|The Pen is Mightier! (penismightier) wrote in chaotic_library,|
@ 2012-11-04 15:29:00
|Current music:||Mariah Carey - Fantasy|
[Edward Elric/Alfons Heiderich, Alphonse Elric; PG-13] A Deal With Mister Hades
Character/Series: Edward Elric/Alfons Heiderich; Alphonse Elric; Fullmetal Alchemist (2003)
Notes: I blame a webcomic I read for reminding me of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. Based loosely on that myth. AU to the movie.
Title: A Deal With Mister Hades
Word Count: 5081
Summary: "I was real. Remember that."
But what am I supposed to do,
When all hope is gone?
How am I supposed to leave you
When you're the only one?
I made a deal with Mr. Hades.
My soul he wants to buy.
For you, I'll die.
"I was real. Remember that." Edward clung tightly to Alfons's hand as his lover spoke. "Now go back home." Alfons stood back, to the controls of the rocket.
Edward saw the gun seconds before it fired. Seconds after the launch button was hit. Alfons went down even as the rocket went up.
Edward woke up with a start. Just a dream. An awful memory of a long lost time in Germany, but a dream, nonetheless. Alfons was long gone, by five years, but nothing had stopped the nightmares of seeing Alfons murdered in front of him, even as his lover had sent him home, forever separating them.
Fuck. He needed a drink.
Kicking off his blankets, Edward stuck his feet into his slippers and grabbed his house coat. It was chilly, the rainy season in Rizenbul where he lived with the Rockbells and Al. They'd never rebuilt their home. Why? Al and Winry were already engaged, Winry would live and die in that house, her business and home, and Edward didn't want to live alone when Al would inevitably move out to live with Winry. So they both lived with Winry and Grandma Pinako. Nobody minded Edward's presence; actually, after being gone for those two miserably long years, nobody wanted Edward anywhere else, so it worked out nicely enough.
Edward quietly slipped down the stairs and into the kitchen. Grandma kept a bottle of good whiskey in the lower cupboards, and he wanted a drink badly enough to brave even whiskey's nasty taste. He usually preferred vodka, but he didn't have any and his brother had banned him from having any since the younger Elric had found him at the bottom of the bottle one too many times.
Nothing had erased the grief.
After pouring himself a drink, Edward capped the bottle and returned it to its spot and went out to the dining room. He settled at the table and pulled out his cigarette case from his robe pocket and lit up a cigarette. The ash tray Grandma used for her pipe sat a few seats away; he grabbed it and slid it over to him.
Nothing had eased the grief.
Five long years had passed. Germany had been misery, separated from his brother and his home, but the shining point had been Alfons. Beautiful, wonderful Alfons. Sweet, understanding and interminably patient. Even to the point of putting up with Edward's fanciful tales of another world he'd come from. Even if Alfons hadn't believed until it was too late that Edward really had come from another world, he couldn't deny that something traumatic had happened to Edward, with Edward's two missing limbs. And Hohenheim's prosthetics he'd built for Edward was far and away superior to anything that world had. So this all had to come from somewhere.
Maybe that was why Alfons had accepted what he saw in that cold German castle so easily when the Gate opened. Maybe that was why he'd simply strapped Edward's unconscious body into one of the rockets, intent on sending him home. Edward had been miserable without his home, and Alfons would've done anything for Edward, even at cost to himself.
If only that idiot had known Edward wanted them to get back together. Would he still have chosen a single passenger rocket to strap his lover into? Would he have maybe put them in a bigger vessel, sent them through the Gate together into a world where alchemy was real and fairy tales could come true? Where a red stone might've saved his life from the lung rot that plagued him?
Instead, Alfons had sacrificed his chance at ever seeing Edward again to send Edward home. And he'd paid for it at the hands of an angry Thule Society member.
Edward downed a shot of the whiskey, making a face against the wood-smoke bitter taste of it. Goddamnit, he wanted vodka. Much more palatable.
