.

"I'm sorry to bother you, um... Brother..." Edward trailed off, wishing he'd asked Scar what name he was going by in this world. Scar and the man with him both turned to look down at him... Scar favoring him with raised eyebrows and a scowl.

"You know this boy?" asked Scar's companion, the priest. The look on his face, at least, was kindly, as he queried Scar while examining Edward minutely.

"Slightly," Scar answered with a touch of sarcasm in his voice. "Father Ernesto, this is Edward Elric. An alch... a chemist."

Edward ignored Scar for the moment, examining the priest with interest. Ernesto? That was an Italian name. "Buon giorno," Edward said with a nod and a slight smile. He would make a stunning impression, or die trying.

"Parlate italiano?" The priest gave Scar a pleased grin, and then reached out to shake hands with Edward.

Edward tapped his metal arm with his left hand, illustrating that it was fake so that the priest would not perceive the insult when the handshake was not returned. "Poco, poco," he answered with a laugh. "I'm sorry, but my German is much better." Edward risked giving Scar a wicked grin of triumph, which the other man received with a very satisfying look of surprise.

The priest, Father Ernesto, gently took Edward's false hand and squeezed it between his own. "No matter. It is a pleasure to meet you, son." The look that Father Ernesto gave Scar was chiding. "I did not know that you knew any scientists. You should have told me. How are you acquainted?"

Scar pressed his lips together tightly, and Edward could not tell if the other man was amused, or furious. "He's... a family friend. Recently arrived in town, I believe." Scar looked down at Edward and evaluated him sternly. "Isn't that so?"

"Of course," Edward said earnestly. "I'm here on break from my studies."

"Chemist, eh?" The priest rubbed his chin thoughtfully, apparently oblivious to the sub-res tensions between Edward and Brother Scar. "Are you perhaps familiar with the recent work of Schrödinger?"

Oooh, perfect. Edward thanked his own non-gods for brainy Jesuits. Perhaps here was his in. "On Bohr... the wave equation?"

"Yes, that." The priest rubbed his hands together gleefully. "What did you think of it?"

"I want to see what Heisenberg says," Edward shrugged. "But I like it. It makes sense, it's elegant."

Scar followed this exchange by shifting his eyes from the priest to Edward, crossing his arms. Just as it appeared that Father Ernesto was going to ask Edward technical details about the paper, Scar broke in. "Can I help you with something, Edward Elric?"

Edward nodded, stifling regret. He wanted to continue with this discussion, but it was not worth alienating his one solid connection for the sake of cultivating a more tenuous one. "Father, can I borrow him for a bit? There's something I'd like to discuss in private, if you don't mind."

The priest nodded. "Of course, of course." He patted Scar on the shoulder, and Edward wondered whether it was cruel for him to enjoy the fact that the Ishibalite flinched under the familiar touch. Surely it was a bit petty. "I'll see you back at the monastery," he said with the air of one granting a favour. "Take your time. But, please don't forget to bring this boy by sometime." Father Ernesto smiled at Edward, a benign and inviting smile. "Intelligence is a gift from god, child. It seems you've been specially blessed. Treasure it."

"Um... thank you, Father," Edward murmured, suppressing an impulse to grit his teeth. "I'll make sure to visit while in town, if... my friend here doesn't mind." Scar was staring at him as if he were a creation surreal.

"Of course he doesn't mind," Father Ernesto waved off the concern airily, and then turned to leave with a little bow of his head. "Until we meet again, than."

Edward waved cheerfully as the other man left, and then turned to give Scar a matter-of-fact look, dropping the pretense of easy affability. "Where can we talk?" The church was taking a while to clear out, and right now it was possible that anything he'd say could be overheard.

"You're unreal," Scar shook his head in disbelief.

"Yeah, I know," Edward said, a bit softly, suddenly feeling sorry for disturbing Scar's routine. Who knew but that it was the only thing keeping the man from going off on self-righteous homicidal rages? Not for the first time Edward wished that he understood Scar a bit better... and not just because he could possibly find the man useful. What made this strange person tick? What was Scar's internal logic? Edward could only begin to guess.

