Title: (hehe...don't know >_> it's actually part of a giant series of oneshots called "Shattered" on FF.net...so these individual chapters don't have names) But the one word chapter titles were "Need" and "Star" respectively.
Genre: Angst, Tragedy
Pairings: None! (It's not yaoi. D:)
Characters: Mainly Roy and Ed
Author's Notes: This is old, and wasn't originally in two parts. But I wrote a sequel upon a request.
Warnings: Cliche deaths and paternalness. I'm a sucker for those things.
And...here goes nothing.
Alphonse was exactly the way the Roy had imagined him, the very embodiment of a voice that had been without proper representation for far too long. The brief smile had been Ed’s – wide, grateful, accepting – filled with so much hurt and unconditional trust that it made Roy’s heart ache. He was lean, less muscular than Edward though, which was to be expected. His face was more round and less harsh; there were no hard lines or scars to mar his perfect, new skin. The eyes, flickered open in a brief moment of life, had been a sort of olive, not the harsh, unforgiving gold like his brother’s, but instead deep, pensive, and warm. The most alarming thing, however, was the fact that the voice was the same. It was exactly the same voice that had echoed from the depths of a walking sin for four years of endless effort. And now, they would never hear it again. Because, in so many words, Edward had failed.
Roy would never put it that way to Edward’s face – never so bluntly. It was apparent that the boy was in enough pain already. Bone-deep, mind-numbing pain that left him unresponsive and hysterical, clutching weakly at the still form in his arms and sobbing loudly into a chest that was without the steady rise and fall of life-giving breath. The olive eyes were open, but glazed, mouth still parted from a first and final shuddering breath. Edward silently, mournfully called his name time and time again, chanting a morose requiem for the boy resting in his arms.
Because it didn’t work. It should have. Edward should have been crying in the sheer euphoria of an overdue reunion, and his brother should have been hugging him back, remembering how to use muscles that had been long since forgotten and recalling exactly how to make tears flow down his cheeks in ecstasy as they hadn’t in years. But not this.
Edward cautiously lifted his head from the bare chest long enough to unbutton his jacket and place it on the shoulders of his younger brother, who’s brand new body – Ed’s own design and creation – was beginning to stiffen in the starts of rigor mortis. He planted a light kiss on the forehead, and finding it ice cold, burst into a renewed fit of maddening sorrow. Sobbing into Alphonse’s silky bronze hair and choking as if in pain, he continued to stroke the face and hands, marveling at his own craftsmanship and scouring every inch of the unscathed skin for an area that would tell him his fatal mistake.
But lingering here wasn’t doing either of them any good. Roy decided to make the first move and slowly walked to the front of the curious crowd of military personnel. He gently placed a hand on Edward’s shoulder, began his shaky apology, but stopped abruptly when Edward recoiled as if had been burnt, turning on Roy like a caged animal and clutching Alphonse’s body defensively close. Complete exhaustion was obvious in every line on his face and every twitch of his weakened body. The unsuccessful transmutation had completely tapped what little energy reserves he had, and he had used the last of his strength to make a shell that refused to accept the soul forced into it. Roy again started toward him, but raw fear played its way across his features, and he only pulled Alphonse closer. It took all of Roy’s strength and training to hold back the tears burning at the corners of his eyes. But he couldn’t cry. He needed to be strong for the both of them.
"Edward, you need to let him go," Roy reminded him gently. Edward simply shook his head weakly in response, panting from the seemingly exhausting effort of dragging the empty shell of a little boy halfway across the basement room. And then again, more firm this time, "Let him go." Several soldiers that had been flanking Roy moved in to remove the doll from Edward’s lap, but he only let out a loud gurgle of disgust and repositioned himself against the wall. The soldier’s backed away as Roy snapped off the command relieving them from duty, seeing that he was causing distress, and at Edward’s silent prompt, Roy moved forward, tentatively placing one foot in front of the other until he reached Edward’s side.
"Edward, are you willing to – "
"It hurts." He insisted in an urgent whisper.
"Uh..." Roy puzzled over the unexpected statement for a moment.
"He’s not coming back this time, is he Colonel?" An unreadable emotion flickered across Ed’s face. It might’ve been the hope that had driven him for five years of pain, and it might’ve been fear of the answer that awaited him, but regardless of what it was – it scared Roy out of his wits. No man should have to wear that expression. There was far too much pain in those eyes.
