"Well this is too bad...Yes, too bad."
I gasped before my eyes fluttered open abruptly. Amaya! Oh God, where was Amaya? What happened to Amaya?! I glanced frantically around the dimly lit room until my eyes locked onto Winry hutched over the desk, fiddling with her work.
My body trembled violently. Amaya. Amaya. Amaya. Did something happen to her? I squeezed shut my eyes tightly. So all those nightmares...was it possible...was it possible that there was more to them? Was it possible that...
No. I wouldn't believe such a thing. It could mean...
-a change of perspective-
Earlier in the morning, perhaps around seven, I was roused from sleep when Edward barged into the room. The alchemist was noisy and disruptive upon entering, and I was about to kill the lad, but it was hard to tell. If it weren't for the occasional peeking open of my eyes, it would still seem like I was asleep. It's just that last night I didn't have an Ed pillow to keep me comfortable since I had decided to take refuge with the young mechanic instead.
It's a decision I regret.
I only managed to rest about four hours because Winry worked all through the night – determined to finish the automail by noon the next day.
That said, it was obvious I was a wreck.
The current time was about 9:22 a.m. Winry looked close to enough to be finished with the automail. Thus I decided I should wake myself up a little. Exerting a little effort, I rose slowly to my paws. I stretched out my back and relieved any kinks that I'd managed to catch. "Good grief I'm worn-out. How does Winry do it?" After a massive yawn and a few more stretches I shook out my fur and hopped off the mattress.
"You're awake, girl?" Winry tiredly glanced over her shoulder after rubbing her eyes. I opened my mouth and panted sweetly, acting in response to her question. She gave me a resigned smile before turning back to finish her work. I gathered my haunches and sprang down to the floor. Once I hit my mark I ambled across the room to the door.
I clicked my tongue in frustration when I encountered the most dreaded obstacle. "Ugh! Stupid doorknobs! You degrade me!" I thought, aggravated. Sure, if I stood up on my hind legs I'd be able to reach it. That was easy. No problemo. What made it difficult was that the doorknob was a knob. A round spherical object that required a good grip and good flick of the wrist. My frustrating body couldn't do such things.
But that didn't stop me from trying.
"Alrighty… One. Two. Three!" I counted down before rearing up on my hindquarters. My forepaws landed against the door nicely. Next I carefully maneuvered my paws so that I was 'holding' the doorknob between them. The black pads covering the bottom of my paws slide against the smooth surface once I began to turn it. "Stupid effed up doorknob should go die in a hole." Without very much friction the procedure was pretty tricky, but after playing around for a bit I finally was successful in turning it all the way. And then bam! The door opened! I grinned joyfully once I dropped back onto all fours. Mission accomplished. Score two for the husky…Well actually score three. Yep. Score two was defiantly yesterday morning. Hmmm… "I wonder what score four will be."
"W-What the? Did you open the door all by yourself Cerium?" I looked back at the mechanic who was suddenly distracted by my awesomeness. I did the only thing I could do to shrug her off- I winked.
That's right, I winked. Her blue eyes blinked rapidly, and she rubbed them some more. Except by then I had turned and dragged myself through the hallway and down the steps. Though, I couldn't help but smirk impishly on my way downstairs for breakfast.
Edward plopped next to Alphonse; his back leaned in against the same barrel that kept his brother up. The calm suit of armor smiled warmly in his suit of armor, even if not evident. The two of them sat like that for a little bit before Ed's limbs twitched irritably. It was beyond obvious what the older brother was thinking.
"Gahh! What's taking so long? We need to get to the library already!" Ed complained loudly.
"Calm down, Brother." Al chided quietly. "You should be grateful that Winry and Pinako are working as fast as they can."
"I know, I know, but still," he groaned, "sometimes fast isn't fast enough! I wish there was something else to do besides waiting around doing nothing. I'm bored to death!"
"Good for you." A familiar bark responded to his complaints. Ed's gaze flickered over to a certain ginger pelted husky, accompanied by Den, trotting over to the brothers from the porch. The alchemist's palm quickly greeted his forehead. There were times where he felt like he was going insane. Cerium was similar to Alphonse in a way. Just like it was possible to feel his brother's emotions, it was possible to almost hear the clever dog's thoughts. It was strange, and left Ed both curious and strangely perplexed. He wondered if Alphonse felt the same way as him.
