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26 June 2009 @ 05:36
Arc I : Culmination, Chapter 02  
Title: Catalysis (Full details, here. Also available on Fanfiction.Net.)
Writer: iluxia
Editor: aventria
Words: For this chapter, ~10700
Rating(s): PG-13 for this chapter.
Warning(s): Language, some angst.
Chapter Summary: Edward takes his first step into the world and away from the only home he has ever known.

Catalysis


I : Culmination
02



Hate is the consequence of fear; we fear something before we hate it.
( Cyril Connolly )




Deep it was into the night when Ed woke again, finding himself in a pleasant wash of lethargy and painlessness. Though he could still feel the aching throb of the still-lingering shock underneath his bones, he was better than he had been since the transmutation—certainly better than half a day earlier, when they were performing the operation. The last he could recall was the sensation of his smaller hand being held by a larger, warmer one, and the Bastard’s voice telling him his mother was awake. Things were rather hazy after that.

By instinct, he raised his left hand to his right shoulder where it felt odd and heavy, and jerked in surprise at the feel of the cool ridges of metal sliding beneath the pads of his fingertips. He tried shimmying upwards to look down at it, but he could only see a faint glint under what meagre moonlight filtered through the curtains—and his neck protested painfully at the strain.

He laid there, fingering the blade-thin edges of the steel plates where it met his flesh. It felt strange, a conglomeration of hard and soft, of cold and warm. But this was him now, this was his new body—and he took an absurd amount of comfort from the fact that soon, soon, he would be up about on two legs with two arms again, as if nothing had ever happened.

Now if everybody else would be so kind and play along—

But of course not, who was he kidding?

There was no way Pinako would ever look upon his alchemy favourably anymore after this. There was no way Trisha would be able to look at her son without wondering what ever went wrong. They would start asking questions soon; he figured he had to set his story straight pretty quickly. Al was a quick study; Ed was sure his brother would pick things up in speed when he woke. All in all, it was better if they knew nothing at all. Especially Trisha; their mother was frail and innocent, unused to such turbulence in her life. The only major break within her normalcy and calm was Hohenheim’s departure, and in that instance she had been warned, prepared. That instance was milder on her heart. This one would not be—after all, resurrection from the dead was practically unheard of and outlandish.

Releasing a momentous sigh, he closed his eyes and half-sank into the darkness of the semi-conscious. Since his father’s disappearance, he increasingly took on the responsibilities Hohenheim left behind, such as caring for their little family and keeping it in tact. It was only now, though, that he found himself making decisions for the family on his own, without the knowledge of their mother. It was as if—he cracked a wry smile—it was as if somewhere down the line he had slipped seamlessly into the role of the man of the house.


He was taken from his thoughts by the weighty but somehow discreet sound of boots down the hall, and twin conversing voices: Pinako and the Bastard.

His door creaked open—he remained motionless, listening—and the Bastard stepped in.

“As you can see, he’s still asleep, Lieutenant Colonel. I can take any message you would like for him to receive,” Pinako was stern and unforgiving. Ed figured she was kicking the Bastard out of the house. The storm had abated, and the necessity for extra hands solved by Trisha’s waking; there was no longer any need for his extended stay.

The Bastard looked markedly disappointed. He turned away from the bed. “Never mind, then. I shall take my leave now. I appreciate your hospitality.”

“Wait,” Ed rasped, turning towards the man. “I’m awake.”

The Bastard paused.

“Go back to sleep, young lad,” ordered Pinako, a pinched frown marring her face.

Ed ignored her. “You wanted to talk, Lieutenant Colonel Bastard?”

“Well, yes,” he gave a pointed look to Pinako, who sighed and shook her head, closing the door behind her as she left. The Bastard chuckled, walking over to Ed’s bedside and seating himself on the chair. “How do you feel?”

“Like shit,” Ed rolled his eyes. “How else would I feel?”

The Bastard inclined his head, a slight smirk lifting the edges of his mouth. “I understand I cannot persuade you any more than I already have about the State Alchemist title,” he began, “but should you ever visit Central, come and see me. I’ll gladly lend a hand if you need any help.”

Scoffing, Ed shifted against his pillow. “Who would want help from you?”

“Oh?” the Bastard had a mocking eyebrow raised. “Who was it who reached out for me in askance for comfort earlier? Because I quite clearly remember—“

“Shutup,” cheeks burning in heat, Ed turned his head away. It was no use; the tips of his ears glowed red in his embarrassment. Using such moments of vulnerability against him—this Bastard was not just a Bastard, this Bastard was a dirty and underhanded Bastard.

Said Bastard gave a mild chuckle. “Well, anyway. I shouldn’t take too long, or your grandmother will come barging in here again. She has this thought in her head that I’m doing some evil on you to convince you into the military.”

“Aren’t you?” scowled Ed up at the man, but the Bastard ignored this.

“Remember, Edward,” the man’s expression was grave now, “never tell anyone about what happened here, what you did, the circumstances of your mother’s illness and collapse. Note collapse, not death. As far as anybody else is concerned, she did not die—you merely revived her health with a little medicinal alchemy you learned from your father’s books. Warn your brother when he wakes up; I’m quite sure your grandmother has her mouth sewn shut by now, no worries about her. Do you understand?”

“What about the doctor?” one loophole he had noticed earlier; it would be hard to cover things up with an extra involvement. “What did you tell him?”

“Your grandmother talked to Dr. Thomas earlier, she ‘explained’ what happened.” The Bastard shrugged. “Your mother collapsed, Al tried to transfuse his blood with the medicine you made into her, and he succeeded but bled too much. You healed their wounds. You lost your arm and leg in the process of obtaining the ingredients for the medicine. Keep with that story.”

Nodding, Ed digested this and began to build around it, to arrange how he would tell his version of the lie to his mother and Pinako. Nobody else needed to know; the more people knew, the more potential danger they faced. By the sheer impossibility of what he has accomplished, he—his entire family—was worth a fortune right about now, and many would want to put them under close study. If what the Bastard was saying about the military had any truth to it, then the military would be one of the unnamed many.

“Another thing,” the Bastard was saying; Ed grudgingly paused his thinking to listen. “If you want to avoid being conscripted by the military as a State Alchemist against your own will, keep a low profile. Should they ever catch wind of your abilities, they won’t hesitate. They will want your talent, and mark my words, they will have a use for it—and you won’t like it.”

So he would not be able to do public research after all. He sighed and rested tiredly against his pillow. He had hoped to earn some money through publishing scientific journals and the like, but if he was to keep a low profile, publishing would be out of the question. This was why he scorned the country’s lack of an alchemical university. If such a place existed, there would be freedom for alchemists to practice their science and improve upon it without having to become State Alchemists. Research money, after all, was not easy to come by. A university would eliminate the need for exorbitant amounts of money to conduct study, and also allow varied practices of alchemy come in touch with each other—surely a most ideal environment for the growth and improvisation of theoretical and practical applications.

“I understand,” it was but a faint whisper in the darkness, a resigned thing. “I’ll be careful.”

“Good.” The Bastard drew his black cloak on over his standard issue blue uniform—now cleaned of the specks of blood—and stood poised by the door. “Take good care of yourself now. This is your second chance.”

“I know. You don’t need to tell me that, I’m not stupid.” Ed ground his teeth. Even to the last second, this Bastard never failed to annoy him. This was not the last time they would see each other, though. He was quite sure of that. “Wait—you never told me your name.”

“Ah, I never did, did I?” the man had the door open, and the hallway light washed and pooled over him as he stood in its path. Again, amusement twinkled in the man’s eyes. “My name is Roy. Roy Mustang, Lieutenant Colonel.”

