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cryogenia

A History of Violence

chapter 3.

The train is chugging through a merry patch of forest when Edward sways and
bangs his knee into the countertop; he looks up for someone to swear at and
sees nothing but trees out the window. Right. Just his own stupid fault. It
still amazes him, for all the trains he has ridden these past two weeks, that
he has not regained his train legs.

Maybe he won't. Unlike bicycles, perhaps trains are one
vehicle your muscles forget. That would suck, he thinks, but really—all things
considered, it could be far, far worse. He limps gamely the rest of the way
to the bench where Alphonse is sitting, proffers the requested muffin and orange
juice. His brother is watching him with concerned eyes and Edward hates that,
but it really could be worse. Some guys would see you limp and stick out a foot,
motherfuckers.

It disturbs him that he even considered his brother might
do that.

"You alright, brother?"

"Yes, dammit, I'm fine!" He growls, more gruffly than
he'd really intended. Alphonse looks at him reproachfully but scoots his knees
aside to make room for his brother. The morning dining car is comprised of an
a la carte kiosk and several different rows of booths, all of which are entirely
too small to really be useful. If they had just a few more inches of table there
might be room for both of their legs at the same time, but as it stands they
have to settle for slight interlocking.

"Sure you didn't want anything?" Alphonse asks, takes
a bite of his bran muffin.

"Naw, I had the rest of those biscuits out of your luggage."
He had actually woken more ravenous than he'd felt in years—the effect of
free air, perhaps.

Alphonse wrinkles his nose a bit, frowns around his breakfast.
"Hope they weren't too hard. They were at least a day old."

"Well, what can you do?" He shrugs. He's gotten used to
hard bread over the past six years; prison biscuits are almost never made to
order. Except on holidays. It was always a harsh thing to get on meal restriction
around the holidays, cause they actually brought in some assholes who could
cook then, as opposed to the assholes who just slopped everything together in
a pot. One winter, they'd even gotten rolls that had flavor, and little slivers
of cream pie. His gang had started a friendly little fight with the greaseballs
(opposite of skinheads, hair everywhere but at least fucking skinheads didn't
look like they had MANGE
) over who deserved seconds off the slow eaters'
plates; ended in a full-scale riot that resulted in pie splattered on just about
everything and the downfall of the greaseball gang in East Wing. They hadn't
eaten for three days after that, but holy hell, it was worth it. God, that pie
was good.

He must have had a queer look on his face again because
his brother is staring; he ducks his head down immediately and tries not to
look stupid. The train sways a little stronger, and Alphonse's juice sloshes
up over the edge of its cup—a tiny paper cone just large enough to let you
get your chops wet, really. Edward doesn't see the point in paying fifty cens
for the privilege and says so.

"Well, not like they had a lot of choices." Alphonse replies,
laps at the trail of drips.

"There's always water." Edward points out sensibly. "Water
jug's free."

"Ugh, no thanks. It's always stale on these crappy overnighters."

"...how does water go stale?"

"Very carefully, I guess. Amestris Western seems to manage
just fine, though. Do you know how much money you have left? Did you do the
math?"

"Yes, I did the math!" Alphonse has asked him that
at least three times in the past five minutes, and Edward is sincerely beginning
to regret splitting the cash pot down the middle. He'd forgotten how neurotic
it makes his sibling not to have his hands on all the purse strings. "And we
should still have forty thou for when we get there."

"Good." Says his brother, fidgets a little with his sticky
paper cone. He takes a bite of muffin. "We can stop for lunch somewhere after
we get to Central."

"You don't want to try Winry's first?"

"I was thinking we could have lunch with Winry."

Edward frowns. "I don't know if she'll actually be in,
though."

"Her store's not open Wednesdays?"

Edward squirms uncomfortably in his seat, caught between
his brother's knee and a hard place. This was the part he hadn't been looking
forward to.

"Yeah, but I don't know if she's back yet. She was out
of town for a bit—went back home to visit Gramma."

"Didn't you ask when she was getting back?"

"I couldn't. She had the sign up at the shop when I got
there."