In retrospect, the quick death at the hands of a bullet to the brain was probably a kinder death than Edward could be currently imagining for his lost lover. Without that quick death, Alfons would've slowly died of the lung rot, probably remaining in Miss Gracia's care until he drowned to death in his own blood.
It would've been better if he'd been there, in Amestris, with Edward, though.
The light in the dining room flicked on; Edward hadn't turned it on to avoid waking anyone, drinking and smoking by the moonlight that filtered in through the window. Edward glanced back at his brother, hiding the whiskey with his body. "Go to sleep, Al," he said. "I'm just having a cigarette. How'd you get up without waking Winry?"
"She's not as light of a sleeper as you are," Al explained. He frowned, moving over to the dining room table. Edward turned away, trying to keep the whiskey out of sight. "Brother, you're hiding something. Talk to me? Did you have another nightmare?"
"Just the usual, Al," Edward assured him. "Go back to bed."
Al wasn't to be deterred, too much a caretaker and too much a fusser to leave it there. He never did. He sat down next to Edward, then eyed the glass just barely in view evilly. "You're drinking again."
"Just one glass," Edward protested, snuffing out his cigarette and brazenly knocking back another swallow. "I am an adult, you know, I am allowed to drink sometimes, you know."
"Yes, but usually, when you drink at night, you crawl into the bottle and wake up with a hangover," Al told him, his tone of voice unamused. "It's not healthy for you." Then his demeanor softened. "Talk to me, Brother? What is it that has you drinking? You've not been right since coming home from that other world."
Edward usually dodged this question. Nobody knew Edward had fallen in love over there in that world, nobody knew anything about his time there. He'd pointedly refused to talk about it. He wasn't doing anything to make sure Alfons was remembered by keeping him a dirty little secret, but there was no danger of Edward forgetting the man. Nothing, not Al, not his home, had eased the grief of losing the only man he loved, of losing the first person from his adulthood. Childhood could only heal so many wounds before you had to grow up and deal with them.
"I was murdered, Al," he said, trying to deflect the question as usual. "You saw it. I haven't been right since then. Dad would've told you I was a ball of misery in Germany, too."
"Yes, but you're home now. Everything's okay now. Envy's dead, Germany's a long-lost nightmare. I know you never get over things, but this is more than just that, Brother." Al looked at him, then took away the last tempting swallow of the whiskey. "Talk to me. I can hear you crying inside, the same way you heard me breathing all those years in the armor. Something else is bothering you."
"I'll get over it, Al. Eventually. Some part of me died back in Germany. Allow a man his grief."
"Five years is a bit much for just grief, Brother," Al said. "What happened?"
Edward didn't answer, stared off out the window at the darkened landscape outside. Home. Where he'd wanted to bring Alfons. Edward never had dealt with death very well. It'd always stuck with him, haunted him like an unwelcome ghost. The memory of the dead whispered to him and never let him be. It was only after killing Sloth that Trisha had finally left him alone. He wondered if he'd have to make a homunculus of Alfons and kill it in order to feel sane again.
Of course, if he made a homunculus of Alfons, he'd know what was needed to finish the transmutation and he'd be able to see if a homunculus could be the person they were meant to be without that woman's poisoning influence. If one could, he would have Alfons back, and he'd be better anyway.
The thought was tempting, but he was afraid of what he'd pay this time, whether he would survive at all. What would be the point of bringing Alfons back if Edward died in the process? Alfons would be left with nobody and Al would be left without his brother again.
It was his obligation to his family that kept him from trying.
"Brother? I'm not leaving you be until you tell me."
Edward tore his gaze away from the countryside to stare at his brother with an evil glare. "Just let it drop, Al," he growled. "Let it be. It's nothing, I'll get over it eventually."
"This is not 'getting over it'. Not even eventually." Al took the glass and stormed out to the kitchen, dumping the rest of it, and the remainder of Grandma's bottle, into the sink. Edward followed with an indignant protest. "This is outright alcoholism, Brother. You're drowning in grief, and you won't tell me what you're mourning so I can mourn with you and help you leave it behind you. You're here, but you're still back there and I miss you."
