metisket: (fma ed)
[personal profile] metisket

This is a Dresden Files/Fullmetal Alchemist crossover I've been working on since...well, since Small Favor and Chapter 100 of FMA were current. I've chosen not to examine just how long ago that was.

But here it is! IT EXISTS.

Neither FMA nor the Dresden Files belong to me.

No one is ever prepared for Edward Elric.


Accidents Happen


It was a surprisingly lovely summer morning in Chicago, and Harry Dresden was walking along the lake, looking for evidence of fairy-related shenanigans, but otherwise minding his own business.

Minding his own business had never saved him before, and it didn’t save him this time, either.

“For the love of everything holy,” Harry demanded of the world at large. “What is that?”

“Envy,” said the blond kid who’d fallen from the sky. Even if he hadn’t fallen from the sky, Harry would have known he was nothing but trouble, on account of the I am nothing but trouble expression, posture, and general attitude. Also yellow eyes were worrying on just about anyone.

Of course, in the event, he had fallen from the sky.

It was hideously telling, then, that the blond kid was the least of Harry’s worries.

Sure, kids falling from the sky weren’t an everyday thing, not even in the life of Harry Dresden, extraordinarily unfortunate wizard. And walking suits of armor falling from the sky, while more on par, weren’t exactly common, either.

But the wormy thing. The wormy thing was winning the freaky contest.

“You what now?” Harry said. Intelligent commentary being just one of his many gifts.

“Envy,” the blond kid snapped, rolling his eyes. He was shaping up to be a real charmer, this kid. Or at least he was until he took a second to look around, because at that point, all the attitude disappeared. “Hang on,” he said. “Where the hell are we?”

“I don’t know, brother,” said the armor, because why not. Not that Harry was in a position to judge. Was a vampire better than talking armor, as brothers went? Probably that was a no.

“I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore?” Harry suggested. “You fell out of the sky. With a wormy thing. Is it my turn to ask what the hell is going on? Play fair.”

“Is this somebody’s stomach?” the blond kid asked the wormy thing. “Because if it is, that’s even more fucked up than last time.”

“Stomach?” Harry asked in an attempt to draw attention his way, maybe shake loose an answer or two. “Last time?” he went on, after that had sunk in. “What kind of stomachs do you guys hang out in?”

“Oh, shit, hang on.” The kid clapped and slapped his hands to the ground, then paused like he was expecting something to happen. Nothing did. “Not again!” he wailed, flopping back onto his butt and staring up at Harry like this was somehow his fault. “No alchemy,” he accused.

“Welcome to Planet Earth,” Harry said sarcastically.

“Where the hell is Planet Earth?” the kid demanded.

Okay, maybe not so sarcastically. “Wait, you’re an alien?”

Envy!” the kid howled.

“Don’t look at me,” said the wormy thing. “If it was up to me, you’d all be dead already.”

The wormy thing talked. Of course the wormy thing talked. Aliens, armor, and homicidal wormy things that talked. The day was young, but already it was in Harry’s top ten in terms of sheer what-the-fuck.

Well. Top fifty, anyway.

“Hey,” said the kid. “Likewise. If Mustang hadn’t been about to lose it and turn into Scar, Jr., I’d have let him kill you. But check it out, we’re all alive and here. Somewhere we don’t want to be. Again. Can we get the hell out and go back to trying to kill each other later? Cuz that worked out pretty well last time.”

“Fine,” Envy snarled, which would have been way more impressive if he hadn’t been a little wormy thing. “But I’m killing this human; it knows too much.”

“You’re killing him how?” the kid asked incredulously. “You gonna beat him up with your hand nubs?”

“I’ll take his body,” Envy explained.

“Is that really going to work?” the armor asked dubiously. “I thought that would only let you control his movements.”

“You don’t know shit, do you?” Envy sneered.

Fuego,” Harry said at that point.

What? It wasn’t human and it was talking about possessing and killing him. He’d had enough possession by evil things for one lifetime. Forget it.

