Title: Unknown, Unseen
Rated: M (for safety)
Disclaimer: Anything recognizable from the FMA series does not belong to me.
Summary: When Ed exchanged his life for Al's for the last time, he didn't quite get to London. Now he's back, but Al's not sure he can deal with this new Ed.
The rain fell in large quantities. It gathered in the streets, ran down the slopes and dips of the roads, soaked into the military blue uniforms of the countless soldiers running below, oblivious to the chaos and grief of the world around. Rain had no feeling. It made itself known in moments of happiness, sadness, anger, always there, always watching.
Below ground, shouts could be heard, echoing off the vast stone walls, curling upwards into the world above. The sharp clang of metal on metal, the thud of bodies meshed together in an intricate dance of battle; one head of gold, gold like ripened wheat, ready to harvest, the other blacker than the night, except the slight green sheen that shimmered in the dim lighting.
It ended abruptly. The still silence that followed settled over the room and weighed down on the others, smothering their breath and seemed to still time. The hollow clanking of metal broke the heavy silence, evaporating it, disintegrating it.
There was no response, no utterance to acknowledge the timid voice.
"Nii-san! Answer me…" the voice wailed, though no tears stained the steel cheeks. "No, no!" it continued, it's tone rising to a fearful pitch.
Hesitantly, desperate hands met together in an almost silent clap, then stretched over the body. Light flared, blinding the other occupants of the room. When it faded, the creature that wasn't quite human was gone.
The building gave a shudder, small chunks of ceiling falling and splintering into fragments as they crashed against the floor.
"The buildings not going to hold for much longer!" a voice hollered over the loud cracking of the larger parts of the roof above them.
In a mad dash, a mass of bodies flung themselves toward the exit, pushing their way through with no concern for their companions, leaving the now dead body and woman alone to rescue themselves. Not two minutes later, the body coughed, blood spurting from the open mouth and dribbling down the chin.
"Al?" it said, voice a quiet hopefulness. "Al?" No answer. "Al?" The body jerked, sitting up so it could survey the room. "Al?" Again, no answer, though this time, an empty room was there to accompany the silence.
"Edward! You're not dead… Al… he did something. And… now you're alive."
Eyes of fiery gold widened slightly, realization dawning slowly. Al was gone, in exchange for the life he now possessed.
"Rose, go. Take the baby and go."
"But, what about you Edward?"
"I'll be right behind you," he replied, "now go! And don't wait for me, don't look back."
He smiled for a brief moment, as if to reassure the woman that it would all be fine. Rose nodded, her arms clutching at the wrapped bundle, then stood and made her way out, steps firm and sure. When she had reached the long tunnel leading outward, she cast a last look back, then vanished into the blackness of the tunnel.
Edward didn't acknowledge the woman, instead he turned his attention to the pool of blood at his feet. His blood.
With steady hands, he dipped the fore and middle fingers in the scarlet liquid. With sure strokes, he traced the all too familiar patterns on his arms, his chest, his forehead.
"I don't deserve this, Al, this life you've returned to me. So, I'm giving it back to you." A sad smile graced his features. Yes, this was good. It was his fault, everything. Al had just followed along, not willing to leave his brother's side. With those thoughts, he closed his eyes, frown replacing the smile.
Gentle blue light gathered and sprung from the floor and circles on his body, engulfing him and the room. That was the last thing Edward Elric saw of the material world for the next 400 years.
Blackness. Suffocating, eternal blackness.
Emptiness. Hollow, endless emptiness.
Edward wandered through the black emptiness without sight, without sound, without hope, without fear. The yawning darkness stretched before him, behind him. 'Where am I'? he questioned, but the feeling of thought was vague, as if it wasn't truly thought, but a simple string of words linked together in a pattern that merely existed on the plane of nothingness.
A shimmer of light faded in view on the horizon, no bigger than a pea. It flickered and danced, bobbing up and down, in and out. As Edward drew nearer, it took shape, a blue flame that floated in the inky blackness.
It was small, no bigger than his head, but it pulsed brightly enough to light up what felt like his upper body and must of the space around him.
On their own accord, his hands, mere ghostly trails, inched forwards, cupping the flame in his palms and caressing the edges that threatened to break from its center. His fingertips brushed against the blue flame, causing it to flicker. His eyes were riveted to it, never turning. Slowly, images formed in the pale center, rippling outward in waves that engulfed the essence before it.
'This is…me?' he asked himself
'Yes. But that life is over.'
'I am many things. I am life. I am death. But you, Edward Elric, know me as 'Truth'.'
'And, what do you want this time?' the boy's tone was one of slight irritation, yet genuine curiousness won over.
'Nothing. I merely have something to offer. Your brother has been restored, in exchange for your life. Except, I have taken his memories of the last four years. I can give them back, along with his fourteen year old body, which I have also taken, if you agree to my proposal.'
'And what's this proposal?'
'You see, my last collector has grown old, and has unfortunately had to retire. I am in need of a new one, and frankly, you fit the bill. I might want to point out that you have nothing left in the mortal world to live for, or to seek out. Not to mention the fact you can't go back anyway, or your brother would never return. Ever.'
'I see. It's a lose-lose situation. For me at least. Very well, I accept your offer. But only on the condition that Al is left alone after this.'
With that word, Edward was left by himself in the inky darkness.
A/N: quick note here, a big thanks to all who put up with my nagging so that this chapter could be at it's best. And The Chibi's Are Stalking Me, for the quote that inspired this story.