Edward stared at him, guilt welling up inside. "You didn't know him," Edward said quietly. "You can't mourn who you didn't know. So please, let it drop."
Al looked at him, angry tears in his eyes. "Who? Brother, please tell me. Keeping it bottled up will only make it worse, we learned that. Or have you forgotten everything we learned all those years?"
Turning his back on his brother, Edward crossed his arms, more to ward off a chill that was more psychological than in the air. It was cold, certainly, but his robe was plenty warm. "I haven't forgotten," he said quietly. "But you didn't know him, you'll never know him, so let me grieve however I want to. Please, Al. I'm asking you to drop it."
Al's footsteps were soft before he was close enough to put his hand on Edward's flesh shoulder. "And I'm telling you I can't," he said, voice just as hushed as Edward's. "Not when it has you still a million miles away from me. Come on, come sit down, tell me who it is that you miss so much. Tell me, please?"
Tears pricked at Edward's eyes. The idea of talking about him, making him live again through his words, but never again in the flesh, that hurt. He sighed, then let his brother lead him to the table.
They settled in, Al watching Edward expectantly and patiently. Edward looked down at his hands, resting lightly on the table, and sighed, feeling like a huge weight had settled on his shoulders. "His name was Alfons. He was about my age, maybe a little younger."
"He was important to you?" Al asked, obviously ignoring the name similarity.
"I loved him," Edward confessed. "First and only time I've ever loved someone like that."
Al's eyes got wet in the moonlight, shimmering silver. "What happened?"
"He got killed getting me home to you."
Al bowed his head, quiet. "I'm sorry, Brother."
"His last wish was for me to be here, with you, and it doesn't help." Edward took a shuddering breath, lifting his head to look at the ceiling against the tears. "Homosexuality was illegal over there. So we had to hide. I think Dad might've known about us, but if he did, he never said anything. Not even our landlady knew about us, and she saw us together every day. I wanted nothing more than to bring him back here and make an honest man out of him."
Al put an arm around his brother's shoulders, leaning against him, a few stray tears sliding down his cheeks. "And being where he wanted you to be hasn't helped?"
"Nothing's helped," Edward admitted. "I keep trying to move on, but I can't. I've even considered going to Central to try to meet someone and the thought makes me sick. I don't want to move on, I want him here."
"I know, Brother," Al said, reaching up and brushing back some of Edward's messy hair. "You never did handle death all that well. Neither did I. I couldn't imagine if I lost Winry. Maybe I'd be just as bad as you. But you know we can't do that. You know we have to learn to move on. Nobody's saying you have to go meet someone new to force anything, but you have to let him go. His last wish has been fulfilled, you're home, you're with us again. You have to learn to be happy with that again."
He didn't want to though, not without Alfons. The same as when he'd lost his brother, Edward felt like he'd lost part of his soul when Alfons had died. He'd always thought he and his brother were soulmates, pieces of the same whole. Was it possible for a man to have two soulmates? Maybe his brother had just been another part of him, or Alfons had been his heart where Al was his soul.
"I'll be fine, Al. Eventually."
"All right, Brother, I won't push it," Al said. "Just no more drinking. Please, promise me that. I don't want you to kill yourself with liquor."
Edward sighed. "All right, all right. No more drinking. Now go to bed, before Winry wakes up and finds you gone."
Al kissed his brother's cheek, and got up, heading back to his own room. Edward lit up another cigarette, taking comfort in the rush of chemicals as he inhaled the smoke. Sweet, sweet nicotine. It wasn't alcohol, but it'd do in a pinch.
Al was right, being home hadn't helped. Nothing had.
Family obligations be damned. It was time to approach the Gate, see if he couldn't strike up a deal. That thing had a consciousness, he'd heard it speak before. He'd do nothing more than talk to it, he wouldn't try to create an empty shell of a homunculus. He just wanted to see if there was a way to get him back without killing himself in the process.
If he couldn't, he'd accept that and force himself to move on, for Al's sake.
But he had to try.
