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22 April 2006 @ 01:28 am
 

Hellew!  Old story for you all.

Title:  Ill
Genre:  Angsty angsty angst
Rating:  PG - For some swearing
Characters:  Roy, Ed, and...WHUTWHUT?!  Lust!?
Pairings:  None
Spoilers:  Naw
Notes:  This is REALLY OLD.  I'm talking like, before I saw the end of the series old.  I'm talking like...well...it's just old.  So I don't think it's very good, plus it didn't have a beta.  But...I hope you all enjoy it anyway.  Just know that my writing skills have improved a bit since then. :3  I'll post some more recent stuff soon.

So...here you go.

Part Three in the next post because I exceeded the word limit like whoa. D:!



Part 1

He was asleep. That damn kid was finally asleep. If Roy believed in a God, he would be thanking him right now. True, his dreams were probably haunted by fever-induced nightmares, and the tiny, choked coughs that issued from his partially open mouth ensured that his night would not be a restful one, but he was asleep nonetheless, and that in itself was enough to reassure Roy for the time being.


 


He sat back, and placed his hands behind his head, making the best of the uncomfortable infirmary furniture by carefully propping his feet on the bed of the young illness-stricken alchemist.


 


"You’re lucky, pipsqueak," Roy suddenly felt the need to break the heavy silence engulfing the two lone occupants of the room. "You just get to sleep the night away. I, on the other hand, get to be the lucky bastard stuck watching you." He whispered as he spoke, looking expectantly at Ed upon finishing each of his sentences. He knew he would receive no answer (unless he woke Edward and risked the wrath of Alphonse) and that he didn’t really want or need an answer anyway–Edward really did need his rest after all. But still, the fact that Edward Elric’s sleeping form offered no response was unsettling to Roy.


 


For once, Edward was not in the hospital because of a grave injury of some sort, which was a relief. That meant he hadn’t been getting into fights, or he was just now getting smart enough to cover up the fact that he had been in a fight. No, today he was just sick. Terribly, horribly sick. For the better part of the day, he had been delirious with fever. When he wasn’t mumbling incoherent phrases, he was lashing out at the doctors that were trying in vain to subdue his weak thrashings and lower his dangerously high fever. The fever skewed his sense of reality, and he spent most of the time in which he was conscious thinking that he was somewhere else entirely. In the past few hours, he had gained a better grasp of his surroundings, and had whined insistently that he was close to a breakthrough on the stone and needed to get out of bed now.


 


After hearing Alphonse’s account of the past week’s events, it was obvious why Edward was ill. Quite simply, he had overworked himself. Between military assignments (which more often than not took place outside...in the rain) and his own personal study time, Ed had very little time for himself. And he refused to put aside his work or his all-important research in order to make time for himself. Al made a point to say that it was very hard for him to gauge his brother’s needs anymore. He didn’t remember when he should feel hungry, and he didn’t know when he should feel cold. He could take a guess, but it usually wasn’t terribly accurate and attempting to intervene usually left Edward in a terribly sour mood; so he stayed out of his brother’s personal affairs and hoped that Ed would have enough common sense to take care of himself.


 


It was apparent now (as it had been many times before) that Al had put far too much faith in his older brother’s judgement. And this was the result. This was always the result. Edward’s attempts to carry the weight of the world on his shoulders as well as his fervent efforts to return Al to his original body always ended miserably for Edward, always ended with Edward in some sort of pain–whether it be the mental or physical sort.


 


The Fuhrer’s secretary herself had shown up at the door of the hospital room earlier that very day and told Mustang to leave, and take the night off. Roy had of course told her that he would, not wanting to reject the orders of someone so near to his superior. She had stated that he was overworking himself, and someone else from the military would be there later on in the evening. Roy had decided to wait for his replacement, who, most irresponsibly, had never shown up. So, Roy was stuck watching Edward for the night. Why did he feel Edward needed protection? He really had no idea. But he simply couldn’t leave the poor pipsqueak alone.


