Chapter 1: Gate
Chapter 1: Gate
Author's note: There will be absolutely no Japanese terms in this fic. If I was going to use words like Nii-san, Taisa, chusa, etc, then I'd be better off writing in Japanese, no?
It makes no sense to me that people write characters talking in English and then randomly add Japanese terms. In the Animé-verse (which I am using, having only just got into the manga), Ed and Al speak only English or only Japanese depending on whether you're watching dub or sub. OK? (Besides, Amestris is based on Pre-war Germany, so if Ed and co. really did exist they'd probably natter at us in German.)
If you complain, Hughes will come over to your house and show you all five thousand, two hundred and thirty four photos of Elysia. There will be no escape!
Disclaimer: Do not own. Capiche?
Restitution. n. (i) The act of restoring to the rightful owner something that has been taken away, lost, or surrendered.
(ii) The act of making good or compensating for loss, damage, or injury.
Corporal (formerly Brigadier General) Roy Mustang was having a spectacularly bad day. A few hours ago, he'd arrived back in Central to find the city being attacked by invaders from another world. Then FullMetal had turned up. But no surprise there. The pipsqueak was always involved when things were going disastrously wrong.
With Mustang's help, FullMetal and Alphonse had driven back the invaders and then pursued them through the gate to their own world in order to seal the gate on that side. Before he'd let go of Alphonse so that the boy could follow his annoyingly self-sacrificing brother (when had the short tempered kid got so mature anyway? Or so much taller? Not that the shrimp wasn't still short for his age), Mustang had promised Al that he'd take care of sealing the gate on this side so that the boy could go after FullMetal with a clear conscience.
So after descending back to the ground on the alchemised material that Edward had provided (which had lost it's floatation abilities when the Corporal (Brig. General!) had still been quite a few feet above the ground, meaning he'd landed in an undignified heap, viciously twisting his ankle, thanks a lot FullMetal) he'd immediately headed down to the underground city to close the side of the gate which led to Amestris. That was when his current problems had begun.
Down in the chilling mausoleum that was the ancient city, Mustang had decided that the best way to take out the infernal gate was the biggest explosion he could manage. It would be quick and there would be no need to endanger anyone else by needlessly exposing them to the gate. Who knew how dangerous the damn thing might be. It had spit out the FullMetal midget, after all.
So Mustang, alone in a citywide graveyard, had adjusted the circle on his ignition gloves for maximum effect and then snapped his fingers. Fire roared, the ground trembled, and then the gate started to crack. He snapped again. More fire poured forth and the ground shook again. Nearby buildings started to crumble. The cracks in the gate grew bigger, spidering out from the centre. The more the cracks advanced, the more the light coming from the centre of the gate brightened.
Mustang took this as a good sign. Raising both hands, he snapped again, a final blow to the square, blocky gate between worlds that sat at the centre of the ruined city.
The gate cracked again. Then, in a shower of rubble and bright white light, it exploded. That was when, for Roy Mustang, everything went black.
When he opened his one good eye, Mustang found himself surrounded by the white light of the gate. He managed to get up on his knees, his hands flat on the bright ground surrounding him. His head was swimming and he felt dizzy with nausea. Unable to lift his head, he stayed on his hands and knees and concentrated on continuing to breathe.
Then he heard the whispering. Childish voices just beyond the cusp of hearing muttering in his ears. Mustang did his best to ignore the nausea and lifted his head up with a groan. He immediately regretted it. The sight in front of him made his nausea return at full force, while simultaneously making his mouth go dry with horror.
The Gate was in front of him. The real Gate, the Gate of Truth, which had stolen Alphonse's body and ripped off Edward's arm and leg when they'd tried to bring back their mother. It was right in front of him, all Gothic and evil looking and he could barely move, he felt so weak and sick. And now it was opening, the most ominous creak he'd ever heard issuing from it as the giant black doors slowly swung open.
Mustang lifted his hands to snap and promptly fell flat on his face in front of the source of all alchemy. Too weak to try lifting them again, he desperately racked his brain for something, anything that he could do to stop whatever was contained within the Gate from ripping him to bits and consuming him. He came up with nothing. The doors swung open and pairs of eyes in various sizes stared out at him. Thin black spaghetti arms reached out to caress his face. Mustang shuddered violently and retched, the smell of his vomit filling the air.
