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herongale

The Flooding Dark, The Evening Strange

chapter 1.
The opposite of a fact is falsehood, but the opposite of one profound truth may very well be another profound truth.—Niels Bohr

There was no such thing as a wound that healed, good as new.

Westphalia on the Rhine was not a safe place for former state alchemists in that desperate time just before the second great war. That which had once been the Holy Roman Empire was now gripped in poverty and the kind of suffering that gave birth to stern ideologies, not unlike Ishibal, or Lior. Edward Elric no longer carried the title Fullmetal, but after having spent over two years studying the sciences of this strange world, now he found himself travelling from Rome to Köln by train, pursuing a different and yet disturbingly familiar goal.

Sighing as he leaned against the sideboard, Edward watched as the countryside of Germany scrolled by. All of that research into the nature of rockets had failed to pan out. No matter where he went or which new theories he pursued, it had become clear that the problem of designing a rocket capable of breaking the bounds of gravity was a puzzle that would take many more years, and far much more manpower, then Edward would be able to command. Critically more important, however, was the fact that the entire pursuit was fundamentally flawed. Even if he could find the power to reach the end of the universe, Alphonse would not be there. He would never be there.

Deep in the theories of physics Edward had discovered an elemental truth. There was not just one universe. There were many, and they were in fact infinite. The gate that bound this world called Earth to his own was not a passage that encompassed distances. No—the only thing it connected together were possibilities.

That discovery had sent Edward into a lurid depression. He had been in Paris at the time, and in the end he escaped suicide only by the fortunate intervention of his father, who came from Munich specifically to retrieve him, worried because the number of unanswered letters (and later, telegrams) had become too many to bear.

It had been a stern time in his life. Even thinking about it now, Edward shivered. It would be better to be dead then to have to endure such hopelessness ever again. It was his wish that Alphonse never would have to endure anything like it.

It was in Munich, floundering in overwhelming fears and living his life in an uncaring, unseeing haze, that he snapped. And it was then, and only then, that his father had finally confided in Edward, revealing to him the existence of a different path. Alchemy, disguised as magic, had not yet died in this world of technology and physical laws. That was a day when Edward came very close to killing his own father.

It had not been easy for Hohenheim to convince him that the reason for his earlier reluctance had been because it was a dark and dangerous path, not significantly different from the pursuit of the Philosopher's Stone, or Resurrection Alchemy.

The dangers themselves were different, of course, but very real. Alchemy on earth depended on the principle of equivalent exchange, but in this world all alchemy drew its power from the soul of the practitioner. Every act had the potential of obliterating that soul altogether. Edward eventually forgave his father, but he never forgot that the man had allowed him to walk deep in the pathway of despair before giving him this hope.

But, wasn't that always his father's way?

Facing forward to observe the landscape coming, Edward finally saw two black towers rising in the distance, signaling that the city of Köln was close. Edward could not help but find it ironic that his biggest hope now lived in the church. The religions of this world were different from the religions of his own, but in Edward's estimation they carried not a whit more truth. For him, the only value of the church was in its position as repository of arcane learning, as a hoarder of forbidden facts. Edward had spent a great deal of time in Rome, exploring a city more ancient and byzantine then any he had known in his own world, tracking down secrets right under the nose of the formidable Catholic church.

He had not been able to penetrate very deep into the Vatican; it soon became clear that even though the texts he needed were stored wherever the church kept their secret libraries, he would never be able to get to them. Everything was simply too closely guarded, and without power Edward could not take the information by force. He did learn some things, however. Ultimately he discovered a clue which directed him to where he was at this very moment, on a train to Kölner Dom.

Germany was a Protestant country, the ultimate Protestant country. The power of the Catholic church was weak here, and in its most important Cathedral it contained a shrine to three Christian saints: the tombs of Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar, the three wise men reputed to have given gifts to the Christ child. Although Edward did not believe a single word of the Christian gospels, he did believe in the clues which taught him that the three gold sarcophagi contained not only the bones of three unknown men, but also the magical texts that he needed.

It was all now just a matter of getting there.