"And THAT didn't say when she was coming back?" Alphonse's
brow furrows.

Edward briefly considers lying, but that can only get
him in deeper shit. Knowing his craptastic luck, Winry will have carved out
a date sometime into next year right above the mailbox.

"Just said 'til further notice'. Said there was an illness
in the family."

"What?!"

"...Gramma hasn't been doing so well, Al. Winry wrote
me in her last letter. Said she was gonna take some time off and go see her."

"In her letter...so you haven't talked to her at all then.
Since you got out."

"Right."

Alphonse pauses, muses this. It is a good thing there
is no juice left in his little cup. He has started turning it around and around
in his hands.

"So, she doesn't even know we're coming. And we don't
know when she'll be back. And Gramma's sick and you didn't even TELL me, I—no.
We're not going to start with this, it's stupid." He pinches the bridge of his
nose and breathes in slowly, a dorky, superior-ass gesture that Ed is sure
Al never used to make, or he would have kicked his ass here til next Thursday.

We're not going to start with this. Like AL can
just dictate this shit. He slams his flesh hand down, makes the table rattle
the old school way.

"I'm doing the best I fucking can, okay?!" He snarls
like an animal, feels all the muscles through his shoulders pop out reflexively.
He made a grown man choke on his own spit once 'cause of that; his neck is so
iron you could probably forge steel with it. But his brother—his soft, tiny
baby brother is just staring at him with a damn pitying look in his eyes, and
it just doesn't make any freaking sense.

"...you don't have to yell, brother. I'm not deaf, just
a little hard-of-understanding right now." Alphonse says blandly. His tone is
mild, but fuck, kind of patronizing. Gets his back up even more.

"Dammit! I'm not shouting!"

Alphonse's expression turns stricken, and he sinks his
fingers into the cord of Edward's arm.

"Brother!" His sibling hisses. "They can hear you in
the back of the car!
"

Edward turns and finds, to his dismay, that Alphonse is
right. Rows of reproachful eyes are staring at him. Which again, like the sore
knee, he only has himself to blame for. That pisses him off more than any of
it, really. Used to be the only shit-slingers were guards and skinheads; he
isn't used to getting shafted by himself.

"Look, it's not like they gave me a goddamn engraved invitation
six months in advance!" He hisses in response, watches the crowd reaction to
judge his volume. "They told I'm out, I'm out. Sorry my plans don't meet expectation,
your Majesty."

His brother spares him a sad smile then, bizarrely, starts
to stroke his forearm. Alphonse keeps doing that, and it takes a supreme
amount of patience just not to pull it away. Not fucking helping, but it's not
his brother's fault that he doesn't want to be touched.

Then you could always tell him to stop he tells
himself, but of course, he doesn't listen. That's the problem with yelling at
yourself, you're never sure when you'll just tell yourself to fuck off.

Alphonse continues his maddening cross-table clinginess,
and Edward spreads his one leg wider to get further away from at least some
part of the relentless contact.

"I know brother, I'm sorry...I really didn't mean it like
that. I was just trying to think about what we're going to do tonight, if Winry
isn't home. I can't go to the half-way house with you, we'd have to go for a
real hotel or something."

Edward shrugs.

"We'll think of something. We're on a train. We're moving.
Right?" He offers up a crooked smile and tugs his sleeve back, mockingly. "And
at least we're not playing poker."

"You mean, at least you're not CHEATING at poker!" His
brother chuckles back. "That's why we banned it, you realize. Not cause it was
boring, but cause we couldn't get through a game! You remember the litmus tests?"

Edward nods. He does have fond memories, actually, of
playing cards on a train; many wasted hours squabbling with his brother over
aces that were or weren't just alchemized pieces of scrap paper. By the time
Alphonse had reached the point of deconstructing all "suspicious" cards with
alchemy, they'd agreed just to stop playing.

He has no idea how they managed to fit Alphonse's armor
into these tiny ass booths, though. He seems to think they might have taken
end tables, and modified them with alchemy. Or maybe trains just got smaller,
while he was locked up. Anything is possible.

