Chapter 13 - I Gave You a Canvas, But You Failed to Paint
There was gold, a lot of gold. But then there was sweltering black followed by blazing and unforgiving red, before his fingers were prised apart by cold hands, and Al looked into the eyes of a dead man.
"Who the hell are you?" Al whispers, his breath fanning across a cold mask he couldn't, and wouldn't, recognise.
"I told you, brother-" fingers clenched hard again and the man was cut off. How dare he, how dare he-
"Don't. Call. Me. Brother!" His eyes flashed dangerously, and all the rage and pain threatened to boil and burst forth in greater velocity than ever before. The agony of restraint caused more harm than he could describe, but before Al could act upon anything, the man spoke again.
"I gave you a piano…
…play how you lived…"
The heavy Drachman accent made his mind buzz with hate, and it left a sour and hot taste in his mouth. He narrowed his eyes in confusion and impatience, "what are you talking about…?"
But a deep feeling resonated within the Lieutenant Colonel, and discomfort shook him until his grip loosened. Enough of this. He backed off of him from against the wall, but their golden eyes never broke contact. Al bit his lip, then pulled his gun from it's holster on his belt. Crashes resonated around them, and they could hear sirens, aircrafts, gunfire, and blood-curdling screams that couldn't deter either soldier from their duty here tonight. Neither gave in to distraction, and neither moved an inch from their positions while Al held up his 10mm, poised in perfect aim, and fired.
The bullet took it's place deep within the other man's chest, and slowly, he collapsed onto his knees holding his wound. Blood blossomed upon the clothing, but quickly stopped when an unnatural red spark flashed about his front. In one slow surreal moment, he removed his hand and stood straight again, their eyes never breaking contact once.
"What are you?" Another whisper escaped him. This can't be happening. He didn't understand, and he didn't want to. He was just so incredibly tired. Tired of living. But he asked regardless because he couldn't help himself feeling that lost sense of hope, border lining and surrounded by hatred.
Then let me handle things, like before…
He mind clouded, but he shook his head, visibly struggling. "There is something…wrong with you"
"Tell me, brother. What happened to Hughes?" The other man spoke again, his voice emulating him perfectly.
His lip curled at the word brother, but he stopped. What did happen to Hughes? He thought back, and drew up nothing. Words died on his lips, and his mouth was left open in confusion.
"I expect the military will find him wherever you've hid him." Al replied, but he didn't care, not even a bit. Some part of him was scared of this fact, but it was lost amidst the chaos within him.
"Me? Hmm…I don't think you quite remember." He smiled a disturbing grin and coldness seemed to seep out of Al's very bones, until he actually thought he could see a darkness permeating his uniform. Glancing at the man and back again, it had disappeared, and he shook his head another time.
"Just tell me who- what, you are." Al said resignedly. He felt anger, betrayal, confusion and jubilance all at once. But it kept getting lost under a mist that told him that he just didn't care anymore, he was tired and had already given up on such feelings a while ago. They battled within in him, neither side losing ground but neither gaining, and it hurt just to be.
But it doesn't have to, remember? I'm not the one who lies, here…Take a look at your brother, aren't you glad he's back?
"You don't remember? We had a check up last week…"
He didn't understand, and he was sick of the feeling. He was fading in and out, and Edwa- the man, wavered before him. His vision blurred, and he was tempted to give in and let it go. He couldn't keep putting up a battle for years on end.
He just can't do it alone.
Pride hadn't known what to say, all he knew what that he wanted to see the boy hurt for what he had unknowingly put him through. That was until it dawned on him that Al was hurting enough already. Al kept shaking his head, his eyes dull and his posture weary. He looked so tired and so defeated that another unrecognised feeling spurred within Pride again, and he couldn't say much else.
He stood in silence while the soldier struggled, his head hanging. He slowly looked up, eyes travelling to Pride's face, and smiled. Pride had never genuinely smiled, but he had reflected a human smile adequately enough to understand that Al's face wasn't expressing warmth or happiness.
Rather a coldness similar to his own.
He watched as Alphonse's smile turned into a sneer, and he drew nearer towards him. "Well brother, it really has been a while. nine years, isn't it? But you never came back…I was alone for a long time, brother, and you said we wouldn't be apart. I waited a long time, too long, ever since we tried to bring back our mother I've waited."
He frowned and stepped backwards. He hadn't been expecting this, something in Al seemed to have drastically changed from only a few moments ago. And did he say he'd been waiting since their failed transmutation? But he had only left four years ago…But then, he had suspected something was different.
Al stopped, his smile disappearing to be replaced by a hard and infuriated stare. "Why didn't you come back? Why didn't they bring you to me?" He was clenching his fists, his eyes wide and manic. He couldn't come back, why didn't who bring him to Al?
"What happened to you?" He muttered. He wasn't sure what to do now.
