When One Door Closes...</u>
Disclaimer: I don't own FMA, I just like to play around in it's world and annoy the characters for awhile.
Author's note: This story is yet another in the series of drabbles, one shots and mini-fics I am basing on inspiring FMA fanart, usually of Edward and Winry. The title of this one is "Edowin Sketch" and is the work of :iconmperfectEclipse: who graciously gave me permission to cite her work, and encouraged my writing of this story. The URL is www.deviantart.deviation/37763116/
Similar in spirit to this one is "You Are Back" by at www.deviantart.com/deviation/40753730/ She also has been gracious and encouraging.
Edit: "EdoWin Sketch has been colored and resubmitted as "Reunion's Embrace". It's URL is www.deviantart.com/deviation/49567749
Both of these artists are very talented, and they've done lots of great FMA fanart. Give them props, but please do not steal their art!
Warning: Contains movie spoilers, loads o' violence, and some cussing. .
Beta: Aemilia Rose; thanks also to Serif (aka Sable-Sama)who looked it over and gave me some advice concerning Winry's and Ed's actions.
It's over, it's finally over...
Edward Elric sighed in relief and sagged against the side of Eckart's ship. He could already feel the aches of muscle pulls starting to catch up with him and realized he'd gotten out of shape without having Al to spar with every day. A slight wind kicked up, bringing the scent of burning building to his nostrils. Edward blinked and ducked his head when some acrid smoke was blown into his face causing his vision to blur and his eyes to tear up in self defense.
"Fullmetal, are you all right?" Mustang asked in concern having drawn closer without Ed knowing it. Edward looked up, but only saw blurs of blue and red, so he sniffed and drew a sleeve across his eyes.
"Yeah, I'm all right, some smoke just got into my eyes, that's all." he muttered, but he was lying and Roy knew it. His voice had thickened with emotion and Edward's throat closed up all together when a sobbing boy threw arms about him.
"Brother! I missed you so much, I thought I'd never see you again! Everyone thought you were dead, and..." Alphonse's voice dissolved into a fit of wailing as he began to cry and Edward wrapped him in a comforting hug. With his arms full of little brother, Edward allowed the tears brimming in his own eyes to spill down his cheeks and he never heard Roy leave to return to his troops.
No crying jag lasts forever, and Alphonse's eventually wound down to juddering sobs, and then intermittant sniffs. When he finally let go, Edward dug in his left- hand pocket and offered to Al a well-used handkerchief that had been softened by many washings. The boy accepted it with a murmured thank you, dried his eyes and blew his nose with a loud 'honk!' The front of Ed's shirt was very damp from Al's tears, but he was so glad to be home again, he didn't really mind it.
Home. The reality hadn't truly kicked in that he had succeeded in crossing the Gate and returning where he belonged. Home. What a beautiful, magical, and melodious word.Home. Edward said it very softly under his breath and chuckled. He'd done what their father thought was impossible, he'd -
"Brother, look!" Alphonse pointed up at the sky, and Edward could both see and hear the retreat of the Thulist army, their great airships streaming back towards the portal which led to the machine world. As the last one disappeared into the distance, Edward smiled grimly and Al regarded him warily. "Brother? What are you thinking?"
"Al, we've beaten them this time, but they will be back. We have to go to the underground city and destroy the portal because the only way to protect our world is to slam and lock the door forever! Come on, let's go!"
Even at a dead run, it still took the Elric brothers several minutes to get down to the ground, and then they had to negotiate an obstacle course of rubble back to the ancient church which led to the underground city. The city destroyed so many centuries ago in the massive alchemic reaction created when Hohenheim and Dante created the philosopher's stone, the reaction which cost Hohenheim of Light his life and led to his first act of "body-jumping."
It would be a story Edward could tell Alphonse later, but now they had a whole world to save. Winry and Schieska saw them from a distance and the former cried out "Edward!" but the wind tore her words away and also obscured the brothers behind a veil of smoke. Terrified both Elrics would disappear on her, Winry scrambled after them with Schieska following. The rubbled-choked streets made for slow going and Schieska gasped loudly when Winry caught a toe on a chunk of concrete and went sprawling.
Winry hissed between her teeth at the sudden pain of a skinned knee. I don't have time for this! She sat up, and then back on her heels, gritted her teeth and briefly squeezed her eyes shut. But she opened them in surprise when a boot scraped stone in front of her, and a hand suddenly hovered in her line of sight. "I know where they've gone, Miss Rockbell, please allow me to assist you."