Edward looked down at his left hand, fingers fretting fitfully as his whole body sang with impatience. He had never been able to really get used to his left hand's unnatural dominance. It didn't want the power it had, and became oddly clumsy at times, even now. Personifying his body parts was a habit he'd picked up from Alphonse... watching his brother deal with such an extreme body/soul disconnect had caused him to pick up some sympathetic distance. Edward stroked his metal arm with the dancing fingers, trying to calm his nerves.

Soon the train was passing cottages and then larger buildings, and abruptly the countryside was left behind. Once he arrived Edward would have to find an apartment. His funds were rather limited as he depended almost solely on a pension provided by his father... his confounding, shady father. Where the man got the money, it was impossible to guess, but all Edward knew was that he could reliably expect a wire at the beginning of each month, enough to provide for modest housing, food, and a few additional necessities. Fortunately, his father always seemed to be two steps ahead of the devaluation of the Mark, probably by using certain back-channels of knowledge that were probably quasi-criminal if not outright illegal. Edward never asked.

The Weimar Republic was in trouble. Everyone knew this, even Edward, who had only the most cursory knowledge of Europe's recent history. Although democracy was still technically the ruler of the day, so was poverty, and in this poverty Edward sensed a simmering desperation and blind fear that was sure to break out in some recklessly bad policy. It would be too bad, tragic, if Germany were to fall victim to the sorts of excesses he'd seen back at home, but Edward would not find it surprising. The gaunt faces that stared out at him as his train rolled to halt at the station bore witness to this.

Clutching his slim leather briefcase close, Edward debarked from the train. He no longer wore the rich red cloak he preferred, choosing instead to blend in by wearing drab browns and whites without the slightest element of distinction. In his pocket he held a list of names, people that Hohenheim's contacts deemed to be reliable, and these would be the people he would seek out when looking for a place to stay. Edward was not yet sure how long he'd be in the city. It might be a few days, but most likely it would be several months. In either case he would require a landlord who would charge fair prices, provide adequately tidy accommodations, and ask absolutely no questions.

Before he walked one hundred yards, Edward found himself staring directly at the façade of the cathedral, Kölner Dom. It was predictably massive, but less predictably, it was stained in soot and looked rather sorry because of it. A past glory, now faded. However, the heavy overdose of filigree (Edward supposed that it qualified as "gothic") made the entire impression awe-inspiring, awesome. Somehow even the soot added to the gravitas.

He had to see it. Because it was so close, Edward had to surveil. It was a struggle to suppress the sneaky pose that his nature almost demanded he adopt. Someone, probably Winry, had once told him that he revealed too much with his face, and ever since then he'd tried to reign that in at critical moments, but it was never easy. Lifting his spine, holding himself tall, Edward sauntered in through the main atrium, his gait only a little bit loping and predatory.

Inside, the cathedral was amazing. Vaults over ten stories high dwarfed everything, an effect Edward approved of because it kind of leveled the playing field, making everyone look diminished. Perhaps a thousand people could be fit in there, maybe more, but at this time Edward spied only a couple dozen, most praying quietly in the pews or kneeling silently in front of the terraced candle racks in the various side chapels. It took him longer then he thought it would to find the shrine to the Wise Men, but when he did he was pleased to see that it was cordoned off with nothing more strong then a velvet rope. In a completely hypocritical display of piety, Edward bent to kneel in the front pew before the shrine.

There would be two main problems in breaking into the tombs, neither trivial. The first was that they existed in a completely open space. Although any stranger could approach quite close, it seemed that there was always a priest or two wandering around, looking generally solicitous but clearly able to raise some kind of alarm if they witnessed any sort of sacrilegious break-in. Edward would have to find out if there was ever a safe time to approach unobserved. The second problem was that the shrine itself was an ornate gold mini-cathedral which was covered over in many intricate carvings. It was not easy to figure out how to break into: perhaps it was an entirely welded piece. If it were that, Edward would have to just give up right then, but in what little he'd been able to figure out about the Catholic church, that really didn't seem to be in its style. That thing contained bones, and even if they were not the bones of the three (probably mythical) kings, they must be real human bones, the kind which can be shown to doubters or auditors of the church.