This is it, he thought, I'm going to die. More arms reached out, twining around his body like cats against their owner. They'll rip me to bits, Mustang thought distantly, as he was swarmed with tiny black arms, now covering his one good eye along with most of the rest of his body. The arms tightened and began to pull. The whispering intensified, the evil childish voices sounding ever more excited, though the Flame Alchemist was still unable to make out exactly what was being said.
His mouth was still uncovered and Mustang realised that though he was going to die, he still had time for some last words. If he didn't say something now then the last thing he'd ever said would be the undignified cry of "oh hell! Crap, damn! Yeowwch!" which he'd uttered upon falling from the remains of the otherworldly airship and twisting his ankle. No. Really. Thanks a lot FullMetal. You little jerk.
He opened his mouth, grimacing in pain as the little black hands continued to pull at him. Then he took as deep a breath as they allowed and said "To hell with Equivalent Exchange. I help FullMetal save the world twice from Homunculi and a crazy woman from another world and this is the ending I get? The hell with that!"
Drawing up the last of the strength in his ailing body, Mustang freed his fingers and snapped.
Fire roared, burning Mustang and the Gatelings alike. Bright light flared.
Bright light surrounded him. He lay on his back, floating in endless whiteness, serene and content. The whispering voices had gone away and now there was only him, alone in the brightness. He was at peace.
A thought occurred to the man. 'Wait a minute. If this is the afterlife, then where the hell is Hughes and his camera?'
For a brief moment he was bothered, upset, but then the serenity came back and he relaxed, content once more. He shook his head briefly. What was a 'Hughes' anyway? Why did it matter? Nothing mattered.
Nothing mattered as long as he could stay here, floating forever in the soothing brightness.
As he continued to lie there a voice reached his ears. A woman's voice, soothing and gentle. "Roy," it said.
The man ignored it. It did not matter.
The voice grew insistent. "Roy Mustang. Wake up, Our saviour."
He ignored it again, shutting his eyes. Something about that bothered him, something about. . . being able to see with both eyes. . .
He dismissed the thought and began to drift into sleep.
The woman's voice grew more insistent. "Wake up Brigadier General Roy Mustang. Wake up Flame Alchemist!"
The title sparked something in his brain and the man's eyes snapped open as he sprang upright. Serenity and contentedness drained away. The man's normal personality returned.
"Where the hell am I?" he yelled in shock. "And since when do I have two working eyes?"
A woman's laughter sounded behind him and he spun on his heel, facing his company. The outline of a woman, surrounded by blue light like that produced by a transmutation, faced him.
"Where am I?" he demanded again.
The woman-shape blurred for a moment and then spoke. "You are within Us. We apologise for Our mistake. We had thought you were just another sacrifice for Our children. We did not realise you had been Our saviour. We thank you for destroying the abomination that was a pale shadow of Us. It was destroying Us."
"I'm in the Gate. . ." the alchemist breathed in horror.
The woman-shape laughed. "Indeed. That is what you call Us. But We are so much more than a mere threshold. We uphold Equivalent Exchange. And now you are owed. For destroying the abomination We gift you with your heart's desire."
"My. . . heart's desire. . ." the man said shakily.
"Yes." the woman-Gate said. "But you may not realise it at first. Humans are so often unaware of what they truly desire. Rest assured, what We give to you is all you ever wanted."
"Pretty generous of you." the soldier muttered sceptically.
"No," the woman-Gate said simply, "only equivalence. You are owed. The other is owed. You shall both be repaid."
"The other?" the dark-haired man questioned. "Who's the other?"
The woman-Gate came closer. The man swore he could see the suggestion of a smile on her blank face. "That is not for you to know at this time, handsome Alchemist. Can you even recall who you are?"
The man stepped back in shock, his eyes widening. Who was he? He had known. She had called him something only moments ago. He struggled to remember, but the brightness of this ethereal place was washing it away.
"Who am I?" the man whispered to himself. Desperately he tried to remember something, snapping his fingers in agitation as he did so.
Fire flared at his finger tips, burning like a torch. Memories sparked and rushed back. The man straightened, like a soldier standing to attention. Yes, he thought, Major, Lieutenant Colonel, Colonel (bastard?), Brigadier General, Corporal? He decided particular rank didn't matter right now. He knew who he was.