After a moment of glaring at Edward, Scar's gaze went upwards. "Would you like to see the city from high?"

"You mean from the top of the cathedral?" Edward looked up and up, a glance that could not do anything but soar. "That's possible?"

"Yes. But there are many stairs. Are you up for a climb?"

Edward nodded absently, distracted. He didn't know that someone at Scar's level had that kind of access. After a moment Scar tugged on his automail, pulling at the forearm.

"Today?"

Tearing his gaze away from the shadows and mote-filled bars of colored light, Edward smiled at Scar. "Okay. Today."

. + .

Exactly as advertised, the climb was long and brutal. At first Edward took the stairs two at a time, practically running, but long before they reached the top he was proceeding at a virtual crawl, feeling drained of life and energy. Without Alphonse around to prod him on, Edward had lost touch with some of his more athletic skills. It did not help that Scar took the stairs effortlessly, from first to last with an even breathing pattern and unchanging pace that Edward could only envy.

The stairs opened out onto a small terrace on top of the cathedral, a sunny place shielded from high winds by the intricate buttresses framing the roof. Rarely had Edward been privileged to see any city from this kind of vantage point, so as soon as he stepped out into the light he gasped and sighed with pleasure. Why couldn't those dreary Catholics hold mass up here? Edward snorted to himself. That would make too much damn sense. As god's finest creation, shouldn't man glorify himself?

Apparently not. Edward entertained a brief fantasy about what kind of religious rituals that he'd mandate if he were in charge of faith practices for a whole swath of people, sitting down to catch his breath. There would be a lot more organ music and a lot less prattling on about the blood of lambs, that was for damn sure.

"So," Scar began, sitting down against the stone right next to Edward. "You wanted to talk to me?"

"Yes," Edward answered simply.

"Why?"

Edward gave Scar a probing look. Obviously the man was not going to let him get away with the pretense that he wanted to chat just because they came from the same world. That was not the kind of person Edward was, and maybe Scar knew it. "I want to know more about you," Edward said, deciding to state the truth although neglecting to offer his reasons.

"You know everything that is important already," Scar answered, not returning the look as he looked out over the far-away roofs of the city.

"I do?" Edward laughed a little, trying not to sound too cynical as it was not befitting his young age. "I don't know you at all."

"I find it difficult to believe that you'd care about anything like that," Scar said with the kind of dry cynicism that was exactly befitting his age. "What do you want?"

Edward closed his eyes and rubbed his temples roughly with his thumbs, real and artificial alike. He wasn't willing to tell Scar about his plan to break into the shrine, not yet and possibly not ever. "I can't tell you," Edward answered, his non-answer being the sort of honesty that Scar deserved, even if it was a sort of unpleasant truth. "Can you accept that?"

"Mystery, eh?" Scar turned to look at Edward then, and actually smiled. "For now, yes."

"You're so strange," Edward said, returning the smile with exhausted appreciation. "I can't think of anyone else who'd let me get away with that kind of answer."

Scar shrugged. "We're not family. We're not friends. We're not even colleagues. I don't expect you to give me the considerations you would give those."

Edward recoiled a little, as if stung. It was true, and Edward didn't necessarily want things to be any different, but still... saying things so baldly was brutal. He'd asked for it, though. There would be no possibility of cultivating a real acquaintance by asking Scar to open up while refusing to give anything of his self. "Mm... okay." Edward stretched out his legs, considering this situation to be a sort of social puzzle that required tactful genius. Normally this was not the former alchemist's forte, but he would try. "So?"

"Hmm. Well, you know about my brother. You know about his arm. You know how I died. What more is there?"

"Was it all for revenge?"

Scar looked at Edward for a long silent moment, and Edward waited patiently as his intentions were weighed, returning Scar's gaze steadily. He would not back down; it was a fundamental question. "I don't believe in revenge," Scar said at last.

"I can't believe you killed that many people out of sense of pique," Edward replied quietly, a little shocked that Scar could say that with a straight face. "But I guess I just don't get how you could justify what you did, if it wasn't for revenge."

