Riza walked briskly down the hallway and straight to Beregond's office. The appointment Mustang had arranged with the psychologist was in half an hour, and the Gondorian was already running late. She knocked when she saw the door was closed, even though, as ahigher-ranking officer, didn't need permission to enter. When she didn't get an answer, however, she decided that this was no time for courtesy and so she walked in anyway.
What she saw was a very frustrated Beregond talking on the phone.
"They didn't appear in the library at all today?"
Riza raised an eyebrow in curiosity. The only answer Beregond gave her though was a small "Please, wait" wave of his hand, and then he turned his attention back on the phone.
"Not even yesterday? Or the day before?" There was a momentary pause during which Beregond listened carefully to the speaker at the other end of the line. "When you last saw them, did you notice anything different about them? In the way they acted or talked?"
There was another pause, and Riza detected with some concern that an expression of worry settled on Beregond's features.
The man sighed.
"I see. Thank you, Mrs. Abbot." And with that, he hung up.
Riza opened her mouth to ask what was wrong, but another voice rang out first; Roy's voice. And he certainly didn't sound pleased at all.
"Lieutenant Hawkeye, is there a reason you're still waiting for Sergeant Beregond to--?" Roy was still talking when he stepped into the office and, when he saw Beregond's face, his voice trailed off. It was quite obvious that that he didn't expect to see the Gondorian in such a state.
"What happened?" he asked.
Beregond stood up, only locking his gaze briefly on the colonel before going to the coat-rack.
"You were right about Edward, Sir," was all that he said before grabbing his overcoat and put it on with quick, fidgeting movements. He headed for the door without losing a beat. "I'll be waiting by the car."
And with that he was gone out of the door and out of sight, without looking behind.
Riza didn't really understand what Beregond meant, but Roy did. Clenching a bit his jaw, he exited too, with Riza following closely behind. He didn't like Beregond's news, of course, and he was worried about the boys too; but there was nothing that could be done for them at present.
Thornlace expected them.
Empty. That was what he felt. Empty of all emotion and drained of any strength to get up from the couch he had been lying on for what it seemed like years.
Where was Al?
Ah... there he was. He could just barely see the top of the helmet behind the couch.
He wasn't moving either.
Ed looked up at the ceiling again. There was too much silence, he deduced; heavy, mournful silence that was only cut by the squeaking fan hovering over them.
"God must really hate people who go against him. I was eleven years old then and He still has me marked," he uttered softly before he could help it. And as though his mechanical arm suddenly got a mind of its own, it rose above him, stretched out in what seemed like hope in grabbing something elusive.
"Every time I thought I was in reach, He's pulled it away so I'd fall on my face." The metal fingers clenched forcefully. "And now that I've finally got my fist around it, He raises his big, obnoxious foot and kicks me in the teeth."
There was only one word with which he could describe that situation.
Sighing, Ed lowered his automail arm again and hid his eyes from that deceitfully bright day that seemed to mock the darkness in his heart.
"Just face it, Al. It's gonna be this way our whole lives."
"Don't say that."
Al's tone was soft, but Ed still couldn't bear it. Curling his body into a ball, he rolled over to his side, keeping his back to the suit of armour.
"I really thought it was gonna work out, Brother. We would find the Philosopher's Stone and it would all be okay."
The small clanking sounds were enough indication to Ed that Al moved. And Ed was quite sure that his little brother was looking over the couch to see him.
"It still will be," said the suit of armour, trying to sound confident. "We'll find the stone, Brother; we will! And we'll get our bodies back to normal and be happy. People say you're a dog of the military; that you sold your soul to get this far..."
Don't remind me, Ed thought, grimacing.
"... but that isn't true and it didn't stop us. And this won't either. We've worked too hard. And we have to work twice as hard if we're to keep our promise to Beregond. He needs the Stone as much as we do."
Beregond. Damn it...
"How are we ever going to tell him, Al?"
There was silence again for some time while Al thought about this.