Edward snuffed his cigarette and got up, went to his room and got dressed. Keeping quiet to not alert his brother or anyone else that he was leaving, he crept out of the house and made his way to the burned remains of his own childhood home. He could still see the foundations of the rooms, crumbling bits of wall marking where each room was. And where the lab was was still a crater where Al had been when he'd been taken, the force of the Gate's presence warping the floor.
The circle was still burned into the ground.
Pulling out a piece of chalk, Edward traced over its lines. Without any materials to transmute, that circle would do nothing more than summon the Gate. No exchange would be taken, there was nothing being requested but an audience.
He put the chalk away and activated the circle.
"Back again? You didn't bring me anything this time," the voice of Truth said.
Edward bit the inside of his cheek until he tasted copper as he stared at the Gate. "I just want to talk."
"That's unusual. No alchemist has ever approached me just to talk. Well, talk, alchemist."
"Alfons Heiderich. I know he's in there. What do I have to do to get him back? That won't cost me another arm and leg?"
The Gate laughed. "You're funny, I like that. Well, what have you got to offer me, if not blood? I know, perhaps you can entertain me! Do you have any talents you can share?"
Edward hadn't expected that. Talents? "All I have is my alchemy. I doubt that'd entertain you."
"Probably not," the Gate admitted. "No other talents at all? You know, there's a legend on the other side about a man who did what you're doing. He sang for the devil to get his love back. Can you sing?"
Could he sing? Edward had forgotten about that talent, hadn't figured it among his abilities. He could sing, quite well. He'd inherited his voice from his mother, who'd been good enough to be a professional, although that may be at least partly a child's bias. "I can."
"Then sing for me, alchemist. If I like it, I'll give you his soul back. It'll be up to you to create a body for him. But creating a body costs nothing but the materials, and you know how to bind a soul. I'll even allow you to do that for free if you sing well enough to sway Hades." There was no face to go with the Gate, just that ugly door and that empty gold space around it that warped space and time around it, but Edward swore he got the impression of an amused smile at that.
Well, what did he have to lose? At worst, the Gate told him to fuck off, that he sucked at singing, and he'd tried and could move on with life. At best, he'd get Alfons back and things would be right again.
So he sang. He didn't know how long he sang, singing songs from his childhood, sang songs he remembered hearing while traveling, songs from Germany, songs from Noa, the gypsy songs.
Finally, just when Edward thought he'd go hoarse, he heard applause and hundreds of small voices giggling. "Very lovely, alchemist who never learns." There was that impression of a smile again. "All right, why not? I've never done this before, I'm always up for something new. You can have him back. His ghost will be with you while you figure out how to make him a new body. Don't expect him to speak, the dead don't speak. But you'll know he's there."
Before Edward could react, could feel more than shock that it'd worked, could feel a trace of joy, the Gate made a noise, indicating it had more to say. "But, there's a catch. You have one week to make that body and attach his soul, or I'll take his soul back and you won't see him again until you die."
Edward felt his heart drop. A week? A week to relearn the human body, to study specifically the male body- his studies had taken him into the realm of a woman's body, that'd hardly do him any good building a new body for Alfons- and then collect the elements needed to build that body?
Edward had to do it. He didn't know what he'd do if he got Alfons back just to lose him again. Go mad with grief, perhaps.
"I'll do it," he said quietly, voice feeling rough from overuse.
"Then it's time to wake up."
"Brother, wake up, it's morning."
Edward reluctantly opened his eyes, cursing the bright sunlight that invaded his room through the open window, unhindered by the thin curtain.
Another dream. He wanted to cry.
He kept his tears to himself, though, sitting up. "All right, I'm up, Al. I didn't miss breakfast, did I?"
Al shook his head, seated on the edge of Edward's bed. "No, you didn't. Grandma and Winry are still cooking. I wanted to give you a chance to get up before they got done. I'll let you get around." He kissed his brother's cheek, then go up and left the room, closing the door behind him.
Edward sat up and turned, putting his feet on the cold floor. His coat and clothes were abandoned on the bed beside him. Wait, when did those get there? Maybe he had gone out last night and just didn't remember coming back in. Did he find another place to get alcohol and just didn't remember?
