Disclaimer: Fullmetal Alchemist and the majority of characters described herein are property of Hiromu Arakawa and Studio Bones. Luther Svenhurst and other OCs belong to me.
I have no excuse for this later than late update. However, I would like to thank ZAP IS ZAK for kickstarting my motivation with your review.
"Ed- wha- she- I-"
Ed allowed his forehead to fall into his open hand. Stupid. You should have seen this coming.
To his and Al's right, stood Noa, eyes wide and mouth agape, sputtering incoherently.
To their left, stood Rose, eyes and mouth also wide and agape, also sputtering incoherently.
Aside from their clothes and the color of Rose's bangs, one could not tell the difference between the two.
Mustang leaned back into his chair, wide grin gracing his features. He chuckled at the sight.
There was a long silence.
Then, both Rose and Noa turned simultaneously to Ed.
"ED, WHAT THE HELL IS THAT??"
The two looked at each other again, both surprised at the echo.
Ed raised his hands in the universal Calm Down, Calm Down gesture. "Sorry, girls. I should have told you two about this. In the world I wound up in, there's a copy of everyone who has ever existed in this world, and vice versa. Rose, I just happened to meet that world's version of you. Rose, this is Noa. Noa, this is Rose."
Slowly, the two doppelgangers turned to face each other again. Like a bad comedy routine, the two slowly raised an arm- Noa her left, Rose her right- and slowly touched their fingertips to each others, their faces broadcasting their dumbfoundedness. Winry stood off to the side, watching this spectacle with a bemused look on her face.
Ed's forehead came in sharp contact with his palm once again. This whole thing really was like a bad comedy routine. The only thing that could make this worse would be-
"OH, EDWARD ELRIC, HOW LOOONG IT HAS BEEN!!!"
Ed was swept into the familiar crushing hug of Major Alex Armstrong, signature sparkles shining brighter than ever. Ed choked for air as he listened to the audible sound of his bones popping.
Al jogged over. "Calm down, Major, calm dow-" he was cut off as Armstrong swept Al into the same bone-cracking hug. Al's mouth hung open as he made a sort of gagging sound.
Suddenly, a loud thud interrupted Armstrong's reverie. He loosened his chokehold on the Elric brothers.
Both Rose and Noa had fainted dead away.
A small-ish party was held in the Rebel Headquarters that night. Since the base was underground, they could do things like this, but they couldn't get too loud.
However, this was a quite momentous occasion. The legendary Alchemist of the People, the Fullmetal Alchemist, had returned. This would have been cause to celebrate at any time, Nazis or no Nazis.
Despite the (admittedly small) volume restrictions, the rebels were able to make do quite nicely.
In spite of everything, Ed found himself smiling. Al had once said something about how pleased one feels when you see someone you haven't seen in ages. Ed couldn't quite remember the exact wording, though. Shame, it had been a really nice metaphor.
Rose and Noa had woken up (at the same time, of course) and managed to talk to each other without passing out again. Ed had had to step out for several minutes so he wouldn't start laughing. He had stood hunched over in the hallway, hand over his mouth as he forced the chuckles back down his throat. Bald had given him an odd look, but said nothing.
Ed leaned against the wall, slowly sliding down to sit with his knees up. Across the room, Rose and Noa were chatting it up with each other. Since they had woken, they hadn't stopped talking to each other. It turned out that they had a lot in common.
Al staggered over, a small, laughing form clutched to his back. "Hey Brother! Look who it is!"
The Mighty Elicia Hughes sat atop her great steed Alphonse, laughter shining in her eyes as they fell upon Ed. She hopped down off of Al's piggyback ride and wrapped her arms around Ed's waist. She hugged him tightly. Ed ruffled her hair.
"Wow, Elicia, you've really grown since I last saw you. How old are you now?"
The (indeed much taller) Elicia held up both hands. "I'm nine years old!"
Ed had to keep himself from fainting from the sheer innocent cuteness.
