Humankind cannot gain anything without first giving something in return. To obtain, something of equal value must be lost. That is alchemy's first law of equivalent exchange.
In those days, we really believed that to be the world's one and only truth.
Hohenheim stood on the front porch of his house, staring up at the stars with a sad expression on his face. He held a suitcase in one hand and a photograph in the other.
"Are you sure you have to go?" Trisha asked sadly.
Hohenheim turned to look at his wife. "Yes. There's something that I have to do. I don't want to leave, but I want the world that our boys inherit to be a happier and safer world than the one we've known."
Trisha bowed her head. "I understand. I'll watch over them, and I'll wait for you to return."
They stared at each other for a few moments, savoring what would be the last time they saw each other for a long time. Then, Hohenheim stepped off the porch and began to walk away. He tucked the photograph inside one of his pockets and a solitary tear trailed down his face.
Time passed, and Trisha Elric did her best to raise her children right. She missed her husband greatly, but she did her best to hide her sadness.
She wasn't very successful, however, as both brothers noticed how her face would become downcast whenever their father was mentioned. They would never talk about it in front of her, but when they were by themselves, the topic came up from time to time.
One day, the two brothers, Edward and Alphonse, were sitting at the top of a hill that overlooked the countryside.
Al turned to look at his older brother. "Brother? Why are you so angry at Dad all the time?"
Ed glared at the ground. "C'mon. Why do you think? He ditched us."
He shifted his gaze up to the sky. "I can't say I hate him. I don't remember him enough. But when Mom thinks of him, she gets sad. That's reason enough not to like him."
Al looked away. "I guess."
After a pause, Al looked back toward his brother. "But you know, Mom said he was a really skilled alchemist. Maybe he's off doing something important."
"Yeah, maybe," Ed said dismissively.
After sitting for a minute, he suddenly stood up.
"What is it, brother?" Al asked.
"I was just thinking," Ed said. "If Dad was an alchemist, then wouldn't he have books about it in his study?"
"But," Al began uncertainly, "Mom doesn't like us going in there."
"Come on, we're just going to be doing some reading," Ed said, a small smile coming on to his face. "Besides, I've heard that alchemy can be used to do some pretty cool things."
He looked over his shoulder toward their house and grinned before taking off running.
"Hey!" Al called. "Wait for me!"
The next day, the two brothers went with their mother to the Rockbell residence. It was Winry's birthday and while it was a fairly small celebration, it was still a joyful event.
After Trisha, Pinako, and Winry's parents went into the back room to chat for a while, Ed and Al decided it was time to give Winry her present.
"So, where is it?" Winry asked curiously, looking around.
Ed glanced at his brother. "Ready, Al?"
Al nodded, and then opened the book he had brought with him to the party.
"Is that book the present?" Winry asked, looking slightly crestfallen.
Ed shook his head. "Nope, that's not it."
Using the book as a reference, Ed began to draw a transmutation circle on the floor while Al held it up for him to see.
"Hey, I'm bored," Winry complained.
"Just one more second, Winry," said Al.
A short time later, Ed completed the circle. He turned to Winry. "All right, we're done. What do you think, Winry?"
Winry looked at the circle with a frown. "I think that's a lousy present."
Ed laughed. "That's not the present. It's just an outline for one."
Al stepped forward and placed some raw materials he'd also brought with him in the center of the circle.
Ed and Al placed their hands on the circle and it began to glow with alchemic power.
Winry's eyes widened.
The material in the center of the circle began to shift and move as if being molded by a skilled potter. As the transmutation came close to completion, it took on a humanoid shape.
However, the sight of the almost complete transmutation frightened Winry, and she began to cry.
"Winry, what's wrong?" Al asked, a look of concern crossing his face. The two brothers left the circle and ran over to Winry's side.
Winry's crying attracted the attention of the adults and before long, all four of them came rushing into the room.
"What's going on here?" Pinako asked.
Trisha stepped forward and took in the scene. When her gaze came to rest on the transmutation circle, her eyes widened. She glanced back at the three children and saw her boys looking at her with uncertain expressions.
"Perhaps you two should wait outside for a few minutes," Trisha said gently.
"Okay," the brothers said, and slowly made their way to the door.
