The train can’t get to Lior soon enough. Roy doesn’t know what’ll be waiting for him but he’s sure Fullmetal will be there somewhere and that alone spells trouble. He lets out a long sigh and presses his forehead against the window. The scenery’s rapidly changing to a more barren landscape so they must be getting close. At least this train takes him directly into Lior. He can’t count the number of connections he’s taken to even get to this point. He wishes there’d been a direct route from Central because it feels like he’s wasted so much time.
He adjusts the cuffs of his sleeves as he thinks about the call that has him headed out this way. He’d give anything to get the memory out of his mind. How many times has he wished to hear that voice again? But to hear it with an obvious undertone of maliciousness turned his stomach. He doesn’t know who did it or how they did it but it’s enough to make him ready to kill. No one uses Hughes’ voice. No one. Especially perverted like that. He’s not sure what’s worse, that someone’s capable of impersonating Hughes or that they know they can effectively use it against him.
Roy slides a hand into his pocket and runs his fingers over both sets of gloves. He’s never used the alkahestry one for battle and to be honest he hasn’t worked with it since he healed Havoc. He didn’t see the need especially with how dangerous it is to combine with his flame alchemy. He’s lucky he didn’t incinerate himself in the process of healing Havoc, but it was worth it. After a couple months of physical therapy, Jean’s walking again and thankfully due to the paperwork mess from his near retirement he hasn’t been transferred. But if what Roy was told is correct, he could be in harm’s way again. He should’ve made sure Jean was still in Central before he left, but there wasn’t time.
Someone’s screwing with them. No question about it. It’s a good thing Alphonse’s frantic phone call came before he tore out of Central. He assumed this was all about him, but with Ed getting a call too it changes everything. Roy was willing to walk into a trap if it meant confronting Hughes’ killer, but Ed was lured in by a different method. Someone wants them both in Lior despite knowing how powerful he and Ed are. That can’t mean anything good.
Roy leans his head back against the wooden bench and shifts in his seat. He could’ve secured a private train car that would’ve been more comfortable, but he didn’t have the time to wait. He took the first available ticket going East and worried about the train transfers station to station. Considering how volatile Fullmetal can be there wasn’t any time to waste. According to Alphonse, he and Ed were down south in Resembool when Ed got the call Havoc was in jeopardy. If that wasn’t enough, the caller also baited him with the possibility of information about the Philosopher’s Stone. Someone was obviously setting them up, but it still had Ed ditching Alphonse at a train station to head for Lior. Thankfully Alphonse called and asked what to do. He wasn’t happy about it but Roy was able to convince him to go back to Resembool and wait. At least one of the Elric brothers trusts him enough to listen.
He looks out the window again and frowns. It’s one thing to try and lure Fullmetal with the Stone…but to use Havoc too? There has to be a reason he’s not seeing yet. The person doing this must’ve been watching them. Few people would even know about the friendship Ed and Jean struck up during his rehabilitation, but someone knew they could use it against him. Why? Why bring in another variable? And why would Ed go anywhere without Alphonse? Roy leans his head back again and closes his eyes. Maybe he’ll get some answers when he finds Ed…if it’s not already too late.
“Hey Mustang! How’s it feel to hear from a dear old friend? The desert in Lior’s a lot better than the one in Ishval.”
He winces as the words echo through his head once again. It was Hughes’ voice. There's no denying it and the familiar sound has him hoping for a miracle where he’ll find him alive and well in Lior. But he knows better. He could hear it in the undercurrent of the words, something only one other person would notice. It was a malice Hughes never had, evil and twisted, and it feeds his deep seated fear that whatever called him might not just have his voice. If someone is wearing Hughes’ face, nothing in this world will protect them. Roy fists his hand against his thigh and grits his teeth. “I will make them pay, Hughes. I swear it.”
The train rocks hard and his eyes fly open at the unmistakable sound he hoped to never hear again. It’s war and it’s worse than the reports. There’s a revolt taking place in Lior but the military was dispatched from Central months ago. It should be under control. The train rocks again and all the news he’s heard about the situation being under control was a lie. His stomach turns because it’s much too familiar. He swallows against the bile in his throat and forces himself to take a slow breath as the train slows. They must be nearing the station and he can think of only one thing. He needs to find Edward. He has no idea what he’s gotten into.
The squeal of train brakes hit much too hard nearly sends him flying out of his seat and he holds tight to the wooden bench in front of him. The train’s nearly empty and it’s no surprise. Most people avoid a war zone. He looks out the window and sees smoke billowing in the distance. The sky outside is dark from a dust haze that obscures the crumbling buildings and casts everything under a reddish glow. The train station they’ve pulled into is barely standing under its sagging eves. Countless battles have no doubt weakened the building’s supports and lent to its ominous welcome. Scattered rubble and broken timber litter the ground while notices flap against the walls unread. He’s unsurprised when the conductor comes into the car to warn passengers from exiting. It seems the only reason he stopped the train at all was to unload food and supplies.
Roy pushes off the wooden bench and drapes his long coat over his shoulders. He makes his way down the aisle to the door where the harried looking conductor attempts to block his path. “I’m sorry, sir. We’re not letting people off the train. It’s too dangerous. Hostilities have worsened the past few days. Please, take your seat and we’ll be leaving as soon as the supplies are unloaded.”
Roy rests his hand on the man’s ample shoulder and gives it a reassuring squeeze. He’s right. No one else should be disembarking, but he knows Fullmetal. Nothing would stop him, and if Havoc is here, he needs to get him out as well. “Thank you for your concern. It’s duly noted but I will be getting off at this stop. Please, do your best to make sure all the other passengers make it out of here safely.”
The conductor nods but hesitates. He’s seen too much of this conflict, and it speaks volumes he would still come here at all. He’s a good man, but right now Roy can’t waste anymore time. “Please,” Roy says firmly, more a command then a request and this time he does move to the side. Roy quickly slips past him and steps out of the train car into an all too familiar hell. Roy brings his hand up to cover his mouth as the dust kicked up by the train is nearly suffocating. He strides through the station as quickly as he can, his long coat swirling around him.
The building is still standing, but from the creaking timbers and trembling foundation he doesn’t think it will be much longer. Roy kicks open a door that’s barely hanging on its hinges and stops the instant he passes through it. The station and the damaged buildings on the outskirts of the city were bad, but they’re nothing compared to the carnage that are the streets of Lior. Toppled piles of stone stand where buildings used to be with mangled metal poking through as if clawing for air. It’s lucky if every couple of blocks there’s a single wall still standing. He stands paralyzed by the sight for a moment but he quickly shakes it off. He slides his arms through the sleeves of his coat and wraps it tighter around himself, there’s no point in advertising rank in a place like this. He moves quickly from the station and scans the streets for signs of anything: Edward, Jean, Maes, but all he sees are the ravages of a war torn city.
This can’t be the same city. It can’t. He and Al stopped Cornello! They showed the people what a sham he was. People saw the truth, so how can there still be riots between Letoists and nonbelievers? This should’ve all blown over, not turned into an outright civil war. It doesn’t make any sense! Ed flinches when another explosion goes off a few blocks away and he should get out of here but that thing from the Fifth Laboratory has Havoc and he has to do something. He won’t be responsible for someone else’s death. That’s why he came alone. The voice on the phone said if he brought Al with him Havoc would be done for good. He can’t let that happen. He won’t!
He walks down another empty street and he snarls as he kicks at a stray rock because he doesn’t even know what he’s looking for. The message didn’t come with any directions other than to come to Lior and, well, he’s here. Unfortunately the bad guys aren’t wearing a sign and didn’t provide a welcoming committee. This part of the city has more standing buildings but that doesn’t mean he’s had any more luck finding where he should be headed. He sighs and looks into the next abandoned building for something, anything, that might make sense of any of this.
Al said he should call Mustang about this, but how could he? The bastard broke his trust when he used that damn glove against him. He knows Mustang just wanted to fix Havoc but it was too dangerous. How could he stand down when he knew that to heal him Mustang would have to fry himself with his flame alchemy to carry the reaction? It shouldn’t have worked. It should’ve done so much more than sear him on the inside. Somehow the bastard got lucky, but that still didn’t give Roy the right to incapacitate him. He still remembers the way it felt to have his nerves short circuited all at once. That fucking alkahestry is as much a weapon as it is a blessing and he’s been on both ends. That’s why he couldn’t be with him anymore. That’s why it had to end.
He growls at the thought and picks his way through more rubble as he works his way down the street. Stupid Mustang and all his stupid rules about blind trust and following orders. It’s one thing to trust him in the bedroom, but quite another to follow orders that don’t make any damn sense. He was trying to stop him from hurting himself, but Roy wouldn’t listen. He expected him to follow after him like his damn unit does and he still doesn’t get it. Sure Havoc has a reason to be grateful, but what about the rest? They all follow him like he’s some kind of a God and Ed doesn’t understand it. How can you blindly follow anyone, regardless of their damn rank? He kicks a rock and watches it skitter down the dusty street. It was good while it lasted, but it’s in the past. Now he just needs to—
He’s flying through the air before he has a clue what’s happening. He hits the ground hard, landing on his automail shoulder, and pain radiates through the attached nerve endings. His ears are ringing and he can barely see through the thick cloud of dust from what must’ve been an explosion. Children’s screams ring out and he looks for the source of the cries. They’re coming from the burnt out husk of a building about to collapse with a mother and two children huddled inside. He shoves himself to his feet then sprints across the street, clapping his hands together as he dives for the ground. The building shudders from the aftershocks and there’s not much time. He slams his hands down into the dust and dirt and transmutes a rock arch from the earth to temporarily shelter those inside.
“Get out! Get out now!” The woman hesitates then she scoops up the little girl in her arms and grabs the hand of the boy. They run from the building just as a crack runs up his his newly made support. Ed sees it coming but he still barely manages to step back far enough before the second story of the building collapses. The whole damn thing comes crashing to the ground, engulfing him in a cloud of dust. He coughs even after he covers his mouth with his sleeve and stares in shock at the pile of rubble that moments ago was a makeshift shelter. How can things be so bad? This was a good town, a happy place when he and Al visited. Sure they were all following a crazy man, but they were safe and happy. Did he cause this? Is this all his fault?
Ed gets so wrapped up in his own head he doesn’t see the secondary wall support collapsing and falling his way until it's too late. There’s nowhere to run and his eyes widen. He tries to move but his feet have forgotten how. He crouches down to make himself as small as possible and braces for the impact but then he’s suddenly jerked hard by his collar. He flies back several feet, out of the crumbling stone’s path and he lands hard on his ass. Ed stares at the rubble that was nearly his grave. How many others have ended up buried beneath stone and sand? How many deaths is he responsible for?
He hears the voice but can’t respond. He can’t move. How can people do this to other people?
“Fullmetal! On your feet!”
He blinks at the command and he’s pushing up off the ground and looking around before he realizes it. He’s tugged off the street by the same strong hand as before to the side of a much sturdier looking building. He sees the flare of the long coat, the jet black hair, and there’s no mistaking the possessive grip on him. “Mustang? What’re you doing here?”
Roy’s head whips around and he can tell he’s surveying him for something as his eyes sweep over him. He tugs on his arm again and doesn’t stop until they’re well off the street. Why is he here? Why is he leading him around like some damn puppy? And what if someone sees him? The homunculus told him that he had to come alone, that if he brought Al something bad would happen to Havoc. Now Mustang’s here! What if they think he brought him here?
“Mustang, you have to get out of here! They could see you.” He tries to pull from his grip but Roy holds firm. “Dammit Roy, let go of me. You have to leave! Now! I didn’t ask you to come. Get out of here!”
Roy’s hand finally falls away and he gives him that searching look that always infuriates him. Ed shoves him as panic settles in the pit of his stomach. “I’m serious! You can’t be here. No one can. Not even Al.” Roy grabs both his shoulders firmly and Ed tries to shake out of his grip. “Let go. I told you—”
“That’s enough, Fullmetal.” His words are commanding and clipped and it makes Ed want to fight him even more, or punch his smug ass face. “I’m here for the same reason you are. I got a call too.”
Ed stops struggling and gives Mustang a hard look. Is he lying? Ed’s certain Al must’ve called him. He tried to talk Ed into calling him but that wasn’t going to happen. There’s no way he’s ever going back to this manipulative bastard for help.
“You’re lying. Al told you. You’re just trying to fuck with me. Again.” Roy’s face darkens and the grip on his arms, flesh and automail, grows tighter. Roy’s eyes turn even blacker than usual with anger and Ed actually flinches at the malice he sees directed at him.
