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Tsubasa/FMA fic: Part 6

Making good progress with the next few parts, so I've actually got a chapter up early for a change. ^_^ And unless anything turns out to need any unusually major revisions, I'd say I finally have a solid idea of how many parts I'm aiming for too.

Title: Catalyst
Series: Tsubasa/Fullmetal Alchemist
Part: 6/11
Summary: It's nearly always safe to assume that whatever trouble the Tsubasa crew wind up in, there's going to be a feather involved somewhere in the middle of things. And it's probably even safer to assume that where the Elric brothers are involved, it's never going to be the Philosopher's Stone.
Rating: PG
Word count: 1680
Previous parts: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5



They validated Ed’s guess in just about every room they looked in on that floor. The circles were there to be found in all of the major ones, usually carved into the wall near the door like some creative parody of a light switch. There were no other signs of recent habitation, however, nor any sign of any chimeras beyond the occasional doggish sort of smell. Finally, they returned to what seemed to be the main entry hall again, where, under Ed’s hand, another set of circles repaired a pair of staircases, with flights leading in both directions.

“Whadya think?” said Ed. “Which way first?”

Syaoran looked up and then down the stairs. It didn’t seem likely there’d be much to the second floor of this place. The manor was fairly tall, but from the look of the rooms they’d seen so far, high ceilings were using up most of the vertical space. On the other hand, the tunnel they’d come through to get here had been a long way underground and hadn’t been rising very fast. There could very well be basements below basements in this building; especially if there’d been a way in from so far down. When Syaoran was still looking down after several moments had passed, Ed made a motion which, had it been applied with a little more force, would have just about involved tearing out his hair.

“Yeah, of course! But we’ll look upstairs first just so we’ve been thorough.”

***

Deep beneath the mansion, a small pack of chimeras in a blind tunnel found the way blocked ahead of them, by an obstruction that appeared far too suddenly to allow them to stop without colliding so badly that for several minutes the pack was little more than a tangle of limbs and panicked yelping. Fortunately, the tunnel was not so narrow as to be able to prevent creatures as thin and sinuous as they from turning around (once those at the back had finally had a chance for some semblance of understanding of what had happened to find its way through their uncomplicated brains). The pack found its feet again, and ran on. There were other ways out of the mansion which could be found. And until they found what they’d been driven to search for, they would not be allowed to stop.

***

The upstairs area was in much the same state as the ground, with the exception that here any holes in the floor went down a lot further. The stairs brought them to the start of a hallway, from which doorways led off to a couple of other rooms. While Ed examined the walls for the now-familiar transmutation circles, Syaoran – perhaps against his better judgement – took a few cautious steps out into the hallway. He made it barely three paces before his left foot went clean through a floorboard and sent him sprawling with a squawk – only lucky that his other foot was resting on safer ground.

“Hey, be a little more careful, will you?” Ed complained. The noise startled him badly enough that he only narrowly avoided making a similar mistake.

“My bad,” Syaoran apologised automatically, pulling his foot carefully back up. “Any sign of the circle yet?” He felt suddenly very enthusiastic about getting this floor repaired as soon as possible.

“Not yet.” Ed sidled a little further along the wall, and shoved something unidentifiable out of the way with a crunch. “Ah, here they are,” he indicated the uncovered wall. “They’ve only been chalked on, not carved in like the rest. We were right the first time – no-one’s been coming up here much. Probably won’t be anything else up here worth hanging around to see either.”

It was just as they were turning back to the stairway that they both heard that familiar, whistling growl, and whirled around just in time to see the head of a chimera emerging over the top step.

It shouldn’t have been a big deal, not when it was two on one in their favour and either of them could have dealt with one chimera alone. However, the sight of it at the top of the staircase distracted Ed just long enough for him to take one inadvisable step backwards and shift a little too much of his weight.

The floor under Ed’s feet disintegrated. He caught the edge of the new hole with one hand as he fell through, but as soon as he did there was a horrible sound of creaking wood under his fingers. Syaoran threw himself forward, landed flat on the floor and just barely made it in time to grab Ed’s hand before the edge gave way and he disappeared completely.

It was a stroke of luck that Syaoran landed on one of the few patches of the floor directly over one of the supporting beams and strong enough to take the weight of both of them, though at the time he was far too distracted by more immediate concerns to be thankful – just gritting his teeth and hanging on for all he was worth. Ed might not have been very tall, but he was at least his rescuer’s weight, and the grip that had closed on Syaoran’s hand was painfully hard. The drop below wasn’t so far that it would necessarily be fatal if Ed fell on his feet, but there could well be a period after that landing where he’d wish it had been. It was going to take both hands and some work to pull Ed back up again, and the chimera – still approaching in a distinctly unfriendly way – wasn’t going to give them the time.

