Novel Experience

"There's more books out there than just alchemical texts," Al remarked, glancing around the musty bookstore with curiosity.

"Yeah, but a lot of it's rubbish," Ed said acidly, looking over a bookshelf filled from top to bottom with mystery thrillers. "How long are we going to have to stick around, anyway?"

"I don't think Scieszka-san is quite finished yet." Al glanced over at the stacks where Scieszka had disappeared, her location marked only by occasional faint cries of joy drifting back to them. "We could take our books and pay now, if you like."

"Eh, that wouldn't make a difference, would it?" Ed grumbled, drifting past the rows and rows. "She'll probably take forever."

Al chuckled, following his brother. "I never thought I'd want to leave a bookstore before someone else did, but—"

"There aren't enough good books in this store," Ed complained. "Look at some of this stuff! I can't believe they take the paper to publish this stuff. Romance novels? How girly is that?"

"That's not fair, Niisan," Al protested. "Girls like to read books too, after all. And some of these don't look so bad. I mean... huh?"

The stacks were organized in alphabetical order, by author; Al's eyes had been scanning idly over the 'E' section when something caught his eyes, and he stopped. "Niisan, do you see what I see?"

"See what? I see a lot of pretty-covered kindling... THE HELL!"

Gloved hands shot out and grabbed the book in question, dragging it off the shelf and holding it to the light. Sure enough, there on the cover were printed the words: "Love's Final Destination; a novel romantic by Trisha Elric."

"A coincidence?" Al said, and his voice sounded shaky. "I mean, I'm sure there are other people in Amestris with the name Elric... and it can't be... I mean, she's been gone for four years now..."

"What are you looking at?" Scieszka popped up by Al's elbow, bright-eyed and chipmunk-cheeked and with a bursting armful of books. She squinted through her glasses at the book still sitting in Ed's nerveless hands, and beamed. "Oh, you've got some of Trisha Elric's books! Those are classic. I heard that the publisher was going to revive the works for their tenth-year anniversary, but I hadn't come down to see it yet."

"Tenth year anniversary?" Ed said hoarsely. He had gone as pale as the book pages. "These things have been around for ten years?"

"Well, the first one was ten years ago," Scieszka said, fumbling with her armful and pushing her glasses up her nose. "There were several others after that. The one you've got—ah, that's 'Final Destination,' isn't it? That's the last one, the one where her beloved comes back to her." Scieszka gave a long and swoony sigh, her eyes shining suspiciously behind the glass lenses. "Ah, that was such a beautiful scene!"

With an expression of faintly horrified fascination, Edward fumbled the cover open and paged roughly through the book. He stopped at a random passage and began reading, voice hoarse with disbelief.

"She fell into his muscular arms, small delicate hand fisted in the coarse material of his opened shirt," he read hoarsely. " 'You promise me that you will love me forever this time, and never leave?' she asked in a trembling voice, eyes threatening to flood with her happiness and sorrow. He gazed down at her, eyes pools of liquid gold, his fierce embrace easily circling her and supporting her when she would fall. 'Beyond forever, my love,' he replied, voice as rough and smooth as smoke. And when he kissed her, one large hand upon her heaving bosom to feel her heart beating, she knew that yes, this would be beyond forever... because he had promised it so."

Ed stopped, raising his eyes from the page and meeting Al's gaze with a look of abject horror. Al himself didn't feel much better. They heard a sniffling sound, and turned to see Scieszka's eyes overflowing. "It's so sweet!" she sobbed, trying to wipe her tears without dropping the books. "He's been gone for so many years, and finally he returns, and this time it's forever! Oh, it was so wonderful!"

" 'And without further ado, Horatio lifted her from her feet and carried her fainting into the bed that had been so long prepared for them, and he laid his hand upon her trembling...' GAH! No! No! Just... No!" Ed yelled, and slammed the book closed, fumbling with it for a bit in a manner Al recognized as sheer revulsion struggling with the ingrained instinct to handle books well.

"Well," he heard himself saying numbly, "I always did wonder what that typewriter in Mother's study was for."

"She couldn't have," Ed said tensely.

Al shook his head with disbelief. "She could have. The timing is right."

"She wouldn't have! Mother would never write books about... this stuff! She never did... those things!" Ed was turning a distinct shade of red.

"She had to have sometime," Al reminded his brother, "she had you and me."

"THAT WAS DIFFERENT!" Ed flailed, nearly sending a shelf of books tumbling. "There's no reason—"

"Our food money had to have come from somewhere. We never asked—"

"We never HAD to ask! It was just THERE!"

"—but she would have had to do something to support two growing boys, after all—"

"NO WAY!" Ed wailed. He nearly flung the book at Al—who caught it, of course, instinct driving him to protect the book, no matter what the content—and fled the shop, leaving his own pile of books abandoned on the floor.

Al looked after him. Al looked at the book. Scieszka looked at him. "Well, are you going to buy that?" she asked him. "Or can I?"