He got the crawling sensation of someone watching him as he reached for his shirt. He looked up.
It couldn't be.
He was there. Alfons was really there, a silent, translucent image in front of him. Had it not been a dream? Was that really Alfons, or had he finally gone completely crazy?
"Alfons?" he whispered, his voice hoarse.
Alfons smiled at him, then motioned to his clothes, leaning back against the desk with his arms crossed and an amused look on his face. Get dressed, his body language said. I'll just watch.
As usual. Alfons was always the early riser, and he took great delight in coming into the bedroom while breakfast cooked and watching Edward get dressed, just to fluster him a bit. Ass.
Edward's hands were shaking as he changed, barely could work the button and zipper of his pants, almost put his shirt on backwards before finally righting it and pulling it on over his head. Alfons walked over and ghosted his not-quite-there fingers over Edward's automail curiously.
Edward smiled weakly. "Winry's stuff. Better than Dad's. Toldja you'd get a kick out of it, didn't I? Wait until I have you back, she'll talk your ear off about it." He got the feeling nobody would be able to see Alfons. That deal was his alone, he doubted the Gate would be so kind as to let everyone see Alfons to prove to Edward that he hadn't gone insane.
Alfons smiled, then stepped back and followed Edward out of the room. Edward felt dizzy and lightheaded as he walked down the stairs, gripping the railing tightly as he took each step one at a time, slowly, keeping himself upright.
Nobody noticed a thing when he got to the breakfast table. Alfons hovered around, watching the scene silently, studying the people in Edward's life that he'd only heard about, had never had a chance to meet.
That would change.
Edward went through the motions of eating, then excused himself as quickly as he could to go read. He went into the library and raided the books he and Al had rescued from their house and left with the Rockbells before leaving all those years ago. He had to brush himself up on anatomy and physiology.
Days ticked by slowly as he studied. His family was convinced he'd gone crazy, as he locked himself in his room with the books and papers his father had left behind, studying, once again, human transmutation. But this time, all he'd be making was a soulless construct, a body with no soul. He had Alfons's soul, right there, next to him every day, watching him with that same admiration he'd always displayed when Edward's erratic brain had gone to work on a science puzzle.
Nobody knew what he was studying, though. Nobody knew who he talked to in the evenings after dinner, alone in his room, but Al had come in more than once, asking who he was talking to and Edward had brushed it off as tiredness. "I haven't been sleeping well," he told his little brother. "So I'm just chattering at myself because I'm tired."
Al had reluctantly accepted that, unable to argue that. Edward did have a habit of talking to himself when he got too tired.
"What do you think of them?" Edward asked Alfons one night as he lay in bed, too tired to research any further, unwilling to fall asleep at the desk, to have his brother come in and try to put him to bed, to have him discover what he was researching and take it away before Edward could finish.
Alfons smiled, and nodded in approval. Edward grinned. "I thought you'd like them. Especially Al. He's a fusser, like you. He's been after me for the last five years." Alfons gave him a scolding look. Edward shrank back, looking guilty. "I know, I know. But it's not right without you. Just a few more days, then it won't matter anymore."
Days ticked by.
"I'm almost there," he promised the fifth day. He had so little time left. He'd been torn and distracted all week, torn between studying and talking to Alfons, not wasting any time with him in case he couldn't do it, didn't do it in time. He didn't want to lose a single second of his second chance.
But this week would be all he had if he didn't study and be quick about it.
It was the end of the seventh day before he traveled back to his house. So little time, and he didn't feel confident. It'd been so many years since he'd studied all that, had forgotten so much of it. So much left to still study, so much left to relearn.
But what he knew now would have to be good enough.
Alfons's image wavered in front of him as he drew the circle. "Just a few more minutes, Alfons, I promise, you'll be back, and we'll be together again." Alfons frowned, glanced up, then around, then back at Edward. He didn't speak, as usual, but his image again wavered, like he was fading.
Just a few more minutes. It was late, nearing the time Edward thought he'd approached the Gate.