"There are many things that people with your kind of privileges are incapable of understanding," Scar answered, just as quietly, but with a faintly deadly and dangerous air. Obviously Edward was pressing a little hard.

"Privileges?" Edward barked out with a choking laugh, stung a bit in turn. How dare he? "I'm a cripple, an exile, and completely alone. I don't think I see any 'privileges.'"

Scar reached forward and grabbed Edward's automail leg by the knee, twisting to glare at Edward with a kind of angry resentment. "A cripple with functional limbs that make you stronger then you might otherwise be. An exile with a brother who loves you and who is probably working at this moment on ways to return you to life. A person alone, but with the distant backing of a powerful military and a prosperous... and living... people. Yes, your life is completely bereft of advantages." Scar's sneer was punishing and full of repressed rage. "You know about what happened in Ishibal, and Lior. And yet you think that my actions are without justification? I think you don't understand as much as you think you do." Scar took a deep breath and shook himself, backing off as he released his hold on Edward's body. "All life is precious, not just the lives that are precious to you."

"If you think that, how could you kill?" Edward bit off a despairing sigh. It just didn't make sense. "What you did didn't bring back one life. Not one."

"Of course not. But I hoped to save some." Scar knocked his own back against the wall, slumping back suddenly. "That's not revenge." Scar touched his forehead, the place where his skin used to wear a cross of white. "You alchemists do not know the kind of power you have."

"What do you mean?"

"You obsess over the past, and therefore it holds irresistible power over you. But the past is not as important as what is to come." Scar closed his eyes. "You have... had... the power to create a better future. But instead you live only through your regrets."

"I could say the same for you." Edward ran a finger through the hair tied at the back of his neck. "Are you a hypocrite?" Well, there went any pretense of tact. But once he started in like this, Edward found it difficult to repress himself. Edward valued the truth too much, and when he fought about matters of truth he always aimed to win.

"Yes," Scar whispered, and when Edward turned to look at the other man he was surprised to see pain lining his face as he closed his eyes tightly.

Oh. Edward felt his momentum skid to a thunderous halt. How did you argue with someone who refused to pretend that he was perfect? It was difficult to maintain contempt against that kind of honesty.

"Edward Elric... were you responsible for creating a homunculus, like my brother?"

Edward sat up with electrifying quickness. He guessed that the clues were obvious, and obviously Scar had gained the right to ask such a personal question because of the kind of probing that Edward was subjecting him to, but still. That was the last thing he expected to hear, especially as a question from this man. Far from wondering how Scar knew, Edward instead wondered where the man was going with this. "Yes," he whispered.

"Who was it?"

"My mother."

"Ah." Scar turned to face Edward, arranging himself in a cross-legged stance with his hands resting open in his lap. "You and Alphonse did that?"

"...Yes."

"You must have loved her very much, then," Scar said with a solemn nod. "I'm very sorry." The other man took a deep breath and bent his legs upward so that he could lean forward, resting his forearms on his knees. "Sometimes I underestimate the past, because I try so hard to forget my own. But I know that it affects everyone." In Scar's blood-brown eyes there was a certain indefinable sadness. "There is no justification for what I did," he whispered. "None. So don't try to find any. Just know that... I did what I felt that I had to do. I am willing to pay the price."

Edward was reminded of the first time that he'd ever seen the ocean. Despite dreaming of it his whole life, it had looked nothing like what he expected it to be. It was more vast and more terrible, more lonely and perfect, churning with fractal chaos. This glimpse of Scar's motives was a little like that... illuminating nothing, except that now he knew that he was looking truth in the face instead of merely imagining it from his own limited perspective. "What was your mother like?" Edward asked with a different kind of curiosity, his voice hushed with his own reverent sorrows.

"I don't know." Scar looked down at the ground, and for the first time ever Edward saw clear shame taint the other man's face. "She died before I was born."

Edward paled. "Before?"

"Yes. She never knew me. And I never knew her. My brother raised me."

Edward fell silent. He was afraid to ask after a father. In fact, he didn't need to... the implied answer was clear enough. But to be born of a mother already dead? The only kind of children like that had to be cut from their mother's womb before they died themselves. It was horrifying to contemplate. Unlike Edward, Scar was truly and fatally motherless. Perhaps that explained much.