Ed gave a grunt. “Lieutenant Colonel Bastard it is,” this made the man smile. “You know? That’s a mouthful. You should get a shorter title. Like Colonel, or General, or Fuhrer.”

This time, the man—Roy Mustang—did throw his head back in a jovial laugh. “The next time we meet, I’ll have a shorter title for you to insult.” With that, the man who had saved his life stepped out of the room and made to close the door. However, before the last slice of light thinned into nothing and the door closed tight, Ed called out:

“Counting on that, Bastard.”

The door slid shut.

This was not the last time they would meet, because for some unknown reason, he felt a pull towards this person—a person he knew would eventually shape his life.


He could not figure out, however, if he was more disconcerted by the fact that someone else would be shaping his life, or the fact that it was the Bastard who would be that person.



Three days, and Al had yet to wake.


Tension permeated every corner of the entire house, and there was not much opportunity to dissolve it at all by way of much-needed conversation. All of them were unable to speak to each other at length: Trisha was preoccupied with caring for herself and the still-comatose Al; Ed was half-incapacitated and always deep in thought; the Rockbells were bustling about in their preparations. Ed was thankful that the pain, at least, was cooperating, and had ebbed into a dull throb in the back of his head, allowing him some freedom of movement. Walking was possible with the help of a crutch, and though it would have been easier if they had attached a temporary leg on him, Pinako refused to pain him any more than what was necessary. He was left to a depressingly short crutch with which to support himself for the meantime.

The one person in the house who suffered the least stress was probably Winry, who, in her lack of alchemical understanding of exactly what had happened, was relishing the joy of being able to take active part in the design and construction of Pinako’s best piece of automail yet. She had goggled incredulously at the lump sum of money Roy Mustang had left behind in their care, all for use in the construction of his limbs. Holding nothing back, the girl immediately launched into what Ed dubbed her “mech-freak” mode, blueprinting the make-up of two deceptively simple but in truth very durable and unique pieces of mechanical genius. As per Ed’s request, they were to make their most expensive set, using their best alloy and best design. She was, not unreasonably, within close reach of her paradise.


On the other end of the spectrum was Trisha, suffering in the grips of justified anxiety. Her younger son was comatose by fault of her elder son, and said elder son was just finishing recovery from a fiery fever, the result of an autoimmune reaction from recently rewired nerves. Suffice to say, she was not having an easy time.

And she was confused, Ed knew. Ed could see it, in her eyes, in her words, in the way she moved, in the way she acted around him, cautious as if afraid. She had just reason for her actions, he understood this, but it pained him anyway—and it pained him even further to realize that there was nothing he could do to ease her anxiety, not if he wanted to keep his secrets. All that was in his power to do was to smile in her presence, to assure her that Al would wake soon, to tell her that yes, everything will work out fine.

He had hoped that this would deter the questioning, but of course, his hope was in vain, dashed very early on the fourth morning after the transmutation.


“Edward,” she approached him as he sat on the porch steps, a tight look on her face, “I need you to tell me everything that has happened.”

Immediately, Edward realized the tone in her voice, and knew of what she was asking. It was something he had already decided not to give. “I thought I already told you, Mum,” he shrugged. “Al bled too much when we tried transfusing the blood into you.”

“Why do I not remember any of this?” she was frowning now, carving deep valleys into her forehead.

“You were unconscious,” he was careful to keep a straight face. “We were panicking.” That much was not a lie, though his panic was a different kind from what most people would expect.

She stood there, still and quiet, eyes intently watching him. She stood there, and he sat, and he watched the sun slowly go up, its rays dappling through the branches of the tall tree in the yard.

“I know you are lying, Edward,” she said. “I can see. You are my son. Do not think you can lie to me that easily.”

And what was he supposed to say to that? What was he supposed to say? Right at this moment, he wished for someone else to be here for him, to explain. To act as a buffer from the rest of the world, so he could be by himself even just for a while. He wished for the Bastard, almost, to be here and talk for him. The Bastard always seemed to know the right thing to say, when to say it, and how—Ed needed that.

“…I can’t tell you, Mum,” and the words barely left his mouth with sound. “It’s better if I don’t tell you.”

“Edward!”

She was livid, hands fisting and tense at her sides. She looked like she itched to hit him, an expression Edward had never seen on her face before. It hurt him, more than he could have ever imagined it would—but he knew he deserved this.

He cast his eyes down. “I’m sorry, Mum.”

She stood there, and he sat.

She left.

He remained on the porch steps long after she was gone, and to her shadow he murmured, “I’m sorry, Mum. Really, I am.” Clutching his shoulder port, he hunched into himself, rocking back and forth—but still he could not cry.



A week, and Al had yet to wake.


Today was the day for Ed’s limbs’s attachment. Suffice to say, he was not looking forward to it; he had seen, as a child, the pain the Rockbells’s old clients had to go through for the attachment operation itself and the rehabilitation afterwards. It was not an easy path he was going to have to go down, but he steeled himself with the courage and determination pounded into him by his training with Izumi. He managed to survive his teacher; he would survive this.

With a curious mix of dread and fascination, Ed ogled over the polished metal pieces that were to be his limbs. Behind him, Winry was arranging the attachment machine, while Pinako checked over the finer details of the automail itself. Even to his amateur eyes, their work was a splendid piece of mechanism. He traced with wondering eyes the engraved bell motif at the ball of the arm that was to go into his shoulder port’s socket. The sheer detail of the work must have taken considerable time, especially since everything was handmade. (But perhaps it was only him; he was beginning to become more and more reliant on his alchemy these days, ever since they left Izumi and her watchful warnings against overdependence and laziness. But how was he to separate himself from alchemy? Apart from its convenience, the pull of his science was just too much for any amount of willpower to stand against.)

“On the bed now, young lad,” Pinako hustled, positioning the limbs within easy reach. “Winry, mind his leg, will you?”

Ed climbed into the bed—by all rights an operation table—and reclined against the pillow, trying to relax. The scars of attachment on his shoulder and side tingled as his brain anticipated the pain to come.

From the door, he knew that Trisha was watching, quiet as a spectre. She had not talked to him in days, not a single word given between the two of them. He could see in her eyes, even now, the blame that was growing and burgeoning. The longer Al remained in his deep unresponsive sleep, the more she seemed to look at him with those dark eyes.

There was something in there, in her, that he could not fathom—something in her eyes that was building by the minute. It was tiny right now, but soon, soon it would become substantial enough—and maybe then he would be able to see what it was she was thinking and feeling. With the same trepidation he had for the attachment of the automail, he dreaded that day when he did.

But, he thought idly, as they arranged the two attachment machines around him, the reward of knowing would be worth it. Yes, in the same way that walking again would be worth the pain of attachment, being able to respond to what was bothering Trisha would be worth the pain of knowing her troubles. Because try though he might to deny it, he knew, in the end he was the root of all her troubles—he just hoped there was something he could do to make it up to her.

“We’re going to attach the limbs simultaneously,” Pinako’s voice jolted him from his peripatetic thoughts. “It will reduce the length of pain, though the initial shock will be significant.” Perhaps she saw his face, because she added, “It should be somewhat less than the pain of the wiring. I can give you painkillers—“

“—not anaesthetic—”

“—not anaesthetic—afterward,” she rolled her eyes at Winry, who giggled as she took the leg and positioned it by its port. “Ready when you are.”