"Well if it isn't the bitch herself! What is the almighty queen of the mutts doing here?" Edward gained some composure and jeered provocatively when she was at Al's side. Cerium's eyes narrowed rapidly and the husky glowered ominously in his direction. Her chocolate eyes challenged him to continue taunting. Ed smirked at this.
"Geez Brother, learn some manners, even if she's just a dog. Isn't disrespecting the Colonel enough?" Al chastised Ed's behavior. Cerium sat her rump down next to the armor and agreed pointedly in his behalf. Edward's smirk faltered at the mention of the Colonel before he snorted and rolled his eyes.
The morning continued on from then, the sun rising ever higher in the sky. As days prior, the breeze danced seamlessly and mildly. Its gentle strokes brushed passed the green landscape, each blade of grass eased by its affection. All the creatures of the land were basking in the glorious day, scampering to and fro in every which direction. That said, it is pretty obvious that the four of them (two brothers and two dogs) were all were enjoying the morning to the fullest, their minds lulled in a sense of security and contentment. But the calmness died every once in a while when Ed and Cerium decided to continue their usual antics of aggravating each other. And while that happened, Alphonse sat still and continued staring off into the distance. A few hours passed quickly as the day flew by until it was a little after noon.
"Edward!" A certain long-haired mechanic was running up to them. She beamed, utterly excited. "You're done?" Ed asked hopefully.
"Yes! Now come on, we need to attach your new automail!" Winry didn't even let a spare second pass before she reached over and yanked the elder brother off his feet before turning to drag him away.
"AHHH! H-hold on! You're going to kill me–" The two of them soon disappeared after a loud bang of a door closing. Den's tail wagged enthusiastically next to Cerium's still body.
And just like that, a wave of longing washed over Al. It was a weird feeling because it was such a brilliant day out. Yet that was probably the root of the problem… Resembool had always had nice weather… and Al genuinely missed being able to feel it. At least the atmosphere was soothing and peaceful. It made him feel a little better…
Just a little.
"…You…okay?" A small voice asked in his head. Alphonse chuckled weakly, amused by his imagination. Was he okay? Yes he was. Right? With newfound hope, since the discovery of Dr. Marcoh's research materials, Al was going to try and get his and Ed's bodies back. Although, it was true Al was indeed nervous. "Don't worry… You'll get it back. I promise you that..."
Suddenly, the younger brother was aware of being studied by a set of incomprehensible chocolate eyes. Alphonse focused his attention on the ginger and white dog. They watched each other for a long while. Cerium's gaze was unfaltering while fixated on him, her white face twitched once or twice. She seemed absorbed in thought, concentrating on something. But whatever it was, Al had no clue.
"Cerium?" he prodded.
She blinked before preforming her famous head-shaking habit.
That brought Alphonse to yet another question. Was she actually thinking of something? It was unusual for any animal to seem so…thoughtful. He even wondered whether or not she could literally comprehend human speech. He himself had met a few decently intelligent animals before, but none of her caliber. It wouldn't surprise Al if she was perhaps trained by the military or by some renowned dog breeder. Last night, in fact, she proved such a point. He was searching for a blanket to put on Ed sleeping soundly on the couch. It was only a minute after when Cerium had reappeared with the item in question. Armstrong had made a tearful, sparkly fuss about "how the loyalty between a dog and its master was a spectacle of refined beauty that could only be matched by my muscles" or something along those lines.
"You know, there are times where you don't even feel like a dog, Cerium." The armor mused out loud, watching the ginger's ears perk. But she didn't really react. At least, Alphonse didn't notice anything out of place. So once more the two dogs and the suit of armor were left in silence, with nothing but the cascading songs of birds and small critters alike droning on in the background.
But, not everything is as calm as they appear to be.
"Stupid! IDIOT! That was your chance! He said those exact words…and you did NOTHING!"
"SHUT IT! I KNOW!"
"What exactly do you know then? A penny for your thoughts?"
"DAMN ALL OF THIS! I'M EFFING INSANE! HOW THE HELL AM I ARGUING WITH MY EFFING SELF!"
