The Silent Heart
Memory of the Enamored
- mirage -
Hohenheim returned to Resembool on a warm August Tuesday evening. Away from the farmhouse for several months he was eager to see his wife and children, and felt robbed when early Wednesday Trisha left for an errand.
"Trisha, I've only just gotten back," he said, following her to the door vexed with her willingness to separate when time together was so precious.
Trisha stepped out into the bright afternoon sun carrying three year old Alphonse on her hip. She glanced back with a happy smile and said, "I will be quick."
She was only in her mid twenties, and even after two boys retained her figure. Motherhood had not squelched the soaring spirit of her youthful girlish self. From a waist as wide as Hohenheim's bicep she had grown two smaller bodies on two separate occasions, and standing in the summer breeze holding her large brimmed hat to her head, she looked cheerfully fearless.
"Don't worry," she reassured. "I am taking Alphonse with me." Alphonse was in sandals, a tiny pair of shorts, and a sleeveless shirt almost as long. About the boy's head was a bucket hat he kept pulling off and Trisha kept replacing. She wanted the boy out of the sun, and had explained earlier last year too much made the boys ill. Laughing, she had blamed him. "It's your fair hair and skin they inherited," she had teased. "They burn and bruise like little bananas."
"I don't want Alphonse to catch it," Trisha said. "The boys are nearly inseparable, and until I find out what's going on, I don't need both of them sick." That morning Ed had not wanted to eat his breakfast and Trisha said this was unusual because she had made porridge and honey, and Edward loved porridge and honey. When Edward threw up approaching noon she put him down for a nap, grabbed her hat, and started heading for the door with Alphonse waddling along behind her. Things could not have been more extreme for Hohenheim if she had strapped on a life jacket and hopped the side of a ship.
"What do you mean by your phrase, what's going on?" Hohenheim asked, catching the front screen door after Trisha passed through. There was no premeditation, or aligned plan following the spontaneity of human illness. They suffered the weakness of their genetics, and were constantly at odds with their environmental elements and disease. Trisha's suggestion there was some higher order to Edward burping up the contents of his stomach, was universal madness. "I am sure there is nothing going on," he said. His son's illness was inconsequential to the order of everything.
"You might be right," Trisha said, pausing and looking back. She stood on the quaint front path weeding through the lawn to the front steps. On her hip Alphonse pulled his hat from the side of his head and dropped it into the lawn with distaste. Trisha sighed heavily and stooped down. "It might just be heat sickness." She snatched Alphonse's hat and fit it back to his little blonde head. "The boys were outside all day yesterday." She began leaving, one loving hand firmly on top of Alphonse's head as he pulled at his hat. "Stay with him!" She called back. "I'll see what the doctor can give me."
"Trisha, I am under qualified," Hohenheim argued. She laughed a light happy sound as she passed the mailbox. It appeared practical that their roles should be reversed, and he should travel into town, and she should stay at home as she was raising the boys and he was not. She knew where everything was kept, understood the whiny nearly incomprehensible language the boys sometimes spoke, and was familiar with their mannerisms and behavior. These things eluded Hohenheim. The time he spent away from the farmhouse was significant, and this made him a stranger, and rendered him less effective. Wanting to waste as little time as possible Trisha concluded she would be more effective.
Resembool's pediatrician did not know Hohenheim the way he knew Trisha Elric, and would see her quickly, and understand her description of her son. It was likely she could slip in between appointments, and hold a few minutes of conversation to receive a diagnosis, and she would do this after efficiently locating the man's office which had moved since Hohenheim's last visit.
Hohenheim felt as displaced by the town as he did by his own house, and Trisha understood this, perhaps before he did. She decided quickly, and without discussion, that she was going.
"Ed, will probably sleep the entire time I am gone," Trisha said. She made it to the long dirt road and gave him a cheerful wave. "But don't worry," she called back, "if he wakes up cranky, you'll know what to do!"
Hohenheim was stunned with her inaccuracy, and stood in contemplative silence. He watched Alphonse manage to push the hat down the side of his face before Trisha corrected it. "I will not!" he called to her. He certainly would not know what to do with Ed if he became cranky, and he certainly did not know what to do with the boy while disease stricken.
Trisha only laughed again, as if he were teasing her, and continued on her way. It would take her twenty minutes to reach the Rockbell's where Pinako's son was going to take her into town.
Hohenheim shut the front door feeling slighted such a trivial and domestic predicament rendered him so unskilled.
The farm house they built was modest, the kitchen small, living room decent and with a fire place. There was a study for him, and a small mud room Trisha used for gardening in the spring. The upstairs was far more humble with only three rooms: the master bedroom, single second bedroom, and upstairs full bath. Trisha had helped built the house in shorts too small for society, and a shirt just as tight. There were many nights while, with hammer in hand or paint brush still wet, he would catch her stretching up to reach something, bending over to get something, or struggling with something too heavy, and ambush her. She would break out laughing. Sometimes she would run playfully from him, swatting at his advances, until they were together on the floor. They made love often, and she clung to his body, to his form made of bloodshed and human anguish, like it were that of any other human. She was pregnant with Edward before they even had the roof on.
Trisha left with her eldest asleep upstairs in the twin bed the boys shared. Using a modest budget Trisha had tried to turn their tiny bedroom into a child's place. Painting it a light blue, she fit a white trim to frame the bottom half of the walls and dotted fish shapes about with a sponge. The single bed, dresser, and end table she painted white to match the trim, and over time had managed almost an entirely blue set of sheets. Two of the pillows had floral shams, the original sheet set to the master bedroom, but for the most part Hohenheim was impressed with her. The boys' room radiated of her dedication to the children, and it warmed his heart.
Over every absence he observed, he returned to find subtle improvements making the wooden structure they had nailed together more of a home.
Trisha had sewn new white pillows for their sole wicker couch. With no funds for finer items and living in Resembool without access to them, she was resilient. Like a bird toiling to craft its nest she was determined to decorate. Somehow without instruction she had crafted three picture frames out of twigs, and because photos were expensive, pressed a bright white flower inside each of them to match her pillows.
Edward slept for only the first forty five minutes of Trisha's absence, and Hohenheim was in the living room holding Trisha's largest homemade frame when Ed called out a small but purposeful, "Mom!" He replaced it and left to the boy.