Winry suddenly appeared over the nine-year-old's shoulder. She rested her hand on the shoulder in question. "Elicia, why don't you show Ed your leg?"
Elicia's mouth opened in the 'oh' expression. She reached down and grabbed the right leg of the pair of jeans she was wearing. Up went the pants leg, down went the sock.
Elicia's right ankle and foot had been replaced by cold, steel automail. This automail was obviously extremely advanced- a bit better than Ed's, actually.
After a beat, Ed feigned amazement. "Wow, Elicia! That's, that's pretty cool!"
Elicia laughed and let the pants leg drop back down. "It's not that cool. Winry says you've had yours for years now."
Winry pointed off to one side. "Elicia, I think your mama is calling."
"Coming, mama!" Elicia ran off. Winry sat down next to Ed, back to the wall. "She actually took up alchemy while you were gone. She gave it up a while ago. Got bored of it, you know how kids are."
Ed took a sip of his drink. He immediately spewed it out, hacking. "What is this?! Horse piss??"
"It's beer. You do realize you're above the drinking age now."
Ed wiped his mouth. "I've never actually tried the stuff before."
"Did you make Elicia's leg for her?"
"Yeah. I also gave Baldy some upgrades for him machine-gun arm."
Winry shrugged. "It's a nickname. Cain- Rose's son- called him that once, someone else heard, and everyone's been calling him that since then."
"Did Granny help you at all?"
Winry stared at the floor. "She… uh…"
Ed blinked. "I… I'm sorry."
"…How did Elicia… you know…"
"It was about two months after Svenhurst invaded. You saw how her's and Gracia's house was bombed like that? Gracia was out at the time, and Elicia was caught in the blast. Blew her leg right off. Apparently, Gracia walked right into her burning home, carried Elicia out to the car, and drove her to the hospital. When I came to visit, she told me she wanted a metal leg just like yours. It was actually pretty cute, at the time."
"Anyone else here got automail I shoud know about?"
Winry shook her head. "Not really. Since it's just Elicia and Bald, I don't really have much chance to work on automail these days. And you too, now. Which reminds me, drop by my room tomorrow. You're way past due for your automail checkup, mister!"
Grinning, the blonde mechanic disappeared into the party.
"Cain, come here. There's someone I want you to meet."
Ed turned at another familiar voice. Rose was gently ushering a young tan boy of about seven years old towards him. He was small, and had longish black hair that hung to about halfway down his neck. He needed a haircut.
"Cain, this is Edward. Remember me telling you about Edward?"
Cain nodded, a small smile on his face. "Only all the time, mom."
Rose gave him a gentle pat on the shoulder. "Ed, this is my son, Cain."
Ed smiled. "Wow, Cain? I remember when you were still in diapers."
Cain turned to Rose. "Mom, can I go play with Elicia?"
She nodded. "Sure, sweetie." The young boy ran off into the party, searching for his friend.
Rose sighed, and sat down in the spot Winry had just vacated. "In diapers, huh? Man, time really does fly, doesn't it?"
Ed nodded, setting his cup of beer on the floor next to him. "He's a cute kid."
"Mm." Rose nodded, her pink bangs shifting. She glanced at Ed's quarter-full cup. "Are you going to drink that?" The Elric brother shook his head.
Rose took the cup and finished it's contents in a couple of gulps. She stared at the cup, as if contemplating something.
Then she placed the cup on the ground, clapped her hands together, and touched the cup. With a flash, the cup disappeared into the light of transmutation.
Ed gaped. "Did… did you…"
Rose blinked. Then, realizing, she shook her head. "Don't worry." She held her hands up, palms facing out.
A pair of simple transmutation circles were tattooed onto each. Nothing fancy, just the usual details needed to make any transmutation work. The ink was white, standing out against her tan skin.
"A little while after you left- for the second time- I started practicing alchemy myself. Figured these would make it a bit easier. Clap clap, ta-dah."
Ed reached down and picked up the now-transmuted cup. It was now a miniature statue of the formerly-worshipped Sun God Leto. "Nice job."