Edward cracked his knuckles, and then sighed. Figuring out the solution to these problems would be frustrating and time consuming. But the key things he needed to know were simply not the kinds of things he'd find in any old book, and he had accepted that already, a long time ago.

Edward stood up, but instead of leaving he decided to walk around some more. Something in the peaceful stillness appealed to him strongly, and he didn't need to share in the religious faith that the building represented to find it beautiful. In fact, it was a testament to the strength of men, not gods, that such places existed. All throughout Europe he had seen many wonderful things, and his favourites were the massive architectural triumphs of various ages. Edward had read that this cathedral alone had taken over a decade to build. He approved of that kind of devotion. In a way he was living that kind of devotion. Building a stable life where he could live together in peace with his brother... that seemed as worthy a task as any other, although such work would be unlikely to leave behind any meaningful trace.

Edward remembered the dead cicada, from the time of Izumi's test. That, too, had left behind no direct proof of its existence, but in the mere act of dying it nourished many small lives. That dead cicada was a friend, a comrade. It represented who he thought himself to be, what he thought his end would be like, and such a thought gave him a kind of odd comfort.

One of the chapels captured his interest when he saw that it had a statue of the Virgin Mary, the goddess of the Catholic Church. A few people were praying before it, and Edward moved to join them, wanting to sit quietly in the last row and observe it more closely. Whenever he saw depictions of the Virgin he was reminded of his own mother, how she had been before he had attempted to resurrect her dead soul into a false body. It also made him think about Wrath's hands around Izumi's neck, and about Rose caring so tenderly for the child born out of her rape. Not least it reminded him of Gracia, Hughes' wife, and helping her through her labor on the day of his own birth, not long before Nina was transformed into a chimera. Such thoughts were sad, but he was drawn to them, just as he was drawn to look on the serene face of this goddess he did not believe in.

In one of the middle rows, a young girl was holding a rosary, her murmured Hail Marys just faintly audible, while across from her sat an elderly couple, both respectfully upright and attentive, although not appearing particularly prayerful. In front of all of them a large man with short white hair was praying with his head bowed deeply, kneeling in the foremost rows and wearing a severe black woolen cloak. Edward regarded them all and pondered their relationship with the goddess, wondering what it might be like to share their faith. Perhaps it was comforting. He hoped, for their sake, it was.

Edward lingered. The day was still somewhat new, and he had plenty of time to take care of the mundane but necessary prospect of exploring the city. He hated to admit it, but he was homesick. Always, always, he missed Alphonse, but sometimes those feelings swelled and threatened to overwhelm him. There was no question that the very act of living in this world was to be in exile. Perhaps that was part of the price necessary to secure Alphonse a human life of his own, but the fact was that it still galled. If he could even get some glimpse, some assurance that the transmutation had worked, that was all he really needed.

Sometimes he hated himself for being so weak, but not this time. It seemed right to mourn, because mourning was nothing but longing applied in extreme circumstance. Eventually the girl finished her prayers, and when she walked out there was a look of lightness and relief in her face. Edward smiled at her, smiled even though he knew that it made him look more sad, more pitiful, because of that hateful habit of revealing everything with some flicker of muscle twinges that was entirely outside of his control. She smiled back, possessing the enviable clarity of the young as she pitied him.

Soon after the couple followed suit, and Edward noticed that their clothes were very shabby and thin. His immediate impulse was to give them something, anything, but he knew that would be disrespectful to their dignity. He was just too young and young-looking for them to be able to accept such a gesture from him without loosing face in front of their goddess.

Oh, how Edward missed Risenbourg. In a place where everyone knew everyone else, charity was so easy.

Now it was just him and the man in the black coat. Edward dared moving up a few rows, taking a seat in the row just behind the other man so that he could look more closely at the statue. It was so stunningly lovely. Alphonse would surely like to see it, so it was up to him to remember it well so that he could describe it to him. Edward held close many such memories against the time that he hoped he would see his brother again. Not all brothers were as close as he and Al, but Edward didn't much care for whatever stigma or oddness this longing attached to him. His life was too peculiar for his affections to be normal, that's all there was to it.