Ed took a deep breath, gritted his teeth, and nodded. “I’m good—”

damn

and the pain slammed, furious against his senses, burning up his spine and searing his brain. The ceiling moulted into flashes of lightning white and blots of grey-black, and his consciousness scrambled to keep up with the overload. Pinako had not given him a warning at all—and perhaps it was better that way, but it was not very nice of her. (Then again, she had never been a particularly kind person.)

He only belatedly realized that he had vocalized his pain—when the light-headed shock tided in, his throat felt tight and scratched, the way one would feel after a sudden and particularly loud yell. He laid there for many minutes of heavy breathing, body struggling to unwind as he forced relaxation into his tensed muscles. Tingles of burning heat still shimmied up and down the nerves on his right side and chest; he dared not try and move his new limbs just yet, keeping as still and motionless as possible to minimize stimulation. It would probably hurt if he tried to rush things; he did not want more hurt, thank you very much.

“I strongly suggest against moving much for today.” He watched as Pinako tightened a screw at the elbow. “The port will sting for a while; the nerve ends are still raw. Tomorrow, you start your rehabilitation, and I’m sure you already know it won’t be nice. I’ll have you walk around the yard five laps, morning and afternoon. We increase that as we go.”

“How long will it take?”

Pinako paused to look at him. “How long will what take, Edward?”

“Rehab.” Edward gave her a candid look.

“Why, do you have a deadline to catch, young man?” the cast of the old lady’s tone was critical and probing. “Rehab will take a long time. Grown men—“

“I’d appreciate it if you could stop comparing me to your other clients, Granny,” sighed Ed. “Clearly I’m not anything like them.” He fidgeted in the bed, inching upwards so he could be in a somewhat upright position. “And no, I don’t have a deadline to catch. I’m not going anywhere, Granny; I just want to know how long it’ll take. You know me; I’m impatient.”

Ed knew Pinako’s nagging suspicions about Roy Mustang’s offer for the State Alchemist title, and while he understood her distrust of outsiders (especially military men), the fact that she was doubting him boggled his mind. She, of all people, should know that he was not about to leave Resembool, not now when his mother needed his support and his brother had yet to wake. And even after that, even after they resettle into their peaceful lives, he would not leave. He had no reason to leave. Research was easy enough to conduct on his own; he would be able to make do with his alchemy and occasional trips to East City for some books, maybe even to Dublith to borrow some ideas from his teacher. But he was not about to leave his family when he was needed.

A heavy sigh was all Pinako could give in reply to him.

Winry offered quietly, “On average, rehab can take six months to a year. Maybe you can scale it in about three or four months, if you work really hard. But it’s not going to be easy.”

Grinning wryly, Ed echoed his earlier thought, “If I was able to survive my teacher in Dublith, I’m going to survive this too. Don’t worry.”

She grinned back at him. This was what Ed liked about Winry; she asked the least questions and accepted life as it came to her. In that sense, they made a good pair: Ed with his closely held secrets, and Winry with her willingness to let people keep their secrets.

“We’ll be making lunch, then,” having tidied the work desk near the bed, Pinako folded her arms behind her and walked to the door. “Keep yourself in bed, boy. Your body needs the rest. Come, Winry.”

Obediently, Winry followed, stopping only when Ed called out, “Hey, Winry, d’you think you can get me a pencil and some paper? I’m really getting bored of lying around doing nothing.”

“Sure, but can you write with your left? I don’t think you’ll be able to control your right arm that well right now.”

“Yeah, that’s no problem. I had to learn at our teacher’s place.”

She shrugged and walked out of the door, “I’ll be back in a bit.”

Only when her back disappeared into the hallway did Ed notice that Trisha was not there anymore.



Valiantly, he tried to convince himself that he should not be hurt by such things. Trisha was merely confused, distressed. After all, Al was as good as dead to the rest of the world. But being left like that while he was in the throes of pain hurt. He would have thought she would have at least stayed, like Roy Mustang had—even if she only watched from afar, by the door. Leaving him behind—that was too cold a treatment from her. Never had he seen this side of his mother, a facet of her reflecting fear and uncertainty strong enough to suppress her inborn compassion and kindness.

He could not deny that he had a huge part of the blame. After all, he did push her away when she was trying to comfort him during the operation, and abandoned her hands in exchange for Mustang’s. But at that time he was not fully coherent—hell, he was in pain, why could nobody understand that—and so should he not be pardoned that one time?

Sighing, he blinked up at the ceiling. The sun was going down now; his stomach growled for dinner. His sheaf of blank pages lay on the work desk beside his bed, the pencil on top, diagonal, as if to hold the sheets down. He had wanted to scribble earlier, but the pain bothered him too much for concentration. True to Pinako’s words, the nerves were still raw and unwilling to operate properly.

But he was tired of lying down. He was tired of idling when there was so much to be done. He wondered if somebody had already cleaned up the basement. The blood and the chalk should still be there, drying and crusting into a thick layer of brown. Or maybe Pinako already took care of it sometime while he was asleep. He spent too many hours sleeping these days.

(the circle is the guide and the energy flows within it)

He never realized when he closed his eyes, but in the darkness of his mind he saw flashes, images, information. A ton’s worth of it, hidden there and waiting to be used. And he heard a voice.

(all matter exist in a never-ending flow and we are but tiny individuals in its wake)

Or was it really a voice? Maybe they were just words, and he was the one giving voice to them. He did not know for sure. All he knew was that this thing in his head—whatever it was—gave him endless things to ponder, endless things to theorize and build research around.

(the flow of energy is boundless, endless, and within each person the potential to harness the flow lies dormant)

It was not very conducive to socializing, this constant flash-and-flow of information. At random times, he would get images, and he would space out, inciting further worry on Pinako’s part. The old lady was already fearful enough of any kind of damage the pain of the raw operation might have caused. It was getting rather bothersome to assure and reassure her time and time again that he was fine.

(the value is decided upon—)

Stopped.

(the Gate is—)

Stopped again.

Ed frowned.

Why does it not tell me anything about the Gate?

He tried again—the flow stopped, as if a stream of water slamming against a solid dam. Cursing quietly to himself, he ground his teeth in annoyance and shifted in his bed. His fingers—the new metal ones—curled into a fist, and though he could not feel it by way of skin, he knew the force behind it. These limbs had the potential for incredible strength—he had to be careful with them.

(the Gate—)

Stopped.

Fucking hell.

Sighing, he sagged into the pillow, watching the shadows elongate in his room the further the sun sank into the horizon. It was no use; whatever was in his head refused him knowledge of any sort about the Gate’s existence.

Which, of course, in the true fashion of a scientific mind, made him wonder even more.

What exactly was the Gate? Who created it? Was there even an entity capable of creating something so powerful? How did it operate? What was its job? Was it really the calculator for the equivalency? How did it calculate the equivalency? What were its standards, its quantifiers? How does one open it without losing something? Was there a way to open it again?

“—ward!”

He jerked, affright, and scowled at the upset Winry.

“Spacing out again! Are you sure that hard head of yours is alright?” she huffed, crossing her arms.

“I’m fine. You and Granny worry too much.” He sat up, wincing slightly, and swung his legs—two of them now—over the side of the bed. “Is dinner ready yet?”

“Yes, glutton,” she helped him balance, awkward as he was on his new limb. She saw the blank stack of paper and frowned, “You didn’t write after all. I can’t believe you asked me to get all that paper for nothing.”

“I’m going to use it; I just have too many things to think about that I don’t know where to start,” he sighed again, his shoulders sagging as he used a crutch to balance for his first few steps. The weight of his body pressing down on the leg port sent clips of pain up his back, but he gritted his teeth and bore it. It was gone by the time he was by the door.

“Make a table,” she said suddenly.

He turned. “What?”