That said, Harry’d kind of been expecting it to fight back, and it totally didn’t. At all. It just sat there and died with a sad little squeak. Harry maybe felt a tiny bit of guilt, despite himself. Monsters threatening to possess you should fight back. Wasn’t there some kind of rule about that? There should be a rule.

While Harry was having his mini-moral crisis, the blond kid stood up and stared at the pile of ash that had been…whatever…Envy.

Not Harry’s favorite sin, it had to be said. If it had been Wrath, he’d have hesitated. He was pretty up close and personal with Wrath. If it had been Lust, he’d have had a hard time. Envy? Please. He was so over that.

“No matter where I go,” the kid said thoughtfully, “there’s a goddamn pyromaniac there waiting for me.”

“Should he have been able to do that?” the armor asked. “Envy was based on a Philosopher’s Stone.”

“It was a really run-down stone, though,” the kid replied. “The Colonel figured out Envy killed Hughes and went ballistic, you don’t even know. Besides, if alchemy doesn’t work here, maybe the Philosopher’s Stone wouldn’t work either.”

“But if the Philosopher’s Stone didn’t work, how could Envy even be alive?” the armor countered.

“Good point. What was even binding all those lives together?” the kid wondered.

They both turned expectantly to Harry. He noticed they weren’t too worried about the fact that he’d burnt the wormy thing to a crisp. That struck him as strange; hadn’t they considered that he might go after them next?

Or was it that they weren’t impressed by eldritch flames? Because if that was the case, Harry found it, you know. Absolutely terrifying.

“Don’t look at me,” he said. “I’m winging it. I’ve only got the tiniest idea what you’re even talking about. In my world, the Philosopher’s Stone was the thing Isaac Newton got wrong.”

“Isaac Newton?” the armor asked curiously.

“Yeah, he was a physicist.”

“Physicist?”

“You know what? Never mind.”

“It’s a good word, though,” the armor insisted. Aw, how sweet. Harry’d never had a giant suit of armor trying to placate him before. “Physicist. It has a ring to it.”

“Whatever the hell it means,” the kid muttered. “And if we have to figure out what it means to get out of here, I’m gonna be really fucking pissed. So that wasn’t alchemy, whatever you used to burn Envy. Like a psycho. What was it?”

“Magic,” Harry intoned. Then he wiggled his fingers for good measure.

“There’s no such thing as magic,” the kid snapped.

“Really? Okay. There’s no such thing as aliens falling from the sky. La la la, you don’t exist.”

“You’re crazy, aren’t you?” the kid asked sadly, his expression suggesting he’d expected no better.

“Most people come to that conclusion sooner or later,” Harry allowed. “Although you got there fast. Who are you, by the way? Or should I just keep thinking of you as the kid and the armor?”

“I’m Al,” said the armor. “And this is my big brother, Ed.”

Harry looked between them. Big brother, huh? Yeah, he wasn’t touching that one with a ten foot pole. “Right. I’m Harry Dresden, Chicago’s finest wizard. Why did you fall out of the sky onto my city?”

“How should I know?” Ed asked, although now that they were properly introduced, he was asking with pretty good humor. “We were minding our own business.”

“We were trying to save the world. And overthrow the government,” Al put in mildly.

“The government is evil,” Ed said defensively.

“Yes, but my point is, brother, I don’t think we can really say we were minding our own business.”

“It doesn’t matter,” Ed insisted, “because now we’re on a different planet. Or in a stomach. Nothing we did should have put us here; it’s not like we got swallowed. And here’s some guy who toasted Envy without thinking twice or working up a sweat. That’s freaky, and it’s giving me the creeps.”

“Hm,” Al agreed.

Ah, good. If they found Harry freaky, then he was allowed to find them freaky without feeling like a wimp. “It wasn’t human, it was named after a sin, and it was talking about killing me,” he pointed out. “What did you expect?”

“You could have put him in jail?” Ed suggested, with an implied oh my God, psycho tacked on.

“Around here, jails aren’t prepared to deal with creepy things that eat humans. I know, because I have this cop friend who went through a phase. Creepy things get angry, creepy things escape, people get eaten. I frown on that.”