The other man was saying his own prayers in a quiet but deep undertone, and something about the accent niggled at Edward uncomfortably. Among his various skills, Edward had always been very adept at languages. This used to be useful only in regards to reading and research, but in this world it was a matter of survival. He knew by now several languages... Latin, Spanish, English, and French he possessed all to some rough degree, and he was beginning to piece together a scholar's understanding of Hebrew. German was quite similar to his own language, so in that language he had actual proficiency, but for over a dozen separate tongues he was at least able to sort through the words and determine where the speaker was from, even if he could not always understand content. Whatever the priest was speaking, it was not German nor any Romance language, but something that tugged at Edward's memory irritatingly.

Naturally, this caused Edward's attention to shift from goddess to man. Despite the white hair he did not look old, and his skin was a dark olive color that was certainly not reflective of the prevailing Aryan standard. At first Edward thought he might be a Jew, but that made no sense, because what Jew would pray to a Christian god? He could see very little of the man's profile because of his position, but what he did see impressed him with a feeling of strength. There was a strong neck and rough-cut bones of the hands and face. There was something... something...

Scar. The man reminded him uncannily of Scar. As far as he could tell, this man had no marks on his face, and an involuntary glance at his right wrist was unrevealing of any tattoos. So he couldn't be Scar himself. But the resemblance was striking and hit him like a blow. Memories he forgot he had raged to the surface, an admixture of extreme lonesomeness for home as well as sickening recollection of all the horrible things that he wanted to suppress. What Scar had done had been both unforgivable and completely understandable, and Edward remembered clearly the fact that it had been Scar who had made it possible for Alphonse to survive Kimbly's transmutation, and that his own life was perhaps owed to what had happened in Lior. He still found it very confusing and unsettling, and just thinking about it made his head hurt.

Scar had died, it was undeniable. This was not, could not be, Scar. It could be the man's doppelganger, of course... but that shouldn't give him these kind of shivers... should it?

Edward remembered searching for him in the rubble of Lior and finding Alphonse instead, and when the surprise of that all had passed he had found himself on the run from the military. His initial shock and even sadness over the death of Scar had been something completely suppressed. Like the cicada, Scar had become a comrade of sorts, a reminder of his own frailties and weaknesses. It was true, Scar had done what Edward could not. He created the Philosopher's Stone, and against all odds had found the one way in which doing so was not an utter atrocity but rather a symbol of some arcane justice. Scar had been the kind to believe in a smiting god, and in acting as her agent he did mete out the kind of judgment that perhaps the world's flow demanded.

Shaking only a little, Edward stood up to leave. Distracted at last by Edward's various agitated movements, the man looked back. At first there was only curiosity in that glance, but quickly the man widened his eyes in surprise.

"Edward Elric?"

The face that looked at him had no scar. The eyes that regarded him were not blood-red but brown. And yet. And yet.

"Scar?" Edward's voice was a harsh whisper, and his shaking increased.

"I thought that Ishbala might lead you here," the other man said, using an accent and words that were only vaguely reminiscent of German, settling back in his seat and regarding Edward calmly.


Reeling, Edward stepped backwards involuntarily, flattening his hands and bending his arms up at the elbows. How many times had he fought with this man? First, it was Scar trying to kill Edward, folding Fullmetal into his revenge quest against all State Alchemists. Later it had been Edward who pursued Scar, intent on killing him before he could complete the Philosopher's Stone. Because of Edward's skill and Scar's gift, they had been fairly well matched in battle. However, without alchemy Edward had little chance to defeat Scar now.

Still, he would not run away.

"You don't really want to fight me, do you... Fullmetal Alchemist?"