"How many times are you seriously going to think that?"
"EVERY EFFING DAY!"
I fumed quietly, sulking in the fields of the lush meadow just in sight of the household. Edward and Alphonse were going to spar soon, but I couldn't bring myself to watch them as I wallowed in my self- pity and rage. Why? Simple.
Al's comment and my initial, quiet shock hinted towards the basis of the problem.
"I don't really want them to know."
"But why?" Inner voice nagged, tugging at the loose end of the string.
Yes, why indeed. Why wouldn't I want them to know that I'm human? Isn't it supposed to be a good thing? Isn't it supposed to help me fulfill some damned deal?
"Isn't it obvious?" I gnashed my teeth together and shook my head sharply. I had constantly told myself that they needed to know. I couldn't back out now or else Lie would kill me! Why couldn't reasoning settle everything? What was wrong with me? This was a matter of life and death! How could I NOT do anything?
I froze in place. The gravity of my situation weighed heavily once more on my shoulders. The burdens chaining me to a fate I didn't want to follow, yet I needed to for survival.
"Yeah…I know…I'm afraid," I whimpered and my throat tightened, "I'm afraid of the shadows and nightmares, I'm afraid to change things, I'm afraid that I'll still die no matter what I do. And I'm afraid…I'm afraid…of the future and of… And of…"
"And of yourself."
My distressed gaze travelled to the crushed grass beneath my paws. There was nothing to stop the trembling of my legs.
"No, just shut up! I'm not scared of myself! Why would I be? Th- They're just nightmares! I can't believe in them!"
"Are they really just nightmares?"
"JUST STOP IT! STOP IT!" I growled ferociously, screaming frantically for my thoughts to shut up. That's when I let the canine instincts take over so that I didn't have to ponder anymore. It worked, thankfully. My jovial dog-self plunged forwards on overdrive; its eyes now engrossed on a direct line path though grassy fields. Soon enough I was scampering all over the land, chasing after any poor creature or any distraction I could get my hands – or paws – on. I let my state of mind slip into a frenzied blinded state. I couldn't trust my contemplations any longer. Tainted and fouled they were, polluted by the shadow's chilling tentacles within me.
For the most part, I was feeling inexplicably better by means of plain instincts. I didn't have to think anymore. I was consumed by an intangible substance, making my overthinking human mind dull drastically.
It was, I daresay, an unconceivable experience- like the one I dealt with when racing after Scar. In hindsight, it was that thing I had dubbed LCS (Lack of Common Sense). And even if it was corrupting for me to rely on, it protected my fragile mind from being soiled.
It was an escape from reality.
I blinked once.
What the hell happened?
A swift glance of my surroundings soon supplied me with one thing –fields of grass. Oh and look, some trees, power lines, small roads and random houses! Great.
I was lost.
My chest heaved in and out heavily like there'd be no tomorrow. My throat was parched beyond belief. My head was a constant motion of spinning or flailing. I was in no condition to be lost. LCS decided to make me worse for wear.
"Alrighty then! I'm lost. Or I think I'm lost. But whatever- I couldn't have ran too far now? I'll just search for the house and I'll be fine." Ha. Very funny. I laugh at my own stupidity. Apparently, the author of my life story just loves to mess with me. Imagine – my very own author writing to please an audience with my life. And I wonder how he or she pleases them? Heh…probably by putting me in every single damn situation that he or she sees fit. Lovely.
A whole freaking hour or so of wandering listlessly and resting either brought me that much closer or farther from my intended destination. "Stupid stupid author! Why make me effing lost in the first place?" I grumbled irritably.
"Because I can." Oh so that must be the lovely author making his or her appearance in my personal mind space. Well tell you what oh-amazing-author, SHUT IT! I'm crazy enough without any interference!
"Do you realize how weird your thoughts are?" Inner sneered at me. Yes I named inner voice Inner. I don't know why, perhaps I'll name it something else instead. But until then…
"Do I care? You're a part of this aren't you? I've already declared myself insane!" I snapped out loud. I could only take so much of myself. I hated it. If I wasn't able to get a decent conversation in with another person soon then-
We'll I'll leave that on my list of worries.