"Okay." Says Alphonse, takes a deep breath. "So again.
Assuming Winry isn't back yet—which she might be, we don't know—we might
be able to find something for forty thousand, if we don't eat today. I don't
know, I hear inflation's hit hard in the cities. Do you know what a room goes
for in Central right now?"

"Not really. I was just there long enough to hit up a
few adoption agencies. Then I split, to look for you."

"Right. Well, I guess we'll just have to wait and see.
Failing that...brother, what about the guys from the office? Mrs. Hughes? Do
we know anybody in Central?"

Edward closes his eyes, tries to picture it. He remembers
the names—they're burned into him, will always be a PART of them—but seriously...Havoc?
Breda? Whats-his-fuck, Furor? No, wait Fury. Not like it mattered; they're all
career military. Lived in the barracks. And Falman is his parole boss's boss.
Mustang and Hawkeye, he skips over entirely. Too dangerous, for all of them.
The Fuhrer can't be seen with a notorious mass murderer, or his long-lost little
brother, for that matter.

And then the Hughes'? Fuck. He can't conceive of
imposing on Gracia and her daughter. Can only imagine what they'd think, a goddamned
ex-con wanting to come spend the night. Elysia would be about ten now, wouldn't
she? Achingly, he wonders if she looks like his little brother's little sister...if
maybe Alphonse would be happy there.

But he won't do that to them. Alphonse is his responsibility,
and he's not in the habit of making other people take care of his shit for him.

"No." He says. "I don't think we have anybody in Central,
anymore."

Alphonse seems suspicious but doesn't push it. "Hotel
it is." He says simply, polishes off the last of his muffin. "We'll just have
to ask if there are any deals on."

"We could always slum it." Edward suggests. "Motels are
cheap on the south side."

"Ew, no!" Fuck, it's so wonderful that his brother can
make expressions at him. Even if he does look like he's about to cough
up his breakfast. "The last time you said that, we ended up at that, um. That
one place in Aquaroya."

Edward rolls his eyes. "I meant sleep in the park, dork!
I know how to recognize a bawdy house now. And I don't read Xingian, it's not
my fault I didn't know those rates were per hour."

"Well. Um. Anyways!" His brother says, coughs slightly.
"Since I guess we have to table this discussion for now—" He reaches into his
jacket pocket and pulls out a small box marked "Am. Western" that is unfortunately
all too familiar. It still has the price tag on, and it is clear Alphonse hasn't
even opened the pack yet, but Edward warms to the idea immediately. It is, after
all, really the thought that counts.

"Wanna play cards?" Alphonse asks. "I'd vote 'Hearts',
but we both know you'll just try to shoot the moon forever."

"Up for anything but poker," Edward says in good sport,
though they both know that's what they'll end up deciding. It's just one of
those things they have always done.

After a bit more banter they do in fact agree on the accursed
sport, and Alphonse breaks in the new deck with some shuffling maneuvers he
never could have pulled off in armor. Relaxing a bit, Edward plays his first
game of cards that doesn't end in punches in nearly three years, though his
brother does seem awfully tempted. Apparently his shitty luck at cheating, like
his brother's eagle eyes for it, haven't changed that much.


The train ends up late, like Am. Western trains always are—which is good,
really. If they'd been on time, maybe the cops wouldn't have been right out
there waiting for him. Maybe they would have had guys in the shadows, by the
turnstile, something subtle. But it's clear that they've had ample time to get
bored, and at two-oh-three in the afternoon, when the train arrives at the platform,
Edward spots two guys right out in the open—sharing a sandwich, fucking slackers.
He could probably out run them, but the cop/guard race of animal is like a cockroach
—if you see one, there's probably more in the woodwork waiting to jump out.
He's just glad he got a little advance warning.

As it is though, he still has barely enough time to tug
the blinds next to their booth down before his brother rouses. Thanks his lucky
stars they never made it back to their regular cars, or he wouldn't have had
a shade to pull down.

"Brother?" His sibling asks sleepily, lifting his head
off the table; still only barely awake. He's sort of worried, actually, at how
little energy his brother seems to have—can't hardly run, dozes off even
after a good six hours sleep—but chokes it back. This is not the time, nor
the place, to be freaking out about details.