“You’re still an arrogant little shit I see.” Roy's lips turn up in a sneer and Ed tries to jerk away again but his grip is iron. “It’s not always all about you, Fullmetal! I told you, I got a call telling me to come here as well.” His eyes narrow dangerously and Ed stops fighting him. He looks like he’s ready to incinerate someone and he’s not sure if he could stop him if he used it on him. “It was from Maes.”
“Wait…what?” Did he hear him right? Has Roy finally fried his own brain? He pushes at his chest and this time Roy lets him go. Ed takes a step back to process the information but no matter how he turns it around in his head it doesn’t make any damn sense. “What the hell are you talking about, Mustang? Brigadier General Hughes is dead.” He swallows hard because even after all this time it hardly feels real. But he needs to say it because obviously Roy has gone off the deep end and forgotten.
“You think I don’t know that?” Ed’s met with a dark scowl and that’s when he notices Mustang’s wearing his ignition gloves. There’s a slight rasp between his fingers as Roy rubs them together and Ed’s eyes widen. Roy only wears those when he plans on using them. What the hell is going on? “The person on the phone was using his voice.” Roy’s eyes turn as hard and cold as Ed’s ever seen them and it sends a shiver down his spine. “It’s the thing that killed Hughes. I’m going after it. Are you in?”
“Try to stop me.” Mustang nods but Ed looks around him to see if he’s really alone. “Al didn’t come with you did he?” It’s one thing if he and Mustang were both lured here but his message specifically said no Al.
Mustang shakes his head. “I sent him back to Resembool to wait for you.” Ed watches Roy scan the streets. He’s doing the same thing he was earlier, looking for anything that might’ve been left as a sign for them. “He’s safe, Fullmetal, don’t worry.”
“It’s not that.” Roy finally turns his head to look at him and Ed shrugs his shoulders and sighs. “It was in the message. No Al or no Havoc.” Roy nods once then turns to make his way up the street but unlike Ed he stays to the side. Ed frowns as he follows along behind him and pokes at Roy’s side. “What gives? Why are you keeping so close to the buildings? Didn’t you see the one that collapsed earlier?”
“Yes. But it’s obvious we’ve both been invited into a trap. I’d prefer to keep out of sniper range if that’s alright with you.” Ed scowls at the tone but says nothing more. He’s used to fighting people one on one, not thinking about guns and assassination attempts. But why would there even be an attempt?
“Do you really think we were invited here just to be killed?” Ed looks around the war torn streets and shakes his head. “You’d think they could think of a better place than this.” Anyone who had to come here to set them up would be putting themselves at risk too.
“War is a good place for assassinations. It happens all the time.” Ed stares because he says it so matter of fact as if it’s something everyone should know. Ed sighs and follows after him, still looking for any signs at all. “Were you told anything else? Anything at all?”
Ed glares at his back. Roy didn’t even bother turning to look at him when he spoke. He huffs and shakes his head. “Not really, just that I might find out some information about the stone too.” Roy stops short and Ed nearly runs into him. “What the hell, Mustang?” Roy turns around and the serious look on his face takes him by surprise. What’s got him so damn on edge? There are always rumors about the stone. To be honest he didn’t even put much stock in it.
“I need to tell you something.” He pulls Ed between two crumbling buildings and Ed shifts on his feet at the intensity of his stare.
“So what? Are you going to keep me waiting all day?”
“Be quiet, Edward, and listen.” Ed opens his mouth to snap back but the look on Roy’s face is all business so he sighs and crosses his arms. “There’s a chance the people behind this could be homunculi.” Ed shrugs because it’s not like he hadn’t figured out himself. “If they are then you need to know, the core of the homunculi is the stone.”
What? Ed blinks and stares at him unbelieving. He knew this and never told him? He had to have figured this out when he killed the other one and he didn’t even mention it! All the time they were together, all the things they did, and he kept this from him. He was right to put an end to it. He really is nothing more than a manipulative, fucking bastard. “How could you not tell me! We could’ve been looking for one all this time.” Ed reaches out and grabs him, both hands fisting in his coat as he shakes him. “You manipulative piece of—.”
“Stop it, Fullmetal.” Roy’s hands circle his wrists, but he doesn’t let go. He could’ve found one. He could’ve gotten Al’s body back. He could’ve at least tried. “This is exactly why I didn’t tell you because it can’t be separated.”
“Bullshit! You’re just saying that. You can’t know that!” He shakes him hard again but then he’s forced back by a sharp, openhanded blow to his chest. “You bastard!”
“Edward, listen to me. Your life could depend on it.” Roy’s eyes are deadly serious but he doesn’t care. “It would just be a ploy to distract you. I know. I saw it.” Ed scowls and he feels like wrapping his hands around his fucking throat and squeezing, hard. “Listen, Fullmetal. The stone is the homunculus. It’s the core. I know. I held it in my fucking hand and the damn thing regenerated around me. It only died once I wore it out with my flame and the stone disintegrated.” Ed looks away. He doesn’t want to listen. He doesn’t want to hear it but Roy won’t stop. “I had it in my hand and ended up skewered in the side. Trust me, Fullmetal, anything they try to tell you is nothing but a lie to distract you.”
Ed hangs his head and sighs as he lets go of him. On some level it makes sense and it’s just not fair. He turns sharply and slams his automail fist into the side of a wall leaving a small crater in the stone. All this time, to be so damn close…it’s not fair. He feels Mustang’s hand on his shoulder and he wants to shake it off but…on some level he understands, even though it still pisses him off.
“Edward….” His voice is soft and even. Too soft and it reminds him too much of things he needs to forget. He turns around expecting to see those same dark eyes that could see straight through him, but instead all he sees is a hard mask of indifference. Ed blinks because the only time he’s ever seen him this cool and indifferent was when he pretended to incinerate Lieutenant Ross. His eyes lock with Ed as he speaks again. “I need to know you won’t try to do anything stupid.”
There’s no apology in his words and Ed shrugs his shoulders. “You have my word, Mustang. I won’t try anything.” Roy’s gaze continues to bore into him, but he won’t look at him. He won’t give him the satisfaction. Instead he looks around him into the street and he sees a young woman run by. He narrows his eyes because there’s something familiar about her. He leans to the side to get a better look and when he sees the flash of pink in the dark hair he knows he’s right. “Rose! Hey , Rose, it’s Ed. Rose!”
He turns to go after her, but a hand on his shoulder stops him. Ed snaps his head around and glares at Mustang. He may out rank him but that doesn’t mean he’s running the show. He’s not one of Mustang’s devoted, deluded men who will follow him no matter what. “Let me go, Roy. I know her.”
“Are you sure?” Roy’s hand tightens on his arm and Ed yanks it away. Damn superior bastard.
“Yes, I’m sure. Her name is Rose. Al and I met her the first time we were here.” He doesn’t even look back this time, he just runs after her. “Rose, wait up!” If she’s still here she has to know more about what’s going on. Maybe she even knows where they can find whoever is behind all this. Either way he’s going to find out and not wait around for Mustang to figure out his best course of action.
Roy considers reaching out for him again but Ed won’t listen to him. He hurries after him because the fool isn’t even thinking about the fact that people might not be all they seem. If whoever is doing this could duplicate Hughes’ voice, who knows who else they could impersonate? He looks at Ed running a few steps ahead of him and the chilling thought runs through him…what if this isn’t even Ed? His steps falter at the possibility. Could even this be part of an elaborate trap? Could Ed himself be a decoy?
The red coat swirls in front of him and he goes cold inside at the implications of this not being his Ed. But then he remembers the look in his eyes when he touched him. Even if their enemies knew about the relationship they had, which they very well could, they couldn’t imitate that look. He saw vulnerability in his eyes mixed with silent accusations of betrayal only the real Ed would have. They might be able to imitate his body, but just like with Maes’ voice, they can’t imitate humanity. This is his Edward, rash and way too trusting for his own good. He won’t see the trap until it’s already sprung around him.
He quickens his step and follows him into another enclosure, some building that looks like it might’ve been a coffee shop or café at one point though right now it’s so damaged it’s hard to tell. Ed runs up to the young woman and catches her hand. She seems harmless enough but he doesn’t trust it. He knows they can’t trust anything right now. He runs his eyes over her and he can tell she’s a few years older than Ed. She’s thin, probably from trying to survive in this war torn desert for too long, but besides that she looks surprisingly uninjured. She must be very smart or very lucky.
“Rose, it’s Ed, remember? Al and I were here bef—” Rose launches herself at Ed and Roy brings his hand up, fingers at the ready though what he can do with her wrapped around him he’s not sure. It’s not like he could burn her without injuring Ed. Ed awkwardly wraps his arms around her and it’s obvious he’s not used to having a girl in his arms.
“Oh, Ed. I’m so glad you’re here. It’s been horrible. You have no idea.” Roy relaxes his stance but remains alert. She does seem to know him but that doesn’t mean she still couldn’t have ulterior motives.
“What happened, Rose? When I left it seemed like things were ok. How did this happen?” Ed pushes her back a bit and Roy doesn’t miss the look she sends his way. It’s not one of fear or vulnerability like he’d expect. Her violet eyes meet his stare unflinchingly and he gets an uneasy feeling in his stomach he can’t explain. She doesn’t look hostile but he knows how looks can be deceiving. He swears the corner of her mouth twitches upward a fraction as she holds his gaze, but when she turns her attention back to Ed the potential smirk melts off her face. Something doesn’t feel right but since he has nothing to base it on he knows Ed won’t listen to him.
“Cornello came back and it’s been horrible. He’s turning everyone against each other, saying all the nonbelievers need to be eradicated.” She reaches out again and tugs at Ed’s arm. “Then the military showed up and everything got worse. But you’re here now. You can make everything right again, can’t you? That’s why you’re here, to fix what you started, right Ed?”
Roy doesn’t miss the way Ed flinches and he narrows his eyes. This wasn’t Ed’s fault. He did what he could and this woman is either blind or stupid not to know that. He sees Ed hang his head and he’s had enough. This ends now. They don’t have time to waste on this girl unless she can actually be of use. “Actually we’re here looking for a friend. A soldier. His name is Jean Havoc, blond, usually has a cigarette.”
Her head whips around to look at him and this time he doesn’t miss the malice in her eyes. But then she immediately turns back to Ed and hides it as she tugs at him. “I’ve seen him. I think he came with the last group of soldiers that came here. He helped save Maribelle and some children a few days ago. Do you want me too—.”
Roy stalks forward and grabs her arm, forcefully turning her toward him. He glares and gives her a shake. “Where is he? What have you done with him.” There’s something off about this girl. He can feel it. She’s not reacting the way she should. She gives him a hard look in return and he knows she has to be involved. She knows too much.
“Mustang, stop it!” Ed shoves him back and Rose positions herself behind Ed, a frightened look plastered on her face that Roy doesn’t believe for a minute. “She’s been through a lot, can’t you see that? Stop bullying her, Roy. She’s not one of your soldiers you can order around.”
“Edward, you don’t understand.”
“I know, I’m just supposed to trust you, right? I’m just supposed to blindly follow your orders like a good little soldier.” Ed scowls and Roy sighs because they don’t have time for this right now. They can deal with their personal issues another time. But one look at Ed tells him he’s in no mood to listen to anything he has to say.
“I can take you to see Maribelle, Ed. She might know where your friend is.” Ed turns to look at Rose and Roy grits his teeth when he sees she’s got her hand on his shoulder again. She obviously doesn’t want his attention on anything but her and Roy doesn’t trust it. But maybe he can use it. If she really is involved she might be able to take him to Havoc…while leading them straight into a trap. But what other choice do they have?
Ed glares at him again and Roy knows there’s probably a lot more he’d like to say to him but there’s no time and even Ed realizes it. He nods to Rose. “That would help a lot. Thank you.” Rose turns to lead them to her friend and Ed doesn’t even bother a look back at Roy as he follows after her.
Roy follows a few paces behind them as Rose leads them out the back of the dilapidated shop. She turns down a narrow back alley and Roy’s fingers curl, ready for an ambush, but nothing happens. He keeps his guard up as they make their way single file through several twists and turns. There’s nothing remarkable about the buildings they pass aside from the fact they still stand. The war’s left random pockets of buildings untouched and Roy wonders if there’s more to it than that.
They finally come out from between two buildings into what used to be a broad courtyard and now is just another casualty of war. The size of it makes him assume it was a place of celebration. There’s rubble in the center of the plaza he’s pretty sure used to be a large fountain. A rare commodity in a desert town like Lior where water can be in short supply with little notice. The decorative tiles surrounding the area are cracked and scorched and he can only imagine the cause. The damage radiates outward as if the fountain had raised someone’s ire. Rose pays none of this any mind, however, as she skirts along the edge of the war torn space into what seems to be an old church.