“We wouldn’t have put him in jail, either, brother,” Al said quietly. “We would have killed him, too.”

“…I wouldn’t have killed him.” Ed favored Al with an appalled stare.

“It wouldn’t have been a good idea to let him wander around loose,” Al argued. “I would have killed him.”

“Okay, that’s disturbing, and we’re discussing this later. But at least you knew him.” Ed was apparently under the impression that this made killing less bad. Uh oh. “And you would have killed him after we got home. Now we’re stuck here with no idea where we are, no idea how we got here, and no Philosopher’s Stone to cheat our way back with. This is bullshit!”

So, great. They were stranded. Stranded on a planet not their own. One of them looked like a kid. They both acted like kids.

Kids, all alone on a strange planet playing by rules they didn’t know. And yeah, maybe they were trouble waiting for a place to happen, maybe they thought it was better to kill people you knew than it was to kill strangers, but…kids. All alone.

Oh, hell.

“I think,” Harry said, “that I’m going to have to take you home with me.” Chivalry sucked.

Ed sighed. “Well,” he said, “at least we’re not wading around in blood this time.”

Certainly that put things into a sort of perspective.

* * *

Harry stopped to call Thomas on the way home, feeling the need for a little backup that would be as weirded out by all this as he was. This meant Thomas was waiting for them in the apartment when they got there.

The armor—Al—took one look at him and said, “Oh, wow.”

That was a pretty normal reaction for a first-timer and the White Court. Ed’s reaction was less normal, but Harry was already coming to expect that.

Ed scowled. Viciously. And it wasn’t like Thomas had the charm in high gear or anything, but he was pretty charming even when he wasn’t trying. No one should have been able to scowl at him like that.

Thomas was wounded by it, too. “What?” he asked. “We haven’t even been introduced.”

“Sorry.” Ed closed his eyes and visibly tried to pull it together. “You just remind me of a guy I hate. Not your fault. You’ve never stood around waiting half an hour to make a goddamn entrance while I was fighting for my fucking life and then said, ‘Oh, couldn’t you even handle that, Fullmetal?’ So. Shouldn’t take it out on you. Sorry.”

Thomas looked over at Harry with wide eyes, and the two of them carefully set that topic of conversation down and backed slowly away from it. Fullmetal, huh? No. No, Harry did not even want to know.

Mouse took this time to thump his head into Ed’s hip, demand petting, and wag his tail without any evidence of mistrust, so apparently Harry’d been right to bring the kids home, deadly sins, wading in blood, and all.

“Right,” Harry said. “Moving on. Thomas, this is Ed the alien and his brother Al, the alien in a suit of armor. Ed, Al, this is Thomas the vampire. Let’s all be friends.”

“Vampire?” Ed asked, scowl firmly back in place. “This world is such a freak show.”

Harry wished he could disagree, but he couldn’t. He could, however, have pointed out that this was coming from the kid with a suit of armor for a brother. He restrained himself, on account of he was trying to behave.

What? He tried sometimes. Admittedly not very often or very successfully, but it counted.

“This is a first for you, Harry,” Thomas said, sounding proud. “Demons, fairies, zombie dinosaurs, all that you’ve done. But aliens? And here I thought your life couldn’t get any weirder.”

“Yes, and that’s exactly why you shouldn’t think things like that,” Harry told him. “It’s a jinx.”

“That’s sound magical theory, is it?” Thomas asked.

“No, it’s sound granny superstition,” Harry said. “And I swear by it.”

“Uh huh. So what are you planning to do with the aliens?” Damn Thomas and his highly relevant questions.

“…Help them phone home?” Harry suggested.

“Do you guys even do phoning home?” Thomas asked them.

“I don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about,” Ed said in the flat tone of the extremely annoyed. Harry knew all about that tone. He got to hear it a lot, from all sorts of people. Maybe he should be keeping a list. Then he could add alien to it, alongside cop, vampire, mob boss, fallen angel.

“There goes that plan,” Thomas shrugged. Easy for him to act so blasé about it. He wasn’t the one who’d volunteered to house tetchy aliens.