Edward took a moment to really look at the man in front of him. Despite superficial changes Scar looked no different, but the calm of pose was mirrored in a similar repose of face, which seemed strikingly unlike the Scar of old. Scar leaned back, but only to stretch his arm behind the pew, using it so that he could more comfortably look at Edward without getting up. He looked like a man greeting a neighbor who he hadn't seen in a few weeks, not like a holy fanatic meeting an old rival from who he happened to have been separated... by death and a gate severing universes.

This was insane. What was the proper protocol? Edward suppressed an incredulous bark of laughter, and the tension In his body didn't lessen one bit. How could he be comfortable around what he did not, patently could not, understand?

The man, Scar, waited quite a time before saying anything. His face was almost frighteningly patient.

This, in a nutshell, was exactly why Edward did not believe in god, any god. Had there ever been a coincidence in his life writ more heavily in cruel irony? Edward had been thinking about home, missing it fiercely, wanting his brother back. Almost any reminder of home would have been welcomed with delirious happiness... Almost. If Edward did end up believing in a God, it would be this Ishbala woman, and he would curse her as a trickster god no more faithful then that Norse myth, Loki. Edward had mourned Scar's death, distantly, but hadn't it also been a relief?

Never having to deal with the man again, that was the kind of blessing he could get behind.

"Let's go." Scar stood up finally, never taking his eyes off Edward's face. There was no way to guess what he was reading in the transparent cinema of emotions that Edward was treating him to.

"What?" Edward replied, stupidly. His mind was working at a furious pace, processing the possibilities for how this could be, at the same time that his soul was protesting bitterly the painfulness of having to deal with one remnant of home that he really wanted to forget. It was hard to attend to actual particulars.

"Come," Scar gestured, and when Edward did not move he stepped into Edward's pew and gently palmed the smaller boy's elbow, nudging him to move. "Let's go outside."

Somehow Scar ushered him out of the cathedral, Edward moving numbly a few steps in front of the other man. Other then the one brief moment of contact Scar had made no further attempt to touch him, and walked a few steps behind and to the side... exactly where Edward could see him if he wanted, and ignore him if he didn't.

In front of the cathedral was a large empty plaza. It looked like the kind of place that welcomed visitors, but the very few people walking along it hurried past. Prejudice against Catholics was no longer officially sanctioned, but it didn't do to loudly proclaim any affiliation with the object of Martin Luther's enmity. Blindly Edward wandered towards the river, and silently, Scar followed.

It was not far, but slowly, slowly Edward calmed. No duel seemed imminent. More importantly, he had come up with a sort of theory for how Scar could be here. Despite protests, Scar had been a kind of alchemist, and the final transmutation of his life carried more scope then any Edward had ever performed, even if it had been done using cruder style and less studied understanding.

Perhaps Scar too had seen the Gate.

Having a theory would make it easier for Edward to forgive Scar for not being Alphonse. Eventually they reached a kind of park, some cultivated grass along the edge of the Rhine. It was very early in the spring, so the grass was still a bit wet and muddy, but there would be no problems so long as Edward continued to stand. Edward stopped far short of the water's edge, and when he stopped, Scar did too.

"How long have you been here?" Edward asked, finally speaking.

Scar looked at him oddly. "Since I died, of course."

Edward paused, then turned to face Scar, wishing that he'd grown more since the last time they'd met. "I meant, time. How long?"

Scar scrunched up his face, looking at the morning sun with a frown. "Well, if you think about it that way... About three years, I suppose."

Under natural light Scar's eyes had a berry-colored tinge, betraying a hint of their former brilliance. "What have you been doing?" Edward reflected on his own three years of frenetic activity, traveling from place to place and subjecting himself to the rigors of a quest, and wondered if that was a very fair question. He opened his mouth to ask something different, but Scar answered before he could get a chance to find something else to say.

"The same as you saw. Praying, mostly."

How could it be possible to exist in this world by just praying? Scar's coat was simply cut but solid, the white shirt and black pants underneath quite clean. His shoes were black and neatly polished. This was not the dress of a raging fanatic. Edward must have telegraphed his confusion with unusual clarity, because Scar nodded and added, "I am a Brother." The upper-case spelling was audible. "In a Christian sect."