Hohenheim stepped into the boys' doorway and Ed's expression tightened miserably when Hohenheim answered in Trisha's stead. Ed was sitting in bed half asleep with his hair a puff about his tiny fever stricken head, and his cheeks as red as tomatoes. On sight of Hohenheim he rocked his body with ornery distress and his right shoulder slipped free from the tee shirt he was wearing. It looked suspiciously like one of Trisha's old ones and was almost a dress on the boy's small body. In an angry whining tone Ed said only, "I want mom."
"Edward, your mother had to step out," Hohenheim explained calmly. Trisha had described Edward's body as a furnace, and Hohenheim found this accurate. Ed was so full of color the boy looked like an oil painting. "She will be back shortly."
Ed turned to the discarded teddy bear in his bed and snatched its leg. Beginning a soft whine he dragged it to himself and hugged tightly before croaking out a soft, "Where is she?"
"Out." Ed pressed his face into the top of the bear's head. "She will be back shortly," Hohenheim repeated. It now seemed logical to him Edward should return to sleep and patiently wait for his mother. Instead, Ed uprooted his head, threw the bear off the side of the bed, and vomited abruptly.
The force of it bent Ed forward, and Hohenheim stepped forward with surprise.
Ed recovered quickly. He sat upright in a straight backed position, extended his vomit covered hand as if repulsed, and broke into tears. After two pitiful, but rather loud sobs, words came, and Ed was crying for his mother.
"Edward, your mother is not home," Hohenheim said, approaching the bed. Always with the children he needed direction. What seemed to come naturally to Trisha was not natural for him, and he told this to her honestly. He did not remember the sensation of what it meant to be human. To grow hungry, to grow tired, or to need the way humans needed. Her faith in his caretaking was the only black mark in her parenting. "Darling, you're being too hard on yourself." She refuted his claims. "Stop trying to figure out what to do and you'll realize you know what to do."
With Edward crying Hohenheim felt destined to walk this path of uncertainty until the children became entities that could both communicate and care for themselves.
Hohenheim grabbed Edward's tee shirt from behind and quickly stripping it over the boy's head. It caught the vomit like a bib. Wearing nothing but tiny shorts Ed silenced to consider himself, before thrusting his wet hand towards Hohenheim and continuing to cry.
"Yes Ed, just give…me…" Hohenheim looked around for a clothing hamper, and hesitated to throw the soiled shirt on the floor before doing so. "Okay son." He bent down and wiped Ed's hand clean with the sheets and Ed pushed himself to his feet. Still crying Ed took three wobbly steps to Hohenheim's torso and flopped onto the man's shoulder and hugged.
Trisha was always hugging the children. She said a hug was a tiny gift. Learning from her the boys were growing up in a world where hugging was common, they hugged each other, and hugged Hohenheim as well.
When Edward latched onto Hohenheim with strength that seemed unsuitable for a child it didn't comfort Hohenheim as Trisha said it was supposed to, it pained him. He felt foreign, uncomfortable, and next to useless in the house he had built and with the family he had made. To get to this day he had stolen the lives of hundreds, surrendered much more to the dwarf, and witnessed atrocities that would turn any human against him. Edward's shameless affection for him was salt on a puss filled wound. To have something of selfless absolute purity want only kind attention from his hideous unworthy self was almost more than he could handle. He knew his visits to the farmhouse were becoming shorter and shorter, and the very idea he tried to ignore, was that one day he may simply not return. He did not know how, and in many ways, did not know if he could explain how, it was emotionally crippling for him to come. The guilt, self deception, and pure and undeniable self loathing was too much.
Hohenheim struggled under the hug of a four year old. His hands clenched, and for a moment he was aware of nothing but the slow release of breath from his lungs. Then Edward continued vomiting. Ed retched once, and spilled a small river of stomach bile over Hohenheim's right shoulder and arm.
Hohenheim looked at his soiled sleeve with distaste. "Edward, please, warn me before you continue this," he said. Ed was distressed with his vomit, and whining, began rubbing his hand about in his hair.
Hohenheim carefully lifted Ed into his left arm and stepped back from the bed. He wanted to cuddle the boy while he had the chance. Edward was growing increasingly fussy and often did not want to stop playing to be held. When he did, late in the evening, he only wanted Trisha, and cried if Hohenheim tried to stand in for his mother.
It was guilty pleasure that Hohenheim enjoyed Edward's fatigue and fever. Feeling sick Ed did not want to play, and his desire to be held was enough he would seek it from his absentee father.
With great care Hohenheim pet his hand through Ed's fuzz of hair and marveled at his son. Edward's human form was less in mass than a sack of potatoes, but inside his small growth was every complex organ, blood vessel, and atom needed for a single person. All of the elements were correctly arranged and fully functional, so that at the age of four Edward could speak, coordinate, operate memory, recognize objects, and own all the emotions every human was granted with.
"You are much sicker than your mother thought, hm?" Hohenheim asked, unbuttoning his dress shirt. "She thought it was heat sickness, but it appears a bit more."
Hohenheim shed his soiled collared shirt, switching Ed from one arm to the other. Ed was cooperative, somehow understanding the motions and task, and kept himself curled to whichever shoulder Hohenheim set him.
After delivery, Edward had grown from the size of a fat eggplant, to a summer squash in just two months. Ed was not the first human Hohenheim had seen born, and Hohenheim was certain Ed would not be the last, but Ed was the first human to belong to him. The night the boy came into the world Pinako had set Ed's blanked body into Hohenheim's spread palms and slapped his shoulder grinning. "Look at that," she had said smiling, "You got a healthy baby boy." And that was the truth of it. After decades he had suddenly gained possession of another life form. In his hands was a blank slate, but rather than excitement came fear when he envisioned what might leach from him to be etched there. He was not ready to hold a mirror, and quickly handed the infant to Trisha's weak and sweat drenched arms.
Trisha fell in love with Edward at first sight. With her eyes barely open, and her breath slow and heavy, she slipped her finger into Edward's tiny fist and cried with joy when he took hold of it.
The moment Edward left her body she became a mother, and simultaneously he became a father. A defining human milestone in Trisha's life was sealed, and Hohenheim suddenly felt a spectator at her side. She would now exist and perish in her role, but he would not. He had made an entity from his body, but it would grow, age, and die, and rotting slowly he would still be living.