Al tilted his head. "You left, that's what. While I was stuck waiting at the gate, you were off having adventures and living your life without a single care. Then you decided to bring me back, just when I decided to bring you back." He snarled again, an image so odd and out of place to the gentle Alphonse he remembered. A painful resistance at Al's words built in Pride's chest, but he pushed it down.
More shouts echoed outside, and crashes of houses signalled the chaos and demolition of the city. Pride fleetingly wondered if the warehouse would be standing for much longer, when Al spoke again.
"But they messed up, they didn't realize that I'd returned." He looked angry, then smiled that dead smile again, and said,
"…I gave you a canvas,
Paint how you died…
…that's what I told them."
Pride nodded, "I know, I can still hear it." Now he was the one whispering, echoes of the mantra replaying through his mind. All he didn't know was their meaning, and why they would be in his mind whenever he had let his guard drop in the past. It chanted in his mind softly, but gradually growing louder and louder as the years progressed.
It was too silent, both young men standing in their chaotic thoughts and listening to the havoc around them, screams filtering through the crashes. Al had closed his eyes with a passive expression, and Pride found himself staring. He hadn't expected this, but now he wanted answers as to what Al had been talking about. Was he tied to the Virtues somehow? But that can't be possible.
"So time to finish this." Al said suddenly, eyes open again. "You brought me back too late, and that's why you're the abomination you are, Pride." He spat the last word, as if it disgusted him. Al's face was unrecognisable as the loving boy he had in his memories. But then, Pride was nothing like Ed ever was. Until recently.
Before Pride could answer, Al spoke again, nearing the end of his patience, "There's no room for you here anymore, Pride, the Sins have had their time." As he finished his sentence, a shuffling rustled around the warehouse, and metal scraped against metal as whole sheets shifted aside. From corners and crevices, 7 figures emerged, 7 homunculi, 7 Virtues.
They were mostly stoic and hid their thoughts well, but Pride had already been trained in this by Temperance. He could only guess that they hadn't planned on turning on him, so they couldn't hide their intentions well enough. Humility was the only one with any trace of doubt on her face. With a last look to his younger brother, he allowed himself a moment of tension before the emotional release he was preparing himself for. There was no reason to act like anything anymore; no more pretences, lies, acts, orders or hiding the emotions he knew were stirring in him. Those emotions he knew belonged to Edward Elric, and Pride's time was almost over.
Pride stood tall and kept his chin up. He supposed he owed Edward some sort of body to come back to, and decided he would fight. His clothes felt odd on him, so neat and formal, so obedient. Too obedient. Edward had no care for rules or oppressive authority, and Pride wanted to do him justice. From then on he would fight for Edward, for that hot headed personality clawing it's way out of him.
Al said, "A Sin like you stands no chance, Alchemist or not."
He tilted his head in a cocky manner, a hand on his hip. He grinned, and drawled in perfect Amestrian, "I'm not an ordinary Alchemist". He clapped his hands and grabbed a nearby pipe, transmuting it into a very familiar sword as he back flipped out of the Virtues' reach. He landed smoothly, legs apart and smirked as he rejoiced in Edward's emotions, but not allowing his mind to give in to him just yet.
Chase and Temperance were nearest him, and he could see Ben and D drawing closer behind them. Al stood in the distance, eyes cold and distant, watching with no expression at all. Pride gripped the cold one-handed sword in his hands, and jumped to the right, landing on a pile of discarded machinery, and lunged forwards at Temperance. He struck his shoulder but it had little effect, he was a well built and turned to catch the sword with his own hands, immobilising him. He ducked as Ben took at swipe with his fists, and back flipped just as the others had arrived to join the fight.
Alchemy was his answer now; he would have to trap them so he could deal with Al. He was nearing the back of the long warehouse, and allowed himself to be backed into a corner of machines. Cascades of car seats, doors and other parts landed around him and he alchemised a makeshift shield.
He called out, switching back to his ordinary Drachman, "So Al was who you were working for, then." He already knew the answer, but he wanted to see their reaction. He wanted to understand.
Slipping behind two upturned cars and temporarily out of sight, he watched Temperance walked down aisles of rubbish casually, confidently. Chase was following behind, eyes searching the rubbish while the others scattered to look. Temperance was the one who answered, "Of course, you were too busy to notice. Did you never question why you were the only Sin among Virtues? I'll admit, your oblivious charade had us convinced until now, but there was no way you couldn't hear his chant, too…"
Chant? Of course, it was still ringing in his ears. But he still didn't see how this added up. What has that have to do with Al? With the Virtues? With him?
Temperance and Chase had walked round a rusted van, and straight into a dead end. Pride took his chance and slipped out from his hiding place as silently as possible, and clapped his hand and gripped the nearest metal he could find. It travelled swiftly, and a 5 metre radius of metal around the two Virtues swelled up and came crushing down, compacting and melding. When it was finished, it was a quarter it's previous size, with Temperance and Chase crushed beyond recognition within.
