Title: 2,000 Miles
Summary: Two thousand miles and more ghosts than that to haunt them.
SpoilersPost series, so yeah. A little bit of an alternate ending. No movie though. Doesn't even exist.
Rating PG - NC-17 This chapter: PG-13
FMA does not belong to me and I make no profit from any of these tales. Any further archiving of my fiction is strictly prohibited unless cleared by me.
It's been a while so feel free to refresh your memory:
3. Familiar Territory
”Hey, Al. What’s the first thing you want to do when you get your body back?” Ed turns to the bed next to him, the conversation eerily mirroring one they’d had in the past. Al’s armor clanks as he looks over to his older brother, and Ed reminds himself that by tomorrow night, he’d be able to stare into his brother’s bronze eyes.
“I want to go swimming!”
The yellow light from the transmutation illuminates the living room of the Rockbell house. In the middle, Ed can barely make out his brother’s armor form. Behind him, he knows Granny and Winry are waiting anxiously. He dares not look back.
Suddenly, he sees the gate opening, black hands reaching for him and his brother. The light becomes red as the power leaches from the stone. He knows what he wants, and pushes forward. He sees an outline in the distance - would recognize it anywhere - and reaches out for it. The body is in his grasp and all he needs is to attach the soul. More energy is needed, and he considers overcompensation, using all the stone to make sure it is perfect. The equations balance, the body, mind, and soul are complete and the stone is still giving.
Al stands, flesh, in front of him in the place that isn’t really a place at all. A promise filters through his mind, and another equation is formed. Al smiles, seemingly able to read his thoughts in this void, or perhaps that’s always been the case. Together, they turn to the gate, and the hands begin to dissolve the steel that substitute Edward’s limbs.
The air is cool and the sky is clear as Ed practices the drills Sensei taught him. His arm is getting stronger and he is finally able to stand for long enough to complete a whole set. It’s the best he’s felt in a long time. He and his brother are both flesh again, and he’s even going though a growth spurt, gaining two inches in the past three months.
With a twinge of exasperation, he wonders what is keeping his brother from joining him. Ed had woken him nearly half an hour ago. He hopes he hasn’t gone back to sleep. Recently, Al had acquired a fondness for sleeping in. With a rueful smile and a shake of his head, Ed headed into the house to rouse his brother once more.
Al is sleeping again. Granny says it’s normal for boys his age to sleep a lot. Ed is still worried. Even though his brother sleeps all night and for most of the day, there are still deep circles under his eyes when he wakes.
The doctor said that Al needs rest and fresh air, so Granny gives Ed a wheelchair and tells him to take Al out and not to come back for a couple hours. He pushes him down the dirt roads to the riverbank. The gravel makes the ride a bit jerky, but Ed is mostly able to keep it straight. He is in good shape and Al doesn’t weigh too much anymore.
Ed has a perfectly timed internal clock now. Every hour he wakes, walks to the other side of the room, and checks for Al’s pulse.
Ed doesn’t even sleep anymore. His existence is defined by the same four walls, relying on Winry to bring him food for Al and books for research.
Sleep cannot be fought much longer and eventually, Ed passes out at the desk next to Al’s bed, his cheek resting on the open book. When he wakes, Al is cold.
The first thought that runs through his mind is, ‘I didn’t get to say goodbye.’
Winry’s body is warm next to his and he carefully extracts himself from the bed. It is still grey outside the window, the color only deepening the sadness his dreams left him to wake in.
The floor is cool to the touch and goose bumps break out over his skin. Not bothering to shower, Ed strolls out the door wearing the same wrinkled clothes he had on the night before. On the staircase, he pulls the band out of his hair and fixes the locks in a low ponytail. The lobby is empty, and the sounds of a waking city draw him outside.
The sky rapidly becomes brighter as the sun rises fully in the east, casting a pale yellow glow along the morning fog that still clings to the main street; the last vestiges of sleep yet to be shaken off in a town that was only beginning to wake. Edward found himself walking down this street, observing people in their everyday morning routines.
Ed had always found it odd that one could chart the progression of society just by taking a drive from one small village to one of Amestris’ five main cities. Gatewood was a mid-point on that evolutionary chart, viewed in perfect chronological order on the road from Resembool to East City. The town was a perfect blend of old world and new.
Street vendors were situated in the spaces left between shops. The vendors leisurely arranged merchandise under the colorful awnings while the shop keepers swept the front stoop and unlocked glass doors with cheery bells placed atop to announce the arrival of customers. Trucks were started and wagons hitched to make deliveries of milk, bread, and grains to homes and businesses alike.