Within a cherished event the unexpected separation from life was almost startling, and Hohenheim found himself shaken to his knees as a novice because he lacked the single defining characteristic that crafted a parent: human nature. He was untrained and barren of the navigation that filled Trisha the night Edward left her. The scientific explanation: anthropogenesis mystery. She, as a human, understood the infant, and he, being no longer a human, could not.
It was a cold and divisive understanding. For all that mankind had unraveled, the sum of centuries of pioneering discovery and resulting instructional blueprints, Edward came with none.
"How neglectful of your ever vigilant mother to leave you with an unskilled oaf like me," Hohenheim teased Ed, giving his son a wide smile.
Ed was not old enough to grasp the joke. His bottom lip was wobbling and his eyes were filled with tears, but still he cried a whiny, "Yeah" in agreement.
"Now, do you still feel ill?" Hohenheim asked. Ed was sniffling and turned his face into Hohenheim's arm before mumbling a miserable and ill sound of discontent "Edward?" To Hohenheim Ed appeared drunk with sickness. He was struggling to keep his own head steady. "Edward, I know you may feel unwell, but I still expect you to answer me." Hohenheim tried to be clear with the children. He did not agree with the lax and almost inaccurate language and sentence structure Trisha used when communicating with the boys.
"Can I have my bear?" Ed whined, reaching toward the bed where it lay.
"What?" Hohenheim asked, understanding only two useless words. He thought his sons in many ways sounded like little girls, and when he told Trisha this she had laughed so hard she nearly slipped from her chair. She said they sounded like angels, and when they grew to understand the world they would sound like men. "There's no need to worry," she had said laughing. "I promise."
Trisha often thought there was no need to worry, and Hohenheim found it frustrating she immediately understood so many situations which confused him.
Ed did not have it in him to ask for his bear a second time, and when Hohenheim did not move to retrieve it, he broke back into tears. Hohenheim carried Ed from his bedroom to the upstairs lavatory with growing alarm Edward's human body was reaching a temperature that might damage it. As they traveled from the bear, Ed became worse, and kicked and cried loudly. He reached back over Hohenheim's shoulder speaking, what sounded to Hohenheim, to be gibberish.
"Edward, I am growing a bit worried about your temperature," Hohenheim said, ignoring the boy's wailing. He entered the tiny lavatory and opened the medicine cabinet. It was just a hair lopsided because they were not carpenters, and had no experience affixing it to the wall. They hung it above their pedestal sink and only a toilet's distant from their claw foot tub, which was much nicer than anything they should have been able to afford. Together with Trisha four months pregnant they had tiled the floor and half way up the walls in white, and since Hohenheim had last visited, Trisha had finished the room with a faint lavender paint.
Hohenheim opened the medicine cabinet with Ed bawling on his shoulder and looked at the contents. There were pill bottles, a few lotions and ointments, and several medicinal tonics that appeared foreign to him. Hohenheim lifted a large brown bottle and read the front. The name was unrecognizable and he scanned it for ingredients and found none. "Edward, what is this?" He showed the bottle to the boy and Ed looked at it, still reaching toward his bedroom, before quickly covering his mouth and shaking his head as he continued to cry. Whatever it was, Edward disagreed, and Hohenheim replaced it. "What does your mother give you if you have a fever?" Hohenheim laid his hand in Edward's hair and felt the boy's warmth. It seemed too great.
"Can I have my bear!" Ed cried, leaning back in Hohenheim's arms to look at the man. "Can I have my bear! Can I have it? My bear?"
"I can't understand a near word of that," Hohenheim confessed. He doubted Ed could understand him either, but the boy seemed to and covered his eyes with his hands while crying. "Ed, I need you to indicate what medicine you are familiar with."
"I want mom!" Ed sobbed, and Hohenheim understood this clearly. The boys always wanted their mother. "Where is mom?"
Hohenheim gave Ed's crying face a disapproving look. "I am sure if you take a moment to think about your question, you will find you already know the answer to that Ed." He did not think the boy was paying attention to him.
"When is she coming back?" Ed cried. "When is mom coming back? I want her!" Hohenheim found Ed's foggy comprehension sabotaging. He could not gauge their successful communication with it constantly jeopardized and he frowned at the boy. Sometimes Ed surprised him, and sometimes Ed disappointed him, but the only certain fact, was that the boy was unpredictable. "Where did she go! I want her to come home!"
"She went to the doctor."
"Is she sick!" Ed's expression bled over with panic. "Like me!"
"No, she's just fine. Now will you show me." Hohenheim pointed to the open medicine cabinet.
Ed looked at it. His face was wet with tears, but he seemed capable of functioning while continuing to cry.
Immediately Ed reached in to a cup holding four toothbrushes and offered one to Hohenheim while continuing to whine. Hohenheim obliged, and Ed reached back into the cabinet and took one of the two smaller ones and said, "That is yours."
Hohenheim looked at the toothbrush in his hand with surprise. It was his toothbrush. Trisha had kept it, and more, Edward knew it was his. Left inside the cup was one large and one small toothbrush: Trisha's and Alphonse's. Slowly, Hohenheim stroked his thumb over the small nickel-plated brass body and into the felt top. He was touched that this tiny insignificant brush was still within the medicine cabinet as if he belonged.
Ed lifted his brush towards Hohenheim's face to show him and sniffled heavily before saying, "Mine is red." Trisha had done something to try and change the color of Ed's brush, and it looked suspiciously as if she had soaked it in wine. Hohenheim took it and sniffed the felt top. He hoped it had occurred to her it would be unhealthy for the boy, but Ed broke back into tears when his toothbrush was taken away and cried out, "That one is mine!"
"No," Hohenheim said, sitting both toothbrushes back into the cup. He imitated one of Trisha's core parenting techniques as she had taught him using the equation We-Are-Not-Doing + Activity + now. "We are not brushing our teeth now," Hohenheim said firmly. "Now show me the medication your mother gives you for fevers." Ed lifted a hand and pressed his hand to his forehead and Hohenheim understood Ed was grasping the concept of a fever. "Yes, now show me." He was becoming rather impatient. "Edward?"
"What?" Ed whined.
"Are you listening to me?"
Ed nodded unsteadily while looking very confused. "Yes."
"Then do as I say." Ed did not seem to understand what was being asked of him and leaned his head into Hohenheim's shoulder whining.
"I don't feel good," Ed said. "I want my bear and I want mom to come home."