Rose stops at the large, still intact doors and he and Ed both stop to look at her. “I’ll go inside and see if Maribelle is here. I won’t be long”
She turns to go inside and Roy shakes his head. “And why can’t we go with you?” He feels Ed’s disapproving eyes on him but leaving them in an open space like this reeks set up. There’s no place to take cover and he hates feeling so exposed. Rose locks her eyes on him and she doesn’t even attempt to hide her anger.
“Because we don’t let military dogs in our safe haven. I’d think you’d understand that, Colonel.” Rose turns sharply and goes inside the church and Roy scans the area for all avenues of escape. He never told her his rank. He never even told her his name.
“What is wrong with you? Do you have to work to be this much of a bastard?” Ed scowls and shakes his head. “I still can’t believe I let you—”
“Enough, Fullmetal.” Roy grabs his arm and drags him toward the opening of the alley they just came from. It’s not much but at least it’ll provide more cover than standing out in the middle of the courtyard.
“Mustang, what are you doing? Rose will be back in a minute. She can help us. Stop!” Ed yanks his arm away and Roy spins around to face him.
“We need to get in a better strategic position, Fullmetal. Standing out here, like this….” Roy motions to the open courtyard with one hand then locks his eyes on Ed again. “It’s too exposed. We can wait in the alley.”
“Are you seriously that paranoid?” Ed crosses his arms and firmly plants his feet. “You really think someone would go to all the trouble of bringing us here just to kill us like that? You’re being ridiculous, Mustang.”
“And you’re still under my command. Now come on and follow m—”
The creak of the large wooden doors causes Roy to stop and they both turn to look. The large door is blocking whoever opened it and Roy curls his fingers in preparation for a fight. He raises his hand, waiting to see if it’s the girl but instead a strange looking person steps into view. It’s a girl, or a young man? He’s not sure. The hair’s in long spikes but the look on its face is pure evil.
“Hey, I know you!” Ed clenches his fists and Roy can see he’s ready for a fight as well. “You’re the one from the Fifth Laboratory. You’re a homunculus aren’t you?”
“Nice to see you remember me, Fullmetal pipsqueak.” The homunculus grins maliciously and Roy’s tempted to burn it now, but they need to attempt to get some information. They still don’t know where Havoc is.
“Don’t call me SHORT!” Ed’s seething at the derogatory remark, as usual, but before Roy can tell him to calm down the thing turns its eyes on him.
“You really don’t trust anyone, do you, Colonel? Good for you. Too bad your friend wasn’t as smart.”
Hot rage burns through him at the mention of Hughes and information or not he’s found the one he’s been looking for. The thirst for vengeance wells up inside him and he clenches his teeth as he brings his hand up to end this. He’s burned one to death, he can burn another, though there’s no doubt this will be much sweeter than the last. He pushes around Ed, stalks forward, and for the first time in his life he’s glad burning to death is so damn painful. But then he sees a flash of metal in the sunlight and his blood runs cold.
He tries to dodge and snap his fingers but he can’t concentrate on the reaction and hardly manages more than a spark. The shot rings out as he pushes off Ed but he’s only able to move a few inches before the bullet tears through his shoulder. He staggers back, barely staying on his feet, and as his hand covers his shoulder his eyes go wide. If he hadn’t seen the gun and moved a few inches…. They aren’t playing around anymore. There’s no question that was a shot to kill.
As this was written for fmabigbang, we had the pleasure of working with the wonderful Apple who drew the above picture illustrating a scene in this chapter.
To see the fullsize image and to leave Apple comments please go here.
Ed staggers back from Roy’s push and his heart’s in his throat the instant he hears the gun shot. Blood soaks Roy’s white glove as he clutches his shoulder Ed claps his hands together to transmute his arm into the familiar blade. There’s no time to see if he’s alright. If anyone can take care of themselves it’s Roy. He turns when he hears the homunculus curse and he doesn’t hesitate. He sprints toward Envy as he raises the gun again and Ed slashes out with his arm right as it goes off. There’s a clang of metal on metal and the gun goes flying across the plaza clattering against the stone.
“You’ll pay for that, shortie!” There’s nothing but maliciousness in Envy’s eyes and Ed knows Roy was right all along. This was a trap and he didn’t even see it. Apparently they’ve both used up their usefulness. Ed swipes again with his blade, aiming to maim or worse but Envy easily evades him and jumps back.
“What’s wrong, Envy? I thought we were candidates.” The homunculus is backing up and he’s getting a bad feeling about this. If he wants them dead, why isn’t he attacking?
“You’re too much trouble. And the Flame Colonel…,” he motions toward Roy with a look of pure evil on his face. “He killed Lust.” Envy looks around then smiles darkly. “Now Gluttony!”
Something large falls from an upper level of the church and the ground shudders with the impact. His eyes widen when he’s suddenly face to face with another homunculus smiling at him with a huge open mouth. It must be the one Roy confronted in Central. It walks toward him but before he can react he hears a snap followed by a hiss over his shoulder. A huge ball of flame erupts in front of him and sends him stumbling back.
A scream pierces the air but he knows it won’t last long. The bubbling mass is already reforming in front of him and he looks around for Envy. Ed sees Roy advancing, hand raised to snap again and he moves out of the way. Roy can take on this one but he needs to make sure Envy doesn’t try to assassinate him again. Ed sees movement by the rubble in the center of the courtyard and takes off at a sprint. He won’t be taken by surprise again.
An explosion rings out behind him and he spots Envy on top of the pile of rock and cracked tiles. “Well come on, homunculus! You say we’re too much trouble to keep around, come face me!” Envy grins and leaps off the pile of debris. He lunges for him and Ed doesn’t see the knife until it’s almost too late. He ducks and rolls but he still feels the blade slash across his left arm. The pain’s a dull throb but nothing he can’t ignore as another explosion echoes behind him.
“Be still, you little pipsqueak. I can’t kill you if you keep running around like that.” Envy holds the blade down by his side and Ed sees it’s about a foot long. That’s a foot more out of his reach he needs to stay. Ed claps his hands together then slams them to the ground to raise two long rows of spikes from the earth. One tears at Envy’s side but it’s only minor damage. Ed runs at him, swinging his automail blade but Envy easily avoids him, his side already regenerating under his hand. He needs to catch him to find out what’s going on but he’s not going to do that with Envy running him in circles.
“Now who’s the one who won’t keep still?” Ed circles around the rubble, eyes locked on Envy, but he’s still aware of Roy battling the fat monster on the other side of the courtyard. But then an inhuman cry echoes through the open space and Ed whips his head around to find the source.
“Colonel MUSTANG! You killed Luuuuuuuust! Swallow. Swallooooooooow!”
Ed’s eyes widen when the belly of the other homunculus opens up to form a huge maw filled with teeth. Roy may be good but that thing is…hideous. He hears the snap and braces for the next explosion. The fire bursts around the creature but then the air shifts and the entire flame is sucked inside!
“What the hell?” The look of shock on Roy’s face is easily seen even from across the courtyard. He needs to help him. Ed claps his hands together again, slamming them to the ground to form a cage around Gluttony, but something isn’t right. He feels it the instant he forms the array in his mind. A wave of nausea passes over him and what should be a cage becomes a tilted array of spears that tangle with each other and thud harmlessly to the dusty ground. He hears Envy’s laughter behind him but he can’t tear his eyes away as Roy ignites the air behind and underneath Gluttony. He bursts into flame and that’s all Ed sees before he’s kicked hard in the back.
Ed tucks and rolls, barely missing the swipe of the blade and he counters with a swipe of his own. It takes Envy’s feet out from under him and Ed follows it with a series of punches and kicks as Envy scrambles to his feet. Whatever happened to him before is wearing off as he counters Envy’s strikes. The long blade rings out again and again as it hits his automail and Ed forces Envy back toward the rubble. He can use his alchemy to bind him with some of it as soon as he gets him close enough.
Envy makes to thrust the knife at him again but he sees it coming and rolls, clapping his hands again and pressing them to the ground to make it rise underneath his feet. He rockets upward as he has hundreds of times before but then the same wave of sickness hits. He focuses on the array in his mind, trying to hold the reaction together but it slips from his grasp and the once stable pillar sways to the side and breaks.
Ed hits the ground hard and shakes his head to clear it. Envy’s still here somewhere and out for his blood. Explosions continue to rock the ground and as he stands he feels unsteady on his feet. He blinks his eyes to clear his vision and he sees Envy over by the church doors. “What’ve you done to me?”
“Wouldn’t you like to know.” Evil glee is written all over his face and then he turns and disappears inside the church. Shit. He can’t let him get away. Ed spares a look to see Roy advancing on Gluttony that’s attempting to regenerate again. Apparently the need to regenerate has canceled out whatever beast was in his belly the way it did Greed’s ultimate shield. Roy can handle him. Ed needs to find Envy and find out what the fuck he did to him. Ed sprints toward the doors and as before he gets a little stronger with each step.
He jerks the large doors open and steps into a large, open vestibule. He doesn’t see Envy but that doesn’t mean anything. He looks around to make sure nothing’s about to jump out at him and then he runs through the entrance way into the main part of the cathedral. The pews are empty and he remembers this place. It’s was Cornello’s church. He remembers the large arena like room in the back where he fought the chimeras. If Envy wants to face him, that’s where it’ll be.
Ed runs down the center aisle and to the door on the side. He kicks it open, damaging it enough to make sure Mustang can follow him. He enters into a long hallway and just as he expects the door at the end of it is standing wide open. He sprints down the hall to the large open room and stops short when he realizes he’s not alone. His eyes widen as he sees Havoc and what must be the real Rose tied back to back against the far wall. They’re gagged but even from across the room he sees Havoc’s wide eyes and he ducks just as a blade swings to take off his head. Metal clangs off the stone behind him and he dives into a roll to put some distance between him and Envy. Ed jumps to his feet, spins around and backs further into the large open room. Envy matches him step for step and Ed’s eyes are drawn to the long knife in his hand as an evil grin spreads across the homunculus’ face.
“You were right. You would make a perfect sacrifice, but you and the Flame Colonel are way too much trouble.” Ed keeps moving back, attempting to get closer to Havoc and Rose as Envy advances. “Father won’t be pleased Gluttony and I took things into our own hands, but no one gets away with what he did!” Envy brandishes the blade again and grins. “You’re obviously important to him so messing with you is an added bonus.”
Ed’s eyes widen. Is that why they’re after him too? They know about what happened between them? Ed bares his teeth at him and glares. “Shows what you know. That ended a long time ago. I guess you don’t know everything you think you do.”
Envy laughs and Ed’s blood boils. How dare he mock him again. First the short comments and now this! Ed runs at him while he’s still distracted and leaps to plant both of his feet square in Envy’s chest. The homunculus stumbles back a step and then slashes with the knife but Ed’s ready for him. He blocks the attack with his automail blade and rolls off to the side. Envy’s still back on his heels and he plans on keeping him that way. He claps his hands together to shift the ground under Envy’s feet but he doesn’t even manage to fully form the array in his head.
Nausea crashes over him in a debilitating wave and he falls to his knees as he slams his hands to the ground. What should be spikes rising from the ground crumble the instant they form and Ed knows he’s a sitting duck. Somehow he manages to struggle to his feet. Whatever’s happening is getting worse and Envy has to know it. Ed pants for breath and his vision swims. He has to move, now. He turns away from the last place he saw Envy and runs blindly. He has to put distance between himself and the creature that has to be coming.
The ground lurches and spins but he doesn’t know if it’s real or in his head. He gulps for breath and his vision slowly clears. He spins around as he reaches the far wall and he positions himself so Envy can’t sneak up behind him. Laughter bounces off the walls and it seems like it’s coming from everywhere. He scans the room for the homunculus but he doesn’t see him. “What did you do to my alchemy? What is this?”
“You’re not so special without your magic tricks, are you?” Ed’ head jerks around and he sees Envy in the middle of the room, stalking toward him. Ed brings his automail blade up in self defense and readies for the strike he know has to be coming. “Must be hard to be normal, oh wait, you’re still a freak!”
Envy rushes at him and he knows he’ll expect him to roll and dodge but he hardly has the coordination right now. He holds his ground, waiting until the last second and then he hits his knees and thrusts his blade arm upward and into Envy’s side. The scream echoes through the room and Ed jerks his arm back and rolls to the side. Envy’s already regenerating and he doesn’t hesitate. He takes the offensive and slashes his arm as he lets loose with a series of kicks. Most miss but he’s finally got him on the defensive and he doesn’t let up.
He hears Envy’s blade ringing off his automail and it’s all a blur of motion. He spin kicks him hard with his automail leg and Envy goes flying back against the front wall. The whole room shudders with the impact and he shakes his head. He’s still woozy from attempting the alchemy but he knows he can’t stop. He rushes toward the homunculus as he climbs to his feet when he realizes…it’s not Envy.