"Just getting ready to leave." He says, heart secretly
racing. Leave for longer than you think, maybe. Fuck. He'd been intending
to use the last half-hour thinking of something to tell Sikes; somehow got caught
up watching his brother sleep. If he had ever needed any other proof that his
sibling was back, then really—that was it. And Alphonse talked in his sleep,
too, which was pretty damn entertaining. If he remembers to take notes, he might
have a great book someday.

The thought of his books sends an icy rivulet of fear
running over him, the ghost of Matheson's showers. Policemen. Out there. Fuck.
They had to want him bad if they had bothered to send people—of course they
wanted him, he was a fucking mass murderer and he hadn't called in almost five
days now, shit. What had he THOUGHT was going to happen? He could walk out and
just come back whenever, and it was going to be okay?! Fucking brainless. Just
wasn't thinking.

But really, he realizes with a dazed sort of wonder, no,
no he hasn't been. From the moment he first laid eyes on his brother, he really
hasn't been thinking at all.

He slowly extracts himself from the god-awful booth and
stretches, hopes that Al can't sense the doom that he's feeling.

"You still got your stub?" He asks.

"Yeah." Alphonse says, still rubbing sleep out of his
eyes. "Why?"

"Well, there's some guys outside waiting for me." He says,
as nonchalantly as possible. "So you'll have to get to Winry's by yourself.
Sorry. You can probably ask someone at the ticket counter if you need directions."

Predictably, his sibling is annoying about it.

"What?! What do you mean, there are guys waiting for you?"

"A few parole guys." The half-truth rolls easily off his
tongue. "They're just here to pick me up."

"I didn't think you'd called them!"

"I didn't." Edward admits. "But they've probably been
keeping their eye out. Here." He presses his half of the cash into his brother's
hand and sweeps away as quickly as possible, leaving his poor sibling looking
stupefied. "That should be enough for a cab, if you really get lost. Don't forget
the suitcase! I'll see you at Winry's."

"Brother—"

"See you later, Al!" And if his luck holds out, this will
be the last lie he ever has to tell his little brother.

He picks his way down the aisle, goes through to the individual
carriages, and just keeps moving; his stomach is in knots, but he refuses to
let his legs go the same way. Alphonse is a smart kid, he tells himself. He
can figure out how to hail a cab. And if worst comes to worst, he still has
his family. They seemed like a good sort. They would probably take him back.
Maybe he will even be able to write to him there, hear more about his Laurie
and their kittens, and all those other normal things he was never able to give
his brother. He wondered if Al would like that, or if he'll only be angry—
having to read letters from a brother he remembers now, but might not ever see.

Chokes back a sharp, bitter laugh. He's lost his brother,
ironically, because he worked so hard to regain him. Where's the fucking equivalency
in that?

He files slowly down a random carriage's stairs out into
the sunlight, and holds his hands straight out front, where they're visible,
where it's obvious he isn't trying to transmute.

Might as well get this over with.

One of the bozos with the sandwich spots him first and
lets out a shout, jogs over immediately with his dumpy-assed partner. He turns
toward them immediately and offers his wrists, holds his fingers wide and still
to show that he's not a threat.

They sure don't take any fucking chances. They don't just
cuff him; they put his wrists in stocks behind his back. He wiggles his
flesh hand a little bit, testing it; the hole in the heavy block of metal barely
has room enough to keep his circulation flowing. They capture one elbow each
and clamp down hard, needlessly holding the rest of him in place. He stares
ahead defiantly, refuses to look at either one of them. Asswipes.

"Edward Elric," one of the officers gulps nervously. "You
are under arrest for—"

"Yeah, yeah, I know." He says, levels him with his best
"cut the crap" glare. The guy stammers and sweats, and Edward shakes his head
in disapproval. They're a couple of pansies, he can see it already. "Can I go
see Sikes now? I gotta talk with her."

The braver of the two (the one currently not getting glared
at) makes a disapproving sound.

"You're not in a position to make requests, Mr.
Elric." He says, seems to want to look Stern but only manages to hit constipated.