“Right.” Harry scrubbed his face with his hands and collapsed onto the couch, gesturing for the alien brothers to sit. Which Ed did. Al, on the other hand, was too busy sprawling on the floor and cooing at Mister, who seemed pleased to have met a…being…who properly appreciated him. Harry could hear the purring from across the room. Mister was a traitor.

Thomas perched himself on the arm of the couch and prepared to be amused. Mouse sat next to Ed and made a doggy laughing face at Harry. Harry was in fact surrounded by traitors.

“Explain where you’re from, anyway,” Harry started, then thought better of it. “No, wait. I don’t care where you’re from. Give me your best guess as to how you got here. Then we can work on getting rid of you.”

“That’s the thing,” Ed said, leaning forward with an intent look. “We really weren’t doing anything. We have done some messed up stuff, but we—what were we doing, Al?”

“I don’t know what you were doing, brother,” Al said, clanking a little as he turned his head. Mister did not appreciate this lack of attention to Mister, and headbutted the armor. Harry could have told him that would be a bad idea.

“Oh, sorry!” The armor was apologizing to the cat. Al was turning out to be far more adorable than a huge hunk of metal had any right to be. “Um, I was heading to Central. I was just riding in a car. We were driving a little recklessly, maybe—”

“Wait, hang on, aren’t you supposed to be sitting in the dark with Pride?”

“About that…Kimbley kind of came along and blew up the hill.”

What?

“But it’s okay!”

How is it okay?”

“Can you guys worry about this sometime after I get rid of you?” Harry asked. “Please? Once you’re out of my city, I am all for you fighting your deadly sins or overthrowing the government or whatever it is you do. Away. From here.”

Ed shook his head and snorted. “‘It’s okay,’ he says. Okay.”

“Brother—”

“So while Al was doing whatever, I was underground in Central getting attacked by those Philosopher’s Stone zombies,” Ed interrupted.

“Zombies?” Al demanded, incredulous.

“I had it under control,” Ed tossed off like zombies were nothing. They were not nothing, and no one knew it better than Harry Dresden. “And by the way, the Colonel’s a bastard.”

“Brother…”

“Average day for you?” Thomas asked Ed with polite curiosity.

“Not average, but hell. Not enough to send us to where-the-fuck-ever. We’ve done weirder stuff and stayed put. Right, Al?”

Al hummed agreement and scratched Mister under the chin.

“Right. Zombie fighting shouldn’t have done this, and it sounds like Al was just sitting in a car,” Harry said, “which, as far as I know, is not enough to warp space-time. So let’s assume the problem is on our end.”

Thomas sighed. “This is starting to sound like an average day for you, anyway.”

“It’s weird that I haven’t noticed anything weird,” Harry mused. “Other than you two, obviously. Usually if weird is going to happen, I am the very first person who gets slammed by it. It’s the universe’s way of making me feel special.”

Ed snorted, possibly in sympathy.

“Well, be grateful while it—” lasts, Thomas might have said. If something hadn’t crashed into the wards and rudely interrupted him. It reassured Harry, you know, about his relationship with the cosmos.

Thomas leapt into the air to get a glimpse out the window. “Well,” he said. “I have no clue what those things are.”

“Al,” Ed called, while giving Thomas a suspicious glare. Admittedly, that leap hadn’t looked particularly human.

“They don’t have eyes,” Al reported. Al didn’t have to jump to see out the window. Yikes. “They don’t look like their joints are right, either, brother. And…remember those lines Lust had down her arms?”

Lust. Envy and Lust and Pride. At least, Harry thought, he’d only had to deal with one measly fallen angel. Well, actually a bunch of fallen angels. Also vampires and FBI werewolves and wizard councils and…

Yeah, okay. So memory lane was full of scary thugs. But it wasn’t full of deadly sins, and that had to count for something.

“Hey, pyro guy,” Ed said.

“I do have a name,” Harry pointed out, but he was distracted, what with finding his staff and feeling out the wards.

“Hey, Harry Dresden, Chicago’s finest wizard,” Ed snapped. “Those are Philosopher’s Stone zombies. They don’t like fire. Can you get rid of ‘em?”

