|Fullmetal Alchemist: Reawakening
||[Jun. 27th, 2014|11:42 pm]
|[||Tags|||||! fullmetal alchemist, # fma: alphonse elric, # fma: edward elric, # fma: izumi curtis, # fma: mason curtis, # fma: original character(s), # fma: roy mustang, # fma: sig curtis, # fma: winry rockbell, & fma: winry/mason, + fma: things that never happened||]|
Title: Reawakening (Alternate Ending)
Archive Rights: Please request the author’s consent.
Rating/Warnings: PG for a small amount of violence.
Characters: Edward, Alphonse, the Curtises, Winry, Mustang, assorted original characters, and a special guest villain.
Setting: First anime. Continuation of my AU one-shot story “Rebirth”.
Summary: Fifteen years after being reborn as a child of the Curtises, Edward has grown to be a healthy, settled teenager with no memory of his first life. Yet shadows of the past are beginning to fall over the family’s happiness… and not all of Ed’s old enemies have forgotten him.
Disclaimer: They belong to Hiromu Arakawa. I’m just playing with them.
Alphonse still couldn’t believe that it had come back to this.
Nearly a full day had passed since Ed’s kidnapping by Bald, and the battle on Yock Island. As the following morning dawned, Al found himself sitting beside his brother’s bed, watching him while he slept. For the most part, Ed lay peacefully, but there were moments when he did stir… sometimes with a faint sound of pain, as his left fingers unconsciously reached up to clutch at steel beneath his right shoulder.
Edward had sacrificed his arm once more; but this time it was to save the life of Izumi, his second mother. In that, he succeeded. When the light of the transmutation faded, the spider-chimera’s bite had vanished from her own arm, and its deadly venom in her bloodstream was negated.
And in place of Ed’s right arm, instead of a gaping wound, they found the automail limb that had disappeared when Wrath transmuted Ed’s original body.
Al couldn’t begin to explain why the so-called Gate Ed once spoke of—which he himself still did not remember—had taken a whim to return his brother’s prosthetic. Even more curiously, the scars that bordered it were as old and fully-healed as they had been when Ed’s first life ended. It seemed his body had been returned to the exact condition it was in before his rebirth… except for one thing. His left leg was not taken as well. Evidently, his arm alone was a sufficient price to pay for Izumi’s life.
It was difficult enough to grapple with the pain of seeing what Ed had lost again. Even worse was the sheer uncertainty of these long hours, as Ed lay unconscious, his body and mind recovering from the trauma he had endured.
How much would he remember when he woke up?
One fact was clear. During the battle, Ed had deliberately used alchemy without a circle. Not just once, but three times: to smother the fire that threatened him, to free himself from the remains of the chimera’s web, to offer the Gate his flesh for Izumi’s healing. Did that really mean Ed’s memory of his past and his full powers had returned? Or instead, were his actions merely driven by defensive instincts, like his transmutation in the alley where Bald had pursued him before?
The thought that Ed might awaken to remember everything caused Al a soul-deep anguish. Facing an old enemy, nearly losing Ed, seeing him suffer even a part of his former loss; it all reminded Al more potently than ever of the struggle and pain they had left behind in their old life. He couldn’t bear the thought of going back to that. More than ever, he wanted to cling to what they had here in Dublith. He wanted to wrap Ed in their family’s love, heal him inside and out, and never, ever let him be placed in danger again.
But even if Ed still didn’t remember the past… Al couldn’t imagine how they would explain what had happened to his arm. As Edward Curtis, he might have felt an instinctive revulsion toward automail, but he understood enough to know that a prosthetic limb just couldn’t be attached and heal completely overnight. And what if that near-phobia caused Ed to react to the steel arm with horror?
It was probably a moot point, anyway. After the evidence they had seen, surely Edward Elric had returned, with all his memories of the heavy burdens in his soul.
Ed shifted and sighed uncomfortably beneath the covers. Al felt himself tense on the inside, wondering if this was the moment when it would all come to light… but then his brother became still again. Several more minutes of silence passed.
“I’m sorry, Brother,” he whispered at last, so quietly that he felt sure the words could not be heard outside the shell of his armor. Reaching out, he brushed away golden strands of unbound hair that clung to Ed’s slightly sweat-dampened forehead. “I’m sorry we didn’t tell you the truth before you found out in such a terrible way… I’m sorry you ever had to know at all.”
That, in the end, was what it all came down to. Only now could he fully admit to himself that he didn’t want Ed’s memories to return. For the last fifteen years, Edward Curtis had embodied everything he loved in his brother since the beginning, but with none of the pain—and he wanted more than anything for it to stay that way. For both of their sakes, and for the family they never would have gained if they hadn’t suffered that pain in the first place.
