Overall Rating: Not high...PG? The worst of it is some swearing and a few have character death. Nothing too serious.
Here's the deal.
I got the following prompts/requests from my reviewers:
1) Havoc angst
2) Brotherly Love
3) Winry and Al taking care of Ed after automail repairs
4) BLOODY DEATH OF ED! (which isn't very bloody at all...)
5) Envy Angst
6) Edward comforting Roy at Maes' grave
7) Ishbal Roy-centric
8) Riza n' Black Hayate
9) More brotherly love!
And I wrote a 600 to 1000 word drabble for each.
No yuri, no yaoi, family friendly, and worksafe! :D!
Jean Havoc had always been second best.
Growing up, he had an average family, lived in an average town, did an average job in school, and dated all the average girls. The ones, he always joked, that had been thoroughly picked over. The ones whose cheeks didn’t dimple quite the way he liked, and whose curves resembled either a fence post or a beach ball.
And so this average lifestyle continued well into his adult life. He attended a nice, normal college, and though he developed a handsome face with rather attractive features, he never had been able to fetch the ladies the way he liked. As was a constant for him, there was always someone better. Always some better human specimen to impress them. Always.So he resigned himself to being second best, to a life where he wasn’t quite the scum, or the lowest of low, and yet he could never quite attain the pinnacle. No matter how he tried, he was never the best, and Jean came to accept that. Such was his fate.
Joining the army was the best thing that ever happened to him, he always said. In the military, everyone was scum. All soldiers were dirt, and Havoc was just one spec among them – a grain of sand that no one really stopped to consider or distinguish. In fact, Jean rather liked being referred to by number or by rank. None of his commanding officers knew that he was doomed to normalcy. Hell, he could have been the best in his class, he could have dated the prettiest girl in high school – he have been someone special and they wouldn’t have treated him differently than any other poor sap with a meager amount of stars on his shoulder and a noticeable absence of colorful badges on his chest.
And years later, when he went to war and his average blood was spilled on an average patch of ground, when an average bullet ripped through his average chest, he wasn’t saved. He was, after all, nothing special.
So he died. On an average day, in fair weather – one of those days where it was cloudy, overcast, and gloomy – but never quite enough to make rain. And he had a standard funeral, military issue, with a standard flag draped over his coffin and an average number of people in attendance.
Poor boy, they said.
And then topics turned to the war that was ripping the country apart, to the new government and the new parliament and political discussions that really had no place at a funeral. But after all, they really didn’t have much else to discuss. Jean Havoc’s funeral was filled with people who never really knew him, with military officers who felt obligated to attend because he had once served under them, or they had seen his name somewhere on a list of recruits or promotions or latrine duty. And what did they know – a group of military officers who inhabited a world of numbers and ranks? Generalities. Achievements that had made the print of a newspaper – and Jean Havoc had none of those.
It would be later that evening that a real party took place, honoring the average man that was Jean Havoc in a way that he would have appreciated. Mustang and crew were in attendance, along with those who knew him best. It was an average bar, with average drinks, and an average waitress who Mustang, had he been in good spirits that evening, wouldn’t have flirted with anyway because her cheeks didn’t dimple in just the way he liked and because her figure rather resembled a fence post.
And they drank average drinks that were flat and cheap but made them blissfully drunk all the same. They made average toasts to a man who had always been second best.
And while it was just an average meeting, honoring an average man, attendants wept all the same.
Title: Birthday Call (please excuse my lame titles, I’m making these up as I go along)
"Hey there birthday boy."
"Niisan!" Al breathed into the reciever, overjoyed to hear his brother on the other end of the line, relieved to hear his voice, excited...excited until he remembered... "...You...you missed my party."
"Al," Edward sounded slightly breathless and paused between some words to pant a little, breath coming ragged and unsteady. Alphonse could vaguely hear a chorus of rather noisy background sounds behind the soothing static of his brother’s voice. "I’m sorry. I don’t know how to tell you how sorry I am." Alphonse was happy, so happy to hear his brother’s voice, at least. And Edward did sound so apologetic...and he had called, after all. Maybe he could let it slide, just this once?
No, Al decided, lowering his new eyebrows so that they shadowed his golden-grey eyes. Edward had gotten away with far too many things in his lifetime, and this was one crime that would not go unpunished. He didn’t want his brother getting cocky, after all.
"I made a cake. I made a really good cake, and I wanted to share it with you." It sounded so, so pathetic, Al realized as soon as it left his mouth and echoed into the receiver. But Edward was a sucker for that kind of thing – coming from his little brother, at least. And really, it wasn’t even what Al said that had that devastating impact on his brother – it was the tone of voice that he used, Al knew. His brother had spent so long interpreting Al’s emotions through voice alone that he had gotten rather good at it – really, "rather good" was insulting. His brother knew every simper, whimper, and whine better than Alphonse himself, which made phone conversations aggravating, at best.