"That's okay?" Edward was very surprised.

"You mean with Ishbala?" Scar showed his first faint smile. "I still serve her, of course. My devotions to the Virgin are testament to this." It was so strange to see this man without his marked face. "I believe the Mary exists under Her dominion, so I am content."

There were so many things Edward wanted to know. How had he been able to transmute Alphonse into the Philosopher's Stone? Why did he do it in the first place? A sort of pang hit him as he realized that if he had known that the Fuhrer had been homunculus prior to arriving in Lior, it might have been possible to convince Scar that the man's real enemy was not the military, but the shadowy soulless forces behind the scenes. Scar had been zealous, but not irrational... surely he would have seen the wisdom in this course. If only Edward had known. All those lives could have been spared. Maybe, maybe Scar would have even helped him in his fight against the homunculi.

Alphonse had been right. Going after Scar before settling things with the homunculi had been a reckless course.

"Let me look at you," Edward demanded. Scar dipped his gaze toward Edward, the smile wiped clean away as the Ishibalite seemed to recall who his audience was. Putting his hands on his hips, Edward inventoried the other man's features, comparing what he saw with what he recalled. The eyes were new. The scar was gone. Otherwise, was anything else different? Edward bit his lip and frowned. He couldn't tell. "Maybe I shouldn't call you Scar anymore," he said finally.

Scar touched his forehead and shook his head. "For you, I don't have any other name. That will have to do."

"Hmm." Edward crossed his arms, tapping his good fingers against his metal arm. If Scar had come over into this world with all of his memories intact, why did his body not have the marks from his life back at home?

"It's okay." Scar shrugged off his wool coat and handed it to Edward, who took it gingerly before folding it over his crossed arms. His white shirt had buttons at the wrist, and Scar undid these, rolling up the right sleeve deliberately. When he was done, his look at Edward burned challenge. "See?"

The tattoos were gone. Edward pretended to blink, disguising the fact that he'd already noticed this earlier. Anything to indulge the man.

"This arm itself is a scar," the other man explained.

What did that mean? It was a perfectly virgin arm. Surprise tainted Edward's artless face. It looked almost painfully new, and Edward had a moment of stark envy, quickly suppressed. "How?" he blurted.

"You think I understand alchemy?" Scar asked, his tone flattening. "I have no idea." He reached for his coat, which Edward handed to him. "I don't even know if it's because of alchemy," he said in a less hostile tone, seeming to reconcile something in his own head.

"What do you mean?"

"Well... I don't know. After I died..." Scar looked away. "Did I create the Philosopher's Stone?"

Of course. How could Scar measure his success without being present to see it? "He... Alphonse... lived." Just saying his brother's name out loud took some effort. Thanks seemed both monstrous and inadequate, so Edward took a cue from Scar and looked off in the distance, turning around to take in the skyline of the city without really attending to it.

"I see," Scar said quietly. "That's good."

Was it good? Edward kicked at the grass, cutting up a rivet of brown and green. From a personal perspective, yes, of course it was. But of all of those people Scar had sacrificed, surely some had not deserved it. Not all of them had been rapists and murderers. Except. Except... by excusing those others of culpability for the military's many egregious sins, was it not possible that Edward was trying to find a way to excuse himself? By choosing to lend his power to the military, hadn't Edward put his own selfish goals ahead of any kind of sense of justice? Did he not deserve to die along with the others, paying both for his privilege, and his pride?

Izumi had forbidden him from becoming a dog of the military, had warned him of the transgression in giving validity to any sort of oppressive regime. The militia that Scar killed had been deployed with the expressed intention of doing in Lior exactly that which had been done in Ishibal. If they had not entered the city, the complete Philosopher's Stone could never have been triggered. If Scar hadn't arranged for the evacuation of the citizens of Lior, wasn't it entirely possible that Edward would have joined the older man in halting the military's actions? Or would he have heeded the call to stand by, watching as even more innocents died in a conflict that had been started in his own name?

Standing by. Halting... Killing. Semantics.

"She said..." Scar began, and then cut himself off abruptly.

