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Pieced Together

By DanteMorose

Humor

Riddle

When Edward and Alphonse met Izumi Curtis, they knew they had found their salvation – at least temporarily. Of course it took everything to convince her of that. The Elrics had been living on the island for nearly a month now; had sacrificed home, comfort, and almost their lives to earn this strange woman’s approval.

It was the night before the final morning – the morning they would learn their fate: return to Resembool or move to Dublith. Neither Elric slept. It was as though they both feared they would sleep through the morning and miss their chance. Thus Edward was awake when Alphonse quietly pondered,

“Brother? Do you think she’ll take us on?”

Edward rolled over to face his little brother in the blanketing moonlight. “Of course she will. She has to. There’s no way we can afford to lose this chance.”

Alphonse blinked, his eyes downcast now as he agreed with a small noise.

Pouring a little Big Brother authority into his voice, Ed mumbled, “Now stop worrying and get some sleep.”

“You’re not sleeping,” Alphonse pointed out.

Edward crossed his arms over his chest and curled up on his side. “That’s not the point,” he argued weakly.

Knowing he shouldn’t, Al challenged Ed in a way that made it sound more like an inquiry to anyone who didn’t know him, “What is then?”

Grumbling, Edward spat out the weak excuse that a monster might come up on them in the night and at least one of them needed to be alert. Al’s look said he wasn’t convinced, but he didn’t press further.

Silence settled between them. The night was as beautiful and calm as any other, but this time the quiet held a mocking reverence. Both boys were worried, but neither cared to admit it.

“…Brother,” Alphonse finally found courage to speak his thoughts. He never had difficulty talking to Edward unless Ed was in a worried or contemplative mood, like now. “What do you think it will be like?”

Edward flopped onto his back and stared at the empty sky. “Living with Mrs. Curtis?”

“Yeah,” Al wriggled closer, feeling wholly insecure for the first time since they had been stranded together on the island.

Puffing his cheeks and releasing a prolonged sigh, Edward contemplated gruffly, “I s’pose it will be nicer than here, but with that crazy lady, I’m not sure what to expect.”

The negative response didn’t dampen Alphonse as he fanaticized, “Maybe she has a nice house, and a garden,” he paused, “a flower garden like Mom had.”

Edward closed his eyes as Alphonse continued half dazedly, as though he had been sculpting their future with Izmui in his mind all month. “And maybe she’ll let us go to the market with her sometimes; we won’t be training all the time, right? ... Does Dublith even have a market? Do you think it will be anything like Resembool? Or do you think there will be cars like in the bigger towns? I don’t know if I’d like that. I like Resembool best, but no matter what Dublith is like, it can’t be that bad, can it, Brother?”

“How would I know, Al?” Edward groused.

Alphonse stopped. Ed immediately sagged with guilt, knowing he had spoken too harshly. His baby brother had been groping in the darkness for some stability, and Edward had torn away his dreams and hopes with just a few words. Alphonse would forgive him because Al was just that way, but it didn’t excuse Edward from apologizing.

“I’m sorry, Al,” he said slowly, dragging out another sigh. “I guess I’m just a little worried about tomorrow morning.”

It took a moment, but Al accepted the half-apology. “It’s okay. I’m worried too.”

There. They had both said it, and now the emotion that had flitted tacitly in the air between them solidified heavily on their shoulders. It drenched them with its encompassing effects, and within a few minutes, Edward found himself suffocating in the anxiety.

If they had the wrong answer to her riddle, they would lose their chance. If they didn’t get Izumi’s help now, Edward and Alphonse might be stuck helpless forever in Resembool. How could they bring their mother to life if they didn’t know how? Never had so much counted on so little. Edward repeated the words over and over in his mind, making sure his answer was undoubtedly correct. He had been so sure before, but under the pressure of doubt, he felt himself caving.

Al’s voice pulled him back to the surface of his frantic musings. “Brother?” he asked for the third time that night.

Edward rolled his head to the side and saw Alphonse squirm uncomfortably, a light blush springing to his cheeks suddenly. Ed frowned. “What’s wrong?”

Alphonse inhaled deeply before bringing his eyes to meet Edward’s. The younger boy’s gaze was filled with such longing and need as he softly asked, “Can I sleep by you? Just for tonight?”

Ed’s mouth opened for some reply, but nothing came out. He was only ten, and yet he felt so much older. Sometimes he forgot he and Alphonse were just kids weathering it out alone on a wild island who knew how many miles from home. Closing his mouth again, he wordlessly nodded his consent. Despite his slightly bigger build, Alphonse crawled over to Edward and curled up against his side. Edward extended his right arm to pillow his brother’s head.

Having Alphonse’s calming presence close helped the anxiety slip away. Edward just had to have confidence in what he knew to be right: that he had discovered his own meaning in Izumi’s mystic words, and whether or not it was the lesson she wanted them to understand, it was the one he had learned. Slowly, Edward began to relax.

Within ten minutes, Al’s breathing had slowed and his eyes were half lidded with sleep. Edward let his eyes close to shut out the flooding white moonlight. As he began to fall into a light half-sleep, Alphonse mumbled, his mouth half buried in Ed’s shoulder, “I miss Mom…”

Edward’s eyes snapped open as Al’s fully closed. Ed was wrong. His answer was wrong. No, Edward knew it was right, but hearing Alphonse’s words, Edward didn’t want to believe it to be true anymore. If their answer was right, then all life flowed in one direction, never the other. That meant it would be impossible for their mother to come back to life.

But he wasn’t just any alchemist. He was Edward Elric, and he was desperate; and desperate people do impossible things for those they love.


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