Fullmetal Alchemist fan fiction
Genre: drama, post-series, alternate timeline
Characters: Edward, Alfons
Rating: PG (K+) for language
Word Count: 3000 or so
Summary: Heiderich draws the short straw and is sent by his colleagues to fetch ‘Railroad’: he had only one leg. His right side was curiously caved, as though he were missing an arm, and he looked markedly more dangerous than any beast imaginable.
Notes: Written for esteltinuviel in the November-December session of fma_exchange The prompt was essentially, “Ed x Hei, emphasis on characterization (not plot). Romance/angst.”
The Hei backstory I’m using for this story is that though he was attending University prior to Edward’s appearance, he didn’t get rocketry into his head until later. At that point, his dormant ambitions to become a legacy (or whatever it was he wanted in the movie?) are awakened. At the same time, Edward’s ambitions begin to take on tangible form—in this same backstory, Edward ends up in Germany after his final transmutation, not in London with Hohenheim.
Warning: This is the most gen romance story ever written in the history of mankind.
Not that it was any of my business. Nobody gets through life without losing a few things along the way."
--Neil Gaiman, “Feeders and Eaters”
Some people will jump at the chance to walk forever, to travel the roads that are supposed to lead to better things.
But the traveling’s not that romantic, not really, because the walking’s not very interesting. One foot after the other, moving forward, and rarely to anything worth visiting. (I really prefer trains, which are much the same, but at least everyone else is going in the same direction, and no one is staring.) Never mind that this was the city, and not the most savory district, so the scenery flattened out and lost color the moment a body took the time to look at it. To top it off, soft rain began to fall, which made every subtle misery quite salient.
Most of my trip was occupied by thoughts of an inconceivable hunger that gripped at me a mere block from the university (by then my feet had begun to hurt, and I was already cold). And it wasn’t as if I hadn’t eaten breakfast just an hour before. That’s what this nonsense journeying does—makes you latch onto that vague, thin hope of a reward at the end of the road, and makes a heel of bread and three Vienna sausages a culinary miracle.
Like my lunch, I expected the madman I was supposed to fetch would be just as glorious. God damn him if he wasn’t!
Not that the fetching of madmen is common practice for me. A couple of students at the university say there’s some nobody hiding out by the rail tracks, see, reading his books and maybe doing what we’re trying to do. Oh, everyone jumps at the opportunity! (I never remember being this desperate for new blood.) Then some fool new kid warns, Railroad is off his rocker, and so angry at something or another he’d kill you if he saw you snooping around his yard. (Spoken from experience, he said, though I certainly didn’t see him rising out of any coffin to tell us this.) Then silly me, foolish Alfons, pipes up to say Railroad is probably some idiot, maybe with a decent head on his shoulders, but nothing else. Looney.
If that didn’t get the boys scheming.
Alfons should be the one to fetch him, they said. He’s had experience with the deranged (and this isn’t even true, not really).
Oh, and if he dies, it’s all well; there aren’t more than three who’d care to inquire what became of him, and he was a marked man to begin with. (I don’t think anyone voiced this, but it was there, sitting under their smiles and factoring into their rationales.) So suddenly I was the most expendable member of the team, never mind my intellectual contributions. Let them remember that moment when, someday, I pack up and take my blueprints elsewhere!
But I digress—some people jump at the chance for adventure. Sometimes I even fancy myself among those daredevil sorts.
I am not.
And still, there I was, weeding my way through discard and refuse, until I came upon a half-crushed shed, probably used to store lumber at one point. There I was, standing at Railroad’s gate, paralyzed for fear I’d drive him out. (I was supposed to convince him to work with us, and I was struggling not to ever meet him. What a lark!) I stress, however, that there was something amiss about that house. I couldn’t help but feel I’d stumbled into the witches’ den.
The rain now fell in greater volume than it had at the outset, pelted me with a sort of oppressive warmth I never quite understood. (It ought to have been cold, really.) But warm or not, I wasn’t doing myself any favors by standing in it. Droplets fell, clattering on Railroad’s tin roof like so many dice cast. No turning back now, Alfons. Where would you hide? Where would you run this time?
I pushed the door open with little resistance. A mass of rock and mud had been used to keep the door shut, and as it slid across the floorboards it left a gritty, dark brown slug-smear. Even with clouds obscuring the light, I could see that it had painted over a design of some sort. I took my first step inside and out of the rain, and was greeted by dozens more of the strange depictions—circles scrawled in coal (now dripping as the rain seeped in) peered at me from every surface. Some looked as though they had been hastily scribbled over or blotted out; others had been drawn over so fiercely they looked as though they had been burned into the wood. I felt my stomach lurch.
And as to the artist? Until he turned those golden eyes of his on me, I couldn’t even be sure he was alive. He was a dark shadow at the back of the shack, motionless yet monstrous. He had only one leg, the other a stub, cut off at the thigh. His upper half lay recumbent against a tower of crates—the sort used to package goods for transport. He was shrouded in a thick, muddy coat, so I couldn’t be sure, but his right side was curiously caved, as though he was missing an arm, as well. Railroad, combined with the savage markings on his walls, was markedly worse than any many-tentacled beast I could summon from mere imagination.