“Make a table of the things you know, the things you want to know, the things you know you don’t know—and from there find the things you don’t know you don’t know.” She smiled at him, easy and comfortable. “It’s what I do when I’m not sure I have all the right parts, or if I’m uncertain which base design to use.”

And before she could even finish her sentence, his mind was racing, putting together columns of lists and crossing them against each other. Mumbling to himself, he surged towards the work desk and seized the pencil, sketching a table as she had instructed, and began scribbling with his left.

“Oi! Do that later! Dinner first!”

He did not hear her until she bopped him on the head, bodily dragged him from the desk, and sat him in the dining room. With him he took his paper and pencil, though, and throughout dinner he was quiet, absorbed and efficient in his work. He failed to notice his surroundings, and the darkening look Trisha had in her eyes.



One and a half weeks, finally Al woke.


Ironically enough, he woke while Trisha was gone to the market with Pinako to restock on their food. None of them had left the household for days, and the pantry was easily emptied through Ed’s insatiable and ever-growing appetite. It was near-unbelievable how much his tiny body could intake and metabolize into energy. Winry constantly complained about having to make too much food, and asked him incessantly where he stored all that he ate; he retorted quite indignantly that he burned up all of it by using his brain for rigorous mental work, unlike her.)

Ed was walking about past Al’s room’s window, exercising his new limbs despite the (now much lessened) pain, when Al croaked groggily, “Brother?” and Ed had all but toppled to the ground in his surprise.

Righting himself and forgetting all about retaining some semblance of dignity, he scrambled over the window and into the room, making his ports twinge and ache, but disregarding it. He rushed to Al’s bedside, hands patting all over his little brother’s body as if in reassurance that yes, his brother was here, alive.

“Are you alright?” he asked. “How do you feel? Are you in pain? Do you need anything? Can you hear me? Are you—”

“Too fast,” Al coughed, turning slightly to the side. “You’re going too fast, brother.”

Ed clamped his mouth shut, but only managed total stillness for two seconds; his mismatched hands were already rubbing Al’s back before he could even order them to. He assisted his brother upright, gave him a sip of water, and drew a blanket around thinner, frail-looking shoulders.

“Are you alright?” he repeated, and Al gave him a faint smile.

“I’m fine, brother, just a little… disoriented.”

Sitting by the bedside, Ed kept tight grasp of his younger brother’s hand. The relief he felt blossoming in his chest was absurd in its intensity, but he did nothing to hide it; it was only in front of Al that he could be this open now. He could trust Al to keep his secrets, to understand his reasons, to understand what he was going through. Just as they had always been together, in this they could be, would be together too.

“…Mum?”

Al’s voice was tiny and afraid. Ed could empathize.

“She’s fine. Alive, perfectly healthy.” He hushed his voice. He knew Winry was supposed to be in the automail workshop, tidying up the mess there, but one could never know. Trisha or Pinako could sneak up on them anytime.

His brother stared at him, uncomprehending, for a few heartbeats of silence, and then choked out: “B-But how—how?”

Ed shrugged. “I managed, somehow.”

Another stretch of silence—with gentle fingers, Al lifted new metal hand and turned it over in close inspection.

“…you lost your arm,” Al murmured, “It took your arm.”

Ed jolted. “You saw it. You saw it too.” Taking hold of Al’s wrist, he pressed, “What do you remember? Tell me everything you remember.”

“Not much, actually.” Al rubbed the back of his head the way he was wont to do whenever uncertain of what to do or say. “All I remember is white. Big doors. A voice…”

“Tsk.” Ed chewed thoughtfully on his lip.

“Brother, what was that? Do you—have any idea what that was?”

“I really don’t know much yet. I just know it’s some sort of… of energy source? Channel? I don’t know,” and he sounded almost like he was whining—which inwardly he was, but refused to admit it, forcing himself to act more adult-like. “I think it decides the equivalency. You know, it calculates what is worth how much.”

“But that’s—how? I mean, what—the standards?”

“Yeah, exactly.” Ed grumbled to himself for a little bit, jiggling his knees in his seat. His leg no longer hurt. Just the simple presence of an awake and aware Alphonse seemed to abate his pain. “I need to hurry up and get used to these limbs so I can start researching again.”

They were quiet for a while, watching the sway of the big tree in the yard through the window. Ed had a myriad of things waiting to be explained to his brother, and an entire list of facts he needed Al to get straight so their cover-up would seem authentic. However, he had no idea where in the world to begin

oh to hell with it

he plunged straight into the heart of the matter.

“Look, Al, Mum doesn’t know anything,” he sounded frantic and panicky even to his own ears. “She doesn’t know that she died. She doesn’t know—she doesn’t understand what we—what I did. She doesn’t understand what happened to me, what happened to you—she’s kind of mad at me, right now, since I haven’t been telling her anything.”

Al stared at him with measuring eyes, and for a heartbeat there Ed thought Al would judge him for lying to their own mother, but then he gave an understanding nod.

“That makes sense, I guess,” Al sighed. He grabbed the glass of water again; his throat was rasping from dryness and disuse. His hand trembled in holding the glass; Edward figured he must be starving by now. It had, after all, been a week since Al has had any real food. “It’s all for the better if she doesn’t know.”

“Exactly,” Ed was glad there was someone who understood him now. He had been desperate for the past few days for someone to talk to—so much so that he was actually almost missing the Bastard. “Our cover story goes: Mum collapsed from her illness, we panicked. We tried to heal her with medicinal alchemy we learned from Hohenheim’s books and from our training with teacher. I gathered the ingredients for the medicine—lost my arm and leg—made the medicine; you tried to infuse it into her bloodstream, with your own blood. You bled too much and went into shock.”

“You lost your leg too?!”

And it seems he had not noticed after all. Ed lifted his automail leg for Al to peer at in part-horror and part-fascination.

“How? Why?”

Ed opened his mouth to explain, but heard a light clatter from the kitchen. He bit his lip and said instead, “Long story, I’ll tell you later—“


“Alphonse!”

Both boys’s heads whipped towards the doorframe, where Trisha stood in surprise. She rushed into the room, pushed past Ed, and gathered her youngest into her arms, tearfully patting Al’s back and mapping his face and holding him close.

“Good morning, Mum,” Al smiled, tentative and wondering as he gazed up at her in adoration. Trisha choked back a laugh of joy and took him in her arms again, rocking them back and forth. Over Trisha’s shoulder, Al gave Ed a look of pure awe as he held his mother close.

Ed just gave him the usual roguish grin, leaning back against the rest of the chair. He remarked, “See, I told you, Mum, he’d be fine.”

Trisha said nothing to that. In fact, Trisha acted as if she never heard him speak at all. She drew back and held her son’s face in the cup of her hands. “How do you feel? Are you feeling alright? Do you want some food? Oh, you must be hungry, my poor child, you haven’t had anything in days!”

She bustled about, removing the blanket Ed had draped over Al’s shoulders and replacing it herself, tighter and snugger, as if to secure Al in place. She refilled the now-empty glass of water, insisted that Al take a sip, and refused to let her eyes part from her revived son’s face.

Awkwardly, Ed stood and muttered, “I’m going to go help with lunch.” With an apologetic glance to Al, he removed himself from the scene and made his way towards the door, where Pinako stood watching Trisha fuss over her son.

“Be patient with her, Edward,” the old lady said when he passed her by. “She’s confused. She’ll come around.”

Edward paused momentarily, and with a grim smile said, “Yeah. I know. I understand.”