 


Edward squirmed and let out a sharp, pained breath, but then slept on. Roy smiled and pulled the heavy quilt up to meet Ed’s chin. "Yeah, you’d better sleep. Come Monday morning, you’ve got quite a few assignments to make up for, Fullmetal." Roy’s smile widened when he saw Edward’s brow furrow; it was remarkable to Roy that the only time Edward really listened to him...was when he was asleep.


 


Just when Roy was about to test one of his more recent, ingenious remarks regarding Ed’s height (or rather, lack thereof) on the sleeping boy before him, the door opened slowly, rusty hinges creaking in protest, and a pretty young nurse entered the room. Roy raised his eyebrows, removed his feet from the bed, slicked his hair back with his right hand, and reminded himself to thank Ed later. He then put on his most charming smile and prepared to greet her in the most witty fashion appropriate for a hospital setting, when something...odd caught his eye.


 


She had stopped in the doorway, looking at him with a bemused, interested expression gracing her beautiful features. Roy had, of course, been giving her the once over; his eyes slowly traveling up her well shaped legs (that nurse’s gown just didn’t do them justice), to her perfect figure (he made a note to change the hospital uniforms when he became Fuhrer, as well–certainly it was possible?), then to her sharp, pointed, intelligent features. Full lips, a perfectly formed nose, and a pair of clear, smiling, and somewhat...ominous, violet eyes, which sharply contrasted to her smooth, milk-white skin and were nearly hidden beneath flowing locks of midnight black hair. She was lovely, that was for certain, but he had a sneaking suspicion that she was not there to take care of Edward, and that she would not be available for dinner theater next Friday evening.


 


So, rather than beginning with the special pick-up line he had formulated specially for this occasion ("I sure am glad that there’s a nurse around, because I just got a bad case of love sickness," it wasn’t one of his best, but hey, he had a whole book of the things) he took a more...direct approach. If his intuition was correct, this mysterious woman was not someone he wanted in a hospital room with a sleeping, heavily sedated, and utterly helpless young and highly coveted alchemist.


 


"Who the hell are you?!" he spat, disgust evident in his tone. "And what are you doing here?" He hastily picked himself up from the chair and moved between the woman and the bed as she advanced toward him; she was grinning now, and there was something almost manic about her expression.


 


"Colonel Roy Mustang. Flame Alchemist. We finally meet." He looked at her for a moment.


 


"Well then, how rude. You know my name and I have yet to learn yours." He smirked in attempt to draw attention away from his hand which was slowly making its way toward the pocket containing his precious spark gloves, but it was in vain. With incredible speed, she lunged at him, throwing him into the wall at the foot of Edward’s bed, but Ed slept on. Roy’s eyes widened in amazement when the mysterious woman’s fingers seemed to elongate as she stood before him, her hand extended elegantly in his direction. Roy quickly decided that the points of the fingers did not look like something he wanted driven into his chest, and he dodged to the left. But she was fast, and Roy knew that had she wanted to kill him, she would have done so right there.


 


The deadly sharp points of her index and middle finger tips plunged into the wall on either side of his delicate neck, pinning him to the wall. A movement in any direction would mean decapitation. So he waited, glaring into her violet eyes with his own black ones, waiting for her to make the next move.


 


"Lust." His eyes widened.


 


"Excuse me?" He stuttered. Surely she didn’t mean what he thought she was implying...


 


"You did ask my name." Lust? Her name was SERIOUSLY, Lust?! What the hell kind of a name was Lust?!


 


"Well you haven’t answered my second question yet."


 


"The answer should be rather obvious to an intelligent man such as yourself, Mr. Mustang. I mean honestly, if I had wanted your head, I could have just come to your home." She purred as she spoke, a deadly and seductive quality to her voice. "So naturally the boy must be why I’m here, don’t you agree?" A smile graced her lips, and she slowly walked toward him. "Now. About this little problem of you being here and all...I don’t want to kill you, really. Sloth told me that there would be no one here...sneak in, sneak out...this was supposed to be easy. But, I’m sure you know by now nothing is ever easy. So, I’m really very sorry, but death seems to be the only solution at this point and Gluttony will appreciate it."