Edward dug his boot more viciously into the grass. He said nothing.

"She said, you could do it. Turn him into something different." A guarded pause. "It was the best I could do."

The best he could do? It was more then Edward had ever been able to do. Unless... unless his last transmutation, the one returning Alphonse to earth, had been successful. Somehow Scar had found the insight to be able to create the Philosopher's Stone without having it present in his own body. An impressive feat, although deeply exasperating. "How?"

"My arm... my brother's arm..."

Suddenly the story clicked, and Edward understood. Scar had not suddenly learned the last step of alchemy. No. He must have given his arm, whole, to Alphonse. The man had always acted entirely out of instinct anyway, and that would never be enough to give him the knowledge to be able to do an actual transmutation. The Philosopher's Stone had been the one thing, the only thing, that Scar had been able to create, and he could do that only because the driving force in that creation had been the second step of alchemy: destruction. Edward shook a little, digesting this. It was strange to think that both he and this man, Scar, had given an arm to his brother. "Lust told you that?"

Perhaps the most mundane detail of all, Lust helping Scar. "Yes."

In the late morning light the city looked bright, reflecting the truest colors that the sun was capable of evoking. The density of people near the water was quite low, but further on in there was a heartbreaking hum of activity, the small noises that people always made as they lived their lives. Despite his best efforts, Edward had never felt like he'd been more then an observer in cities like this. "What was it like?" Edward asked quietly.

"Does it matter?" Scar's voice was particularly distant, although faintly laced with savageness. "It hurt, I guess."

What does one say to that? How much did Edward really know about Scar, anyway? This was a man he'd met many times, and although he knew the exact outline of the man's life, how much did he really understand of his motives? 'It hurt.' 'That's good.' 'I guess.' Did the man intend to live out his life in utter monosyllabic stoicism? Edward shook his head in frustration. No, he knew that was an unfair thought the moment it ascended into consciousness. Just because he had never been privileged to observe Scar in a more emotional state didn't mean the man never had any deep thoughts, nor never any heavy words. In fact, the clipped words and odd bursts of feeling from Scar fell into a familiar cadence of restraint that felt all too familiar to Edward. "I see," the small and former alchemist responded with a sigh. He did see.

Scar stepped back a bit so that he could catch Edward's backwards-facing glance. Surprisingly, his expression mirrored some of Edward's frustrations. "'What it was like' is not something that matters," he explained. "That's all I meant."

"Yeah?" Edward looked up slowly. "But it did hurt, right?"

"What I meant... Is your brother... is Alphonse... did he make it?" There was concern in Scar's normally guarded face. "That's what I had hoped for. The rest is... probably... irrelevant."

More then his own pain, this was what really mattered? Edward drew in a deep breath. He hadn't quite realized just how much this Ishibalite had come to care for his brother, and seeing it now hit him like a blow. How had Edward come to deserve such a brother, one who could bring even a holy murderer to pity? Tears unbidden came to his eyes, and angrily Edward scrubbed them away. "Yes," he pitched harshly. "After what you did, yes."

"Ah." Scar put on his coat and then slid an unfashionable, outdated pocket watch out of his pants. Whatever he saw there caused him to nod, and he gestured towards the city. "I have time," he said. Edward continued to shake quietly, furious at himself. Scar reached out and touched Edward on the top of his head with his right hand. "Have lunch with me, Fullmetal Alchemist." His touch was almost familial. "I know a place."

"Maybe." Edward squeezed his eyes shut. He would compose himself, or die trying. "Wait, never mind. Yes. Let's." He agreed through gritted teeth and suppressed tears. Scar's hand covered his entire head, and Edward remembered the last time the man had touched him like this, offering benediction through the gift of death. This was different. The hand that touched him now was more hesitant, less heavy as it pressed him down against the earth. Edward felt oddly comforted, even soothed. After a moment he reached up to swat Scar's arm away, feeling his cheeks go warm. "And don't call me that."

Opening his eyes, he looked to see again that shadow of a smile, and this time the smile was for him. "As you wish, der Herr Alchemist."