There was a horrible ripping noise as Ed’s glove started to tear. Syaoran winced and willed himself to concentrate. Without letting Ed fall he could hardly move, let alone fight, but there had to be something he could do…

“Pull me up!” yelled Ed, sounding panicked. “Hurry, the chimera…!”

“No time,” Syaoran had to tell him. “I have a plan. Hold on.”

Pulling himself up as high as he could manage, Syaoran gripped the edge of a floorboard with his free hand, shifted his weight and drew himself into a crouch. He’d have one blow from this position at best, and it wasn’t likely he’d have the focus to put much force behind it – he’d have to make it count.

By luck or instinct, the chimera was following much the same path from the staircase as he had, taking its time now that even its dim intellect had registered that its prey was disabled. It could spring at them any second, it was already within range – but it wasn’t close enough. Syaoran made himself wait – one step closer, two steps. The chimera pulled its lips back into a snarl and hissed at them through its teeth.

On the third step, Syaoran struck out at the chimera with the most powerful kick he could manage from that position, just trying to make it look as realistic as possible. The chimera bounded neatly to the side without the blow coming close to connecting, its feet touching down right on the edge of the of the hole where Syaoran had put his foot through the floorboard before…

..and kept on going down, as the floor gave way under its feet. The chimera gave one last painful yowl as it fell, then there was a loud thump-crunch sound – and then silence.

Syaoran would have slumped with relief, but he didn’t have that freedom. He shifted his position again, reached down with his other hand and finally managed to pull Ed up high enough that he could get a grip on something solid enough to take his weight and, with Syaoran’s help, scramble the rest of the way back up.

“Damn it!” Ed swore as soon as he had his breath back. The young alchemist clapped his hands together and then slammed them hard against the floor. When the reaction faded. Syaoran would have bet good money that whatever the smooth surface of the floor was now made of, it would survive a century after the rest of the house had crumbled.

“Knew we should have gone with downstairs,” Ed grumbled. Syaoran rubbed his arm – noticing for the first time now the adrenalin was wearing off just how much his hand hurt. Noticing also for the first time the way the light was reflecting off a sliver of Ed’s hand showing through the tear in his glove, remembering that odd sound when Ed has banged his elbow in the tunnel, and finding something in his head starting to slide into place.

“Oi – that arm…”

“It’s automail,” Ed bit out, pulling off the rest of the torn glove. “Don’t they have that in your country either?” The hand revealed underneath was made from riveted metal – intricate work, but painfully artificial.

“Nothing like it,” Syaoran replied in wonder.

“It’s not that unusual,” said Ed, too irritated to make that sound as dismissive as he was probably aiming for. “People lose arms and legs in all kinds of situations.”

“Then – your left leg too…”

Ed paused in surprise, then gave him a thin sort of grin. “You lot don’t miss much, do you?”

“As I said before, Kurogane…”

“…has good instincts, right, I heard you.” Ed shrugged and shook his head. “It’s not like it’s a secret or anything. Compared to what you know about Al, my arm and leg aren’t even uncommon knowledge.”

Syaoran knew he was pushing it, but he couldn’t help but ask. “How did it happen?”

“Let’s just call it an accident and keep moving, alright?” said Ed, tersely.

Syaoran took the hint and followed him back to the stairs.

***

Downstairs was what looked to have once been an old wine cellar, filled with rotting racks, the occasional broken bottle and a few decades of dust. However, in one corner Ed found another of those transmutation circles, which let him make a wide panel of the wall disappear into the floor. Beyond it, another staircase stretched downwards. Once again, Ed led the way.



On to Part 7

Comments

( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
grass_angel
Jun. 16th, 2007 08:33 am (UTC)
Let me say first I love the text for the add a comment button.

But apart from that, I am liking how Ed and Syaoran are interacting.
rallamajoop
Jun. 16th, 2007 08:53 am (UTC)
^^; Well, after that Heartless plushie post got more response than just about anything I've ever posted by a factor of something like ten, changing the comment text was pretty much a foregone conclusion.

This fic was all about getting Syaoran and Ed the chance to interact a little, it's great to hear people are liking those scenes. ^_^
grass_angel
Jun. 16th, 2007 12:26 pm (UTC)
I've seen your stuff on dA before while I was looking at the Artisan crafts. *oogles a bit at the poi stuff*
You're the person behind the pattern of the plushies then!
rallamajoop
Jun. 16th, 2007 03:28 pm (UTC)
Actually, you've probably been looking at my sister's account (risachantag, right?). The Heartless was a joint project between us - I did the eyes and the electronics, she did the sewing. I've got an account of my own up under the same username I use on LJ, but I don't really have a lot up there just yet.
grass_angel
Jun. 17th, 2007 04:06 am (UTC)
*goes to stalk*
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )

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