 


His tone of voice did not betray his racing heart, and he was pleased by how calm–dangerous even– he sounded when he spoke next. "I don’t think you need to kill me." He gave her his most charming smirk, one that would melt the hearts of most women he came in contact with. Unfortunately, it didn’t seem that this Lust character was anything like other women, and he doubted that she had a heart to melt, anyway.


 


"Oh? And why is that?" Her tone was cocky, and Roy hated to admit it, but she had every right to be. He was pinned.


 


Just then, Edward shifted in his bed and groaned in discomfort. He blindly felt around the bed for a moment, not bothering to open his eyes, and upon finding what he was searching for (a bucket reserved especially for this purpose) he began retching, regurgitating seemingly endless amounts of bile and water into the pale yellow infirmary bucket. Lust turned to look at him, momentarily distracted by the rather grotesque display. That moment was all Roy needed, and he made a mental note to thank Edward for the second time that day.


 


Snatching his spark gloves from his pocket with incredible speed, Roy snapped. The resulting plume of flames lit the room, and the noise and hideous stench of burning flesh was enough to snap Edward out of his rather preoccupied state. He looked from Roy to Lust, mouth agape. The flames, meanwhile, had found their way to her, and she was enveloped by them, not a single sound escaping her lips as the flames she was shrouded in destroyed her flawless skin.


 


The flames receded, and Roy crossed the room, turning on the light to look at the still-smoking, and rather charred remains of what once was a beautiful woman (one who, had the circumstances been different, Roy would have liked to have gotten to know better) lying on the vicious floor. He turned to Edward, who was currently slumped against his pillow, eyes wide, shock evident in his expression, and a few flecks of vomit still lingering on his chin.


 


"I’m sorry I woke you..." Roy stuttered as an explanation. He was convinced that the battle was over and had ended quite well, given the circumstances. Right now, he was just feeling guilty for having to move Edward from his current room so that his men could investigate the crime scene. Edward merely pointed a flesh finger at the burned corpse on the ground, his expression growing more and more horrified. "What?" Roy replied hoarsely, his patience wearing rather thin. "You’ve seen enough death in your days to...Edward?" The finger began shaking, and Roy rolled his eyes, turning his gaze to the body on the floor.


 


What he found upon looking over surprised him. Something wasn’t quite right...the "body" in question wasn’t on the floor any longer. It was beginning to regain it’s feet, and as it did so, it regained everything else as well. The areas where Roy could see bone were quickly being covered by thready sinew and gleaming red muscles, and the areas where skin was still present (but burned beyond recognition) was quickly beginning to recover the pale appearance of when they had first met. The last thing to regenerate was her face, and Roy noted with horror that she was smiling, smirking with a kind of glee that one could only attain by way of participating in a very pleasurable activity.


 


As her body regenerated (and her clothing, Roy had thought sadly), she casually ambled to Edward’s bedside and looked at him sternly.


 


"What have you been doing to yourself you stupid little twit?" He looked at her, moving his lips as if trying to formulate words, but the combination of fear and a parched throat was preventing him from doing so. Roy stayed frozen to the spot, looking upon the scene, too horrified to make any kind of move to help poor Edward. He could still hear her tissue reforming itself in his mind; he could hear the odd squelching noise of flesh spreading over bare bone and godammit if the effect wasn’t paralyzing.


 


Finally, Ed found his words, hoarse though they were, they sounded a hell of a lot stronger than Roy felt right then. "Do...do I know you?" She let out a low, mirthless laugh.


 


"We’ve met before, if that’s what you’re asking." Why she was suddenly ignoring Roy, he had no idea. Perhaps she didn’t consider him a threat? He would show her. He snapped again, and she dodged the resulting flames easily.


 


"I won’t fall for the same trick twice, Flame." To Roy’s horror, the quilt at the foot of Edward’s bed caught the full blow of the fire that was intended for Lust, and soon, his bed was in flames. Edward looked at the fire for a moment before registering the heat that was creeping up his legs was connected to the glowing amber flames at the foot of his bed. Upon this realization, he scrambled from under the quilt and collapsed in a tangled heap on the clean linoleum floor. He backed away, sliding his rear across the floor in a hasty attempt to get as far away from the glowing bed as he possibly could. The sweat beading his skin already from the high fever was soon joined by the sweat from the growing intensity of the heat of the flames. It was then that Roy realized that Edward was still very ill and he knew that the smoke now filling the room and agitating Ed’s airway wasn’t helping his condition any. A raucous cough that tore from the young alchemist’s throat confirmed Roy’s assumptions, and within seconds Ed was vomiting anew on the floor.