The statement had the desired effect, anyway. Edward broke down into a string of apologies that came far too quickly to comprehend. Alphonse felt himself softening, and it took another glance at Edward’s seat at the dining table, place still set with a festive plate and napkin, to steel his resolve.
Enough of this sissy stuff, Alphonse had some real damage to do. He yanked his ace from the pile. "It was my first birthday cake in my new body. My first party...you missed it, Niisan. You were supposed to be here to share it with me." Alphonse whined expertly, teetering gracefully on the edge of tears. Ed let out a strangled sob on the other end of the line and burst into a renewed round of feverish apologies. Alphonse heard something about "next year, next year will be the best ever, Al," followed closely by assurances that he had the best present in the world – "took half this month’s salary but damn it all, Al, I just know you’ll love it."
"Why – why did you miss it, Ed?"
There was a long moment of hesitation, and Alphonse could hear a loud beeping noise coming from somewhere far off with the absence of his brother’s voice.
"It was my fault. Missed the train. Overslept." He said carelessly.
"Niisan," Al chided, annoyed by Ed’s sudden passive attitude and positively furious that his sixteenth birthday party was ruined for something so trivial. "You missed it because you were being lazy?" Al felt his teeth grinding, and he despised that grating sound and feeling on his new teeth. But Alphonse knew, these types of situations called for such things.
"I’m so, so, so sorry. How can I - ah - e-ever make it up to you?" Alphonse opened his mouth to tell his brother that he could get his ass on a train right now and make it home by midnight, but the incessant beeping suddenly grew louder and more frantic, and Alphonse felt his brow lower again, this time, in puzzlement.
"Niisan, what –?" The line went dead.
It would take six more angry phone calls for Alphonse to find out that the first thing Edward Elric had asked for upon being admitted to a hospital in Central, bleeding from two fresh bullet wounds and dizzy from blood loss, was not the medical attention he urgently needed, but a phone.
Alphonse felt like an ass all the way to Central.
The moon cast an eerie glow over the brilliant, gleaming automail, and when the curtains rustled just so over Edward’s bedside, that same shaft of life traced the contours of his face, contorted in agony and partially covered by a stark white cloth. Alphonse shifted the cloth again and again, trying in vain to make his brother more comfortable.
Edward’s unconscious mantra indicated that he was cold, so very cold, but the fire Al could feel burning under the skin of his forehead indicated differently. The conflicting signals were confusing, and Al told his ailing brother as much as he tried to chafe warmth into an automail fist, balled tightly under the onslaught of pain.
I want to help you Niisan.how.
I want to help you, but I don’t know
It was then that Winry (like a guardian angel!) stepped inside, panting and sweating as if she had run all the way to their home from her own.
She probably had.
"What’s wrong?" She whispered, hardly daring to breath as her eyes flew over Edward’s shaking form. "What happened to him?"
Alphonse bit his lip, and moved again to fumble with the cloth resting over Edward’s eyes. "I don’t know...I...he..." Alphonse panicked, felt warm tears catch in his eye lashes. "He won’t wake up."
Before he could stumble through another awkward sentence, Winry’s voice was there again, washing over him, enveloping him like a warm, soothing cloud of steam. "Shh, shh. Tell me what happened, and I can help. I can’t help him until you tell me."
"I reattached his automail about four hours ago, but he shouldn’t be hurting like this anymore. He shouldn’t have a fever... I’ve reattached it a million times before, I don’t know what could have gone wrong this time!" Alphonse’s voice had gone shrill in panic, and Winry moved to soothe him.
"It’s alright Al. It’s fine. Sometimes...sometimes this happens. Sometimes, the only thing you can do is help him and be glad he’s sleeping through it." She gave a comforting smile, knowing very well that it was difficult for Al to understand the extent to which the automail pained his brother, even more difficult for him to understand that there were variables that affected the machinery even she couldn’t explain – but oh God did he try. "We don’t have to panic unless his fever doesn’t break by morning."
"...Oh." Al’s face seemed to crumple, and he began smoothing the wrinkle’s on Edward’s bed sheets, determinedly looking anywhere but Winry’s eyes.
A tense silence then overtook them both, broken only by soft little hitches in Edward’s breathing and the occasional sniffle from Alphonse that Winry tried to ignore.
"So...so what do you think was different about this time?" Winry welcomed the conversation with open arms.
Machinery. She could explain that.
"It’s probably the fact the Edward’s growing. Changing muscles and all that. Everything in his body is trying to readjust to that port, because it isn’t growing with him. We might have to..."
"What? Have to what?" Al insisted.
"Take it out, and replace it with a larger one when this growth spurt ends." Winry responded reluctantly. If nothing else, Al knew the pain of automail installation. He had been close enough the first time to hear his brother’s moaning and screaming through the thick, sturdy walls of the Rockbell home.