"Edward, if you don't know what medicine your mother gives you, I want you to tell me so I can prepare accordingly," Hohenheim said, letting a hint of anger enter his voice. "I will not be as lenient with you as your mother," he warned.
Trisha had explained that she had begun to discipline the boys the last time he visited. Downstairs in the kitchen, near the cabinet with the bran, was a poorly painted stool. It was an old milking stool, low to the ground, and so worn it was likely obtained for free. Trisha explained that when the boys were disobedient she made them sit on the stool until she decided they could get up. Hohenheim found this entire concept confusing, and did not understand why sitting in a specific chair would be overly upsetting to his children. Trisha had assured him it was, and promised he would agree if he could bear witness. On his last visit he had seen the boys experience the stool.
Edward was first, yanking a wooden toy from Alphonse when it was taken without Ed's permission and clobbering the boy in the face with it. Trisha had snapped at Ed as soon as Alphonse began crying and ordered him to the stool. Hohenheim was surprised with how resistant Ed was. Rather than obey he tried to run, and Trisha had to pull him to it and sit him on it. Trisha gave Edward a full minute on the stool and he cried the entire time.
Hohenheim told Trisha he thought this manner of discipline was ridiculous. He explained his thoughts over dinner, saying, "You have to understand Trisha, you've been rather secluded in this town, and the rest of the world has exhibited rather specific guidelines as to the proper way to discipline boys." Trisha said she found it rather presumptuous of the world to assume it knew better than Edward and Alphonse's own mother.
Hohenheim was speechless.
Alphonse was second in the chair, after repeatedly playing on the stairs. Trisha warned the boy several times before telling him to go to the chair. Alphonse was angry and threw his toys in route to the stool before sitting on it. Alphonse also received one minute, and again Hohenheim had objected. "You need to at least make the time frame significant."
Trisha assured him it was significant enough. "They are only children. A minute of life is a lot for them." She boasted the boys took their punishment serious, but Hohenheim was skeptical. He set the minimum at ten minutes, and she did not argue. She was a clever woman and after marrying a scientist and alchemist had learned she needed proof to win her arguments. She called to Ed, and when he arrived, with his arms full of wooden dinosaurs; she asked him if he remembered spitefully kicking Alphonse that morning. Ed admitted he did, without any concern he might be indicting himself. However, when Trisha asked Ed if he thought he needed to sit on the stool and think about how not to kick his brother, Ed nearly lost it. With Ed whining protests and shaking his head with his eyes full of tears, Trisha gave Hohenheim what she called 'the look' to indicate how she was right. "Your father is not happy with you Ed," Trisha scolded kindly. Hohenheim was surprised Trisha included him, and stared back at his son when Ed looked to him with wide eyes of uncertainty. "You need to convince him your behavior will improve." Ed tried at once. Hugging his dinosaurs he explained, in a child's way, that he had apologized to Alphonse already, and so did not need to sit on the stool.
Although it seemed rather senseless to Hohenheim, he had to agree, for some reason the children responded to the discipline Trisha had crafted for them. He conceded, and told her he would not ignore fact, but he also would not change his mind. He told her clearly, "When the boys disobey me, I will warn them of the ramifications and they can choose to invite or avoid the consequences. Then I will carry out what I see as fit." She agreed. She respected his role as their father.
Edward was visibly upset with Hohenheim's stern voice, but no more obedient. Without being certain Edward was deliberately defying him Hohenheim conceded. He took the tabby cloth hung along side the sink for the boys and wet it. He pressed it to the back of Ed's neck and carried the crying boy downstairs.
"I'll read you a book while we wait for your mother, how does that sound Ed?" Ed whined out an unintelligible sentence about a bear.
Hohenheim ignored it. He returned to the living room and took a seat on the wicker couch. Last night when he arrived he had tossed his leather briefcase on the middle cushion and it was still there. On the third cushion and the rug were the toys the boys were playing with last night as well. They were speechless when he returned home, and Alphonse was frightened. Trisha said Alphonse was often afraid of tall people, and not to take offense. She had taken the boys upstairs and put them to bed. When she returned she went to the kitchen to make tea for them, but he assaulted her mid task. They made love against the counter and again on the table. Bits of flour from the day's baking flecked into Trisha's hair, but the entire time she was smiling.
Hohenheim settled on the couch Ed curled his limbs into a fetal position that allowed Hohenheim to imagine the boy in Trisha's womb. Ed was utterly exhausted with his illness, and sat slumped into Hohenheim's lap with barely any movement. In many ways Ed felt like a small bag of flour and looked utterly intoxicated. His face was flushed, and he watched Hohenheim miserably with tired eyes.
Hohenheim lifted the children's book of rhymes from the couch but Ed shoved it away. Smiling, Hohenheim set it back in the pile of stray blocks and choose a hard cover story book. Ed immediately pushed this book away as well. "Would you like to hear one of your father's books Ed?" Hohenheim asked. He reached to his briefcase and unclasped it with his right hand. His left remained cradled Ed's irritable self. "I have a few with me." He took two of his leathered books to his lap, and Ed grabbed at them. "Would you like to hear philosophy or science?"
The first book was engraved with a fine raised emblem and Ed scrubbed it curiously in sloppy passes before speaking. "Can I have my bear?"
Hohenheim tucked Ed's bangs back with affection. Edward had taken after his hair, and it was thin but somehow brighter. "Edward," he said softly. "Do you miss me when I am away?" He felt wounded asking this question, and foolish for fearing a child's honesty. Ed twisted his expression up with frustration and shoved the second book away from the one with the emblem. "Ed?" Hohenheim pressed. "Answer me."
Ed shook his head and peeled back the first book's cover. "No," Ed's tone was angry, even while sick.
"I don't care," Ed snapped, slapping past the introduction and table of contents. Hohenheim smiled with the disagreeable attitude his son was capable of. With Edward aggravated, he wasn't sure what the boy truly thought of his absence, but it seemed to be taking Ed longer and longer to warm up to his visits.
"I miss you when I am away Ed."
"I didn't—I don't care." Ed fussed.
"You know when I am away, I never truly forget you." This was the best Hohenheim could explain it. Time had a way of being meaningless and therefore infinite. What felt like a year might be a decade, and what felt like a decade might be a month. Endless life meant you were subjected into life as the external variable, you could never be apart of it. Edward seemed proof of this. Trisha was continuing to age, from a young girl to near a woman, and Edward was changing shape rapidly because Edward was not external. Trisha and the kids were internal, a place he could never go.