“I have had some experience with zombies,” Harry said. “Because my life is that kind of thrilling. So I set a trap—Thomas? There are only zombies out there, right? No neighborhood cats or anything?”

“If there were neighborhood cats before,” Thomas said, “they’re halfway digested by now.”

“Thank you for that,” Harry sighed, while Al made a little distressed noise. Eurgh. “Of course, my previous zombies were just the normal kind, so this may not work. And in that case, we’ll be screwed.”

“Hey, me and Al aren’t totally worthless, you know,” Ed said indignantly. “And what about this guy?”

“Thomas? Do you feel like fighting—” The wards crackled ominously. “…whatever did that?”

Thomas started stretching in preparation. “Do I have a choice?”

“If this doesn’t work? No.”

“Well, then.”

“So our plan is to blow things up. Failing that, to charge recklessly ahead,” Harry announced, edging toward the door. “As Ramirez would say, it has the advantage of simplicity.” And with that, he set off the trap he’d woven into the wards after his last zombie experience.

A ten-foot-deep ring around the house burst into violent flames. Harry strongly hoped that the neighbors were out shopping. They didn’t hear all that well, true, but surely even they would notice raging fire all around them.

The flames stayed strong for about five minutes, but the wards only had so much energy, and eventually they died down. Harry flung open the door.

Strike that. He tried to fling open the door. The door, however, chose to ruin his dramatic moment by sticking, and he had to kick it for a while before it gave. Ed laughed at him. The kid had only been here an hour, and already he was just like the rest of Harry’s ungrateful friends and colleagues.

Outside, there were maybe a dozen human-shaped piles of ash, run through with…wires? Flat cables? Power cords?

“What,” Harry said blankly. “I mean…what?

“I guess fire really is the easiest way,” Ed said moodily, kicking at the ashes.

“Why are your zombies in my city?”

“Don’t look at me like that!” Ed snapped. “It’s not like I brought them here. I didn’t bring them or Al or myself or anything else to this stupid place where alchemy doesn’t even work. Okay?

“If you’ve never heard of this planet,” Thomas mused aloud, “by what logic are you speaking a language we understand?”

“By what logic are we even here in the first place?” Ed countered. “By crazy fucking logic, that’s what. In fact, maybe I’ve lost it and this is all a figment of my whacked-out imagination. Havoc always said it was a miracle I wasn’t nuts.”

“There you go,” Thomas said. “Maybe I’ve lost it, too. I’ve had a stressful life. It would make sense if none of this were real.”

“So why are we even worried about it?”

“We should just sit and wait for death.”

“Totally. That’d be the smart move.”

“If I could interrupt Philosophy 101 over there. Just for a second,” Harry said. “First of all, let’s have this conversation inside so we can pretend we’re innocent if the police show up. Second, zombies. Outside my door. Whether we’re all brains in a vat or not, they seemed real enough, and I’d be a happier wizard if I never saw them again. They’re from your planet. Do you have any wisdom on how to get rid of them?”

“Like I said, fire works pretty well,” Ed said, apparently unoffended by the interruption. “Check it out: they’re dead. But, seriously, why are Philosopher’s Stones working on a planet with no alchemy? That doesn’t make any fucking sense.”

“Last time, Xingian alchemy still worked,” Al put in.

“Oh, yeaahhh,” Ed said. “You guys have a lot of earthquakes around here?”

“What?” Harry asked, baffled. “No. Almost never.”

“There you go, then. But wait, hang on. Does that mean if we’d had time to learn the purification arts whatever…”

“If if if,” Al sighed.

“Fuck, this is annoying.”

“Start making sense,” Harry begged.

“I can’t make it make sense for you when it doesn’t make any sense to me,” Ed said, and while Harry was still pondering that, Al added, “It doesn’t make any sense at all. We really should have gone through the Gate, but instead…”

“Instead we just fell through the ground and ended up here,” Ed agreed with a frown toward the ash. “Me, Al, Envy, and a few of the Philosopher’s Stone zombies, at least. Did anything else come through?”