"...Oh." Again, Al looked as if she had just struck him across the face, and Winry suddenly got a taste of how Ed must feel all the time.
Damnit all, Al had a face that could make you feel guilty.
"Al, please. Don’t look like that; it’s not your fault. You know Ed would never want you to think that."
"But I prom – " And then Ed was moaning softly, weakly pushing at the cloth over his forehead and insisting that he was freezing to death, Al, close the damn window. That demanded Al’s attention, as always, and Winry was spared a guilt-ridden tirade, if only for a moment.
"Niisan, there’s no window open." Al replied smoothly, voice low and devoid of any of the panic Winry knew he must be feeling. In the beginning, it had been hard for Al to regain his ability to speak, but as time went on, Ed began complaining that his brother had a damn slippery tongue. It seemed he hadn’t been lying. "Do you want something?"
Ed seemed to mouth something then, and Winry would never had been able to make it out, would have had to ask him to repeat himself, please. But Al, beautiful, loving Al sprang to his feet with a quick, "I’ll get you some, Niisan." What Winry didn’t know was how much practice they had in this particular area, how many times Edward had been bedridden with only Alphonse to tend to him. Alphonse had gotten used to reading Edward’s lips then, because as handy as armor was for fighting and sparring, having no ears made it awfully hard to pick up on soft, sickly whispers.
He returned a moment later with a glass of water and a tiny white tablet Winry recognized as a pain killer that she herself had prescribed to Edward for the awful pains he got in the winter. Alphonse saw her eyeing the pill, and put a finger to his lips.
Ah. Yes. She had forgotten how much Ed hated taking medications.
"Niisan, can you sit up?" He couldn’t, as it turned out. As valiantly as he tried, his arm was still feeling too heavy, still tugging at the tender flesh on his shoulder, and he couldn’t manage to lift his tired body more than a few inches off of the bed.
"That’s all right. Don’t strain yourself." Al put his hand at the base of his brother’s skull and tilted it up, then lifted the glass, motioning to Winry to take to the pill off the night stand and put it in his brother’s mouth while he was still drinking.
She did, and Al made sure he had swallowed it before placing Ed’s head on the pillow again. "Better?"
"Mmmm." Edward said with an exhale, almost instantly feeling the effects of the medication’s sleep-inducing properties.
Not much later, he drifted into a troubled sleep. He jerked and twitched in the throes of some nameless nightmare, unable to toss and turn as he usually did for the incredible weight his automail had suddenly gained.
Alphonse stayed loyally at the bedside of his only older brother, Winry hovering anxiously behind them, and the sun found them there when it peaked the horizon hours later.
Title: Following Orders
Everyone near him was urging Edward not to. To hold on. To keep his eyes open for just a moment longer, and they would get him the help he needed.
But that confused Ed. He most certainly didn’t need help like they all said. He was warm, his thoughts were hazy, and he really only wanted to welcome creeping tendrils of unconsciousness that were so urgently beckoning him.
Alphonse was there – warm and human and alive, which put a goofy grin on Ed’s face every time he looked in Al’s direction and made him want to close his eyes all the more if only to stop himself looking stupid.
But every time his lids drew together and remained that way for a fraction of a second longer than it took to blink, her heard Al’s firm reprimand, and once, when Ed had been stubborn and let his eyes remain blissfully closed against the brightness of the world, his brother had grown panicked and frantic, had bodily pried Edward’s eyelids apart. Edward had tried not to close them after that.
Hawkeye was there. She was quiet and it looked like she was hurting somehow. She did not tell him to keep his eyes open like his little brother did, which he pointed out to Alphonse once. Al let out a low, husky bark of a laugh, which didn’t really seem like a laugh at all, and told his brother to rest. He needed his strength.
Edward wondered how on earth he was supposed to rest if he couldn’t even close his eyes, but he was tired, and he couldn’t quite find it in him to argue.
Havoc was there. He still had that vaguely smoky smell hovering about him, (even though the ever-present cigarette was uncharacteristically absent) and it made Edward want to throw up all over the cold, hard ground he was resting on. That was odd, though, Ed thought. Granny Pinako had always had a pipe between her teeth, and Edward recalled almost liking the bittersweet aroma it had filled the room with as a child.
But now, he felt the overwhelming urge to vomit. He could feel bile – bile and blood? – rising up the back of this throat, and he moved his left arm to his stomach to indicate as much to his little brother only to find the source of all the distress buried deep in his soft, white belly.
He gently probed the edge of the wound, which brought forth a swell of sticky, red blood. It didn’t hurt, not really, but it did make his hand warm, and that was nice. Ed wondered again what all the fuss was about. He felt ready to get up and move, but here was Havoc and Hawkeye and his brother, keeping him on the cold, hard, uncomfortable ground. He honestly didn’t hurt. He was just tired, and a little bit angry that his brother wouldn’t just let him sleep – that was all.