He trudged down the hall towards where Winry was happily clanking about in the kitchen preparing lunch. Desperately, he tried to purge from his mind the way Trisha had so easily brushed him aside to care for Al, and when he rounded the corner into the kitchen, he had a ready smile for Winry, a cover, but good enough to throw them all off. He could bear this much—this was his punishment for the committed taboo. He would bear this much, because it was only right. She might be angry at him for the moment, and a little bit afraid, but soon it would fade away—as long as she did not hate him, he could bear this silent treatment.

Because soon, soon, it would fade away.



Days passed in a blur after Al’s waking. His little brother was up and about again, walking around and helping with some chores, though Trisha forbade heavy work and lifting. Al only gave a wry smile whenever she fussed about; Al was always the better one when it came to tolerating people. By nature Al was a far more social creature than Ed could ever be, and so it was by no one’s fault that for the next few days, Ed was left to his own devices, practically unnoticed in the background except when he spoke up in reply to whatever taunt Winry threw.

Ed kept his quiet, letting Trisha do as she wished, letting her have her reassurance that Al was going to be fine, letting her see that eventually things would settle down again and they would be able to return to their old lifestyle. He had quite a bit of a trouble with finding some alone time with his brother, time sufficient enough for him to outline what meagre theory he had on the Gate and on what had happened to them. Pinako was a great help in that respect; again, she took Trisha out to the markets for a second shopping trip, buying the things they were not able to buy since they be unable to carry it all back the first time.

Rightly so, Al’s interest was piqued by Ed’s theories, and soon they were both digging into their books again, searching for any nuance at all about a Gate or a deciding entity or a channel of energy, something. Even more than that, Al was interested with Roy Mustang, the Bastard, and unabashedly impressed at the offer for the State Alchemist title. They knew both about the unsavoury nature of the job, but there was no denying the prestige that came with it, and the high qualifications a practitioner had to meet in order to claim such a privileged title. Being offered one was nearly unheard of, especially to a child of barely twelve.

Time and again Al questioned why Ed refused the offer, and this irritated Ed beyond imagination. He had already explained that he was not going to abandon their family, not now when they’d finally been reunited, but Al insisted upon his point, saying that the research grants—the opportunity itself was far too rare to miss. And what was even more irritating—if that was even possible—was the way Al would look at him once every now and then, with awe and admiration and this sort-of almost pseudo-worship, doubtless because of what he has achieved with their mother. His temper flared on edge whenever Al looked up at him like that, because damnit, they were supposed to be equals, and Al was not supposed to be lower than he or he higher than Al. He did not want hero-worship; he just wanted their family back together, that was all.

But as he’d learned, the simplest wishes were the hardest ones to make into reality.

Once he tried voicing this concern to Al (in a most roundabout way but Al got the gist anyway) and he was simply rebuffed. Regardless of all of this, Al continued to look up to him and listen attentively in matters of alchemy. Ed feared for Al’s individuality and personal style; he did not want his brother’s talent covered up by his own.


Thankfully, they did not get to talk much at all about alchemy, given Trisha’s persistent shadowing of Al. Ed tried to minimize her exposure to alchemy, at least for a little while until she loosened up again. At the very mention of it, or at the very sight of them poring into their father’s books, her eyes darkened with something he was only beginning to fathom. Wistfulness was forever gone from her eyes, and would never return to shadow them whenever she saw alchemy in action. It used to remind her of Hohenheim, but from now on, it would remind her of her younger son half-dead and her elder son half-whole.

Ed was slowly beginning to see the fine distinction between his thinking and his mother’s, between alchemists and non-alchemists. Before her death, he would have never thought to distinguish, to discriminate between the two. Before her death, before the Gate, he had believed the ideal of equality, in that everyone had a fighting chance, and everyone saw the world more or less the same way.

But encountering the Gate, not once but twice, had changed him, even if he tried his best to deny it. The ideal of equality was fake; every one was created much different from everybody else. This was where the diversity responsible for evolution stemmed from, and this was what society was ultimately built upon. It was foolish to think otherwise.

Alchemists tended to have a different view of the world in comparison to ordinary people, given the much varied knowledge and different upbringing they had (though of course he was generalizing at this point). He—and Al—they were both more open-minded than Trisha could ever be. They were thinkers-out-of-the-box; they were scientists who asked questions, and it was in their blood to do so. They welcomed things they did not know and understand; they sought the answer to them with relentless passion and pursuit.

Non-alchemists could never understand this, at least not to the same extent. Trisha certainly did not, for when she saw something she did not understand, in the true fashion of a sheltered human being, she began to fear

—and fear, he knew, was the very foundation of hate.


He did not want that.

He did not want to be hated by his own mother.

So he tried his very best not to upset her, to please her by taking good care of Al while she was away. He never used alchemy in front of her, and he took pains wearing long pants and long-sleeved shirts even in the sweltering late summer heat, if only to hide his automail from her sight.

He struggled to convince himself that yes, she still loved him, and yes, he was still a member of this family. He struggled to maintain confidence in her affection—but he was slipping, oh yes he was, because she was not showing him one inch of affection, not one ounce of kindness at all. They had not talked since that last time when she asked him for what had happened—and whenever he thought of this, he was nagged by a desperate urge to just confess everything that had happened to her surely willing ears, because maybe, maybe—


Maybe that would let her see just how much of himself he had given in order to keep this family together, alive.



Light streamed in bars of sunlight through the window, slanting into and cutting through the gloom of his bedroom. His floor was a clutter of books and notes, and his bed a tousled mess of either sleepless or restless nights. This was the one place Trisha never went into, and so he stashed all the alchemy books in a trunk at the foot of his bed. The trunk he had lifted from the basement (which was perfectly chalk-less and blood-free when they moved back into their house) and the books he had gathered from Hohenheim’s study and library.

He feared her fear—and yes, he was fully aware of how absurd that sounded—because he knew not just how far she could go to satisfy the drive to abate the fear. Perhaps he was just being paranoid now, but he did not care. The books—Hohenheim’s journals and notes—they were too precious to risk. She could take them anytime and burn them if he had left them in the study; what a waste of good resource it would be.

But if anything, he knew preventive action best. He had learned a whole plethora of things from his teacher; this was one of them. He kept his precious things close to him, in plain sight but not quite. The clutter in his room served to hide his important notes and the special journals Hohenheim had doodled countless blindingly intricate and equally incomprehensible circles in.

He was nearing midway into one of these journals (there were twelve of them Hohenheim left behind, and he had them all under lock and key) when he came upon a tiny little sketch at the edge of the page—a simplified ouroboros, the snake that eats its own tail. The snake ate itself and used its flesh to reconstruct itself, killed itself so it could rebirth itself. Ed blinked, shaking his now boggled head. The circle was endless, in which life leads to death leads to life. This strongly reminded him of Izumi’s tenet, “One is all, all is one,” the truth of the universe stuffed into such small and almost inconsequential words.

Closing his eyes, he reclined against his bed and placed the journal on his chest. In his mind’s eye he could picture a dragon, a snake, coiling around on itself and biting its tail. It made sense that the symbol was a symbol of immortality, because indeed the snake did not truly die—not if it was able to rebirth itself in its constant flow of energy.

(the circle is the guide and the energy flows within it)


He snapped upright.

“The circle is the guide and the energy flows within it,” he looked down at his palms, one flesh, one metal. “All matter exist in a never-ending flow.”

Swinging his legs over the side and sitting taut at the edge of his bed, he slowly brought his palms together, until they met in a quiet clap.

