"What do you mean, you're PREGNANT?" Ed yelled through the door.
"Just what I said," the muffled, cranky voice came back to him, sounding strangely hollow from being reflected out of a toilet bowl. After a minute, a horrible retching sound punctuated the words.
"Just because you're getting sick in the morning doesn't mean you're pregnant!" Ed howled back. "And neither do the stupid cravings or the fatigue or anything! You aren't pregnant, you're sick, and I'm getting you to a doctor as soon you get out of that damn bathroom!"
He banged on the door with his metal fist, and nearly fell over as it swung open under his hand, bringing him eye to glaring, bloodshot eye with his brother. "Oh yes we're going to the doctor," Al snapped tersely, "because I am pregnant and I want to know why! The strip came up blue, Nii-san, go look for yourself. Chemistry doesn't lie!"
As expected, the appeal to science was enough to stall Ed's denial, temporarily at least. Al headed into the bedroom, while Ed rushed into the bathroom to view the incriminating strip for himself.
"This isn't possible," Ed's voice drifted faintly through the doorway. Al ignored him, sorting through their combined laundry for a pair of pants with a loose waistline.
"Al, how could you have gotten pregnant? I know for a fact that you can't have had sex with anyone, we've been sharing the same damn bed every night since you got your—Hey!" Ed stuck his head out of the bathroom, blond hair wild and disheveled. "It isn't... It couldn't be... No way! I'm too young to be a father!"
Al ignored him, grimly yanking on a pair of loose drawstring pants. "How could you have gotten pregnant from just sharing a bed? We haven't even had SEX!" Ed wailed from the bathroom.
With a sigh, Al picked up the receiver and began to dial the number for the town's doctor.
"AND ANYWAY, YOU'RE A BOY!"
"Well," the doctor said, and cleared his throat in the sudden silence, "It seems congratulations are in order."
"So that means he's not pregnant, right?" Ed demanded. Al shot him an exasperated look, which he ignored. "Congratulations on him having some kind of rare weird hormone condition that makes it look like he's pregnant, but he's not?"
The doctor cleared his throat again. "As a matter of fact," he said, "he is, or at least he is according to all the tests that I can run, pregnant. Physical, chemical, ultrasound—I could run an x-ray as an extra check, but there is some concern as to what that might do to the fetus."
"About how far along is the, er, baby, doctor?" Al said, cutting across Ed's next explosive denial.
"It's difficult to say for sure, of course," the doctor answered, after a nervous glance at Ed, "but several months, at least. It's rather rare for this... condition to go unnoticed for so long, although I suppose in this instance I can see why you would not, er, suspect..."
"Forget when!" Ed broke in, sputtering. "What I want to know is how you can possibly justify this scientifically!"
"Well," the doctor said; he got up from his chair and switched on a light screen, clipping up a few films over it. "As puzzling as it seems, that indeed seems to be the case. This is a scan of your younger brother's abdomen. All the organs which you would expect to find in a young man of his age are there, as you can see, with several important additions."
"Additions?" Ed demanded.
"These—" the doctor pointed out a couple of swoops of white among the gray, "are fully developed female ovaries. Here are the fallopian tubes, here is what appears to be a fully functional uterus, and yes, there is the infant." The doctor eyed the splash of gray critically for a moment. "Seems to be progressing quite normally for the third month."
"But that's bullshit!" Ed exclaimed, gesturing wildly. "How did that... get in there?"
The sweep of his hand took in the entire array of organs, but the doctor, with his back to the young man, didn't notice. "That is an interesting question, young man," he agreed, "because if you will look closely, you may have noticed that certain other major components of a female reproductive system are missing." He glanced over at Ed's blank look, and clarified. "Specifically, your brother does not appear to have a vaginal opening."
"I could have told you that," Al muttered peevishly.
"But if..." Ed stopped, and turned bright red. He might not have had a father to get The Talk from, but he certainly knew his anatomy. "If there's no... then how did the baby get in there?"
"Well, that's the puzzle, isn't it." Slowly, the doctor pulled off his glasses and began to clean them. Ed and Al exchanged an uneasy glance, then looked back at the man.
He put his glasses back on, and cleared his throat. "So tell me, young man, are either you or your brother particularly devout?"
There was a moment of silence, while both brothers gawked at the man.
"That's it, Al," Ed announced, jumping abruptly to his feet and pulling Al to his. "We're leaving."