Mustang was there. He quickly recaptured the hand he had lost to Ed’s exploration moments earlier and chafed the numbness away, though his silent gesture didn’t bring as much warmth as the now-congealed blood on his hand had.
Mustang started mumbling to him about everything and nothing, a constant litany that Ed was only half listening to. But, he was thankful for it, and said as much, urging the Colonel to continue, because the babble was soothing and Mustang’s had such a lovely, warm, honey-coated tone that pulled Edward closer to the sleep that he so desired take him.
Edward looked around once more – Roy smiled softly, Hawkeye’s chin trembled, Havoc looked simply miserable, and Alphonse was sobbing freely now into his beautiful human hands. Edward felt his eyes closing, and he wasn’t sure that he would be able to stop them from doing so this time if his brother asked him to.
He didn’t, and Edward was profoundly grateful for the Colonel’s voice croaking out a weary, "Let him sleep, Alphonse," as he drew his lids completely shut.
It was alright, after all. Mustang had told him it was alright to sleep, and Edward had always been good at following the Colonel’s orders.
So he did.
Title: Memories (-gags at my own putrid names-)
Spoilers: JA! If you don’t know who Envy’s mommy and daddy ish.
Envy wanted to remember.
Certainly, he hadn’t really had any desire to do so before Lust had confided in him that she had memories of a time before. She had told him in an outburst of sheer intensity – not emotion, they didn’t have those – nearly a week before. Envy was sure that she hadn’t meant to do it, but it was obvious that she wanted to tell someone, and really, who else was there to tell?
Perhaps she had thought that he would understand, confide in her that he had the same secret thoughts and almost-feelings. So, in an explosion of pent-up nearly-emotions, she told him that she saw a man in her mind, and she thought that she loved him – but that wasn’t very possible now, was it? She said it confused her, it terrified her – and yet she found herself treasuring these not-memories and reveling in the near-human sensation it gave her.
Envy smirked and set his jaw – then spent a good five minutes taunting the very idea and sneering at her. And it was funny at the time – the scowl that she gave him. Her eyes, if only for a moment, flashed with some unidentifiable burn, and Envy wondered vaguely what that was. But it didn’t really concern him until later that night when, gazing across an empty field somewhere near Dublith, in the form of some nameless farmer whose blood painted the ground beneath his feet, Envy decided that he wanted memories too.
Wasn’t that in his nature after all? To seek what other’s had? If Lust had these emotions, these memories, Envy wanted them as well. He suddenly found himself trying to recall things he hadn’t even known existed.
But his earliest recollection was him, as he was now. Well, not precisely as he was now. Then, he was a naive pile of muscles and twisted, dripping organs that cared only for the life force the glorious red stones supplied him with. He remembered the odd sensation of his twisted body reforming itself into something familiar as he gazed into a face that was...that was...
Envy’s eyes widened as several images flashed before his eyes in quick succession. He didn’t know what they meant, had no idea where they had come from. And he wondered if this was how Lust felt all the time, now. Confused and disoriented and in pain but not – feeling a tug on heart strings that didn’t exist.
Suddenly, uncharacteristically, Envy found himself not caring that Lust had something he did not. He just wanted these familiar images to stop. He wanted this string of pseudo-emotions to end. For a moment, he lost concentration for the array of images his mind’s eye put before him, and he felt his shape changing before he thought to change it.
And suddenly, he was a little boy with chubby fists and pink cheeks, round and short and adorable. He wondered, at first, if this was someone he had killed recently – if the new emotions he was feeling had set off some kind of guilt reaction. But then he saw another pale and faded image, and in it, he saw the child – and in the child he saw himself.
This was him, he realized.
This was him as what he once was, before love had made him into a monster. The images began anew, and before he knew it, he was on the ground, chubby fists clenched in short blonde hair as he screamed for the pictures of a caring mother and beaming father to stop, to fucking STOP already because he couldn’t take it anymore.
He knew all of these people, these caring loving people – but he didn’t. They had different faces now, different priorities. His mother smelled like ash rather than cinnamon, and he very much doubted that his father would claim him as his own now, much less try to resurrect him. Things were different now. They would not go back to the way they were.
Envy straightened, and then transformed again into a young man, around the age Edward was now, with golden hair and golden eyes, and a charming smile.
This was who I could have been, Envy told himself. This was the man he could have become. He lingered above a rippling puddle for a long moment, studying his reflection.
Abruptly, the foot near the edge of the pool became bare and Envy turned, wiping the images from his mind and realizing that he did not envy Lust one bit.
