Path Not Taken
A FMA AU Fanfic
Disclaimer: Not mine.
Concept: What if Ed and Al hadn't
attempted human transmutation?
Pairings: Al/Winry, implied Roy/Ed.
Rating: PG-15 (for violence and
"But what will we exchange for her
turned to give Al his pre-prepared answer - a drop of blood from each
brother - when he suddenly paused and thought about it. Would it really
be enough? Would the strength of their hearts be enough to return their
mother to them?
A look of indecision flickered over
looking to his brother for guidance as always, spotted the look and
felt it fan his own worries into a full blaze. He reached out and
caught Ed's hands, silently asking for reassurance.
into his brother's worried eyes, Ed felt himself hesitate again. What
if it all went wrong? There could be terrible repercussions. It WAS
forbidden after all. What if they got caught? What if mother came back
wrong? What if something
happened to Al? He reached out
patted his younger brother on the head, need and confidence warring
with a growing sense of fear inside. As it grew higher, he pulled his
brother into a hug.
Safe in his brother's arms, Al
slightly. "Nii-san. Let's not do this tonight. We've been working on
this for a while. We're tired. Let's think about it some more, just in
case we've made a mistake somewhere."
Ed felt himself waver. If I stop now, I will never have the
courage to do this again.
He felt his brother trembling and
let out a long breath. Kaa-san.
I'm so sorry.
released his brother and stepped back, trying not to sniffle. "...
okay. We'll recheck our calculations in the morning, before we do
Al nodded, his eyes watering with a
sorrow and relief. Ed searched for a topic to cheer him up with. "I
know, why don't we go and visit Winry and Granny Pinako? We haven't
seen them for a year! I bet if we run we could get there in time for
The smile spreading across his
brother's face helped
wipe away the terrible sense of loss in his heart. Leaving their work
behind them, the two brothers's grabbed their raincoats and headed out
the side door, extinguishing the candles as they left. A few minutes
later, there was a loud knocking on the front door of the empty house.
But as noone answered, it eventually stopped and went away
The next day, Ed cleaned up the
array and threw out all their materials. Neither boy ever spoke of the
went by, and Al and Winry began to spend more and more time together.
Pinako watched them with one benevolent eye, while the other one kept a
sharp watch on Ed, who had become more and more prone to mood swings
and depression as he got older.
From the age of 15 onwards, Ed
began disappearing for extended trips on a regular basis. At first hurt
by this abandonment, Al came to accept that his brother needed
something that he could not find at home. So he waited patiently with
Winry and Pinako, all three of them knowing that as long as he had a
home to come back to, Edward would always return.
to come to the village. Rumours of war and rebellion, of State
Alchemists deployed on the front lines of battle again. And darker
rumours too, of strange creatures abroad in the land, mixes of humans
and animals, monstrous things. The people of Liezenbul shivered and
thanked the Gods for keeping them safe from these horrors, and life
continued as normal. Al however, quietly intensified his study of
Alchemy, soon becoming a leading figure in the community despite his
young age. His powers grew quickly, much faster than normal. He was
almost, some said, as powerful as the mysterious Cloaked Alchemist, who
wandered the land, a hero to the common folk and friend to the
desperate everywhere. A nameless man who was reputed to wield the
legendary philosopher's stone itself and have the power to bring the
dead back to life. Al only ever smiled sadly when people told him this.
And then one day, war came to
Roy Mustang scowled at the piece of paper in front of him and attempted
to decipher the handwriting on the report. Finding only more bad news,
he leaned back in his chair and stared out the window.
been a hard few years. All of his efforts to take back the peace had
been thwarted, time and time again, and in the end he had been forced
to use his Alchemists' powers to kill once more. Others who had
hesitated had perished, and he stopped to spare a thought for his old
comrade Armstrong, killed while battling the homunculus Envy.
Homunculi, his fingers clenched as the word spat
through his mind. Monsters.