Hohenheim pet his hand off the side of Ed's head and toward the boy's ear. It was no larger than a pretzel and he tugged the top cartilage down playfully. Ed slapped him off and whined before attempting to push the book onto the floor.
Hohenheim grabbed the leather cover before Ed succeeded and returned it to their laps. "Let's read this one," Hohenheim said. Ed slouched down and closed his eyes with fatigue. Hohenheim turned the pages to his marker, and read Ed four pages on famous philosophical ethics, before Trisha returned.
Trisha entered with Alphonse toddling in behind her. She held the door for him, and Alphonse threw his bucket hat to the floor as soon as he could. "Go to the sink so mommy can help you wash your hands Alphonse," Trisha said.
Ed bolted up with sound of Trisha's voice and twisted around in Hohenheim's lap to see into the kitchen. From the moment Ed heard Trisha, he was committed. He reached for her, raising his voice to a pitch Hohenheim found surprising for one so ill, and cried for her.
Trisha was in route to the kitchen carrying a small paper bag, and stopped, as if startled, with Ed's cry. She turned to the living room and looked surprised to see Hohenheim with Ed cradled in his lap. "What happened?" she asked.
Ed broke into tears the minute she looked his way, and she went quickly and scooped him up.
"He woke himself," Hohenheim explained. "He was vomiting."
Trisha hugged Ed tight and he was crying on her shoulder. With news of his vomiting she laid her hand on Ed's forehead. "He still feels warm." Hohenheim offered her the cold rag had used on Ed's neck and she took it and left for the stairs.
"Wait mom!" Alphonse cried, running after her with his hands raised. "My hands are dirty!"
Trisha paused briefly at the foot of the stairs and looked to Alphonse. He had abandoned his sandals and was barefoot in his summer clothes. "Go to your father, he'll wash them," she said, before heading up.
Hohenheim felt abandoned when he lost Ed and Trisha left with such purpose. With this announcement he looked towards Alphonse at the same time the boy looked towards him. Alphonse's expression disappeared into a blank stare as if Hohenheim were an unusual, and almost, unwelcomed presence in the house. The single year of life separating the boys was enough to make Alphonse unable to secure his memories of Hohenheim as tightly as Ed, and so his father was more of a stranger.
"I don't want to," Alphonse whined softly, taking a step back. Trisha was still ascending the stairs. "Mom!" Alphonse raced after her. "I don't want to! I want you to do it!" Hohenheim followed and everyone arrived in the upstairs lavatory.
Trisha's went directly to the medicine cabinet with Ed whining into her shoulder and Alphonse hugging her left leg. She retrieved a thermometer and Hohenheim felt foolish. He had not thought to check Ed's temperature even though it had been centuries since man first gained the devise to do so.
Trisha leaned back to look at Ed. He was in tears and hanging tight to her. "Ed, we're taking your temperature, open up." Ed opened his mouth obediently and Trisha set the glass stick inside before looking down when Alphonse reached up and pulled at the skirt of her dress.
"My hands are dirty!" Alphonse cried, raising them up for her to see. Alphonse's left palm had a large scuff of dirt from where he had tripped and caught himself.
"Okay, wait one second for me Al," Trisha said sweetly. She went to the claw foot bathtub and knelt down. She turned the water on with Alphonse looking over the edge and Ed clinging to her. Immediately Ed began talking, and took the thermometer out of his mouth to do so. Trisha guided it back inside with instruction to be silent.
Alphonse reached into the running water playfully. "Are we taking a bath?" Alphonse asked happily. "Can I have a bath?" He took his wet hands from the tub and pulled at his shirt. "I want a bath mom!"
"Alphonse, it's time for your nap, so you're not taking a bath."
Hohenheim watched the scene unfold like the bystander to a house fire. He could sense that Trisha was trying to do much at once, but was not certain of what her tasks included. She appeared a bit overwhelmed, with one child on either side of her, and Ed feeling ill, but seemed to have temporarily forgotten he was there. She was acting as she did every day he was absent: like a single parent. She was a sole crusading mother, and all that happened was her responsibility, and all that the boys needed was up to her to provide. She forgot about him as a resource, and if in any acknowledging facet remembered him, wrote him off as useless for the moment. He could not care for his sick son, and Alphonse was afraid of him. His sparse visits were not a residence, and even now, his spectator role seemed that of a traveler, for in the end, he was always leaving.
"Ed is taking a bath, and you are taking a nap," Trisha announced. Ed did not want to take a bath, and Alphonse did not want to take a nap. Immediately both began protesting and Trisha guided Ed off her hip to stand along side the tub and stood up with Alphonse. "Edward, I have to put your brother to bed, be a big boy for mommy and stay here." Ed began whining complaints, and Trisha reached down and grabbed the thermometer bouncing about in his mouth to steady it. "Shh," she whispered, leaning into his face. "No talking while we are taking our temperature. Now, go potty and I will be right back."
Trisha was leaving the room, and it felt abrupt to Hohenheim. He looked between her, Ed, and the filling tub. It did not seem that everything in the lavatory had been completed. "Can he attend to himself?" Hohenheim asked, turning to Trisha as she passed him. Upon his last visit, Ed could not.
"He thinks he can," Trisha teased. For the moment, his last date home escaped her. She forgot, with the children as her first priority, and her mind temporarily consumed with their needs, that for Hohenheim there was a lapse of understanding like a black hole between the winter and summer where he stayed the same, but the farmhouse did not.
Hohenheim followed Trisha to the boys' bedroom. Trisha was moving at an uncharacteristic speed. One with far less care and attention then she normally practiced. Hohenheim found this unsettling. It implied, relentlessly, that there was much to be done, and that he was standing without a single thing to do while she tried to manage.
Trisha sat Alphonse in his bed, and he was still whining about his dirty hands. He was not happy he had to nap and adamant he wanted to take a bath with Ed. In a small child voice he was whining a poorly annunciated defense before realizing he was not alone with his mother. Hohenheim was a cork to Alphonse's speech, and the boy silenced and stared wearily at the tall stranger in their house.
"What can I do to help?" Hohenheim asked.
"I am not sure," Trisha said, trying to answer. She opened the boys' narrow dresser and grabbed a tiny pair of shorts for Ed. "For the moment nothing."