Outside a mill along the edge of town, Ed sees an old man struggling with sacks of grain. His wagon is parked to the side of the building, a grey Clydesdale hitched and standing patiently in front for its owner to finish making his delivery. The man is rugged; thin grey hair and stubble on his face, wearing blue jeans and a flannel shirt with the sleeves cut off. He wore a glove on his right hand and in the shadow of the building; Ed saw grey steel for his left arm.
As Ed approaches, the man stops what he is doing to rub at his left shoulder. Ed understands why, as do only those who have auto-mail can, (except maybe for those who make it) how hard changes in the weather were on the joints. Summers in the east were not the picnic one would think they’d be, especially when temperatures would rocket up to over one-hundred degrees in the day before plummeting back down for the night.
“Need some help?”
The man looks up, right in the middle of picking up another sack, “Sure.”
Walking to the back of the wagon, Ed grabs a grain sack and pulls it to the edge. Picking it up, he stacks it neatly atop the others along the mill’s side entrance.
“You a tourist, boy?” The old man asks.
“Yeah.” Ed grunts, pulling a sack onto his shoulder. The bags had to weigh about 75 pounds.
“We don’t get too many of those. Not a lot to see in Gatewood, unless ya got a thing for cows.”
“I’m just passing through.”
“Figures, besides, if you were a new arrival, I would’ve already heard about it. My granddaughter works at the general store over yonder. Talk to ‘er every morning. I always get the skinny whenever a handsome young man moves to town.”
“Uh….”The old man laughs at the uncomfortable look on Edward’s face.
Eventually, they find a workable rhythm. The old man would pull the bags to the edge of the wagon; Ed would then throw them over his shoulder and stack them on the ground.
“Did ya’ come here alone?”
“No.” Ed answers, avoiding the man’s eyes.
“You here with your family? On yer honeymoon?”
“No, just with my mec- friend.” He barely stops the term mechanic from escaping his lips before remembering that he had no more need for Winry’s mechanical abilities on his person. The excuse just came naturally.
“Oh. Where are you two going?”
Ed was really beginning to regret helping the nosey old man. “East City.” He replied.
Finally, the old man begins to tire of asking questions and receiving only vague answers. The two work on in silence, and in time, the cart is empty.
The old man climbs atop the wagon and take the reins in his hands. Before heading off, he expresses his thanks to Ed.
“Not a problem. I was looking for a way to kill some time anyway.” Ed replied.
“You’ve gotta funny way of killin’ time, boy. Gots to be something better to do than help an old geezer, like me, with only one arm.”
Ed shrugs, finding nothing wrong with being a Good Samaritan, “How long have you had your auto-mail?”
“Somthin’ round twenty years. Lost it in an accident. My horse threw me one day while ridin’ beside a wagon. It spooked the two at the rein and when I fell, they took straight off. Only problem was, as I landed my arm somehow got caught in the spokes of the wheel. I’ll spare you the gruesome details; you can imagine it well enough on your own.”
Sighing, the man settles himself down in his seat, as if committing himself to reveal the secrets of the world or the epic story of his origins to this young man.
“’tween you an me, I ain’t as old as I look. It’s the work that’s made me rugged, and the ‘mail that’s made me arthritic. Ideally, I should go on and get me something newer and more light weight. Shit, I ain’t had any maintenance in years. But, I can’t afford it. In the end, I just hafta live with it. Still, you never stop yearnin’ for your own flesh and blood, ya know?”
Ed wants to say that yes, he understands, more than the old man would ever know. But he know that the man would look at his two flesh hands and legs and view his words as cursory. Instead, he says nothing, just swallows a lump of unexpected emotion and bids the man farewell.
Watching the wagon cart off, Edward feels his body begin to cool as the morning air hits his perspiring skin.
With a turn, Ed heads back to the hotel to take a shower.
She awakes to find the space next to her vacant and grown cold. In a panic, she checks to see if Ed’s suitcase was still there. It is.
Dressing quickly, she take the steps two at a time and finds Ed seated at a table over-looking the street. His wet hair is pulled back and his clothes are clean and unwrinkled. He looks strikingly better than he did last night.
As she sits down, he looks up. “I ordered you eggs.”
He nods curtly and she proceeds to ask the usual set of questions. How did you sleep? Fine. You? Good.
That conversation ends quickly enough and they are silent until their food arrives. She takes the time to study her surroundings. It’s still early, but the sky is clear and sun streams in brightly though the inn’s many windows. Only a few guests sit quietly at the wooden tables and the only noise is the sound of the kitchen staff at work. Outside, a few of Gatewood’s vendors have begun pedaling their wares to the dozen or so residents on the street.
“It’s a good day for driving, huh?”
Ed hums in agreement but doesn’t look away from the window.