Edward snorts. He may be woefully bad at poker, but hell,
THIS game—this game he fucking owns. "'Mister' Elric. That's rich.
What are you, fresh out of academy? Come on, you arresting me or taking me to
tea?"

He was already going down, might as well ride with the
flames.

The one on his right gets pissed off and jostles him,
starts hauling him off the platform without even warning his partner. Good.
Any longer and they're going to start gathering a real crowd, not just the little
gaggle of lookers-on that's currently collecting off to the left.

"You got a mouth on you, boy." The officer remarks, jerks
his elbow hard to the right. "You better learn to watch that."

Edward snickers. Oooh, little man playing it tough. He
probably thinks he deserves a shiny new badge for that bit of bravery. The officer
to his other side looks at him sharply and presses a hand to the back of his
head, forces him to look down at the cobblestones he is walking on. Cobblestones.
Funny fucking things, he's never understood them. Why you wouldn't just take
those stones and alchemize them together, he will never understand.

The cobblestones abruptly end in shiny leather boots,
and Edward is stopped just short of running into yet another ghost from his
past.

"Sir, we've got him."

Warrant Officer Falman.

"Edward Elric." Falman says, severe as ever, and Edward
almost wants to laugh. The man's mouth is that same, horizontal line it's always
been; his military haircut is as dopey as ever. If he didn't have a few more
lines in his face he would look just like he did like seven years ago.

Well, I'll be damned.

And he begins to have hope, actually. Stupidest
feeling ever, but he can't stop it from coming. Falman is Mustang's man. Mustang's
man, and he's here running things—no Sikes and no Harp.

"You are to be escorted to Officer Sikes' office at the
First National Correctional Facility for a hearing at fourteen-hundred hours.
Until then, you will be held at Central-Central Police Station. Without bail."

Edward nods. They're giving him a hearing. It's really
more than he could have hoped for. That seals it, it has to be Mustang,
coming through (again) when he's least expected.

"In the meantime, I suggest you spend some time to get
your story straight." Says Falman, and Edward jerks his head up sharply to stare
at the man. He can't be implying—

A burst of bronze catches Edward's eye somewhere behind
the man and he can't help but look.

Oh. Fuck.

His brother is standing there beyond Falman's shoulder,
about thirty feet away with his fresh little face shining and suitcase in hand.
Standing there, staring at him, looks like his whole happy little world is about
to come crashing down.

Of all the awful, awful timing. He shakes his head slightly,
desperately, channels everything he has into speaking with his eyes.

No Al, not NOW! Don't you get it? Stay back!

It doesn't seem like his brother has gotten it. Alphonse
takes a few hurried steps forward, and Edward nearly bites his lips bloody.

No he risks mouthing.

Please Al, he prays, stay lost.

His brothers eyes waver up to Falman's white shock of
hair, widen a little in (what Ed hopes is) recognition.

Yes. He thinks fervently. Yes Al, it's all cool,
stay back, stay SAFE, just stay OUT of this one-

Alphonse closes his mouth, and Edward's knees want to
buckle in relief.

"Elric? You alright?"

The officers beside him look down at him, look up just
a moment too late to see Al turning, fading into the stream of humanity pouring
toward the exit. Falman is also staring in concern, but mercifully, doesn't
ask any questions.

"Take him away." The officer orders, and Edward certainly
agrees. He sags into the policemen's grip; allows himself to be bullied through
the catacombs of Central Station to a waiting police wagon. All the while he
keeps trying to look behind him, hopes his brother isn't following them, oh
please Al, just go find Winry and stay out of it.

Whatever nonexistant gods protect alchemists must have
been watching, because his brother does not magically reappear to see him being
loaded into the back of the dank, stinking truck. Falman sits up front, next
to the driver, but opens a tiny little window so Edward can have some light
in.

The engine starts, and the truck lurches out onto the
road.

"So, what were you doing in Andenfield?" Falman asks eventually,
tone still neutral, but there is a bit of a glint in what little Edward can
see of his eyes.

"Not much." Edward says, grinning. "Just catching up with
an old friend."