Title: Misery Loves Company
Spoilers: Episode 25
Roy was vaguely surprised that he wasn’t drunk out of his mind, yet. By all things logical, he should have been. There was an awfully tempting jug of vodka behind Thiros’ Treatise of Alchemic Composition on a top shelf in his library, and he could almost feel the cool glass of the gin bottle under his bed. There was one beneath the desk at the office that he had managed to keep from Riza, as well. The temptations were absolutely everywhere. But somehow, he couldn’t bring himself to pick one up on Maes’ birthday.
Being sober on a day like this turned out to be harder than Roy once surmised. Little pieces of their past littered his apartment, his office, his neighborhood. There was where they met – young, stupid, fresh-faced recruits – there was where Maes caught him with a pistol to his throat in the gutter, there was where Maes announced his marriage to the most beautiful women in the world Roy – and her name is Gracia, isn’t that lovely?, there was where he donned a stuffy tuxedo and listened to their vows, there was where he found out he would have a little niece or nephew, that he would be murderer, Lieutenant Colonel and now Uncle Roy.
There was the house where they had built their life – and there, there was the phone booth where it had ended. It would have been so easy to forget it all in one swig of lukewarm, bitter liquid. So easy.
Well if it’s so fucking easy why haven’t I done it yet!?This day always found him at the familiar stone, now covered in tendrils of creeping ivy and moss that he couldn’t quite bring himself to brush off.
The tiny paper flowers that littered the ground and a broken teacup at the base of the stone indicated that Elysia and Gracia had been there earlier that day, in the daylight, when it was appropriate to visit a memorial. Two o’clock in the morning was hardly a good time, that much was indicated by the smouldering mass of a gate Roy had made when he entered. (It had been locked, and that simply wouldn’t do. Roy was late enough for his best friend’s birthday party, anyway.)
Roy gently set a cake atop the mound of earth along with a little gift wrapped in bright orange paper that reminded him a bit of flames in the glimmer of moonlight. Roy became painfully aware of his sobriety for the second time that night as he felt a solitary tear run down his cheek and off his face, eventually coming to rest on the tiny "Maes" scrawled across the top of the cake in cheery, pink frosting.
"Hey." Suddenly, there was a silhouette framed in moonlight before him, and Roy vaguely wondered how he had not heard him approaching. There was only one person who could make that shadow – lithe, slim, graceful – petite. He hadn’t grown an inch since he lost his second arm to the gate two years, three months, seventeen days ago.
Not like Roy was counting.
But it was hard not to hear him coming now. He clanked every other step he took, and his arms whined and creaked with each fluid motion of his body. Sometimes Roy found himself questioning the validity of Edward’s military name, and he always concluded that each passing year increased the truth in it.
"Fullmetal." He heard a brief grunt of consent. "How did you find me?"
He gave a weak smile, canines glinting in the dim glow, before responding. "I think everyone in town could have seen the explosion if they had been awake." The grin faded. "Lucky for you, I was– " having a nightmare "– finishing a book, so I – " couldn’t sleep "– was awake."
"I see. And what – " happened in this one? "– was it about?"
"Not much. It was just a bunch of – " clawing, grasping, little figures – reaching for me "– shit."
"And are you – " alright? "– going to return it? I’d like to–" help you. let me help you. "–read it for myself."
"Why? It’s not–" your place, I’m helping you tonight, damnit "– very good."
Roy paused before finishing their carefully encrypted conversation with a downcast glance a few cautious words. "We could– " help each other "–go over it together."
Edward wordlessly closed the distance between them and wrapped Roy in a tight hug. This was something distinctly Fullmetal. No one else could be so warm and cold, hard and soft at the same time. Roy knew, subconsciously, that there were automail arms underneath the soft sleeves of his red jacket, and that they shouldn’t, by any stretch of the imagination be comforting, heavy and awkward things as they were. But somehow, Roy found the warmth he needed in those arms. "I’d like that, Mustang."
Roy sniffled pathetically into Fullmetal’s shoulder and waited another moment before gathering the courage to push the boy away and face the cold, hard grave again. "Happy Birthday, Maes," he whispered.
Edward mumbled his agreement, sank to the ground, clapped his hands together and placed them to the earth before the grave. In a flash of blue light, the gift, cup, flowers, and cake were consumed by liquid earth before it once again solidified around the tidy, flag-draped coffin.
"Shall we visit Alphonse on the way out, Fullmetal?" Edward gave a weak smile as they set out toward the civilian section of the cemetery – a much more friendly, well-loved area, bedecked in angels, flowers, and photographs of the deceased.
"Yes." He whispered, barely audible above cold February wind. "I think he would appreciate that."
Title: 1) Cloth Shield 2) Blood Money (-giggles- Now I’m just TRYING to make the names terrible.)
Spoilers: Ishbal stuff...so...not really. WHY ARE YOU EVEN READING THIS IF YOU DON’T KNOW ABOUT ISHBAL!?