And yet another twenty or so minute passed by. The sun was already setting and I did not want to be out after dark. Not on my life. "Well then, I guess I can put my hiker skills to the ultimate test! Okay…so the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. The house would be…" I faltered.
I wasn't paying attention to where I was going and tripped over some hole in the ground.
"SHIT!" I yelped painfully when my face collided with the ground. I quickly recovered, but not before feeling pretty pathetic. "Yep, just me and my irritating self. And I still have to find the damn house!"
From then on I continued to wander, keeping a careful eye on the ground.
"OH MY SWEET FLUFFY PANCAKES! A LANDMARK THAT I RECOGNIZE!" I howled exuberantly, rushing towards the graveyard. Okay yeah, it may be a little odd – rushing to a graveyard of all things – but it just puts into perspective of how amiss I felt. Already the splay of warm colors that painted the sky were fading to twilight. I didn't have a long time until night.
"Alrighty! Yipee! I found a graveyard! Now what? I guess I follow the road up the hill or something."
"Hey – wait a second…Isn't this where Trina…Trisi…Trisha's grave is?"
"Yeah, I think it would be." I murmured. "Are you thinking what I'm thinking?"
Inner didn't reply, but I could feel curiosity tug at my whole being. Lured ever closer to the cemetery's entrance, not even my thoughts interrupted the eerie quiet. The grass was springy and cool beneath my paws at each step until I squeezed under a white picket fence. Abruptly, I realized that it was my first time I had been to a cemetery. I gulped. All those ghost stories and documentaries and horror movies were slinking expertly to the top of my mind.
"Don't be a wimp, Skylar. Find her grave already!" Inner hissed. I nodded my head obediently and concentrated on finding her name. I was lucky there was still light out, but I didn't have very much time. That is, until I remembered that Edward had visited the grave the day we arrived. That meant…
"It will have flowers!"
Heh. Mind blown.
I deliberately ran to the front of the cemetery before turning back and glancing around. There! I saw one grave, which was notably the only one with any flowers on it. My eyelids flickered momentarily. There it was, only yards away.
The grave of Trisha Elric, late mother of Edward and Alphonse.
I moved forwards little by little. The name and date carved into the tombstone were shadowed, but I could read them as clear as day. Once I was as close to the tomb as I dared, I sat down. What was a person to say? Well…from some books and other anime I learned that talking is the best way to go.
"Umm…Hi Trisha." I woofed uncertainly. "I wonder if you can understand me, since I'm a dog and all, but still. It's still nice to meet you. My name is Skylar Holmes! I guess you could say I'm a companion or friend of your boys. I also know that your husband is actually really good, and I know Ed and Al will learn that a little later. I'm sorry that you died, but I think you probably know it's a good – and bad- thing that you passed away so early. Do you know that your boys will save the entire population of Amestris? They'll be heroes with happy endings, so don't you worry!"
I grinned broadly as I mulled between what I wanted to say. "Also, I'll make sure to watch over them. They're actually really fun to be with, truth be told, and I've only been around for a week! I hope I become…stronger…while I'm with them. Maybe just a little…"
My thoughts trailed off. What else do I say? I glimpsed up at the sun before I had a minor panic attack, blended perfectly with a yelp of surprise. "SHIT! SO DARK ALREADY!"
My heart skipped a beat at the ironic timing. I jumped and spun around to see Alphonse, clad fully in his shiny suit of armor, running down the hill. I blinked. What was he doing here? What in God's name was he doing here of all places?
I blinked again before barking, "Alphonse?"
The suit of armor stopped in his tracks and turned to the sound of my voice. I couldn't help but stare when he made a sound of relief and started running over to where I was. When he finally was upon me I gave him a curious look.
"Cerium! There you are! What are you doing here girl? I was worried when you suddenly disappeared...Winry and Edward said not to worry, but still." Alphonse told her in a frenzied rush. He then crouched and extended his hand to pet her. She didn't retaliate but continued to stare at him, a little abashed. I worried him that much? His remark sent little fuzzies of warmth leaping in my heart. If it weren't for my canine state I'd glomp him right then and there. He was just too sweet!
