A/N: Hey guys. Nothing much to say to preface this except for this is the last chapter. I'm really proud of this epilogue, its been planned for awhile. Thanks for reading for this long, whether you reviewed or not, you guys are all great. Its finally done.
So enjoy this chapter and stay tuned after for information on the Brotherhood Project :)
Epilogue: Forgotten Photograph
"Time doesn't heal. All that Time does is make it more distant, put more space between you and what happened. It doesn't heal anything. I don't know how or what does the healing, but it isn't Time." -Mercedes Lackey
Chloe was not used to the soft feeling of grass beneath her bare feet. She never went anywhere with out her shoes. Not until a few months ago, anyway. She needed her shoes and her circles. They were her eyes.
But recently she had taken to walking around barefoot. Feeling the grass. Catching the dew on the tips of her toes. Watching the world around her.
Sight. For a person blind from birth, nothing was more beautiful than sight. From the moment her eyes first opened, truly opened, she felt overwhelmed by the beauty. The colors. Greens, reds, yellows, blues. Colors that she heard people talk about all her life, but never saw. Never even grasped. She did not understand color or what it might be like.
She used to dream in sound. In vibrations. In tastes and smells. But sense opening her eyes, images entered her mind even in her sleeping hours. She could see and walk without circles. She could see expressions. Smiles, smirks and frowns. She could glimpse the subtlest of emotions as they passed through eyes. Eyes of so many different colors.
She loved eyes. And expressions. And colors. She loved everything around her. For days after she regained her sight she couldn't stop crying. Because she was elated. Joyful.
But when the euphoria faded, sadness set in. Despair always clung to the back of undiluted joy. Unfailingly, gravity pulled on her mind and the earth rose to meet her.
Cara still lay in the ground, beneath her feet. Chloe never got to see her.
She would never know what she looked like or what expressions she made when she spoke. She knew that Cara often smirked but what did her smirk look like? Her hair was red but what kind of red? How long. Curly or straight? And her eyes, gold like that of Edward and her brother… she would have loved to see those too.
Cara's death had never left Chloe. One year later, the pain remained. It was a silly thing that she felt so much pain even now. Cara would call her stupid for lingering on her death. Stupid for feeling anything at all for her after all she did wrong. And Chloe would have told her to shut up.
Chloe wished desperately she could tell Cara that. Tell Cara anything. She wanted to see her again. No… for the first time. That's all.
Edward and Al tried many times to describe her to Chloe. What she looked like. Winry recalled her personality and expressions while Chloe helped her in her auto-mail workshop. They tried, but there was nothing they could do.
Since the discovery of the stone that changed their lives, made by Scar in Lior, the Elric brothers and Chloe had taken an extended vacation from military work. Mustang saw to it personally that they would have time to themselves. The respite, on the open country side of Risenbol, was welcome. It was quiet here and there were many beautiful things to look upon.
Cara was here too. In the very cemetery she once visited less than two years ago. Had it really been such a short time since they first arrived at Risenbol, intent on beating information out of the blonde, pipsqueak alchemist?
It felt like years. So, many years, since Chloe had walked this path through the soft grass of the country, up to the hedge stones that sat under one solitary tree. Generations of simple country folk were buried in this plot of earth. But the last time Chloe had come here, Cara had not been among them.
"Hey, Cara." Chloe set down a bundle of flowers in front of the grave. Winry had helped her pick them out especially for this day. They were violets and very pretty. Not that Cara would have cared what kind of flowers they were. She never cared about pretty things. "I'm back. I've been delaying visiting you sense we came back here." Chloe bit her lip. "Silly, really. I guess I think that… if I pretend you're not up here, you might come back to us." She glanced over her shoulder at the Rockbell house far in the distance. "You could walk through the door and start arguing with Edward again. Al and I could mediate the conversation. Then if you got too loud, Winry could hit Ed over the head with a wrench. You always liked it when she did that." She looked down at her bare toes, wiggling them awkwardly.
