Title: Notches
Author: Jordanna Morgan (librarie@jordanna.net)
Archive Rights: Please request the author’s consent.
Rating/Warnings: G.
Characters: Ed and Al.
Setting: Sometime during episode 28.
Summary: Edward pauses to reminisce on Yock Island.
Disclaimer: They belong to Hiromu Arakawa. I’m just playing with them.
Notes: Written for the prompt “Keeping Score” at Fan Flashworks.

 

Notches

 

Yock Island hadn’t changed at all from Edward Elric’s unfond memories of it.

Everything he could see around him was intensely green, so tangled and matted that he longed to transmute a blade and hack his way through it. The air could have been cut with a knife, as well: it was stiflingly warm, thick with humidity and the droning of cicadas, and smelled of rotting vegetation. Ant trails crawled over almost every branch and vine, forcing him to take care as he pushed the dense foliage aside. Altogether, the grimy heat made it one of the few occasions in the last five years when Ed envied his brother’s lack of sensations.

After the month of hell he and Alphonse endured here, Ed had stepped onto the boat swearing he would never see that wretched island again; yet here he was, five years later, retracing the long-overgrown paths they had once made in their desperate searches for food.

He wasn’t even sure why he let Izumi drag them back to this place. After all, she was the one who came looking for them in Rush Valley, and all but kidnapped them. It wasn’t as if they had asked anything of her this time. Even after she uncovered their sins, Ed felt they had nothing to prove or to earn. The brothers bore the consequences of their own mistakes, and expected no help in righting them.

Yet when Teacher demanded that they follow her, they had simply obeyed. It was practically an involuntary reflex.

And so here they were, left to think about their deeds like naughty children in a corner.

Oh well. If nothing else, Ed hoped the waste of time would give him a chance to settle the score with their old masked nemesis. Having seen the evidence Al found that—once again—they were not alone, he had set out to find the brute. There was nothing better to do here than take out his frustrations against someone who really deserved it.

Ed savored the thought of how surprised that thug would be, when he saw that the young boy he once tormented was now more than capable of handling far bigger and badder things than him…

Or perhaps better yet, if he came face to face with Al. One glimpse of his other former victim’s seven-foot frame of spiked steel would probably send him running.

…Really, though, what Ed wanted was to pound that ugly mask into the guy’s face himself.

As he pushed through a tangle of vines, the foliage was pulled away from a tree trunk, exposing small marks that were just unnatural enough to catch his eye. He paused and stared, reaching out to run his left fingers over the two rows of notches carved into the wood.

It wasn’t the tree where the brothers had marked off each miserable day of their old exile. Ed blinked, remembering the different tally they had used this tree to keep score of.

Look, Brother! I caught another fish!

Oh yeah? Well, by the time the month is up, I’m going to catch more than you. Wait and see!

Ed smiled ruefully. The two of them really hadn’t been so smart back then, if they still could have been distracted by fraternal competitiveness even as they were struggling to survive. It had taken far greater losses for them to realize that working for each other was what really brought out the best in them.

…Then again, a certain amount of friendly competition did have its place. When the brothers first began to learn alchemy, the desire to top one another’s achievements had done more than anything to push them both. Even before their mother died, they needed a motivation to stretch the talents they naturally possessed. Beyond the sheer challenge of mastering the science, they might never have worked so hard at it without an opponent to battle; and back then, when it was all so innocent, they found that in each other.

In a sense, maybe the rivalry that helped compel them to rise had also contributed to their fall… but somehow, it was one part of their journey that Ed found he couldn’t regret.

From somewhere in the distance, off toward the shore, Ed heard Al call his name. Looking up, he set off toward the summons. His hand released the vines and branches, allowing the jungle growth to fall back once more over the faded marks of the record the boys had kept.

Being there for each other would always be more important than who was first or best—and that was really the one lesson most worth learning from all they had been through.


© 2016 Jordanna Morgan