"Trisha," Hohenheim argued.
"You can," Trisha was struggling, "…you can get Ed in the tub?" Trisha posed this more as a question than a task. The children were becoming independent beings and now had opinions where before they sat where you put them, and did what you instructed. As much as Trisha seemed unsure Hohenheim was capable of bathing Ed, she was unsure if her son would be comfortable with his father doing so. "I am sorry," she said quickly, lowering her tone and making it intimate. She had yet to ever apologize for the black hole, and the fact that, for the first time in her life, he was no longer the most important thing. She realized it as Hohenheim did, with her holding a tiny pair of underwear and their children in two separate rooms. She was speaking as the mother of his children, but also as his wife, and he heard her.
I am sorry I can not be only for you.
Hohenheim left for the lavatory feeling annoyed he was underestimated. He would not entertain anything else she addressed while he was visiting. Whether this life here was changing without him yet again, as life with a running clock always seemed to, he was not ready to let go the way one was not ready to relinquish their possessions. No, not yet.
When he returned Ed was standing in front of the open toilet pulling his boxers up from his thighs to his waist. Hohenheim paused with confusion, before understanding Ed was not making use of the fly to his shorts and instead moving them much like the other gender. He immediately disagreed with this, and looked to Trisha who was returning from the boys' room.
"Trisha you have to at least teach them like boys."
"I am," Trisha said, sounding confused. "But you need to be patient," she said sweetly. "For fine motor control." She was teasing him, but he did not understand the joke. He was not home to watch the boys color fisting crayons, or see Alphonse toss half of everything off his plate as he learned to use his spoon.
Trisha entered the lavatory quickly and turned the tub water off. "Okay Ed, look at me." Ed obeyed flawlessly, and Trisha took his thermometer and read it. "This is not right." She sounded disappointed. "No matter what I do it's nearly impossible to get an accurate reading. I just can't keep him from opening his mouth." She set the thermometer on the edge of the sink and took a single tonic bottle from the paper shopping bag she'd deposited inside it. "It makes me so nervous."
"Why not sit him on your lap and hold his mouth closed," Hohenheim suggested.
Trisha gave a brief skeptical laugh, and glanced up while struggling with the bottles cork. Her gaze was warm, and in her eyes he could see that she missed him. "Can you give me the Horse Eye Dropper in the medicine cabinet?" she asked, yanking the cork free.
"What?" Hohenheim was startled barn yard supplies were in their lavatory.
"Can you grab it for me?" Trisha repeated, completely oblivious to Hohenheim's tone of exclamation, as she steered Ed to her by his arm. "Ed, you're going in the tub." Ed broke out bawling. "You're going to like it," Trisha said, raising her voice just enough for Ed to hear her over his crying. "It's going to make you feel better." She took Ed's shorts and stood him in the tub. Ed did not want to be in the water and was sobbing as he looked down at it.
Hohenheim was uncomfortable with Ed's nakedness and looked to Trisha for direction. In Ed's ever changing state the boy had gone from looking like an infant, to looking like a tiny male, and Edward's ignorance of this fact gave Hohenheim the unsettling sensation he was exploiting the boy somehow. "Should I step out?" he asked.
"What for?" Trisha asked, with confusion. "Stay," she said kindly. "I enjoy your company."
Ed reached for Trisha as soon as he could and sobbed out a string of questions in a pattern of sound Hohenheim recognized from earlier.
"Yes, I will get your bear, as soon as you are out of the tub my love," Trisha said, coaxing Ed to sit. She reached behind herself and extended an open hand. Hohenheim looked at it dumbly, before searching for the Horse Eye Dropper. It was half behind a tonic and a tin of what smelled like peppermint leaves.
"I can't imagine why you have this here," Hohenheim said, handing it to her. "Where did you get that?" Trisha ignored this. She inserted it into the tonic bottle, filled it half way, and brought it to Ed's mouth. She did not hear his question. She was lost inside the world that existed between her and the boys, whispering a nursery rhyme to Ed as he drank his medicine.
From where he stood at the sink Hohenheim felt himself staring through the window of the world he could not enter. It was hard to think of just how many days it took for her to leave him for the children, but somehow she had, and rather than this being a fault it was a strength. The child that she was had gone, but he found the woman she had become amazing. She was a resilient human, but somehow she knew how frail her species was.
"Van?" She spoke his name for the first time since he'd returned, and looked back over her shoulder. Smiling she was dumping a small bath bin of toys into the far end of the tub, and Ed was watching with miserable disinterest. "Will you hold him for me?" Hohenheim was stunned she would ask. Did she think Ed would cooperate with this? "For a minute? So I can get Alphonse better situated?"
"I think its better you stay," Hohenheim said, gesturing to Ed's sniveling. Ed was succumbing to what was normally a fun and pleasurable experience for him submerging a small boat. Trisha's presence was calming to him, and that was easy for them both to see.
"You can hold him," Trisha encouraged. When Edward was nothing more than a bundle of blanket she used to deposit the boy into Hohenheim's arms and laugh lovingly at his startled expressions.
"Honestly Trisha, I can barely understand half of what he's trying to say to me."
Trisha gave this statement a playful scolding expression. "You have to be patient," she said, before turning to Ed. "Daddy will watch you for a moment Ed. Try and help him out." She kissed Ed's forehead with enough strength it shoved his head harmlessly to the side. Then she stood up, wiped her wet hands and forearms on her summer dress, and left.
Hohenheim stepped forward. He knelt before the tub and dipped his arm into the water. Ed was perfectly capable of sitting up and pulled the eye dropper from his mouth and tossed it into the water. Whatever he had swallowed he disagreed with and he stuck out his tongue and wiped it with his wet hand.
Ed was not pleased. He whined when Trisha left the side of the tub, and followed her every movement with his eyes until she was out of sight. Hohenheim felt compelled, as if he could prove his usefulness, to gain Ed's eyes the way Trisha held them.
"Ed, I will hold you now son," he said, wrapping his arm about Ed's petite torso. He turned Edward's seated body to face away from him and leaned the boy back into the side of the tub. Ed hung onto his arm with blind comfort and closed his eyes once he was in place. "Are you feeling better?"
Ed twisted his expression uncomfortably. "No." Hohenheim nodded with a bit of disappointment. "I puked in bed," Ed said. Hohenheim understood the word puked, but what came around it sounded scrambled. Frustrated he tried to relax and do his best. If Trisha could understand the children, he must be able to as well.
