A.N. On October third, I looked up the new stories on and what did I find? Dedications to the reminder in Ed's watch, that's what! This being my first October third after stumbling across FMA, it hadn't occurred to me to commemorate the day and I felt like I'd been thrown onstage in front of the entire internet audience with nothing prepared beforehand. Gulp. Anyway, I've finally decided to make my own contribution a month after the fact. Please enjoy and always remember to keep moving forward!
The Third of October
To this day, I can't remember the exact date that Brother and I tried to bring our mother back. Which is kind of strange, now that I think about it. My last day in a body of flesh and blood and I can barely remember what we did that day--the day we reached for the sun and came crashing to the earth. Maybe it was the trauma of what happened that shattered the memory. Or the simple fact that every day after she was gone melted into the next until their exact number ceased to hold any meaning for me.
Either way, I don't remember.
I know what year it was and I remember that it was autumn. The beginning of autumn, because the fields in Risembool were still a deep green instead of the shimmering gold they become before true winter sets in. I remember the leaves falling down around me and Brother on our way home from the market where one of the shopkeepers had lectured us about skipping the first week of school. But we didn't care about school. All we cared about were the materials in our bags, purchased with a child's allowance, that would become our mother's new body.
Most of all, I remember the storm that came hours later, raging all around me as I carried my dying brother to the Rockbell home. I still think of that moment as a dream even now because only in a dream could you run through a thunderstorm without getting cold and wet. A dream was the only explanation for the fact that Ed weighed nothing in my arms and his blood held no warmth to my hands.
Yes, I thought, it all had to be a dream. The only problem was, I couldn't wake up.
That night marked the first of many long nights. I can barely recall watching Winry and Granny staunch the bleeding from Brother's shoulder and leg, but I clearly remember how much he suffered. There was no pain medication in the house, not since Winry's parents died. It wasn't used during automail surgery and Granny didn't want to risk their customers becoming addicted in an attempt to rid themselves of phantom limb pain. Granny explained all this to me gently, her voice filled with apology.
Brother couldn't sleep that night. Not fully, anyway. The sheer agony he must have been in made him pass out every so often and he would remain motionless for minutes at a time, half an hour at most. Then he would wake up and immediately start gasping for air, as if the pain itself was suffocating him. More than once, Ed started crying and calling out my name like he'd never see me again. I don't think he knew where he was. In his mind, he was still in that basement watching me get taken away.
And every time I reached out to comfort him and tell him I was still there, I would see the armored hand and stop. Gradually, I began to notice how…numb I felt. I could see and hear, but the armor couldn't convey the sense of touch. I wasn't hungry or thirsty, I wasn't tired or in pain. I was frozen. I could have been a ghost, observing the world around me without having any affect on it.
It made me question whether any of it was real or not.
The sun rose at long last and the room was lit up with the bright, golden tones of an autumn morning. But the light only made me feel that much emptier for being unable to perceive its warmth. I looked down at my brother and noticed he was shivering. The sheets were damp with sweat. I moved closer and carefully drew the blankets up around him.
Then he opened his eyes.
"Brother?" I whispered. I was so happy to see him awake and aware that I didn't know what else to say.
For a long time, he just looked at me, taking in every little detail of the armor. And it stung, badly. Because, however much I may have wished for it, Ed clearly wasn't glad to see me. His eyes grew emotional and dark, glossy with unshed tears. 'Failure' was written all over his face, etched into the little wrinkles around his eyes that I knew hadn't existed the day before.
He closed his eyes and turned away.
And I left the room. I sat down in the hallway and stared at the opposite wall, feeling utterly lost by my brother's reaction to me. However different I was now, it was still me in this armor. He should have been happy, right? We were both alive and that was all that really mattered, wasn't it?
But Brother had given up his right arm to make that possible. His arm. Even after losing his leg to the rebound, it hadn't stopped him from giving more. Could he…did he regret that? Or was he just feeling guilty for letting it happen in the first place?
And suddenly, the enormity of the whole situation finally sunk in. We had tried to bring a dead person to life and failed. And after we were so sure it would work! Mother should have been with us right at that moment, hugging us and kissing us and telling us how proud she was. But we were damned before we ever got started. How could we have been so stupid?
What would our mother think if she could see us now? Ed, missing two limbs, wracked with pain and nearly comatose. Our home, the basement still steeped in blood from our failure, tainting every good memory.
"I'm sorry," I breathed. I didn't even know who I was apologizing to. To Ed or to Mother, to God or to myself.
Was there something I could have done? Could I have saved us from this agony? Before that day, I was reluctant to try and revive Mother because I was afraid something would go wrong. What that 'something' was varied, but it had never extended beyond the fear of outright failure or getting caught by the State or by our teacher. Maybe a backlash that would ruin the house and give us a few cuts and bruises or even that Mother would come back to us in a sick body and be torn away again.
I never imagined it could be like this.
"I'm so sorry…"
A year later, Brother and I stood in the crisp autumn light and watched our house burn to the ground. We stood with Winry and Granny, watching from a safe distance as the fire tore through the house ruthlessly. The upper floor was the first to go and the ground floor followed shortly, sending a brilliant explosion of ashes and sparks into the sky.
Brother threw the last torch on the blaze with a grimace of finality. His left hand fished his State Alchemist watch from his pocket and he held it close to him during the last moments of the fire. That memory is also imprinted in my mind. I can still picture the way the firelight turned his red coat to a blazing orange. It reflected sharply off his silver watch and the tiny sliver of automail showing from underneath his sleeve.
"Remember this day, Alphonse," Ed said quietly. "There's no turning back now."
And I wondered, why this day? What was so important about this day to make it worth remembering?
But my brother isn't like other people. He doesn't hold with marking his life by his achievements and failures. There is no sorrow for him that's worth remembering and everything he attains is just another stepping stone because there will always be another goal up ahead.
It wasn't the end of the road Ed wanted me to remember. It was the crossroads, the moment when we made the choice to cast aside the memory of our mistakes and move forward.
The third of October holds significance for me because it represents two days. The day we left Risembool and another day one year before that, the day I can't remember. The year in between rushed by so quickly that I can never be sure it didn't all happen in a single night. Sometime in that year, I learned to control the strength of my armored body just as Ed mastered his automail limbs. The crippled bodies that were once our punishment became our greatest strength. Aside from each other, that is.
Sometimes, I wish I could be like Brother. I wish I could put That Night behind me and only think of the here and now. But I can't forget our mistakes, ever. Our sins still exist in the hollow echo of my voice and the mechanical movement of Ed's automail. But it's ok. Because as long as I can remember That Night, I can walk alongside my brother as we leave behind the ruins of our home, confident in the knowledge that I will never make those mistakes again.
As long as I can remember the third of October, nothing will hold me back.
A.N. I fail at angst...I drew inspiration mainly from the manga/Brotherhood for this fic.