"I know what you're thinking. Something's changed. My eyes are focused now." She forced a smile. "That's because I can see now, Cara. I can see everything. Al's even teaching me how to read. See, I can read your name on your stone. C-A-R-A—" Her voice broke on the last letter and the tears started to stream down her face. She hastily wiped them away. "I'm sorry. I'm stupid to cry. You never cried. Well except… except that one time. When you apologized to me. You were crying then."
The memory only made Chloe cry harder.
"You were the best friend I ever had. I never… I never made any really close friends when I was a kid. But you… even though you always tried to push me away I cared so much about you. Even when you weren't human I couldn't give up on you. And now I feel like if I move on I'm abandoning you." She fell to her knees. "Is that stupid? Am I being stupid, Cara?"
She wanted an answer. She wanted Cara to call her stupid. Call her a shrimp. Anything. She could be as condescending as she wanted. She could even be apathetic, Chloe didn't care. She wanted her back.
She wanted to see her.
The sound of footsteps met her ears. Chloe opened her eyes to see another shadow cast over Cara's grave. A tall shadow, belonging to a man.
"You're not being stupid."
Chloe whirled around, jumping to her feet in an instant. She knew that voice well enough. And for the first time she matched the voice to a face.
His smirk was as she imagined but it did not completely reach his eyes. He had purple eyes. According to the Elrics, all homunculi did.
Except for Cara.
"Yeah, its me." Envy replied.
"What are you doing here?"
"Its been one year, hasn't it?" his eyes went to the hedge stone. Chloe could see true sadness in his eyes, behind the smirk. There was nothing condescending about it, and perhaps that surprised her.
"Yes." Chloe murmured. "I just didn't think…"
"Didn't think I noticed?" Envy raised an eyebrow. "I noticed alright. Its been one year since Dante died. One year since the living homunculi were free. And one year since Cara…" he trailed off, shrugging.
Chloe stared at him for a long time before she smiled. "I'm glad."
"What?" he glanced at her.
"I'm glad you noticed." Chloe said. "It's nice to know you care about her."
Envy shrugged but his expression was slightly uncomfortable. "If you want to put it that way."
"You do." A small smirk of her own spread over her face. "I can see it."
"Well, I'm sure—" Envy stopped and looked at Chloe like she had suddenly sprouted wings. "You can… see it?"
Chloe's smile widened.
"You can see now. You have your sight back." Envy realized.
"And the Elrics have their bodies." Chloe nodded. "It was a stone and we were able to use it." She looked Envy up and down. "This is my first time to actually see you."
"I guess it is." Envy said. "Impressed?"
"Not particularly." Chloe smirked.
Envy chuckled and shook his head. "She really did rub off on you, shrimp."
Shrimp. On normal occasions, this nickname coming from Envy would have made her angry. But since Cara wasn't around to speak, it was good to hear it from someone. It made her smile rather than frown.
"I'm glad." Chloe looked back towards the Rockbell house in the distance. "Planning on paying the others a visit too?"
"Something tells me this isn't the best day for a brotherly reunion." Envy rubbed a hand behind his head. "I'm probably the last thing Edward wants to see today anyway. And I'm not too keen on seeing him. I just came for her."
"Good to know nothing has changed there." Chloe said.
"Yeah…" Envy said. His hand dropped to his side and he reached into his pocket. "Hey, Chloe."
"Yes?" Chloe asked. It was strange to hear him say her name. She wondered if he'd ever called her by it before.
"Cara… gave this to me the last time we were here. At this cemetery. But I think she wanted you to have it." He opened his hand, revealing a tiny wooden box. He flicked open the top and a tiny melody began to play.
Chloe's heart nearly stopped beating. It was the music box. The music box that Hughes gave Cara all those years ago. The music box she loved so much. This was it. Her eyes began to fill with tears again as she took the box into her hands. "She loved this thing…" she whispered. "It was strange… how obsessed she was with this little tune."