"But there has to be a way! My arm! Take my other! Please, God or knowledge or whoever the hell you are! Take my other arm!" A desperate cry tore from his throat, and he frantically began tearing at his shoulder with the unforgiving metal of an automail hand as if ripping his arm from its socket would miraculously bring his brother’s soul back to the body they had sought for so long. Roy could only thank the stars that Ed had been too distraught to transmute a blade from his automail.
"Stop it, godammit!" Taking Ed’s automail arm with his own and holding tight, Roy explained as simply as he possibly could, "You know what happened. The shell rejected the soul, Ed. Alphonse is gone." For a moment, it looked as if Ed wanted to rip Roy limb from limb, as if he wanted to tear out those cold, obsidian eyes; but then, his bottom lip trembled piteously and he bowed his head, stubbornly refusing to converse with the man who had decimated his only hopes in a short string of sentences.
It took every ounce of Roy’s willpower to maintain his emotionless mask as the soldiers forcefully removed Alphonse’s body from trembling, unrelenting, grasping hands. The jacket, Edward’s final gift to his beloved little brother, was abandoned, revealing the full extent of Ed’s craftsmanship, attention to detail, love and care that he had poured into every beautiful inch of skin. He sobbed miserably as they pried his hand from his brother’s – he had died like that, hand in hand with his older sibling – shoulders shaking with violent, convulsive weeping. He groped desperately for the body after it left his lap, watched with wide, horrified eyes as they packed his little brother neatly into a large black bag, but was too weak to stand on his own to do anything about it.
Shouting his brother’s name, he attempted to regain his feet, but promptly fell hard on his stomach and remained there, breathing heavily. Roy approached him warily, falling to his knees when he reached his side and gathering him into his arms. Edward only blinked sleepily, tears flowing freely down his cheeks, and faded into an exhausted half-sleep, somewhere between peaceful slumber and wakefulness. It was a moment before the thick silence that seemed to envelop the two, despite the loud chattering and rude gossip that surrounded them, was broken.
"Is Havoc here, today?"
"Have him bring the car around."
"But sir, they’ll want Major Elric for questioning. Wasn’t that a human trans– "
"Bring the goddamn car around!"
"Yessir." And he left, leaving Roy to gather the fallen boy into his arms, part the frenzying crowds with several crisp, commanding threats, and wonder what exactly Edward had done wrong.
He slept for a straight three days, mumbling in his sleep and furrowing his brow. Roy was, through much debate, kind enough to donate his bed, and it was worth it – if only to see Edward with a contented, peaceful expression in the blessed moments before he regained consciousness.
On the first day, the knocks on the door came the moment he settled Edward beneath the heavy bed quilt. First came the military police, demanding to speak with the boy, then Lieutenants and Lieutenant-Colonels demanding to know exactly what happened. He repeatedly slammed the door, although careful not to be too loud, and dreaded the inevitable day when a General would come knocking, and he would have no choice but to allow the higher ranked officer inside. But for now, there wasn’t enough interest in the subject. Not many people understood what a miracle Edward had performed. But they would. And then there would be hell.
The first man who Roy actually allowed inside was Maes, who smiled a melancholy smile and asked gently to see Edward. Roy opened the door wide, and sluggishly lead him to the bedroom where the boy lay nestled snugly between Roy’s soft bed sheets.
"What are you going to do...when he wakes up?" Maes had asked quietly, dragging his fingers through Ed’s silky hair and gazing serenely at the shallow trails they left in the thick layers of gold. "It’s going to be hard."
"I don’t know." And he didn’t. Edward would be devastated.
"Gracia and I can take him. It might be better if he were around a mother...and a sibling." But Roy understood the underlying message of "I don’t think you’re any kind of father.""I think it would be best," Roy contradicted haughtily, "If he weren’t. It would only remind him of everything he’s lost." Maes nodded distractedly, looked for a moment as if he were about to cry, and then left, promising Roy that Ed would be eating Gracia’s apple pie the moment he awoke. Roy nodded tiredly and closed the door behind him, wondering when exactly, he, Roy Mustang, had come to be so over-protective.
