Categories > Anime/Manga > Full Metal Alchemist

Physical Change

by Tenshi_no_Korin 1 review

Can you hear the cat inside the box? (Ed!wank warning)

Category: Full Metal Alchemist - Rating: R - Genres: Angst, Drama - Characters:  Alphonse Elric, Edward Elric - Warnings: [!] [X] - Published: 2005-05-05 - Updated: 2005-05-06 - 1289 words - Complete

Can you hear the cat within the box
can you hear electrons moving free
watching something
watching nothing
in stasis somewhere in-between

-- /love and hatred/, the cruxshadows

Late morning sunlight slanted in through the window, picking out motes of dust,
turning an open notebook into a white snowdrift and finally settling its gaze on
Edward Elric's hair. It sparkled in pale gold eyelashes and did its very best to
coax open sleepy eyes and brighten the narrow gray dorm room. It was, as far as the
sunbeam was concerned, far too late for young alchemists to be wallowing in bed.

Edward growled something at it that might have been profanity or possibly the
chemical components of galena, and yanked his blanket over his head. In the process
his auto-mail wrist joint caught on a hole he had accidentally burned in the blanket
two nights before while meddling with ammonia, and his right foot became uncovered
and instantly cold. Ed tried to get it back under and instead upset the pile of
books he had fallen asleep in the night before, and they made a noisy papery
avalanche as they cascaded with obnoxious, inevitable slowness onto the floor,
spilling his notes.

The sunbeam, content that it had done its job of seeing young things up and at 'em,
promptly curled up in a shred of cloud and winked out, leaving Ed alone in the
chilly dark dorm room and glowering.

"Damn." He said, and scrubbed at his eyes with his good arm. "Al, is there any
coffee?" He waited for an answer, and when none was forthcoming, glanced over at the
other bed wedged in against the stone wall. His brother hardly needed a place to
sleep, but Ed knew well enough that having a bed was at least some pantomime of
normalcy, Alphonse's equivalent of auto-mail make believe. The bed was empty, and
neatly made, but Ed's answer was written above it.

The walls of the alchemist's dorm were all smooth concrete, something that Ed had
found almost unbearably oppressive until he realized why they had been left plain.
The surface took chalk exceedingly well, and long formulas and sample circles could
be written, erased, and rewritten endlessly on all walls save the one with the
window. It was an almost glorious freedom, all that space without the boundaries of

It was also handy for leaving notes.

Out of coffee, blue ink, and sodium nitrate. Went to the market. - Alphonse

Ed smiled and flopped back down on his disheveled pillows. Al was all too eager to
go to the market these days, and Edward suspected it had something to do with the
litter of kittens that had recently been born to the fishmonger's cat.

He stretched, momentum lost, and rolled over lazily in his tangled bedding. Al
wouldn't be back for hours, and the thought of bounding industriously out of bed
only to stand under the cold trickle of water left in the showers at this time of
morning was deeply unappealing. He scratched at his braid; hopelessly lumpish from
being slept on, and tried to burrow back in the warm spot still lingering somewhere
in his mattress.

The silence of the empty dorm settled in around him and Ed realized that in spite of
his best efforts, he was no longer sleepy. He would never have said anything to
Alphonse, but he missed the days of having a warm body curled asleep next to him.
There was nothing nicer than that even breathing and quiet bodyheat to lull him back
down into slumber. He reached out to retrieve his escaped pillow and the shrouded
morning light flashed dully on his auto-mail. Ed frowned. There was his arm and leg
to consider, too. The steel was never quite warm in the morning.

That was almost enough to get him out of bed, to drag on his pants and shirt, load
up the books and go back to the library. Almost. Instead he tucked up his left leg
and ran the metal palm of his auto-mail down his thigh in an attempt to warm his
artificial limbs. There were times, if he could leech enough heat from his own skin,
that the steel was almost comfortable, heavy on top of him.

Grudgingly his auto-mail began to shed its chill, and Ed found the comfortable dent
he had made the mattress the night before. His finger joints clinked faintly as he
absently traced transmutation circles on his belly, half-lidded gold eyes on the
ceiling, the nearly-forgotten refrain of a childhood song hummed in and out with his
slow breathing. Something flickered low in his belly and he shifted his weight in
the sheets, stretching.

It was nothing he ever planned. His mind was too often full, and any
other thoughts had to be scribbled in the margins or overlooked altogether. He just
knew it happened sometimes when he wasn't expecting it, without prompting, his body
slow and greedy in the late light of morning. The metal fingers of his auto-mail
closed, no longer chilly, on hot swollen skin.

Ed groaned, curling in on his side, flesh and blood fingers tangling with unyielding
steel. He was not yet practiced, knowing only basic instinct and how to solve it, as
practical in his head as balancing an equation. Sensation sparkled at the base of
his spine and in the arches of his feet, the nerves attached to his auto-mail
tingling. It was not unlike the slow unfolding change of a difficult transmutation,
one substance surrendering as it became another, molecules greedily clutching
electrons. The final change was swift and unexpected, flashing white like magnesium
exposed to flame. Sweetness burned bright and hot behind his eyes and between his
legs and Edward crumbled, transference complete, powerless in the face of simple

He lay, gasping in his now hopelessly knotted bedding, gold hair dark with sweat at
the base of his neck, clinging to his skin. His left hand shook slightly as he
shoved his bangs out of his face, and let out one last shuddering breath. His
hammering heartbeat slowed, steadied, and he laughed at the state of his sheets. The
cold shower didn't sound quite so bad, now.

He flopped over and yawned, blinking up and going still as Al's perfectly made,
unslept-in bed came into focus. The memory of release was suddenly wormwood bitter
in the back of his mouth, the familiar parasite of his guilt twisting in the
confines of his stomach. There was no reason for his brother to linger, no pleasure
and no pain passed through the barrier of his empty armor. Edward had grown used to
overlooking his own corporeality for the sake of his brother's feelings, but it still
hit him full force every time he was hungry, or thirsty, or tired, or had to relieve
himself in the tiny swaying train-car lavatory. Or more lately when he woke,
inexplicably burning, with only his own hands for mercy.

Those kittens that Al was probably visiting right now, could he feel their soft warm
fur, or their needle-sharp teeth? Could he breathe in their sweet milky smell or
feel the prick of their tiny transparent claws in his skin? Or was he just
pretending, holding them and laughing in his quiet empty way, because it made him
remember such things from his fading store of a ten-year old's physical memories?

Ed swore, ripping blankets off and ignoring the icy floor on his one bare foot,
running cold water in the sink to splash his face. Five minutes had him dressed and
chewing toast, leaning over to mark his own impatient message under his brother's.

Meet me at the library.

There was no time for sleeping.

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