This has been a long time in the making, but hopefully, it was time well spent. A huge thank you to my beta, Kay, who did an absolutely fantastic job. You can find her beta reader profile over at Perfect Imagination: www . perfectimagination . co . uk / User / view_Kamerreon . html
Warnings for violence and mild swearing.
The doctor frowned. Edward glared at her.
'What's your name?' she asked.
'Edward Elric. It was Edward Elric this morning and it was Edward Elric yesterday. Stop asking!'
She shook her head. 'You're not Edward Elric.'
He scowled. 'Right. If I'm not Edward Elric, who the hell am I?'
She sighed. 'We think it would be best if you came to the realisation on your own, rather than being told.'
As if he hadn't heard that before. She should just tell him already! 'I don't need to come to any realisation. I'm Edward Elric.' He spoke the last two words slowly, as if she were a little child.
She ignored him, but he was used to that by now. They went through this stupid routine every day.
'How old are you?'
'At what age did you join the military?'
'When did you get your automail?'
They knew about the human transmutation. He wasn't sure how they knew, but on the first day, she had come in and described his life from start to finish. It had been worrying and more than a little frightening, if he was completely honest with himself. He wondered why she bothered asking. He wondered what the point of this was at all, actually...
He answered her question truthfully. What was the point in lying?
'After I performed a human transmutation.' His hands fisted in the sheets.
'When were your limbs returned to you?'
'When I brought back Al's body.'
'Who is Al?'
'My brother.' And where was Al, anyway? The doctor had not let him see Al yet. She kept putting him off, and it was starting to make him even more angry than normal.
'What's his full name?'
The doctor jotted something down on her clipboard and sighed again. It was forced; all her emotions were forced. She faked concern, she faked pity, she faked happiness and sadness and anger.
It pissed him off.
'Just let me go,' Edward growled. 'I don't know who the hell you are, or why you're trying to convince me I'm not me, but it won't work. I know who I am. You can't change that with your fucked up mind games.'
The doctor shook her head and smiled a small, fixed smile that showed no teeth and didn't reach her eyes. 'We're just trying to help you,' she said. 'This is for your own good.'
He didn't believe that for a moment.
Edward sat on his bed, staring at the wall. It was white. The walls were white, the floor was white, the ceiling was white, the bedding was white, the doctors' coats were white.
He was rapidly starting to hate white.
There was a knock on the door. He really didn't want to see the doctor again, and it had to be her. 'Go away!'
The doctor came in, smiling that phony smile. He ignored her.
'I've come to check on you... Edward.'
The name sent a jolt through him, and he turned his head towards her. 'You believe me now?'
She nodded, still smiling. 'Of course I do. Tell me about yourself, Edward,' she said, emphasising his name.
He deflated. He wasn't an idiot; it didn't take much effort to realise she was humouring him. 'You don't believe me,' he muttered. 'You're just faking. Again.'
'Of course I believe you,' she repeated.
His eyes narrowed with distaste. Right now, he hated her more than Mustang, and he hadn't thought that possible. 'You're a liar.'
Her smile turned into a frown. 'That isn't nice.'
'Yeah, well, deal with it.'
She sighed and shook her head. 'I can see you don't want to talk to me today. Shall I come back later?'
'No.' Not unless she was going to tell him the truth or give him his brother.
She continued as though he hadn't spoken. 'Okay. I'll see you later.'
'Good morning. How are you feeling today?'
He narrowed his eyes and bit his cheek viciously. 'Like crap.'
'Oh dear. What's wrong?'
He didn't bother dignifying that with a response.
'We would like you to answer a few more questions for us.'
'Why?' he asked, scowling. 'You always ask questions. What the hell are you expecting to happen? I'll magically change into John Smith?'
To his surprise, she actually paused, considering her answer. 'There is a chance that, if we question you, you will answer as yourself rather than Edward. We hope that we can use that to help you recover.'
'You're not worried that suddenly being confronted with the truth will make me go nuts?' he asked sarcastically. He was surprised once again when she took him entirely at face value.
'It is a concern, but we believe that this is the best way to proceed for now.'
He was Edward Elric, and nothing she asked him was going to change that. Disgusted, he realised that he had no choice but to humour her—for now.
'Right,' he muttered. 'If it'll make you leave me alone, then fine. Ask away.' He waved his hand dismissively.
'What's your name?'
'Where were you born?'
'How old are you?'
The questions continued for the better part of an hour, just small, stupid things. Information of no use to anybody but him: Who was your closest childhood friend? When's your birthday? What's your favourite food?