Roy really had no idea how the news got around so quickly – had no idea why news like this was important enough to make the headlines of every paper from Central to Dublith. But regardless of the reason, it had, and when they saw the photograph of Edward on the center of the front page, crying and clutching his little brother’s hand, hearts everywhere went out to him, and the mobs began arriving on Roy’s doorstep by the second day. There were masses of people that Edward had helped come to wish him well – a burly mining man from Youswell who put a pickax through Roy’s door when he denied his entry, a pair of brothers bearing a lemon pie with "Get well soon!" written on the top in sloppy, white icing, and a pretty young woman who claimed that she should be allowed inside because she had had a love affair with the famous Edward Elric in Aquroya. Roy almost (almost) cracked a smile at the final woman, because he knew quite well that Edward had never been in love with anything but his alchemy texts and his little brother.
On the third day, Edward woke up. Roy was in the room at the time, setting a vase of flowers from a little girl in Drachma that Edward had pulled from a river on the bedside table. He had seen the look of confusion pass over his face, the caution that flooded his eyes, and he saw it replaced just as quickly by the same heart-wrenching sorrow.
"Hey," was all that Roy could muster by way of a greeting through the sudden tightness in his throat. "How are you feeling?" He didn’t respond, just turned over and curled into a tight little ball before his body was wracked with silent sobs. "Edward..." Positioning himself on the side of the bed, he reached over to touch Edward on the back only to be met with...nothing. Nothing. He didn’t pull away, he didn’t react indignantly, he didn’t even flinch. He just continued to shudder and heave silently, taking no heed to the gentle hand rubbing up and down his spine.
On the fourth day, he tried to get Edward to eat. He was again visited by Hughes, with whom he confided that Edward wouldn’t even think about touching any meal that was pushed in his direction. Hell, he wouldn’t even speak. He wouldn’t even move. It was a wonder that he was even breathing.
Hughes cut about half the pie and ventured into Roy’s bedroom with a determined expression. He returned minutes later to find Roy pacing the living room and smiled sadly. "He won’t touch it."
"Did he talk to you?" Roy ventured hopefully.
"No. He fell asleep though."
"Oh. That’s good." And it was, because he hadn’t slept in nearly twenty-four hours, but he needed food right now. Rest could come later.
"Perhaps you need a woman’s touch?"
"Perhaps I should just shove it down his throat." There was no heat to the words, just frustration borne of four sleepless nights. Maes contemplated Roy’s shabby green sofa-turned-makeshift bed for a moment before clapping him on the back and heading for the door. His parting words were, "The other half of the pie is for you, you know," which reminded Roy that he really ought to eat.
On the fifth day, Ed finally removed himself from Roy’s room long enough to use the
bathroom when he was sure his caretaker was face-down and snoring on the couch, but then
sluggishly made his way back to the bedroom and collapsed on top of the sheets, curling into a fetal ball again. Getting under the covers, it seemed, was far too much effort.
It was about an hour after Roy had tried to force feed Edward a bowl of chicken broth that he phoned Hawkeye, because quite honestly, he did indeed need help, or soon Edward was just going to waste away. She had shown up fifteen minutes later, ever the punctual one, with no gun at her waist. Edward was too delicate to be dealt with like that just yet, she figured. Later, she might have to whip it out to get him in line, but now, he needed tact and caring. And he deserved it.
"He’s unresponsive. I can’t get anything out of him and I can’t get a bite into him." She only nodded, entered the room with a tray of various foodstuffs, and returned two hours later with remains of a half-eaten lunch and a tear-stained face.
Roy didn’t get any sleep that night. The retching from the other room was enough to keep all of Central awake.
On the sixth day Edward was ill. Roy’s silky red bed sheets were stained with vomit and bile, and he coaxed Edward onto the couch before the doctor arrived. The doctor informed Roy that it was dehydration and went on his merry way, joking jovially that the weather would be awful the next day as he shoved a bottle of pills into Roy’s hand and requested that Ed drink more fluids.
And it was awful. The first snow always did come on Edward’s birthday, after all. And that day, the seventh day, the day marking Edward’s birth sixteen years prior, would be the most memorable, because Edward finally remembered his voice in the throes of a sickness he brought upon himself.
"Good morning, Ed. I made you oatmeal. It shouldn’t be too hard on your stomach. But I–"
"Stop it." Edward interrupted, voice scratchy, weak, and thick with tears. "Just leave. I know...I know you don’t want to...to help me. No one should." The soft glow of the bedside lamp caught the glimmer of a tear on his cheek before he rolled over and sniffled miserably.