“Oh, that is such a bad question,” Harry said.

“Want me to ask around?” Thomas asked.

“At the…salon?” Harry asked, eyebrows raised.

“That’s right, Harry,” Thomas said flatly. “The salon has hidden depths. Also I’m a caped crusader. Not the salon.”

“Is that a good idea?”

“I am family, after all.”

Yeah, that was what Harry was afraid of. “I’ll go talk to Butters first. Then Murphy. I don’t feel we’ve reached that Last Gasp of Desperation stage yet. I haven’t even almost died.”

Thomas shrugged.

“Watch Mouse?”

Thomas rolled his eyes, because Mouse required less watching than Harry did, and all three of them knew it. “Sure. Maybe I’ll dust.”

Seeing as Thomas had always been a strong contender in the slob Olympics, Harry doubted that. But whatever. “Aliens with me. We’re talking to a friend of mine who works in a morgue and knows from corpses, so if any weird things have turned up dead, he’ll be able to tell us. Sound like a plan?”

“Cool,” Ed said, shrugging. “Not like I have a plan. Al?”

Al nodded, gave Mister one last scratch, and clanked over to join them. Harry looked up at him—way up—and thought sad thoughts about what he was going to do to the Blue Beetle’s engine.

* * *

“Harry! What are you doing—why is he wearing armor?—oh my God, what happened to that kid’s arm?”

Ed had shrugged off his coat for the first time, and it turned out his arm was…metal? Or at least encased in metal? “I thought he was just an alien,” Harry said, “but it turns out he’s a cyborg, too. Who knew?” The armor made a little more sense, then. Sort of. Not really.

“Alien?” Butters repeated blankly. “Cyborg?

“Most of the time I have no idea what the fuck you’re talking about,” Ed informed both of them. “This is your morgue guy?”

“That’s right. Butters, meet Ed and Al, alien brothers from we’re not sure where.”

“Seriously, aliens?” Butters sat blinking for a while. “That’s…different. Wow. Could I…could I see your arm? I’m sorry if that’s rude, I just—it’s really amazing! We couldn’t make anything like that here.”

“Whatever.” Ed held out the arm, genially baffled. Harry found it telling that Butters, confronted with aliens, wanted nothing more than to check out their cool biotech.

“Was it made? You weren’t born with it, were you?”

“Huh? No, what the hell? I lost the original one, so they replaced it with this. Wired it in, see?”

Butters tugged Ed’s tank top aside and stared at the mess of scars where metal joined flesh, and then at Ed with an expression of deepest horror. “Why would you do this to yourself?”

“What?” asked Ed, two parts confused, one part hostile. “It’s not like automail was what I was aiming for—I didn’t hack off the original one or anything.”

Al made a thoughtful humming noise. Which was pretty weird, coming through armor.

“I didn’t hack off the original one on purpose,” Ed corrected. He must get some kind of bonus points in his personal life system for disturbing the hell out of bystanders. “Not really. Anyway, I needed an arm.”

“Yes, but…” Butters gently probed at Ed’s shoulder. “This must have been…first of all, I have no idea how you managed this. There shouldn’t be any way to generate enough power to run this arm.”

Ed and Al both shrugged. “Nervous system energy something something,” Ed said carelessly. “I wasn’t paying much attention to the machine freak.”

“And you can feel things with this hand?” Butters asked. Ed tilted his hand in a so-so gesture. “Wasn’t that just…unspeakably painful to get done? I mean, I hate to think how jerked around your nervous system must have been.”

“You do what you have to do,” Ed said, then sent a sharp look Harry’s way. “Right?”

Harry was happy to see that Ed was of the opinion that they were soulmates in insanity. “Butters, I didn’t actually come here to show off the aliens.” Okay, that was kind of a lie. “Well, only a little. There was another reason, and it is this: have you seen any weird corpses lately?”