I was always able to take comfort in the fact that at least I didn’t kill them with my bare hands. I suppose it was some sick trip I took around the guilt that I so deserved, a way to convince myself that killing wasn’t really as simple as I made it seem. It was so easy to convince myself that since I hadn’t killed with my bare hands, I had retained some semblance of the innocence I possessed before that damn war began. My hands had always been carefully hidden away beneath itchy layers of ignition cloth, beneath a deadly array and a carefully embroidered fire salamander. My hands, I thought, were always clean, so long as that thin cloth shield was there to keep the blood out.
I knew, subconsciously, that killing wasn’t easy. I knew that each charred corpse I added to the growing piles of dead would be buried with another tiny, irretrievable sliver of my soul. I knew that; I knew so well that as the body count rose and the death statistics continued to gain zeroes, I could almost feel the bits of my soul being ripped away, as if the soul was something tangible. But through it all, I was able to retain some measure of sanity, clinging to my desperate mantra of your hands are still clean.
The reality of war didn’t hit the first time I killed, didn’t hit as the death toll rose and kept rising – indeed, reality didn’t really knock me straight in the chest until I felt the violent recoil of a dirty revolver and heard the dull thunk of two innocent bodies falling to a wooden floor.
I never touched them, never came close to the bodies, but the gloves were gone – the gloves were gone, and with it had gone my innocence. I never came near to the steadily crawling puddle of blood, but I saw it stain my hands. My shield was gone, my mantra suddenly worthless, and the combined loss left me painfully vulnerable to an onslaught of mental anguish, which my tortured mind readily accepted as some form of punishment for my sins.
I would only don my gloves, my shield again much later, when I had overcome the images that surfaced every time I tried to take a human life – of two doctors with the portrait of a little girl clutched tightly in their hands. Only this time, I didn’t wear them as a shield for my own innocence – I had none left. Rather, I wore them as a shield for the little girl in the photograph, for the fresh-faced soldiers making a game of the battlefield, for Hughes and for Marcoh.
For the innocent.
For the naive.
For anyone in this world who could still see some good in their existence.
For everything I once was and would never, never be again.
Really, it was the least I could do.
Sometimes, the new recruits, the ones that hadn’t seen action yet, went back onto the battlefield and counted. How many did Mustang kill today? What about Armstrong and Kimblee?
Flame could kill more than Crimson and Strong Arm combined, one said as they carelessly picked through the piles of dead, looking for those who were charred beyond recognition. Looking for "Mustang’s kills" – my kills. I often wondered why they spoke of it as if it was something to be proud of.
I could only cringe as they reported a startling figure, as the stupid, stupid soldier collected the money he had won with my name and gloated that voting Mustang was always a sure thing.
Later, I might see that soldier on the battlefield, lying lifeless in a puddle of his own blood, trusted weapon and lifeline sitting loose in his open hand, money from the earlier pot slowly being dyed a vivid crimson in the front pocket of his uniform, right where the bullet pierced his heart. This was the reality of war that he hadn’t seen before.
On one occasion, the poor kid was still breathing when I found him – but he was dying and he begged for release. So I was his angel of mercy.
And as I walked away from another blackened body, skin still sizzling and bubbling, I was able to think bitterly that he would become another one of Mustang’s kills in tomorrow’s games. Maybe this one body would turn the betting tide for some poor soldier tomorrow. Maybe I would make a man a few dollars richer, a little bit happier before he died in this pointless war, too.
Somehow, that thought didn’t comfort me any.
Spoilers: Ja. :3 Roy gets a demotion! Oh noes!
He is Riza’s best friend, her truest friend, her constant companion. He is her knight in shining armor and her shoulder cry on. He is a source of comfort in difficult times and a kind, loving soul.
He loves her.
She loves him.
It would, Riza ponders, be the perfect relationship, if the person in question were a person at all.
It is a few weeks after Edward returned to Amestris, scarred and limping but relatively unscathed, that Riza decides life is calm enough to go in search of another man for her life, one that is more than a foot tall and not covered in fur. Because as much as she loves Black Hayate, her apartment is cold sometimes and night, and her bed always seems incredibly empty of the late. She wants someone to spend the rest of her life with, as funny as it sounds to the men in the office, because dammit all if she doesn’t enjoy being treated like a lady sometimes.
So she looks. It isn’t hard to get a few lookers; after all, Riza always has been an attractive woman. She is rather shapely the rough, baggy military uniform is replaced by something feminine and silky, and she can be downright gorgeous when she chooses to wear her hair down. It could have been much, much easier if Riza hadn’t chosen to let Black Hayate be involved in the search, as well.
Her reasoning is simple. He has been the only man in her life for so long, and he would continue being in her life for some time to come. It only seems fit that he help to make the decision.
But Riza soon discovers that Black Hayate was one persnickety mutt, and he tends to express his ideas about people in a more physical sense because he lacks the ability to do so in words.