The noise had alerted the others to his exact location, and before he could get away a knife flashed past his face, slicing open his cheek. He cursed his distracted mind, and clutched his fresh wound as he climbed a table and the wall railings, until he was on the suspensions above. He looked up to find Patience, and the last Virtue who he had never met, but knew must be Charity. She was just as cold as the others, and was advancing quickly with Patience close behind.
He moved round the metal beams, quickly assessing the situation so as to corner them as effectively as he did before. He was nearing a window, and before he could think of a reason why, he acted out as brash as Ed felt like, and just smashed the glass with his hand. He turned back to the others, and stretched out his power if darkness from the shadows, the black hands of Pride's power grappling at their legs. It cut them deep and cracked the metal beams beneath them, causing it to creak ominously.
Pride back onto the window ledge, and spotted below the bloodied but alive bodies of Chase and Temperance extracting themselves from the metal with the help of the others. So, Virtues work together like the Sins never did. He noticed Al watching him and waiting for him to be beaten down, probably at his feet. Crashes resonated through the warehouse and through the window, and Pride turned to assess the broken city.
Fires illuminated the sky in red, as if the blood of the many who died in that night could somehow be reflected in the sky. Smoke billowed upwards, houses lay demolished, and both Amestrian and Drachman military trucks roamed the streets for survivors. More and more were filling the streets, and the aircraft had stopped long ago. The crashes they had been hearing were houses collapsing under the brittle and burning wood. It seemed the battle was waning, and most troops were retreating or regaining lost soldiers. The fire was upon them, eating away at the building around them and burning fiercely on the ground of the building he stood in.
"You were the only Sin left, Pride. The only sin I had in them." Pride spun around. The beams had broken and the warehouse below was a mess of flames and metal, and before him stood Alphonse, upon a pillar of alchemised debris of broken metal and wood. His uniform was blackened and frayed, his face red and scratched. But he was alive and whole.
"The only sin in you?" He muttered, images of Father flashed though his mind, talking about the homunculi.
Al nodded, "I was so proud that I could finally achieve something after all those years stuck at the gate, waiting. Finally something I could use passed through the gate, and I made sure I was there. I took them and recreated them from my virtues, leaving me hollow."
His eyes widened. They were made from Al? "But that was just a body…"
"It was more than that. I was still a part of him, me. I could still take everything I had left and put them into those you sent to me." He was murmuring now, a melancholy stare misting his eyes over, still so different to Al…perhaps this was who was waiting at the gate, and the other Al was the soul Edward had known for those years in a suit of armour.
"You don't understand what that did to me, Pride." He was looking directly at Pride now, fire building upwards towards them. He could feel the heat emanating and burning his face with it's intensity, causing Al's face to glow. But he couldn't move, there was no need to. Al was right here and there was nothing else but him for Pride, anyway.
"…To be left without any virtue. But I sent them for you…to bring you back to me" Al continued, undaunted by the fires crackling their way towards his body. The warehouse was diminishing, lower parts of walls were already gone and other parts falling and cracking apart.
Edward was straining within him now, stronger than ever before, and he didn't think he could hold out much longer. But what for, anyway? He was Pride, Al's pride. If he was a part of Al, then…he should return to Al.
He stepped across from the window, testing the weight of the pillar beneath him. He stood with Al, and placed a hand on his shoulder as his eyes travelled up to his Pride's face. Al looked conflicted, two parts straining within him, just like Pride. Why should either be holding out? It was only hurting them.
He had no regrets, nothing to lose. After all, he was a part of Al, his Pride, his insanity at being left alone for years on end. He had no purpose left than to rejoin him and fix his broken mind, whole at last since he had failed human transmutation...yes he had been waiting for a long time, indeed.
"Let's not keep these brothers apart for much longer, Alphonse." He murmured close to him, the noise of the fire drowned out around them, as one of two souls joined another.
Alphonse looked up at him, his eyes shining and afraid. The remaining soul couldn't tell what was happening or where he was, but a few seconds later, Al let out a sob, "Brother…I missed you".
Edward smiled, and had enough time to reply quietly, "I missed you too Al. I wont leave again, I promise", before the warehouse gave in and caved beneath itself, crushing down ruthlessly upon the two tear-stained brothers, holding on to one another.
Reunited at last.
I'm semi-proud of this, parts I liked and didn't like. But then that would have happened no matter what I did. This would be the last chapter by the way, and I'm not sure whether to add an epilogue or not, because I don't want to kill it but I'm fairly certain it needs one.
Either way, if it is the end for you, review on the chapter and the story as a whole, as it's the first completed story I have ever written (on fanfiction or not T.T), so it's somewhat of an accomplishment for me and I want to know what you think an' all.
If it isn't the end for you, tell me what you think of the chapter anyway and tell me whether an epilogue is needed. I'll leave the story as In Progress for now, though.
Also sorry for the way things turned out. But it was necessary, right? It was, man, it was. And thanks to the reviewers too, I thought my military Al was a bit of a failure so thanks for that :D