Ed freezes and his eyes widen in shock because, it can’t be. It just can’t be. But there’s no mistaking those warm eyes and that tender smile. His breath catches in his throat and he drops to his knees. His heart clenches painfully in his chest and a hot tear rolls down his cheek. His hands hang uselessly by his sides and he tries to figure out how, how this could happen. It can’t be real, but it is. She’s here. He very nearly chokes on his words as she comes closer. “Mom?”
“It’s alright, Edward. Everything’s going to be alright.” The sound of her voice makes his heart shatter and he wishes Al could be here too. A sob lodges in his throat as she stops in front of him and reaches out a hand. He starts to reach out with his right hand but pulls it back sharply. She doesn’t need to see that. She doesn’t need to know. He holds out his left and she pulls him to his feet.
“Mom, I’m so sorry….”
Roy staggers through the large wooden doors and presses his hand to his right shoulder. It’s bleeding, a lot, but he can’t risk searing it closed yet. He could lose consciousness and he can’t do that until he knows Ed is alright. His right arm hangs useless by his side and he struggles to keep his feet under him. The fat homunculus is dead, but that’s not the one he came here to destroy. His eyes narrow as he catches himself on the end of a pew to keep from falling. He has to keep going. The thing that killed Hughes is here somewhere and it’s time for a reckoning. He just hopes Ed’s been able to hold his own.
He sees the busted open door at the front of the chapel and a smile curls his lips. Leave it to Fullmetal to leave a trail of destruction. Roy makes his way through the door and down the hallway to a large open room. He immediately sees Havoc and a girl who looks like the one they spoke to earlier but obviously isn’t. Havoc nods toward something across the room and that’s when he sees Ed standing in front of a woman and hanging his head. Roy frowns because there’s something off about his posture. He looks…defeated and that’s something he’s never seen in Fullmetal.
“Fullmetal,” he calls out but Ed doesn’t lift his head. But the woman, or should he say thing does. Whatever it is that turns to look at him can’t be human because the look on its face is nothing but pure, malicious hatred. The grin on its face is sickening and it’s in that moment he sees the knife. “Fullmetal! Snap out of it. Edward!”
He can’t snap his fingers. The homunculus is too close to Ed. He lets his right arm hang and attempts to cross the room but he knows he’ll never make it. The knife flashes as the “woman” flips it in her hand and thrusts it into Ed’s side. Ed’s head snaps up and Roy can see the look of horror in his eyes as the thing morphs from the brunette woman to the twisted being they saw earlier. “Edward, it’s not who you think it is. Get away. Now!”
“Oh I don’t think so.” The homunculus rips the knife from Ed’s body and Roy watches him sag against the creature as deep, crimson blood runs down his leg and pools on the ground. The homunculus holds him in a twisted mockery of an embrace and laughs at him from over Ed’s shoulder. “I’m not letting him go. You wouldn’t dare flame me now, not and risk harming your little Edward, now would you?” The thing’s grin grows even more hideous and Roy feels a black hatred overtake him. This creature killed Hughes and now it could take Ed as well.
He won’t let that happen.
Roy yanks his glove off his right hand and then reaches into his pocket for his alkahestry glove. He may not be able to raise his arm but it doesn’t matter. His injury won’t affect the overlapping arrays on his hand. He slides the glove over his scarred right hand then holds it up with his left. He can still move his fingers enough to snap and that’s all he needs. He locks his eyes with the grinning monster still embracing Ed and grins back at him. “You’re right. But you underestimate me. Just like the other two did.”
He snaps his fingers, the familiar motion allowing him to activate what should be a healing array. But anything can be perverted if you have the right motivation, and Roy has more than enough of that. His smile grows as the homunculus’ eyes widen in pain and Ed slips from his grasp. Ed hits the floor with a sickening thud and the sound fuels Roy’s rage. He twists his right hand, still cradled in his left, and as he takes another step closer he visualizes the creature’s insides just like he did when he healed Havoc. The flame alchemy fueled his reaction but in the end he had to “see” the nerves coming together to mend them. He does the same thing now, but instead of mending he rends and tears and twists its insides into knots. It won’t kill it, but it does buy enough time for Ed to crawl away.
A tortured scream echoes through the room and creature staggers backward, agony etched in its face. “What are you doing to me you, FREAK?!” A knife flies at Roy’s head but he easily dodges it. He tears his eyes away from the sweet scene of pain for an instant and sees Ed’s gotten a safe distance away. Good, he’s still conscious, that means there’s still time. Roy locks his eyes on the creature again and slowly curls his fingers as much as he can and the creature howls in pain again. It falls to its knees and Roy stalks forward. He can feel the heat of the reaction running through him but he won’t let up, not yet, not until he knows for sure.
“It was you, wasn’t it? You’re the one who killed Hughes. Admit it!” The thing screams again as it writhes on the floor and Roy relaxes his hand to lessen the reaction. “Answer me!” He takes another step forward and his whole body burns with rage. He could torture this thing for days and maybe he will as soon as he knows the truth. Hughes was shot and this creature’s already shown it knows how to use a gun.
“You bastard!” It glares at him, face filled with rage. “Yes! Yes, I killed that weak, pathetic human.” A vile laugh slips from its lips until Roy curls his fingers again and it doubles over in pain clutching its stomach, but the words don’t stop. “You should’ve seen his face.” Cold, violet eyes meet Roy’s as blood trickles down the homunculus’ chin. “He knew what I was even when he was face to face with his wife. Pathetic, weak human. You should’ve seen the look on his face when I shot him.”
A high pitched scream rings out through the room as Roy’s control slips and he tries to rip the thing apart from the inside. Bloody steaks run down its face from its eyes and Roy feels a dark glee fill him. Vengeance, justice, the thought of tearing this thing apart consumes him and he doesn’t care about the heat radiating through his body. It’s scalding but as long as this thing keeps screaming he doesn’t care. Hughes deserves to be avenged. Gracia, Elysia, they deserve justice. And this thing deserves pain!
“Mustang!” The voice is strong and he grits his teeth against its pull. He can’t stop now. He won’t. He has to finish this even if it finishes him too. He has to. Hughes deserves nothing less. “Roy! Dammit, stop! Please. Don’t do this.”
It’s the “please” that gets his attention and he looks over to see Ed attempting to get to his knees. His hand’s pressed to his side but the bleeding hasn’t lessened. Roy lets go of his wrist, and his right arm fall like a dead weight. His eyes widen. Ed needs him. He’s lost too much blood. He’ll die if he doesn’t help him. Havoc needs him. He’s not alone and as the alkahestry reaction fades he feels the scalding backlash it’s left inside him.
“Hughes wouldn’t want this.” Roy locks his eyes with Ed and he knows he’s right. No matter what the cost Maes wouldn’t want him to die to avenge him. He made a promise to him back in Ishval and he can’t abandon it. Havoc, Hawkeye, and the others are counting on him for much more than this. He nods to Ed and takes a step toward him when he hears sickening laughter behind him. He spins around and sees a figure struggling to its feet and for an instant his heart catches in his throat.
“The boy’s right, Roy. You’re too noble for something like this.”
The voice is flawless, just like it was on the phone, but he’d know even without looking it’s not really Maes. He’s in full military dress and there’s not a flaw to be found anywhere until you get to his face. The green eyes that should show kindness along with steely determination are twisted with hate. The smile is nothing but pure evil and he doesn’t hesitate. He locks eyes with the creature as it reaches behind and under the military blue coat, probably for one of the knives Maes always carried. But he won’t be fooled by illusions.
“Big mistake.” He lifts his left hand quickly and he registers the look of shock on the homunculus’ face an instant before he snaps and sends the figure of the closest friend he’s ever known into a blaze. His face melts away from the white hot flames and he’ll probably have nightmares about this for months. But he doesn’t care. An agonized cry pierces his ears and the knife clatters to the floor as he snaps his fingers again, but it doesn’t touch him. This thing isn’t Maes and no matter what it tries to become he won’t be swayed.
“Noooooooooo,” The homunculus screams and attempts to scramble backward as its skin and muscle struggle to reform. “You can’t…it’s not possible. All humans are WEAK!” It attempts to reform as Hughes again and Roy doesn’t hesitate as he snaps his fingers. The scream is inhuman and nothing like Maes but he knows the image will be seared into his memory forever. It tries again, this time making itself into Hawkeye and he watches her entire body burn away, hair flaming around her face until it’s unrecognizable. “Roy, stop. Pleeeeease.”
It mimics Ed’s voice from earlier flawlessly as it tries to crawl away. It even looks like him, broken and bloody and it only enrages Roy more. “I’m not falling for your lies, homunculus. And neither will anyone else.” He snaps again and again, stalking toward the burning flesh as it tries to scramble away but there is no escape. Not this time. It continues to try and deter him and more faces burn before his eyes: Gracia, Havoc, an Ishvallan child and even Edward again but it makes no difference. He creates explosion after explosion until finally another red stone crumbles to ash before his eyes.
He nearly goes to his knees when the monster’s no more, but he can’t. Not yet. Ed’s trying to push himself up a couple yards away and Roy stumbles his way over to him. He notices Ed’s arm is still transmuted into a blade and he looks around cautiously. Does Ed know something he doesn’t? Roy doesn’t see anyone besides Havoc and the girl tied up along the back wall and he goes to his knees beside Ed. His left side’s damp with dark blood and Roy pushes up Ed’s shirt.
“I’m, ok. I need, I need to help Havoc and Rose.” Ed pushes at his hand but Roy holds firm and shakes his head.
“This is bad.” He feels gold eyes lock on him and he lowers his voice, making it harder, more of a command. “Be still, Fullmetal.” Ed’s eyes widen and he squirms but thankfully he stops trying to get away.
Roy looks over the wound and he carefully moves his right hand over it with his left. With the adrenalin gone, he can hardly move his hand at all. Ed shifts under his touch but Roy ignores him and focuses completely on the injury. He activates the alkahestry array in conjunction with the flame array carved into his hand and presses more firmly to Ed’s side. He hears him gasp, but Roy ignores it and concentrates on mending the wound. He hasn’t done this since he healed Jean’s spine, but this is much easier, only torn flesh and muscle. The knife entered beneath his ribs at an upward angle and he feels the alkahestry moving up the wound track, knitting together the ragged flesh. Just as before he feels the warmth of the reaction and the familiar drain on his own energy but after a few moments he can tell it’s enough. Ed’s going to be alright.
Roy pulls back and he struggles to catch his breath. Ed’s hands push lightly at his coat and he lets him. Roy knows he needs to take care of his own wound and he wishes he could use the alkahestry on himself. But it doesn’t work that way. At least he can still stop the bleeding. “Roy….” Ed’s voice is soft and his touch light and delicate, obviously afraid of hurting him, not that it matters. He’s going to have to do a lot worse. “There’s so much blood.”
“Help me get my coat and shirt off.” Ed nods and Roy doesn’t miss how unsteady his voice is but he doesn’t delude himself that this is more than it is. He doubts Ed’s been face to face with this very often. That’s one thing about having a brother made of metal, less bloody injuries to deal with. He winces as he pushes first his over coat and then his blue military coat off his shoulder. Roy reaches up to unbutton his shirt but his fingers are too unsteady and Ed bats his hands away. Roy hangs his head as Ed undoes the buttons and carefully peels his shirt back. He hisses as the fabric sticks to his skin and Ed’s hands tremble. Roy looks up to see worry in his eyes and he reaches up to cover one of Ed’s hands with his own.
“It’s going to be alright, Edward, but I need your help.” Ed nods mutely, golden eyes wide and filled with concern. Roy’s heart skips a beat at the look and he has to push back the feelings that swell in his chest. Ed made his decision. The worry and tenderness in his eyes now are just because he’s scared. He winces again as Ed gets the shirt off his shoulder and he takes a deep breath. It’s going to hurt, and the worst part is he knows exactly how much. At least the bullet went straight through. He shouldn’t have to do as much damage as the first time. He takes another deep breath and brings his left hand to his shoulder to make the spark.
“Mustang…. Roy, you don't have to. I can bandage it up” Ed bites his lip and curls his hand over Roy’s, trying to pull it away. But Roy knows they aren’t safe yet. He can’t be walking around losing this much blood with a war zone outside. He needs to seal the wound now.
“I’ll be alright.” He starts to pull his hand from Ed’s grasp and that’s when a thought hits him. He still sees worry and fear reflected in Ed’s eyes and he knows why. Ed can’t stand to be helpless. “Actually, could you help me?” Ed’s eyes widen and he nods quickly like Roy knew he would. It doesn’t really matter who makes the spark, but at least this way maybe Ed won’t feel like everything’s out of his control. Roy nods to his over coat on the ground. “Inside pocket, there’s a lighter. I carry it for back up. Get it. You can make the spark for me.”