Thus far in her quest, four men had been pounced, three bitten, and one fellow was chased three blocks and then up a tree. She almost feels sorry for them.
But she trusts her dog’s judgement, knows that dog’s have heightened senses and can perceive things that most humans can’t even dream of. And sure enough, the suitor who had been in her neighbor’s tree a week ago shows up in her office on rape charges.
Riza gives Black Hayate a big, juicy steak that night.
She had almost given up on her search, had almost resigned herself to living in an empty apartment and sleeping in an empty bed for the rest of her life, until one clear evening when and unexpected visitor, one who she had not seen since his demotion to a private, shows up at her door, smirking in some sort of hidden humor and asking to come in.
She looks to her companion, sleeping soundly on a mat by the heater and snoring contentedly before returning the smile, recalling that she never heard a peep out of her dog in Roy Mustang’s office.
She invites him inside, and decides to wait to tell Roy how good Black Hayate is with children.
Title: Hidden Strength
Spoilers: Yes. For...kinda the movie?
Al couldn’t find it in himself to believe that the heap of skin, bones, and brown fabric that rested in his lap was his brother – couldn’t find it in himself to truly grasp that his brother was alive at all. Certainly, he had told people all these years that yes, of course his brother was alive, and he would search every inch of Amestris, as many times as it took, to find him. But now, as he stroked his brother’s silky blond hair, listened to the shallow scratch of his breathing, and felt the bony curvature of his emaciated frame, he realized that he never really believed that his brother was alive at all.
But he had hoped. He had hoped so very much that he was blinded by the sheer force of his own will – hoped so much that his mind had, of its own accord, formulated an imaginative world in which his brother was alive, sipping coffee at the breakfast table or smirking at the foolishness of one scientist as he read a book on the Rockbell’s sofa. And so many times had this pleasant image replayed in his mind’s eye, that he actually began to believe it, seek it, dare to think that it was more than just a mere fantasy.
For three years he searched.
For three years, he found nothing. And he had almost given up hope – had almost convinced himself that the empty casket marked by Edward Elric’s gravestone might actually be empty because they hadn’t found the body and not because there was no body to be found.
And yet here was his brother, whole and alive in his arms. Trembling, wheezing, and feverish but alive. It was almost too much for Al to bear; he felt hot tears leaking down his cheeks before he could stop them.
But, Al admonished himself, wiping the first of many tears away, even if this was his brother, they weren’t out of the woods yet. There was something wrong with him – the way that his breath rattled in shallow gasps, his unnaturally thin frame, the way his skin burned beneath Al’s fingertips all indicated that his brother wasn’t well, and something needed to be done – fast.
He quickly realized that he wasn’t going to be able to carry his brother. Thin as Ed was, Al just wasn’t strong enough, godammit. Plus, he couldn’t risk doing any more damage to his brother’s fragile and broken body. New tears of frustration trickled down his cheeks. He wasn’t strong enough to help his only brother when he needed it most.
Stop it, Al. Get a hold of yourself. Your brother needs you.
He looked in the direction of Granny Pinako’s house. Thirty minutes by foot...even if he crafted some sort of sled and put his brother in it, dragged him to safety and medical attention, would he be fast enough? This situation was far too familiar, though a memory-less Alphonse had no idea why. He just felt as if this situation, under far different circumstances, had taken place some time ago.
No matter. No time for dwelling on lost memories now.
Al bit his lip and cradled his brother’s head in his hands, shuddering slightly when he saw the prominence of Edward’s cheek and jaw bones in the hollow, sunken, pale face. So many questions...so many questions making themselves known in Al’s mind, but the still form in his arms did little to offer a response.
"Niisan..." Al refused to acknowledge that his voice caught with a sob as he uttered the familiar term that he hadn’t used in so, so long.
Al had heard it said that men can do great things when someone that they love is in danger – that a mother could lift an incredible weight off her child, that a father can brave the current of a raging river to bring his son to safety.
Alphonse was thirty minutes away from the Rockbell’s.
Sprinting there, with his brother on his back, he made it in fifteen.
Title: A Week in the Life
On Sunday, Niisan got a cold. He woke up sniffling and sneezing, and just before I was shooed out of the room, he was starting to look a bit green around the gills. Granny told me that his immune system wasn’t what it used to be, since he lost his arm and leg, and it would be easier for him to get sick, now.
She also told me to stay out of the room.
At first, I was reluctant, because Niisan had cried for me so desperately in the beginning, when the wounds were still gaping, open, red things. But he was getting better now, and he didn’t cry quite so often, so I left him alone, just like Granny told me. Just like a good boy.
On Monday, I ghosted from room to room, hovering nervously around the house because I was still reluctant to leave my brother’s side. At least in the house I could hear him if he said my name, if he asked for me. It was my duty to be there for my one and only big brother. But he didn’t cry for me, Granny assured me. He was sleeping for most of the day, Al. It’s alright.
