Disclaimer: none of these characters belong to me and I'm not making any money from this story.
This has been sitting on my computer for God knows how long, gaining a scene here and there. It's set post Age of Ultron in the MCU and is AU after/during Ed's final transmutation. Please review to let me know what you think, if there's enough interest, I'll keep working on it. Thanks and happy reading!
Clint swore as he knocked a grenade out of the air with an arrow and turned for the next shot, bracing for the shock-wave. The orange light played over the concrete roof and Clint shot again, at a living target this time. Hit. The battlefield raged around him in a mess of chaos, action and reaction, everything moving. Clint knocked an arrow and let it fly, ever true, every part of his body still except one hand, two fingers. He aimed and shot, aimed and shot, his mind whirring with calculations, observations—
"Behind you, Cap."
Steve took out the Hydra agent attempting to surprise him with ease and finished with a quick salute in Clint's direction.
Suddenly, the very air was charged and every hair on the archer's body stood straight up. Clint spun around at a deafening, all-encompassing thrum of power from behind him. He just caught a glimpse of the pillar of blue light coming down from the heavens before it disappeared, leaving two figures in a street a few blocks away.
"That Thor?" Rogers said, just as Stark filled the com link himself.
"Holy shit, two guys just fell from the sky," Stark exclaimed. "You seeing this, Barton?"
"Seeing. Still working on believing."
"Not Thor, then?" Captain America asked.
"Negative. There're two of them, both blond. One's pretty beat up, I think the other one's dead. They're not Asgardians."
"Last I checked, you weren't an expert on Asgard, Stark. How do you know?" Sam chimed in.
"They don't come in pint-size, Bird-Brain."
"Natasha?" Steve asked over Sam's sputtering at "Bird Brain."
Clint tracked his partner as she fought her way toward the blond figures through the remains of the forces that had been inhabiting a Hydra lab just a few hours ago. There weren't many left, but they had inflicted some heavy damage on the handful of city blocks in which the Avengers had kept them contained. A few buildings were in danger of collapse and Clint desperately hoped the civilians had been smart for once and gotten out of the area.
The live blond was too busy emptying the contents of his stomach to notice Natasha's approach.
"Shit," Clint breathed as the blond's head snapped up. "Tasha, get out of there!"
But it was too late. Clint ran to the edge of the roof and jumped across the alley to the next one.
"On my way. What's going on?"
"He's fighting," Clint said tightly, making another jump.
The blond was pulling walls up from the fucking ground, tearing down pieces of buildings to toss at Natasha, never letting her get close enough to make contact. She'd already taken several hard hits.
"Use your fucking gun, Nat!"
"He's protecting the other one," Nat answered, breathing heavily as she dodged a chunk of brick wall. "He's scared, Clint."
"Funny, cause it kinda looks like he's trying to kill you!" Clint shouted.
"He doesn't speak English. Do you have a tranq arrow?"
Clint grunted the affirmative.
"I'll play distraction then," Steve added, approving Natasha's half-baked plan without qualm.
10 minutes earlier
"Where's your toll?" the creepy little being asked with that sick, ever-present humor.
Edward Elric took a deep breath and forced his mouth into a grin wide enough to match Truth's, willing with all his might for this to work.
"Right there," he said jabbing his thumb over his shoulder toward the portal. "My portal of truth."
For an instant, he thought his hypothesis was right.
Then Truth laughed. No. Nonononono, please, no.
"It never ceases to amaze me how stupid humans are, I had hope for you, Mr. Alchemist."
"It's my portal of truth! It's mine to give!" It has to be, it has to be.
"Well, yes. But I like equivalent trades, Mr. Alchemist. An alchemist's portal of truth is tethered to their very being, you'd be dead within the month."
Ed felt as though he'd been impaled again, this time through the heart. He'd never get to see Al grow up. Probably never be able to see him healthy again. He swallowed hard and opened his mouth to reply.
"I'll do it anyw-"
"Wait just a moment, Mr. Alchemist, I have a proposition for you."
His surprise must have shown, because Truth laughed again.
"One of your kind managed to escape into another area of the world, and is about to cause some trouble. I need someone to deal with him and you've shown yourself to be acceptable at catching criminals. Call it a favor. The favor plus your right arm will get you your brother's body and soul plus two tickets back to Amestris when it's finished. I'll even return your automail. What do you say?"