She raised her head and saw a smiling Mustang, his left eye covered by a large black patch, the man who...
But the past was past, and Winry needed to catch up to Ed and Al. Winry swallowed hard, then put her hand in Mustang's and let him help her up. The abraded skin of her knee stung, and she saw a little blood, she raised her leg slightly and brushed some loose pebbles away with her free hand. With Mustang's help, she began to hobble forwards, closer to the old church two boys she loved had just run into.
With Mustang's aid, Winry made much better time towards the ancient church. Behind her, Havoc helped Schieska navigate through the ruins of Central, and the rest of 'his' troops - Hawkeye, Breda, Brosh, Ross, Falman, and Feury - brought up the rear. Once inside the door, Winry stopped and goggled. This church had been a beautiful building once upon a time, and there were traces of its former glory in the beamed ceiling soaring to a peak, and remains of stained glass windows.
Straight ahead was the old altar of the church with a gaping black hole in the middle of it, one of the entrances to the underground city. Winry, Roy and the others weaved down the center aisle past pieces of debris. Several large pieces of roof had fallen in during the Thulist attack, but Winry only had eyes for that hole in the altar. A man and a boy for whom she cared deeply had gone down there and she had to follow them. But Roy held her back just before she entered. "Wait, Miss Rockbell, you will need light." He stooped and rummaged in the debris field for a moment, then uttered a sound of satisfaction before coming up with a stout piece of wood.
"Pen, sir?" Schieska asked with a smile, handing a blue ballpoint to Roy. He smiled his thanks and drew a small array on the wood, and brushed a finger over it. The array glowed briefly before Roy snapped his fingers to summon a small flame which he touched to the wood. He handed it to Winry and said "The array will prevent the flame from burning down too far." She didn't say anything, and not trusting her voice because she was so overwrought, merely nodded.
As Breda brought him some more likely chunks of wood and Roy used the pen to make more torches, Winry finally asked, "Roy, what do you think they are planning to do?"
Roy paused in the middle of drawing an array to reply, "I don't know Miss Rockbell, but if it's something stupid, I'll kick Ed's ass for you."
The steps down to the underground city seemed unending and Winry wanted to hurry and get there faster, but the way was also very steep and she almost fell headlong several times. She would have taken Roy with her because he was leading the way, his free hand poised to snap in case of trouble. Hawkeye walked alongside, her face blank, but her eyes betraying the stress she was feeling. Her guns remained holstered, but her free hand was ready to draw one and thumb off the safety at a moment's notice.Behind them came Havoc, Brosh, Ross, Breda, and Falman, all armed with rifles. Schieska, escorted by Feury, brought up the rear. He had been given orders by Roy to take both her and Winry back to the surface if danger threatened.
The little group stopped at the end of the stairway and stared in awe at the size and breadth of the underground city. Winry and Schieska had seen it before, but none of the others had. "It's like a necropolis!" Hawkeye exclaimed.
The city was completely silent in its grave, immured thousands of feet below the surface of the earth. Some of the buildings sagged drunkenly against one another, but most stood straight and tall, black and glassless window openings making them appear perpetually startled, like deer caught in headlights. The air was so cold and still that any sound was carried a long way, and a slight 'clank!' echoed around the city in such a fashion Roy wasn't sure which direction it had come from.
Then he saw a flash of blue light almost straight ahead of him from an almost entirely roofless building with a grand pillared entrance. "There!" he pointed. "Let's go everyone, double time!"
In the great hall of the mostly ruined opera house, Edward and Alphonse crouched behind a chunk of wall (courtesy of Ed's alchemy) and winced each time a bullet smacked against the concrete. They had found the place a beehive of activity with officers shouting orders in German and groups of men running about and forming into ranks. Far from retreating across the portal, the Thule army was regrouping as it prepared to make another assault upon the 'Shambalans' above.
The commander of the Thulists ground his teeth in frustration. This invasion hadn't gone at all as planned. Madame Eckart had assured him 'Shambala' was a utopia where war was unknown and the denizens of this world would not even know how to fight back. The invasion would be a 'cakewalk'. Many a slip betwist cup and lip... he thought darkly, this world not only had armed forces, they knew how to put up a fierce defense. After merely a quarter of an hour, he had known he was facing battle-hardened troops and not gentle flower throwing children.
