On a side note, I'm curious who all on my F-list is doing NaNo this year? I'm InuGrlRayn on the site, if anyone feels like buddying up.
He held out two perfect arms, evidence of Al’s sacrifice, to the barricaded chasm that was the gate. The offer was made, his life for his brother’s, and he swore he could hear its voiceless laughter, cackling just beyond the reach of his ears.
So, once was not enough for you. All that you have lost has not deterred you from returning, and what will you give this time, Alchemist? Will you surrender your arm and leg? Your life, perhaps?
“Whatever it takes. Just give my brother his life back.”
Ed could feel the gaze of a thousand hungry eyes, gnawing at his being from behind the heavy doors. He swore he could see a vindictive sneer in the back of his mind, twisting its way across the gate, though there was none to be seen when he turned his gaze to it. Still, its meaning was clear. Words swam, vile and threatening at the back of his mind, soundless, but impossible to ignore. And so, his offer was accepted.
Ed bowed his head in resignation, letting himself to be dragged beyond the multitude of eyes, the tugging arms. He was falling, drifting, sucked into the void he’d never been aware of until this day. The dark consumed him, mind, body and soul, shattering him to pieces Only the knowledge that this was for Al sustained him when it left Edward in a sort of agony that ripped through him as if he were no more than scraps of paper. It felt as if an eternity passed in that state, but in a moment’s time, the world ceased to be, and he knew nothing any longer.
Ed’s body felt battered beyond all reason. The searing pain had ebbed, mutated into something dull and aching that pulsed through him. He was weary, exhausted even, and he couldn’t find the strength to even open his eyes. That he was alive was startling, though he couldn’t remember for the life of him why that was. What had be been doing that he was expecting to be dead?
He started, or at least he thought he might have, at the feel of fingers brushing through his bangs. They were warm and soothing, and it was terribly strange because no on ever touched him. Still, the stroking against his forehead was lulling, gossamer light, and familiar in a way he couldn’t quite grasp at.
“Don’t touch that. We don’t even know what it is,” a voice snapped. Ed thought he must be going mad because it sounded like…his own.
“Brother, be nice.” The disembodied voice was closer, and Ed strained to remember why it made his chest tighten. It couldn’t be…Alphonse? It all came rushing back, the stone, the gate, memories flooding back until he felt like screaming. Al was here though, and he struggled to open his eyes.
A face that was and was not familiar met his gaze. A set of eyes he’d not seen in years shone with youth, with life, and knots of worry worked their way from Ed’s belly.
“You’re awake,” Al noted with a smile.
“Al,” Ed choked out, dredging up the strength from somewhere to reach up and grasp Al’s hand, still lingering at his brow. His eyes felt damp, and it was too much. So much time had passed and he hurled himself forward, ignoring the sharp pain that assaulted his every nerve. Ed wound his arms around Al, burying his head against his younger brother’s shoulder. Al was alive, living and breathing and alive.
“How does he know you?” another voice demanded, the one that sounded like him, but who could impersonate his voice?
“Envy!” Ed pushed Al behind him, facing his copy. The world was turning grey and veiled as consciousness began to ebb, his body rebelling against his efforts to move.
“Envy?” The figure who looked like him seemed perplexed.
“What are you talking about?”
“Don’t fuck with me,” He growled, “I know what you are.”
“I’m Edward Elric.”
“No you’re fucking not. I’m Edward… You’re Envy, you have to be.”
“What’s Envy?” Al asked somewhere behind him.
“You know what Envy is, Al. He’s a homunculus. That thing that killed me… Don’t you remember?”
Ed didn’t wait for a reply. He would protect Al, even if it cost him his life.
“Wait! You’ll hurt yourself worse.” Al reached out, a hand on Ed’s shoulder, even as he clapped his hands together. Flesh met flesh with a resounding noise that echoed through the room. He waited for the familiar flash of alchemy to explode before his eyes, the energy of it to course through his veins. His expectations were met with nothing.
“It…didn’t work,” he whispered, his voiced edged in panic. He had to save Al, had to take down this homunculus. What was he supposed to do?
“Of course it didn’t work. What the hell is wrong with you? You’re not even doing it right,” the doppelganger rolled its eyes. When it turned them on Edward once more, they looked dangerous. He clapped his hands together, wincing visibly. A rivulet of crimson worked it’s way between mismatched palms, but the effect was unmistakable, and Ed jumped as Ed’s hands touched the railing of the bed and the linens wound their way around his ankles.