Ed tipped his head back and looked at Hohenheim. "I puked in bed." It took a moment, to understand the word inbred was actually in-bed, and then the rest came. I puked in bed. Hohenheim smiled, and Ed understood, as only a child could, that they were on the same page. "Can I have my bear?"
"Yes," Hohenheim said softly. He set his other hand in Ed's hair and stroked it gently. Beneath his mighty palm Edward's skull was no larger than a small head of lettuce. "Yes, I'll get your bear for you."
Christopher was a glass maker, and shared the second of the three upstairs apartments in the building. He had the largest and most luxurious being his entire front wall had large poorly insulated windows which overlooked the streets of Germany. Christopher said the natural light was necessary and wielding glass tools in man made light simply was the difference between clay and marble.
"Hohenheim!" Christopher called out, shocked and startled when Hohenheim backed away from the day bed and left him holding down the wet and violently disoriented boy. "Hey! Give me a hand will you! I can't hold him on my own!" This was the truth, and although the scrawny boy Hohenheim had laid in the sheets was shorter and thinner than Christopher, he was proving very flexible. "Where did you get him!" Chris frantically tried to pin down the left arm which threw a jab and missed by mere inches. "Dammit! Is he sick with fever?"
Hohenheim didn't know how to answer this. With the addition of Christopher he felt he couldn't properly manage himself. His mind seemed as if it were thinking too much at once, and likewise, his body, could not act on any one given thought. His self developed clarity felt assaulted and he'd lost the ability to prioritize and identify. As a scientist that rendered him useless, and as a man, lost. Answering questions was difficult, and even the embarrassment and shame he was losing himself so, and so much more so than Christopher, could not bring him to answer the boy's questions.
Hohenheim had put Ed in the day bed which had come with the apartment. It was the size of a standard twin and cast iron with rails on either end. This made it cumbersome to move, and like a piano, a piece often left behind. Being closest to his door, it was the first surface he could get to, and he had nearly dropped the boy inside with his own exhaustion. Now, moving with enough strength the entire metal frame was rattling, a wet and dirty version of his eldest son lay inside lost incoherently in hysterics. With Christopher yelling and struggling to keep the boy lying flat, Edward was just beginning to make noise, and the familiar, although slightly more baritone, cries were making Hohenheim's hands tremble.
Christopher looked up, and his youthful eyes were piercing. With tousled brown hair the color of a golden hazelnut Christopher was lacking a woman's touch. Free of his mother the boy's bangs were too long, his shirts often wrinkled, and he drank too much and slept too little for a growing boy. Now beneath these soft brown strands his brow was tight with a worried confusion and need. "Can you help me, please!"
"Yes." Hohenheim managed this one word and turned, stumbling over his own feet, and left for the small latrine. To the right of the narrow porcelain counter he had several bottles and he lifted them up to read the labels. On any standard day he knew at once what he owned, and in what order he'd set them, but today and at this hour, he did not. He needed to read the labels, to look at the bottles. In the dim lavatory light he held them up with the liquid contents sloshing under the tremble of his hand and read.
The apartment was a two bedroom with more space than he cared for, but an ideal location. It came furnished with a few items. Among them was a simple wooden table, wash stand, and twin bed. Over the course of the few months he had resided there he kept the apartment nearly untouched. He did not furnish excessively and he did not decorate. The walls were a light brown, the floors a common pine, and at a moment everything could be left behind.
Hohenheim drenched a small cloth with seaweed generated trihalomethane known as chloroform and returned to the side of the bed. He grabbed his son's face, swallowing up the nose, mouth, and Edward's entire jaw with just his palm. "Easy now," he whispered. Edward jerked with startled alarm when his face was grabbed. For a moment his right eye managed to crack, and Hohenheim feared, greater than should be possible, that Edward would consciously see him.
A spike of fear, hot and suffocating wafted over him as powerfully as if Edward's golden eye were a flame. His arm weakened, and at the same moment, Edward's body dropped into a heavy limp state.
Christopher pulled back panting and wiping at his face with a muddled expression of perplexed agitation. "Holy shit." Christopher ran both hands through his hair and lifted his eyebrows to an extreme. "I mean he's really strong!" Christopher gestured quickly to Edward's slack expression before looking up. "What the hell happened to this kid? Where did you find him?" Hohenheim felt Christopher's inquisitive stare but didn't return it. The top of Edward's jacket had been tugged open in his struggles and Hohenheim was watching the slender and clearly defined collar bone of his son's body rise and fall with his chest. "He's missing limbs, you know."
Hohenheim looked up. Christopher was kneeling alongside the bed and looked sour he was going ignored. The boy was earnest and at twenty two worked a hard fifty-five hour week to support himself and his mother. As Christopher had explained she lived with his aunt, but he was responsible for her portion of the rent because she no longer had the strength to obtain it herself. Young and alone in the world, Hohenheim had found himself unintentionally taking a guiding hand to helping the boy ever since moving in.
Hohenheim offered a smile he knew Christopher would fine reassuring. "I found him in an alley." Christopher was shocked and turned a look of concern to the bed. Edward was sprawled out filthy and feverish in a black outfit with heavy boots. Hohenheim felt himself shrug the slightest bit. Edward's reappearance was like a warrant finding him countries away. He felt need to confess. "He's my son," he whispered.
Christopher's eyes widened. "Your son!"
Below the front window Hohenheim had added a single wooden chair and bookcase. With Christopher gawking he pulled the chair to the side of the day bed and plopped down rubbing at his face. There seemed to be a lot of missing information, and he felt the weight of the situation explode in the deepest part of his stomach. Why was Edward here?
"Dr. Hohenheim, stay for another!"
Hohenheim waived off the friendly call from a colleague. "Not tonight," he said kindly. "I must get back I am afraid. I have some reading." He drew his coat about himself. It was not yet cold enough to snow, but the temperature was dropping quickly. He left the bar shuddering, because nearly ten minutes ago he felt it move. The gate. Every time it opened and closed a shiver would run down his spine. It was a sad after effect of having traveled through so many times. Tonight, he felt it come, it opened and shut, but the shiver wouldn't fade. Something had changed, something had happened, and it made him itch. It came about just as he lifted the bottle of scotch over his glass, and when he brought the shot to his mouth he realized this particular shiver was lasting too long.