 



Screwed...


 


Lust grinned maniacally once again, an expression made all the more frightening now that the dull, flickering light of the fire was playing across her face. "Your move, Flame."


Roy thought. He was utterly screwed. He had a sick teenager to assist, a fire to extinguish, and a practically, for all Roy knew, immortal female psychopath to kill.




Part Two


"Damnit . . . " Roy breathed harshly, smoke from the fire already filling his lungs. It wouldn’t be long before a real nurse came, Roy reassured himself, it wouldn’t be long until help came for Edward. Edward . . . Edward who was currently gasping and cradling his aching stomach with his flesh arm and supporting his shaking body with his automail one. Edward who needed his protection. Edward who was trusting him in a rare moment of absolute vulnerability.


 


The very Edward that he wasn’t doing a damn thing to help.


 


He had tried to move, really, he had, but his legs felt heavy, cold and Roy knew that if he had taken a step, he would have ended up on the floor, face-down in a puddle of Ed’s vomit. Before long, sweat was pouring down his face, and he was trembling fiercely against a nonexistent chill.


 


The minutes ticked by, and still no help arrived.


 


How could he be so useless? This was fire, his own element, staring him in the face. He wanted desperately to bound in and to be the hero, to save his young charge, gaining a level of trust and dependance in the process. He wanted to–but that was rather hard to do when his legs had stopped working.


 


"I’m surprised. Somehow I thought you would be more interesting to fight," a dramatic sigh, and then, "this will make killing you much less interesting." The fire was spreading now, flicking onto the drapes, singeing the ceiling a dark and dirty gray. Roy gulped again, trying to moisten his parched throat, selfishly wallowing in his own despair and mentally cursing his suddenly-weak mentality.


 


Lust broke from her nonchalant stance against the wall and began moving, as if in slow motion, toward Roy. Her steps were steady, elegant, and graceful. Every time her tall stiletto heel made contact with the cold linoleum floor, the resulting sound echoed hollowly in the room, and Roy was surprised to find he could hear the clicking of her heels over the low roar of the flames.


 


No one would help him. He would die here, and then Edward would follow him, and that would be that. No . . . He could die, he most likely would die, but Edward would not die with him. And with that decision now fresh in his mind, Roy felt the feeling in his legs slowly returning to him, giving him a renewed sense of determination and vigor to win the battle at hand.


 


He wasn’t just fighting for himself anymore. He wasn’t allowed to be selfish. There was someone else that he needed to protect, and he would simply not allow himself to be killed. Not yet, not until Edward was out of harm’s way. And for one of the first times in his life, Roy was amazed to find he wasn’t thinking of himself; he was thinking of Edward. Ed risked his life every day for his brother and for his beliefs and it only seemed fair Roy return the favor. Ed deserved that much, at least.


 


Ed wasn’t going to last much longer and Roy could tell. He had been emptying the contents of his stomach onto the floor for the past two minutes of tense silence, and now he was heaving miserably, nothing left in his stomach to regurgitate. Roy tentatively took a step forward, testing the strength of his legs before re-entering the fray. Upon confirming that everything was still working properly, he felt considerably stronger.


 


"I won’t lose to you." Click. Another step forward.

"Oh?" Click. 

"No." Click.


"If you say so." Click. She was close enough to lop off his head now. He could feel the warm mist of her breath against his skin, but he bravely stood his ground. "You won’t kill him."


 


"My dear man, who says I’m going to kill Edward?" She turned to look at the boy in question; he was currently flat on his back on the floor, desperately attempting to cling to consciousness.


 


Roy faltered, embarrassed surprise evident on his face for a moment, before it was once again replaced with an expression of grim determination. "You . . . you’re not going to kill him?"


 


"Well certainly not yet. He’s far too valuable for that."


 


Roy froze, an expression akin to absolute horror on his face. "Valuable?" She whipped around to face him, hair flowing in a graceful arc behind her.


