Notes: post-anime crossover vignette, Sandman/FMA
The man was so tall, Ed felt as if his very existence was mocking him. He would have brushed past him, ignoring him like he ignored almost everything in this shitty world, but something made him pause and look up.
For a second he met the man's eyes, and in that instant he saw the Gate – only larger, deeper. He felt almost as if he was being dragged out of his body, and he knew that if he could just fall a little farther –
"Edward Elric," the man said, and Ed was jolted back into his own body with a startling suddenness.
"So what?" he retorted dully. "That doesn't mean a thing, here." Somehow, it never occurred to him to be surprised the man knew his name. "Do I know you?"
"You are one of mine," the man replied, his voice deeper than oceans. "And I was in the neighborhood."
Ed shoved his hands into his pockets. That was a new one.
Similar to the way of dreams, it didn't occur to him to doubt what he was experiencing; he simply accepted. Maybe he was so desperate for any hint of his world that he was reluctant to delve too deeply. "I don't suppose you have a way for me to get home," he wondered offhandedly, looking up at the pale man's face again, trying to meet his eyes.
He wanted to see the Gate inside them, again.
"Your home is not within my realm," the man responded. There was no apology in his tone, or regret; just a simple statement of fact. "I am Dream, and your home, though far away, is not a dream."
"Huh." Ed tilted his head. "Nice to have my world's existence reinforced by people I don't know."
The man was silent, black eyes trained on Ed.
"Could you make it stop?" Ed asked suddenly, looking up at the man. "Could you take my dreams away?"
"They haven't brought me anything but shit," Ed said bitterly, looking down. "I dream too damn much. If I hadn't dreamt of bringing my mother back, none of this would have happened to me. And now, I can't even live in this world, because I can't let go of the dream of getting home."
"You are a very loyal subject."
"Well, I want out!" The cry came from some place deep inside him. "Just let me stop. I don't want to dream anymore."
The man frowned, and his frown was more frightening than anything Ed had ever seen. "And if you stop dreaming, what will be left of you?"
Surprised, Ed stared up at him for a minute, before looking down, a laugh bubbling up. "Nothing," he answered. "Not a damn thing. Doesn't that sound great?"
"If you left my realm now, it would only be to enter one of my siblings'. Despair, perhaps, or Delirium." The man paused thoughtfully. "I am loath to surrender you to one of them." He did not mention Death. All mortals arrived there eventually, anyway.
Ed looked around, at the gray, oblivious people around them, walking through their gray, dull world. "I think they have me anyway." He would fade, too, he knew, and end up just as featureless as his surroundings. It would have happened, already, if not for the hopeless, indestructible dream keeping him alive.
The man didn't argue with him, but he didn't agree either.
Ed shrugged. Pointless discussions, in a pointless world, all part of his meaningless existence. "Whatever." He turned to go, but a bone white hand on his shoulder stopped him, holding him fast in an unbreakable grip.
"I will not take away your dreams," the man said, and Ed's heart sank with the finality of the statement. He hadn't been aware of that last hope he had held on to, until it, too, was extinguished.
"But I will give you this. That man-"
Ed found himself rotated to face the massive façade of the university, his eyes instinctively jumping to a blond student who looked heartbreakingly familiar.
"-sometimes dreams of a young boy in another world, who is looking for his elder brother."
Wide eyed, Ed stared up at the man, who suddenly seemed to almost have a kind smile, as much as kindness could be associated with his visage.
"His name is Alfons Heiderich," were the last words Ed heard, before rushing after the student.
The pale, gaunt, dark-eyed man stood alone for a moment longer, before turning and walking away, vanishing into the darkening twilight.---