Edward woke up in the new world, and realized he was living a nightmare. Unable to contemplate the horror of the experience, he screamed and screamed until Hohenheim slapped him to get him to shut up, he ran out of air, and out of voice.
Finally, hours later, he was composed enough to realize that even if this was a nightmare, he had to survive, somehow, and the sheer hopelessness of the task crashed down on him.
But he wouldn't let it stop him. He had been forced to deal with situations that he knew, objectively, were much worse than this. This wasn't so bad. He could deal with this.
...He would just have to keep telling himself that.
Damn mice, Alfons thought irritably, rolling out of bed. Every night for the last few nights it seemed like he could hear rustling noises in the pitch darkness. Mouse traps had proved utterly ineffective; he had baited them, set them up, but they hadn't caught a single mouse. He was loath to kill them, but was reaching the point where he was contemplating setting out poison.
Yawning, he worked his feet into slippers and shuffled out of the room. Not that he expected to be able to catch any mice with his bare hands, but maybe he could scare them off enough to get a decent night's sleep.
Not for the first time, Alfons wished he wasn't such a damned light sleeper.
Making his way down the hall, he tried to suppress his cough reflex so as not to mask the small rustling mouse-sounds.
Strange, he thought, pausing in the dark living room. He would have expected the sounds to come from the kitchen, but they actually seemed to be from the spare room, where he kept his books and mostly studied.
Come to think of it, the food had shown an interesting lack of nibbling or other mouse signs. Maybe these were mice that liked to eat books. Alfons grinned.
The thought of mice chewing up his precious notes was suddenly extremely unfunny, and the smile dropped off his face in an instant.
No point in dragging it out; it was time to see what was going on. Alfons flicked on the light, prepared for anything from his books in tatters to... well, nothing.
But nothing prepared him for what he actually found.
The... person who appeared to be avidly perusing his notes jerked around in surprise, let out a slightly squeaky "oh shit", and tried to bolt.
Overcoming his utter surprise, not to mention the sheer unreality of the situation, Alfons pounced. It took him a few tries (the intruder was slippery), but he finally managed to grasp on to him? Her? Their long blond hair made it sort of hard to tell their gender, for now.
"Fuck, let go—"
The voice sounded distinctly male, but that wasn't enough to convince Alfons to release his futilely struggling captive. Amazing, Alfons thought bemusedly, watching the floundering figure in his hands. He was so... tiny.
"Shit." His captive finally slumped in defeat, quivering noticeably."Shit."
Afraid of hurting him, Alfons loosened his grip a bit, but not enough to let him escape.
"You..." he trailed off, staring at the intruder."What are you?" He would have looked like a perfectly normal human being... if he hadn't been only about twenty centimeters tall, that is. The only thing he could think of were the Shoemaker's Elves, and had a sudden wild thought that maybe this was some sort of homework-elf, and how that might really be rather nice to have.
The maybe-elf glowered at him, and crossed his tiny arms over his chest."I'm a human," he said stiffly.
Alfons raised a skeptical eyebrow."Don't you think you're awfully small for one?"
At those words the maybe-elf went crazy, squirming in Alfons' grip and beating his fists against Alfons' hands, teeth bared and practically frothing at the mouth.
"I'M NOT SMALL!" he shrieked."THE REST OF THE WHOLE FUCKING WORLD IS JUST TOO DAMN BIG!"
Alfons stifled his laughter, because the intruder certainly wouldn't appreciate it. He also decided not to ask whether he was a pixie or a fairy, because he had the feeling the suggestions wouldn't go over well.
"Now put me down!" the small man demanded furiously, digging his fingers into the webbing between Alfons' thumb and index finger, which was surprisingly painful.
"Promise you won't run?" Alfons pulled out the chair with his foot, sat down and rested his elbows on the desk, still keeping the small man trapped between his hands.
"Fine," he growled sullenly."I promise."
Alfons released him carefully, and finally managed to get a good look at his captive. His original assessment of twenty centimeters seemed about accurate, though he itched to pull out a ruler and measure him. The small man's long blond hair was tied back in a slightly messy ponytail. His clothes seemed to consist of a pair of fairly dirty dull black pants tucked into black shoes, and a tattered plaid handkerchief with a hole cut in it for the head. When he crossed his arms and glowered up, Alfons detected a strange metallic glint from one of his hands. He looked fairly young, though Alfons wondered if that was any indicator. Maybe tiny people aged differently.