“That is how you do alchemy,” his copy grumbled.
“But… you’re…You can’t do alchemy,” Edward’s head spun. If this wasn’t Envy, what was he? Surely he couldn’t be…
“And get your hands away from my brother, you freak.”
“Your brother? Your brother? Do you have any idea what I went through to bring him back? How dare you show up, and pretend to be me, and…” Ed couldn’t think, he couldn’t breathe. This thing wasn’t him. It couldn’t be. Even as an imitation it failed with the automail on the wrong side. He had to protect Al from whatever this imposter was, but the room was fading fast, and he felt himself falling, sinking back into nothing. All that registered were voices.
“Edward, why do you always have to be so mean? We don’t know what he is. Maybe he really does think he’s you or something.”
“Why does it matter, Al? He’s obviously not me. His automail isn’t even on the right side. Well, whatever. Mustang can deal with it.”
Mustang was alive? Surely, he would know. Mustang would have to know that he was real, that that other thing wasn’t him, right?
“Al, please believe me. That… that other…it’s not me.” He fought to speak, even as the darkness claimed him once more.
When Ed awoke once more, Al and the person who claimed to be him were both gone. His chest clench in fear for a moment, that Al had left with that…that thing, and he struggled to sit up again, only now noticing the IV dripping fluid into his arm, the stark white of his surroundings.
“You should probably stay put. I’m told you’re in pretty bad shape.” Another familiar voice.
“Colonel,” Ed turned to face Mustang. The man reclined in one of the hospital chairs, looking as untouchable as ever.
“General,” Mustang corrected, his brow quirked in a vaguely unreadable expression.
Ed shook his head, ignoring the correction. Perhaps Mustang had gotten a promotion while he’d been out. He took a breath, glancing around the hospital room. It was all too familiar. How often had his body graced these beds over the years? There was a nondescript painting on the wall, just like all the rooms had, and off to his left, the window offered a gracious view of Central. If he squinted he could make out headquarters.
“You have to help me, Mustang. You can clear this up, right? That…whatever he is, he’s got Al thinking he’s me.”
Roy’s eyes narrowed, seeming to consider his request. “Who, exactly, are you?”
“Why does everyone keep asking me that? I’m Edward Elric!” Ed began to reach up to scrub at his eyes in frustration, deterred halfway by the tug of a needle in his veins.
“That cannot be. Your automail isn’t on the correct side. Since you don’t seem interested in coming clean about who you are, I see no reason to offer you help.”
He remembered then, hurtling through the gate, waking in another world, another body. It had belonged to someone who wore his face, perhaps even shared his name. Could this be another version of the world as well? If that was true, then maybe that other Edward was every bit as real as he was. Then that wasn’t his Al… Perhaps his Al never made it at all.
The thought rattled him and he shoved it away. He had to sort this out, to get home and find out what had become of his brother. Panicking would solve nothing. Mustang was probably his only chance, and the man was getting up to leave.
“Yes?” the General turned to him, waiting as requested.
“I think…maybe I can explain how I got here. I know it sounds crazy, but I really am who I claim to be. I just want to go home.” Ed waited with bated breath, for Mustang to respond. He regarded Ed suspiciously for endless seconds before taking a seat once more.
“You know…at least a little bit about the gate, right?” Ed asked, hoping beyond hope that this world was similar enough to get his point across.
“Somewhat,” Mustang confirmed.
“I…went to it, trying to get my brother back. I died fighting Envy. Al used himself, and the philosopher’s stone to bring me back to life, and…I couldn’t let him sacrifice himself for me.”
Mustang leaned one elbow on the arm of the chair, resting his jaw in the palm of his hand, “Envy?”
“Envy… a homunculus. You know, an artificially made human. They’re monsters,” Ed answered shakily.
“They’re fairytales,” Mustang countered.
“Not where I come from,” Ed muttered.
Roy sighed through his nose, but didn’t counter Ed’s words. “So you went to the gate to retrieve your brother.”
“I offered my life for his.” Ed’s shoulders sank, hopelessness worming its way over his features.
“It was all I had left to give,” came the nearly silent reply.
“But it did not kill you?” There was another unreadable look on Roy’s face, eerily familiar, though its bearer was not the same.
“I guess not. I woke up here.”