Rose shrugged. "I've had practice."
Ed sighed, and pushed himself to his feet. His knees cracked like gunshots. "Hey, have you seen Russell? I need to insult his mustache some more."
Rose glanced around the party. "I think I saw him…" She pointed suddenly. "There he is." Ed turned. Russell Tringham, still carrying that bouquet of flowers from earlier, disappeared around a corner.
"Mom! Come look at this!"
Rose stood up. "I've gotta go- Cain's calling me. Coming, sweetie!" She disappeared into the crowd.
Ed slipped through the cluster of people to the hallway Russell had disappeared down. The hallway was dark and cool- no one had been down this way.
The hall was long and twisting. Ed began to wonder if Russell had gone down a turn that he had missed.
He turned yet another corner- and there he was. A small metal ladder led to the surface, and Russell's pant leg was just disappearing through it.
Ed quickened his pace. His rapid footsteps echoed in his ears.
He placed a hand on the ladder and hoisted himself up. The trapdoor was made of very thin stone, with a metal ring on the lower side.
The sudden light blinded Edward, and he held his arm in front of his as he squinted.
His eyes adjusted.
They were above ground. The sun was setting on the horizon, filling the world with yellow and red, with perhaps the slightest tint of purple. However, this was not what held Ed's attention.
The trapdoor opened up into a graveyard that was just a few blocks from the Hughes' house. It was nothing special- maybe an acre. Maes Hughes was actually buried in a graveyard several miles from here, in an open field drenched in sunlight. This one was walled in, with a gate to allow access. The wall protected them from the eyes of anyone in the street.
Russell stood several yards ahead of him, the flower clutched at his side. The headstone before him said all that needed to be said.
Russell stared down at the headstone. The wind blew his blonde hair around his face. The flowers rustled in their wrapping.
Ed turned. Three figures rested by the wall of the cemetary- Al, Bald, and Jean Havoc, in his wheelchair. Havoc motioned for Ed to join them.
Ed slid down the wall next to them, much as he had done in the party.
"He comes out here every week, y'know." Bald spoke, gesturing with his metal hand. "He blames himself."
Ed turned. "For Fletcher?"
"Yeah. They both joined our little group of Rebels when we were still getting our bearings. We were sloppy, disorganized. Fletcher got gunned down in the street by a pair of Nazi's. He was arguing with them. Russell never told me what they were arguing about."
Ed stared at the line Tringham brother. "We thinks he should have protected him."
Havoc stubbed his cigarette in the dirt next to his chair. "I always feel so morbid when he comes up here when I'm up here. This place is a quiet place to relax, so I come up here often. Whenever someone comes here while I'm here, I feel like one of those jerk-offs who go to carnivals to laugh at the freaks."
Ed blinked. "How'd you get up here, anyway?"
Havoc gestured with his thumb. "Bald carried me. Bought my chair up the ladder, then me. We actually come up here a lot. Bald's a great guy once you get to know him."
"You do realize I held a trainload of passengers hostage once?" Bald grunted.
"Eh, let bygones be bygones, I say. 'Sides, that main hostage was that traitor Hakuro. You have my deepest respect."
There was a long silence.
Havoc rummaged in his pocket for his packet of cigarettes. "Hey Bald, got a light?"
Bald pointed his automail thumb upward. He unscrewed a small cap at the end, then quickly bent his thumb. A small flare of fire jumped from the end. Havoc held his cigarette into the tiny flame.
Bald blew the fire on the end of his thumb out. As he screwed the tip back on, he grinned at Ed's wide, staring eyes. "You like? Yer girlfriend Rockbell gave me that. Did a whole bunch of other stuff too- gave me my gun back, I think there might be a buzzsaw somewhere in here. My arm's like a swiss army knife these days."
Ed snorted. "Still, seems like a pretty overdramatic way to light a tiny cigarette."
Bald laughed boisterously. "It ain't the size of the cigar, cupcake. It's how ya light it."
Hopefully, I won't too lazy this time. See you next chapter!