“Did you want to leave after breakfast or is there someplace you want to go?”
“I’m already packed up.” He says and she assumes that he means to leave after they eat.
Their food comes and at first sight Ed is even less hungry. Nevertheless, he chokes down the runny eggs just so he won’t have to deal with Winry’s inevitable concern.
After breakfast, he packs up her things while she showers. He hopes that she takes it as a favor instead of a sign of his impatience. Luckily, she doesn’t say anything when she returns and they are on the road before the sun has peaked.
He loses track of time as familiar towns pass by. He can’t wait to get past all this familiar territory. They pass the town Marcoh hid in and the town where he met the old soldier who talked of dreams. He doesn’t really want to go to East City, but knows that Winry won’t be able to drive through the night.
They are driving through a stretch of open road, nearly identical to everything they’ve seen thus far except for different shapes of trees and types of fences, when she speaks again.
“Ed, about before…I don’t think your mother would be disappointed in you if she could see you now.”
“Why would you say that?” His voice is tired and drags through the words like feet through mud.
“Well, you did the best you could with what you had, even though it wasn’t much.”
“The only reason it wasn’t much is because I ruined everything else.”
She hates that self-pitying tone of voice and snippily tells him to stop, just get over it and deal.
It’s gone in an instant and he looks like he may strike her. Sadly, she can’t tell if this new Edward will or won’t. The old Edward wouldn’t. The tension lasts for only a moment and his features melt back to their familiar uninterested expression.
“Winry, what are you doing?” He turns away again, “You know better than anyone that it doesn’t work that way.”
Guiltily, she stares ahead, “I know. I’m sorry. I just thought that if you started feeling again, you’d get better.”
“So you decided to piss me off?”
“Well, it’s the only thing I’m good at.” Ed doesn’t say anything. “Look, I’m sorry. I just thought that it was better you feel angry than empty.”
The rest of the ride is made in silence, as usual, and they arrive in East City sooner than expected. The sun is just beginning to set when he directs her to a small hotel on the outskirts of the city, far enough away from the slums to make Winry feel secure.
Again they get a single room and again there is only one bed. Winry wants to explore the city and Ed escorts her around the block. He is reluctant to head all the way in town. Danger lies in his memories there. She seems content just to browse the shops around the hotel though.
They eat a small supper at a corner restaurant and she seems happy looking out into the lighted streets. It’s not very late, but they decide to turn in once they get back to the hotel.
Lying together, back to back in the bed, Winry asks him: “Where do you want to go tomorrow? Did you want to continue on to Central?”
“No. I think…maybe Dublith.”
“Okay.” Her voice is soft and the bed shifts as she tries to find a comfortable position. “Tomorrow head out to see Izumi.”
He lies awake for a good twenty minutes until he is sure she is sound asleep. Rolling to his side, he throws an arm around her middle and wraps his body around hers.
He is asleep in seconds.
Author's Notes: Wow, I can't believe that it's been over a year since I updated this story. Just goes to show ya that I never give up on a story. This one is particularly tough. I'm trying to make it really emotionally driven by the characters and it's proving to be very hard for me. I've been playing with this one so much lately, trying to make it perfect, but there comes a time when you've just got to say, "I've done all I can with this chapter, and it's time to move on." So that's what I'm doing.
B on the first section: Alot of people sort of assumed that Al died restoring Ed's limbs. Admittedly, I was vague at first as to how he died, mostly because I hadn't decided myself, but I chose to clear it up a bit with this chapter. I hope I didn't do it in a too corny way. I like the idea of Al having a longer, drawn out illness that gradually presented itself, strictly so I could write an older Ed. (Have I mentioned that I love Older Movie Ed?)It's a bit cruel but, it gives me more philosophical dialog to work with later.
B on Ed's conversation with the old man: I re-wrote this scene more times than anything in this chapter. I couldn't decided if I liked the flow of it or not, or even the inclusion of it or not. What I want is for Ed to begin taking little baby-steps towards reconnecting with the world, and his interaction with this stranger was to be his first attempt. I just hope that I pulled it off right.
As always, reviews and constructive criticism welcome. Flames will be used to toast yummy marshmallows.
12/27 - Crossposted to fullservicefma, fma_het, fm_alchemist, and ed_winry
Updated 12/27/06 - Thank you so much to all who have reviewed thus far. I've really, really appreciated all the constructive cristism, since I am a bit rusty. I've gone over this chapter a bit and hopefully, I've cleared up the tense problems. (You can tell I'm rusty since I picked most of them out in the sections written recently.) I also changed the part at the end, where they decided on a destination, since I thought the original wording may mess up the story timeline wise. Again, thank you, everyone.