"We'll just have to," he finally said. "He has a right to know."
Ah... so he didn't make the connection yet.
"Al, don't you remember?"
"Remember what?" Al asked in surprise.
"Those murders he was looking into before he... got here. 'They were used as sacrifices for immortality.'That's what he said." A wry chuckle flowed out of Ed's lips weakly. "He had the answer all along and he didn't even know it."
A loud gasp of shock emanated from the suit of armour.
"You mean... his son was killed over--?" He didn't finish that sentence. "How can you be sure?"
"I'm not. But it makes sense, doesn't it? Too much of a coincidence," Ed said, his voice just a little more than amurmur. "That bloody stone has a way of screwing with whole worlds, apparently." He tried to laugh; he really did. That was freaking hilarious, after all!
So hilarious he wanted to cry.
Lieutenant Ross still stood just outside the door, the tray of food she meant to bring to the brothers forgotten as she listened on. She didn't understand much about alchemy, nor was she even interested in that.
What she knew was that the children she had been assigned to escort were now lost. And she didn't like that.
That damn sound of papers.../Ed rolled again on his side to block out the shuffling noises Al made as he skimmed once more through Marcoh's notes. But then the young alchemist heard the one suggestion he /didn't want to hear.
"Brother? Let's look at it again... from the beginning."
"I've looked at it enough," Ed answered instantly. He curled up tighter around his body.
"But there's a chance we misread something. Maybe we got it wrong."
"I said I've had enough," Ed said, unable to hide the edge in his voice. Just let it go, Al.
"But what if our code's wrong? Maybe that's not what it says! Or maybe we missed some key paragraph, like a loophole or something! We should read the whole thing again--"
It was then that something snapped inside Edward. He sat up immediately and span around with cat-like reflexes to send a cup that was inches from him flying.
"I said ENOUGH!!!"
The shattering sound that followed his wrathful scream shook him to his very core.
The cup had hit Al, breaking against his mask.
And Al was just as shocked; Ed could see that only too clearly.
The noise of the papers falling from his little brother's grasp was deafening in the silence that reigned. "Brother?"
So small and shaky/, Ed noted in horror at hearing Al's voice. /What have I done?
He barely registered the sound of two people running and a voice asking him: "Is something wrong, Sir?"
Not these two... Ed really didn't want to talk about it, especially with Ross and Bloch. "It's just a broken cup. Go back in the hall," he ordered before curling up once again on the couch with his back to everyone. "Sorry, Al," he added, remembering himself.
He didn't let the half-hearted "Yeah"his brother said get to him. He simply closed his eyes and tried to block once again the sound of the papers that apparently were being collected from the floor.
"So, Edward... that's really the end of it?"
Ed cocked his head in surprise, because it wasn't Al who had asked that question, but Ross.
"You won't regret it then? Giving up before you finished?"
What is she on about?
"That's interesting. I didn't realise what you were searching for was so incidental you'd abandon it this easily."
"Stop going on like you know what you're talking about. You don't know anything," Ed answered back.
"Wrong, Edward. I know that what you boys have been searching for is the Philosopher's Stone..."
Ed half-turned his head to glance at her over his shoulder.
"... and I know it's created by sacrificing human lives."
What?! Ed instantly span around into a sitting position, looking at her incredulously. And apparently he wasn't the only one shocked at this. Sergeant Bloch and Al were now looking at Ross just as dumbfounded.
"I know it was uncalled for, but I was listening through the door," she explained.
All feelings of shock disappeared. /Nice.../thought Ed with a mental snort and closed his eyes. "Well, if you eavesdropped then you must know it's pointless to chase after it now." Waving a dismissive hand at Ross, he returned to his curling position, not looking at her. "So leave us alone."
There was a small pause, and Ed believed for a moment, that she had, indeed, left.
He was wrong.
"You really are a child, aren't you?"she asked.
Why you...! Ed jumped back into aseated position, glaring and feeling his nostrils flaring at her insolence.
But she was undaunted.