Ed’s eyes widen but as Roy expected he immediately takes to the task of finding the lighter. He turns it over in his hand and Roy can see the hesitation in his eyes. “Are you sure?
Roy nods because under the circumstances it’s the best option and they both know it. He can’t even use his right arm and he’s already feeling lightheaded from the blood loss. He needs to do this while he still can. Ed swallows and flips open the lighter. There’s a determination in his eyes that wasn’t there a moment before and Roy smiles before gritting his teeth. People call him a control freak. It seems Ed’s more like him than he even thought. He’ll do what needs to be done, especially when he has a role in it. Roy sucks in a deep breath and nods to him. “Now, Edward.”
Roy hovers his hand over the wound on his shoulder and as soon as Ed gives him the spark he channels it into the air around his shoulder and the moisture in his skin. The pain is blinding, burning completely through his shoulder and he can’t hold back his cry. He feels the skin char and burn through the wound, searing it closed and stopping all the bleeding. He just hopes the damage he’s doing isn’t permanent. He grits his teeth hard and his vision blurs. He needs to hold on and he fights to stay conscious, but it’s a losing battle. Darkness comes over him in a blissful wave and he lets it suck him into its pain free abyss.
The scream is horrible and Ed can’t even imagine the pain he must feel. It’s not fair Mustang can’t use the alkahestry to heal himself. Ed wrinkles his nose at the smell of burnt flesh and his hand trembles as he closes the lighter. It’s times like this he wishes he had a better handle on the alkahestry, not that he’s given it much thought. It wasn’t something he picked up on easily and since Al doesn’t have a body to injure he never attempted to master it. Now he wishes he had. It’s not right Mustang has to go through so much pain. His side doesn’t even hurt from the wound he healed and when he glanced at it earlier he doubts it’ll leave much of a scar…unlike Mustang’s.
Mustang slumps to the ground and Ed reaches forward, barely managing to keep him from hitting his head. His breathing’s slowed and it takes Ed a minute to realize he’s completely passed out. It’s no surprise. He doubts many could handle that kind of pain and not black out. He leans over him to inspect the wound and he lightly traces his gloved hand over his unburnt skin. Where the bullet hole was is bright pink from the flame and he can’t imagine how he did this again knowing how much it had to hurt the first time. Ed bites his lip as he lets himself lean a little closer, a little more into his personal space. He doesn’t see any fresh blood. It looks like Roy was able to—
“Ed! Hey Boss, little help here?”
Ed jumps at the sound of his name and jerks his hand away. He forgot they weren't alone, and even if they were he doesn't need to be touching him when he's not even conscious. He doesn't need to be touching him at all. He looks Mustang over once more to make sure he's alright as he can be and then turns to look over his shoulder at the back wall. Havoc's gotten the gag off his mouth but he and Rose are still tied with their arms behind their backs to a metal ring in the wall. He pushes himself up slowly, hesitant to leave Roy when he's so vulnerable but he has no choice. He can't leave them tied up forever.
He casts one more look back at Mustang then jogs across the room to Havoc and Rose. His first instinct is to clap his hands together to dispose of the rope but he stops himself right as he reaches them. He still doesn't know what was causing his alchemy to go all wonky but he's not willing to risk it yet. Instead he uses his automail blade to cut through the rope. “Sorry about that, I was just....”
“Yeah, I know.” Havoc rubs at his wrists then turns to untie the gag from Rose’s mouth, but his eyes are locked on Mustang the whole time. “We need to wake the Chief and get out of here. I didn’t see anyone else but that doesn’t mean—.”
“Wake him? Now? Are you nuts? Did you see what he just did?” Ed stares at Havoc disbelieving. Roy needs time to heal and shaking him awake now isn’t going to help that.
“We’re in the middle of a war zone, Ed. We don’t exactly have a lot of options. The Colonel will know what to do.” Havoc turns to Rose and looks her over as if he’s taking his measure of her. “You’re from here. Do you know where the closest military installation or safe house is?”
Ed continues to stare at Havoc and he can’t believe his ears. Are none of Mustang’s men capable of thinking on their own? Are they all completely tied to the chain of command? It’s ridiculous how blindly they follow him. How can you trust your safety so utterly to someone else?
“I-I think so.” Rose looks up at Havoc with wide eyes and it’s obvious she sees him as a protector. What a surprise. One more follower. “It’s not that far from here. I could take you there…if you like.”
“Good. You can show us as soon as the Colonel’s ready to move.” Havoc nods to her then turns and walks toward Mustang. Ed chases after him because he still doesn’t think this is a good idea. They don’t have to be in such a rush. They have time.
“Havoc, stop. We don’t need to wake him yet. You don’t underst—.”
Havoc stops a few feet from Mustang and turns to face him. His face’s harder than Ed’s used to seeing. He reaches inside his coat for his pack of cigarettes and he pulls one out. He rolls it between his fingers then tucks it behind his ear. “I understand completely, Ed. I’ve still got the scars to prove it.”
Ed jumps at the harshness in his words and watches as he kneels down beside Mustang. He thinks about shooting back that they all have scars to bear but it won’t accomplish anything so he bites his tongue to keep quiet. It crosses his mind that technically he does outrank Havoc, but he won’t resort to acting like a military dog just to get his way. If he did he’d be no better than the rest of them, if Havoc would actually follow his orders anyway.
“Chief. Mustang, you need to wake up. We’ve got to get out of here.” Havoc lightly shakes Mustang’s uninjured shoulder and Ed doesn’t miss the way Roy finches at the touch. Even unconscious he’s hurting and Ed wonders if it has to do with what he did to Envy. He’s never seen him use the alkahestry that way, at least not to the extent that he did. When he healed Havoc back in Central, it nearly fried him from the inside out from combining the two arrays. Granted healing a spine had to be a whole lot harder than…what he just did. But still, it took a lot of energy and it had to rebound on him.
“Thank you for rescuing us, Ed.” Ed tears his eyes away from Mustang and Havoc when he hears Rose’s voice. He didn’t notice her walk up beside him and he looks her over. She looks older than when they first met and there’s a harder, more determined look in her eyes. He’s actually surprised she’s stayed in the town with all that’s happened.
“It’s nothing.” He shrugs at her and turns his eyes back to Havoc and Mustang who’s still out of it. She shouldn’t be thanking him. She saw as well as anyone how he fell apart under an illusion. It’s Mustang she should be thanking. He didn’t even hesitate when Envy played the same trick on him. If it weren’t for him they’d probably all be dead. He shakes his head and forces himself to focus on the now. He can berate himself for being weak later. “So, how did you end up here anyway? Did Envy pretend to be someone for you too?”
“Oh, no. I was with Jean when he was captured.” Ed snaps his head around to look at her in confusion. Rose and Havoc are on a first name basis now? How did that happen. She looks over to Havoc kneeling on the floor as she continues. “I was out looking for orphaned children and was careless.” She turns to look at Ed again and he can tell she’s not the same helpless girl she was. He’s underestimated her. There’s a steel determination under her thin frame he never expected to see. “A lot of children have lost their families and I’ve been trying to help. But the last time I went out some street thugs got a hold of me and….” She wraps her arms around herself and takes a breath before raising her head to look Havoc again. “They were dragging me into an alley and he stopped them. After that I was trying to help him find the Colonel when we were captured.”
Colonel? He was looking for Mustang? Here? None of this makes any sense. Why was Havoc even here to begin with? Ed grits his teeth in frustration. He doesn’t like not knowing what’s going on. He’s about to ask Rose what else she knows when he hears Mustang’s voice, much rougher than usual.
“Havoc? That you?” Havoc’s carefully helping him sit up and Ed doesn’t miss how gingerly Mustang’s moving. “I didn’t burn you again too, did I? You’re alright?”
Havoc grins as he answers. “Yes sir, it’s me. And no you didn’t burn me. I’m fine.” He wraps Mustang’s left arm around his shoulders when he indicates he wants to stand. “Looks like it was you they were gunning for this time.”
“How do I get so lucky?” Mustang replies as Havoc helps him stand. He’s unsteady on his feet and Ed wants to reach out and help. But in another moment he’s standing straighter and looking for all the world like the cocky Colonel bastard he usually is. If he didn’t know better he’d think he was fine, but he knows he can’t be. Why he thinks he needs to put on an act like his is beyond him. He looks to Havoc and Ed nearly does a double take when even his words sound like his usual self. “Report, Lieutenant. What’s the situation?”
“As far as I know there were only the two hostiles, sir. I assume you took care of the other one outside.” At Mustang’s nod Havoc continues, all business. “Miss Rose has indicated she can lead us to a military safe house.” He looks around and motions to the walls around them. “I think it would be wise to be on our way as soon as possible. During the battle the walls themselves were trembling and I’m not sure how stable this place still is.”
Ed blinks at his words and for the first time really takes in his surroundings. The place does seem to be less kept up since he was last here. There’s a long crack on the back wall that goes from floor to ceiling that doesn’t look new. Has the war outside done all this? He remembers the buildings collapsed outside and realizes a place this large is probably more vulnerable, especially after Mustang’s attacks on Envy. He looks around for more instabilities when he hears Mustang again.
“You’re probably right, Lieutenant. That’s why we need to work quickly to see if the homunculi left us anything of value.” Roy looks around and he knows he’s assessing the situation, but they don’t have time for that. They need to get moving.
“There are rooms upstairs,” Ed tells him and heads across to the far side of the room where he knows there are stairs. He only gets a few steps though before he feels a strong hand on his shoulder. He whips around to meet Havoc’s stern look. “Oh come on, do we really need to all hold hands and go up together?”
“Enough, Fullmetal.” Mustang catches up to Havoc and moves beside him. “We don’t need you running around half cocked the way you usually do.” Ed glares at him but the bastard doesn’t even acknowledge it. “Now, would you show us how we get to the upper rooms?”
“Right away Colonel Shit.” The last part he mutters under his breath but he’d be surprised if Mustang didn’t hear him. Control freak. Everything has to be by his say so. If he’d let him go up on his own he’d probably be nearly done by now. Ed whips around and stalks toward the stairwell when Rose’s soft voice causes him to pause.
“Umm, Colonel, Sir?”
Ed stops at the doorway to the stairs and he sees that Rose looks almost…nervous? Is she scared of Mustang? Sure his fireworks put on one hell of a show but it’s not like he’d hurt her. He watches her shift on her feet and he recognizes that look. She looked at Cornello that way once. Ed shakes his head. She doesn’t fear him. She respects him. Why? They only just met. What is it with most people? Why do they think they need to kiss his damn feet?
“I could go check to make sure the way is clear. I can stay out of sight. There are several hiding places I know of where people won’t see me.” She holds her hands in front of her and looks Mustang in the eyes. “You can trust me. I won’t betray that you and the others are here.”
Ed smirks at her words as Mustang looks her over because he knows he’ll turn her down just like he did him. Roy glances over to Havoc who nods at him, but it doesn’t matter. He’ll still turn her down and she’ll be stuck just like he is.
“That sounds like a good idea. Rose, right?” She nods at him and Ed can’t believe his ears. Mustang doesn’t even know her! Why would he trust her and not him? “Be careful. We’ll meet you in here when you get back.”
As Rose turns and runs off all Ed can do is stare. Is he worth so little in Mustang’s eyes? He swallows down a swell of emotion he shouldn’t be feeling. He ended things. Maybe he might’ve cared before but that’s obviously over. He spins around when Mustang and Havoc reach him because he can’t look at him. Not now. He leads them up the stairs and he knows he should keep his mouth shut. There’s nothing to be said. At least that’s what he tells himself. Too bad his mouth doesn’t get the memo. “So what’s the deal, Mustang? Some reason Rose can go running off without a chaperon and I can’t?”
That’s it? That’s his answer? Ed spins around to face him once they make it upstairs and fixes him with a hard glare. He wants to accuse him of being unfair because of their past relationship, but he won’t. Not in front of Havoc, at least, not directly. “Do you think you could be bothered to tell me what makes me so damn special?”
Mustang doesn’t betray any emotion at all. It’s times like this is wonders if the time they spent together was even real. He doesn’t see anything of the man he knew back in Central right now. All he sees is the bastard Colonel he’s always known. He’s actually surprised he hasn’t cracked a short joke yet.
“You are under my command, Edward. She is not.” He states it so simply like that’s the answer to everything but Ed doesn’t move out of his way. Mustang probably realizes he’s not going to let this go because he takes a breath and continues in a patronizing tone. “I’m responsible for you, and though I wish no ill will on the young lady she’s not really my concern other than as a means to reach the safe house.” He turns to look at Havoc. “You can take the rooms furthest down the hall Lieutenant. Fullmetal can take these here and I’ll search the ones in between. If anyone sees anything suspicious at all be sure to make yourself heard, otherwise we’ll meet back here. Understood?”