Over and over, over and over, the same stupid questions. What kind of an idiot was she? The answers were never going to change!
What's your name?
'We haven't made much progress over the last few weeks, so we're going to try a different tactic,' the doctor informed him.
'What different tactic?' he asked warily. So far, they'd done nothing worse than lock him up and ask questions, but he knew that that could change fast. He didn't trust her at all, and it would not surprise him in the least if she turned on him.
If he could get his bloody alchemy to cooperate, he would be out of here already. But for some unknown reason, it did not answer him.
'Relax. We're not going to hurt you,' she said, smiling. 'We're just going to bring in some people you know, see if that has any effect.'
People I know? Who? Al? Winry? The Colonel? I can't let them get dragged into this!
'No!' he yelled, springing to his feet and advancing on the doctor. 'You can't. Leave them alone!'
The doctor took a step back, alarmed. 'There's no need to—'
'Don't touch them! Don't you dare!' This had to be a trap of some kind. She would threaten Al or Winry to try to get him to change his answers. Why wouldn't she believe he was telling the truth?
'We're not going to—'
'Don't touch them!' he roared, hands fisting at his sides. If she laid a hand on Al, he would—
She backed away from him rapidly, face paling. 'Calm down!'
'I'll kill you if you hurt them!'
'Stop this or I'll be forced to sedate you!'
She stabbed a syringe into his upper arm.
'Don' hur' them,' he slurred. 'I won' le' you... hurt...'
The room spun. He was vaguely aware of the doctor talking to him, but he couldn't understand her. The world went dark.
When he woke, he was alone in his room—his cell.
They're going to—
In desperation, he clapped his hands together, willing it to work, arrays spinning through his mind as he poured every fibre of his being into transmuting the wall into nothing but dust and getting the hell out of this hellhole...
And, just like every other time he had tried it, it didn't work. He fell back onto the bed, tears pricking at his eyes.
I can't stop them, he thought. They're going to hurt my friends, my family. And there's nothing I can do.
The door opened.
He looked up, instantly tense. However, the person the doctor brought in wasn't Al or Winry or the Colonel.
'We thought it might help if you met the real Edward Elric,' she said, smiling that fake smile again. Everything about her was fake. She probably wasn't even a doctor.
He narrowed his eyes at the newcomer.
Did they honestly think seeing some cheap lookalike was going to convince him he was delusional? He knew who he was. They'd done a good job, he admitted grudgingly, if only to himself—the fraud looked almost exactly like him. They'd even gone and dressed him up in a red coat.
The doctor glanced at the newcomer and fidgeted. 'Remember what we discussed, please, Major Elric.'
'All right,' the fake Ed said, barely looking at her. Instead, he stared at the real Edward, looking slightly shocked.
'What the hell do you want, imposter?' Edward asked, trying to figure out the new angle. Why would they need a near clone of him? An attempt to infiltrate the military, maybe?
Fake Ed frowned. 'I think this might've been a bad idea,' he muttered to himself.
'Too right,' Edward snarled, furious beyond belief.
The doctor stepped between them, raising her hands in a mollifying gesture.
'Please, just talk to him. I know this is... difficult, but we think it would be best.'
Edward couldn't tell if she was talking to him or the fake. 'Fine,' he muttered. 'If it gets him out of here quicker I'm all for it.'
Fake Ed said nothing, and the doctor smiled.
'All right. I'm going to ask some questions...' Her eyes flickered to the real Edward. 'You're familiar with this by now. Major Elric will answer the questions too.' She didn't wait for a reply. 'What's your name?'
'Edward Elric,' both replied at the same time. Edward glared at his fake.
'What's your real name, bastard?' he snarled with narrowed eyes.
Fake Ed just gave him a quick, guilty look.
The doctor cleared her throat. 'Where were you born?'
Once again, both give the same answer.
How old are you? Who is your closest childhood friend? When did you get your automail? When did you regain your limbs?
Edward stared at his imposter. He'd felt sick and off-balance ever since the bastard entered the room, and with every correct answer he got sicker. It reminded him of Envy, but Envy was dead, wasn't he? He had to be dead. Edward had seen him die… but what did that mean? Envy was a homunculus.
What if we didn't really defeat the homunculi? What if this is one of their plots?
Then he's not just a fake. He's—
'Envy,' Edward breathed. The fake looked at him with sick shock.
