Otouto

Chapter Three

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Over the next few days, he was left alone, not even with the occasional footsteps of someone passing through to keep him company. Almost as though he had been forgotten.

The strangest thing was that Pride wasn't even all that bothered by this. In fact, he saw it as a good thing. It meant that he had time enough to think over everything that had happened since he had first became aware. Since he had first started becoming whoever or whatever he was changing into.

Time enough to dwell on his memories both after, and . . . before becoming a homunculus.

Because now that he had been reminded of his name, the rest had all seemed to just follow after.

Edward. Edward Elric. Pride smiled, an almost feral light in his eyes. His name. Names had power. The power to strengthen . . . and the power to destroy, utterly.

Pride had no intention of being destroyed. He simply wouldn't allow it. He figured that he must have been pretty powerful, maybe important or just plain strong for the homunculus to have bothered with wanting to keep him around. They hadn't seemed the type to do something for no reason or nothin, in either life, from what he knew of them. Equivalent exchange must have come into the equation at some point. Something they had given him, something he could do for them.

And so, he had long since resolved to sort through as many of the salvageable memories carried forward from his past self as he could – if Edward Elric had been strong, then Pride would not rest until he both knew what had made him strong, and was also able to use it himself.

Edward. One of those common regal-sounding names – probably suggested by the absentee, alchemist father. The younger brother had something similar. Elric. Typical Amestrian, yet 'he' and 'his' brother were the last of that name. It had come from his. . . their. . .

Mother.

The one word had him bent over and clutching his head, turning the air blue with words he hadn't heard since waking up. Previously, he had wondered. Now, he was thankful for the fact that everyone had left him to his own devices, in his own company.

The. . . memories, they came in flashes and spurts, some making no sense whatsoever. Others making enough for him to understand and piece together the clues to the mystery that was himself.

A house. A family. Himself. Others – always people, so many people, hardly ever left alone, not at all like Pride, yet so similar, at the same time.

"Edward." A soft voice, one that he feels comforted by, says as though from a great distance and yet at the same time not too far away at all. "Get inside. You'll get a cold from playing out there in the rain for so long – Al came in ages ago!"

"Wow, that's amazing, Edward! And you created that with alchemy? I'm so proud of you," the same woman said with a soft feeling that felt like a smile, and maybe a pat on the head.

"Edward, stop being so mean to your little brother – what has he ever done to you?"

Another voice, a feeling of shame, an action. . . and once more, that woman, always that woman. Everything always seemed to go back to her.

"Really, Edward, I'm fine. . . you don't need to fuss so. You're making Alphonse worry."

A homunculus was not supposed to have human feelings, wasn't that what he had believed from the moment when he had first become aware, awoken? So, bearing that in mind, why did he feel such a great emotion of dread at the turn the memories were taking, at his inability to stop them coming? The. . . sheer, strange exhilaration that he felt from simply feeling properly once more. A small, quiet voice telling him that it was for his own good, that it hurt, but what he received in exchange would be worth the pain.

No words. Simply feelings, sad, bitter, denial, not-here and not-now and why her?! but no one would or could answer. They had no answer.

Pride felt himself quiver with the strength of the remembered events, things real to Edward, that had happened to Edward, yet were now hitting Pride with the force of a transmutation recoil. All because of one name.

The power to strengthen . . . and the power to destroy, utterly. His own words thrown back at himself, mocking him. How could this have been Edward's power? All of this chaos...

Equivalent exchange. Determination – Edward's, never ending, fire-filled eyes so unlike Pride's that although they looked similar despite the age difference, the changes between the two were obvious.

In the cell – on the bed – resting – waiting – doing nothing, day in and day out. One could well ask where his own pride was.

"Look! We can't go wrong using this theory! . . . It is! This says how to do it! We can raise mom back from the dead!"

His own voice. Pride shook from déjà vu and nausea. Had he ever been so naive? Apparently. The uncontrollable tornado tore through him still, showing him through images, feelings and sounds Edward's greatest mistake. The aftermath. His brother-

Fullmetal.

He jerked upright, not knowing exactly when he had curled around himself like that, with his knees up and arms around them, and not even caring. It was almost as though someone had said that name – a name that he was sure he had heard before, in the din of voices that had tried to tell him who he was before Envy had stopped him with a motion – right in his ear. Or at least in the general vicinity of the room he was cooped up in.

But there was no one here. No one. Not a soul, human or homunculus, other than him. Edward. Pride. Elric. Fullmetal.

He scowled briefly, wondering what new nightmares would come if he bothered himself to delve deeper into the mystery that was 'Fullmetal'.

It could wait. He still hadn't finished figuring out who Edward Elric was.

He had said before to himself that he would not allow himself to be destroyed by the power of his own former name, and he would hold to it. No matter what.

It was a matter of pride.

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"Damn it!"

One gloved fist slammed down hard on the desk at which the person attached to said fist occupied, causing several sheets of paper with important information to flutter innocently to the floor, and several other things shudder under that sheer force of will.

"I want answers, people. And I don't care who I have to cross to get them – this has been going on for weeks now, and that is simply not acceptable."