The raven-haired man looked the woman-Gate in the face.
He smirked. "I'm Roy Mustang. The Flame Alchemist. Now pay up what you owe me!"
The woman-Gate shimmered and disappeared. "Very well," her voice said, echoing in his ears. "You have helped to save Us. We send you to your reward."
Bright light flared again.
The first thing Mustang noticed upon waking up was that fields surrounded him. In fact he was lying in a field, surrounded by flowers and covered by the shade of a tree. Definitely not in Central then, he thought. How the hell did I get here? And why does my ankle hurt so much? Oww. What the hell happened?
Pushing himself up on his elbows, the dark-haired Alchemist took stock of his situation. Okay. #1: I am in a field. There are fields as far as the eyes can see. #2:My ankle hurts like crap. Recent memory indicates that this is FullMetal's fault, the diminutive pest. #3: I remember destroying the gate underneath Central, then waking up here. Must find out what happened in between. #4: My eye is back. What the hell? The doctors pulled the remains of it out! They offered to let me take it home in a jar! (Weirdoes.) How'd I get it back?
Stock taking done, Mustang decided he could stand to take few minutes to relax in a field of flowers on a pleasantly warm day. He had just saved the world, right? He could afford half-an-hour to get his breath back and wait for the pain in his ankle to subside. Then he'd limp to the nearest train station and get back to Central. Problem solved to his satisfaction, Roy gave a relieved sigh and lay back down, enjoying the slight breeze in his hair and the warm sunlight on his face.
Roy's quiet solitude was interrupted mere moments later by a child's shriek of pain and fright. Startled, the Flame Alchemist bolted upright and looked around. He spotted the source of the shriek immediately. A small child in blue was sobbing on the ground next to the stone wall encircling the field. By the looks of it, the child had been walking along the top of the wall and fallen off when it had hit an uneven patch of stone.
Getting to his feet, the dark-haired man limped over to the child. "Hey there kiddo," he said gently, "are you alright?"
Upon hearing the stranger's voice, the child curled up into a ball, muddy hands over the top of its head, staining the messy blond hair.
"Go 'way!" the child wailed hysterically, "Mommy says I don't talk to strangers, or she wash my mouth wif' soap. I do' want soap!"
Normally a statement like that would have been enough to make Mustang back off. He wasn't that experienced with kids, his sole contact with them being FullMetal, who'd been his subordinate and completely capable of taking care of himself and his brother, and Elysia, who he'd never seen in a bad mood, given that Maes had always been able to keep his beloved daughter smiling.
But this was different. The crying -girl, he guessed- might be injured and there was no one else as far as the eye could see. Roy couldn't just leave her alone where she was. It was too dangerous. He wondered why the kid was out here on her own in the first place. She looked about three, maybe four. Who'd let a toddler out on their own? Mustang thought. Maes would be appalled.
Hunkering down next to the child, Mustang held out a hand. "Hi there, my name's Roy. What's yours?" he asked.
The child shook her head. "Not s'posed to talk to strangers!" she declared vehemently, staring at her scraped knees. "Owww," she moaned.
"If you know my name, then we're not really strangers are we?" Mustang tried. "How about you show me where you live okay? I'll bet your Mom's worried about you."
The child seemed to think about this, it's blond head cocked slightly to one side. "I can't," she disagreed. "My little bruvver's sick. Mom said to go play outside, so's I don' get sick too. But now I'm lost! I didn' mean to walk so far!"
Pretty impressive dialogue for a toddler, Mustang thought. Must be a smart kid.
"Okay," Mustang said, taking charge, "how 'bout you and me walk until we see a house? I'll bet your neighbours will be able to help you get home."
This suggestion seemed to please the child. The little blond head nodded and muddy hands were extended towards the uniformed man in the universal 'pick-me-up' gesture. "My legs 're sore Mister Roy," the child informed him, finally looking the dark-haired Alchemist in the face. "Can you carry me? Pleeease?"
The child's request was totally lost on Mustang as he stared in shock at the little boy who was looking trustingly up at him with big golden eyes.
The little boy looked curiously at Mustang, wondering why the man looked like he had when he'd found out where milk came from. "Mister," he said, tugging on the dark-haired man's navy-blue pants. "Mister, are you okay? Wha's a fullmetal?"