The little man started backing up on the desk, away from Alfons, who immediately brought his hands to block potential exits.
"Hey!" he protested."You promised!"
"I'm not trying to run!" the other snapped back."You're too damn big, I can't look at you when you're so close! And you talk too loudly!"
"Oh." Abashedly, Alfons allowed him to back away, watching as the small man took a few more steps back, then sat down on one of the books littering Alfons' desk.
"So..." Alfons tried again, curiosity burning him, because he had never heard of tiny people outside of folktales,"what's your name? My name is Alfons Heiderich."
The small man looked at him suspiciously, before he sighed in defeat."I'm Edward Elric."
Strangely enough, the tiny man spoke fairly good German, though with a pronounced accent.
"Nice to meet you," Alfons said formally, and held out a finger. He couldn't resist the temptation to touch Edward again.
Edward stared at the extended finger, shot Alfons a half-horrified half-disbelieving look, then finally reached out with a his left hand to shake it, once it became obvious Alfons wasn't going to let up.
Pleased with himself, Alfons pulled his chair in and rested his chin on his hands, a silly sort of smile on his face. How many people got to make friends with a... with a... a....
"If you are human, then why are you so small?" Alfons asked, quite reasonably in his opinion. Edward bristled, then slumped in defeat.
"I meant what I said, earlier," he answered irritably."It's not that I'm so small. I just come from a different world, which is apparently on a totally different scale than this one."
A different world? Alfons' mind filled with the fairy tales his mother had told him, of the Little People living in the hills."Like a fairy-world?" he asked, enchanted.
"What? No!" Edward yelled, jumping up."What the hell is wrong with you? Do I look like a fucking fairy to you?!" He waved his arms furiously and stomped around.
Not a fairy, then, Alfons thought in disappointment. The fairies in stories weren't usually so foul-mouthed and excitable, anyway.
"Okay, okay, sorry..." he said, raising his hands in defense."How did you get here, then? And why are you sitting on my desk in the middle of the night?"
Apparently mollified, Edward sat back down on the book, and in a sad, distant voice told about the world he had come from, where alchemy was an actual science and people could be turned into suits of armor, and come back from the dead, and end up in "huge-ass parallel universes".
The whole thing sounded wildly fantastical, but really, Alfons wasn't in much position to disbelieve him; he was talking to a tiny person sitting on his desk in the middle of the night, after all.
The possibility that this was all a dream had occurred to Alfons, but he decided to believe it for now, despite the surreality of the situation. It would be disappointing in the extreme to wake up tomorrow and find out that it hadn't been real, though.
"And you think that a rocket might get you home?" Alfons finally asked skeptically, once Edward had explained why he was perusing his notes.
Edward shrugged sort of listlessly, and looked down, playing with the ends of his handkerchief-shirt."I don't really have any other ideas," he admitted.
Several other tentative possibilities were flitting around Alfons' mind, but he pushed them back for now, promising himself to look into them later.
For now, Edward looked like he could use some food."Are you hungry?" he asked."Do you want to drink something?"
Edward's glance flicked back to him, still wary."I don't get it. You're taking this awfully well."
"You are sitting right there talking to me," Alfons answered reasonably.
"Didn't stop the lady who chased me off with a broom, the kids who sicked their dogs on me, or the guy who tried to catch me in a jar," was Edward's sullen reply.
"Oh..." Alfons managed sadly. Edward was so small and helpless, and damn him for thinking it, but sort of unbearably cute, and he wanted to do something for him."Just wait here, I'll get you something!" He jumped up and hurried to the kitchen, not waiting for Edward's answer.
There should still be some cake left over, not much more than crumbs, but certainly enough for Edward. Add to that some sausage from dinner, a piece of baked potato, and he had plenty to offer. He arranged the food on the smallest saucer he owned, added a teacup full of water to that, and brought it back to the study.
Clearing his notes out of the way, he set the saucer and teacup down in front of Edward, who barely seemed to have moved.
"Here!" he said cheerfully.
Edward looked at him, wary once more, then back at the food as if he couldn't believe it was actually for him. Poor guy, Alfons thought, and nodded encouragingly.
That was all it took; Edward fell to, attacking the food like it was the first he had seen in days, and maybe it was. Drinking was a bit more difficult. At first Edward went to scoop up the water with his hands, but then he looked mournfully at their grimy state, and opted for just sticking his face into the cup and slurping up the water.