“I don’t want to go back.” Al’s nearly inaudible voice trembled. “I don’t even want your promise. All I want is the home we have here, and the people who love us… and for you to be safe. I just want us to be happy the way we are. I think… that’s what I really wanted most, all along.”
The soft ticking of the bedside clock was the only sound to answer his faint words. Al bowed his helmet, and then looked away, watching the shadows of birds that darted across the sunlit patch of floor beneath the window.
After a few minutes that felt like an eternity, the covers rustled from a stirring of movement at Al’s side.
Startled, Al quickly looked back at his sibling. Ed’s motion must have caused pain in his shoulder, because he caught his breath and grimaced. His head turned a little toward his automail limb, only to loll in the other direction to face Al again. Long blond eyelashes fluttered lightly over pale cheeks, and then rose fully, unveiling eyes of darker gold that immediately met Al’s phantom gaze.
In the emptiness beneath his chestplate, Al nonetheless felt the dizzying swoop that would have been his heart skipping a beat. He stretched out his hand, resting it gently on Ed’s right temple; perhaps, in some part of him, driven by a partial intent of keeping Ed from turning his head to see what he had lost.
The name was whispered, trembling, so much more uncertain than Al wanted to sound at this moment. Curtis or Elric, either Edward he might be facing now was his brother, true enough—but the course of their entire lives hung upon the question of which one he was.
For a brief moment, Ed’s almost too-keen stare lingered. He blinked once, twice, as his chest rose beneath the covers with a deep breath… and then his eyes softened, taking on a guarded, almost hesitant uncertainty of his own.
“Al… What happened?” His gaze shifted, roving around the familiar environs of their bedroom. “I was just in the dining room with you and Uncle Roy—and then I went to get the bacon for Mother…”
A tiny breath-catching sound echoed inside Al’s armor. Is it possible?
Receiving no prompt answer for his apparent bewilderment, Ed became a little more agitated. He moved to sit up, starting to pull his head away from Al’s light touch. “How did I—?”
“Wait Ed,” Al said quickly, slipping his hand down to Ed’s chest, where he applied just a little more restraining pressure. “I have to tell you…”
In the next two seconds, his mind groped desperately for a story that could begin to explain Ed’s condition. Instinctively, he settled on the fact that the obvious one was the best.
“It was the strangler. He found you, and tried to kill you.”
Ed’s eyes darkened, and he made another effort to move against Al’s hand. “What? Oh, no… Did he—?”
“No—everyone else is fine. That is, they are now. There was a fight, but between Mother and Father and Uncle Roy… well, the strangler didn’t have much of a chance. Only…”
Al hesitated, wondering whether the words he was about to say were the right choice. He wished he could take a deep breath to brace himself. More than that, he wished Izumi or General Mustang were there in the room to guide him; but from the beginning, they had promised to leave this matter in his hands, and now the time had come.
“Mother was hurt badly, Brother. But you healed her. Somehow, you found an instinct inside you, to do something no one else could do. None of us understands how, but…” His voice quivered with tears he could not release. “You gave up a part of yourself to Equivalent Exchange.”
The shadows crept back into Ed’s amber eyes. Strangely, the emotion they reflected did not seem to be fear.
“A part of myself?”
“…Your arm, Brother. Your right arm.”
As Al spoke, he finally withdrew his hand, permitting Edward to lift his head. Ed’s dark gaze turned to the side, meeting the sight of steel and scars where a natural flesh limb had resided the day before.
He stiffened, becoming very still… and that was all.
“I saved Mother’s life?” he whispered at last, as he reached across his chest, to touch the cold metal of the automail. “By doing—this?”
“Yes.” Again, Al hesitated. After Ed’s years of uneasiness toward automail, he was still fearful about what kind of shock this was causing his brother—and whether the sheer fact of it would bring back memories of how it really came to be. “You don’t… remember how you did it?”
“No.” Ed turned his face away from the prosthetic, and withdrew his flesh hand, curling it into a fist against his chest. “But if it saved Mother… then I’m not sorry.”
Armor grated softly as Al shifted on his chair, somber and bemused. Considering that Ed had lost a limb—and that he evidently had no memory of losing it before—his calm was almost unsettling. Perhaps something of the inner steel of Edward Elric had returned, as well… but not his actual memories, judging by Ed’s words.
That thought made Al want to weep tears of joy.
