Right, my first FMA piece. Just to warn you now, I've only ever read the manga—I want to watch the animes but right now I just don't have the time. I hope the writing rings true to van Hohenheim's character.

I own nothing.

There are voices in his head. Alright, normally that sort of admission would be a one-way ticket to the local insane asylum, but not in Hohenheim's case. He's not crazy. At least, he's not crazy enough to warrant a trip to the asylum. In fact, given his circumstances and history, Hohenheim likes to think that he's remarkably well-adjusted.

There are voices in his head, and even if Hohenheim has managed to pacify most of them, even if he has convinced most of them to work withhim rather than against him, the din is at times unbearable. There are times when he can't follow conversations, when he doesn't hear his wife or children calling to him. There are times when Hohenheim can't think for all the voices trying to talk to him at once.

Hohenheim, let's go over to the hill again. I want to see the flowers.

You need to eat more meat. It's good for you.

Why do you dally with these people? We have a job to do.

They are nearly unbearable, and the only reason Hohenheim can co-exist with all the souls sharing his mind is several centuries worth of communication and bridge-building. But even disembodied souls have to sleep, and at night, when the sun has disappeared and left a dark veil to coat the land, Hohenheim is left in relative peace.

Such small vessels, he thinks, staring at the two sleeping boys in the bed before him. One a baby, the other a toddler, and both quite loud and animated in wakefulness. Two heads of golden hair, four hands, four feet, two heartbeats not quite in accord. Human children, by the names of Edward and Alphonse Elric, deep sleepers and living far more untroubled lives than Hohenheim.

It's almost impossible for Hohenheim to believe that these are his children.

They sort of look like me, he realizes one night, sitting cross-legged in front of them. Hohenheim sits in the slant of light unleashed by the open door, but he is draped in shadows, the light on his back, never reaching his face. Edward and Alphonse don't seem to be bothered—they continue on in dreamland, never noticing their father sitting in front of them. Edward especially; when he gets older he'll probably look just like I did when I was young.

Each time Trisha told him she was pregnant, Hohenheim could only react with surprise.

Trisha is beaming and Hohenheim, sitting at his desk, stares up at her blankly. "Pregnant…" He pauses, frowning down at his hands. "You mean as in 'baby' pregnant?" Hohenheim asks lamely.

She shakes her head and laughs gently. "Yes, Hohenheim, 'baby' pregnant."

The last time Hohenheim was a 'father', it was to a little being in a flask, who twisted him so firmly around its little finger that he couldn't see the danger until it was too late. He has avoided human companionship ever since he became a monster, because his 'son' still looks for him—not obsessively, but he does search for Hohenheim the way Hohenheim searches for him—and no human deserves to be put at risk over Hohenheim's mistakes.

He must have faltered, to get to this point.

Hohenheim looks at Edward. He looks at Edward, and at Alphonse, and his frown deepens to a worried, slightly lost quirk of the mouth. He really doesn't know how to be a father to them.

Do I hug them, kiss them, offer praise when they do well and scold them when they do wrong? Do I smile or frown? Do I catch them when they stumble or do I let them fall?

What am I supposed to do?

Every precious thing in Hohenheim's life he has watched fade and wither away. Trisha will grow old and wither into death long before he even starts to show grays. The same will befall these two boys who sleep, blissful and unknowing, before him. Edward and Alphonse, they look young now, so young, but in the blink of an eye they will be white-haired men leaning on canes and Hohenheim will look young and robust next to them. Mayflies, all of them. Precious, but still mayflies.

My boys… My sons… As he has so often found himself, Hohenheim stares down at his hand, studying each line, scar and callus. It would be so easy to reach over and touch them. Just pat their heads, stroke their hair, anything. Some nights, he wants to, so badly. Every night, he wants to. Break that barrier and prove to himself that even if this all seems like a happy, transitory dream what Hohenheim sees is real. That Trisha is real. That Edward and Alphonse are real. That all of this is real, and that he is a man with two sons.

But he can never quite manage it. No matter how hard Hohenheim tries, he can never bring himself to touch them.

He's a monster, after all. Monsters shouldn't be allowed anywhere near innocent, beautiful children, let alone allowed to do something so vile as touch them. It wouldn't do, Hohenheim tells himself, night after night. They will be dead and gone before I can even blink. I will watch all their years pass before my eyes.

He can't call himself a father, so he can't touch his sons.

Every time he tries, the voices drown him out.