 


"Yes. Valuable." It was then that the much-needed fire alarm and overhead sprinklers chose to react to the smoke that had long since filled the room, and Roy chose to take advantage of them. 

He leapt, catlike, around Lust, bending over and gently gathering Edward into his strong


arms. Edward was barely conscious now; his listless, glazed eyes seemed to gaze right past Roy.


 


"Ful– Edward?" An anxious hiss of a whisper. He couldn’t be dead already . . .


 


"Con . . . el . . . ?" Suddenly, there were two hands clinging to Roy’s military jacket, one was weak and could barely grasp the material, the other was almost too strong–inhumanly strong, clinging as if his very life depended on it.


 


"Shhh . . . don’t talk Ed. It’s going to be alright. You can sleep. Close your eyes." It seemed absurd to be telling him everything was going to be alright. At this point, everything did not look as if it were going to ever be alright. Everything looked as if it was going to blow up in his face if he didn’t do something soon. But Edward took priority over all else at that point, and feeling Edward’s febrile heat against his chest seemed to take one of the heavy burdens off his shoulders. For now, at least, he was safe in Roy’s arms, and Roy could take comfort in that.


 


Edward nodded slowly and deliberately, as if needing Roy’s words to confirm his safety, and then slowly faded into unconsciousness. Roy watched him do so with a growing sense of pride. Ed trusted him enough to fall asleep in his arms.


 


They were being drenched by the steady downpour of the overhead sprinklers, and water trickled down Roy’s nose onto the small, limp, and now sleeping (or rather, unconscious) form he was cradling. Lust approached from behind (click, click, click) and Roy held the small frame defensively close.


 


"You need to get him out of the water." Roy looked behind him and gave her a puzzled stare.


 


"W.. What?"


 


"The pipsqueak’s already sick. The water isn’t helping him any. You should get him somewhere dry." If Roy was confused before, now he was utterly dumbfounded. He rose slowly, still cradling the silent form against his chest, deciding it was best not to argue with the dangerous temptress. If she wanted him to help Ed, then damnit he would. He wasn’t going to argue about that. The fire had finally begun to die, and the smoke had begun to disperse, and Roy figured that everything in the room would take care of itself.


 


Lust held the door open for him, and they exited together, an odd pair indeed. Luckily, there were no doctors in the hallway and there were no nurses lingering in any neighboring rooms. The recovery wing was silent.


 


Roy started off to the south of the room, making a beeline for the elevator, and hopefully, a lower floor, a blanket, and dry clothes for Edward. He desperately jammed the button to open the door of the elevator, arms aching with the effort of supporting the burden already. But he refused to give in to fatigue.


 


"Come on, COME ON, GODAMMIT!" The dial above the elevator read one, and then two, and when it hit three he heard the footsteps approaching from behind again. They were still slow, still sure, and still irritatingly loud. It was positively aggravating.


 


"This little game of cat and mouse is starting to get irritating, Mr. Mustang." When the dial hit four, her hand was on his shoulder. By the time it hit five and the doors were sliding open, he was writhing in pain beneath her grasp, her long, clawlike nails piercing the delicate skin at the juncture of his collarbone and shoulder blade. He squirmed silently, but the precious burden resting in his arms remained there. "You’re making this more difficult than it has to be."


Ignoring her entirely, he made a mad dash for the door of the elevators, feeling her fingers rip from his tissue as he did so and sending a spasm of pain through his shoulder and blood rushing down his arm. He never made it to the doors.


 


"Honestly, what do you think you’re going to do once you get down there?" Roy collapsed onto the floor, falling backward flat onto his buttocks. He felt the lump that was his silver pocket watch in his back pocket collide with the floor.


 


"I would…get help…" he panted, Edward now laying limp across his lap as he clutched his bleeding right shoulder and wincing slightly with each intake of breath.


 


"How naive. You actually believe that there is anyone left in this hospital to help you? Haven’t you noticed that no one came to help when that fire you ever-so-intelligently started set off the alarm? There’s no one here you silly boy, no one…conscious anyway. They’ve all been taken care of."