"You're frightened of it; that all the answers will disappear."
Ed's anger wavered.
"You're terrified you might have to admit that everything you've done was wasted effort."
No, damn it, they weren't! He got ready to speak his mind, but Ross proved relentlessly faster.
"Am I wrong?"
Ed tried to speak; he tried so hard. But he couldn't bring himself to.
Because she was right.
What if they were wasted effort?
He couldn't admit that though. Otherwise, what was left for him to do?
Despair treacherously crept in his heart, making him hide his face on his mechanical arm. No one needed to see the tears that started welling up in his eyes.
"It's okay to feel lost," Ross said kindly.
That prodded Ed to look at her. He briefly caught sight of Al regarding the lieutenant intently through the corner of his eye; and then he saw her approaching him with a small smile.
"Verifying whether Marcoh's research is the truth or not is worth something in itself if you ask me," she said. "After all, what you're looking for is a lot bigger than you or Al. Your friend's presence is enough proof of that."
/Just for how long did she eavesdrop?/Ed thought wonderingly.
But Ross was far from finished.
"Why don't you try searching a little longer, Edward? But without worries about the final result." She handed him the papers, and Edward stared at them for a long time; that is, until realisation finally hit him.
"You're right. It's like a book: just because you're mad and stop reading doesn't change the way it ends."
"That's right!" Al exclaimed happily.
Ed stood up, his determination settling back in his heart. "We've had roadblocks and we've conquered them all! I'll be damned if we stop half way! We'll take this all the way to the finish!" he declared with a grin before turning to his brother. "Let's do this, Al!"
And they both went back to work, not noticing Ross's relieved sigh.
Their hope was rekindled.
Roy, Riza and Beregond were still in the doctor's waiting hall, sitting patiently in one of the couches till the secretary told them they could go in. Roy watched Beregond from the corner of his eye for any signs of nervousness, but there were none to be detected. Whatever reservations the Gondorian had concerning the hypnosis session were now gone. That was a good sign.
"Mr. Mustang? Mr. Beregond? The doctor will see you now," the secretary said at that moment, checking on her list of appointments.
Roy nodded and turned to Beregond. "Ready?"
Beregond smiled grimly. "As ready as Ican be."
"Good enough," Roy said, chuckling mildly. They both stood up and, after Roy motioned Riza to follow them as well, they all stepped inside.
It was then that Beregond suddenly stopped on his tracks, and Roy couldn't for the life of him understand why. Unless...
Don't tell me he's losing his nerve now!
However, another voice cut into his train of thought.
"Ah... Colonel Mustang. I see you were quite precise on our appointment."
It was Dr. Thornlace, standing in front of his office with a broad smile on his lips.
Roy had to admit to himself that the doctor didn't look much like a man of science. True, he didn't expect to see abald man with a goatee, glasses and a cigar in his mouth either. It was just that Thornlace wasn't as old as the other doctors on his field. In fact, he was just about Beregond's age - if not a bit younger - and dressed in casual clothing. His expression wasn't austere either; his eyes reflected nothing but intelligence and friendliness. If there was anything which certainly distinguished Thornlace from any other doctors Roy happened to meet in his life was that when Thornlace locked his gaze on someone, it felt as though he could read the other like an open book.
Roy certainly felt that way when he shook hands with him anyway. Still, he didn't linger on it for long, because Thornlace turned to Beregond's direction.
"Is this the gentleman you told me of?"he asked.
Roy nodded. "Indeed. He's sergeant Beregond."
Thornlace smiled once more and extended his hand. "Hello, Mr. Beregond. It's nice to make your acquaintance."
But the Gondorian just stared at the man before him, looking quite pale.
When Roy noted this, he did the one thing he could do to snap Beregond out of it. He kicked him discreetly.
Fortunately, it worked. Beregond blinked a couple of times and extended his own hand toward Thornlace.
"Likewise," he managed to say, though his voice was weak and strained. And when Thornlace motioned them to sit down, Beregond took the chair that was farthest from the doctor.