"My mother would have liked you, I think," Edward said softly, after gathering his thoughts together into some kind of coherence. "She died before I was old enough to know her as a person, but I think you are the kind of person she would have enjoyed talking to." And it was true. In Scar's various torments and tangled principles there was a very interesting individual, someone not unlike... well, not unlike his own damned father.

"Hmm," Scar said, evaluating Edward with an expression he'd never seen before, one of actual respect and even gratitude, the shame fading slowly. "You are like your brother. That sounds like something he would say."

Edward felt a pang of loneliness squeeze his heart. It was true, but he wouldn't have known it unless Scar had pointed it out. That was exactly the sort of thing Alphonse would say, kind and appropriate and not at all in Edward's native style. Memories unbidden flooded his mind, and Edward closed his eyes to cling to them, knowing that they would pass quickly. "I miss him," Edward confessed. "I miss him so much."

"I will pray to Ishibala for him," Scar said quietly. "I will pray for him daily, if you want." His voice sounded a bit helpless, with a return of that ephemeral undercurrent of shame.

"That's a lot of praying," Edward said with a shaky smile, struggling to find his composure. "I don't believe in prayer, though."

"I know you don't," Scar said. "But I can do this for you anyway. Sometimes it... helps. I imagine that it helps, anyway."

Who would it help? Alphonse? Edward found that unlikely, so grossly unlikely that he was about to refute it with reflexive rejection, when he remembered that Scar was a motherless child and looked at him more closely. Scar was not looking through him but at him, and it occurred to him that the person Scar wanted to help was... well, him. "Who prays for you?" Edward asked, adopting a gentleness that was not false even if it was unfamiliar.

"There is no one left who can," Scar answered while looking off into the distance.

Suddenly Edward felt and understood his privilege, and his heart ached in unaccustomed sympathy. Scar was a walking wound, open and bleeding, and even with a restored body he was still without any of the comforts accorded to most of humanity. It must have been a terribly lonely way to live. "I think there is more to vengeance then mere hatred," Edward said in his most thoughtful voice, trying to give Scar the best and straightest words within his power, even though it meant reaching into unexamined philosophical depths that he didn't like to probe too closely. "Sometimes I think revenge is what happens when we lose all hope." Edward coughed a little. Maybe that was saying too much. "That's... that's what creates the Philosopher's Stone, I think. Even more then the lives that comprise it."

"Hopelessness?"

"Yes. Hopelessness."

"You are probably right, Edward Elric." Scar looked chastened. "Hopelessness... despair... is a weakness. One which I am afraid to say afflicts me often." Scar made his right hand into a fist, and looked down at it somberly. "I do not think I was wrong to save your brother," Scar said. "But I know it was wrong for me to kill all those men to do it. It would have been better if I had stayed with just killing State Alchemists."

Edward found himself nodding, even though he knew that he was agreeing to his own death sentence in some kind of weird cosmic way. "If you had killed me before I went to Lior the first time, many lives would have been saved," Edward said. From a non-selfish perspective, this was the undeniable truth.

"And if I killed you now?" Scar said, looking up at Edward suddenly. "How many lives would be spared then?"

What a shockingly direct question. "None. I hope."

"See? That is the problem with what I did. I want to believe that taking the lives of people in the military would save lives, but... I don't know. I will never know what those people would have done, if left to live their lives without my interference." Scar stood up. "And now I will never know."

No, he wouldn't. Edward stood up in turn, looking out over the city on Sabbath. "Let's be friends." He held out his automail arm, not feeling the need to hide from this man who he really was.

"Friends?" Scar looked at the hand offered, appearing confused. "Why?"

"Because I can't pray for you." Edward reached forward and gripped Scar's hand before the other man could withdraw. "That's why."

Author's note: please be aware that this story has been completed a while ago; I will not be able to publish the entire thing hrtr because soon it gets into territory above the M rating system. Fortunately, if you're interested in reading the entire thing, you can go to Livejournal and look up Lukassa (a link to the fic has also been provided on my profile page here but of course I'm not allowed to place the link directly in the story).