 


"But wh…why would you go through so much trouble for one kid?" Roy investigated the wound on his shoulder using fingers sticky and damp with blood; it wasn’t too deep, perhaps the length of his thumb, he gauged, so it hadn’t pierced the skin on his back. It hadn’t hit any major veins either, so he wasn’t in real danger as far as blood loss went, but God did it hurt like hell.


 


"I said before. He’s valuable." She glowered at him, and seemed to be enjoying herself far too much. Her violet eyes sparked with a deep, sick, convulsed sort of pleasure. It made Roy nervous. He knew the type, the type that would divulge their plan in him and then rip him limb from limb (or leave him in a crumpled heap on the floor, permanently brain damaged – always a popular option).


 


"Please…explain?" He would take advantage of her willingness to divulge her secrets. Heck, maybe by the time she was done, the lightheaded feeling he was getting would go away, and he could put up a proper fight.


 


"Now what would the point of that be, wasting the few hours of night that I have left?" Hell…what was the point?! Point…point…point…


 


"Come now . . . sure . . . you could tell me something? I am about to die, aren’t I?" He pouted, bottom lip protruding piteously.


 


She looked at him, amused, "Do you honestly believe I’m that stupid?" Shit.


"I had hoped, actually, yes . . . " A wry grin was all that he could muster; he couldn’t imagine that it looked very mocking or self-confident as he had intended it to look, though. Probably just painful.


 


In his lap, Edward groped the air momentarily with an expression on his face that suggested he was not pleased to have been so suddenly wrenched from Roy’s heat-giving embrace. He finally found what he had been looking for – Roy’s jacket – and pulled himself weakly into the fabric, pushing his face against Roy’s chest in a desperate attempt to acquire warmth. He moaned pitifully, and Roy couldn’t help but smile at the thought of how positively mortified Ed would be if he could see what he was doing. Lust watched, interested, and remained silent.


 


"That boy is a mystery."


 


Cautiously, " . . . How do you mean?"


 


"When you’ve observed someone as long as I have, you start to notice things." Roy tried to stop the images that came to his mind – a young Edward being stalked by a dangerous woman . . . a woman who could have, at any point in time while she was stalking him, slit the unsuspecting boy’s throat without him ever having seen it coming.


 


"Habits. Quirks. Emotions." A sort of sadness Roy had not though her capable of flickered over her features, but it was gone as quickly as it had come, and she was looking like a smug bastard again within seconds.

But now, Roy could see another opportunity for a distraction forming itself, and he gladly seized it. "You don’t know him," there was a venomous bite to his tone that the Flame himself found a tad surprising.


 


"Oh don’t I?" Roy shook his head. "I think I’ll know him better than you ever will, dear Mr. Mustang."


 


"You’re lying." Now things were getting personal, and this wasn’t just a distraction for Roy anymore. It was a challenge.


 


"Am I? Do you know what happened on October the third, 1910?" Roy tentatively shook his head; he couldn’t recall any particular event, but Ed did seem to be especially bitter in that long month of October. He had always wondered . . .


 


"They burned their house to the ground. Little, eleven-year-old Edward said it was resolve, that he would move forward and never back. Silly . . . if you ask me. They left a very unhappy looking little girl behind though. I’m sure you know her." Images of a blonde haired, blue-eyed girl at the bedside of a broken little boy flashed before his eyes. Yes . . . but why was she . . . ?


 


"Never mind," she waved her hand dismissively, "Don’t think too much about it. I’m sure you’ll find out eventually." Roy quickly decided he didn’t want to know. "Do you know his mother’s name?" He’d read it in a file once . . . "His birthday?" Not the exact date . . . sometime in winter, he supposed . . . "He dislikes milk?" Well in all fairness, how the hell was he supposed to know that . . . ?


 


"Did you know that every Sunday he leaves his brother for a few hours, and purchases a lavish meal for two at the most expensive restaurant he can find?" She smiles, "He never eats both . . . just . . . looks at the one across from him with a pitiful expression on his face and eats about two bites of his own. Occasionally he’ll cry a bit, but that doesn’t happen too often. Just after a particularly bad week . . . like when you sent him on that mission to . . . Drachma, was it? Awful things going on in Drachma, Flame. Awful things. The waitress had to bring him a hankie that day, I believe." Roy just looked at her incredulously. How could anyone take such delight in a young boy’s misery? He unconsciously pulled Edward closer to his chest and slumped against the elevator doors.


