Title: From Ashes (Chapter I: After the Gate)
Author: Jordanna Morgan
Archive Rights: Please request the author's consent.
Rating/Warnings: PG for blood in the first two chapters.
Characters: Mainly Ed and Al, with intermittent Winry and Pinako.
Setting: The year between the boys' human transmutation attempt and the day they left Resembool.
Summary: Edward and Alphonse had a long journey to make before they ever left home.
Disclaimer: They belong to Hiromu Arakawa. I own nothing but a couple of villagers in chapter nine.
Notes: In some ways, this chaptered story is more like a series of sequential one-shots about the boys' long recovery from the transmutation. It alternates between Ed and Al's perspectives; a couple of scenes from the episode "Mother" are touched upon, but much of the story attempts to explore the gap between Ed's automail operations and their departure from Resembool. Expect a lot of angst, a lot of brotherly love, and even a little humor after the first few chapters.
The fall from searing light into blackness was instant and complete. For a moment, even in those blind depths of semi-consciousness, Edward's mind still swam dizzily with the raw knowledge that had pulsed from the Gate...
And then he felt the pain.
He had never truly known pain before; never even imagined it. Not compared to this.
Somehow his left hand - his remaining hand - managed to push his upper body from the blood-smeared floor. His right leg, likewise absent its twin, drew up beneath him to support a weight that was now much too light. He folded his arm across his body, clutching the torn and gushing void that was his right shoulder, and swallowed back the bile in his throat. Tears stung his eyes as he struggled to focus through the gray-red mist that clouded his sight.
It was the first thing he saw.
Before his second trip through hell, the toppled suit of armor lay in a heap on the bloody floorboards, its helmet fallen a foot away... but now, some invisible force had drawn its parts back together, bound firmly in its cumbrous approximation of human shape. It lay just beyond his arm's reach, facedown, motionless - empty.
Clenching his teeth to hold back the scream of pain and fury and despair inside him, Ed waited. There was nothing more he could do now. He had no chance of crawling away to seek help for himself; even with the loss of only his leg, he doubted he could have reached anyone before his life bled away. His gamble to save Al was also his own sole chance for survival... and if he had failed, he would die here too.
Either way, they were going to be together.
A glimmer beneath the shadows of the metal hulk caught his eye. Inhaling a sharp hiss of breath, he watched as a pale white glow sparked to life behind the visor of the helmet, quickly growing brighter and stronger.
The steel plates shivered, with a faint rattling sound... and a soft moan resonated from within the hollow depths of the armor.
Something was alive.
But maybe it wasn't Al. Maybe it was another horrible thing, like the nightmare across the room that was supposed to be their mother - and if it was, maybe this one would be able to survive within the shell Ed had fastened it to. He had drawn it back from the other side with his own flesh and blood; maybe now it would be hungry for the rest of him.
If it was, it would be welcome to finish the job.
What was left of Ed's body was curled into itself, braced against the pain. Struggling to take each breath, and to fight back the darkness that threatened to fill his vision, he watched the armor warily from the corner of his eye.
Slowly it rose, sitting up on its greaves with a clatter of colliding metal, and stretched out its left arm. From behind the eye slits of the visor, two eerie points of light mirrored nonexistent eyes, staring at the empty leather gauntlet that had swelled into the shape of a solid hand. It uttered a bewildered sound. Ed recognized the pattern of human speech, but he didn't quite catch the words between his own gasping breaths.
At last the helmet tipped to one side, looking past the gauntlet, and Ed felt its gaze fall on him - sending a shock of mingled hope and terror through his broken body, in the form of a wave of sick dizziness.
He whispered three simple words, just in case they were his last.
"I'm sorry... Al..."
For an infinitesimal moment, the steel behemoth hesitated. Then it lurched to its feet, with a blood-curdling howl that seemed to be torn from its hollow depths... and this time, the ringing echo of metal could not disguise the anguished voice, nor the one desperate word that pierced to the core of Edward's heart.
2010 Jordanna Morgan