(spark)

He felt that. He felt that tingle of energy, even through his automail, even through insensitive metal. Audibly, he swallowed and blinked—an image, a circle, flashed into his mind. He let go of the rounded arch of his arms and touched with his right hand a piece of scrap paper on the floor

(cracklespark)

rush went the energy as the crumpled paper turned into a perfectly folded paper crane.

Dubiously, he stared at his hand.

And then at the paper crane.

And then back at his hand.


“Bloody fucking hell.”


Stunned and incredulous, he scrambled for the journal and rifled through its pages, finding the page he was on and gazing at the sketch again. This time, the thing in his head was cooperative; it showed him flashes of the older versions of the ouroboros, and unlike unreliable human memories, these flashes remained burned into his retina for a prolonged period of time. He seized a pencil from the bedside table, snatched a piece of scrap paper from the floor, and began sketching the previous version of the ouroboros, and then the one that came before that, continuously, and soon he was deriving the circle to its most ancient form.

He stared at the sheet of paper and set it against Hohenheim’s notes, his eyes frantically scanning back and forth across the line of circles progressively more intricate and ancient. There was a pattern, a script and two sigils pertaining to command, somehow condensed as the circle evolved, and eventually it disappeared. Indeed, to an untrained eye, the simple form of the ouroboros would be no more than a symbol of infinity and eternity and wholeness, nothing else, but in the old ages, there was some other use for it.

And he knew—he just knew—that if he could decode that, then he would be able to figure out what he just did.

But first he needed to do that again, and observe.

Eager as a child given a new toy for Yule, he scrambled to the door—and paused, turning back and stuffing the journal (with the paper full of his derivative circles) back into its trunk. He made sure to lock it before he shot out of the room, down the hall and stairs, and straight through the kitchen into the backyard.

There he stood bouncing on his heels, looking about for something to transmute. Over by the wall, there were chops of wood they stocked up for when the winter came; it was still summer, and they were not going to need any of them for a while, so it would not be a problem if he took one or two to play with.

Walking towards the stack, he clapped his hands, visualized the circle he wanted in his head, and touched the topmost chop of wood. Smoothly with a crackle of blue-white light, it morphed into a wooden soldier toy.

“Brilliant.”

He grinned to himself and took the wooden toy, rushing to where the backyard faucet was. Setting the piece of wood down on the ground, he ran the water and let it flow and wet the earth, until there was a generous pool around the wood. Then he clapped his hands—again, the circle in his mind’s eye—and touched the top of the piece of wood—and slowly, a sprout of wood came out of the top, and then a little fold of green, and then a tiny leaf, until the piece of wood was a medium-sized leafy sprout rooted in the wet earth.

“It works with acceleration reactions too,” marvelling breathlessly at the tiny tree he made, he rolled back on his heels and sat on the ground. Again, he brought his hands together and touched the tiny pool of water directly beneath the faucet—it froze and aggregated into a flower made of ice.

“What are you doing?!”

Startling out of his wonder, he jerked in fright and looked up at his mother—his very angry mother. Breath caught in his throat when he saw the burning fire behind her mother’s eyes, the same fire Al had in his whenever he felt strongly about something. Theirs was a quiet fire, normally, but when stoked, it spit and sputtered just as aggressively as Ed’s.

“M-Mum, I was just—”

“Do not do that hateful thing in my presence ever again, Edward!” she hissed, eyes narrowing and mouth clenched in anger and fear and—Ed recoiled—hate. “I do not want you performing that alchemy of yours inside this house ever again, are you listening, young man?”

Ed could not believe what he was hearing. Was this really his mother, his mother who had so loved alchemy?

“It has done no good for this family, none at all,” she straightened herself as if attempting to rein her emotions in—she was close to failing. Ed’s eyes caught the tautness and snap of her neck; she was afraid. Of him.

His mother was afraid of him.

“Alphonse will be going to town with me. I am taking him to the clinic for a check-up,” declared Trisha, before turning her back on him. “I want you to clean all of that up before we come back.”

And not even a goodbye as she disappeared back into the house, leaving Ed struck speechless and still on his perch by the dripping faucet.


He struggled to reconcile the Trisha he just witnessed with the kind soul he knew as his mother. He struggled to reassure himself that she was still confused, just confused, and did not know what she was talking about. How could she? He had told her nothing. She knew nothing. Not one thing about alchemy, about his blood’s science, about Hohenheim, about him, her own son—she knew nothing about how the science had saved her, revived her from the dead.

Oh, she was probably immensely shocked to wake up finding both of her sons incapacitated. Al’s prolonged condition did nothing to allay her doubts and fears. But was it fair to despise alchemy just because of that? Was it even normal?

For a moment Ed was struck with a stagnating fear—what if he had not brought her back whole and right after all? What if dying—what if the Gate affected her somehow? Because surely, surely a limb cannot be worth a whole soul

(she was whole she was brought back whole the price was paid and the soul given back)

but the Knowledge told him he had succeeded. The thing in his head was reassuring him—and it felt right. Besides, he did not think he failed at all. Everything was perfect—well, okay, not everything, since he lost two limbs—but all in all the transmutation’s results were far beyond exemplary.

Which only left behind one explanation for her contempt: that she truly felt it.

Ed did not want to believe it. He did not want to believe it—because this was his mother, his beloved mother, not just some stranger, and she could not hate him, she just could not

but she does, you saw her eyes, she does hate you

and he could not deny that now, no, because he did see her eyes. She had glared with utmost contempt at the branch of wood and frozen flower and she had called alchemy a “hateful thing”—and, since alchemy was an intimate part of him (hell, by extension, alchemy was him, his very being), that just meant she hated him too.

She hates me too.

And what had master said about hate? People feared something before they hated it. Well, she had—still does—fear his alchemy. She fears him. Therefore, by way of perfectly logical reasoning, it would be safe to conclude that yes, she could hate him too.

She hates me too.


Realization slammed against his heart much like how a fully speeding train would ram against a solid brick wall, except unlike the rewiring of his nerves, he felt no pain. Only a spreading, deadened numbness in his chest, and an urge to throw up.

He did throw up.
Leaning over by the faucet he heaved his last meal—but the acid in his throat and mouth was nothing compared to the stinging behind his eyes. Losing his mother, effectively killing his brother, losing two of his limbs—none of that made him cry, but this, this—


Perhaps, he thought, this is the payment.

I lost only two of my limbs for my mother’s and brother’s souls—but in the end, we can never be family again. And this is my payment for breaking the taboo.

The thing in his head remained deathly quiet.


He remained hunched by the faucet, tear streams splitting his cheek, until they dried into near-invisible saline tracks and remained there, sticking and tight against his skin, much like how the stain of his mother’s hate would remain forever etched on his heart and soul. And then in a flash of awareness, in a bout of coherency amidst his jumbled emotionality, he realized:

I can’t stay here.

His spine stiffened.

I can’t stay here—not if Mum hates me. And not if I can’t do alchemy. I can’t not do alchemy—I can’t.
The thought of leaving his hometown for good, leaving his family for good, brought a seeping sadness to his chest, and it rose like a wave along with nostalgia, choking his throat. Again the stinging came to his eyes, only this time, he screwed them shut and tipped his head back, willing the tears to stop and disappear.

This—his mother no longer wanted him here, so this was what he must do. He must leave, now, and not return. He would leave a note to Al—yes—and he would go.

Hurried, almost unexplainably frantic, he twisted the faucet and ran the water again, a strong gush this time, and rinsed his mouth three times over, before clapping and returning the branch of wood with leaf sprouts into its old form, a chop of dry firewood. The frozen flower he evaporated into mist, and he brought the chop of wood back into the stacks.