On Tuesday, I was bored enough to venture out the door and into the beautiful spring morning. It was hard at first – being in the sun and not feeling warm, crawling in the grass and not smelling its freshness. Winry came out to tell me that Edward was glad to see me outdoors enjoying myself. That made me feel more than a little guilty, and there was an uncomfortable twinge in my chest that, when I thought about it, wasn’t entirely possible. So I went inside, because it didn’t seem fair that I got to play outside when Niisan was lying sick as a dog in bed.
On Wednesday, I tried with all my heart to stay by my brother’s side. Granny finally let me into the room, told me to feed Edward if I was going to be so damn stubborn about it. But it seemed Granny hadn’t been lying – all that he did was sleep. After about two hours, there was a tap on my shoulder that I heard rather than felt, and I turned around to see Winry there tugging at my gauntlet and urging me toward the door.
Come on Al.
It can’t be very interesting watching that idiot sleep the day away, now can it?
Sure enough, she was right. It was boring as hell – not that that was Niisan’s fault, of course.
So we went outside again. It was different now that Winry was there, more like the old days now that I heard her clear, lovely voice over the dark insights of my consciousness. So we laughed and played in her front yard – tag and hide and seek and all that. I stumbled a lot, and it was always rather hard for me to find a place to hide, but we managed. And when the day was coming to a close and we were watching the sun set over the fence by the road to town, it was easy to imagine Ed was there, too – easy to imagine that I could feel her tiny hands clinging to my leather gauntlet.
On Thursday, I was the one who shook Winry awake. I was the one who insisted that we needed to go outside and play, because I was getting cabin fever. Winry was happy to oblige, and we left with a shopping bag and bouquet after she checked in on a grumpy, feverish Niisan and an exhausted, snappy Granny. She gave us the task of gathering bandages and medicine from the town pharmacist and fruits and vegetables from the town greengrocer.
We raced to town, even though I picked her up halfway there and neither of us won. And on the way back, we took the bouquet to the cemetery and split the flowers evenly among our three lost loved ones.
By Friday, I was beginning to enjoy this time with Winry – perhaps a bit too much. As children, Niisan and I had always been competitive about Winry’s attention, and here she was devoting it all to me. Niisan, had he been in any condition to do so, would have been incredibly jealous.
We played outside again, and I basked in the attention she gave me. I could have sworn I felt a blush spreading over my face when she told me that I didn’t trip so much now, and I hadn’t broken anything lately – when she told me that she was proud of the progress I was making.
The sun had never made me feel so warm.
And that night, when Niisan asked me what I had been up to, I stumbled through an explanation that wasn’t terribly articulate – I didn’t want to make him feel too terrible about being confined to a bed all the time – but he didn’t seem to understand me much anyway, and poor Niisan fell asleep halfway through my stammered account of the afternoon.
On Saturday, it rained, so we couldn’t go outside. Winry made me hot cocoa I couldn’t drink but thanked her for all the same, and we talked. She told me that Niisan would be better soon, and they could start surgery by next week.
I pretended to act happy for him, but I was jealous.
Niisan would have Winry’s attention again, just like he had in the day’s after the incident, and I would be down one playmate. Maybe Winry had learned to read my strange new body language, maybe my emotions were just easy to see, but Winry looked at me in that way she looked at a broken piece of machinery – brow furrowed in concern and lip quivering ominously.
What’s wrong? You can tell me.
I didn’t ever voice my concerns, just shook my head with a squeak and looked into the roaring hearth. But she was persistent, determined to get something out of me whatever it took, and she was crawling into my lap, looking incredibly tiny, before I could tell her not to. She whispered something into my shoulder that didn’t quite make it to my not-ears, and then looked up, eyes filled with tears, lips moving in some silent apology before she laid a kiss in the center of my helmet, right where a nose should have been.
Before she fell asleep in my arms, I heard her whisper that I was warm.
I knew, deep down, that it was the fault of the fire which warmed my metal skin, but I was flattered and pleased and excited to hear it all the same.
I didn’t bother trying to sleep that night. I was too busy listening to the beat of her heart, echoing beautifully in the steel confines of my body.
Sunday morning, Winry woke early, complaining of an ache in her neck. Niisan came to breakfast at the table, staggering and swaying slightly on his makeshift prosthetic. Niisan was better, Granny announced, and they could begin surgery as soon as tomorrow.
Winry shined her tools and sterilized the equipment, while Granny prepared the operating room, and Ed squirmed restlessly on the couch in the den.
I just did my best to stay out of everyone’s way.
Sunday night came, and even though I shouldn’t have been able to, what with no mind to sustain these fanciful images and no sleep to grant them, I had dreams of Winry.
On Monday, I played outside alone, with only my memories to keep me company.
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