If Thornlace was puzzled from this behaviour, he never showed it. But Roy certainly was. What was more, he now noticed that Riza had locked her gaze on Beregond, looking at him intently with a raised eyebrow.
"Are you comfortable?" Thornlace asked Beregond.
The Gondorian hesitated to answer. He just settled with a small nod.
Thornlace smiled again. "Good." He took a chair and sat down close to Beregond, facing him. "Now, before we begin," he said, "there are a few things I want to say first. I'm sure Colonel Mustang told you how hypnosis works. Have you ever been hypnotised?"
"N... no," Beregond faltered momentarily."And I don't know what to think of it."
"Well, there's nothing to be afraid of, for starters," Thornlace said, his smile still tugged on his lips. "I'm going to use something very simple: I'll just put you into a light trance-state where some of the filtering processes of your mind relax and you have access to those elusive memories you want to retrieve. Okay?"
"Okay," Beregond said. He looked briefly at Riza's direction as he said that.
That had Roy intrigued, and he knew now, beyond any doubt, that there was something he was missing here. He would have to find out later what that something was.
It was then that Thornlace guided Beregond onto a lounge and asked him to close his eyes in order to relax. Beregond didn't comply, not at once anyway. His eyes remained locked on Thornlace, as though inspecting the doctor's features for one last time. He only closed his eyes when Thornlace repeated his request in the same calm tone he used before.
"Very good, Beregond," Thornlace commented, his voice slow and clear. "Now I'm going to ask you to go back to the place where everything started. Just keep your eyes closed and take long, deep breaths, relaxing all parts of your body. Long, deep breaths. Relaxing your hands and feet. Relaxing your jaw, your pelvis. Long, deep breaths. Go back to the place it all started. Relax and go back to your son's death."
Roy looked on but, to his mortification, Beregond looked anything but relaxed. His face was distorted in anguish and he was whimpering piteously. His head started lolling sideways, whereas his body squirmed as he tried to escape from the mental image.
"Beregond," Thornlace said gently."Beregond, there's nothing to be afraid of. This thing can't hurt you. Just stay it with it. Tell me what is happening."
Beregond's shoulders started shaking violently. "I only see red... his little body is broken and red..." Heart-wrenching sobs escaped the man's lips and he hugged himself tightly as though attempting to control his tremors. "I try to wake him up but I can't... He... He's dead... and it's my fault..."
Roy sighed. He had always been concerned that Beregond blamed himself for what happened to his son, even though the Gondorian himself never voiced such a thing. Now it seemed Roy's fears were verified.
"Beregond, it's perfectly fine. Stay with it and don't let go. Tell me what you're doing."
"I shout... I shout at them..." Beregond's breathing was erratic now, his voice coming out with difficulty. "I don't want them to take him... Not him... He was her last gift to me..."
Roy felt his eyes widening at this. He didn't see Riza clenching her jaw at Beregond's words.
"To whom do you shout?" Thornlace asked.
Thornlace raised his eyebrow at that. "Who are they?"
Roy quickly leaned forward and whispered his explanation to Thornlace. Thornlace nodded his acknowledgement and turned to Beregond once again.
"Are they your gods?"
"All right," the doctor said encouragingly. "What do you tell them?"
"Me... Me for my son..."
"Do they listen to you?"
"I don't know..." There was a small pause. "My hand feels strange."
Beregond didn't answer, at least not in words. His left hand was raised in the air, its fingers curled as though it was holding something.
Roy understood. It was the hand that held Dûrinas's pendant.
"Why does it feel strange?" Thornlace asked.
"There's red light everywhere... it tingles my hand..."
Suddenly, Beregond jerked violently, letting out a cry of mixed horror and shock. Thornlace still remained confident and collected.
"What's happening, Beregond?"
If Beregond's previous scream was loud before, this second one seemed to have the power to peel the very paint off the walls.