In the center of the circle went a tray like he'd used as a child creating his mother. In went the chemical ingredients of an adult human. Ingredients he'd known by heart since being a child. That part he'd never forgotten.
Just a few more minutes.
He looked around, making sure everything was ready, then smiled to himself, then up at Alfons.
Who was no longer there.
He looked around frantically. He'd just been there! It couldn't be time already, could it? No, it couldn't be, it just couldn't. He hadn't even had a chance to say goodbye, to apologize for not being fast enough, good enough to bring him home the way Alfons had gotten Edward home.
No no no no no no, it couldn't be. Edward sat down on the edge of the circle, staring at the spot Alfons had occupied a moment before. Tears welled up and trickled down his face. He hadn't even gotten to say goodbye! "Come back," he whispered, then crawled forward, clawing at the ground where Alfons had stood. "Come back!"
But nobody was there. Perhaps nobody had ever been there. Perhaps it'd been nothing but a hallucination, maybe another very long dream. Edward sat on the cold ground in a numbed daze as tears slipped silently down his cheeks.
Wake up, Edward expected to hear next. Instead, he heard the clomping of Al's boots on the concrete foundation that still stood where the house used to be. "What're you doing out he-" Al cut himself off as he stopped in front of Edward, taking in the scene in front of him.
Then his brother began to shake, rage and fear warring on his face. Edward looked up at him numbly, barely flinched as Al slugged him and grabbed him by the shirt collar. "What're you doing?" his brother demanded. "Brother, you can't bring back the dead! You know this! What would we have done if you hadn't survived this time? Huh? Did you think about that at all? Is that what you've been doing this last week, studying this again?"
Edward stared at him, then grabbed his brother's coat lapels to stay upright as he cried out his grief, finally let himself sob and wail and weep after five long years of doing none of it. Al held him tightly, audibly crying himself. "You stupid asshole, what would I have done if I'd lost you again?" he said quietly.
"You don't understand, he was here, his soul was here, I made a deal with the Gate, his soul was here, Al," he sobbed.
Al pulled back to look at him, frowning in confusion. "Brother, what're you talking abou-" Then realization dawned on his face. "That's who you've been talking to this last week, isn't it? What did you do- you know what, don't tell me, I don't want to know. You're here, you're in one piece, I'm happy for that. Oh, Brother." He drew Edward close again, holding him. "I'm sorry, I'm so sorry. If it was real, I'm sorry. If it wasn't, I think this means it's time for you to let go."
Edward nodded, sniffed, hiding the fact that he just wiped his drippy nose on his brother's coat. "I'm sorry. I wouldn't have done it if I thought there was risk to me. It was part of the deal, I just. I don't know. Maybe it was a dream. Or a trick to get me to do it again, I don't know." He straightened, looking up at his brother.
Al gave him a sympathetic smile, brushed back his wind-blown hair. "Come on, Brother, let's clean this up and go home. I'll sleep in your room tonight. Maybe you'll sleep better.
Still numb- maybe it was just the cold, even if it wasn't cold enough to snow, the rainy season was plenty chilly out there in Rizenbul- Edward turned and cleaned up the mess, scattered the ingredients that would've made Alfons into the wind, let it soak into the mud to disappear.
Al smudged out the circle. "I'm sorry, Brother," he said again softly. "Come here?" He held out his arms for his brother. Edward silently walked over and slipped comfortably into his brother's embrace. Al rubbed his back soothingly. "I should've known he'd mean this much to you. I should've done something sooner, said something, pushed hard, something. You've been suffering so long. Don't you think it's time you started living again? You know he'd want you to.
Edward nodded mutely. "I didn't do anything but sing for it. That's all. Probably was just me going crazy finally," he said after a long stretch of silence."
Al chuckled weakly. "I don't know, the Gate's got the right sense of humor for it. Come on, Brother, it's time to go home and go to sleep. I'll be there with you tonight."
Edward nodded again, and let his brother lead him home.
As he went, he glanced back one more time at the remains of the house. I'm sorry. I guess I'll join you someday. But not today. Nor tomorrow, nor any day soon after that. He had a family to start living for.