Then he rushed into the house, ran to the bathroom and brushed his teeth. He went into his room and began clapping, binding together the scraps of scattered paper into makeshift booklets and stuffing them all into the small trunk. When all the paper was cleared, he began to sort through the books to decide which he would bring and which he would leave behind. In the end he decided to bring only Hohenheim’s special noted books and the twelve journals, leaving behind the basic books, which he really had no need for anymore. His clothes—what few of them he would bring—fit into a large knapsack, and—

And that’s all.

He looked around him, around the room of his childhood, now free of strewn paper. The bed was still tousled—with a few measured movements, he righted the sheets. The books went into neat stacks on the desk, and after that he snatched a piece of paper stuck in between one of the books’s pages.

A quick note to Al—an apology and a bare explanation—and he left it on the table, weighted down by the piece of rock he had always used as a paperweight ever since his early reading and writing days.

Biting his lip, dragged the trunk and carried the knapsack to the hallway, and without looking back, closed the door behind him.


A deep breath.

I need to go now. I need to go.

Yes, he would leave, and catch the first train out of here, and he would go to—

Well.

I have nowhere to go.


There he stood, staring blankly at the opposite wall. Dublith was one option—he shuddered. Actually, no, Dublith was not an option. His teacher would ask questions, and he would have no choice but to tell her. Unlike Trisha, she understood alchemy, and would immediately know about the taboo he had broken. And suffice to say, she would not be pleased. He shuddered again, more violently this time. A displeased Izumi was not a very nice Izumi to be with.

So he was left with no choices. He knew no one else; he had been to nowhere else apart from Dublith and Resembool. Not even to neighbouring cities and towns—they never had the need to travel, and constant touring was not a luxury they could afford. Trisha was, after all, by all rights and respects a single mother supporting two boys. It was a wonder exactly how they survived this well off at all. Certainly it would not have been possible if they lived in a megalopolis such as Central, or even one of the satellite governing cities like East City or South City.

“Should you ever visit Central, come and see me. I’ll gladly lend a hand if you need help.”

Ed blinked.

Well, the Bastard’s in Central.

And blinked again.

His hand tightened around the trunk’s handle. He had no other choice. He knew no one else. He would not have to stay for too long; he just needed a jumping-off point, that was all. He would never dream of imposing himself upon the Bastard and depending on charity, no. Never.

Again, he took a deep, steadying breath—his flesh hand still quivered around the strap of his knapsack; he did not want to leave, he was scared and bloody hell he had a right to be scared. He was eleven years old, and he was leaving home.

Leaving home.

The thought struck him with such intensity that his head throbbed. Eyes fluttering closed, he leaned his head against the wall and recited to himself, “I can do this. I must do this. I can do this.” Keeping it up under his breath, he slipped the knapsack on and hauled the trunk down the stairs. By the door, he took his sturdiest, best pair of shoes, and trudged out of the house, lugging with him all the intellectual property he had the rights to, and nothing much apart from that but himself.

He looked back up at the white structure, watched the light play upon the house’s eaves from a dozen steps away. This was his childhood home—he was leaving it behind.

Could he really leave it behind?


When they were children, about three or four, he and Al used to play a game of whoever-gets-farthest. They would try to sprint away from the house as far as they could without getting scared, and whoever stopped first and returned to their mother lost. Al always won, which was incredibly embarrassing, but there was a first time for everything, right?

Ed turned his back and began to walk.

This time, he would win.





tbc
arc I chapter 02 ver. 1-02
first draft: 2009.06.24
last edited: 2009.06.25

Tags: ,
 
 
Current Mood: omgkenshiiiiiiin
Current Music: L'Arc~en~Ciel - Umibe
 
 
 
screamingchairscreamingchair on 26th June 2009 15:51 (UTC)
No waaay~ No one has commented here yet? that's ridiculous! I mean, I went to FF.net to read this (because I didn't think I would find link to the first chapter here -_-') but I reviewed there and cannot help but be shocked noon did it here!

I haven't read anything from this fandom for some time, going so far as to even ignore my fav authoress posts because I started shipping something else, but this story caught me and didn't let go til last word. I absolutely cannot wait for 'Ed meets Mustang again' scene and especially him meeting the rest of the staff! I think seeing Havoc and Breda commenting on where exactly did Roy meet Ed and laughing at colonel and making insinuations would be absolutely priceless. ^__^
夢路 : dreamscape: FMA: Ed Griniluxia on 27th June 2009 04:38 (UTC)
Ahaha~ Well, the story still has relatively few readers, so that's only to be expected. The LJ readers normally take quite a while to gather around. Thanks for stopping by, though. (I make it a policy to put links to previous and next chapters whenever posting a multi-chapter on LJ; I hate it how sometimes you have to search all over the place for chapters too, see.)

Anyway, I'm glad the story's to your liking. I cannot wait to start writing the next part as well (which I should be starting now, lest I be yelled at by my editor), because Roy and Ed are much love~ ♥
screamingchairscreamingchair on 27th June 2009 09:37 (UTC)
Oh well, I hope they will quickly notice this story (a shame my f-list isn't into FMA, I would rec this). You have a great policy then. It's a pain to search for other chapters and it's much easier to just link to the first chapter when you rec than search for all of them. ^^

I can't wait~ ♥
hit the pedal, heavy metal.: FMA1cherrycoloured on 26th June 2009 18:09 (UTC)
I thought I had commented on the previous chapter, but I guess not, so...This is amazing. The concept was really intriguing to me, and I've been wanting an epic fic that I really like. I love how you make everyone seem real and how they all have flaws but are still sympathetic. I love how you wrote Edward's discovery of his circle-less alchemy, him being all peaceful and happy, and how it turned to something bitter. I love the way you write emotions- I feel like I'm really connecting with the characters. I can't wait for Roy and Ed's reunion! I love your Roy in particular, snarky but still caring, and his interactions with Ed were always amusing.
夢路 : dreamscape: FMA: Ed Griniluxia on 27th June 2009 07:05 (UTC)
Thank you so much for stopping by to review; I appreciate it~! ♥
ankoku_tenshiankoku_tenshi on 26th June 2009 23:00 (UTC)
It's amazing how much more mature Edward is in this mindset. I like how Edward's intelligence is actually apparent; the series,m the anime anyway, seems to downgrade that but I think that is one of his best traits. And the story just keeps twisting and turning doesn't it? I like how unpredictable it is!
夢路 : dreamscape: FMA: Ed Griniluxia on 27th June 2009 07:06 (UTC)
I was actually rather doubting this chapter because I feared some readers might think that Ed's being too calm for an eleven-year-old, but I'm glad you liked the portrayal. (And stories -- that's what they're meant to do. Writhe and twist. 8DD)

Edited at 2009-06-27 07:06 (UTC)
(Deleted comment)
夢路 : dreamscape: FMA: Ed Griniluxia on 27th June 2009 07:07 (UTC)
(lol) You're not alone. I find it ridiculous how I'm starting to regard this storyverse as canon.
[ Linne-Linne ]linne_linne on 27th June 2009 02:57 (UTC)
You always leave me speechless whenever you write something as gorgeous as this. And I barely have any time to read fics because of nursing, so rawr. ♥ I'm excited to see how Ed's mindset is going to be when he arrives in Central. In the anime and manga, he had Al to keep him grounded and focused, so I wonder how he's going to grow up not only as an alchemist, but as a person too. ^^