Even the crazed Ishvar assassin Scar had fallen to their power. And now
the military was broken and scattered, and the largest and most
section of it was forced into hiding out in the middle of nowhere as they licked their wounds and
attempted to regain their sense of balance.
had managed to keep his command together this far more by luck than
anything else, and he was desperately afraid that it was about to give
out. It was luck that he'd managed to escape the chimeras sent by the
Life Alchemist to kill him; luck that his commanders had stayed loyal
to him, trusting in his abilities to see them through; luck that they
had found somewhere safe to stay for a while as they tended their
wounded; and it was nothing short of a bloody miracle that in this
haven of safety they had found an Alchemist of the power and quality of
Alphonse Elric. Even now he could see the young man raising shelters
and defenses outside, and marveled at the strength he displayed. So
much power in one so young. Who could have believed that the son of a
coward and deserter would have so much potential? If only Roy could
have met him sooner. Although it was perhaps better for Alphonse that
he hadn't. Al was a sweet, innocent soul, and life on the frontlines
would have destroyed him within a week.
Roy sighed. He genuinely
liked the boy, and hated using him like this, but his powers were too
impressive to just leave alone. He was already trying to think of ways
to convince Al to join up with his command when they left, but when
lined up against the boys fiancee and life here, he didn't have much to
Of course, this was always assuming
they all survived the
next attack. He knew that at least one of the homunculi were on their
way to wipe out his command, along with an army of God-only-knew-what.
He sighed again and headed down to the kitchen of the house he had
commandeered as his HQ. Perhaps some coffee would help provide him with
ideas. Hell, he'd accept a message in the tea leaves at this point.
the hallway he stopped, and turned in to the parlour instead, heading
for the shelf over the fireplace. This was where the family photographs
were, and he once again found himself drawn to them. Al and Winry,
their Granny Pinako, Al's mother and the deserter Hoenheim. And a
couple of group photos, including one which always made him wonder: an
old photo of two small boys laughing together, one of them with golden
Neither he nor Hughes had been able
to find out much about
the mysterious and absent "Edward", which was in itself curious. The
people in the village tended to look blank when asked about him, and
Al, Winry and Pinako were resolutely close-mouthed on the subject. It
had taken him two weeks to confirm that Al and Ed were even related,
until someone had casually mentioned "the Elric brothers". Judging by
their size in the photos of them as teenagers, he assumed that Edward
was the younger brother, and apparently a bit of a wanderer.
Occasionally he overheard Winry and Al talking about him, and wishing
that he would come home. If Ed had even half the power and talent of
his older brother, then Roy wished he would come home too. They needed
all the help they could get.
“Still curious?” An enquiring voice
asked. “Or could it be love? You’ve been staring at that photo for
“Curiosity only,” Roy said,
grinning despite himself at seeing his oldest friend. “Anything new?”
shrugged and came into the room. “Al-kun has finished the first row of
defences. I sent him to get some rest before he starts the next lot.
He’s an amazing kid.”
“Yes,” Roy’s eyes darkened. “I just
hope we can keep him alive long enough for him to become a truly
"There's always hope," Hughes said,
shrugging. “Maybe you’ll beat those bastard Homunculi next time.”
rolled his eyes. "Oh, of course, I shall take them on single-handedly
and defeat them easily. Or perhaps the Cloaked Alchemist will show up
and save us all!"
Hughes laughed. “I keep telling
you, he really exists.”
Roy snorted skeptically. “Anything
else to report?”
All the amusement disappeared from
Hughes’ face. Roy closed his eyes. “How long do we have?”
“Two days. Three at the most.”
Roy said lightly, “In that case, I’d better have my coffee and a shower
now. I probably won’t get another chance after this.”
Hughes didn’t answer. He didn’t
Three Days Later:
Roy coughed and spat out the blood
in his mouth. What a fucking
mess. I think this might actually be the end.
chimera army had attacked at dawn. The first wave had been easy
targets, thanks to the defenses Alphonse had frantically constructed,
and the second wave had been picked off gradually too. The third wave
swarmed the defences, and ever since then it had been a case of
desperation as soldiers and civilians fought monsters together. He’d
lost track of the combat hours ago, and now all he could do was try to
rally his forces as best he could...