Ed mentally made a list of the pros and cons. Pro: Al's body back and both of them alive. Well, did it matter much what the cons were?
"I'll take the deal." Ed answered, feeling as though he was selling his soul to the devil.
"See you soon, Mr. Alchemist," Truth laughed.
And Ed fell. And fell. And fell. Faster and faster until he thought he'd surely be dead on impact… wherever he was going.
The air he tumbled through was pitch black and never ending.
And then he hit: feet first, stumbling to his knees and empting the contents of his stomach all over the surface he landed on. Pavement.
His stomach heaved and his head spun. He vaguely recognized the sound of battle a little way's away. But not here. He had a moment of peace as his digestive system decided to stop rebelling and then his head snapped up at the sound of glass cracking under a boot.
His hands clapped together without conscious thought.
Steve barreled around the corner to see Natasha leap off of ground that was attempting to reach up and grab her. The pavement made a fist where she'd been an instant before, the massive hand closing with a deafening, bone-crushing thud.
The captain made a b-line for the small blond figure, his fist meeting his face just as his hands met the brick wall. The wall turned on Natasha, bricks flying out like missiles. Steve wasted one instant glancing sideways at his teammate, and that was all the blond needed to recover. He was up and fighting, a blade having suddenly appeared in his right hand.
Damn, he was fast. Steve took his first hit less than five beats in. The man's right elbow came down hard on Steve's forearm, breaking his grip on the man's left arm with way too much ease. Steve shifted his focus to that too-strong arm and felt a sick sense of recognition. The man had a metal arm that was achingly similar to Bucky's. The momentary lack of concentration earned the captain a kick in the gut that almost knocked him to the ground. The man followed up with a swipe of that blade (not a knife) that Steve barely managed to dodge.
The man fumbled a block when Steve spoke, meeting his eyes for a moment with confusion before Steve buried a knee in his gut.
The man crumpled, his head smacking the pavement. He immediately rolled away from Steve, lurching to his feet unsteadily with his back to an alcove in the wall that remained completely untouched by whatever kind of powers the man had.
Suddenly, Steve recalled what Natasha had said earlier. He's protecting the other one. The man's eyes were wild and desperate and he was drawn up as tall as his small frame and injuries could manage, as if attempting to block Steve from seeing the figure lying against the wall behind him. His eyes screamed fight me, and realization dawned on the captain. Not 'fight me," but "fight me."
Steve put out his hands in a gesture of peace just as Clint's arrow buried itself in the man's left shoulder. Shock blossomed across his blood streaked face and he stumbled forward, falling hard onto one knee. He looked up at Steve with pure, unadulterated fear for a split-second.
Then he clapped his hands together and slapped them down onto the pavement.
The ground rose up and the wall came down in a cacophony of crashing and merging materials, leaving a perfectly round quarter-dome hiding the man and his ward from the Avengers' view.
Ed yanked the arrow out of his shoulder, relieved that it wasn't shaped to tear. He stumbled over to the wall, worried out of his mind at not being able to see Al in the pitch black. He laughed shakily when he heard him speak.
"Here," Ed answered. "Mostly," he added as his sense of up shifted and he almost fell on top of Al.
"Brother! What's wrong?" Al said, attempting to sit up. Ed pushed him back.
"It's nothing. I took a hit. I think it was drugged. Just a little woozy."
Al grumbled, but lay back down.
"Hmm?" he answered, his thoughts fuzzy. He couldn't feel his fingertips.
"Is there any way you could get me some pants?" Ed's eyes snapped open and he burst out laughing. "It's not funny!"
"No, no, I'm—here," Ed said, still chuckling but yanking off his mostly ruined black tank to use for material. He transmuted it into the longest pair of pants he could manage without making them too thin. They ended up hitting about mid-thigh.
Ed could barely stay awake, but Al was worse off.
"Don't fight it, Al. Sleep. I'll take care of it."
And Ed was alone.
A knock sounded on the dome.
Steve rapped on the curved wall as Clint tried to bring Natasha around behind him. She'd been hit in the head by one of the projectile bricks, but she'd mostly dodged, only receiving a glancing blow. She'd be okay. The two beings inside the impossible dome, however… Steve could've sworn he'd seen the 'dead' one shift.
He knocked again.
The wall crackled and a narrow slot opened up in it at eye level. Well, not Steve's eye-level.
The eyes that peered out were the color of molten gold. Not human then, at least not entirely. Steve held his hands up again.
