A Brother's Burden

The Beginning and the End

Later that day Ed fell asleep on the couch from pure exhaustion even though he had done nothing all day save for reading. Roy sat on the couch with his son asleep on his shoulder, his book lying forgotten on his lap. Alphonse was sitting in front of the fire, staring at it like it held the answers to every question he had ever asked. Hohenheim sat in the single armchair reading a novel in one hand. None of them had exactly known what to do and so the surreal situation between the two of them was the best that Roy and Hohenheim could come up with. The room was filled with the sound of the fire crackling and Ed snoring softly where moments ago he had been coughing.

Hohenheim suddenly closed his book and looked at Mustang long and hard. "Your gloves are in your back pocket and your arm is encumbered by Ed's weight. I could use alchemy right now and take my sons and go."

"You could," Roy said coolly. "But you won't have to. What must I do to make my son well?"

Hohenheim blinked, looking stunned. Alphonse had turned around to see the conversation and now his mouth was open as he stared at Roy in shock. "You mean that?" Alphonse whispered, trying not to wake Ed.

Roy shot Alphonse a glare. "For your information I care about Ed as much if not more than you two do. So I take great offense at having that."

Hohenheim clapped his hands softly together. "Okay, well if we're going to do this before he wakes up we'd better hurry. Do you have a large enough space to draw a human transmutation circle?"

Roy could tell his face had grown darker as his mind turned to some very unfortunate memories. "Yes, and half a circle already prepared."

Alphonse gasped softly and Hohenheim blinked again. "You?" Alphonse said.

Roy looked away from them and down to the golden head of his son. "Yes," Roy said softly. "I came close to doing it too."

Hohenheim laid a hand on Roy's shoulder, "I'm sorry," was all he said.

Roy simply nodded. "So what do we do now?"


Four hours later they had the circle prepared and a sleeping Ed placed in the middle. Roy had been surprised at all the research Alphonse and Hohenheim had managed to put into this, but then again how could he have expected anything less? Roy let them know early on that he had drugged Ed's orange juice so that he'd fall asleep and would stay asleep while they worked. Now though they were time crunched as Ed had begun to stir, slowly but surely.

Roy looked over the circle one last time and then looked to Hohenheim who stood beside him. "Is it ready?" he asked.

Hohenheim nodded his head. "Yeah, it's ready. Listen Roy," here Hohenheim turned to look at Roy Directly. "I want you to stay well away from this transmutation."

"But-"

"I know, you're his father now and it should be you. Thing is though that you are not directly related to him and so I do not want to possibly upset the transmutation."

Roy couldn't argue with that sadly, it made sense that he'd somehow upset it.

"Also… If something goes wrong, you will at least be here for him."

"What….?" Roy left the sentence hanging as he was NOT about to say 'what could possibly go wrong' that'd lead to all sorts of issues.

"Been, interesting knowing you, Mustang." Hohenheim said.

"Same here…" Roy said, shaking hands with the man. There was something final in the gesture that neither man commented on.

Then Hohenheim and Alphonse were kneeling by the circle and placing their palms to it. The blue alchemic light filled the room just as Ed woke up and started yelling. Roy had hoped that Ed didn't know what was going on, sadly he was wrong.

The golden eyes saw the circle and Hohenheim and his brother, and then finally they saw Roy. "Bastard!" Ed yelled, his back arching in response to whatever energy ran through him. "You said you wouldn't! You, liar! Bastard!"

Roy wasn't able to meet his son's eyes.


Next thing Ed knew was that he was before the gate, again. Hohenheim and Al were there but they weren't there. They seemed transparent which didn't make sense. Ed looked at them as best he can and shot them a glare. "I told you two I didn't want to be transmuted, now look what you did!" Ed suddenly panicked as he made a guess at what had happened. "You're not dead are you!? Tell me you're not ghosts!"

Alphonse looked at his brother sadly. "Sorry, brother. The price was a little more than we had originally thought."

Ed's eyes pooled with tears. "No, no, no, no! NO! That can't be true! Please tell me it isn't so, dad!?" Here Ed looked to Hohenheim.

Belatedly he realized he had called Hohenheim dad and now saw the man's ghostly eyes pool with unshed tears also. "I'm so sorry, Edward. We didn't want to go but this is the way things must be."

"No, please come back! Please! I'll do anything you two want, just don't leave me alone!"

"We have to go Ed," Alphonse said.

Ed slammed his foot to the ground. "Why is everyone always leaving me!?" He screamed, but there was no one there to answer him. His brother and father were dead, gone, forever. No, not forever.

"TRUTH!" Ed yelled, spinning on his heel to come face to face with a faceless face with a grin upon its face. Wow, Ed thought to himself, that sentence would get him some points somewhere for sure.

"Hello, Edward, what brings you here today?" Truth asked, cocking its ugly head.

"I think you know," Edward spat. "Give. Them. Back."

"Oh, so demanding. Are you willing to pay the price to get them back though?"

"Anything," Edward said.