Fed, Edward looked a bit more cheerful, and seemed to be a bit more trusting of Alfons. Now, though, they were left with the question of what next? Alfons found himself reluctant to surrender this strange housemate—or rather, he was certainly interested in Edward becoming his housemate. The small man fascinated him.
"Would you like to shower?" he offered, trying to tempt Edward."And you know, if you want to look at my notes, I don't mind. You don't have to do it in the middle of the night."
"You..." Edward began, then trailed off, shaking his head in slight disbelief."Really?"
Alfons gave him an encouraging smile, and tried to look nonthreatening. It seemed to work, because Edward relaxed, almost laughed a bit, and conceded that bathing would be very nice.
Now there were a whole new host of problems to contend with, because Edward certainly wouldn't be capable of working the bathtub. They finally agreed on Alfons heating some water and setting up a bowl on the kitchen table. He brought over a chunk of soap and set it down next to the bowl, and the smallest towel he could find, figuring that Edward would already figure out a way to dry off. They agreed that Edward would wash his clothes, and Alfons brought a clean handkerchief for Edward to wrap himself up in until they dried.
Thus the only difficulty that remained was transporting Edward from the spare room to the kitchen table.
"I'm not helpless," Edward said irritably, when Alfons offered to carry him."I did manage to get into your house and up on this table just fine without you. I can get into the kitchen myself!"
Yes, maybe that was true, but Alfons couldn't even express in words how much he wanted to carry Edward again. He could still feel the phantom pressure from Edward's hand on his fingertip—the soft, impossibly delicate press of his tiny palm, and the novelty of it all was much too great for him to resist.
"I don't mind," he wheedled."And it is really late, don't you want to get some sleep, too?"
"Nobody's keeping you up," Edward said sullenly, and deliberately walked over to where Alfons was sitting."Move," he demanded imperiously."You're blocking the chair."
Bemused at how brazen Edward could be for someone so small, Alfons got up and pushed the chair flush against the desk, then watched as Edward climbed carefully down. He was really quite agile, and Alfons wondered how strong he was. Would a fall of the same relative distance that could badly hurt a person injure Edward as well?
There really was no way to check that without putting the man at risk.
From a distance, he watched Edward assay the climb up the kitchen table. First he did something with his hands which involved a flash of light—gone so quickly Alfons wasn't sure if he had seen it at all, but Edward must have done something, because he sank to the ground in what appeared to be exhaustion for a few minutes. Then he started ascending, using his right arm to drag himself up, somehow.
When Edward reached the tabletop, Alfons finally turned away to leave him some privacy.
Ed waited until Alfons was quite gone before relaxing and starting to peel off his clothes. Honestly, he just didn't get the guy; he seemed too good to be true, and Ed schooled himself against hoping too much.
At first he had hoped desperately to find a normal-sized ally in this shitty world, but he wasn't willing to throw in with the crowd his father had apparently convinced to adopt him. They seemed like a shady lot, and Ed wasn't about to risk himself on the say-so of people who might be pinning him to a card and dissecting him or something before he knew it. Sure, they seemed to like Hohenheim well enough, but anyway, all the more reason to stay away. Anybody who got along with his father was sure to grate on Ed's nerves.
Once bare, he piled his dirty clothes next to the bowl, and climbed in. Damn, but he couldn't remember the last real shower he'd had; maybe before he'd left Amestris. He'd pretty much appeared in this world with his automail and the clothes on his back—or rather, no clothes on his back, because he'd been shirtless during that last transmutation.
Ah, well, at least he still had his boots. Wearing a handkerchief was one thing, but walking around barefoot would be painful beyond belief until his foot toughened up, and needlessly hard on his automail.
Thinking of automail, he'd have to ask Alfons for oil, to keep it from rusting after this bath. Feeling better in the warm water, Ed scrubbed himself all over, making a face at how the water turned a dirty gray. Washing his clothes in it would be sort of disgusting, but he was too proud to ask Alfons for more water, and too exhausted to be able to do any more alchemy now.
He should just be thankful that Alfons had fed him enough to make it work at all.
When he felt as clean as one immersion could make him, he climbed reluctantly out of the bowl and set about drying himself. Then, wrapped in the handkerchief Alfons had supplied, he knelt to launder his clothes, scrubbing them out as best as he could before squeezing them and laying them out to dry.