"Now, Winry," Winry's mother said, "What happened?"
Winry sniffled. "Ed and Al made that circle, and then they made a ghost appear out of nowhere. It was really scary!"
Pinako walked toward the transmutation circle and bent down to pick up what Ed and Al had made. "Well, it doesn't look much like a ghost to me, Winry."
Winry looked up and was surprised to see that Pinako was holding a doll, and it didn't look frightening at all. She rubbed her eyes. "That's what they made?"
"So it would seem." Pinako stared at the circle. "And it looks as though they used alchemy to do it."
Winry's father looked surprised. "They can use alchemy? At their age? Well, that's rather surprising."
He took the doll and held it out to his daughter. "They weren't trying to scare you, Winry," he said gently.
Winry's mother smiled. "Edward and Alphonse were just trying to do something special for you. That's all."
Winry stared at her parents, and then slowly reached out for the doll. After inspecting it closely and seeming satisfied that it wasn't actually a ghost, she held it closely.
"I'm sorry about this," Trisha said. "It was a misunderstanding."
"But no mistake of talent," Pinako said, eyeing the doll appraisingly. "You know, I've found that even the most gifted folks often give up before they do anything of real merit. But your boys have one heck of a start."
Trisha nodded. "I know, it's stunning. But they shouldn't know anything about alchemy."
Pinako shrugged. "Well they are his sons, after all."
A few minutes later, Trisha walked outside to where Ed and Al were sitting.
She smiled at them. "Winry's still a little spooked, but I think we managed to calm her down. In any case, it's getting rather late, so we'd better head back."
The two boys nodded. "Okay."
As they began to walk back to their house, Trisha noticed the book Al was carrying.
"Can I see that book?"
Al looked up at her, his face slightly nervous. "Uh, sure."
He handed it up to her, and she flipped through a few pages.
She glanced down curiously at her sons. "Okay, boys, no secrets. When did your dad teach you alchemy?"
Ed scoffed. "How can we learn from somebody who's never here?"
"We learned it from his book," Al said earnestly.
Trisha looked surprised. "You mean, you really understood it on your own?"
Ed and Al glanced at each other, and then simultaneously said, "Yeah, more or less."
Ed's expression became more worried. "So, are you upset with us?"
Trisha smiled. "You mean for using alchemy? No, Ed, I'm proud. I think I'll brag to everyone I know."
The boys' faces lit up, pleased that they had done something to make their mother happy.
From there, they dove more and more into the science of alchemy. The more they learned, the more their mom smiled. Winry was also impressed once she got over her initial shock, and for a while, the three children had a relatively happy and carefree childhood.
But the Elrics' father's absence still put a damper on things and while Winry got to see both of her parents much of the time, they also had to do a fair amount of traveling for their work and she missed them greatly whenever they were gone.
One day, they didn't come back when they were supposed to. A few days later, they found out why.
Al looked at Winry in disbelief. "What do you mean 'dead'?"
Winry paused in-between her sobs to give Al an exacerbated glare. "Don't be stupid, Al! They're plain dead. My mom and dad are dead!"
She rested her head back down on the table, sobbing into her arms.
Pinako's hands were shaking, the crumpled letter with the dreadful news held in her right hand.
"But, how?" Ed asked. "I thought they were just doctors."
Winry sniffled. "They went to be surgeons for the war in Ishval. There was a surprise attack."
Ed and Al glanced at each other then back at Winry, unsure of what to say.
"Winry…" Al slowly walked toward her. "Our dad's gone too, you know, but we make it okay."
Winry glared at him. "Shut up, you idiot! Your dad just ran off! My parents are both dead, they can't ever come back!"
"That's not necessarily true," Ed said quietly. "I read it in a book. There's this artificially made thing called a homunculus. It's sort of a living doll, without a mind to begin with. But some scholars believe that with alchemy, if you're willing to give up enough—"
"That's enough!" Pinako said sharply. "There'll be no talking like that in this house, you understand me? What you're talking of is strictly forbidden. Alchemy is not some magic, end-all answer to everything. That's why we automail engineers exist."
Ed scowled. "Backwards old bat," he muttered under his breath.