"I mean you no harm," he said slowly, looking the man straight in the eye. The man looked back, seemingly searching his eyes for deceit, then nodded slowly. He jerked his head in Hawkeye's direction and said something in a language Steve had never heard before.
"Hawkeye doesn't mean you any harm either."
"As long as he doesn't mean me any harm," Hawkeye added vindictively, not looking up from Natasha's still form. "Which doesn't seem fucking likely."
"Not helping," Steve said sharply, looking over at the archer. "Put your bow down."
"Um, are you sure this is a good idea, Cap?" Tony's voice sounded through the com link.
"I'm sure." Steve looked back at the golden-eyed man, a promise in his gaze. "We are not your enemies as long as you don't make it that way."
Clint sighed and set his bow down.
"Is everything else under control, Stark?" Steve asked.
"Everything's ship-shape, Cap. Wanda and Sam have it covered. I'm heading your way."
"Good. Stay out of sight."
The golden eyed man gave him one last searching look, then glanced back into the dome.
The slot closed with a burst of blue lightning and the walls of the dome peeled back to let the man out. Boy. Let the boy out. He was young. Too young to fight as well as he did, maybe his species aged differently or something.
Steve took a closer look at him as the wall melded back together with more blue energy. He had removed the arrow. Blood was flowing slowly across his bare skin, dripping off his fingertips onto the pavement and soaking into the waistband of his pants. His shirt was gone.
He said something slowly in his language and Steve shook his head. He tried again, sounding different this time, and Steve shrugged helplessly. He tried a handful of times, getting more and more frustrated.
"Those are different languages," Natasha said roughly from her spot on the ground, following up with a series of coughs and curses. "He's seeing if you know any of them."
"Do you know any of them?" Steve asked.
That gave Steve pause. If Natalia Romanova didn't know even one of the languages the kid had tried, then they were dealing with a foreigner indeed.
The boy ran his metal hand, now sans blade, through his golden bangs with frustration, scowling, and Steve noticed just how many scars littered the young man's body. He winced as his eyes landed on the mass of scar tissue around the spot metal met flesh, unable to not think of a matching set of scars on another man… Those gold eyes were burrowing into his own and Steve snapped back to the present. The boy quirked an eyebrow at him, then mimed clapping his hands.
Immediately, Steve shifted into a defensive position. The boy shook his head and gestured to the dome.
Steve nodded uncertainly, but didn't relax. A clap of hands later, there was a, a carving, he supposed, on the dome. It was a very detailed image of an old-fashioned hospital room.
"For you?" Steve asked, gesturing toward the boy. He shook his head rapidly and gestured over his shoulder, his eyes pleading. "For the other one."
Gold eyes never left Steve's face as he raised a hand to his ear.
"Tony. Call Dr. Cho, she's going to have a lot of work on her hands."
Steve met the boy's eyes and nodded, willing him to understand.
He said something else in his language, fiercely this time, pain evident on his face, and Steve didn't think it was from his own wounds.
"We won't hurt him, I promise."
The boy bit his lip in indecision, clearly working on hope more than actual understanding of what Steve was saying. He huffed in frustration, ruffling his hair again, then turned around, showing his back to Steve for the first time.
When he clapped and placed his hands on the dome, it defied physics, the crackling blue energy following it as it was absorbed back into the wall and ground, leaving the spot looking exactly as it had ten minutes before.
The boy hurried over to the other being, turning around to look at Steve again, his eyes daring the super soldier to try to hurt his ward. Steve swallowed. All he could think when he saw the other alien was dead. He was painfully, impossibly thin, every bone visible, hair long and brittle. Whatever- whoever had done this to him…
Steve's murderous thoughts were interrupted by the quinjet landing in the street. Steve gestured towards it, wrenching his gaze to the conscious of the pair of aliens. Clint and Natasha were both upright and heading for the jet, Natasha leaning on the archer for support.
Steve stepped towards the aliens when the boy didn't respond. The boy growled, his body wound as tight as a spring, ready for a fight, his gold eyes flashing dangerously. The older man stopped in his tracks and held his hands up again. The boy stopped growling, but didn't take his eyes off of Steve as he scooped the other alien up gently. He waited until Steve started toward the jet to head that way himself, unwilling to turn his back on the super soldier while carrying such precious cargo.