He’s barking orders, as he steps around him, but Ed can hardly process them. He doesn’t care about Rose? He knows Mustang is all military, but to hear it laid out like that…it’s so cold. This is the man so many pledge their lives to? He turns into the first room and looks around. He’s not sure what he’s looking for so he rummages around until he finds himself at the balcony overlooking the city.
It’s hardly recognizable.
There’s hardly a building left standing in the whole of Lior. The few that are carry obvious signs of damage even from a distance and the streets that used to be in even straight lines have become zigzags clotted by rubble. Slabs of stone from what used to be walls lean against each other haphazardly and dust is constantly in the air. Explosions sound every so often and if he squints in their direction he can make out scurrying figures. If they’re in Amestrian blue or desert garb, he can’t tell. It shouldn’t be like this. It should still be the happy desert town he left.
He needs to ask Rose what happened, how everything could get so bad. When he left people understood that Cornello was a fraud. Could that have caused all of this? Did he and Al do this? And why hasn’t he heard anything about this? The military’s been here for awhile, shouldn’t he have heard something? And why wasn’t he sent here to help again? He fists his hands because there’s one person who should’ve told him about this and he never said a word. What kind of game is Mustang playing with him anyway? First he lies about General Hughes and now this. Is he trying to play him for a fool?
“Fullmetal. We need your help in here.”
He fists his hands tighter and his entire body goes stiff. He wants to tell him to piss off but he can’t. Not right now. The situation’s still too dangerous. But once they’re out of here it’s a different story. He’s not going to be Mustang’s lapdog no matter what “regulation” says. He takes a deep breath then follows the sound of Mustang's voice halfway down the hall and into another room. He stops in the doorway and sees Mustang and Havoc staring at something behind a desk. Do they really have time for this? He thinks about reminding them about the status of the building when Havoc notices him and motions him over.
“Hey, Boss. There’s some kinda safe in the wall. Think you can do that hand clap open sesame thing on it?” He reaches up for the cigarette he put behind his ear earlier and lights it as he moves out of the way.
Ed sees the small safe in the lower part of the wall as he moves closer and he sucks in a breath. They want him to use alchemy. And it makes perfect sense. If Havoc could crack it he probably would’ve already and Mustang’s alchemy could risk setting fire to whatever’s inside. That leaves him and…there’s no real reason he can give that he shouldn’t. He drags his feet as he crosses the room and tries to think of any other way to get it open without alchemy but he’s coming up blank. He just has to hope whatever was messing with him before is gone with Envy.
“We don’t have all day, Edward.”
Ed snaps his head over to look at Mustang and glares at him. He should have a comeback for him but he doesn’t, not with the way his stomach is twisting into knots. He walks over to the safe and kneels down in front of it. He hasn’t even transmuted his arm back from the blade because he was afraid of his alchemy backfiring and now this. He takes a deep breath and runs his fingers along the edge of the safe. He’s stalling as he tries to think of a solution but finds himself listening to Mustang and Havoc instead.
“You haven’t told me why you were here in the first place, Lieutenant. You haven’t been reassigned as well have you?”
Ed tenses at Mustang’s question because so far with Havoc’s injury and rehabilitation he’s been able to remain under the Fuhrer’s radar. He thinks Havoc is technically still on medical leave and since he was never transferred from Mustang’s command he’s been able to stay in Central. Hopefully that hasn’t changed.
“'Naw, Chief. No reassignment yet. Actually it was you that brought me here. Or, well, I thought it was you.” Ed looks over his shoulder to see Havoc rubbing the back of his head as he speaks. “Got a call that you needed me out here immediately and you’d have the paperwork and assignment for me when I arrived.” He shrugs and then shakes his head at Mustang. “I have to tell you Chief, I’d have sworn it was you on the phone. I should’ve asked for the code, I just, I thought you were in danger. It was that day you had to leave the city and with everyone else gone…I didn’t question.”
“It’s alright, Lieutenant. There’s no way you could’ve known. I appreciate your efforts to follow my orders.”
Havoc visibly relaxes at Mustang’s words and it again leaves Ed wondering why his men are so insanely loyal. Havoc could’ve been killed for blindly following his orders. If he’d only questioned it he probably could’ve found out it wasn’t Mustang who called him. If he weren’t so damned blin—
“What are you waiting for, Fullmetal, an engraved invitation?” Ed jumps at Mustang’s harsh tone and scowls at him. “What’s wrong? Can’t open it? It’s not all that big. Actually it’s just your size, isn’t it?”
The teasing smirk and jab at his height sends familiar rage searing through him and he stops thinking. If Mustang wants the door open, he’ll get the damn door open. Ed claps his hands together, letting his anger lead the reaction, and for an instant it feels like everything’s fine. Whatever was happening before must’ve been something Envy was doing and now that he’s gone his alchemy is right again. Ed pulls his hands apart to press them against the safe door and suddenly everything changes. The world tilts and spins out of control and he hears the screech of twisted metal that must be the safe but he can’t see it. He feels like he’s feverish, like he’s going to throw up and he can’t make the reaction end soon enough. His head pounds and it’s so much worse than before. Why is it so much worse?
He feels hands on him and for a moment he has no idea where he is. But then they carefully ease him onto the floor and he relaxes at the touch. For this moment at least he feels safe and he tries to hold onto that, but it slips so easily from his grasp. He feels one of the hands that were so careful with him a moment ago light shake his shoulder and all the shattered bits of the world begin to fall slowly into place.
“Ed? Edward, what happened? Are you ok? Edward, answer me, please.”
That’s Roy’s voice. And he’s worried. He doesn’t need to be worried. Ed opens his eyes and sees him looking down at him. He stares because suddenly all the masks are gone and he sees the man he knew for too short a time in Central. Roy is still in there and he can’t help himself, he reaches for his hand and squeezes it. “I’m ok.” He moves slowly to a sitting position. “Whatever Envy did to my alchemy is still fucking me up, but I’m ok.” He sees relief wash over Roy’s face but then it’s followed by something else and the masks are back up in an instant. Roy pulls his hand away and Ed blinks at him in confusion because Mustang looks like he’s ready to turn his flame on him.
“You knew this would happen if you used alchemy?” Ed flinches back and hangs his head. Maybe he should’ve told him but he didn’t know it would be this bad. “You knew and you didn’t tell us? What is wrong with you, Fullmetal?”
“I didn’t know it would be this bad, ok?” Ed shakes his head then slowly makes his way to his feet. He’s not going to argue with him sitting down. Mustang is superior enough without giving him that advantage too. “It’s getting worse though…each time.”
“Well then there’s not going to be another time until we sort this out.” Ed’s eyes widen as he stares at Mustang. He can’t be serious. “No alchemy for any reason until we know it’s not going to end up hurting you. That’s an order, Fullmetal.”
Ed’s mouth drops open because he can’t be serious. “You can’t, you can’t do that!” He fists his hands and shakes his head. He has too much to do. He still needs to find the stone and he needs to fix Al. Mustang can’t just order him to stop. There’s too much on the line. “You can’t stop me from using alchemy!”
“I can and I will.” Mustang stalks forward and grabs Ed’s shoulder with his left hand. “Edward, listen to me. We’ll sort this out but you can’t be making yourself worse until we do.” His face’s deadly serious but Ed can see the genuine concern in his eyes and wonders if it’s really for him or for what Mustang would be losing if he couldn’t do alchemy anymore. “Promise me you won’t do alchemy until we know what’s going on.”
Ed scowls at him but it’s actually what he was doing himself anyway. He nods and looks away. “I won’t do any alchemy unless I absolutely have to.” He can feel Mustang’s look of disapproval and he sighs deeply. “Fine, fine, only if it’s life or death, ok? I won’t do alchemy unless it means my life.” He looks back to see Mustang nodding his approval and he rolls his eyes. He really does treat him like a child sometimes.
“When did it start?” Ed tilts his head at him and he continues. “You need to figure out what exactly happened before it started. Then we’ll know where to start looking.”
“Hey Chief, I got it open. It looks like there’s something in here.”
He looks over to see Havoc crouched down in front of the wall safe, but it’s Mustang’s words that he’s focused on. When he started fighting outside his alchemy was fine. It wasn’t until….
Ed pulls up the sleeve over his left bicep and he can see the long gash and drying blood. It all started after Envy cut him with the knife. That’s when he started mocking him and everything got all strange with his alchemy. He’s about to tell Roy when a loud explosion goes off outside. The entire building trembles and some of the stone from the ceiling crumbles and falls littering the air with dust. Mustang and Havoc are trying to get whatever they found out of the safe when it hits him. They need to know where to start looking. They need the knife before this whole place falls down!
“I’ll see you down stairs,” he calls out and this time he doesn’t wait for permission. He turns and runs out of the room and down the stairs as another explosion rocks the building. Ed stops halfway down the stairs to keep from tumbling down them. That felt closer. He doesn’t have time to wait, he’s got to find that knife. His hand moves to his side as he sprints the rest of the way down the stairs. His side doesn’t hurt anymore, not after Mustang healed him, but he can still remember the way it felt when the knife sliced through his skin. He shudders and pushes back the thought as he runs into the large room again.
He sees the scorched area where Mustang killed Envy, but he doesn’t see the knife. He scans his eyes over the floor and tries to remember what happened, but it’s all hazy. He was stabbed and then he fell. The knife wasn’t still in him, right? He frowns as he tries to piece it together. He remembers blood and pain and worrying about stopping the bleeding. Right, because the knife was gone. He scans the floor again and he remembers Roy and Envy talking and the clatter of something…. His eyes widen as something glints from across the room and he heads for it at a sprint. Envy must’ve thrown the knife. He grins when he sees it on the floor and he kneels down beside it.
It’s still covered in blood, his blood, but he can’t worry about that right now. He picks it up carefully and looks it over. There doesn’t seem to be anything special about it, but if it’s poisoned or something they’ll just have to figure that out later. He rips off a part of his already torn red coat and wraps it around the blade when he hears a female scream.
“Ed! Look out!”
He jerks his head up to see that three dirty looking thugs have entered the room. He grits his teeth because he didn’t even hear them approach. From their shabby dress they obviously aren’t military and he shakes his head because if anything he should’ve smelled them coming. He cradles the wrapped blade in his arms. He doesn’t know what they want but they won’t be getting this knife.
“Looky what we have here boys, a trespasser. This is our shelter, boy.” The lead man pulls out a gun and points it directly at him. Ed’s eyes go wide because of all things he didn’t expect this. He looks around for Rose but she’s nowhere to be found. She must’ve hid after shouting her warning.
“Look, you’ve got it all wrong. I’m not trying to take your shelter. I’ll get out of your way right now.” He slides the wrapped knife under his coat and in the back of his waist band as he brings both his hands up in a surrendering gesture. Ed turns to walk toward the exit but the other two guys move to block his path.
“You see that silver chain, Joel? Bet that would fetch a pretty penny.”
A chill runs through him because he can tell these men aren’t making idle threats. If they want the watch they can have it. The first thug still has his gun trained on him and he has no intention of getting injured over a stupid watch. His buddy pulls out another gun and Ed knows he can’t take on firearms with no alchemy. “Look, it’s a watch. You can have it if you want. You can have all the money I have too.”
He hears the cock of a gun and his eyes widen as the first guy takes aim at his head. “We can have it all when you’re dead.”
There’s no time to react, especially when the other two take aim on him as well. He tries to go to his knees and roll to the side but he knows it will be too late. He doesn’t stand a chance. Is this why Roy wanted them to stay together? Could he have really known something like this could happen?
Al, I’m so sorry.
A hissing whoosh sound rushes past his ear and the next thing he knows he’s knocked back by a sudden, powerful wall of flame. The screams are horrible but they’re silenced almost as soon as they begin. Ed’s eyes widen as he falls to his knees, the scent of charred flesh, charred human flesh, hitting his nose. He doesn’t even realize he’s trembling until Mustang’s gloved hand is on his shoulder.
“Are you alright?”
“You-you…you killed them.” Ed looks up to see Mustang looking over the carnage with an expressionless look on his face. His eyes are hard and cold and Ed shivers at the intensity. Roy looks down at him and squeezes his shoulder lightly.
“It was you or them, Edward. Wasn’t much of an option.” He squeezes Ed’s shoulder again and then reaches out his hand to help him up. His right arm still hangs useless by his side but right now Ed’s certain he’s still the most dangerous man in Lior. Ed lets him help him up and Mustang looks over at the burnt bodies again. This time Ed can see a deep sadness buried in his eyes and his own eyes widen. He forced him to do this. If he hadn’t run off….