"Edward, that’s not true." Roy set the oatmeal bowl aside and prepared himself for what was sure to be a tiring argument. "No one thinks that. Everyone wants to help you, Ed – it’s you who won’t let us."
"I’m only trying to protect you," he muttered weakly, turning his pillow over to press his burning face into the cool side.
"I’ve already killed my whole family. I don’t want to hurt you too." The statement sent two realizations rushing forth. The first was that Edward was blaming himself not only for Alphonse’s death but for his mother’s too, shouldering the guilt day after endless day. The second was that Edward was alone. Alone. Utterly alone at the tender age of sixteen. At sixteen, Roy had been worrying about who he would take out on Saturday night, not what he would have engraved on his little brother’s headstone.
"Edward! Don’t say things like that!" He sat on the bed and, taking the boy by the chin, forcefully met Edward’s eyes with his own. "What would your mother think? What would your brother think?" Roy hissed.
"That doesn’t matter." Edward lackadaisically slapped Roy’s hand away and settled into the pillow again. "I killed them. They aren’t here anymore."
"Of course it does." Edward didn’t respond. "You didn’t kill them, Edward!"
"Well then who did?" The question had obviously been on his mind for some time.
"No one! Sometimes, things just happen, Ed." Roy surprised himself by how confident he sounded as he denied every belief that he had held dear for the last fifteen years.
"But I didn’t...I didn’t get anything in return."
"Equivalent exchange. I didn’t get anything for the past four years!"
"The world isn’t a chemical equation," came the gentle response.
A pause, and then, "I wish it was."
Roy sighed and picked up the oatmeal bowl again, dipping the spoon into the thick, sweet
substance as he pretended not to notice sobs that had begun anew. Finally, "Me too."
"I’m sorry." Roy was again taken aback by how very blunt Edward was being.
"I...I miss him." It struck a nerve in Roy’s heart.
"I know. I miss him too."
"I just...I just...I just wish I could’ve been better. Then maybe...maybe I could’ve saved him." He dragged a flesh arm across his eyes, wiping away the tears before more replaced them.
"There was nothing you could have done, Edward. You tried as hard as you could, and Alphonse knows that, and he would never hold it against you," Roy chastised firmly, and a warm breeze wafted in through the open window, caressed Edward’s face, as if to punctuate his words – agree and reassure.
Edward seemed to contemplate that for a moment before turning stubbornly away from Roy again and adding, "But I want him back."
Roy wouldn’t remember how long he sat and watched Edward cry himself to sleep, longing to comfort him; all that he knew was that when he finally did leave, taking the previously scalding bowl of oatmeal with him, it was ice cold.
The next three weeks passed in a flurry of funeral arrangements, doctor visits, train rides, and interrogations. Ed continued to starve himself and Roy continued to will him to get better. More gifts came, along with more visitors, but Ed simply refused to take heed to anything happening around him.
Somewhere between Alphonse’s funeral and Edward’s birthday, a Brigadier-General arrived at Roy’s door, and demanded to see the alchemist – demanded to know how exactly he created a living, breathing body.
Roy promptly slammed the door in his face, surprising himself even as he activated the deadbolt. But the insensitivity that the man had displayed was inexcusable, Roy tried to justify the situation, how could any man refer to loving, caring Alphonse as "the body" and his poor, tortured brother as "the alchemist?" There was too much that he didn’t know. Too much that he would never be able to understand. And it shouldn’t have been such an outrage to Roy, he knew. He shouldn’t have seen it as such a blatant display of disrespect and ignorance; the man was just doing his job after all, and Roy knew how hard it was to balance one’s own emotions with the emotions that the military wanted you to have better than anyone else. But dammit, Edward deserved better.
Roy received a slap on the wrist – nothing more, nothing less. He had, after all, been promoted when he discovered the results of a successful human transmutation.
It had been a challenge – keeping Al’s body away from the medical laboratories. But Roy had a way of vehemently demanding that his voice be heard as well as a staff of five brilliant, faithful subordinates to intimidate, connive, and challenge the power of the higher-ups. Five subordinates who, given the choice, would have gladly exchanged their military position to see that the body Edward had worked so hard for was laid to rest where he belonged.