"Even your newfound dear father? That Mustang man who betrayed you? It's a two for one here, a good deal anywhere."

Ed's mind closed up. He couldn't turn dad in like that for Al and Hohenheim. Roy betrayed him though… yet he had done it because he cared, did that make it wrong?

No, Roy was still his dad. He couldn't. "It's not my life to give," Ed said at length.

"Very well then," Truth said. "How about something equally as precious to you? More limbs perhaps, no… Oh I know!"

"What is it?" Ed asked when Truth failed to elaborate.

"I'm not going to say, you either say yes or no."

"How can I choose when I know nothing about the choice?"

"Well, it hurts nothing but yourself. Also it brings back Hohenheim and Alphonse Elric in their full fleshed bodies, nothing changed since before the transmutation. Also that adopted father of yours won't be harmed. Only something about you will be altered."

Ed thought about it long and hard, then at last he looked up and gave the truth his answer.

Snow fell onto the ground of Munich as Alphonse walked the streets beside his father. "Why are we here, dad?" Al asked. "I thought we were dead and all…"

"I can only assume that it was Edward," Hohenheim said shaking his head. "He must have bargained with the truth to get our lives back but now we're in the wrong world."

"What will we do?" Alphonse asked.

Hohenheim looked down at his fully human son. "What do you want to do?"

Alphonse looked past his father and to the sky, his eyes reflecting his own deep concentration. "I guess today is a good day to start over." Alphonse said at last.

Hohenheim grinned broadly and ruffled his son's hair as they walked off to start their new lives.


Roy sat beside his bed where Ed slept. After the transmutation had been completed Ed had been there with two human limbs to replace his automail, and they were missing two people. Roy didn't want to think about it, he felt guilty as hell for what could have happened to Hohenheim and Alphonse. He didn't know what he'd tell Ed when he woke up… If he woke up.

He spoke to soon as he noticed that two golden orbs were staring at him intently. "Ed," Roy said is surprise. "You're awake."

Ed didn't respond, just looked at him. Roy bit his lower lip and wondered if something was wrong with the boy's head, or if he was just that mad at him.

"Ed, do you know who you are?"

Ed nodded, "Edward Maes Mustang."

"Do you know who I am?"

"Dad."

"Do you remember what happened?"

Edward swallowed and nodded again, his eyes looking alert now. "I was dying because of some alchemic disease I contracted and you had to use human transmutation to cure me."

Roy frowned, something not exactly adding up in his mind. "Ed-"

Roy didn't get further than that as Ed suddenly sat up and threw his two human arms around Roy's neck. "Thank you for saving me dad," Ed said sincerely.

Caught off guard Roy pulled Ed away and sat him back down on the bed. "Ed, do you at all know what happened to Hohenheim and Alphonse?"

Ed frowned, his brow furrowing in concentration. "Who?" he asked.


Riza looked in the room at the sleeping child. Roy stood beside her in the hall talking quietly so as not to wake him again. "So he really doesn't remember anything about Hohenheim or Alphonse?"

Roy shook his head. "He remembers nothing of it. I asked about Winry and Pinako, he remembered them. He knows who we are and he remembers his mother. Any mention of his brother or Hohenheim though and he'll draw a blank."

Riza frowned, it all sounded like a big mess really. "What do you plan to do now?"

Roy shrugged his shoulders, sighing. "I'm going to do the best I can by him. I'm the only family Ed knows of having now really."

"So you won't tell him?"

"Only if he starts to remember. Right now I think it'd be best to let him believe they never existed."

"Is it best or is it just easier?"

"Both."


So it was that night and for the night the next week running Ed woke up crying because he had nightmares of a giant suit of metal and a man with gold hair and eyes. He never made the connection nor did any memories resurface. He never even remembered the nightmares when the sun came up.

Each night for the first two nights though Roy came into Ed's room and held his son while he cried, never saying a word; just being there for him. During the third night though Roy had called it quits and despite Ed's feeble protests, had carried his son to his room and let him sleep there. After that Ed automatically slept in Roy's room, neither thought anything of the arrangement, and soon enough the nightmares went away.

Roy explained to his team and everyone else of Ed's 'condition' so as they did not make mention of Alphonse or Hohenheim. Everyone was very kind about the whole thing and so it was that when Ed started going to HQ with Roy after a two-week recovery period, he was never none the wiser.

Still though Ed found times where he'd turn to say something and realize no one was there. He never knew that at the same time a world away Alphonse had turned to tell him something about a piece of information he had just learned. Only to realize that no one was there.

Somedays it was hard for Ed as he was taken by bouts of sorrow he could not explain. He felt like someone had just died but he couldn't ever remember who, just the pain following it. Every time he went to his dad and Roy helped him out as best he could, sometimes just hugging his son was enough. Sometimes it took a long conversation over a cup of hot cocoa. Whatever the case Ed knew he could depend on his dad because he was always there; and he always would be. Because though he did not know it, Roy had made a vow to never again let Ed down.

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