“I was—I was told you were interested in ah, chemistry.” If I stared long enough at the wall, the circles morphed into hexafluoride chains. Otherwise, this was turning out to be a most unfruitful and unpleasant recruitment trip. “Though I don’t know how reliable my sources—”
Railroad cut me off. “Yeah, well, I’m not feeling all that scientific right now. Go ahead and laugh, but I’ve seen some incredibly weird shit lately and it’s kind of shaken by belief in—” And he cut off so abruptly at first I thought he’d begun to choke (but on what?, I asked myself, silly Alfons). Like as not I was better off for it—what constitutes ‘weird’ to a madman, after all?
“Actually, never mind. Just leave.” He let his chin drop do his chest and closed his eyes, which made me feel incredibly unimportant. “Go the fuck away.”
“No!” I said, suddenly, inexplicably petulant. What did I have to lose, after all? Wasn’t leaving exactly what I wanted? “What right do you have to tell me where I ought to be? This is public property!” (Actually, it wasn’t. Were a train man to hear our quarrel, we would both be reprimanded.)
“Fine, then.” He grit his teeth and pushed himself into a sitting position. “Come over here and tell me what you’re here for.”
It seemed a reasonable enough request, despite my state of blind irritability. I acquiesced.
And in one swift motion, invisible to my untrained eyes, I was flat on my stomach and he was looming over me, like an owl over a mouse.
The impact with the floor knocked the precious air out of my lungs, and if I had not already had practice ogling exactly as do fish dancing on dry riverbanks, I certainly did then.
“Who,” a gasping intake of breath, “are you?” I peered up at him. When did he—where had he—
How had he—?
“I’m Edward Elric, the Fullmetal Alchemist.” I think he expected that to mean something—anything. When it elicited no response, save my dumbfounded stare, he amended his statement. “Stop gaping; you almost look like you believe me.”
What happened next is shameful on my part, but I was very confused, and very wet, and I had just been brought to my knees by a one-legged, one-armed madman. For all I knew, I was heartbeats away from a rather violent and painful death.
I shoved the crates (empty, thank God, or the maneuver would not have gone so smoothly) out from under his arm and he fell, sprawled on his back like a pill bug. Then I scrambled for the door, slipping on reams of rain-soaked packaging-paper and stray bits of coal. I was almost at the threshold—which, given the size of that shack, was not very far at all—when he grabbed me by the boot and dragged me back into the maw of that rune-splattered witches’ den.
“You’re going to have to do better than knock over a couple of boxes to get away from me. Just what do you take me for, huh?”
“Exactly what you told me you are!” I shouted. What I meant was that I took him for a madman, just like the guys had told me he was, just like his oddly-decorated shack had told me he was, just like—what he should have been. What deep down, I’d been expecting.
But my words kept him from dragging me across the remaining length of floor, and convinced him to relinquish hold of my boot. He didn’t say anything, but he made it quite clear that for him, I had disappeared, as had the shack and the rain and this entire world. His gaze was so very far away, it frightened me more than had his complete attention.
And what was I supposed to do? Offer him a stream of platitudes, of course. “There are a lot of sad people here. Lots of people far from home, with nothing left to show for where they came from. With no one left who will listen to their stories, and laugh when they’re supposed to because they were there, too,” I said, slow and measured, like I was talking to a child.
And I think he saw something in me that he shouldn’t have, something that was not me and could never be. Beyond that, I knew nothing, save that his was a delicate story. So I took it upon myself to suspend my biases and hope against all hope that if I surrendered, that story would begin to make some sense.
After all, my story never had. If you recall, Let ol’ Alfons go—he’s got experience with the deranged. Shouldn’t give him any trouble, said the guys at University. The truth was, I hadn’t any experience at all. I spent those three years ‘with the deranged’ waiting for a rain that never came. It didn’t matter that that boy, who died some day in late August, some many years ago, had lived under the same roof as me. Had been my kin (a cousin, maybe, or a nephew). He lived, he died. That was the end of the story. I knew just enough about the late Edward to compare him to the new one (funny that they should have the same name), but not enough to miss him terribly. Better that it should never have happened, if it had affected so little.
For all my shame, I still do not believe those sentiments are as cruel as they sound.
Then I realized I’d been staring, and Edward was staring back, as though he were accepting some sort of challenge. In an awkward form of apology, I said, “I don’t know how long you’ve been living in this place, but you should eat something. Here.” I withdrew the damp brown paper that held the three sausages and the bread and held it out to him. I no longer clung to the belief that he was truly insane, but that didn’t stop me from flinching when he finally took the package—I genuinely expected him to rip it from my grasp. (He didn’t. If I hadn’t been looking, I would hardly have noticed it had been slipped from my fingers at all.)