Alphonse was buried near his mother at Edward’s request. The boy spoke so little anymore, Roy didn’t have the heart to refuse him when he actually did, because he knew that if it was important enough to bother Edward, it had to be very important indeed.
"It would be cruel...to keep them apart."
So they set out, Edward, a small group of military personnel, and the entire Hughes family – as well as a little pine box lovingly tucked away in the cargo car. It comforted Edward, Roy knew, to have Gracia there stroking his hair on the train ride Rizenbul, even if he never said so, and Roy felt a twinge of jealousy. He had, after all, had to work much harder to earn Edward’s trust.
Alphonse’s funeral was short, but beautiful. A thin layer of soft, fluttery snow blanketed the frozen earth and left a white outline in the embossing of Trisha and Alphonse Elric’s gravestones. There wasn’t a priest, because Alphonse had never believed in those kinds of things, anyway. Instead no one said anything when the beautifully transmuted box was covered by fresh soil. Because there wasn’t anything that needed to be said.
Roy refused the Rockbell’s offer, insisted that, no, he could take care of Edward just fine,
and it might be better if he were away from the memories for a while. As Pinako insisted that Edward would be better off in their home as gently as possible, Roy reflected on how much meaning the past four weeks of his life had contained – about how he finally had a reason to get up in the morning, a reason to pour his scotch down the bathroom drain, a reason to care, a person to care for – he adamantly refused. And as he boarded the train to return to Central with the boy in question in tow a week later, Roy couldn’t help but think that Edward needed him as much as he needed Edward.
The first thing he heard was a gentle, lulling rhythm. It wafted on the breeze floating through the cracked window, and it was soothing. The sun on his face was warm and comforting, caressing his sharp features like his mother would have, warming them and bringing a healthy flush to pale, papery cheeks. And for a moment, he considered staying there forever, in the comforting state of mind that one assumed when they had not yet reached full wakefulness, and the mind still meandered sporadically in countless directions.
But the world had a cruel way of dragging Edward Elric back to reality whenever he found even the smallest semblance of peace, and the key scraping in the lock made him open his heavy-lidded eyes – albeit with extreme difficulty.
It was odd, the way that Roy suddenly appeared over him, and it made Ed realize perhaps his heavy-lidded blink had lasted much long than he anticipated. Because certainly, he couldn’t recall the man being so fast that he could be at the door one minute and hovering over him with a worried expression he had been wearing so often lately plastered on his face the next.
The world was shrouded in a silver mist, Edward marveled vaguely in the moments when he was able to pry his eyes open. He found himself smiling like an idiot as he absently fingered the soft wool blanket from Gracia, because it was the loveliest that the world had looked in an awfully long time. A nagging feeling that there was something that ought to be bothering him floated in and out of his hazy mind, but he couldn’t find the energy to care at the moment. Not when the silver clouds tickled at his senses, made him feel a beautiful, drowsy, giddiness that he hadn’t felt since his...since his...
Since his world had fallen apart.
Since his life had been torn to pieces.
Since his brother had died.
And quite suddenly, the gentle mist that had once tickled his features and given him a sense of joy, turned into a smoggy haze that did nothing but fog his vision and deceive his acute senses.
After several more minutes of trying to shake the fog clear, he gave up, and turned his attention to Roy who rapidly shifted his weight from foot to foot mere inches away from Ed’s ear, shouting something that, even in the close proximity, Edward’s mind couldn’t comprehend.
“Edward...lazy...you haven’t...since... left...hear...Ed...” Though it was fractured and disjointed, the urgency that laced the tone made Ed understand that Roy was worried, and not pissed again like he had been when Ed broke a good dinner plate on the wall two nights ago.
There were still grease stains in the wallpaper.
Edward tried to respond, really, he did, but his throat felt as if it had been filled with cotton when he was sleeping, and all that came out was a muffled gurgle that quite closely resembled a sob. But it wasn’t, Ed reprimanded himself firmly. It wasn’t a sob, because he had gotten past that, he had gotten past it, damnit. The medication was helping, the medication would help (or Roy was a dead man). And soon he would be living, really living, just like Al wanted him to.
But it was hard, so hard to live without him, and rather than getting easier, each day only made the weight heavier, until he was practically sagging and withering away under the enormous force of it.