"Beregond, it's okay," Thornlace said over the cries. "It's in the past. The past can't hurt you."
But Beregond didn't seem to listen. Spasms coursed through his whole body and his hands grabbed his head so forcefully that his hair almost got pulled out from the roots.
Now that was too much. Roy and Riza got ready to move forward and snap Beregond out of it, but Thornlace gestured at them to wait.
"Beregond, what is happening?"
But the man couldn't reply; not when he was biting his lip so as not to scream again. He only shook his head.
"Please tell me, Beregond," Thornlace said. "It's all right. This is the past. It isn't hurting you. It /can't/hurt you. Do you understand?"
Finally, the Gondorian started taking deep breaths and his body relaxed. "Yes..."
"Good. Why does it hurt?"
"Because... I'm falling," Beregond breathed out shakily. "My life... my whole life flies before me. Friends I knew; people I loved and people I hated; all my fears; all my dreams... I see everything... and I can't take it... I just... want the end..."
The last word had barely flowed out of Beregond's lips when his body suddenly went limb and his eyes opened.
And yet there was no life reflected through them.
"My body's gone."
Beregond's voice got so low that the three people were barely able to hear them. Nevertheless, his words were still able to take them all by surprise.
Riza's eyes widened and she turned at Roy's direction, lowering her voice to a whisper. "Did he just say...?"
"Humans are composed of the soul, the mind and the body," Roy whispered back, trying to keep himself in control. "If the body's gone, then he's just been deconstructed."
What he really meant was: "Beregond has just /died/."
Beregond was reliving his /death/.
Roy started feeling ill. Was that... was that what all the people he had killed in Ishbal went through? Even those doctors? The very people he had thought so wrongly that he had made their passing easy?
There was no such thing as painless death then...
He fleetingly noticed Riza knitting her fingers together, to stop her hands from trembling. Was she thinking the same?
And then Thornlace spoke again.
"Yet you can still tell me what is happening."
Beregond's voice was eerily low and cold when it answered. "With eyes that are no eyes and ears that are no ears... Isee and I hear. And I stray out of thought and time; where all directions are as one, leading to truth and judgement."
Roy gritted his teeth and looked on. He had to keep listening to this.
"Where are you now?" Thornlace asked.
"At the Gates of Mandos. I look at them, and I wait."
"You wait for what?"
"You're waiting for your son?" Thornlace ventured.
"No... He's not here."
"Who are you waiting for then?"
Thornlace swallowed hard, but he still remained calm. "Does he come?"
"He doesn't have to." Beregond's eyes started widening. "The Gates open... His eye is on me. I kneel to accept his wrath, but... " Beregond stopped; his expression softening to a mild surprise."Comforting warmth surrounds me. He embraces me with hands of white light. Ihear His voice in my head... It's... saddened."
"What does he say?"
Beregond's eyes welled up. "That Ishouldn't be here. That this is wrong. That Sauron's lingering malice took everyone, including me, on a different path; one that none was meant to take. One that I took anyway. He says that He understands though; he knows I only did it for my son's sake; for Bergil's time was meant to come much later."
Roy and Riza exchanged looks, the same thought entering their minds.
If one could claim that there was such a thing as fate, it was in Dûrinas's to find the papers and commit those murders. But it wasn't in Bergil's to die for his father and that only happened because of some sick twist of fate which Beregond's gods, for some unknown reason, didn't manage to stop.
Did that Sauron being had something to do with this? Perhaps another force of nature?
It didn't matter now.
What mattered was that Beregond had given up his own life for his son's, and that led to the Gondorian's /untimely/death.
That was a mistake.
"I... don't know what to say..." Beregond continued on softly. "I want to plead... to ask him to send me and my son back. But he senses it and he tells me, before I even speak, that my desire is not possible. He can't change the fates of Men, no matter how wrong those fates are. He can't keep the spirits of Men that are dead within the confines of the world.
"And so I let go... and leave myself in his hands."
Thornlace leaned forward, his curiosity piqued. "Where does he take you?"