'What? No, that's—I'm not Envy,' he said warily. He ducked as Edward lashed out at him. 'Whoa! I'm not Envy!'
The doctor quickly intervened. 'Stop this now! I don't want to have to sedate you again,' she said sharply.
The threat of sedation made Edward back down, but only a little. He had to be right! He remained on his feet and on his guard, glaring at the imposter.
'I'm not Envy,' repeated the fake. 'I can prove it.'
'How?' Edward snarled.
The fake brought his hands together and placed them on the bed. Light flashed and the bed changed, morphing into a dragon before melting back into the covers.
Edward stared at it in sick shock.
Alchemy. He can do alchemy. Not Envy then, but if this fraud can do it...why can't I? Have they drugged me?
'Who are you?' Edward demanded. He felt… there was something…
'Ed,' the fake replied helplessly. 'Edward Elric. Really. I'm sorry.'
'You can't be,' he hissed, 'You can't be.' But the impostor sounded like he was telling the truth. Could the guy actually believe he was the real Edward?
He glared, expecting the fake to get angry, or even just to break down and admit this was all a set-up of some kind, but the other just sighed. He looked... tired. Stressed. Worn and worried. The skin under his eyes was slightly bruised, and his braid was messy and falling loose.
The fake turned to the doctor. 'Would you mind...?'
She sighed. 'I'll... I'll leave you alone,' she muttered. 'Major Elric, give me a shout if you need me.'
'I will,' he assured her. After she left, fake Ed sat down on the bed. 'I'm sorry,' he muttered. 'This is a mess... I just...' he sighed. 'I wanted to...'
'Wanted to what?' Edward asked, frustrated. 'I don't get this. What's the point? What's the point of trying to convince me I'm not me?'
The fake stared at him. 'I can't tell you,' he muttered.
'Why not? This is driving me nuts!'
'You...' He looked over to the door hesitantly, and then he snorted. 'Screw it.'
'What? Would you please tell me what the hell is going on?' All he wanted was the truth! He didn't care what the lying doctor said, he could handle it.
Fake Ed stared right into his eyes and clenched his jaw. 'You're not Edward Elric. You're sick. I know you don't believe it, but it's true.'
'Well who am I then?' Edward burst out, furious. 'If you're so fucking set on convincing me I'm crazy then why the hell won't you tell me who I am?'
Sighing, the fake ran a hand down his face and said, 'Alphonse Elric.'
And the world came crashing down.
Edward staggered back, his eyes wide. 'What? You're telling me that I'm my own little brother?' That was preposterous! They could not actually expect him to believe that. It was—it was… impossible!
The fake looked at him, eyes full of guilt and pain. 'No,' he said. 'Not your own little brother. My little brother.'
'This is twisted,' Edward hissed. 'Why the hell are you doing this?'
'I'm not lying. Al—'
'I'm not Alphonse!'
The fake's hands balled into fists. 'When I returned your body something went wrong; it's my fault, I'm sorry.'
'I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. I tried to fix it, I really did!' Fake Ed shook, face paling as the words spilled from his lips.
'LIAR! Liar, liar, liar!' That could not be true. Could not be true. Could not be true. He was Edward Elric!
The impostor reached out towards him. 'You're not me! Al, Al please, I need you back.'
'I'm not your little brother! I don't care who the hell you are or who you're pretending to be. I know my own name; I know my own life! I'm Edward Elric! I'm EDWARD!'
The door opened suddenly and both Edwards—real and fake—stopped. The doctor stood in the entrance, her expression unreadable.
'Major Elric, I think it might best if you left for now.'
'DON'T CALL HIM THAT! HE'S NOT ME! HE'S NOT, HE'S NOT, HE'S NOT!'
A nurse rushed the fake out of the room as the doctor grabbed a syringe. 'I'm going to have to sedate you, Alphonse. I'm sorry.'
The last thing he saw before he went under was the fake Edward's face, stricken and sick with worry.
When he awoke, it was to the sensation of someone running a hand through his hair, gently, like his mother had done when he was a child. The gesture was soothing and, for a moment, he leaned into it contentedly.
And then recent events filtered through the early-morning fog, and he stiffened, his eyes snapping open.
The fake sat at his bedside, staring listlessly into the middle distance, one (automail) hand resting on his knee, the other (flesh and blood) combing rhythmically through Edward's hair.
'Get off me!'
The fake jumped and snatched his hand back. 'Sorry,' he muttered quickly.
'Don't touch me,' Edward snarled fiercely. He didn't want the liar anywhere near him.