“I...I can’t think...straight,” he managed to force out after Roy offered him a cup of something – what, he really didn’t care – and even though white starbursts erupted before his eyes from the effort of forcing himself into a sitting position, he managed. Because that seemed to be what Roy wanted, and Ed was feeling relatively amiable this morning.
Well– he glanced at the clock – this evening.
Roy’s expression grew dark before he covered it with a smirk again. But this smirk was not familiar, not the one that Ed had seen far too many times in his years in the military (with his brother), this one was jaded and distant, and it didn’t help. Because even if Alphonse wasn’t here anymore, everything else should be exactly the same. That’s just the way that it should be.
“I know...they...that damn doctor sure did drug you to the gills, didn’t he?” Edward only nodded his head gingerly, wary of the black and white dots that still speckled his vision. “I’m sorry, but if you want to get better...”
Ed flinched and looked at his blanket, “I’m not sick...” That made Roy frown, the corners of his mouth turning downward deliberately, slowly, carefully choosing a response that would avoid bringing harm to him and his already suffering home.
The walls around Edward’s little nest were dotted with wide holes – the size of a teenager’s fist, actually – and Roy had tried to cover them with paintings he had found at garage sales and photographs of his friends and family, at least until he could get around to fixing them (because Edward certainly wouldn’t – he had stopped using alchemy, it seemed). But it ended up looking odd, having those frames so low on his wall, and so scattered. There wouldn’t have been so many if Roy had stuck to his personal photograph collection, but once, he had made the mistake of framing and hanging a picture of the Elric brothers, smiling and laughing as the presented an enormous, gleaming trout to the camera. He put it just over the couch, where Edward had punched in a fit of rage the second week of the “angry, rebellious phase.” The doctor had said that it would pass, that it was just a stage the in the mourning process for young men, but Roy’s house was suffering, and it wasn’t even over yet. Edward had broken the photograph frame, and blood speckled the wall as well because of the glass, and then proceeded to punch the wall for the two hours with, alternating between a flesh and automail fists, until Roy got home, went to his side, saved his wall from further damage, and cleaned the tears off his face and the blood off his hands.
“Not all sicknesses affect the body, Ed,” and he tousled the boy’s hair and rose slowly to his feet. “How about we have a picnic outside, you and me? It’s a lovely evening.” Edward snorted at the thought of going outside. It had been an awfully long time since he’d been outside.
“I don’t think...that’s...I just can’t.” The sentence was tiring, and he flopped against the pillows again, exhausted, expected the Colonel...no...Major-General (different...) to sigh and attempt to force feed him a can of corn.
But the sigh never came. The spoon never came to pry his lips apart. Roy said nothing.
Instead he heard a muffled cry, a sob even, but Edward reasoned logically that it couldn’t have come from Roy. Because Roy didn’t cry.
It came again, a little whisper, barely audible over the traffic sounds outside and the hum of the radio within, and it scared Edward out of his mind. Slowly, so slowly, he placed his feet on the ground and tried to gain his footing. But the haze of drugs made him misjudge the distance between his mattress and the floor, and he tumbled to the ground with a startled yelp.
That was enough to bring Roy running from the kitchen, hands covered in flour, eyes puffy and red. “Ed? Are you okay?” His voice wavered, and Ed vaguely wondered why, though he could barely hear his own thoughts over the blood pounding mercilessly in his ears. Ed shoved him back weakly, determined to show the Colon– Major-General that he wasn’t helpless, godammit. That he could do it for himself even if the antidepressants made him hopelessly exhausted. So with a firm resolve and shaking limbs, he stood up, standing at a not-so-impressive, but confident height.
Before he could fully eliminate the nauseating sense of vertigo, Roy’s arms were wrapped around him, and the sickly scent of ashes and aftershave tickled his nostrils.
It was strange, having to comfort the man who had spent the last three months comforting him, but Ed did his best to soothe him with several awkward pats on the back.
“Ed...are you...are you happy here?” Edward puzzled over the question for a moment as his legs continued to tremble. He hadn’t been happy...in a long time. But he humored Roy and answered with a nod.