"Inside the Gate. I hear the noise of the doors creaking shut and then whispers of other souls, so many of them that the sound rings in my ears. I do not see them, but I can feel their own non-existent gazes locking on me."
"Are you afraid?"
"No. I'm their brother now. And I'm treated as such when I'm finally placed down among them so I can take the path to the Outer Sea."
"A place from where all souls pass to leave... never to return."
"But you didn't go."
"Because I'm stopped and asked to wait until He finally comes back. He sought counsel, he says; and after much conversing, Ilúvatar's thought was revealed to Him and His siblings."
"What does he say?"
"I will be granted the remainder of my days. But not within the confines of the world I was previously in. I cannot reclaim that life ever again. That is the price for granting me that privilege."
"What do you say to that?" Thornlace asked.
"Nothing... I can't..." Beregond's tone became quieter. "I'm merely told... to sleep."
Truly enough, Beregond's eyelids slowly drifted shut, and his body curled into a foetal position.
"Do you know what happens while you sleep?"
"I catch some talk, but I don't understand it," Beregond slurred drowsily. "Images float before my eyes Icannot comprehend. My mind fills with a kind of knowledge that I didn't think it even existed. And that goes on for centuries untold, until I finally hear the words I had been waiting to hear all this time.
"I am to awaken."
Beregond's hands clenched again, so tightly that the knuckles turned white.
"Stay with it," Thornlace encouraged. "What's happening?"
"The light of a street-lamp is blinding me; the solid ground of concrete is beneath me." The Gondorian's body trembled violently now. "It hurts, returning to my body after so long. The air is forced into my lungs... my heart beats loudly against my chest... It hurts so much..."
And Beregond let out one final cry, one that sounded much like a newborn's; then gradually he quietened down, until the only thing that could be heard was his strained breathing.
It was only then that the three others present had decided that they had heard enough.
"Beregond, are you listening to me?" Thornlace asked.
"Yes," the Gondorian managed to say painfully.
"Good. Beregond, I'm going to stop now. I want you to open your eyes and come back. Open your eyes and come back to us."
"Okay..." Complying, Beregond calmed down and opened his eyes, rubbing the sleep off them. The first thing he saw was Roy and Riza looking at him, their faces wan.
"You've been here the whole time?" Beregond asked; his surprise was quite evident.
Roy and Riza nodded weakly, still looking at him.
"Mr. Beregond? Do you realise what you have just experienced?" Thornlace asked.
Beregond turned at Thornlace's direction with a nod. "My death."
"Ah, but you've also done something else. You gave me insight as to what happens to a man's soul. Did you know that a person's body weighs 22 grams less the moment he dies?"
Roy shook his head. "With that you imply that the soul is something material. Yet, if that were true, alchemists would have been able to discover it."
"Not if the soul is, in fact, a kind of energy captured within the body," Thornlace argued. "When the body stops functioning, that energy gets released - only to either be recycled, or get transformed to something else."
Roy noticed Beregond flinching slightly. He didn't blame him, as he also realised what that /something else/was.
Riza stared at Thornlace incredulously and voiced her own thoughts. "Doctor... by recycled... you mean reincarnation?"
Thornlace nodded. That made Roy rub his chin thoughtfully. "Which means that, theoretically, human transmutation is possible."
"But only by the one who has the ultimate say over things," Beregond added. His expression remained unreadable.
Since it was Friday, Mustang, Riza and Beregond went to find the others at their usual haunt in the bar. And once they finished telling of their news, Havoc, Falman, Breda and Fuery could only stare at them wide-eyed, because everything sounded too incredible to grasp.
It still had the power to leave them shaken though. It was a blessing that the rest of the customers didn't listen to the conversation but kept laughing and joking around as though nothing had changed and nothing ever would.
"I've never heard of a creepier thing in my life," Breda admitted.
"Creepy? Downright bloodcurdling, that's what it is," Fuery said, shuddering.
