Alphonse Elric opened his eyes and stared up into the twisted foliage high above his head. At first, he was only mesmerized by the shifting shapes above him, but then he fidgeted uncomfortably as he became aware of a stick poking into his back. He moved to a more comfortable spot and then raised his hand above his head as if to touch the leaves, and watched the way his thin fingers blocked the light from the sky.


He had hands, and now that he thought about it, he could feel his stomach grumbling with hunger.

Alphonse sat up straight with shock then promptly lay back down as vertigo turned his world inside out.

How could this be? Only a little while ago he'd been saying goodnight to Edward back at their hotel in Central. At that time, his soul had been bound to a suit of armor rendering him unable to feel. What was going on?

Propping himself up once again, Al took a better look at his surroundings and himself. On first glance, the forest had looked normal enough, but now Al realized he'd never seen trees like this before. For one thing, they were huge. A whole car could fit inside the trunk of the tree nearest him. Al shivered at the thought of what monstrous creatures could possibly inhabit a forest like this.

Al shivered again, and this time because he was cold. His thin fingers were the least of his problems. Looking down at his chest he could count every one of his ribs, and as his disorientation wore off the gnawing pain in his stomach grew worse with each passing second. Besides the fact that he had no fat on his bones to keep him warm, he wasn't wearing anything.

Shoving aside nagging thoughts as to how he'd arrived here, he set to work. The first order of business was to find something to make into clothes, and then get something to eat. Al sighed as and resigned himself to the fact that he wasn't likely to find an apple pie anywhere in the general vicinity. Though, if that was his only desire that didn't come true, his luck was shaping up.

Pulling himself to his feet, Al winced as ground cover dug into the soft soles of his feet. Toddling over to a nearby bush, he began to strip it of its soft leaves and place them in a pile by his side. When he figured he had enough, he clapped his hands together, made some mental calculations, and slapped his hands palm down on the leaves. Blue light flashed and when it was gone, the fibers from the leaves had been turned into a rough shirt and a pair of pants.

Al smiled, and then almost blacked out as a wave of weariness swept over him. Perhaps Alchemy was too much exertion for his body to handle right now. He pulled on the rough clothing and then weighed the odds of blacking out against the potential benefits of making shoes. The ground around him was rough, littered with discarded branches and foliage. Some of the bushes nearby looked to support thorns and the likelihood that they had shed those thorns on the ground around them was high. His feet were scratched even from the short walk over here. If he was to travel any distance he would need some sort of foot covering or else end up looking as if his feet has been put through a cheese grater.

On the other hand, if he lost consciousness in a strange place like this, he didn't know what would happen. It was better not to risk it. He ripped the fabric on his pant legs just below the knee, and wrapped his feet tightly. It was better than nothing and he needed to keep moving.

In a patch of sunlight, Al paused to look up at the sky. The sun shone with a brilliant whitish-yellow light.

White light.

White. . .

Al stumbled as the dam in his memory broke and his mind was flooded with images: white light, a towering gate, a luminescent figure, his own body looking back at him, a scornful smile, falling . . . then darkness.

Everything made sense now. His soul had been rejected from the suit of armor it had called home and had rebounded to his body trapped within the Gate of Truth. Al and his older brother Ed had hypothesized about what would happen if Al's soul were to separate from the armor. Most of their conclusions had been bad. Al had even thought that he would be forced to spend eternity wandering as a disembodied soul.

Only in his wildest fantasies would he have believed it possible for his soul to simply return to his body. And then for Truth to toss him back through the gate like that without another toll . . . it was beyond belief. To think that after all they'd gone through he would suddenly just be returned to his body – it was too easy.

Al leaned against a tree for support against the thought that had just occurred. If his soul had been rejected from the suit of armor, the armor was still there – still sitting in their hotel room as a lifeless piece of metal. It was sitting there devoid of life for Ed to find when he woke up.

Al choked back a sob. Edward would draw the only reasonable conclusion – Al was dead. He would have no reason to suspect otherwise. And, with Al gone, there would be no one to stop him from doing something crazy. Something potentially deadly.

Forgetting the state he was in and even his hunger, Al broke into a run. He didn't know where he was heading; he simply followed his sixth sense in the hope that it would lead him back to Central.

He paid no attention to his ragged breath or the sharp wood and stone that cut through his makeshift shoes. He simply ran until his foot snagged on a root and he skidded to a stop on the rough ground. Even then he tried to go on but the blackness proved swifter. One final thought grazed Al's mind before he slipped into unconsciousness – I have to get home.