He peered in vain towards the huge slab of concrete which had magically levered on end, the smoke from his squad's rifles had made such a fug that he couldn't see who was hiding behind it. Was it only the two Shambalans spotted earlier as they snuck closer, or was an entire platoon there now? He pointed towards the slab and ordered "Move in, men! But I want them alive for questioning, so put on your masks and use the gas!"
As one, the squad stood up and two of the men shouldered their rifles while the others pulled gas masks down over their faces. The two unarmed men also pulled masks on, then removed their back packs and from them took out two cylinders of silvery metal. One side of each cylinder had a handle and trigger mechanism, and graceful spouts stuck out from their other sides. When they were ready, the squad began to advance upon the slab that shielded the Elric brothers.
Alphonse didn't hear any more shooting and he peered cautiously around one end of the slab while Edward peered around the other. The actions of the men confused Al and he moved further away from his protected spot to get a closer look through the swirling gun smoke. He still couldn't see and he had begun to move even further out when someone grabbed him by the collar of his cloak and yanked him back - hard - and uttered a string of curses. He stared in wonder at Edward who was doing the cursing. When they were younger, swearing like that would get a boy's mouth washed out with soap.
"Dammit, Al, get back you idiot!" Edward had seen the gas canisters and the sight of them made him feel slightly sick. He remembered that strange yellow cloud which had billowed out at him back in Munich and how quickly it had knocked him out cold. "Time to take the offensive, little brother. I'll go left and you go right, on the count of three we'll shake things up a little!"
The advancing Thule troops hesitated when two figures darted out from either side of the slab. Were there more enemies hiding there? The squadron leader motioned to the two men with the cans of sleeping gas - take them! But they had taken only a few steps forward when the pair of young Shambalans clapped their hands together, crouched down and placed their hands on the ground. Flashes of blue light sizzled into the air and suddenly furrows of concrete were racing towards the squad.
Roy and his little party came upon the scene just in time to see enemy troops go flying through the air like tenpins when struck dead on by a bowling ball, and he grinned to see that Ed and Al were the cause of the carnage. The Elric brothers didn't lack for courage, but common sense was another matter. Both were out in the open and unarmed. He opened his mouth to yell to Hawkeye but she was already kneeling at his side, and saying, "I'm on it, sir!", as she took careful two-handed aim with one of her pistols. From a distance of perhaps 40 yards, Riza picked her target - a tall man in a black uniform who was shouting orders.
The Thule army commander was bellowing in rage at his men, commanding them to pick themselves up and return fire. He pulled out his own pistol, waved it about and fired a couple times into the air. Then he saw a small blond man leaping like a deer over the rubble of the floor, something silver and sharp-looking protruding from his right arm. The man was fast, but he would never reach him in time, so the commander took aim. There was a sharp crack! and the commander's body jerked slightly as a round, red hole appeared in the middle of his forehead. He never knew what hit him.
Edward leapt over the fallen body of the commander and plowed straight into a mass of half-organized Thule troops who fell, either screaming from deep sword cuts or groaning from vicious kicks. No one could touch the angry blond whirlwind who yelled, "This is my world! Go home!"
Edward had caused such a distraction that no one saw Alphonse sneaking around to a large group of unattended armor suits. When he clapped his hands and touched two suits, they jerked to life, red eyes sparking inside their helmets. Both of the suits extended their arms and touched two more suits and then four suits each touched two more suits, and eventually Alphonse had complete control of all two hundred armors.
He sighed quietly and told them what to do. As one, the suits lurched towards the Thule troops who were pouring out of the airships. Another officer pointed at the "Shambalans" and screamed "Forward! Kill! Crush! Destroy!" Then a moment later, when one of the suits wrapped unbreakable arms around him, he shrieked, "Not me, you idiot! Let me go!"
The remaining armors lined up and formed a protective barrier of metal to shield Alphonse's reckless brother from any gunfire. At another sighed order from Alphonse, they began to walk forwards, herding the remaining Thule troops back into their airships. Most dropped their weapons, although a few of the men fired wildly, but their bullets only ricocheted.