Wonderful job as always, darling. :)
夢路 : dreamscape: FMA: Roy & Birds (Instead of Work)iluxia on 27th June 2009 07:08 (UTC)
Thanks for being such a loyal reader ♥ I'm glad you liked it.
caedi: fma: Edcaedi on 27th June 2009 07:16 (UTC)
This story is so fantastic, it's such an interesting idea- I can't wait to see where you go with it and how it all progresses from here. Your writing is really evocative, you could really feel the despair Ed felt when he realised his mum hated his alchemy- it was such a contrast to the joy he'd been feelng a few moments earlier. Absolutely brilliant. I'll be eagerly awaiting the next chapter! Can't wait :)
夢路 : dreamscape: FMA: Mustangiluxia on 27th June 2009 07:57 (UTC)
Thank you so much for reading, I'm glad you liked it. "Evocative" is one of the most original words I've been given for my writing in a while now. 83

Next chapter should be up in a week, maybe less. Thanks again~! (Nice icon, btw.)
sinnatious: Genesissinnatious on 27th June 2009 07:18 (UTC)
“You know? That’s a mouthful. You should get a shorter title. Like Colonel, or General, or Fuhrer.” Oh, Ed. ♥

And ugh! That whole thing with Trisha was heart-breaking. The payment chilled me to the bone. I physically recoiled when she discovered Ed in the yard! And now he's running away from home! D: Well, to Colonel Bastard, which is consolation for us readers I guess. But wow, you really got the whole 'mature or not, he's still 11 and against the whole damn world' thing down pat. And how much harder to hide the taboo when the evidence is walking around in plain sight!

I like all of your alchemic details, too - for a psuedo-science that doesn't really exist, you've made it very credible, with the dragon circle revelation and expanding from there, and Al and Ed wondering about the Gate's standards, and the drive to understand.

;____; Also, the 'who-can-go-furtherest' game at the end there? Oh, you've killed me. AND ED ALWAYS LOST. asdfljslfjsldfkj. Perfect place to the end the chapter. I'm loving this story.
夢路 : dreamscape: FMA: Ed Evil Geniusiluxia on 27th June 2009 10:40 (UTC)
Yes, Ed. ♥

He's running away, indeed, in the true fashion of an obedient teenager. Doesn't that just sound so wrong?

The alchemical details are fun. When I get the theories page up, you'll see how we worked on the entire thing. We actually had to do some serious consideration of alchemy and its basic processes -- you know, like: (activation energy) + A => B, (in which A is composed of the same molecular materials as B, only in different form) which means the Gate does not lend at all any energy but only interferes when you lack in what you give (either A or the activation energy), and that's when you get a leg or an arm or another bit of body ripped off from you.

Ohmygod. Tria and I are such geeks.>

Edited at 2009-06-27 10:42 (UTC)
icedcandy on 27th June 2009 07:58 (UTC)
dsjf;sadoifalskdj;lmdjfl;adf

Sorry I keep keysmashing every time I comment. But...your story just leaves me so speechless. I really can't wait till the next chapter uguuu this is just so amazing T________T

The way you made Trisha, I'm kind of wishing that they hadn't tried to bring her back in the first place. But, then there would be no story and no Roy/Ed love. So yeah.
夢路 : dreamscape: FMA: Ed Griniluxia on 27th June 2009 10:45 (UTC)
Trisha's kind of hateful right this moment, but well, she's going to warm up in a bit. Only it's too late. Next chapter should be up in about a week, maybe less. Thanks for dropping by~ ♥
icedcandy on 29th June 2009 05:10 (UTC)
Well, at least there's Roy to heal his broken heart ♥ I can't wait (:
(Deleted comment)
夢路 : dreamscape: FMA: Roy & Birds (Instead of Work)iluxia on 28th June 2009 09:00 (UTC)
Indeed, it's hard to imagine Edward without Alphonse -- but that is one of the defining factors of this story. This is precisely why we made it this way. This story is going to be markedly different from the anime -- it can't be anything but.

I'm glad you find it to your liking, though, and I appreciate your thoughts. Thanks again for reading~!
patterson1219patterson1219 on 28th June 2009 02:37 (UTC)
Stunning! The transition of Edward's mindset concerning Trisha, from her just needing time to understand to the growing fear to the ultimate hatred, was very well done. And poor Edward! Having sacrificed so much to capture the family that he lost and now, because of the hatred of his mother, he must abandon that family he saved - because, in his mind, that's the true punishment of his breaking the taboo. Brilliant, absolutely brilliant! I also really liked Edward's discovery of the 'clapping' technique that allows him to use alchemy without a transmutation circle. The original anime's revelation left a lot to be desired, though the newer one does a better job (and I can't vouch for the manga, haven't managed to read that yet). You're explanation in this update, connected with teacher's training of 'one for all and all for one' was superb! Can't wait for the next update, he's off to see Mustang! I'm just curious on where this story is gonna go... XD
夢路 : dreamscape: FMA: Ed Griniluxia on 28th June 2009 09:03 (UTC)
The theory of the clapping is actually loosely based on how they explained it in the manga, though of course the mangaka really does not go into much detail about the actual science. We had to construct theories as best as we could using current physics and chemistry and melding it with the old pseudo-science that is alchemy.

Thanks for taking the time to review; I appreciate it~
ruumba on 28th June 2009 06:10 (UTC)
I'm so late to this, sorry. ;__; Actually, I saw this just as you updated and I REALLY wanted to read it RIGHT THEN but I was at work and-- orz

Aaaand I loved this chapter! It made me horribly sad towards the end, because going through all that trouble to end up being hated must've felt- horrible. I hope Trisha at least... forgives him or changes her mind or something even if it's too late.

ajsakskajk more Roy. It needs more Roy. XD
夢路 : dreamscape: FMA: Ed Evil Geniusiluxia on 28th June 2009 09:04 (UTC)
Trisha mellows out in a bit only of course, it'll be too late; Ed's gone. And yes, Roy. More Roy coming up in the next few chapters.

Thanks so much for reading~~!
ZaKai Stonewall: Misc: Dutyzakai_ on 30th October 2009 08:00 (UTC)
I hope my following comments will make sense as I am actually starting my review from the moment I start reading your story and just writing my thoughts as I read. Otherwise I know I'll come to the end and not sure what to say (this happens all the time ^^; ).

Chapter 1:

Oh I really love how you started this. It really pulls me in right from the beginning.... ah! Enter Roy! Even better (the Roy fangirl inside of me squees)... You do so well with Ed's pain and delerium...I'm liking your Roy already. He doesn't even wait for Ed to recover himself before talking to him... *laughs* Ed's a little bit of a demanding brat, isn't he?... Mustang is going to help with the operation? Seriously? This actually kind of amuses me... At first I was thinking that Pinako was being a little too harsh on Ed, but then I saw what you did with who all had known about her death *nods*...“...you’re a pedophile, aren’t you,” OMGosh! lol!! that was awesome...aaaand now at the end of the chapter. I love how you finished it and tied it all together with the beginning.

Chapter 2:

Oh I really like how you spend a little bit of time and have Ed studying the automail... aww yeah I can see Ed taking on a lot of responsibility after Hohenheim leaves *nods*... yes, I do like your Roy *grins*... awww poor Ed D: And Trisha too... Enjoying Ed's thoughts on the gate, very interesting... hmmm Ed's thoughts on equality, and how it relates to alchemists and non alchemists, are also very interesting... fear and hate, how sad :( it's sad to see how Trisha is reacting to Ed and all that's happened...love the theory for Ed clapping his hands together... Ed's realizations about his mother's feelings are so sad and heartbreaking...

I'm so interested to read more, but sadly it's almost 2am and I think I'd better sleep. (Darn that sleep thing getting in the way of fandom stuff! XD ) I'm not sure when I'll have the chance to read more, but I will be sure to read more when I can. :)