Falman turned to Beregond, who was sipping his ale without so much as an expression on his features. "So you're... the product of human transmutation?" he said quietly in wonder.
Havoc nudged the warrant officer on the ribs, slightly glaring. "Falman...!"
But Beregond reached a hand and stayed Havoc's arm. "It's all right," he said. "And to answer your question, Falman... Idon't think of myself as one. Otherwise that would mean everyone in this room is the product of human transmutation also."
Roy chuckled wryly, his fingers tracing his bourbon-filled glass. "That's true. While in our mothers' womb, we're being constructed; the body, the mind and the soul are joined together into a whole, into a human. That's what happened to Beregond too, but not with the... conventional method."
"But there's something else, Sir. What if Beregond is not the only one who had to go through that?" Riza said thoughtfully. She turned to the Gondorian. "When you saw me, you thought I was your wife. Today I saw how you looked at Dr. Thornlace. Who did you think he was?"
Beregond's expression saddened."Faramir. My lord - and best friend - whom I had sworn to protect with my life."
"Oh, man..." Havoc said softly before he could help it, uttering the thoughts of the others as well. "What is going on here?"
"I think I can answer that," Roy said. "Being descendants of those Númenóreans who supposedly perished, we share the same traits with Beregond's people - even traits of appearance. The same way siblings can resemble each other."
"And even if there are more souls that have been recycled in this world, it doesn't necessarily mean that they recall their previous life. As soon as one cycle ends, they move on to lead a new one," the Gondorian added. "He wasn't Faramir. Just like I know that you are not Almiel, Riza. After all, the Valar separated the world of Amestris and mine so there wouldn't be any contact between them except for the Gates. That was the punishment for the Númenóreans' corruption."
"No contact? But you're here," Fuery said in confusion.
"Fuery... they said I would be granted the remainder of my days but not within the confines of the world I was previously in."
"But that can only mean..." But Fuery froze the moment realisation hit him. "Oh..."
Beregond shrugged. "I suppose it's for the best," he said simply. "If I attempted returning to my world, I'd probably end up in the year 1914 - the same one that is here."
"That should be the least of your problems, you know," Breda said at that moment. "After all that has been said, do you realise that there is probably someone in Amestris who resembles you?"
Beregond blinked. "I didn't think of that."
Havoc swallowed hard. "What if someone comes across the other? Beregond could be..."
"That means we should be doubly careful," Roy said, not letting Havoc voice that fear. "And we can't afford people like Connors or Fawcette to find that out. Is that clear, gentlemen?"
Everyone nodded their understanding. After all, they had come to like the Gondorian and they wanted him safe.
The old woman took small, weak steps down the hallway, holding a candle in her hand to illuminate her way. The only stop she did was to have a peek inside a room to make sure her apprentice was sound asleep, and then she continued on towards the library. For it was where that she kept the yellow envelope she had been studying so hard these last few days.
The object of her study was puzzling, that was one of the conclusions she had reached as she kept looking at that file.
Another conclusion was that some of the things concerning that mysterious man by the name of Beregond just didn't add up.
How could someone, who had no knowledge of the language, money or papers, not to mention the slightest societal, historical and geographical knowledge, find his way to Central?
That man was practically a primitive brute!
And then there was the armour to be considered. That not only pointed out that the man was a barbarian; it also pointed out that he was even odd in his mind.
On the other hand...
She sat down on the desk and took out from the envelope a picture that had interested her: a picture of the man himself.
Just where had he seen his face before?
Her eyes drifted back to the copy of the sergeant's journal and looked again at the strange, elegant writing. If she were able to crack the code in which it was written, than she would be able to get her answers, of that she was sure.
The problem was... she didn't know from where to begin. There was a pattern, surely, but what kind of pattern was it? It was probably the foreigner's language, like Envy suggested. That meant an attempt to translate it was out of the question. She didn't even know what kind of language it was. And, according to the yellow file, the linguist that had alook into it was just as puzzled.
If the man was a primitive brute, why should his language be any different?