One of the armors spoke in Alphonse's voice, "No, don't sho - !" It sighed in exasperation as first one soldier, then another fell screaming to the floor with self-inflicted bullet wounds. "I told you not to shoot!" Each wounded man was picked up by a suit and carried along as the armors continued to herd the enemy, and any man who evaded them soon wished he'd stayed put after being confronted by either the angry Edward, or an equally angry Roy. There was only the occasional crack of gunfire now. Most of the Thule troops had dropped their rifles and the foolish ones who didn't were quickly ushered into the afterlife by the deadly aim of Hawkeye and the rest. Only Feury, Winry and Schieska didn't take part as they sheltered in the shadow of Edward's concrete slab.
Alphonse began to relax, seeing that they were going to succeed in driving the invaders from their world and he let his guard down. He got the shock of his young life a few seconds later when a loud explosion sounded. And a large gap appeared in his line of metal suits. Several lay unmoving on the floor, their metal bodies twisted and smoking. He tried to look through the cloud of smoke, but couldn't see anything in the whirling mass for a minute or two. The air at last cleared to reveal what appeared to be an enormous cannon pointing in the general direction of Roy and his troops.
Edward's lips drew back in a feral snarl - so they'd brought out a howitzer. As if that would be a match for his automail blade. He crouched slightly and made as if to charge, but hesitated when a hand clamped upon his right shoulder. "Allow me, Fullmetal. I have another sudden urge to make something go 'boom'."
A small flame sprouted from snapped fingers, flickering in the stale air, then suddenly flared to a foot long lance before it leaped towards the howitzer. With his left hand on his hip, Roy concentrated as he adjusted the oxygen content of the air around his target.
The howitzer crew had been adjusting the weapon to destroy more of the armor suits when one of them noticed Roy's flame and they frantically tried to re-adjust their aim. The crew commander had just bellowed "Fire!" when the weapon exploded, sending razor-sharp shards of metal ripping through their bodies and those of their comrades. Edward and the others threw themselves to the floor, but Alphonse commanded more armors to fill the gap and shield them from the worst.
A brief silence reigned while the debris and dust began to settle.
Coughing, Edward and Roy cautiously stood up and looked over to where the howitzer had been. They couldn't see much as the area was wreathed with black smoke and flames, but it gradually cleared to reveal a scene of carnage that matched that above in Central. The floor was littered with prone bodies, mostly dead or dying, a few moving a bit and moaning. They wore black uniforms, so only shiny patches showed where they were bleeding, but more pools of blood could be seen on the floor and splashed onto the armor suits. There was nothing left of the howitzer crew except a few mangled shreds of metal, clothing, and unidentifiable body parts.
Figures in black uniforms slowly began to emerge from behind the wheel struts of the nearest airship and Roy tensed, fingers ready to snap again. But they looked as if all the fight had been drained out of them, and when one of them took a white handkerchief from a pants pocket and waved it in the air, Roy knew it was all over. He approached the man with the makeshift flag of surrender who said, "I am Grupenfuhrer Jungbeck, and we surrender. What are your terms?"
"I am Corporal Roy Mustang of the Armed Forces of Amestris. We don't want prisoners, so retrieve your wounded, get back into your airships and return to your world. Do not come back."
The rest of the Amestrians gathered behind Roy: Edward, Alphonse, Hawkeye, Havoc, Brosh, Ross, Breda, Falman, and finally Feury with Winry and Schieska. Jungbeck just stared, an army of crack German troops had been beaten by six riflemen - two of them women - a mere Corporal, and two unarmed boys. "Don't feel so bad, Grupenfuhrer," laughed Roy. "These two are alchemists, so you never had a chance."
"I accept your terms, Corporal," Jungbeck bowed to him. "We will leave and never come back. Danke shoen." He stepped back a few paces, then clicked his heels and turned smartly. "Everyone! If you can move, get on your ship! Help those who cannot walk! Move it, move it, move it!"
It took a couple of hours, but the loaded airships finally lifted off and headed for the still glowing portal. They left behind their dead, the empty suits of armor, and one airship which had been too crippled to fly. After whispered consultations with Roy, Edward and Alphonse used alchemy to move it to the center of the array where they planned to use it as a catalyst to destroy the portal. Roy put the men to work on burial detail, picking up all the dead Thule soldiers and laying them in long rows, arms crossed over chests. The destruction of the portal would bring down the rest of the opera house and bury them under tons of concrete. As the city was already a memorial to the thousands of people killed to make a philosopher's stone, it would make a fitting tomb for the invaders.