"That's for sure." Envy said. "I planned on leaving it here and ditching. I figured you'd be by and find it. But we came at the same time." He took a few steps away. "I'll leave you alone now."
"You don't have to—" Chloe took a step forward but Envy gave a short wave of his hand.
"Relax shrimp. We said most of what we needed to when she was alive." As he moved passed Cara's headstone he placed his palm on the dusty, white surface. "Wherever you are, I hope you're causing a lot of trouble… little devil." He murmured. Chloe heard the heaviness clearly in his voice. A heaviness that she and Edward and Alphonse also shared on this day.
He really had cared for her.
"Hey, Envy!" she called out as he began to walk away. "I think I forgive you now!"
He glanced over his shoulder, "Seriously?"
"Yes." Chloe beamed, wiping away the last of her tears. "Take care of yourself, alright? For her."
Envy grinned. Not a smirk, but a real smile. "Will do shrimp. Right back at you." He turned, holding up a hand in farewell. Chloe watched him until he disappeared over the horizon. Then she turned back to Cara's grave.
"Hold him to that, won't you Cara?" she said, running her fingers over the white stone. "Enjoy the flowers. And thanks for the music box. I know it meant a lot to you."
With that she turned away from the cemetery and started back in the direction of the Rockbell house where the Elrics and Winry were waiting for her.
Chloe lay in her borrowed room in the Rockbell house, on one of the beds for patience. She had been listening to Cara's music box for nearly an hour now. Over and over again. She closed her eyes and let herself float back to a time when she could only hear.
The music helped her remember Cara's voice.
"Step away from the goods or next time I won't miss"
"It's not worth throwing away your life just for another person's. And especially not mine. It's not worth it."
"All the intellect and nerdiness going on in this room is sapping my energy."
"Move forward. If something gets in your way, blast it to smithereens. You've been going for this long so you can't very well stop now, can you?"
"Don't worry about me kid... you remember those three conditions I gave you in the beginning right? Don't forget those."
"I can't afford to just run away from everything… Even if I do continue and try to live as a human, I can't tuck my tail whenever the homunculi come around. I'm not going to let myself be that weak."
"Oh god, Chloe. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. For everything. I'm sorry."
Chloe exhaled shakily, running her finger around the edges of the wooden box. Until her fingertip brushed something else. An edge of paper. Her fingers tugged at the edge and out came a tiny square of paper, folded up tight and stuck in the gap in the edge of the music box. She unfolded the note to read the words. Her breath caught when she saw Cara's name written across the bottom
Her reading was still shaky, but Cara had never been one for complicated words. The letters were clear enough to her as she read.
I'm not a cheesy person, and I didn't want to write something like this. But I wanted to leave something for you. Anything. I've never been good with words, so I don't think anything I write will say enough. But I want you to know how grateful I am to you. For everything. I never, in a million years, could have wished for a better, truer friend. You're a smart ass but you are so infinitely more caring than I ever could be. You saw the best parts of me. You brought out the best parts of me. And even though I never admitted it, I always needed you. Your advice, your snarky comments, your optimism, your forgiveness.
Thank you so much for stay beside me. I wish I could have stayed beside you. I want you to know, there's nothing you could have said or done to stop me. I needed this. I needed to be free. Not just from what I am but from my pain. It was too much for me. Too much for all of you. I know I tried so hard to be strong but I'm not. I never was. I've always been so weak but I'm okay with that. Maybe it makes me human.
I'm rambling now. I don't even know if any of this makes sense. Just, please, don't be sad for me. I'm free, wherever I am. And I can't feel my attacks anymore. I'm free.
You can be free in this life. Keep on being as wonderful as you are. I love you, Chloe. Thank you for everything.
By the time Chloe finished reading her eyes had blurred many times over. Her memory traced back to the time Cara and Ed had fought in Risenbol, one on one. Cara faked an attack to beat him.