Steve felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand up at the feeling of turning his back on this dangerous, hell, deadly, man. He walked to the quinjet first anyway, keeping his eyes on Sam's face, watching from the back of the jet, trusting his friend to let him know in time if the boy decided he didn't need their help after all. They had almost made it before Sam's face lit up with alarm. Steve spun around, expecting to see those molten eyes coming for him. Instead, he saw the boy going down hard, turning mid-fall to catch the impact on his left side, shielding his friend with his own battered body. Steve caught the pair just before they hit the ground. The boy scrambled out of his grip in an instant, bringing his unconscious friend with him. He tried to glare at Steve, but his eyes kept losing focus, finally starting to succumb to the tranq Clint had shot him with.
Steve held out a hand cautiously, still crouched on the pavement.
"Come on. I'm not going to hurt him. Just let me help," Steve said softly, trying to pour the meaning of his words into his voice.
Slowly, the boy reached toward Steve's hand, gripping it firmly. The captain stood, pulling both of them to their feet. The boy bent over to pick up his friend and just about fell over again. Steve put a hand on his shoulder. The boy shrugged it off and pushed on, lifting his friend with a grunt and staggering toward the jet.
The doctor took one look at the pair of blonds and started spouting out instructions to the other medical personnel.
The awake one hadn't managed to stay that way on the way to Cho's clinic, though not for lack of trying. Tony hadn't thought it was possible to just will tranqs not to work, but the kid seemed to be able to do just that. The almost-dead one had yet to make an appearance in the land of the living.
The doctors hooked the almost-dead one up to a multitude of medical machinery, and put the other one in the cradle.
"What happened to them?" Cho asked without looking up from the cradle.
"Well, they fell out of the sky," Tony said unhelpfully.
"We don't know," Steve stated, ignoring Tony's comment. "This one speaks a handful of languages, but I don't think any of them are from this planet. He's been trained to fight."
"Obviously," Tony snorted. "He took Natasha down."
"That was with his powers," Steve clarified. "His hand-to-hand is… very good. If he's as old as he looks, he's going to be a force to be reckoned with in a decade."
"But no super strength?"
"No super strength. But his metal arm is strong, and I wouldn't be surprised if one of his legs is the same."
Tony leaned over and rapped his knuckles on each of the boy's legs in turn, then shook his hand out.
"Yep," he said, grimacing. "The left one's definitely not skin and bone."
"How long until he wakes up?" Steve asked Dr. Cho.
"At least a few hours. Should we restrain him?"
Steve thought for a moment, calculating caution against how much the kid would fight if he woke up tied down.
"No. Make sure he can see the other one, in case he wakes up. I don't think he'll try anything as long as he knows he's being cared for. And be careful."
Helen nodded and Steve strode out of the clinic, thinking about some SHEILD files he'd been looking at the week before, concerning a certain prototype…
Ed woke up to a white ceiling and the smell of antiseptic. The big man really had brought them to a hospital, then. His body was curiously devoid of pain. He had sustained a multitude of injuries in the fight with Father, as well as in his most recent tussle. The big guy could certainly pack a punch.
He looked around the room, immediately breathing a sigh of relief when his eyes landed on Alphonse to his left, still pale and scrawny, but alive, beautifully, wondrously alive. Ed moved to sit up, bracing for the pain in his punctured shoulder and arm—that didn't come. A visual investigation confirmed the absence of holes, and a hasty examination with his metal hand confirmed it. The wounds weren't just closed, they were non-existent. No stitches, no scar tissue, nothing.
Well, that was weird. Swinging his legs over the edge of the bed, he made his way over to Al's bed, his right foot shivering from the cold tile floor. He noticed with a touch of embarrassment that his standard black pants had been swapped out for light blue cotton pajama bottoms.
There were multiple machines spitting out readings on Alphonse, but Ed only know what one was: the heart rate monitor was beeping steadily. Ed almost wept with joy as leaned over his little brother.
"We did it, Al," he breathed. "We actually did it!"
"Brother?" Al murmured softly, his eyelids fluttering open.
"Hey," Ed said, practically beaming. "How are you feeling?"
"M'tired. I haven't been tired in… in so long." Al couldn't seem to keep his eyes open. Ed laughed softly. "Stay w'me?"
"Of course, Al," Ed answered. "Always."
Steve walked in an hour later to see the gold-eyed boy curled up loosely on his side, one arm pillowing his head and the other thrown protectively over the form of the bed's official occupant, both blonds fast asleep.
