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If he lived through this, Mustang was going to get a fucking earful.

The flash of a transmutation alerted him to the rogue alchemist’s latest move, and he sprung back a few steps just in time to watch a series of jagged spikes shoot up from the ground where he’d been standing.

“Ed!”

“I know!” Edward called back immediately, even though he knew the answer would frustrate Alphonse beyond measure. His brother had never quite gotten over his desperate need for Ed to stay away from any situation he could have once handled easily with alchemy, as though a man who’d punched a god to death would be in any way disadvantaged in a hand-to-hand fight.

This alchemist was a pain in the ass, though, especially since he wouldn’t shut up.

“Elric!” He called out, apparently deciding it was time for another attempt at his insane ramble. “The Fullmetal Alchemist never should have stopped! I know what you did, what you sacrificed!”

“What of it?” Ed spat back, dodging the finger-like rising from the earth to try and grab him.

“If you would just stay still!” the alchemist cried. “I don’t want to hurt you! I want to restore you!”

What?

Ed was so startled at the declaration, he paused, hesitating for a fraction of a second.

Earth sealed itself around his feet in that instant, and he was trapped.

“Excellent,” the alchemist breathed out, and then there was static, and the sound of Al desperately crying out his name.

The flash of a transmutation lit up in his face, and he closed his eyes against it, only to open them in a familiar hell he’d hoped he’d never see again.

“No,” he breathed out, turning around to catch sight of the other two bodies present: the alchemist they’d been after, and a featureless white child’s form.

Truth.

“I came for his alchemy,” the madman alchemist was saying.

“Stop!” Ed called, running toward them, grabbing the alchemist by the front of the shirt. “Stop this! I made my choice, let it go!”

The alchemist ignored him completely, leaning to the side to talk around him. “Take anything from me,” he practically begged. “Our country doesn’t need me, it needs its hero.”

“You don’t even know me!”

“Please,” the alchemist continued.

A cold, cruel laugh was his answer.

Ed turned, looking over his shoulder at the form of Truth, its bright tormentor’s grin splitting blank white cheeks.

“His alchemy?” its endlessly echoing voice cooed. “He gave me his gate. I let him because its worth much more than a soul. How do you intend to pay for it?”

“Anything,” the alchemist begged again. “Please, please , just give him the power to fix things. I...” The alchemist dug out and offered an item, small and pathetic for all the horror it contained. “I have a stone!”

“Fix what? Where did you get that?” Ed demanded, before dropping the alchemist and rounding on Truth. “I don’t want it. I don’t ever want to be here again. I just want to get back to my brother.”

He never should have spoken.

“Oh?” Truth asked. “That can be your toll, then.”

Before Ed could ask what that meant, the gate behind him opened, and its grasping arms dragged him in once again.



He opened his eyes to a dark room, filled with the scent of blood.

He recognized this ceiling.

No, he thought, scrambling to sit up.

Sure enough, he was in the center of a transmutation array. Not at the edge - the center. And, on the ground in front of him, he was staring dead into the wide and terrified eyes of a child.

Of himself.

His child self fell backward, reaching to the stump of his leg as the tissue dissolved into the air, being eaten away by the transmutation’s rebound.

His arms were both still there, though, which meant…

Ed acted more on instinct than thought, clapping his hands together, relieved when a once-familiar energy crackled under his palms. His hands slammed down on the ground, and he didn’t even have to look for where Al was to tether the transmutation.

Truth seemed like it was waiting for him, that damned grin bright as ever. “Welcome back.”

“Fuck you,” Ed spat back. “What have you done?”

“You should be grateful,” Truth told him. “You might finally be able to fix your terrible mistakes. You’ve made a lot of them, haven’t you, Edward?”

Ed glared in reply. “Give me my brother. Take my gate back, take my other leg, take my whole damn life. I don’t care.”

“But surely you’ve noticed where you are?” Truth asked. “You see what’s going on?”

“I’m in that day,” Ed replied. “I don’t know how, or why, or if it’s even real. It doesn’t matter. Alphonse is what matters, so give him back.”

Truth’s grin turned cruel again, and his rounded white hand raised, cupped around the ugly red-brown shape of a poorly made, weak Philosopher’s Stone.

“You’re lucky,” Truth told him. “The other one left this behind.”

Red crackled through the white room, and then he was back in the basement of his old house once again.

“Fuck,” Ed swore, looking around. His brother was laying on the side of the array, unconscious, and a few feet to the side, a younger version of him was bleeding out on a filthy wood floor. “Shit. Shit, shit, shit…”

He still didn’t know what Truth’s game was, but...if this was real, and he couldn’t see what else it could be, he needed to get these two somewhere safe.

He pushed himself up off the floor, only to immediately stumble and drop back down onto his knees, his legs unable to support his weight for even a moment.

The metallic clank as he hit the ground informed him that his automail had survived the pass through the gate, which was either a great thing or an awful one - he hadn’t decided. Still, his nerves were shot, and the muscles in his flesh-and-bone leg felt flimsy and worn.