Al's cry of 'But Niisan!' was ignored as the determined youth swept out the door. "Thanks for your help, left the kettle on, sorry Doc, glad to hear your wife's doing okay, hope we never have to see you again!" he yelled as he wrestled Al out the door.
"Be sure to come back in a few weeks for your second trimester checkup!" the doctor called after them, as the door swung closed. "And avoid tuna fish!"
"You didn't have to be so rude, Niisan," Al reproached his brother on the long hike back home. "He was just being helpful."
"He was just being a total quack is what he was," Ed snorted. "What kind of man of science is he supposed to be? I'm surprised if he can tell an ovary from a hen's egg!"
"Niisan," Al rolled his eyes in exasperation. "Will you settle down already? We have to think, not panic."
"I'm not panicking! I'm just telling it like it is!" Ed objected. "He's totally looped! How could you be three months pregnant? You haven't even got your body back for three months yet!"
"No, I haven't," Al said wearily. "Think about that for a moment, Niisan."
"Are you saying—" Ed sputtered, and then stopped walking suddenly, as his brain finally switched on. "Al, are you suggesting that somebody knocked up your body while you weren't in it?"
"Well, it certainly didn't happen when I was in it," Al said indignantly. "I think I would have noticed."
"So while it was in the Gate..." Ed blanched a little. "Your body in the... and the Gate... took your masculinity?"
"What was that for?" Ed asked, a little muffled around his split and swollen lip. "It was a simple question."
"Now who's being unscientific, Niisan?" Al scowled, and shook out his hand. "Honestly, you know better! You've seen me naked enough times since then! My masculinity is just fine! And besides, what would that have to do with me being pregnant? The real question is, how did the, the extra parts get in here, because I sure didn't have them when I was eight!"
"Oh." Ed grew momentarily serious, and frowned, still nursing his jaw slightly. "But Al, the Gate, it, it... takes stuff away, as a toll... for the information it gives out. It doesn't add stuff."
"Remember Wrath?" Al reminded him, and nodded at the dark expression that passed briefly over his brother's face. "He got your limbs, Nii-san. They weren't destroyed, were they? So... it's strange... but it's, well, it's happened before!"
"I suppose," Ed said grudgingly, "I can't think of any other explanation... argh, no, it's too weird! Where did the organs come from in the first place, is what I want to know! Does this mean that somewhere out there, there's a woman walking around without a wo..."
The words died in his throat. Slowly, Ed and Al met each other's eyes, both wearing identical expressions of sickly terror.
"Maybe we'd better call Sensei when we get back home," Al whispered in a very hushed voice; on instinct, at the sound of her name they both clutched at each other and looked around for the incoming attack.
"Yeah," Ed gulped. "The only thing that worries me, is well—"
He stopped, and Al looked at him sideways. "Is what?"
"Well..." Ed looked uneasy. "Sensei lost her... she did her transmutation right after her baby was born, right? She couldn't have been pregnant again so soon. So how did... I mean who did... I mean, where did the other half of the...?"
Another moment of silence trickled by.
"Maybe we'd better not call Sensei."
The two of them eyed the phone like a poisonous snake.
"You call her," Ed said.
"No, you call her," Al retorted.
"You call her, you're the one who's pregnant."
"That's not my fault," Al protested.
"Well, it's not my fault either," Ed huffed.
"I'm in a delicate condition. You call her."
"She's less likely to kill you than she is to kill me."
"No she's not, you call her."
"Yes, she is, she always liked you better."
"She did not."
"You call her."
"You call her!"
"Is this the Curtis house," Ed said, glowering across the room at Al. He wasn't sure, but he suspected that Al had deliberately put his face in the way of that hit so that the resulting nosebleed would prevent him from talking on the phone. "Yeah, hey, Mason. It's me. Me. Ed. It's Ed! Who did you think it was? Anyway, can you get Sensei? I need to... I mean, Al needs to tell her something. Yeah, okay, thanks."
Al glared at him for his choice of phrasing, over the handkerchief that was staunching the nosebleed, and Ed ignored a twinge of guilt. He was 95% sure Al had done that on purpose.
A voice in his ear ripped him back to the task at hand. "Sensei! I'm s—I mean, um. Hi. What's up? ....That's good, that's good.... Oh. Um, that's not so good. Sorry to hear that.... Yeah, he's doing real good... About that... Al is—no! We're not, I swear! We haven't even heard from the military in months! We—no, really!"