 


"Did you know he’s only visited his mother’s grave once since he left his little hometown? That was particularly boring to watch, as you can imagine. About two hours of staring at a stone. I was ready to let Gluttony eat it just to stop his staring, already." She examined her nails. "That was actually only a few weeks ago, come to think of it."


 


"He keeps a picture of his little brother in his coat pocket, and he’ll sneak a peek when he thinks that the younger one isn’t looking. He keeps a picture of his mother in his research journal, but he’s only looked at that picture once as far as I can tell. That one time, he vomited." Her tone was dry as she counted off Edward’s sorrows on finely manicured fingers.


 


"He’s always particularly sour after he leaves the military headquarters, and usually stops by a park to eat something – he especially likes noodles, I’ve noticed. He hasn’t gained any weight since he performed the human transmutation, though. He won’t eat save when he absolutely has to, and even then, the portions are meager." Roy was steadily becoming more horrified . . . how could he not know this?!


 


"He’s constantly plagued with nightmares. Not mild nightmares, mind you. Well, I imagine they’re not at least, because he usually ends up sobbing into his pillow until dawn when Alphonse "wakes" up and rubs the junctures where automail meets flesh for a while. Those bothersome limbs do pain him something awful, you know." She then nodded in a horrible kind of mock sympathy, and Roy finally decided he had heard plenty about Edward’s miserable life outside of the office.


 


"He – "


 


"ENOUGH!" Roy roared as he massaged his aching shoulder again.


 


"What? Can’t handle it? Just admit that you don’t know him. You only think you do. Most of what you see is a facade – a happy, stubborn mask that he puts on for the rest of the world."


 


Roy was ready and waiting with his response, something he had concluded from listening to her recount Ed’s troubles and from the expression of sadness he had seen her face form when she spoke of emotions. "I may not know everything that there is to know about him – but at least I can understand what he’s feeling." Her eyes widened and the smile that had been


plastered to that beautiful face was promptly wiped away. "You can’t, can you?" She just stared at him, awestruck.


 


"Do you know why he burned his house down? He obviously didn’t want to be stuck in the past. He wanted to move forward. Plus, now that he had attempted a forbidden act in his own home, he believed he had tainted all the happy memories he had there."


 


"How about why he orders two meals? Why he vomited when he looked at his mother’s picture? Why he’s plagued with nightmares? Why he won’t eat? You don’t understand, and I don’t think you can, am I right?" Roy was able to understand all too well what was going through Ed’s head as Lust had made her points by recounting miserable stories of Ed’s past. He had been subject to the same flood of emotions during the Ishbal Massacre.


 


"Happiness, sadness – "


 


"Stop." A low, dangerous growl.


 


Roy’s voice only grew louder, stronger in response, "Depression, guilt – "


 


"Be quiet!" Her tone grew urgent, desperate even.


 


"Disgust, hatred, self-loathing – "


 


"I SAID, SHUT UP!"


 


"YOU CAN’T DISTINGUISH ANY OF THEM!"


 


"You think that makes you better than me? Would you like to know what I can feel?" Roy was scared now. He had pushed it too far, and now Lust was mad, her voice a harsh and unfamiliar whisper in his ear. It had lost its alluring quality, and she was more intimidating now that he was injured and she had been provoked. Shit.


 


"I can feel anger. And I can feel your BLOOD beneath my fingertips. And I’ll be DAMNED IF I NEED TO FEEL ANYTHING MORE THAN THAT!" Roy was on his feet and sprinting down the hall adjacent to the elevator doors with Edward in his arms before she had a chance to unleash those deadly claws of hers.


 


"While we’re still on the subject of Edward though, tell me Roy, why DID you welcome him into your little military party?" Roy kept running, blood from his shoulder splattering the floor occasionally. Lust walked after him casually, scraping her nails against the wall and creating a horrible grating noise in the process that made Roy’s head ache. He didn’t answer.