Turning up the lapels of his coat he crossed the street in a jog. After several warm swallows of scotch he had come to the conclusion whatever it was intended to stay, and left to seek it out. In many ways the idea something was deposited here was threatening, but like some of the most horrific sites, he felt compelled to look. When he was a boy decades and decades ago he had held a fly by the wings and dipped its body into a burning candle. Just before, and as it squirmed with its body burning, he felt the same trepidation come to him. There was something humanly awful about it, because within the guilt and morbid fascination was excitement, and glee over your own power. In many ways, he knew more than he felt, that what he would find would be that fly's burning shell.
The sensation of dread came from the North, and he walked quickly. It started to snow in fat slow drifting flakes. Small clouds of breath swirled about his reddened nose. It was hard to gauge the distance between him and the sinking feeling of despair which had appeared like a lighthouse in an otherwise black horizon. In this world where things were different, those from the other side of the gate became distorted. Between himself and the latest arrival of the portal he felt Europe had created a fog he could barely see through. Having traveled many times within the portal he had an instinctive navigation and awareness of its presence. They were old enemies, tired of the old fight, but still cautious of the one another, and unyielding to submit.
Hohenheim followed the steering portal within him, drawn like a magnet to the other until he found what he was looking for. In a snow dusted passage between a locksmith and fabric store, and illuminated by the streetlamp several feet away, was a fumbling crawling clump of shadow. Streaks of darker trash covered cement were smeared of pure snow behind the lumbering body. Although the gate had opened what must have been twenty minutes ago, the thing had managed only a foot of ground from where it had fallen. In the dark it had a hulking frame, with no speed or coordination. Low to the ground, and hunched like a tiger trying to stand on bloody severed paws it was silent. Not even a noise of breath could be heard over the falling snow. The streets were desolate at this hour, and the night was cold.
Hohenheim's shock rooted him in the threshold of the random German alley with snow collecting in his hair. A particular flake fell to the front of his glasses and blotted out sight in his right eye. Inside, amongst the trash of papers and garbage, Edward was struggling to get up with only one arm and one leg. The sight of the boy was unmistakable, but Hohenheim doubted what he was seeing. Slowly, in a numb state of astonishment, he walked several feet into the alley and watched the boy struggle. At this distance Edward's strained breathing and the crunching of the snow beneath his sole palm were audible. He was trying to pull his leg beneath him, and it was dragging a soggy half frozen piece of newspaper in gentle crinkles.
Hohenheim stood motionless until Edward's good arm, which was nearly straight and holding the boy in the fashion of a one armed push up, buckled, and dropped him to his elbow.
"Edward." Hohenheim rushed forward. He dropped to his knees and turned the boy from his stomach to his back. Edward's eyes were barely open and struggled to focus on him. The familiar angry expression was twisted into a permanent wince of silent pain. "Edward!" Hohenheim shook the boy harshly. Edward was wet from the ground and almost frozen solid. His blonde hair had caught much of the falling snow and his bangs were both wet and frozen with it. "How long have you been out here?" Hohenheim stripped his coat off frantically. Edward had stopped moving with his arrival and was pitifully wheezing breath as if heavily congested. "I'll get you indoors." He wrapped his coat about Edward's smaller frame and stood quickly with the boy in his arms.
His body was not expecting such manual labor so late at night, and he felt the strain of it in his shoulders when he managed to his feet. Edward was rigid with the cold, and tucked his chin downward toward his chest. In what seemed to be a state of disorientation Ed shrugged his shoulders up to his ears in defense and need of body heat. He was difficult to hold and Hohenheim bounced Ed's weight once, and gently, to move the boy higher in his arms. This act caused Edward to whine painfully. Like a violin bow set against a string and pulled only an inch, the sound was small and vulnerable. It meant Edward was alive, and that he truly was in Germany, and Hohenheim stopped all movement in awe.
Edward spoke his first word in Germany with his voice barely audible and in nothing more than a single breath said, "Alphonse." Afterward Ed's head fell back and Hohenheim left the alley in a steady jog. He was afraid someone would see him from their window carrying a person. He was afraid he'd cross paths with someone toting an unconscious boy in his arms. He took all the back passages he knew with the snow sliding beneath his steps and the frost of it biting his face. At the base of his two story building was a bakery, and with the door in sight Hohenheim felt a leap of hope he might, at least once since Edward's childhood, be of some use to the boy.
He was able to enter the back, past the shop, with a light dusting of snow over them. He locked the door behind him and stomped up the stairs loudly. His legs were exhausted and Edward's additional weight was too much to keep quiet. He knew his arrival would sound familiar and was hopeful it would be ignored. The hallway light was out due to the late hour and he felt confident that with nothing unusual about his late arrival, or the sound of him, his neighbor would pay him no mind.
He was wrong. Christopher's door opened before he reached the top stair and the boy stepped out still fully dressed and eating. Hohenheim received a fast smile and wave before Christopher lowered the stale bread and single wedge of cheese placed neatly on top and stepped forward.
"What's that you're carrying?"
Hello, Happy New Year! and Welcome! A thousand thank-yous for stopping by to read my humble story! As we have just begun here is your One-Stop-Shop:
"The Silent Heart" is completed. Beginning today 1/1/13 Chapter One has been posted. Chapters will now continue to be posted every Friday. (One or two may have a two week posting time, but this will be disclosed if applied). To clarify, this story is meant to continue directly after the first anime. It will bring you to the intimate world of Hohenheim's Germany, display how obscurely a person's love can translate into their actions, and hint at what life would have been like for Ed living as a handicapped individual just shy of the year 1915.
Now, if you have read this far…I hope that means you liked it enough to continue. I put a lot into this fic, so I am both incredibly excited and incredibly nervous to be posting it for you! Sharing your opinions will make this easier for me. : ) So…what did you think of the early day Elrics? And what do you think Germany has in store for us?
Your comments make me so happy – and nothing you have to say is insignificant or stupid, so please share. Also…if you're scrolling down to alert my penname or this story…feel guilty if you have not left a review! : )
Chapter 2: Parent of Contradiction will be posted 1/11/13.
Thank you again for coming to read. Please leave a comment as you exit the theater.
This story contains adult language, violence, and adult themes. As the story progresses the rating will change appropriately. Please properly observe the rating to abide by any governing principles in your life.