“You’re my go-to man on weird corpses, Harry,” Butters said absently, still investigating Ed’s arm. Ed had helpfully removed a panel so Butters could poke at the wires inside. Freaky. Wires. Harry took a cautious step back so he wouldn’t accidentally magic whammy the machinery. He felt like Ed might kill him if that happened. “Trust me,” Butters went on, “you’d be the first to know. And then Murphy. And then I would run screaming for the hills, because I am so over battling the forces of evil.”

Harry thought Butters wasn’t giving himself enough credit for bravery. Or stupidity, or whatever you wanted to call it. Harry knew he’d be right there riding the zombie dinosaur the next time. No sense in upsetting the poor man by arguing about it, though.

“No weird corpses, then. So far, so good.”

“Unless they’re here but not dead, in which case, they’re wandering around doing fuck knows what,” Ed pointed out.

“Gee, thanks, I hadn’t thought of that,” Harry said.

“That’s why we’re going to see the police next, brother,” Al whispered.

Harry was starting to think he’d like to keep Al.

* * *

“So,” Ed said, drumming his metal fingers on the Beetle’s window in an apparent attempt to drive Harry insane. “Magic. That’s a thing around here?”

“It is,” Harry allowed. “And yet almost no one believes in it.”

“Weird. Must be hard to find work, then. Guess that explains the crap car.” Tap tap tap, went the fingers.

“Hey, no insulting the Beetle.”

“Stop!” Ed shouted, and Harry reflexively slammed on the brakes, fishtailed a bit and then nearly crashed into a pole before coming to a halt. Ed, meanwhile, had flung himself out the door and run down an alley while the car was still fishtailing. Haha, Chicago at night, little kids running down darkened alleyways…

Harry jumped out of the car, too, and chased after Ed. He could hear the clanking of Al chasing after them both. Harry really hoped there was no one watching this parade.

“What the fuck are you doing here?” Ed was shouting at a smiling teenager who had apparently been, uh. Lurking. In a darkened alleyway.

Harry raised his arm a little, braced to throw up a shield if he had to. Be Prepared, that’s the Boy Scouts’ marching song.

“The real question is, where have you been, Ed?” the boy asked. “I thought you were working for me. I don’t like it when my people suddenly disappear—”

“Oh, fuck you anyway, you took off first. It’s not like I disappeared on purpose,” Ed complained. “And it’s the same as last time, ask Ling. Only this time, psycho over here burned Envy, so we don’t have a Philosopher’s…” He trailed off and eyed the boy speculatively.

“I don’t like it when my people think about breaking me down and using me for parts,” the boy said, raising a disapproving eyebrow.

“This is one of those people I’d prefer not to have wandering around my city, isn’t it?” Harry asked sadly.

“This is Greelin,” Ed explained with a put-upon sigh. “Sometimes he’s Ling, wannabe Emperor of Xing, which probably means fuck-all to you. Other times he’s Greed. Don’t even try to sort it out, it’s like the most annoying thing he’s ever done.”

“You’re working for him?” Harry asked.

“Uh.” Shifty eyes. “Don’t worry about it.”

Right. Don’t worry about the MPD deadly sin. Sure. “Is this one going to try to take over my body too?”

“No, he already took over Ling’s body, see? But Ling asked for it because he’s a goddamn idiot, so whatever.”

This was sounding more like the Denarian Nickelheads by the minute, and was making Harry super uncomfortable thereby.

“Why are we here, Ed?” the sin asked, apparently bored with the conversation.

“I have no idea. So I guess this means you don’t know, either?”

“I was…” he frowned, like he couldn’t remember clearly, or maybe just didn’t want to. “I’m pretty sure I killed Wrath.”

“Wow,” said Al, and Ed whistled, impressed.

“No, it—Fu is dead. We couldn’t save him.”

“Oh. ‘M sorry,” Ed said quietly, reaching out to grip Greed’s shoulder. “He was a good guy.” Greed allowed the touch for a few seconds, then shrugged it off.

“Well, you know how it is,” he declared brashly. “If you want an omelet, you’ve gotta break a few eggs.”

The deadly sin was trying to act hard, and failing. It was really sad to watch. Harry was not prepared to ever feel this bad for a deadly sin; it was kinda blowing his mind.