“Well, if it isn’t the Flame
Alchemist. Long time no see.”
Lust. Oh God.
beautiful homunculus smiled at him. “You always surprise us,” she said
lightly. “By all rights, you should have been dead four times over by
“What can I say?” Roy said lightly.
“I’m not very good at taking hints.”
“Perhaps you need them to be less
subtle then,” Lust said. “I shall try to be more blunt.”
dodged her first attack, but her elongated claws caught him in the side
as she swiped at him again, and he couldn’t get his balance in time to
evade the third attack...
"Mustang-taisho! Get down!" Al
loomed out of the street and dragged him down out of the way. "I'll
hold her off!"
Roy tried to prevent the boy rushing in, but it was too late. Twenty
seconds later, Alphonse Elric was lying on the ground, blood flowing
from a terrible wound to his head, and Lust was cooing over his body.
"Such a pretty boy," she murmured.
"And so strong. A shame he wasn't strong enough."
Roy watched helplessly as her
blade-like fingers raised again...
"Get away from him!"
by the hoarse cry, Roy and Lust turned to see a small cloaked figure
approaching them at a run. It halted, panting, and the voice snarled
again, deeper this time.
"I said, get away from him."
Lust smiled at the newcomer. "And
who are you to order me so?"
"I am Edward Elric!" The man
declared, sweeping the cloak off his head, revealing long blonde hair
and golden eyes that burned. "And I'm telling you for the last
time... Get. Away. From. My. Brother."
So this was the mysterious Edward
Elric, come home at last, Roy thought. Too late, far too late.
Lust paused, "Oh how cute, trying to protect him." She flexed her
hands, "But if your big brother couldn't defeat me... what makes you
think YOU can?!" She flung herself at him and Roy could only watch as
Edward made no attempt to escape. The figures met with a
sickly-sounding thud, and blood splattered across the ground.
and down the street, the battle ground to a halt as everyone stopped
and stared at the hand that had been thrust through Lust's abdomen,
crackling with Alchemic power. Ed held her claws away from him with the
other hand, and snarled up at her confused face.
"Just for your
information," he said slowly, panting with effort, "I am the OLDER
brother! And you, and all your friends, can GO TO HELL!"
Roy stared at the power surging out
from the other man. He's not
even using a transmutation array!
Lust screamed as her body literally
sparking briefly when the circle on her chest fragmented apart. Shaking
her remains off his arm, which was glowing strangely, Edward clapped
his hands together in front of him, and then slammed them onto the
ground. Power sparked again, and Roy closed his eyes as he felt the
world come apart. Around him the earth groaned and moved, crevices
gaping wide and then slamming shut upon those creatures which had
fallen into them. Fierce jagged points rose into the sky, impaling all
beneath them, and formerly solid buildings became fragmented projectile
weapons. When the shuddering had stopped, Roy opened his eyes again,
and waited for sounds to fill the silence.
then Hughes was helping him up, crying and laughing at the same time,
and Hawkeye and Havoc were yelling like loons and twirling around in
celebration and the enemy were
fleeing... they were fleeing... I don't believe it... we WON!
Edward Elric was lying on the ground, blood pouring from the shoulder
and leg sockets where his left arm and right leg had been, and Winry
was running from him to Al and back again, screaming, and then Roy was
shoving Hughes aside, and trying to staunch the wounds with his hands,
snapping orders furiously as he grabbed on to the slight figure and
held him close.
Don't die. Don't you dare die. This
only one battle, the war isn't over yet, and I NEED you, Edward Elric.
I finally found some hope and I am NOT going to lose it! So don't you
dare die. Live. LIVE!