No one looked at all surprised at the outburst and indeed, it wasn't even the first. Nor, they were sure, would it be the last. But they wouldn't say that they were desensitised in any way, because it went mostly without saying that they all felt the same as the Colonel.

Closing her eyes for only a blink of a moment and sighing lightly so that hardly anyone could tell that she had done so, First Lieutenant Hawkeye crossed the short distance between where she had been working and the Colonel's own office, where meanwhile the man had begun to rest his head upon his hands, which were cupped, arms almost flat on the desk.

"Sir," she said. "with all due respect to both you and Edward – you need to rest. You're not of any use to anyone if you work yourself to exhaustion."

Mustang groaned into his hands but then sat back up. The signs of the colonel's grief and fatigue were much more readily visible at a shorter distance; his eyes darker, with crow's feet underneath them and his uniform wrinkled in places, not showing the usual care and attention that the ambitious alchemist took towards his appearance. He shook his head at her.

"How can I?" he asked quietly. "I was the one who introduced him to the whole idea of being a state alchemist in the first place, when I knew he far too damn young. Tell me – why the hell did I do that?"

"And if you hadn't, sir, what would they have done? Where would they have been now? What goals would they have had? From what I knew of Edward," she said, voice softening slightly against her will, "he would have continued on to his goal no matter whether you had helped him or not. Sir."

For a long moment he looked at her, his dark, fathomless eyes seemingly searching her own for something . . . she didn't know what. When he looked away with a sigh, she wondered what he had found there.

The door that lead onto the main hallway opened, its noise loud in the oppressive silence that had come with Mustang and Hawkeye's brief exchange, and the very subject of the late Edward Elric.

Mustang looked up sharply to see who it was, only to find that it was a still healing Maes Hughes who was walking in the doorway, an uncharacteristically grim look on his face. Still, at least the fact that he was healing at all meant that he was alive. Risa wasn't sure whether her precious superior would have been able to cope with both the elder Elric and his oldest friend had gone before his eyes on that fateful day.

"Well?" said Mustang, dryly. "Got anything?"

"Not a thing," came the by now expected reply. "But – you're gonna want to hear this."

Everyone stopped what they were doing. Or rather, to be more exact, stopped pretending to be doing something else other than watching.

"Go on."

"Well. You know how everything's been getting that much quieter ever since-" Hughes cut himself off, knowing not to bring up the incident directly in front of the Colonel, who was still seriously berating himself over it, "-then."

"I am aware of that. Wasn't the theory that the homunculi had gone into hiding, or that they were working on something important among themselves? That's the only thing we thought would make sense, if I remember correctly."

Mustang steepled his fingers in front of him in thought.

"You're right. Thing is, it looks like whatever they were working on is over – they seem to be mobilising again. Or at least, whoever it is who's been tweaking at things behind the scenes for so long has picked up their puppet strings again. Fights starting to break out all over the place – it's what makes sense."

Mustang frowned, troubled, and the others didn't have to think hard to understand why.

"That doesn't sound good," he said, stating the obvious.

"Of course it isn't!" Hughes exclaimed loudly, waving his hands in the air. "It's awful! Up until now it's been bad enough, but at least then I've been able to spend quality bonding time with my wife and darling Elicia, but now-! Who knows if I'll be able to even say goodnight to my little girl before she goes to sleep, if I'm going to be needed at work so much more..."

Mustang rolled his eyes at his friend's behaviour, but inside was making rapid calculations and plans. It was hardly likely that the homunculi had gone into hiding – they had only thought that as their most recent altercation had also been their first, and largest, and perhaps hadn't been in their enemy's plans. Yet the idea that they had been planning or readying something during the quiet of the past few weeks was at the same time worrying and thrilling.

Perhaps . . . there would be a chance to strike back.

----

Fullmetal.

Pride pondered the word slowly, just as he had his own name, earlier.

It implied that at some point, some part of him had been metallic, either in physical or mental, emotional nature. But the feelings that are associated with the name whenever he thinks on it continue to confuse him. Such a muddled mix of thought, as clear as a muddied river. To be certain, there was a certain amount of pride, but it was more a determination towards independence than that his former, human self had ever felt pleased to bear the moniker. It had instilled some amount of hardness, but mostly from how people perceived him and expected him to be something more, which he wasn't. It had without a doubt 'shone', since his reputation had grown exponentially in the years which Pride now remembered from the time when Edward had begun to be Fullmetal until his final memory as Edward.

Yet the annoyance, the anger, the frustration, the confusion, the care, the grudging respect and the stubborn refusal to acknowledge defeat . . . those, those were not things that he would have thought to be tied to the name.

A vision of someone with dark hair, dressed in blue, and surrounded by the orange light of fire in the darkness temporarily invaded his thoughts.

The figure was running, and Pride could see as though from a distance that his eyes were wide and one white glove with its alchemic fire array had been nearly torn to shreds, leaving the man with only one. A woman followed soon after, a gun in her hand and not far away, a suit of armour – Al, that's Al! If I'm here, then where the hell is he? Where's Al!? – could be seen, but Pride's eyes were on the man, the one who had inspired that interesting reaction.