As they made their way back home, both brothers remained subdued. "You know, Winry's right," Ed said seriously. "She's already lost more than we ever will."
"Poor Winry," Al said sadly. "Can you imagine how that'd be?"
Ed froze, and looked up to see his mother outside in their front yard. She raised a hand in greeting.
Overcome with emotion, the two brothers ran to her and hugged her.
Trisha looked at the two boys in surprise. "What's the matter with you two? Come on, Ed, even you? My little man? What could be so bad?"
Ed sniffled. "Winry's parents are dead."
Trisha's eyes widened. "What?"
Al looked up at her. "There was a surprise attack, and now they're both gone."
Trisha put a hand over her mouth, her expression becoming shocked and horrified.
Ed clutched his mother more tightly. "And, we were just thinking how it would feel if you were gone too, and…"
Trisha knelt down and hugged her two boys. "I see. Well, I'm sure Winry will need all the support she can get right now. But don't you worry. I'm not planning to go anywhere. I promise."
A few months later, things had returned to a sense of normalcy. Winry eventually became relatively happy again, and the brothers continued to study alchemy.
Then, it all fell apart.
"Come on, Al!" Ed taunted. "You couldn't beat a snail with a broken leg!"
The two boys ran up to their house and opened the door. "Hi, Mom!" Ed called out. "Sorry we're late!"
When she didn't respond, Ed frowned. "Mom?" Then he noticed her collapsed on the floor, and he became panicked.
"Mother!" Al cried.
A short while later, a doctor arrived to check on her, and the prognosis was not good.
"We'll just have to wait." He looked seriously at the two boys. "I can tell you this isn't some sickness she contracted yesterday. She must have been dealing with this for years, not telling anyone."
Ed clenched his fists. "Mom…"
A week passed, and Trisha's condition only worsened. The boys had to watch in misery as she slowly slipped away from them.
At the end of the week, she looked carefully at her two sons.
"Your dad… He left us some money. I've never touched it. I was saving it for you boys. Use it, and take care of each other."
Ed smiled weakly. "Don't be silly. We'll use it with you."
She smiled warmly. "I'm so proud of you boys. Your beautiful alchemy…it reminded me of his."
She looked at them sadly. "When you see your father, tell him I'm sorry that I couldn't keep my promise to him."
She closed her eyes. "And…I'm sorry…I couldn't keep my promise…to you."
The hand that the brothers were holding went limp, and she breathed no more.
"Mom?" Ed said, tears in his eyes. "Mom!"
And that was it. The three children on the edge of Resembol were now orphans, and the future seemed frightening and uncertain.
After the somber affair that was Trisha Elric's funeral, Ed and Al stayed at her grave for a long time.
Al wiped his eyes. "Brother, I'm hungry. And I'm cold, too."
He looked at his older brother. "How are we gonna do this? How are we gonna live without her?"
Ed stood up and stared at the grave with a look of determination.
"We're not, Al. We're going to bring her back."
Author's Note: So let me clarify what this story is going to be. During this past year (2015) I watched both FMA shows for the first time, and I greatly enjoyed both, particularly Brotherhood. However, neither was perfect, and there were a number of things I felt that could have been better. Brotherhood had a rather mediocre beginning, and there were quite a number of interesting ideas in the first show that were not present in Brotherhood.
So this story is a rewrite of the series that will take aspects of both shows and put them together to create what is (hopefully) the best of both worlds.
Now, there are a few things to keep in mind. The overall plot will be most similar to that of Brotherhood, as I think Brotherhood had the stronger story. Characters that were exclusive to the first anime will appear here, but their backstory and character development will be tweaked to fit into Brotherhood's world.
The sequence of events will be presented in chronological order, at least where the Elric brothers are concerned. Also, I will attempt to maintain weekly updates, but I cannot guarantee this in the long term.
With all that in mind, I hope you enjoy this story, and thanks for reading.
Edit: I just got a beta reader to look through and proofread the different chapters. Thanks for the help Belletrist Word Salad.
Edit 2: This story has been done for a while, and after taking a break from fanfiction I'm going through and making a few edits to this story. Nothing too major, but I would like to polish it up a bit. This chapter didn't change much, and most probably won't change a whole lot, but some may have some more noticeable changes. Thanks again for reading.