The man always seemed to know when he was lying. “Perhaps you would be happier...where the doctor recommended?” Edward let out a sharp breath and swiftly pulled away, looking at Roy with incredulous golden eyes. “He called me again today. I told him...I told him that you were...you weren’t better yet. And he wants to take you to the – ”
“Am I too much trouble?” He snarled fiercely, but behind the harsh words, he was heartbroken to have to look at the last person he considered family and think that maybe Roy didn’t want him. Just like everyone else.
And it was all his fault.
“It’s not that! It’s – I don’t know if what I’m doing is best for you.” But Ed was deaf to all denials of his current state of mind, because the pieces were finally beginning to fit. This was the way it usually was, and this was the way things were meant to be. Edward wasn’t allowed happiness, and it was only fair really – this was what he deserved for ruining as many lives as he did. This is the price that he had to pay.
So he buried his face into the pillow with such purpose that Roy let out another sort of strangled sob and marched out the apartment door.
By the time Ed had made up his mind to follow Roy’s example and head out the front door, it was dark, and the window pane was cool on his skin as Ed pressed against it to gaze down at the solitary figure on the back lawn. And for the first time in several months, he cared. Try as he might, Ed wasn’t able to forget that this man that been the first at his side when Al died, the first one to help when he awoke – scared and hopelessly alone.
So he began an awkward and terribly slow journey down the two long flights of stairs, mind racing with possibilities and heart beating rapidly at the thought of going outside for the first time since...since...
No matter. He would do it, and that was that, because Roy deserved as much, and he owed it to Roy. Still, his resolve wavered. Maybe...he should let them remove him from the home he had found in his superior officer’s apartment? Maybe that was what Roy really deserved. He stopped, cold automail making new dents and grooves in the worn banister where he clutched it, gaze sharper than it had been in months penetrating a wall across from where he stood.
It wasn’t until a little old woman that he thought he recalled from somewhere approached him and gave a timid tug to his sleeve that he pulled out of his reverie. Shaking his head, he looked down (looked down!) into her wide, bespectacled eyes.
“You’re the boy that Roy’s taken such a liking to?” She inquired softly.
“I suppose.” He painted his best I-don’t-give-a-damn expression on his face.
“May I ask why you’re heading into the chill in your pajamas?” Edward seemed surprised at that, inclined his head to see that he was indeed still clothed in a pair of Roy’s far too large pajamas. He lifted an automail hand to hurriedly redo the top two buttons and tighten the drawstring at his dreadfully thin waist, wondering if the old woman knew exactly what kind of boxer shorts he was wearing, already.
But she didn’t seem angry, nor did she seem afraid when automail emerged from the blue cotton at his sleeve. She only smiled, told him not to move, disappeared into her apartment momentarily, and returned with a wooly hat and scarf. After several moments of the old woman waiting expectantly, mouth twitching between a frown and a smile, he obediently bent over so that she could place the hat over long, longer than it ever had been, unkempt hair and wrap his neck in the folds of the scarf. She looked at him, long and hard, considering the prominent cheekbones and flyaway hair, the automail, the tiny waist, the battle scars, her scrutinizing eyes traveling over his every flaw.
Just when the boy had grown tired of the unwanted attention, her face split into a wide smile. “You’re just as he says. Stubborn one, aren’t we?” Edward cocked his head and narrowed his eyes. “I’m very sorry for your loss, child.” Oh. Roy had told her...how could he, that bastard! At that point, Edward had half a mind to turn on his heel and start an awkward way back up the stairs, let the bastard rot by himself in the backyard, but the increasingly aggravating old woman seemed to have other ideas. “He loves you very much, you know.” Shit. “I remember the day he carried you in here, worried out of his mind. Mind you, Mr. Mustang’s been my neighbor for quite some time now. When he was younger, I got my fair share of two o’clock knocks on my door from him. He was always drunk out of his mind, of course. But you seem to have changed him, you know. You’ve made him so responsible. I believe...I believe that he thought, before you, he had run out of things to care about.”
“I’ll tell you what I told him a long time ago, boy. Don’t ever doubt that there are people who care about you.” She turned to leave, casting one last look at his automail hand before disappearing into her room.
Before, Ed had failed to notice how positively lovely the tulips blooming in the well-kept flowerbeds that lined the garden walls were. And now, he wondered how he could have possibly done such a thing. Because they were beautiful, clustered together just so, white and yellow and red, sparkling in the dew that came with the fall of night. He felt the urge to pluck one that leaned into the garden path as he passed it, wondered how this particular flower had managed to escape the watchful gardener’s eye and creep into the well-trodden aisle of rock. But he didn’t because, he remembered bitterly, Al had never liked it when he plucked flowers.