"Edward! Damn it, Fullmetal, I only gave you one order – don't die on me now! Not..."

Pride tore himself free from the nightmare like memory with a gasp of a breath, feeling the emotions that came with it all too clearly. Sometimes, he hated that, that every time he learned something new about Edward, he had to feel it, as well, but he had long since learned that the simple act of feeling was much of what had apparently made Edward strong. Though perhaps Edward had felt too much.

The sound of footsteps, light as they may be, was new and loud to someone who had had no visitors in well over a week. Pride scowled. By this point, he could tell easily enough who was coming to visit him in his claustrophobic cell. There weren't all that many of them who came, after all.

"You again," he managed to ground out.

"Gee," came the mock-saddened drawl, "and here I was thinking I'd get this warm welcome. Never mind. I never woulda wanted it in the first place."

"Why are you here, anyway? Come to gloat at the prisoner, Envy? Or is there actually a reason why you keep coming back like this that I'd like to know?"

Envy leaned his body forward to look further into the cell, a frown on his face.

"Now isn't that an interesting outlook. So much different to the last time I came by here, ya know." The aptly green-haired homunculus straightened to give Pride a sidelong look. "Almost as if I was talking to a whole other person."

Pride didn't bother trying to correct the other, resorting to a simple yet effective glare.

"Who do you think I have to blame for that, then? Who was it who first made me actually start to wonder about who I was? Well? It makes me curious, Envy."

Envy's expression didn't change very much. Perhaps not enough, even. A small smirk did play about the homunculus' mouth, though. Cynical and not slightly sadistic.

"You might as well know you shouldn't bother trying to act like anything's off around the others, then. Pride." Envy continued as though Pride himself hadn't said anything just previously. "Heh – even if you did, it'd be your existence on the line if anything went wrong, not mine. And if you tried to blame me, who'd they believe? You, or me? I'm the oldest one here – why would I do something like that?"

The glare only intensified.

"I don't know. You tell me."

A pause.

"Nah. I don't think I will."

A hiss of air as Pride breathed out in an effort to keep himself calm and have a level head.

". . . Damn you."

Envy took further steps into the room, closer to Pride, until they were merely a foot or so away.

"That'd be kinda hard, you pint-sized brat. I'm already damned. And guess what? So are you."

Despite the insult, something, or maybe more than one something, kept Pride's tongue glued firmly to the top of his mouth right up until Envy had quite nearly reached the door once more, about to leave.

"You wait," he said, standing and using all of his – admittedly not excessive – full height to his advantage. "I need to ask you something."

He paused to breath. Envy had stopped, but hadn't turned around or spoken. His body language exuded annoyance and thinly veiled tension. A graceful tautening of the muscles that could precede either dance or something deadly.

"Al," Pride said in a rush. "I need to know where he is. The part of me that remembers him won't rest at all until I know that he's still out there. So tell me."

Envy's shoulders started to shake, and it was only Pride's combined knowledge of the other homunculus that didn't make him wonder whether there was something the matter. This was rewarded when, only a few moments later, the shaking was revealed as laughter, as Envy held his sides to hold in his mirth.

"What do you think I am – your goddamn freak show or something? Well think again, Envy." He took a step forward and towards the other, continuing in a low voice. "Tell me where my brother is, or I'm gonna beat the crap outta you. Don't think I won't, either – because I will."

Envy's laughter started to die out slowly, but the moment the homunculus' violet eyes met Pride's still-golden ones which were fiery with their determination, and something in them halted Envy, made him pause long and hard enough to still the laughter entirely.

"Sheesh... have you got a one track mind or what? Isn't there anything else you can talk about – it makes you look as if you can't put a thought together in that tiny brain of yours that doesn't have that lumbering tin can as well."

"Where. Is. He?" Pride's normally flat and level voice – except when insulting Envy – had turned into an almost feral growl. "What the hell have you done with him?"

The part of Pride that was Edward and so would not rest until he knew that his little brother was alive and well had been woken up and would now do anything to get that information.

Envy snickered and sauntered back towards the doorway.

"Keh – chill out, you shrimp. We haven't done anything to the guy," he said with a backhand wave.

Envy was almost out of the cell's door when he was hit – hard, very hard – on the head and in the back. He whipped around in a rage.

"Why the hell did you do that for, you idiot!"

"Because I felt like it," Pride replied, back to using the mostly flat tones he had before, except with a slight hint of smugness. "Also, because that was the third time since coming in here that you've insulted my height, you bastard!"

Pride stalked back off to the inner area of his cell with his arms crossed and feeling much better, while Envy sweatdropped and wondered what had just happened.

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AN: Whoo! I haz plot, I haz plot! It's actually going somewhere that the readers can see! Iz good, no?

I'd originally not meant there to be a bit with the military in it yet at all, but I needed something to break the chapter up and to use as a time marker, and then I found that I'd used Riza more than I'd first expected, too. All in all, worked out well, I think. There's a fanart on my profile for the second half of the first section.

This may be the heralding of longer chapters for this story, or it may not be. Depends on the scenes in the future chapters. I hope I've written everyone well.