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spinny roses

And Return to Nothing

prologue

"Damn it!" The pain overwhelmed his senses, and wetness prickled at his eyes. "Damn it!" Slowly, golden eyes opened, trying to blink the haziness away. "A-al?" Why wasn't his brother answering? "Al?" He had to answer. "ALPHONSE!"

Al wasn't answering. A sudden wave of pain crashed through him, and he grabbed the ruined stump of a leg. "M-my..." His hands tightened as he turned his head upward, hoping that at least one thing had gone right. His leg... if his mother was...

There was something there. One arm lowered for leverage, and he pushed his torso up with a cry of pain. "Mother?" A parody of a gasp reached his ears. But what was there responded! It had...

Something inside him died as he took on the twisted form made of his mother's form. Limbs emerged from where they didn't originate, and a thin layer of skin barely covered a rapidly beating heart. The face was barely human, with only too familiar eyes. He coughed out a few choked breaths, not ready to believe it. It wasn't... real... his... mother... His eyes clenched shut, an agonized scream ripped from his throat. "N-no..."

The door flew open, and he turned his head as quickly as he dared. The motion caused bile to rise in the back of his throat, threatening to bubble past his lips. But just as he lowered his head, he saw a gloved hand raise hastily and snap its fingers. Both his hands went to cover his ears as a twisted scream filled the air. "Mother!"

"Are you Edward Elric?"

He lifted his head to the sound of that breathless voice to see a blue military uniform. "I..." Why couldn't he see his mother? "Mother! She..."

"Don't worry about it." The voice was getting steadier, as if the speaker was catching his breath. "Are you Edward Elric?"

"Yes." Edward's voice hitched in pain as one hand flew to his leg, gripping the stump tightly. "Al! He... something happened to him! I have to..."

"You will no such thing." Edward was swiftly taken into strong arms and lifted. "You already lost one leg. Do you want to lose more limbs?"

"Who...?" The young boy looked up at the person that had come in. A male... dark hair... was he one of the people he sent letters to while looking for his father?

The man shook his head. "Later. You need someone to take care of that leg."

"N-no! Al... my brother, he..." Edward trailed off as the man turned enough so he could see what he had been hiding. His eyes widened as he took in the twitching flesh still burning, unearthly moans coming from what was left of a mouth. "A... aan... Moth... er..."

Quickly, the dark haired male shifted his grasp, pushing Edward's face against his chest and covering his eyes. With eyes wide open and muscles trembling uncontrollably, he gripped onto the blue jacket. "Don't look," Edward dimly heard the man say. The hand under Edward's intact leg shifted, and the fingers snapped. A wave of heat danced across his skin, and he shivered in fear as the failed experiment died.

He couldn't look away from the uniform before him. He wouldn't... Edward's eyes grew heavy and started to close. His mother, his brother...

Edward woke suddenly, realizing he was in an actual bed with his stump bound.

"... Lt. Colonel Roy Mustang." Edward frowned, trying to hear what this man... Mustang... was saying. "Edward has performed forbidden alchemy. If this were to become public knowledge in the military, he could be put to death."

"And what are you going to do to Ed?" Winry. That voice... it had to be. "You..."

"If you were to outfit his leg with automail, I would be willing to save him. Perhaps... even help him find a way to restore what he lost."

"The Philosopher's Stone." That was the old woman. Edward would recognize that elderly but strong voice anywhere. "You'd use him as a spy."

"Only if he was willing." Edward had the distinct feeling the Lt. Colonel knew he was awake. "If not... then he will remain here. But rumors of the Stone run thick in Central. If we were to find the Philosopher's Stone, then he would have a chance very quickly to heal his body and... just perhaps... bring his brother back."

Edward's jaw tightened. A chance to bring back Al... and all he would have to do is spy.

In order to receive something, one must first give up something of equal value. Giving up his soul seemed to be equal enough.