He had to get up, though. He at least had legs, two of them - more or less - and he needed to stand on them and move, because these two wouldn’t be able to.

His legs were still shaking in his second attempt, but he managed to get upright. If he leaned heavily onto his automail leg, he could even stand relatively steady.

He limped in this manner over to the form of his younger self, scooping the child off the ground. His heart ached at the sight of someone so young hurting so much, torn between empathy for a child in need and intense self hatred for having done this to himself in the first place.

Edward and Alphonse had both been rather muscular children, thanks to their training, and as such were not exactly light. Ed was strong, though, and he managed to gather them both up by laying Al over his shoulder while he held child-Ed in a way that kept his leg elevated, hoping to make the blood running over his arm flow a little slower.

Children in hand, Ed started on his way, limping toward the house next door.



Ed made it up the first two stairs of the Rockbell house before his leg gave out again, dropping him to his knees on the top step.

The door flew open in front of him, and he raised his eyes to the shocked ones of Granny Pinako.

“Who…?”

“They’re okay,” Ed rushed out, not giving her any time for questions, just extending his arms to offer child-Ed to her. “But he’s bleeding out. He needs you.”

Pinako faltered for a split second, before her face hardened, and she gave a solemn soldier’s nod. “Can you bring him inside?”

Ed took a shaky breath, but forced himself up onto his legs again. The limping was even more dramatic now, his muscles protesting even the faintest of movements, but he managed to get a few steps in the door before dropping again.

He could hear Granny calling for Winry, and the clanging of her readying her medical supplies, but it all faded into a hum as he lost consciousness.




Edward was the first to wake, apparently, because he could see Al and his younger self still asleep on beds to the side of him when he did.

He could also see the restrains tying his wrists down to the sides of the bed, because Granny was a paranoid old witch.

“You’re awake,” her voice came to his other side, and he looked to meet her eyes. “Care to explain who exactly you are? And why you showed up with these two in the state you all were in?”

Granny wasn’t an idiot. There was no way he was going to get away with an excuse of being a passing stranger or anything else. However, “I’m pretty sure Not-God sent me from the future” was also not a great introduction to try unless he absolutely had to.

Luckily, she was so eager for an explanation, she practically lied for him.

“I didn’t know Hohenheim had other children,” she said, tapping the end of her pipe with a finger idly. “But you’re his spitting image.”

Ed scowled on reflex.

“Ah,” Granny said, sounding almost amused. “You’re definitely his, then. That’s the same spite I see in Edward every single day.”

Ed looked to the side, where his child self was sleeping, and locked his eyes to the bandaged stump of his leg. “It’s justified,” he murmured. “He leaves. He can talk a big game, but he’s a hypocrite. He runs just as much as I do.”

“There’s a story there,” Granny said. “And I’d love to hear it, since it seems I owe you and your sudden visit for the survival of these two boys.” There was a beat, and then she asked, quietly, “They tried to do it, didn’t they?”

“They wanted her back,” Ed confirmed. “They were desperate.”

“And you?” Granny asked. “Who are you, beyond your father? What’s your name?”

Ed hesitated.

He couldn’t exactly call himself Ed or Edward, because then there would be two of him and that would just get confusing. Or, worse, someone would start calling him something like Ed Sr. and make it sound like he was old as fuck. He wasn’t even 30, yet, for a good few more months, and he wasn’t about to be treated like he was ancient.

Van Hohenheim sounded like a last name, so Ed could have claimed that for the second part, but he’d still need a first name. He could make one up, but...he wasn’t really great with names. He usually just stole names he’d heard somewhere else.

Stolen names...Hohenheim had been offered a full name once, right? What had he claimed it was?

Theophrastus, right?

Good enough for him.

“Theo,” Ed - no, Theo - offered. “I...it’s hard to explain, but I started a transmutation at the same time they did, and it seems like the energy..transferred. I woke up in their array, instead of my own.”

Or, well, the crackpot alchemist’s, but the effect was the same.

“You...teleported? With alchemy?”

The newly-dubbed Theo shrugged. “I’ll have to study the arrays to see what happened,” he said, knowing full well that he wasn’t going to do that. He had stepped through the gate, is what happened, and as useful as teleportation would be, he damn sure wasn’t about to do that again on purpose.

“Well, Theo,” Granny said, “I don’t know what kind of man you are, but your father was a mystery I never could understand. All the years I knew him, he never aged a day...that’s how you’re so much older than them, isn’t it? He had a family before Trisha.”

“He never had a family,” Theo muttered in response. “He had kids, and he left them. He doesn’t get to claim them as family.”

Granny’s lip twitched up. “You really are a lot like Edward, aren’t you? I suppose half-brothers must naturally have a bit in common.” She stepped back, gesturing into the house with her pipe’s stem. “Come, talk with me in the kitchen. Maybe you can shed some light on the things about Hohenheim that never quite made sense.”

“Oh, believe me,” Theo replied. “You don’t want to know.”