Ed winced, pulled the receiver away from his ear a bit, and hissed at Al, who had been surreptitiously creeping towards the door of the room. "Sensei, can I talk for a moment, this is kind of important!"
He rolled his eyes; finally, she let him get a word in edgewise. "Um. Okay. It's about Al. He's kind of..." in the family way, okay that wouldn't work. "He's a little..." sick didn't seem to work quite right. "Something's happened..." involving the Gate, we really need your advice, that was likely to set her off. "Al might be..." pregnant with your child, okay, anything besides that—"Pregnant with your child," he blurted out.
On the other side of the room, Al inhaled suddenly and choked on his own blood.
"I said, he probably might be pregna—"
At the noise that then came from the phone, both brothers involuntarily jerked and threw themselves flat on the floor. The receiver continued to dangle in mid-air, emitting a tinny toned-down version of the wrath of God which was barely, just barely, endurable by merely human ears.
Eventually, the storm died down, and a cringing Edward cautiously reached out to pick up the receiver again. "Um... Sensei?" he said tentatively, then cringed at the reply.
With a final wince, Ed pulled back to look at the phone, then carefully set it down in the cradle.
Al looked at him. "Well?"
"...she says she wants the full story later."
"Oh." Al braced himself. "Is she going to call back?"
"No." Ed looked like Armageddon had just been announced. "She's coming here."
They both looked at the phone.
"Think we could reach Xerxes before she gets here?"
—epilogue, six months later—
It was some time before Ed was able to sneak back into the mother-as-it-were's hospital ward. "Hey, Al," he greeted the patient. "How's it going?"
"Great," Al replied spacily, watching his hand move slowly up and down. "Everything's all shiny."
"Yeeeah, they tanked you up good, didn't they?" Ed sat down on the edge of the bed, and grinned. "I brought you a visitor. I figured she'd want to see you."
At the word "she," Alphonse defensively clapped his hands over his ears and looked around fearfully; when there was no sign of Izumi, however, he relaxed. "Who?" he said, and then caught sight of the bundle in Ed's arms. "Oh!" he said. "The baby? It's a she? I mean, she's a she?"
"Yup!" Ed considered the baby, considered the relative coordination of Al's hands, and decided not to risk it. Instead, he turned around and scooted back so he was sitting shoulder to shoulder with his brother. "Here's the little piece of grief now."
"Huh." Al was inspecting her carefully. "Funny, I thought her eyes would be blue. Like kittens."
"No," Al said, frowning slightly. "In fact, they're kind of... red."
The brothers stared at each other.
"Well," Al said dubiously, "I guess she got it from her.... er.... father. Whoever he is."
"Well, as long as they aren't purple," Ed grumbled. "I had a hard enough time outrunning Sensei in the first place."
"Fortunately, I knew where you'd be going!" Both brothers froze, and looked up with wide eyes to see Izumi in the doorway. "For fuck's sake, it's a good thing I'm moving in with you. Neither of you monkeys have a fucking clue what to do with babies."
"Sensei!" Al protested. "There are children present!"
"Yeah, think of the children," Ed chimed in quickly.
Izumi rolled her eyes, but only planted her hands on her hips as she regarded them. "So," she said in a somewhat softer tone. "What are you going to name her?"
"I get to name her?" Al said with some surprise. He looked down, and his expression softened. "You know... I hadn't thought about it, but I think... I want to name her... Mary. Like in the story, the one with the immaculate conce...."
"That's dumb," Ed said immediately. "It's a stupid story, and anyway, Mary was the name of the mother, not the baby."
"Well, what do you suggest?" Al countered, hurt.
"Susan," Ed said, because he hadn't really had anything else in mind.
"Oh, like that's any better!"
"I like Susan," Ed defended his choice. "It's good and solid. Practical. Mary is all gooey and romantic!"
"Oh yeah, and who says you get a say, you little twit?" Izumi growled, and went for Edward's ear. "If he wants Mary then the kid's name will be Mary!"
Ed yelped, then bristled. "Hey! I'm her uncle.... sort of.... a little! I should get some say!"
Al hummed slightly, ignoring the other two entirely, and focusing on Mary, or Susan, or whatever her name was going to be. He still didn't really know how she'd come into existence at all, or why he'd been selected to carry her, or what amazing adventures or tragic misfortunes lay in this black-haired, red-eyed, alchemy-born infant's future, but somehow, he got the impression that she was going to be very very very special.