Al wakes up, restored. Not all the news is good, though.
He and Nii-san were going to have to come up with whole new equations to talk about what had happened to him and probably some new technical vocabulary too. The thought steadied him, and he smiled.
Back with his teacher again, Al takes up his studies; this time, though, he already knows some things won’t work.
He dreamed of the color, sometimes, nights when he woke up sweating and threw open the window just to look up at the sky and know the whole world wasn’t red.
Al stumbles over the clue to finding his brother that he was looking for, in a way he didn’t expect. (Continued after a seven year hiatus, I recommend re-reading the first two stories in the arc.)
Al picked an easy path, down by the lakeshore under the trees where the light rain wouldn’t get him too wet. Sensei was probably right. His brain felt so full it might spill if he moved too fast, and his thoughts jostled against each other. He was pretty good at modern alchemical codes, but he’d been reading much older texts, and if you went back far enough it was as much philosophy as science and every statement seemed to mean at least three different things at once. Probably more, actually, but he had threes on the brain; it was Trismegistus’ fault. And Salmon’s. Mercury meant spirit meant animal, and where did that get him?
Al visits home and tells everyone about how his studies are coming,
and Rose talks sense to him.
Al ignored the rattle of the train wheels to scowl over his notebook, certain at the bottom of his heart that his notes weren’t going to do him any good. Plenty of people wrote about the Stone, but as far as he could tell no alchemist, in four hundred years and more, had written down anything about the Gate. Given his own experiences, he supposed he couldn’t blame them, but still…! And Sensei must agree that his books were a dead end, or she wouldn’t have loaded him on the train for a visit home without a single book to his name except one volume of poetry he’d bought a year ago and hadn’t opened since.
Al goes to Ishvar, searching for answers.
Al sighed. Getting to New Ishvar had been simple. Finding the temple had been even easier; it was the tallest building in the city and by far the most finished-looking one. The next step was proving a little harder.
Gil does his best to make restitution and finds himself being drawn out by Al.
Gil had not been surprised when Alphonse mentioned nightmares. The boy had died, been hauled back by his heels and bound to a suit of armor, tramped all over the country running after the false hope of the Stone, been transmuted into the Stone, and finally sacrificed those years of love and effort to be returned to true life. Nightmares were surely to be expected. He hadn’t quite expected his new houseguest to start up in the middle of the night, screaming, though.
He certainly hadn’t expected it to happen every night.
Al settles into closer company with Gil and, as the year draws on, finds the key he needs—if he can use it.
He frowned down at the sheaf of papers in front of him, the delicately colored and carefully labeled concentric circles and the dissertation below on their interrelations. "All these accounts and explanations… they all talk about joy," he murmured.
"Of course." Alec-san blew on a carefully copied page to dry it and pulled up a fresh sheet of paper, turning to the next page. "They speak of the pathways to completion, to perfection, if you will."
Al frowned some more, tapping his pencil against his chin. If that was so, then why was it only fear that he remembered?
Gil assists Al and has a bit of an epiphany, and finds some peace with his past.
Alphonse looked stubborn. "I need to not be afraid. If I’m afraid of the Gate, I’ll just keep running away from it and forgetting and I’ll never be able to find Nii-san through it." The stubbornness shifted into the earnest entreaty Gil was far more wary of. He had fewer defenses against it. "Please, Gil-san. I do think it should be you."
Gil stifled a sigh. He wasn’t at all sure he was ready for the burden of that trust, but if it was laid on him already he couldn’t bring himself to break it. "Very well."
Al finds his brother. In a way. LAST CHAPTER, INCOMPLETE
Even asleep, Al could tell this dream was different.