'I'm sorry,' he muttered again, helplessly. 'I didn't... I didn't mean anything by it.'
'You are not me,' Edward said in a low, angry whisper. 'Get out of here. Get out!'
'Al, please, we need to talk...'
'My name is Edward!' How come they wouldn't listen to him? How could he possibly answer all the questions if he was not Edward Elric? Their stupid excuse of him being his own brother was not going to work!
Fake Ed wrung his hands. 'Al,' he said softly. 'Please.'
Edward almost snapped at him again, but he stopped, because the fake was crying. And that... that felt wrong. Something was very wrong.
'I'm not your brother,' he whispered. 'Stop crying.'
Fake Ed wiped his face roughly with a sleeve. 'I think I should go.'
'Yeah,' Edward agreed, eying him. 'I think you should.'
Edward spent the rest of that day alone. By the end of it, he almost regretted sending the fake away.
The next day, the doctor came back. 'Hello, Alphonse,' she said, smiling brightly.
'Edward,' he growled.
She sighed. 'Edward, then. I've brought something special for you today, okay?'
He narrowed his eyes. 'Like what?'
She held out a pad of paper and a packet of coloured pens. 'I'd like you to draw some pictures.'
He accepted the pad curiously, and then the pens. He didn't know what she hoped to accomplish with this, but he didn't see how it could hurt. The first colour he chose was red. The first thing he drew was a meaningless swirl, right in the centre of the page.
The doctor smiled encouragingly. 'Can you draw something that has meaning to you... Edward?'
He sighed and stared blankly at the page for a few minutes. 'Why should I?'
'Privileges can be granted to patients who cooperate,' she said. 'Longer visiting hours. You can choose what food you get, within reason. We can get you out of your hospital clothes, get you some nicer things for your room. And there's a garden especially for the patients... but you have to prove to us that we can trust you.'
The idea of going outside was tantalising enough to encourage Edward to cooperate. He might be able to escape... 'What should I draw?'
'Anything that means something to you. Friends and family, for example. A favourite food, a place you've been to, hobbies, things you enjoy... anything, Edward. Anything you like. Anything at all.'
He picked the black and drew, a little awkwardly at first, the Flamel symbol. Flowers, flames. A doll. An automail arm...
As he became more absorbed in his task, the pictures came thick and fast. They weren't brilliant, but they were recognisable: Colonel Mustang and his staff (the former with a pair of cartoon horns), Elysia, Maes, Nina, his mother, Alphonse...
Edward dropped the pen and pushed the pad towards her. 'There.'
She looked over the pictures with a calm, serious expression. 'Who's this?' she asked, pointing at one picture.
'Colonel Bastard,' he replied promptly.
Edward shifted uncomfortably. 'Mr. Hughes.'
'That's Alphonse,' he whispered. It had been forever since he had last seen Al. Why did they keep him away but let a fake Ed visit?
She turned the pad back around and gravely inspected the miniature portrait. 'So what are the differences between the two of you?' she asked idly. 'Physically, I mean.'
'Well... I guess his face is kind of rounder than mine. His hair is darker than mine. His eyes are grey.' Edward muttered.
'And you, Edward? How would you describe yourself?'
'I have blond hair, golden-yellow eyes, I'm... a little on the... smaller side...' he ground out.
She nodded sympathetically. 'Edward, I brought something else with me today. Would you like to see?' she asked softly.
She held up a compact mirror.
Silver-grey eyes stared back at him out of the glass.
Edward screamed and, with sudden fury, threw himself at her. The last thing he heard was an alarmed cry, and the last thing he felt was the prick of the needle before the world melted away.
When he woke up, he was in restraints, and the fake sat a few feet from his bedside with that now familiar, sad, wistful look in his eyes.
Edward began to thrash wildly. The fake rose from his seat in alarm, shouting for the doctor, and once again a needle was the last thing he knew as he passed out.
He awoke from sedative-induced sleep for the second time that day to find himself in the dark. It took him several minutes to realise that it was night time.
The fake was still there, asleep in the chair across the room.
His shirt had ridden up, exposing his stomach, and Edward felt the most peculiar urge to fetch him a blanket. He was still strapped down, though, so he lay there, staring at the fake's gaunt features (he must not be eating enough, Edward realised, and that bothered him), until dawn came.
'You remind me of my brother,' said Edward to the fake, as the other boy stared at him with that peculiarly familiar concerned look.
'I am your brother.'
Edward stopped talking to him after that.