“If you pick them all, no on will be able to enjoy them, Brother. Come on, we’ll transmute a flower for mother.”
The man he sought was seated among the blooms, absently running his hand over the petals, and humming something Ed remembered hearing a long time ago – though he couldn’t quite recall the words. “Edward. Go back inside. You’ll catch your death.”
“Aww, a lousy cold can’t be any worse than dehydration.” And he had been dehydrated more times in the last three months than he could shake a stick at.
Roy turned quickly to look at him, his eyes searching the depth’s of Edward’s own, looking there for the sarcasm and humor that he had heard in the voice seconds before.
When he found only the same dead, gold expression, he turned around, and sprawled onto his back. “Go back inside.” He said with a finality that practically demanded Edward’s retaliation. So, a faint flicker returning to his eyes, Ed continued forward until he was standing at Roy’s side.
“I thought you wanted me to come outside.” He fell to his knees.
“Not barefoot in your pajamas.” He fell back to his rear.
“I’m not cold.” And finally, mimicking Roy, he lay down on his back, limbs splayed unceremoniously throughout the long, dewy grass.
“The condensation will make you rust.”
“Will make my automail rust,” Ed corrected politely. “My automail is not ‘me.’”
“...Pardon me. Your automail.”
“In that case, let the damn thing rust. I’m watching the stars with you,” he replied matter-of-factly.
“Look. The stars are coming out.” Ed pointed, and Roy followed the line that his gleaming automail finger made to the first star pushing its way into the sky through the bright haze of twilight.
The cool air cleared the boy’s head, and the thoughts were coming faster, sharper now. Oh God, he was happy here. Because he had found a home again.
“Oh. I see it.” There was a long silence, long enough that the rest of the stars visible over Central all peeked out from their hiding places beyond the horizon and reflected in attentive, shining golden eyes. When he had seen every star, memorized every glimmer, etched the picture into his mind, right next to the stars he remembered from Rizenbul, he turned his attention to the sliver of a moon. It was covered in a thin layer of wispy clouds, its pinprick beams of light trying with all their might to challenge the intensity of the sun itself.
“I feel sorry for the moon. And the stars. Don’t you, Colonel?”
So curious was Roy that he forgot to remind Ed that he was not a Colonel anymore and hadn’t been for quite some time. “Why’s that Edward?”
For a moment, Ed stopped thinking scientifically and let his childish ideas saturate all his thoughts. “Because...everyone...everyone is so blinded by the heat and the brightness and the beauty of day that they forget night. They forget every day must have a night, and you can’t be too focused on the day...or you’ll just sleep through the beauty of the evening all the time. Everyone should stop to look at the stars, sometimes.”
The understanding dawned on Roy, and somehow he knew that this was Edward trying to apologize, without actually – well – apologizing. “Ed, I...”
“...I’ve been focusing on the sun too much, Roy.” He stifled a yawn with a flesh fist, and turning to his side, curled into a ball. “I need to...watch the stars more often.” He teetered on the edge of a sleep that he had been tempted to succumb to since waking in the afternoon with the sun on his face. But before letting unconsciousness take him, he listened, strained his ears, and heard his little brother beside him – whispering a name for a star he swore had not been there the night before, and laughing, a gentle, tinkling laugh, as he wondered why anyone would make a constellation that was shaped like a spoon. And then he heard himself responding, “You’re a dope, Al! But I love you.”
“You’re an idiot Roy.” The second half hung unspoken in the air, but even so – Roy knew it was there.
“Yeah? You too.” He smiled softly as Roy patted him gently on the head, and then Ed fell asleep, silver streaks of moonlight glinting off of golden hair that hung limp around his lax face – and making Edward Elric, the Fullmetal Alchemist, look like an angel.
The next day, Roy came home from work surprised to find Edward had restored his den to its former glory – Roy’s living room wall looked exactly as it had before a temperamental sixteen-year-old boy had invaded his life, his home – his heart. And over the sofa hung an aging, tattered photograph of two beaming little boys.
Any response is appreciated. ^__^ Oh...and...I'm sorry. I don't have a beta. I certainly wouldn't mind having one, though.