"Thank you." I smiled warm and genuinely at him. "For looking for me, that is. I was a bit lost."
Al chuckled, before taking in his surroundings. "Why are you all the way over here?"
I waited a moment with baited breath. I had to push back any fears I had.
"I wanted to visit your mother." I responded timidly, glancing back at the tombstone. When my attention was back on Al, I could easily feel his surprise. I smiled weakly at him. The poor boy looked the tombstone, then back at me, then at the stone, then back at me, then at the stone, then back at me.
"B-But how? How would you...How did you...?" Alphonse struggled to find words to express his astonishment. It was clear there was no way to approach the topic without confusion. I sighed before turning back to the tombstone.
"Goodbye, Trisha Elric." I murmured quietly before twisting back around. I stared Alphonse in the eye, sighing as I did. "Let's go. You're confused, and hopefully I can explain it. But first we need Edward."
Alphonse examined me closely, regarding me with perceptive eyes. I grinned weakly before nudging his metal knee and pointing to the path he appeared from. His reaction was slow and thoughtful. The armor then nodded his head, acknowledging my decision. Twilight had already settled in, and my stomach dropped. I trotted cautiously at Al's side once we left the graveyard. I was vulnerable in the dark so I stuck as close as I could to Alphonse. The two of us walked in silence as we made our way to the house.
"Edward! I found Cerium!" Alphonse called after closing the door behind them. I shuffled in nervously, still able to feel Al's focus on me. It was a little unsettling, but I knew it was only instinctive for him - I also could tell he restrained himself a bit. He was such a great person. Seriously.
"See Al? What did I tell you?" Ed stepped into the room, stretching out his limbs nonchalantly. He smirked down at me. "So where've you been? No doubt you got scared of a little bunny and ran away, I'm I wrong?"
I shied away from his gaze, his sardonic comment did nothing to lift my anxiety. He noticed, was about to comment, but was interrupted by Alphonse.
"I found her by Mom's grave."
There was a pause. Both alchemists cast me some form of 'look'. There was palpable difference in Ed's demeanor though. My toes wiggled, fretful and uncomfortable at the attention. Damn it. I hated this. I hated it so freaking much. I avoided any eye contact. Even my stubborn and prideful self was quieted as the atmosphere got a little tense.
"W-what?" Ed sputtered incredulously.
"She wanted to visit Mom." The younger brother said softly.
Ed eyed Alphonse before scrutinizing me. I flinched, for lack of better words. I don't know what had happened to me. I felt so small, so frail. It was as if everything was turned upside down, because I truly didn't know what I should do. I was ashamed and guilty that I didn't tell them sooner. I was afraid that perhaps my being in Amestris was going to completely change everything. I didn't feel like myself.
"What do you mean?"
"What's going on?" Winry popped into the room. I bit out a hiss of frustration. No! I wasn't going to have a whole audience to my sob story! I shook my head roughly and dashed over to the blonde alchemist, grabbing hold of his shirt with me teeth and tugging.
"Come on, come on! Not here!" I growled through the mouthful of shirt. Ed, not being prepared was forcefully dragged in the direction of the stairs. It took a moment before he realized that I wanted him to follow. Goodness, some people are just slow.
"Alright! Let go already!" He snapped irritably. I snorted before letting go, but glared at him to make a point. He returned my glare with one of his own. I then gestured to the top of the stairs. I then faced Alphonse and repeated the gesture. The boys exchanged a glance with each other before walking towards the stairway.
"Hey, what happened?" Winry parroted, fussing a little at being ignored the first time.
"Um, well, it's nothing. I was just saying how I found Cerium." Al laughed half-heartedly, trying not to be rude. Winry lifted any eyebrow, not believing him, but said nothing. I raced up the steps and down the hall to Edward's room. The footfalls behind reassured me that the brothers were following suit.
I nudged open the door, pushed it in all the way, and entered. That's when my eyes roamed the entire expanse of the room. There had to be something, anything! I hurried towards the dresser and rose up on my haunches in a desperate hunt. After scanning the mostly smooth surface, I got down and searched every nook and crevice.
"Where is it? This won't turn out well without it!" I thought furiously.