Several weeks passed in much the same way. The fake came about as often as the doctor did now. Sometimes, he tried to talk to him, but Edward refused to listen and eventually he fell into silence.
The doctor continued asking questions, bringing the pad and pens back a couple of times, but since the first incident, he had refused to touch them.
When he went to sleep at night, silver-grey eyes haunted his dreams.
The doctors thought the door to his room was soundproof. They were wrong. It was muffled, but Edward could hear them just fine.
'...Major Elric, we're not making any progress. I hesitate to dismiss any patient, but I'm not sure there's much we can do. You must understand, this is not a psychological condition! It's an alchemical accident, and that's simply not our area of expertise. Perhaps you would be better off looking for an alchemic cure?'
'I am, but it takes time. No one's done anything like this with alchemy before. Please, look after him. I need to be sure he's safe.'
'Major, we are not equipped to deal with this. Alphonse's condition is not simply delusional, it's far more complicated. We don't even know if he still has his original memories!'
'I know my brother's still in there. Please!'
'Yes, Major, but I seriously doubt there's anything we can do for the poor boy.'
'Please try,' said the fake softly, so softly Edward could barely hear it. 'I'm working on a cure, but until I have one... I just don't know what else I can do.'
'Neither do I, Major Elric,' sighed the doctor. 'But very well.'
'Alphonse, please. I need you back.'
After two weeks of good behaviour, they furnished his room with another chair, a brightly coloured patchwork bedspread, a small bookshelf containing suitably dull and mindless fiction books, a desk, and, hatefully, a mirror.
Two days later, they took the furniture away again because Edward smashed the mirror with his bare hands.
Edward had come to tolerate the fake over the past couple of weeks, but after smashing the mirror, he began to hate him again. Everything about him drove Edward mad, like an itch in the back of his mind: his automail, his hair, his eyes, his voice—everything. He wouldn't look at him anymore when he came to visit, nor would he listen to what he had to say.
The fake did not give up, though, and slowly it began to irritate Edward more and more, until his presence alone was enough to make Edward furious for the rest of the day.
Finally, he snapped.
Snarling, he leapt at the fake, feeling all the rage and anger and fury and frustration that had been brewing for months well up inside him as he wrapped his hands around that goddamn neck and squeezed.
Or he tried to, but the fake was faster than he had expected and jumped out of the way.
'You!' Edward howled. 'Just—stop—taunting me! You're not me!'
'Steady,' said Fake Ed warily, holding his hands (damn automail!) up in a placatory gesture. 'Calm down. If you don't calm down they'll sedate you.'
'I HATE YOU!'
The fake looked utterly stricken. He stumbled, and suddenly, Edward was upon him, grabbing at his hair, his throat, tearing and tugging, scratching and screaming.
'Major!' cried a voice, and then Edward felt that damned needle, and it was all over, again.
The fake didn't come back after that. Edward asked the doctor about him, and she pursed her lips.
'After the... incident, we thought it best that you not have any visitors. We have asked him not to come back until you are... more stable.'
'I miss him,' Edward said quietly. It did not make any sense, but it was true. In fact, he almost missed the impostor more than Al. How could that be?
'I'm sorry,' she said, 'but I think it would be better for both of you if you didn't see each other for a while.'
They didn't see each other for weeks.
Despite everything, Edward missed the fake. Lying bastard or not, he was the only person other than the hated doctor who had been a regular feature in his life, and now he was gone, and he missed him.
'Can I see him yet?' he asked, almost daily now, and the answer was always a sigh, and then a 'no.' He wasn't stable enough yet. He hadn't been improving as they'd hoped. You're not ready. It's not time.
Sooner or later, as months do, months turned into years.
There were voices outside his door again.
'...Two years! He's my brother! I have a right to see him!'
'Major Elric, please! I do understand your frustration, but he's just not stable! He's getting worse; last week he attacked a nurse with yellow eyes. The poor girl's so shaken she's quit! I know he seems stable, but his mood changes rapidly and it's just not safe for either you or him.'
That wasn't true, he thought, frowning. He hadn't attacked anyone...
'How is he supposed to remember me like this?'
Edward vaguely remembered a flash of gold followed by sudden anger.
'Major Elric,' she sighed. 'Very well. I'll give you one chance,' she said. 'But if he reacts badly, then I warn you, I don't know what effect it'll have on him... or on you.'
The fake looked older. There were streaks of premature grey in his hair, wrinkles around his eyes that he was far too young to bear. He was thinner, smaller, more tired, as though the years had weighed down on him and pushed him into himself.