Shit. He looked around at the horribly massive, empty room (generally he made a point not to look up too often; it just brought home how... big everything around him was, and how frightening), and realized that getting down from the table while keeping the handkerchief wrapped around him would be absolutely impossible. As tossing it down and climbing down naked wasn't an option he cared for either, Ed looked back at the towel and contemplated just sleeping there.
It was certainly dark enough, but the vast open space around him gave him the willies. He would never be able to sleep properly, like this.
"Alfons?" he called out, then tried shouting louder."Hey, Alfons! Rocket Geek! Can you hear me?"
Damn his stupid tiny vocal chords, he thought bitterly. Getting a new idea, he walked over to the mostly-empty metal teapot and started kicking it with his automail foot, resulting in a much more satisfactory clanging.
"Edward, were you calling?"
Alfons stepped into view, and Ed's heart thumped in his chest. It was almost lucky that there was such a disparity of sizes between them, otherwise the similarity to Al would have been downright painful to look at.
"Yeah," he answered, waving for Alfons to come over."I don't want to sleep here."
The implications of that sentence were immediately obvious, and Ed wasn't quite sure he liked how cheerful Alfons looked at the prospect of picking him up. It made him wonder a bit if he wasn't just another pet, like a kitten to take home and be petted and coddled.
Alfons came over to the table and offered his hands, linking them in a basket-like shape. After a moment's hesitation Ed climbed on, wrapping both his hands around one of Alfons' protruding thumbs for balance.
The ride was rather bumpy, though it was obvious Alfons was doing his best to keep his hands steady. Ed kept his eyes trained straight ahead, trying not to think of just how far away the floor was from him right now. Another thing he tried to keep his mind off of was the fact that he was sitting cupped in somebody else's hands, and despite having gotten sort-of used to the fact that everything here was fucking enormous, it was still an intensely disturbing thing to contemplate. Hands just weren't supposed to be so big.
"So, um," Alfons began, and Ed fought not to jump in startlement. It was rather like a having a moderately loud thunder talking to him."Where do you want to sleep?"
Hmm. Ed thought of where he had slept until now—a corner of the kitchen, near the stove and under the cabinets, where he had dragged some rags for padding, and decided he wouldn't miss the place at all.
Alfons considered offering his own bed, because it would certainly fit the two of them, but felt reluctant to do so. For one, because the prospect of him rolling over at night would probably make Edward rather nervous. For the other, well... it just felt sort of strange, offering his bed to a guy he had just met. Even if said guy was smaller than a kitten.
It looked like Edward was thinking about it, so Alfons didn't press, and just marveled at the soft weight of him against his palms. He would like to build Edward a small airplane, he decided. The sheer possibilities for experimentation with refining aircraft controls with miniatures and Edward to pilot them boggled his mind.
"Somewhere sort of closed off," Edward suddenly said, looking up at him. By now they had arrived in his room, and Alfons looked around in the darkness, trying to think of something like that.
"A drawer?" he offered.
"I wouldn't close it..." he murmured, but could understand the source of Edward's fear."How about a shoe?"
He sat down on the bed, and carefully, if a bit reluctantly, let Edward down next to him.
"Right," Edward snorted."Somehow, a smelly shoe was never high on the list of places I'd like to spend the night in."
"No need to be snarky," Alfons retorted, annoyed and a bit hurt. He was trying."Look, how about if just for now I make you a spot by the pillow or something, and then tomorrow we'll figure out a better solution. Like when it's not the middle of the night."
"I..." Edward began, then looked up at him uncertainly."Tomorrow?"
A quick stab of disappointment flickered through Alfons, but he suppressed it. Edward did have every right to leave, if he wanted to."I thought you might want to stay and go over my notes by daylight," he said, uncertainty in his voice."And... I wouldn't really mind the company, you know." Some selfish part of him thought that Edward could make the ideal roommate: all the advantages of companionship, without being a drag on resources or taking up much space.
"Okay, then," Edward finally said quietly."I guess we can see how it works out."
Overjoyed but trying not to show it, Alfons helped Edward arrange a spare pillowcase into something resembling a bed, which they put next to Alfons' pillow. Edward crawled in, still keeping Alfons' handkerchief tightly wrapped around his body, and Alfons lay down as well, turning so he could still see him. That appeared to make Edward nervous, though, so Alfons rolled the other way, closed his eyes, and hoped his strange bedfellow would still be there come morning.