“Yeah, right,” Ed muttered, obviously not fooled by Greed’s indifferent act either. “Anyway, we need to get the hell out of here. It’s not our world.”

Greed lit up in an alarming way. “Not our world?”

“…That’s right,” Al agreed, sounding as wary as Harry felt.

“You mean it’s a whole world full of things you can’t find anywhere in our world?

Oh, right. Greed. Ha ha, awesome.

“No,” Ed said sternly.

“You don’t give me orders,” Greed chuckled, amused. “Jeez, I just have to keep reminding you and reminding you. I’m Greed. I do what I want, and I want everything.”

“I’m almost starting to like him,” Harry said. “Is that bad?”

Ed sighed in exasperation and Al said, “Well, you’re in good company.”

“Obviously you love me,” Greed agreed, sounding disturbingly like Ramirez. “What’s not to love? Anyway, this is a break in the action! I don’t know about you, but I could really use a break. Find me when you figure out how to get us home.”

“But,” Al tried desperately, “it would be easiest to just use your—”

“Not happening!” And with that, the MPD deadly sin ran cackling off into the night. Harry chased after him, or at least he started to, but then his arm was seized by a metal hand.

Harry’s response to being restrained was violent and, unfortunately, reflexive. He threw Ed across the alley without engaging his higher brain functions at all.

Ed landed like a cat, like he lived his life expecting to be thrown across alleys at any moment. Al, meanwhile, didn’t seem particularly bothered, but he did step closer to Harry, the better to loom over him. Seemed like they’d done this kind of thing before. Often.

Seriously, what kind of childhood had these two had?

“You didn’t need to freak the hell out,” Ed snapped, still crouched in a ready-for-anything stance.

“I’m sorry,” Harry apologized hastily. Throwing kids across alleys. Classy. “Reflex?”

Ed shrugged and straightened up. “Fair enough.”

What?

“But you don’t need to chase Greelin. He won’t get up to anything too bad; he’s not a bad guy. He’s just upset. He needs some time, and we can find him when we need him. There’s only so many places a guy like him would want to go at night. So seriously. Don’t freak.”

Harry was now worrying even alien teenagers with his erratic behavior. Wonderful. “Right. Less freaking out, more going to the cops. Got it.”

“Um, actually,” Al put in, still looming slightly. “I’ve been thinking about it, and…it’d probably be better if you didn’t take me.”

“Oh? Why not?”

Al wordlessly held his hands out to the sides as if to say, ‘Hello, giant suit of armor.’

“I see your point,” Harry allowed, turning and heading back to the car. “But I don’t want to leave you at my place by yourself when we have no clue what we’re up against.” Honestly, he didn’t feel like leaving a strange suit of armor unsupervised in his apartment under any circumstances, no matter how cute said armor guy could be.

“Your brother’s still there, right?” Ed said as they got into the Beetle, which sagged ominously under Al’s weight. “They can keep an eye on each other.”

Harry started to nod, then realized what Ed had actually said. “What brother?” he demanded, trying not to let the paranoia frolic out to eat his common sense.

“Thomas,” Ed said, looking puzzled. “Isn’t he your brother?”

“Why would you think that?” Down, paranoia, down.

Ed shrugged.

“You act like brothers,” Al said.

…Okay, so the new plan was to figure out how brothers acted and then stop doing it. It had been one thing for Molly to figure them out, but random alien kids? No way should random alien kids have been able to tell they were brothers.

It was a short trip from people figuring out the brother thing to Harry Dresden Witchhunt, take two. Or maybe three, or even ten, depending on how you wanted to count these things.

Harry sighed. He felt like he’d been doing a lot of sighing today. “Fine. In that case. We’ll drop Al off at home and then go check in with Murphy, who probably won’t know anything, but should definitely be warned. And then we’ll have to come up with an actual plan.”

Ed folded his hands behind his head and kicked his feet up on the dashboard. He really was short, wasn’t he? “Sounds like fun,” he allowed, grinning a maniac’s grin.

Harry wasn’t used to his company being more reckless than he was. It was unsettling.


Part 2
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