'Hi, Al,' he said, quietly.
'I'm not your brother.'
There was a long pause.
'Yeah,' sighed the fake, in a hollow, sad voice. 'I know.'
Good behaviour had earned Edward the right to a treat, and the doctor said he could choose.
He contemplated asking to go out into the gardens, or for a special lunch. He thought for some time on whether or not to request a 'free day', a day without therapy sessions.
When asked, the fake smiled listlessly and said he should get whatever made him happy. The fake looked more and more faded with each passing day, and suddenly, Edward knew what he wanted.
'I want a mirror,' he told the doctor. 'I need to see.'
Edward and the fake stood side-by-side in front of the mirror.
One of them was golden-eyed with golden hair, streaked here and there with grey but still a radiant blond. He was a few inches shorter than the other, and had two automail limbs. His expression spoke of too much lost and too little gained, of world-weariness and sadness.
The other, taller, was rounder of face, less hardened, less grim. His eyes were silver and his hair sandy brown. His skin was pale and his body gaunt, an indicator of too much time spent indoors in a hospital bed.
Edward stared at his reflection.
'Take it away,' he mumbled. 'Take the mirror away. I never want to see it again.'
'What's your name?'
Edward ignored her.
I know who I am. I know my own life. They can't take away my identity!
But... if I'm me, why don't I look like me?
But how can I be Al when I don't remember being him at all?
If I'm not Edward Elric, then I'm no one at all.
The fake looked at him nervously. 'I've been doing some research,' he said quickly. 'I know... I know what went wrong with the transmutation. I think I can fix it.'
'What's the price?' asked Edward without even thinking about it. He blinked, surprised at the words that had come out of his own mouth.
Fake Ed hesitated. 'It's... nothing, really.'
Edward shook his head. 'There's always a price,' he whispered fiercely. Equivalent exchange was one of the very first things he had learned.
Edward sighed. 'Yeah. I know,' he muttered, 'but sometimes, it's worth paying.'
He still didn't know what the price would be as Fake Ed leaned over him and drew an array on his forehead. (He was using the pens the doctor brought for art therapy. For some reason, Edward felt bothered by that.)
'Just relax now.'
Suddenly, panic seized inside him. 'Wait,' he said. 'Wait! What's the cost?'
But the world had already gone white around the edges, and he knew it was too late.
The world was white, white, white. It made him think of the hospital, but then it didn't because this wasn't a place for saving lives, it was one for ending them.
There was a gate.
There was a white figure, only distinguishable from the rest of the world by the faintest suggestion of shadow.
I know why you're here, the Gate said. And what is the price?
'My other leg,' offered the fake, back in the mundane whiteness of the hospital. But, somehow, the words threaded through the ether and into the otherworld, loud and crystal clear.
'No?' asked the figure—Truth. It was called truth, though he was not sure how he knew that. 'Then what will you pay?'
'My leg,' he said, firmly. 'Both of them, if you need them, and my arms, but leave him alone! He's lost enough for me.'
'One leg will be equivalent,' said Truth. 'But first... who are you?'
And he realised with sudden despair that he didn't know.
'Al! Alphonse! No, no, no, no, not a rebound. I'll give anything, I'll give anything, ALPHONSE!'
The word screamed through the whiteness and he clung to it. 'I'm Alphonse!' he shouted at nothing, at everything. At the one and the all. 'I'm Alphonse Elric, and I want my life back!'
Truth laughed and laughed and laughed, and behind him, the Gate began to open.
A body lay still and cold in the hospital bed. He was missing his left leg, cut off at mid-thigh.
It had been a week and he had not stirred. At his bedside, a young man who was not as young as he should be sat, one hand combing rhythmically through long, sandy brown hair.
'Not yet,' he said fiercely. 'It's only been one week. He's just had a lifetime's worth of memories poured into his head. Who knows how long it'll take? Give me more time. Not yet.'
'Major Elric, his heart rate is minimal and he's barely breathing. You need to let go,' the doctor said gently.
'A month,' he pleaded. 'Just a month.'
'One month, Major,' the doctor sighed, and then she slipped out of the room.
It had been two months, now.
Four long months had passed. Spring had become summer. Sunshine poured through the window of a hospital room in a private, military institution on the west side of Central.
Inside the room, the light fell directly onto the face of a young man. It was hot and bright, the kind of light that shone right through your eyelids and made it impossible to sleep.
Alphonse Elric opened his eyes.