Her eyes drifted momentarily at several books at the library, lost in thought.
And then she smiled as an idea formed in her mind.
Deciding it was worth the chance and moving as quickly as her body permitted her, Dante stood up and went for the phone.
Sloth would have to run a few errands for her.
Havoc looked again at Beregond from the corner of his eye, both hands on the steering wheel as he drove on to their homes. The Gondorian was unusually quiet, doing nothing but staring at his usual spot on the ceiling of the car.
That was something that unnerved the lieutenant.
"Are you all right?" Havoc asked softly.
"Hmm?" Beregond turned his head just abit so he could look at his companion.
Havoc indulged the man. "Are you okay with... you know..." Damn it, how could anyone breach a topic of conversation like this? "Your... remembering?"
Surprisingly enough, Beregond smiled -if only wanly.
"I feel fine," he said. "It's strange, you know. I remember everything and yet it doesn't affect me the way I thought it would. It's like remembering a passing dream."
"That's good, I suppose," Havoc said. "The way you described it, it sounded pretty awful."
Beregond just shrugged, and there was silence once more.
A silence that got too heavy for the lieutenant's comfort.
"I can always look at it from the bright side," the Gondorian said suddenly. "I'm 6,000 years old and I still look younger than any of you guys."
Though Havoc chuckled at his companion's attempt at humour, in truth he got even more worried and he caught himself mentally torn.
Should he let Beregond be?
He wasn't sure that it was a good idea.
But Beregond's talk and behaviour indicated that there was nothing wrong with him.
Still, it had barely been three hours since Beregond had found out that he couldn't get back to his world and that his companions and son were long dead - making him the lone survivor of a race of people now probably vanished.
He said he's fine.
His mental conflict came to a pause when he reached Beregond's house and had to stop the car.
"Thanks for the lift, Havoc," the Gondorian said. He got out and waved at his fellow soldier. "Goodnight."
Havoc opened his mouth in a motion to speak, his first words meaning to be: "You know, I'm too tired to drive all the way to my home, mind if I crash into your place tonight?". If anything, he would make sure he kept an eye on Beregond.
But all he said was: "Goodnight."
In a matter of moments, he was off again.
A few moments later, he was regretting it.
"Get a grip!" he exclaimed aloud. "He's a big boy!"
He's also a friend.
Havoc sighed. He had nothing to say to that.
What if... he watched Beregond from the distance for a while? If everything seemed all right, then Havoc could go home without worries and, more importantly, without discomfiting the Gondorian.
Right, that settled it. He stopped his car at the next turn, got out and started going back on foot. He shivered a bit as the winter wind turned out to be colder than he expected, but he still walked on.
He wanted to make sure everything was fine.
He caught sight of the Gondorian at once. He was standing in front of the house with his head lifted upwards so that he could gaze at the stars, his form quite rigid.
So... was that good or bad?
It was then that he saw Beregond's shoulders shudder violently. And when Havoc saw the man burying his face in atrembling hand, he knew at once that the shudders were not due to the cold.
All thoughts of subtlety forgotten, Havoc hurried at Beregond's side and clasped a hand on the Gondorian's shoulder.
Beregond looked up, only mildly surprised to see the lieutenant. Streaks of tears were lining his face and...
...he was smiling?!
Oh man, he really must have lost it!
"I'm an idiot, Jean," Beregond said, unaware of the lieutenant's thoughts. "I've only now realised something."
"What?" Havoc asked cautiously, deciding to indulge the man.
"I didn't see Bergil in the Halls." A small chuckle escaped Beregond's lips. "He wasn't there!" There was no stopping the man now, and he seemed to keep fidgeting like a happy puppy. "It was me for my son! I saved him, Havoc! Even if only for a little while... I saved him!"
And then laughter and joyful yells filled the night air.
All Havoc could do was stare at his friend with eyes wide open, until finally a bittersweet smile tugged his lips.
Maybe everything would turn out fine after all.
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