Six Months Later:
Roy signed off on the last piece of
paper and smiled at Hawkeye as she snatched it out of his grasp with a
"Thank you General," she said, efficiently
tucking it into a folder. "And Edward Elric is here to see you."
him in," Roy said, stretching slightly after a marathon session of
paperwork. He rotated his shoulders and tried to relax, plastering a
smile on his face as Ed walked into his office. "Good afternoon
"General," Ed responded, throwing
himself onto one
of the couches. "Hawkeye finally tied you down and made you finish your
Roy twitched slightly, "Running a
large military operation is not as simple as you might think
Edward-kun. One must coordinate
events and people and support. You cannot simply have some lone
operative wandering around randomly doing good deeds. Without proper
follow-up, all their efforts are in vain."
This time Ed was the
one to twitch, and Roy smiled as he mentally marked up the point as one
in his favour. The two men had slowly formed a tentative friendship
over the past few months, born of camaraderie in battle, shared dreams
for a future of peace, and a rather snarky sense of humour which caused
them to compete with each other on gibes and insults. Roy was still
well in the lead, but Ed was catching up quickly.
It had been a
surprise to Roy to find out that Edward was the legendary Cloaked
Alchemist of folklore and fairy tale. Thinking back over it, he really
shouldn't have been so astonished. Certainly noone else had been.
else did you think it could be?" Hughes had asked, while watching Winry
change Ed's bandages. "You saw him when he showed up, and what he can
"To be honest, I always thought he
was a myth," Roy had
admitted. "A children's story, something for people to cheer themselves
up with, and give them enough courage to get through the night. Didn't
"Oh, I knew he was real," Hughes
had said. "There was too
much corroborating data. And when they told me it was Ed-kun that
explained a lot. But I have to admit that I was kind of expecting
The sudden explosive temper tantrum
comment triggered had shocked both men as Ed, previously hovering on
the edge of life and death, snapped upright despite the vast quantities
of sedatives he'd had pumped into him, merely in order to curse them
out about his height. This was followed by Al coming out of his
three-day coma to rush in and try to calm down his older brother, and
Winry and Pinako coming in to yell at both of them. In retrospect, it
had been rather funny.
After both brothers had been
stabilised, they had agreed to accompany Roy to Central City in an
attempt to restore order to the capital. Alphonse had gone ahead with
Roy and Hughes, while Edward had stayed behind in order to be fitted
for automail limbs. Ed (with Winry accompanying) had showed up just in
time for the worst of the fighting (again), and the combination of the
Flame Alchemist and the Elric Brothers proved to be enough to throw
back the enemy. For now at least.
A semblance of peace settled
across the land. It was fragile, and illusive, but it was there
nonetheless. And now Roy had to figure out how to keep it.
"So I hear that East area HQ has
been cleared now," Edward said, holding up his automail arm and
watching it flex.
Al-kun did a wonderful job of rebuilding the damaged sections," Roy
said. "And now that you've cleared out the chimeras in that area, we
can open it up again to habitation."
"That will help, the
refugee camps are massively over-crowded," Ed said bleakly. "Granny
Pinako says that if they don't get some space soon there will either be
a riot or a pestilence. I went to visit her, and I'm betting on
disease. The drainage there is awful and they're running out of clean
Roy nodded and then hesitated. "You
know of course that
Pinako is welcome here at the HQ..." He didn't bother asking if Ed had
tried to help the camps. He'd already received reports about the
"Cloaked Alchemist's" appearance and miraculous creation of streams in
two of the camps. It would buy them at least another six weeks before
conditions deteriorated further.
Ed shook his head. "She won't
come. She says they need her there, and she's right. And anyway, she
doesn't have much time for the military."
Roy winced. "So, what brings you to
see me this time? I've already received your report on the
"Actually, I'm here on a personal
matter," Edward said. "I want you to leave Al alone."