“This arm.” Ed was looking at his automail again, his lips twisted into a thin line. “Winry did this?”
…And here was the dilemma of explaining to Ed how automail he gained a day ago could look as if it had been there for years.
“Yeah—but Mother helped, too,” Al improvised. “It’s… a new experimental technique, that involves alchemy in the surgical process. That’s how it could be done so fast, and heal so quickly.” His chin tipped downward. “But that doesn’t mean your learning to use it will be any easier than it is for ordinary automail patients.”
At Ed’s side, the metal fist slowly clenched. He lifted it, with only a few unsteady jerks to the movement, and gazed at it in the light.
There was definitely something of the old Ed in that, if nothing else.
It was all rather strange. If Ed really didn’t remember his Elric past, Al would have expected more questions, more confusion. Maybe Ed was just in shock; or maybe it was true that he was drawing on the emotional reserves of his old self, without knowing it. But if he said he remembered nothing of the battle on Yock Island, the events that had seemed so surely to awaken that part of his soul, then Al could only believe him…
“Brother,” Al said softly, leaning a little closer to study Ed’s face. “Are you sure you’re really okay?”
Ed let the automail hand fall to his side on top of the covers. He rolled his head over to look up at Al, and gave a thin, sad smile.
“Yeah… I’ll be alright, Al. Honest.”
Wherever the truth really lay, there was something in Ed’s eyes that made Alphonse believe those words.
“Okay.” Affectionately he brushed back Ed’s bangs, and stood up. “I should go tell everyone else you’re awake. Even Uncle Roy is still here, waiting to find out how you are.”
A fleeting reluctance crossed Ed’s expression. “Would it be alright if I rest a little longer before I see anyone else?”
“Oh… Of course. Take all the time you need, Brother.” Al paused. “It’s been a long time since you ate anything. I know what’s happened is a lot to take in right now, and you probably don’t have much of an appetite—but you really need some nourishment. Do you feel up to having a little breakfast?”
“Sure. I’ll try, anyway.”
“Good. Then I’ll be back in just a few minutes.”
Al moved to the door. He stopped there, to look back at Ed contemplatively for a long moment… and then he continued on toward the stairs, a faint glow of hope gradually easing the uncertainty within him.
On the other side of the door that Alphonse had drawn halfway closed, Edward sat up on the bed. He curled into a ball, resting his forehead on his now-mismatched arms, as tears brimmed in his eyes.
“I’m sorry, Al… I’m sorry I couldn’t keep my promise.”
He remembered everything. Their tragic life together as the Elric brothers was now as clear to him as their past fifteen years of happiness in the Curtis family. Exactly how his change could have happened was still a mystery, lost in the haze between his two lives; but it really didn’t matter. Right now, there was room for nothing in his mind and heart but the words he had heard Al whisper, just as he was awakening.
I don’t want your promise. I just want us to be happy the way we are.
Everything within Ed was anguished by the thought of letting Al go on as he was, in the armor, without even trying to change his fate… but if this was what Al truly wanted, he resolved to try to accept it as well. He made that choice in the silent moments before he opened his eyes, and began pretending to be the innocent little brother Al still wanted him to be.
Sooner or later, the family would see through that pretense, and realize his memories had returned. He would give himself away with a poorly considered word or deed, or some sudden crisis would compel him to use alchemy without a circle again. They would know then that he had hidden all of his old guilt and pain, for their sakes.
But they wouldn’t make that discovery for as long as he could help it. And by then, surrounded by the healing love of a family—his family—perhaps he truly could learn to let go of the past for good.
Besides, continuing his life as Edward Curtis didn’t mean he could do nothing toward the goal of restoring Al’s body. Even before he regained his memories, purely out of love for Al, he had nurtured that secret ambition in his heart. He couldn’t go on as he had in his Elric life, ignoring the cost to himself and others in a quest to cheat Equivalent Exchange; but he could at least pursue other, ordinary avenues of research. When he finally grew a little older, he could even become a State Alchemist again, as he had considered already in recent years.
Perhaps he would confess the truth of his recovered memories to General Mustang. In his first life, he would never have dreamed of choosing Mustang as his confidante, of sharing with him a secret that was even to be kept from Alphonse… but as things stood now, Uncle Roy would understand. He would try to help Ed protect the family’s happiness.
That was all that mattered now. If Ed had been given this second life for a reason, it was to think of them, and not himself.
Al’s footsteps rattled on the stairs beyond the door. Ed hastily wiped his eyes, and looked up with a soft smile as his brother entered the room.
Chapters: I. - II. - III. - IV. - V. - VI. - Alternate Ending