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Secrets


Once upon a time, there was a beautiful young woman who met an older man. The older man wooed her and eventually asked her to marry him, and she, being incredibly charmed, agreed.

Ed often thought that his mother had been killed by his father's absence.

It only made it more bitter that the last thing she asked for was Father's transmuted flowers, even in her dying breath. Ed hated her for it—hated her, and yet, he missed her so much. He hated Him even more, his bastard father who couldn't be bothered to even come to his wife's funeral, who left his kids as practical orphans.

Orphans. Ed didn't even like the word. And Alphonse ... Al, of all people, didn't deserve it. He never told anyone, not even Al, but sometimes he thought it was his fault Father left. He loved his wife, or at least Ed thought he did, twisted love though it was; but Edward ... maybe having a son was too much for a man who only ever liked to study. Especially a son like Edward.

The man was very rich, and they lived very well in a huge mansion, although sometimes he would be gone on business for a very long time. And every time he left, he reminded her of the only rule: she was not to open the door in the south wing. It was the only room she was not allowed to enter.

Even after Mother died, Ed and Al made regular use of their father's study—actually, they used it even more often. Ed wanted Al to be happy, and ... they both missed Mother. Why couldn't they do this? They were clever.

He tried to be everything for Al in the meantime—Father, Mother, Older Brother ... he and Al learned to cook, and bought their own groceries. Ed read bedtime stories to Al and they cut each other's hair.

Ed's bed began to gather cobwebs, though. He never slept in it, afterwards; instead, he curled around Al. It helped Al with the nightmares, or so he liked to think. Ed knew the feel of a steady chest on his own, a beating heart by his own, was enough to stave off his own bad dreams, at least mostly.

At first the wife never thought much about the locked door. She was happy and content, and she didn't need to know all her husband's secrets. She trusted him. But as time wore on, she became more and more curious: what could be in the south wing that she wasn't allowed to see?

t wasn't until they were in a strange place that things got strange between them. Teacher's house smelled different and looked different, and she gave them separate bedrooms. They ignored them; Ed's room stood empty, and Al's bed was shared easily, for both boys were small, and after a month on that island, they were so used to the shared space it seemed unnatural to sleep separately.

Ed wasn't sure when the goodnight kisses started, but he didn't question it, either. He felt inadequate; Al saw Teacher as a surrogate mother, which meant Ed wasn't being enough for him. Well, maybe that was okay; they would have Mother back soon enough, and then they would be a family again, and not just two orphans.

He kissed Al back every time, and hugged him from behind until morning, until finally, the day came that they would go back to Risenburg.

No, she told herself, it was silly to worry about this; it was her husband, whom she loved and trusted. But still, she began to fret. She kept nothing from him, why should he keep anything from her? And finally, her worry was too much. She resolved that she would open the locked door the next time he left the house.

They bought the ingredients with their own allowances, and transmuted the water to pureness, cleared the iron of impurities, and made sure that every aspect of the body would be perfect. They knew every part of the female body by heart, and the parts of an array that would form each one. They were ready.

The night before, it was Edward who had the jitters, not Al. "You're shaking," Al said softly as Ed squeezed his arms around his younger brother.

"Just a little nervous," he confessed.

"Do you think maybe we shouldn't do it, then?" Al asked. His voice was small.

Ed bit his lip and pressed his face into the nape of his brother's neck, smelling fresh soap. He was afraid, so afraid, that something would go wrong, but he couldn't let this go. They had worked for so long. They had tried so hard.

"No," he said softly, his voice filled with nothing but determination. "No, we can do it."

"Okay, brother," Al said. "I trust you."

The wife's husband left a week after she had made her decision, and again he reminded her: she was not to open the door in the south wing. She nodded, and smiled as always, promising to obey him. But she had no intention of obeying.

The next night they laid out the ingredients; they drew out the circle. They added their blood, so the soul had enough information to reform.

Then they pressed their hands to the array and started.

She waited three hours after he'd gone before she crept down to the door.

It was going well, Ed thought, his eyes alight. It was working! They were going to—

"Brother ..." Al's voice was shaking. "Something's wrong!"

She found the correct key and pushed it into the lock.

Al screamed, and all Ed could think was Rebound, no, nono no NO, we had it figured out, there isn't supposed to be a rebound! He reached for his brother, but his arm wasn't long enough, and Al was being dragged away and his whole body was disappearing, no, no, NO!

And when he stood in front of the Gate, facing Truth, for a wry, terrified moment, he thought he understood all too well.

There is no tale that tells what the woman saw, precisely. Some people say she saw the bodies of every wife he'd ever had, killed gruesomely. Others say it was an occult sacrifice, bloody and heartbreaking. Whatever she saw, it turned her white with fear, and she shook uncontrollably. She slammed the door shut and fled to her bedroom, where she hid underneath the bedclothes, shivering.

Ed came out of the Gate shaking. All he knew was that somewhere in there, there had been a chance to get Mother.

But a leg wasn't enough for that, was it? And he was spat back out into agony, his leg a bleeding, ragged stump. He screamed in pain and clutched his thigh, pale and sweating and shaking. He struggled to breathe.

Al, where's Al!? "Al?" he asked shakily. "Al!?" The word was pained.

Something croaked in the fog of the transmutation, and he turned hopeful eyes towards it.

When her husband came back, she tried to pretend that she hadn't seen anything, but of course, such a horrible thing couldn't be so easily brushed off.

He cornered her in the bedroom, and told her he knew. She trembled in terror, and fell to her knees, begging for mercy—she knew he would never let her live with such a secret.

The failed transformation loomed at him, a face with no nose, an arm emerging from the ribs, and god, where was its skin, the heart beating its way out of the chest and oh no so much blood, so much blood, it was supposed to be inside the body why didn't it work!?

"B—... brother ..." it croaked.

Ed couldn't even muster a scream.

What happened to the wife, no one actually knows. She was never heard from again.

That was always Edward's least favorite fairy tale.