"What are you looking for?" Alphonse asked from the doorway. I looked up to see both brothers staring at me in something akin to fascination and puzzlement.
"Chalk." I barked hastily. "I need chalk!"
Edward narrowed his eyes, and suddenly they widened as if coming to a conclusion.
"Cerium, can you understand us?"
I stared at him for a moment before nodding slowly.
"No…this is ridiculous…it isn't possible."
I snorted and shook my head again, disagreeing profusely.
"Ugh! Stop that! You're a dog, you can't be this smart!"
This time I glowered. This boy didn't understand the meaning of smart. If he did, he wouldn't be discovering that I could actually understand him this late in the time I've been with him! The worst part though was his evident denial that such a thing was possible! Well clearly he should just have a little more imagination in that air-head of his! "Just give me some damn chalk!"
"Brother, I think she wants something to communicate with." Alphonse suggested, taking everything in calmly. My focus was then immediately on the suit of armor and I nodded my head frantically.
"Bu-But Al! How the hell is a dog so smart?" Edward snapped, irritated at his lack of knowledge of me.
"Shut up!" I yapped at Ed before giving my complete attention to Al once more. "Do you have chalk? Chalk!"
There was no mistaking the moment of understanding between all three of them in the room. It was as if God hand wrapped that one message and sent it out for all the world to understand. It was perhaps, the most relieving thing for me. Although I hate the author who writes my life story, I can't help but be thankful for his or her consideration for what I truly wanted.
Which was to be understood.
"Chalk. She wants chalk." Edward whispered unobtrusively, if not dubious. It was strange; he didn't know how to believe his own words. How was it that they were able to understand her? It had indeed happened a few times before – but nothing to this extent. Before, I could only communicate on whim or such, but I had just purposefully communicated exactly what I wanted.
"Yeah…Here, I'll be right back." Alphonse said quickly. Ed and I were alone in the room for an awkward minute. I think he was shocked, but I wondered what his reaction would be once he learned the truth.
Al returned almost as quickly as he left, bringing with him a wonderful thick piece of chalk. I don't know whether seeing the white stick caused my stomach to suddenly turn or if it was the fact that I wasn't exactly sure what to right – but at that point it didn't really matter.
I was just flat out nervous.
"Here, I got you this." Alphonse said cheerily, masking whatever he felt. His armor glove reached out and held the chalk for me. I took a deep breath. There was no running away. No matter my fears, no matter my worries, I needed to do this. And so I stretched my neck forwards, slightly opening my mouth until the delicate stick was placed securely in it. I clamped my teeth down gently, determined not to break the chalk.
The next thing I knew, I scanned the area for the largest space on the wood flooring. My eyes flickered up at the lamp that Edward turned on. My heart pounded the drums of my ears, until I heard nothing else.
"It's now or never. Do it." Inner said utterly calm. I took in a shaky breath before lowered my muzzle and scrawled the first words on the floor.
AN: Dun dun dunnnnn! Evil cliffy! But no worries, you shall only wait until next Friday for an update! Because I will make it official: Thursday nights- Fridays are going to be update days! No more month long waits (hehe, sorry about that!) Oh btw this monster of a chapter took an effing long time, so please ENJOY IT! It's 3:33 am, and me and my awesome friend/beta are dog-tired LOLS. And that brings me to another thing:
I said that Skylar's having a cat fight with herself. But Rachel (beta) pointed out that she's a dog. ROFL! ...excuse my lameness :3 I'm tired.
Anyways, any ideas on what Skylar should name her inner voice? Inner is pretty plain...
Also, what happened to Amaya (her little sister from the prologue)? What are the boys going to do? Why is Skylar afraid of herself? What are her nightmares about? Will Edward fall in love with a dog? Or even Al? (MWAHAHA! Sorry guys- romance probably won't be in this story unless Skylar magically gets her body back...IF she gets it back. ... I won't give out any spoilers, so enjoy the questions!)
And a special thank you to Rachel (PureBlackMoon) for being my awesome fuzzy friend/beta, LeFay Strent for being a large inspiration for this chapter, and for AngelicFluffe because she's just an awesome motivater!
And finally, thank you all that have followed/favorited/and(or) reviewed! It just makes the world go round!