He left the room quietly; his questions could wait.
"Ed," the golden-eyed boy proclaimed, gesturing to himself. "Ed Elric."
"Steve Rogers," Steve answered, reaching out his hand. Ed took it and shook, grinning.
"Al," he said as he pointed at the bed's sleeping occupant, then a few more words in his language.
"I'm sorry, I don't understand."
Ed shrugged, nodding. He pointed to Al again.
"He's your brother?"
Ed shrugged, grinning again. He seemed to find this whole guessing game fairly amusing. Steve opened his sketchbook and drew something he hoped represented a family to Ed, a woman, a man, and two little boys standing in front of a house.
He flipped it around so Ed could see. He nodded rapidly, pointing to the bigger of the two boys in the picture.
"Ed." Then at the smaller of the two: "Al."
"Here, I did some digging and found this," Steve said, pulling out a device a bit bigger than a smart phone. "It should help us translate."
He handed it to Ed. The kid looked at it, then back at Steve, clearly confused.
"Here," he said, reaching for the device again. He double tapped the screen and tapped the icon that read: random. A picture of a table showed up on the screen. He gave it back to Ed. He still looked confused. Steve reached over and tapped the picture.
"Table," it said. Ed looked alarmed. Steve tapped the microphone labeled 'English.'
"Table," he repeated into the device. It chirped affirmatively.
Ed tapped the microphone and said slowly: "Table."
Steve smiled, then pointed to the other microphone icon, this one labeled 'unknown,' then pointed at Ed, then Al. Ed's face lit up with comprehension. He tapped the icon and said the word that, hopefully, meant 'table' in his native language. The device repeated it back to him in its own voice. Ed grinned.
"Knock yourself out. I'll check in tomorrow."
Steve just about jumped out of his skin when he walked into the Elrics' room in the clinic to: "Hi, Steve. How are you today?"
Ed had an accent, a tinge of otherness to his th's and a handful of vowels, and the cadence sounded foreign to Steve's ears. But damn. It'd been less than twenty-four hours!
"Whoa! How much have you learned already?"
"Just a bit. English is… weird."
"Just a bit?" Steve managed. "You're speaking in full sentences?"
Ed frowned and said: "Sentences."
The device spit back an answer in Ed's language, then in English: "Words combined in a meaningful way."
"Ah. Yes. I am speaking in full sentences. I do not think there are any… I do not know word. Bad words? Not supposed to say?"
"These are words you do not say to children and mothers, yes?"
"Yeah," Steve answered, trying not to laugh.
"There are no in here," Ed accused, grinning devilishly. "Normally, first thing I learn in new word-group. Swear words. More fun."
His brother shifted in his sleep and Ed's grin softened.
"Al not learn much English yet. He sleeps. I teach him when awake."
"Ed," Steve started. "How old are you?"
"How old," Ed said, and the device spits back an explanation in his language, then in English. "I have sixteen years. Al has fifteen."
"Ah, that is swear-word, yes?" Ed laughed. "Shit, shit, shit."
"I'm sorry, you're just very… young."
"Have not been child for long time," Ed said flippantly, leaning back in his chair.
"Ed, you're sixteen—"
"Not child," Ed insisted, cutting Steve off. "Not for long time."
"Whatever you say."
There was awkward silence for a minute, but Alphonse waking up broke it. All of Ed's attention was immediately aimed at his brother as they spoke rapidly in their language. Steve caught his name once or twice.
"Al says thank you for help," Ed translated awkwardly. Steve did not get the feeling that Ed was not one to give his thanks often or easily. Al elbowed him. "My thank you for help, also," Ed added grudgingly.
"You're welcome, it's the least I could do. Where do you boys come from?"
Ed translated quickly for Al, then answered.
"We are from Amestris. Where is this?"
"I've never heard of Amestris. We're in New York City."
"What country?" Ed asked, after translating for Al.
"The United States of America."
Ed and Al spoke rapidly for a few minutes.
"We have never heard of this place. You know where Xing is? Drachma?"
"No," Steve said carefully. "Listen, Ed, I think we're a very long way away from… Amestris."
"…How far?" Ed asked suspiciously.
"I don't think," Steve cleared his throat. "I don't think Amestris is on the same… planet, exactly."
"Planet," he said to the device. The device spoke back in his language, then in English.
"A world; a large, natural object that orbits around a star," the device said calmly.
"Shit," Ed swore.