She remembered during their fight with Pride, Cara didn't give off the same vibrations as usual with her attack. She hadn't questioned it at the time, but now it was clear.
Cara had meant to die. When they stole Pride's remains and talked over times gone by… the nostalgia and sadness in Cara's voice.
She had meant to die for a long time.
"Oh, Cara…" Chloe whispered, clenching her fingers together and nearly tearing the paper in the process. Envy knew too. She realized that now. He knew about her plans. She gave this to him before they left Risenbol. He must have known.
Chloe always knew how heavy Cara's burden weighed on her, but she didn't know how much. She wished she had.
Her blurred gaze fell on a sentence near the bottom of the page.
Just, please, don't be sad for me. I'm free, wherever I am. And I can't feel my attacks anymore. I'm free.
She was free.
Don't be sad for me.
Cara had run away in the face of fear before. But this seemed different. She seemed… content. Content with the decision she had made. Not torn up or guilty.
It had felt right to her.
Chloe swallowed hard and wiped her tears away. Her sleeve knocked against the music box, toppling it from the bed. It struck the floor and snapped open again. The melody filled the room.
And it made Chloe smile. She looked upwards at the ceiling. "I love you too, Cara…I hope you knew that."
"Chloe!" she heard Winry call from downstairs. Her voice rang with excitement. "Chloe come quickly!"
Chloe lept off her bed at once and hurried down the stairs. In the kitchen, Winry, Al and Ed sat around the table. An envelope sat in the middle of them. Chloe could see a photograph clipped onto it.
"It's from Ms. Gracia." Ed grinned. He looked happier than she'd seen him all day.
She read the note first, not thinking to do anything else.
I hope this reaches you in time. I know it's been a year. I know how hard this all is. I heard you got your sight back and I was so happy when I found this. And old photo from my late husband's collection. He took a picture of you in Cara a long time , if you remember. I thought you should have it.
Chloe's eyes widened. Her fingers trembled as she flipped over the note to look at the photo.
Cara smirked back at her. Even if she had never seen her before, she just knew it was her. The smirk was as she imagined. The gold eyes, the red hair.
This was her friend. This was Cara.
Chloe couldn't keep the smile from splitting her face. "I got to see her after all." She looked up at the Elric's and Winry. "Thank you."
And for the first time that day, her tears ran with joy.
"My love for you burns deep inside me
Embers of times we had
And now, here I stand
Lost in a memory
I see your face and smile" ~Adieu, Yoko Kanno
In case anyone wondered, this is the song that I would play as the ending theme to this fic: Yoko Kanno's Gravity. Look it up, its a beautiful song and it will give you feels.
Chloe: We hoped you enjoyed this chapter and the fic as a whole. In your review, tell us three things: 1) what did you think of the epilogue, 2) what did you think of the fanfic as a whole, 3) Who was your favorite: Chloe or Cara?
Al: Other important things... There's a new poll up on the authoress' profile. In the results of the last poll, original anime Envy won out in popularity. Thanks for the votes!
Envy: Yay me.
Ed: Also, the authoress would like you to check out her friend Trueheart zen's fanfiction. Its about Draco Malfoy's older sister who's a hufflepuff and in a relationship with Oliver Wood. Its very funny and she updates regularly.
Yes! Give her lots of views for me! She's new on fanfiction so she needs love!
Cara: And finally information on the Brotherhood Project! Though I'm dead in this fic and there will be no sequel, the authoress' next fanfic will take place in the Brotherhood universe.
Chloe: It will start not only me and Cara but also...
Yep. All three of my OCs are going to be in the Brotherhood universe FMA fanfiction, titled Edge of Lightning. It will take some liberties with the plot and characters and it will be a really huge fanfiction. Probably longer than any of my previous ones. I plan to start it in June of this year
Winry: More information will be released periodically. Keep checking for polls on the profile.
As always, thanks for reading and, one last time, REVIEW!