After he climbed on top of a large piece of rubble, Edward stuck two fingers between his lips and whistled to get everyone's attention. "If everything is ready, Al and I will destroy the portal, but we need you to get well away from the city before we do this." Roy nodded and motioned to his troops. Even if he was only a Corporal and technically below all of them in rank, he was still Colonel Mustang in their eyes and so still in command. As Edward hopped down and rubbed his hands together with anticipation, he idly gave thanks to Alfons Heidreich who had risked everything to put him aboard that rocket plane. In the back of his mind, he hoped his friend hadn't gotten into too much trouble. Don't be an idiot, Alfons. You still have great things to accomplish and make your fellow Germans proud.
"Edward." He stopped in his tracks and turned to see Winry standing there with a nervous smile. He smiled back warmly and raised his right arm.
"Hey machine freak," he said softly. "Thanks for the automail. I feel whole again."
He turned away but only managed a few steps forward when his ponytail was seized and yanked so hard he stumbled backwards with a loud "Urk!" Edward whirled around and was ready to yell when Winry grabbed him by the shoulders and pulled him close. Her soft lips made him forget what he had been planning to say. His eyes were wide open in surprise,so Edward could see Winry was blushing. He was sure his own face was brick red also.
Winry finally released him with a quiet smack, and ran the tip of her tongue over his lips before she spoke. "Just don't do anything stupid because I have a wrench with your name on it, alchemy geek."
After everyone had evacuated back to the ancient church, Winry waited on tenterhooks for the Elric brothers to return. Although the city was thousands of feet below them, the sounds of explosions could be clearly heard, and a rush of dust and hot air coming from the entrance in the altar was strong enough to stagger them. Oh Ed, Al, she thought, please come back safely!
The waiting seemed to last forever, but eventually the sounds of slow footsteps could be heard coming up the stairs - two sets of footsteps - and when Edward and Alphonse emerged into the church, it was to the sounds of whoops and cheers from more Amestrian solders. The brothers looked tired, and they were covered in dust. Stray bits of wood fell out of Alphonse's hair when he shook his head.
"Elric brothers! Thank the stars you are alive! And Edward! You have returned!"
Edward paled, Oh no! It's -! The next instant both he and Alphonse were swept into the muscular arms of Alex Louis Armstrong, who had just arrived from Lior. He hugged them so tightly Alphonse was sure his eyes were going to pop from their sockets.
"Not so tight, Alex, you're going to squash them!" Roy Mustang was chuckling at the sight of the former Strong-Arm Alchemist manhandling the Fullmetal and his little brother. He was almost nostalgic for the sight, but Roy shouldn't have spoken unless he was out of Alex's reach.
"Roy Mustang!" In one seamless move, Alex dropped Edward and Alphonse to the floor where they sat blinking and gasping for breath before he seized Roy in an unbreakable grip. "How I have missed your smiling face!"
"Gahhh!" That was all Roy could manage before the breath was squeezed out of him. Great tears were spilling from Armstrong's eyes and Roy grimaced. Being hugged by Alex was bad enough, but to be hugged by a blubbering Alex...
Edward scrambled to his feet and then helped Alphonse up. He didn't say a word, but just motioned and they quietly tip-toed out of Armstrong's reach and didn't stop until they'd gotten outside the church. More and more people - soldiers as well as civilian residents of Central - were gathering and the crush of bodies was making Edward feel claustrophobic. The brothers had nearly fought their way through to a clear area when a voice cried "Edward!" behind him. He turned to see Winry and Schieska trying to reach them, and Edward didn't hesitate, he rushed backward and pushed people out of his way until he was close enough to take Winry's hand.
He turned back towards Alphonse and plowed his way outside the growing crowd, still holding Winry's hand while Schieska held on to the back of Winry's jacket. Almost without thinking, Edward put his arms around Winry, flinching only slightly when she reciprocated. "Is it over, Ed?" she asked. "Is the invasion finally over?"
"Yeah, it is." Edward's voice was thick with emotion when he replied. "We slammed and locked the door. Our world is safe now." Winry put her head on one of his shoulders and smiled with relief, but she looked up again when he said quietly, "Hey, machine geek."
Winry forgot what she had planned to say when Edward's warm lips met her own....
When one door closes...another one opens.