“I’m sorry. Roy….” Mustang’s head whips around and in an instant that brief look of vulnerability is gone. He’s back to being the Colonel, but Ed can see past it now. It’s one thing to kill a monster, it’s another to kill a human and he can tell it affects Roy much more than he lets on.
“Stay close. We don’t need any more surprises.”
Ed nods as Mustang pulls away and he vaguely hears Rose talking. She’s ready to lead them to the safe house. Ed follows along but he’s completely numb. He feels Havoc pat him on the back and he watches as he takes a position at Mustangs side but a little behind. It’s only now he realizes it’s for protection. His mind runs through everything he’s seen between these two and he’s starting to understand. The orders aren’t just about control, and Havoc’s loyalty isn’t just about being a lapdog. It’s about respect for the man who would save your life at all costs.
“Are you alright?”
That was the first thing he asked Havoc when he woke up and the first thing he asked him after…. Killing someone isn’t something he’s ever done and it’s something he doesn’t even know if he could do. But Roy didn’t even hesitate. Ed swallows when he realizes if he had he’d probably be dead. He looks at Roy’s back, shoulders straight, carrying himself like a commander even though he can’t even lift his right arm and for the first time in his life he begins to understand. It’s not about giving up control, it’s about trusting someone to have your best interests at heart and can see the bigger picture. He knows he’s not ready to trust completely, but maybe he’s ready to start trying.
The safe house isn’t much of a safe house. Roy wouldn’t even give it the status of barracks. It’s not much more than converted stable buildings but since night is falling they don’t have any other options. Turns out the “official” military garrison is halfway on the other side of the city and in the condition they’re in it’ll be best to take shelter here no matter how unappealing it may be. Right now they’re lucky for his rank or they wouldn’t have gotten an actual room at all. Many of the soldiers are sleeping in the stables and if he were in better condition he’d never be demanding four walls and a roof. But considering every step is an agony he’ll take all the comforts he can get.
He walks into the small room they’ve been lead to and it takes all his strength to keep his back straight and stride even. He nods his thanks to the young soldier and as he leaves he looks around and takes stock. It’s not much. The floor is made of packed dirt and the walls rough sandstone. There’s a basin of water on a small table next to a meager pile of rags and first aid supplies. It seems they are trying to do their best to accommodate them. In the far corner is a small heap of straw to serve as a bed along with a pillow and a standard issue wool blanket. It’s not much, but it’s more than can be expected in a war zone.
“I’ll check the perimeter, Chief.” Roy looks to Havoc and he knows he’s taking stock of him as he looks him over. Their eyes meet and his voice is completely even. “Should I see about finding a medic…?”
It doesn’t matter how much of an act he puts on, Havoc knows him too well not to see through it. The medic won’t be able to do much for the alchemic backlash, but if he’s going to maintain use of his arm he should have it looked at. He nods, “Yes, Lieutenant. I think that would be appropriate.” Havoc gives him a weary salute then turns on his heel to carry out his tasks. Roy watches after him for a moment when he realizes another set of eyes are locked on him.
Ed hasn’t said much since he killed those bandits and he’s not sure what to make of it. He knows Ed has heard the stories about him, but until now he’s never seen what kind of monster Roy could be. But if he had the chance he’d do it again. Monster or not, he’ll take it over a bullet in Ed’s brain. He shoots Ed a brief glance and then walks stiffly over to the basin of water. Ed’s seen this backlash before so there’s no point in pretending anymore. It’s not as bad as when he healed Havoc, but it did take more out of him than he realized.
“Come here, Edward. We need to look at that arm.” Roy noticed there was a fair amount of blood on Ed’s left arm when he healed his stab wound but he has no idea how bad it is. Ed will probably try to ignore his injuries if he doesn’t press the issue so he might as well see that he can do. Ed’s always been the type who needed to be half dead to let a medic look at him and right now Roy is in no mood to attempt to force him. He’d rather look at him himself. He turns to order him to come closer again and his eyes widen when he ends up bumping into him instead. He didn’t expect him to come over right away. Ed never follows orders that quickly and Roy grits his teeth as his body aches from the slight jolt. He hit his good arm, but it still irritated the backlash.
“I knew it. I knew you weren’t as good as you let on.” Ed rests his hand lightly on Roy’s left arm to steady him and Roy attempts to bat it away. “It’s from the alkahestry, isn’t it? It rebounded again. You shouldn’t have wasted your strength on me. I would’ve been, ok.”
“No you wouldn’t, Edward, and we both know it.” Roy gives him a closer look and he can see the tear in his long sleeve shirt over his upper arm. It must be where the homunculus first cut him. He takes a breath and sighs softly, “Take off your shirt Ed. I need to see how bad your arm is.”
Ed hesitates a moment then shakes his head as he unfastens his shirt at the neck. “If it was that bad you could’ve burned me like you did Havoc before. I could’ve taken it. You didn’t need to hurt yourself for me.” Ed slowly pulls his shirt off and hisses as the material sticks to the cut on his arm. He then pulls his torn black undershirt over his head as well.
“I think you have more than enough scars, Edward. You don’t need me adding to them.” He runs his eyes over his chest and his yes linger over the faint pink mark where he healed his side. There’s not much to show how severe the wound was and with time it’s possible it could fade away altogether. Relief washes over him at the thought. At least he could spare him one more reminder of the harsh life he’s chosen. Roy pulls his left glove off with his teeth then dips a rag in the lukewarm water and turns his attention to Ed’s arm. The cut is horizontal across his bicep and about three inches long. It’s seeping a little blood since he pulled off the shirt and Roy presses the rag against it for a moment to stop the flow. “Besides, mending your wound didn’t do much to me.”
It’s true, for the most part. Healing Ed did take some of his energy. That’s how his alkahestry works, it takes energy from the person doing the reaction. He’s able to do more by combining it with his flame array and the cost to himself increases with how much alchemy he has to put into it. Healing Ed was minor as far as that went, just flesh and muscle. But what he did to the homunculus…that’s another story in itself. If Ed hadn’t been there to pull him back he’s not sure he could’ve stopped himself. With Havoc he knew how far he’d have to go and he made the choice. With the homunculus nothing would’ve been enough short of them both becoming piles of ash. Maybe if he’d been thinking clearly he could’ve turned the alchemic flame onto the homunculus instead of himself but that’s a question for another day.
“It did enough.” Ed’s voice is flat and even and Roy isn’t sure why he’s pushing the issue. It’s not like they both won’t recover. Ed should be happy he doesn’t have to deal with what was probably a mortal stab wound. Roy knows there was a time his concern would’ve meant something more but there’s no point in going down that road. Ed made his choice and right now Roy just needs to be happy he’s not fighting his every move for whatever reason. He pulls the cloth away carefully and sees the bleeding’s stopped. Good, that should mean he won’t need stitches.
Roy dips the cloth in the water and as he squeezes it out the clear pool turns a light shade of pink. It’ll probably get much darker before they’re done. He brings the rag back to Ed’s arm and carefully cleans away the dried blood so they’ll be able to get a proper bandage on it. There’s blood on his side too from the stab wound and Roy does his best to get it all one handed. Ed is surprisingly cooperative through the process and Roy bites his tongue to keep from commenting on it. No point in pushing his luck now. “If you can help me I think we can get this wrapped up decent enough.”
Ed nods and Roy picks up another cloth to pat his arm dry. He can feel Ed’s eyes on him as he dabs away the moisture and he tries to ignore them. He’s hurt, was nearly killed, and as far as Roy knows this is the first time Ed’s been in a war zone. Sure he’s been through a lot of things but this is different. Roy won’t take advantage of that vulnerability. He sets the cloth on the table then hands Ed a piece of gauze. Ed holds it over the cut and Roy does his best to wrap his arm one handed.
“Have you seen anything like this before?” Roy raises his eyes to Ed’s and he can immediately tell he’s not talking about the wound. Roy glances to the one small cell like window up near the ceiling then turns his attention back to wrapping Ed’s arm.
“Worse.” And he doesn’t want to say more. Ed doesn’t need to know all the dirty details of war. Not now anyway. Not until they’re miles away from here and back in Central. Ed seems to understand because instead of asking more he nods and finally lowers his eyes. Roy manages to get his arm wrapped enough for Ed to tie it off and he takes a step back. It’s good enough. Now Ed can put his shirt back on and Roy can pretend the heat he feels under his skin at Ed’s nearness is nothing but the backlash from the alchemy.
He waits for Ed to make a move, any move, but instead he continues to stand there hanging his head. It’s not like him. Come to think of it since they left the church he’s hardly been himself at all. Not one sarcastic comment, not one dispute of his orders, nothing. Roy rubs his eyes and sighs. It has to be about him killing those men. He may never agree but he has to at least make him understand. “Edward, back there….”
“How much of a liability am I now, Mustang?” Ed raises his head and Roy’s surprised to see his look isn’t filled with accusation and betrayal. If anything there’s fear and maybe a little trace of guilt written in those wide golden eyes. “I can’t even be effective during a fight.” Ed looks down at his torn shirt on the floor and in that instant Roy realizes in any other circumstance Ed would’ve already mended the tears easily. “For so long alchemy’s been like breathing and now…now I have to fight to keep from using it.” He raises his gaze to look Roy in the eye again. “What good am I to you now, Roy? What good am I to anyone?”
“You aren’t the only person in the world without alchemy, Edward.” Roy reaches out with his left hand to lean against the table as Ed turns to look away. He doesn’t want to hear this, but that doesn’t make it any less true. “I know how much you detest the military but….” Roy pauses until Ed turns his head back to look at him. He’s obviously frustrated but at least he’s listening. “This is what we do. We take care of each other. We trust each other and in that scenario you aren’t a liability, Edward.” Roy drops his voice to a more serious tone and looks hard into his eyes. “What I need to know now is if you can do that, if you can follow my orders until we get out of here?”
Golden eyes bore into his for what seems like an eternity and Roy’s certain he’ll say no or make some kind of wisecrack about what a bastard he is. But he needs to understand he can’t stand on his own right now. It would be nice for him to realize he never has to but right now Roy will just take his obedience until they can get out of this hell hole. He doesn’t need Ed going out on his own and getting himself killed…or worse.
“Be kind of stupid of me not to considering you know more about…,” he motions with his hand at their surroundings, “all of this.” Ed brushes some wayward strands of hair out of his eyes and shrugs. “I can’t promise I won’t question you, but yeah. I’ll follow you out of here.”
“Good,” Roy says with a nod. It’s more than he expected from Ed. Even in the best of circumstances he’s never been one to follow orders. It’s why Roy’s always tried to veil his commands with a promise of possible information about the stone or making it seem Ed owed him. If he can dispense with the games for a little while it’ll definitely make things easier for all of them. Roy leans a little heavier against the table and looks toward the door. He has no idea how long it will take Havoc to get back with a medic. He’s not in critical condition and with what’s going on outside not even his rank will bring the doctors immediately. He just needs to hold out a little longer.
Ed moves forward and before Roy realizes what he’s doing he pushes at his over coat, trying to get it off. Roy hisses sharply as pain shoots through his shoulder even at the light touch. He tries to shove Ed back with one hand, but a wave of dizziness hits him and nearly sends him to his knees. He manages to stay on his feet by grabbing Ed’s shoulder and he struggles to stand on his own again. “What are you--what are you doing, Edward? Havoc will be back with the medic in a bit. You don’t need to—.”
“Shut up, Roy.” Ed gives him a hard long look as he stills Roy with hands on his sides. “Unless you’re going to order me not to I’m going to at least get you cleaned up. The medic will have to do it anyway and there’s no telling when he’ll be here.” A blond eyebrow raises daring Roy to argue and he can’t. He’s right. They should see how bad things are and the longer they wait the worse it could get. “I thought so. Now c’mon. No need for you to be on your feet. You aren’t impressing me by being stupid.”
Roy makes a token attempt to pull away but now that Ed has his hands on him there’s really no way he can protest with the state he’s in. “My actions do not all revolve around you, Fullmetal.” He attempts to walk on his own but before they’re halfway over to the bed of straw he’s leaning against him. His skin burns a little where they touch but the sensation’s beginning to fade. Hopefully in a day or so the sensitivity from the backlash will be gone altogether. As it is any medical attention he does receive is going to be worse than it should be.
“I’m crushed to hear that.” Ed helps him down onto the straw bed and Roy hisses as he goes to his knees. He shifts around so he can lean against the wall but before he does Ed carefully pushes at his uniform jacket. His over coat is only draped over his shoulders and it easily falls away, but the heavy military regalia is another story. He sucks in a breath as Ed lifts it off his shoulders and down his arms. His right arm’s still nearly useless and he grits his teeth at the pain. He’ll definitely need a medic to look at it. Ed sets both the coats aside and Roy sees his eyes widen when he turns back toward him. “What’s wrong?”