Roy paused. "I don't know what you
Ed snorted rudely. "You know exactly what I mean. All these people you've
got following him around telling him how wonderful he is and how just having him around
makes them feel safe. You're trying to guilt-trip him into
staying and helping and I want it stopped. Now."
steepled his fingers. "Why should I do that?" He inquired softly. "The
people who are saying these things are telling him nothing but the
"Because Al has a life to go back
to!" Ed exploded.
"He's got a fiancee and a home and a FAMILY, and you're trying to turn
him into a hero for the masses and force him to stay here and fight and
it will DESTROY him."
Roy winced. "I know," he whispered.
"But I need him. There's still so much to do."
he DIES it will hurt morale more than letting him go will," Ed said
angrily. "Not that you'll be around to care, because if you let him get
hurt fighting your battles AGAIN I will kill you." He paused and shook
the anger off. "Let him go, please. I'm begging you."
"I don't have that authority..."
"You will soon enough, Fuhrer."
Roy paused. "That has not yet been decided."
waved the argument away. "If Bradley was still alive he'd have come
back by now. That means we need a new Fuhrer, and right now, YOU are
the only candidate."
"But until I am confirmed, it
remains treasonous to say otherwise," Roy said distantly. "Consider
this a warning."
Ed sighed. "Fine, be that way. But
if, just IF you became Fuhrer, I would ask you to let Al go."
Roy cocked his head, "And what," he
enquired, "would I get in return?"
"Me," Edward said, taking a deep
breath. "I'll stay and work for you. Take me and let Al go."
"You think pretty highly of
yourself. What makes you think I would even want you?" Roy asked curiously.
Ed gave him a level stare. "You may
not want me, but you NEED me. You said so yourself when we first met."
Roy winced, "I didn't think you
could hear me."
Ed just smirked at him. "Well?"
Roy asked, curiously. "You realise that you're essentially selling
yourself to the government. You'd have to be a State Alchemist, a dog
of the military."
"Better me than Al. I can handle
can't," Edward replied flatly. "And besides..." he tilted his head to
stare at the ceiling. "I've been a lone operative for years now, but
I've been thinking it's about time there was some coordination in my
work. Some follow-up on my efforts..." He rolled his head over to stare
at Roy. "So that everything I do isn't in vain."
twitched in the beginnings of a smile. "It sounds like you're offering
ME the chance to work with YOU, rather than the other way around."
Ed gave him a slow smirk. "Maybe I
considered his choices, got up from his chair and walked over to sit
next to Ed on the couch. "Of course, you'll have to pass the exam
"Don't insult me."
Roy chuckled. "And we'll have
to give you a new name," he said thoughtfully. "The Cloaked Alchemist
has too much of a history of siding with the people AGAINST the
military. I want people to know you work for ME now."
Ed shrugged. "It's just a name
people started using. It doesn't mean anything to me."
was silent for a moment before he spoke up again. "Your friend Winry
told me something once. She said that it was odd that the thing that
bothered her the most about the battle was that your house was
destroyed, because as long as you had somewhere to return to, she knew
you would always come home, no matter how far you wandered."
Ed didn't say anything.
"Do you think..." Roy hesitated.
"Do you think you could find a home here?"
There was a long silence.
"Funny, I always thought you were a
cat person," Ed said eventually.
"No," Roy stretched an arm out and
settled it around Ed's shoulders. "I like dogs."
Ed leant his weight against Roy.
"Just as long as you remember that inside every dog is a wolf."
Roy banged his knuckles on Ed's metal shoulder. "And as long as YOU
remember not to go pulling any more crazy stunts like the one you
pulled back at Liezenbul. You managed to destroy one homunculi in that
manner, but next time you'll need to come up with something different.
If we have to rebuild any more of you, your whole body will be made of
metal. Hmmm..." He thought about that.
"Fullmetal. What do you think of
that for a name?"
"Fullmetal huh?" Ed closed his eyes
and considered it. His lips curved in a smile. "I like the weight of
Roy closed his own eyes and let
himself relax at last.
"Welcome home, Fullmetal."
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