Edward looked up, bangs falling away from his face so that every inch of those golden eyes surveyed my body, took me in for the first time. “You don’t look so hot yourself. You need this more than I do. And besides, why the hell should you be obligated to give it to someone you just met?”
In regards to my own malaise, after the stares it earned me at university, I rather prefer that it be kept discreet at long as physically possible. Ergo, I shook my head vigorously and tried to look angry. “You’re a half-starved goat living under a piece of tin. And you’re trying to look after me?”
He scowled, then made it perfectly clear that he didn’t trust me in the slightest.
“Whatever you think happened to me—it’s my own damn fault, okay?” he snapped.
An awkward pause. And then a pregnant one, as the rain filled the void. Drum roll for what man spoke next. “No… No, I don’t think that’s ever the case. A single person is never to blame. Opposing forces, you know? There’s never any fault, regardless of how many errors a body makes, unless there is also something to crash into.”
Edward laughed, wiped his forehead with the sleeve of his ragged shirt. “You’re a lunatic, you know that? When you walk into a wall, is it the wall’s fault for not getting out of the way, or yours, for being a moron?”
“There’s the person who made the wall,” I argued grudgingly, though even I didn’t believe that. Crippled, famished, and altogether incongruous Edward Elric may have been, but I wasn’t going down without a fight.
“You are—” and this time he really did choke, or nearly. Perhaps he was not expecting the sausages to taste so much like rubber (or so much like they’d been traveling in someone’s pocket all day, I realized). You are so much like him, I thought.
It was all over after that treacherous remembrance. I did not miss the late cousin-nephew-somehow-related Edward, but that did not stop me from wanting a second chance. Do stories make more sense the second time around?
Whichever piece of the mind produces eloquence of speech, God bereft me of it, possibly on the grounds that He thought I would fail to make good use of it. Or equally possible—because He knew I would need it, very much. Either way, I said nothing, gave no warning before I rested my palms on his shoulders, then his shoulder blades. I said nothing before I fell towards him in what (given the circumstances) passed for an embrace.
Because of this, I do allow that his reaction was only to be expected.
He punched me first, hammering the fleshy underside of my forearm. Then he kicked me in the elbow, which sent a jarring tingle lancing up the same arm. But I only clutched him harder, and eventually he lowered his deadly knee and returned my embrace with—and I was absolutely sure of this now—his sole arm.
The state of him was deplorable, and his aroma was frankly not a pleasant one. Edward smelled of old sweat and new rain, the dirt on his cheek rasping secrets softly against mine. There is something to be said, however, of the weight of a body against your own, clinging as desperately to you as you are to him. There is something to be said of the electric life that that same body’s hands can pour into you, solely by the feeling of their pressure against your spine. There is something to be said of that cathartic feeling of oneness, wellness, after the rain. Deliverance.
He and I were not made again in that muddy shack, or cured of our individual hardships. And if we were relieved of anything, it was only of some hunger (on Edward’s part) and some weight (as I no longer carried those sausages). But perhaps there is something greater than the sum of all our memories and our physical commodities, greater even than what we might someday become, what fame we might achieve. Perhaps there is a state where, despite holes made by things left behind, and things misplaced, and things just plain gone, a body can be whole.
Whole not because he wants for nothing, but because he knows there is someone to share in his struggles, and those evanescent dreams of triumph—even if that triumph never comes.
The concept lingered in my thoughts as the day stretched on, as I watched my madman eat, and listened to his stories (memories?).
When it came time to leave—because I certainly wasn’t leaving him there—I draped his left arm across my shoulder and instructed him to hang on, and to please focus as much weight as possible on his remaining leg, because there was no way in hell I was making it back alive if I truly had to carry him. He was surprisingly heavy, even missing half himself.
He muttered something about walking on his own two legs, though not to me, and I counted it within my rights to ignore this lapse of coherence. I helped him out the door, bowing my head in preparation for what lay outside—to be once again bathed in that warm, oppressive—
Sunlight. And yes, it was dreadfully cliché, but it carried also the mark of truth and there’s really no changing that, not for anything.
The rain had ended.
It did not change the fact that I was still wet from the stroll over; still quite bitter about having drawn the short straw with the guys at University; still dragging home a half-mad, half-starved stray, nor that my good landlady Miss Sabine would still lynch me for it. But it did change some things, for me—for us.
Never again was the whole wide world quite enough.
I figured as long as Hei wasn’t rampaging in Kenya with a poleax, my vision of him couldn’t be that craptastic. …But you never know. Honestly, though? I just read over this piece from start to finish for the first time, and I actually like it. The beginning is choppy and a little hard to follow, but I think the flow improves as the fic progresses. The main thing that bugs me is the random other!Edward mentioned about halfway through. It reads like, OH HAY THAR. PLOT DEVICE, HO! I tried working that out, and I couldn't get it less so. Ah, lackaday. XDD
Constructive criticism is applauded and will be put to good use!