 


"Was it really your original intent to help him?" A short bark of laughter. The only response was the silence of the hospital corridor. "What, afraid to admit that you’re only exploiting him? Afraid to admit that you might be just like me!?" Roy stopped dead his tracks, panting heavily from the long sprint. Edward was nuzzled into the nook of his elbow, breath hitching occasionally, fever still present, and shaking uncontrollably from the layers of wet clothing he was still covered in, but looking blissfully content otherwise.


 


"No! Of course not!" A blatant lie. Had it been true, Roy might not have sounded so desperate.



 



"Oh? Wasn’t that why you recruited him? A Promotion? Glory? An increase in social status?" Fury bubbled inside Roy and upon touching his face to get a bothersome piece of hair away from his eyes, he found streaks of hot tears lining the creases of his complexion.


 


"You have no idea." Whirling around to face her, he was surprised to find that she had been hovering inches from his ear, shrouded by the fog that was Roy’s anger.


 


"Oh, so you brought an eleven-year-old boy into the military for his own good, did you?" Edward squirmed slightly in Roy’s arms, as if he could hear what was being said about him.


 


"Of course." His voice betrayed his emotions, and wavered.


 


"Liar."


 


"No!"


 


"You wanted your little promotion, and so you brought a little boy into the army, where he’s been subjected to countless atrocities, horrors, and hatred on top of all of the horrors he’d suffered before. But he’s loyal to you, isn’t he Mustang? As much as you may torment him, he’s always been like a puppy on a leash."


 


"You’re wrong." The response was little more than a harsh whisper, hurt and broken sounding. "Ed never sold his soul. I could never control him . . . the way I . . . "


 


"The way you want to?"


 


"The way I first intended to!"


 


"You don’t intend to control him anymore?"


 


"He’s more than a puppet, I realize that now."


 


"Now, you don’t really mean that, do you?"


 


"I do! He’s a human being! He’s a hurt little boy, with thoughts and feelings!" Roy was beginning to find it hard to believe he had ever found this woman attractive. Now, in the dark, the only light being the pale moonlight from the window behind him reflecting on her even paler face, she looked utterly mad.


 


"That may be true, but in the end, he’s a tool for both of us. I intend to use him to the fullest extent, to accomplish means of my own. After I’m through, you can have him for yourself...that is...if he’s still alive." Consumed by fury, Roy decided quite suddenly to act on a whim, and thought at the back of his mind that had Hawkeye been there, he would have been scolded. Nevermind...if this works...it’s damn well worth that risk.

"YOU WON’T! I WON’T LET YOU! " he roared, and with that, gathering what little


strength he had left, he swiftly and firmly kicked her square in the center of her rather plentiful chest. She was swept backward into a vacant broom closet, occupied only by several mops and a few buckets filled with some filth that Roy didn’t care to identify. She stumbled, and fell, momentarily dazed by the unexpected assault. Roy took off down the corridor again, but this time, he headed straight for the tiny window at the end of the hallway. It looked into the alleyway behind the hospital, he knew, but he had no idea what was below it. It was a chance he just had to take.


 


"I’m sorry Edward . . . " And with that, he slammed his shoulder into the glass of the window pane, his delicate bundle colliding with the glass as well, though Roy took care to make sure it was his automail leg and not his real one that made the first impact, he knew that the cold, sharp, and unforgiving shards of glass would take their toll on the already frail boy.


 


Soon after, he was floating, filled with a sensation of absolute weightlessness in the blessed moments before he made impact with the ground. At some point in time during the too-long fall, Edward opened his eyes and blinked at Roy, groggily asking, "S’ the gate ‘gain?" Roy didn’t know what the hell he was talking about, and as such, didn’t know how to respond, so he just held Edward closer as the boy closed his eyes against the unrelenting air current, stroking his silky hair through unfeeling spark gloves.


 


The impact wasn’t nearly as bad as it could have been, they had landed in something soft. But Roy took most of the force from the fall because he chose to led Edward fall on top of him. Blood gushed from the searing would in his shoulder, and it was all Roy could manage to make sure that someone was coming for them before he joined Edward in unconsciousness.