Ed shakes his head then carefully helps Roy get out of what’s left of his long sleeve button down that once was white. Roy leans heavily against the wall and watches Ed through heavy lidded eyes. “There’s so much blood, Roy.” Ed leans closer to look at his shoulder but Roy knows it can’t be bleeding anymore. He can already feel the tightness of the forming scar. “You shouldn’t have waited so long. You lost too much blood.”
“There wasn’t time.” Ed shakes his head and stands. He walks over to table and Roy sees the bundled up knife still in the back of Ed’s waistband. They need to learn more about what that did to him and soon, but right now he knows he can’t think clearly enough. Hopefully the books Havoc scavenged from the safe will be helpful. As of yet they haven’t told anyone about them or the knife and until he gets to look at them he plans on keeping it that way. Ed comes back with the basin of water, some of the clean rags and kneels beside him again. “I couldn’t take the chance of passing out any sooner.”
“You should’ve made the time.” Ed gives him a disapproving look and dips a cloth into the water. “They weren’t just trying to catch you. They were trying to kill you.” Ed brings the rag to Roy’s shoulder and Roy grits his teeth knowing it’s going to hurt, but it’s nowhere near as bad as he was expecting. Ed lightly slides the cloth against his skin with a delicate touch he shouldn’t be surprised by. They didn’t have a lot of time for tenderness during their brief relationship, everything was much more about fire then. But there were a few times and he silently curses himself for expecting less from him.
“That may be true, but I couldn’t take the chance of passing out any sooner.” Ed’s eyes widen and he stops with his hand hovering over the bowl. He stares at Roy for a long moment and Roy holds his gaze. He wants him to see the truth. There was no way he was going to stop until he knew Ed was alright. Sure he could say he’d do the same for any subordinate, but he knows it was more. He’d have done anything in his power to make sure Ed was alright. Ed may have changed his mind about them, but that doesn’t mean Roy’s stopped caring about him.
Water rushes into the bowl as Ed squeezes out the rag and he tears his eyes away from Roy’s. He leans closer again to clean the blood from Roy’s side but doesn’t look up. He has a look of determination on his face as he carefully washes away the dried blood, but his touch is still so light and gentle it puts Roy more at ease. His words, however, do not. “You’re more important than me. You shouldn’t forget that.” Roy’s opens his eyes more and he stares at Ed, trying to read his real meaning, but he’s still focusing solely on his task. “You can’t make it to the top if you get taken out because of one of your…subordinates.”
“Who told you?” Ed shouldn’t know about these things. Roy knows he’s only in the military to fix his brother so there’s no reason he should concern himself with politics. To do so would just put him at even more risk. Anyone can see Fullmetal has his own agendas and it’s better that way, less chance of him being drawn into the web the way the rest of them have been.
“Does it matter?” Ed leans back to sit on his heels and seems to be satisfied he’s as clean as he’s going to get because he drops the pink tinged rag in the bowl and picks up a dry, clean one. Roy gives him a hard look because he needs answers and he doesn’t want to have to argue with him, but he will. Ed must read his look because his only resistance is to sigh as he pats him dry. “It was, Lieutenant Havoc, ok? Back when he was recovering.”
Roy scowls at the knowledge of his Lieutenant sharing his plans with Ed. He had no right to meddle in their lives. Ed didn’t need to know because knowing him he might try to do something about it. Ed made his choice to walk away and Havoc shouldn’t be trying to bring him back in. Only Havoc and Hawkeye knew about his relationship with Ed and they were both sworn to secrecy as it shouldn’t have happened in the first place. And now he finds out he’s going behind his back to endanger Edward? It’s unacceptable.
A bolt of pain shooting up his left arm shocks him out of his thoughts and he looks to see Ed squeezing his left hand. He blinks in surprise but Ed doesn’t let go. “Listen to me, Roy. He was concerned. Don’t be pissed.” He relaxes his grip on Roy’s hand and gives him a hard look Roy recognizes. Ed’s not going to stop until he hears him out so he gives him a brief nod to continue. “I didn’t get it then. But I do now. You aren’t like the rest, Roy. You care about those around you and I think Amestris could do a lot worse than having your bastard ass leading it.”
“You don’t need to concern yourself with these things, Edward.” There was a time he would’ve jumped at the chance to have someone like Fullmetal backing his play for the top, but things have changed. Up until now the homunculi saw Ed as something too valuable to hurt. But now things are different and he can’t help but think he’s part of the cause. He remembers the mocking look on that creature’s face when it stabbed Ed. It knew, it knew it was hurting him by hurting Ed.
“You wouldn’t dare flame me now, not and risk harming your little Edward, now would you?”
There’s no question about it. By being close to Ed he set those beasts from hell after him. There are two less of them now but he’s willing to bet there are more. He can’t take the chance. He can’t put him at more risk. His unit has already been scattered to the wind, he can’t chance the same thing happening to Ed. “You have your own concerns Edward. Don’t lose focus on account of me.”
Ed’s eyes widen for a moment but then a look of determination steals across his face and Roy sighs inwardly. He picks the worst times to be stubborn. Ed laces his fingers with his and Roy looks down in surprise. It’s an intimate gesture and one Ed shouldn’t be making. “Shut up, Roy. Don’t tell me where my priorities should be. I make my own choices. You of all people should know that by now.”
Roy looks down at the automail fingers laced with his and he shouldn’t have missed that touch so much. He should be over this. Their time together was so brief, but he’d be lying if he said he didn’t dream of that cool touch sliding along his skin again. But now is not the time. He should pull away or tell him to move back. Ed’s emotional and not thinking clearly. He raises his eyes to Ed’s deep golden ones and all his sound reasoning slips from his mind. “And what choice are you making now, Edward?”
“This one.” Ed leans forward and for an instant Roy tries to move, but he’s backed against the wall and he doesn’t have the strength anyway. He tries to find the words to tell him to stop but then Ed’s lips are against his and he’s helpless against the tender touch. He sucks in a breath as Ed kisses him softly and Ed takes the opportunity to slide his tongue between his lips. Roy closes his eyes and gives in because he hasn’t forgotten the sweet taste of him. It’s haunted his dreams like so many nightmares, teasing him with something he could never have again and now it’s in his grasp he can’t make himself say no. He parts his lips more and the heat that burns through him now makes the alchemic backlash feel like a gentle caress.
Roy squeezes his automail hand tighter as Ed deepens the kiss and deep inside he knows it’s wrong. There are so many reasons he could be kissing him now and none of them are the right ones. He knows he still cares, but caring isn’t enough. Not in the end. But as his tongue sweeps through his mouth in a gentle caress all those reasons fall away. Roy melts into his touch until something jabbing him in the side forces him to pull back. He shifts away from the pointed object and the next thing he knows Ed’s jumped back about a foot. His body feels cold from the sudden loss of his warmth and he opens his eyes to see a look of horror on Ed’s face. Was it…the kiss? “Ed…?”
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry, Roy. Did I-did I hurt you?” He inches closer slowly and Roy frowns at his actions until he sees the way Ed’s pinning his automail arm against his stomach. He feels Ed’s flesh fingers against his side and he reaches to cover his hand with his own. It was the automail blade that was pressing against his side. Without alchemy he hasn’t been able to change his arm back, but he hardly grazed him. Thankfully the automail blade isn’t all that sharp.
“It’s ok, Edward. I’m fine.” He reads the doubt on Ed’s face and he presses his hand to his side. “Look, not a mark. I’m alright.” Ed leans forward to inspect his side and it brings a smile to Roy’s lips. He’s not surprised he doesn’t take his word for it, he hardly ever does. He examines him for another moment until he’s satisfied there’s no harm done, but he still doesn’t look happy. Ed’s cradles his automail arm close to his chest and Roy knows they need to do something about it. He just hopes he can.
Roy gives his automail a long look then carefully turns against the wall so his left hand can brush against the dirt floor. It’s just soft enough he can carve lines in it with his nails and he does just that, forming an array with a slow, steady hand. He’s not used to drawing with his left hand but he can manage it if he takes it slow. The array isn’t something he’s very familiar with but if there’s one thing he knows well it’s Ed’s automail. He spent more than enough time running his fingers over it and memorizing every inch of him. He may not be an automail mechanic, but he’s pretty sure he can manage this.
“What are you doing?” Ed scoots closer to him and frowns at the scratched array. Roy takes his time, drawing out every little detail he can think of then raises his eyes to Ed. He’s not even sure if he’ll let him do this, but the other option is waiting for a real automail mechanic and there’s no telling how long that could take. He knows it’s an intimate thing, but he’s sure he can make this work.
“What do you think? Will it work?” Ed’s eyes are locked on the array and he reaches out but doesn’t touch the lightly carved lines. He fists his hand and pulls it back before turning his eyes to Roy.
“I…think so.” Ed shifts on the pile of straw and stares down at his hands. “Are you sure you…don’t mind? I mean….”
Roy reaches out before he thinks and cups the side of Ed’s face. He draws his thumb across his cheek and wide golden eyes turn up to meet his gaze. Ed’s always so hesitant to ask for anything for himself. Most people wouldn’t think that about him with his usual cocky attitude. But it’s true. It’s always about Al or someone else with him. “It’s up to you, not me.” Roy stares deep into his eyes and his words come much softer. “Do you trust me?”
It’s a loaded question and one he knows is about much more than the array. Ed’s eyes widen slightly and his Adam’s apple bobs in his throat as he swallows. “We can try it.”
It’s not exactly the answer he hoped for but it’s good enough for now. Ed moves closer to the array so he can stretch his arm over it and Roy hesitates because seeing him like that…it feels too much like crossing the line into human transmutation. But it’s not. As much as Roy sees his automail as part of him, it isn’t. Not in the way that matters anyway. Ed frowns at his hesitation and he shakes it off. It’s just an alchemic transmutation. That’s all.
But it feels like so much more. Roy presses his hand to the array and the instant it activates he feels the difference. It should only be about steel and aluminum but it’s not. It’s about Ed and for the moment it takes to form the blade back into his arm he feels closer to him in a completely different way. Doing alchemy on someone like this is more intimate, almost like alkahestry but this doesn’t drain his own energy in the same way. It’s exhilarating and something he’d like to explore again someday, but one look at Ed lets him know he’s not feeling the same.
Roy’s eyes widen as the reaction dies away and something isn’t right. Ed’s unsteady, swaying slightly and his face is much too pale. Roy reaches out to steady him and fear spreads through him. Did he make him worse? Did his alchemy somehow interact with whatever they poisoned him with? “Edward, talk to me. What’s wrong? Is it the same as before?”
Ed reaches up to cover his hand and pants lightly. He shakes his head and Roy tightens his grip on his shoulder. It doesn’t seem to be as bad as when he tried to do alchemy to open the safe but he can’t be sure. Something definitely isn’t right. Ed blinks his eyes and Roy breathes a sigh of relief when they clear and lose the dazed look. He swallows several times before he finds his words. “I’m…fine.” His voice is shaky and he still looks a little unsteady but at least he’s not nearly passed out. “I just got…nauseous. But I’m…ok now.”
Roy slowly pulls his hand away and presses his lips together in a hard line. This isn’t good. Ed wasn’t even the one doing the alchemy and he was affected. He didn’t say anything earlier when Roy used his flame so maybe it only affected him because the alchemy was used on him. But if not, if he can’t be around any alchemy at all, this just became much worse than they thought. “Edward, did you feel this when I used alchemy before?”
He shakes his head and Roy relaxes a bit more when color comes back into his face. “No, no this is the first time I felt it, when I wasn’t doing it.” Ed takes a deep breath then brushes a stray lock of hair from his eyes. “Even when you did the alkahestry, I know I was a little out of it, but I didn’t feel anything like this.” His eyes widen and his face lights up. “Hey, you used your flame array with the alkahestry and it didn’t affect me. The alkahestry must mask it or something. Maybe I could try—.”
“Don’t get ahead of yourself, Edward. Until we know what’s really going on we don’t need to push it.” Roy reaches out with his left hand to squeeze Ed’s. “I know you’re frustrated, but we’ll work this out. I promise.” Ed hangs his head and nods. Roy can see the devastation written all over his features and he understands. “We’ll get through this. Just tr—.”
Ed’s head snaps up and Roy bites off his words. He was about to say “trust me” but he knows pushing that issue now would only make things worse. When Ed left he didn’t say anything about no longer wanting him. He carefully avoided that topic and Roy has no doubt it’s because those feelings never changed. He could see it in Ed’s eyes and he wanted to grab him and remind him of why they were so good together. But it was the last thing he told him that ensured Roy would never reach out like that again.
“I don’t trust you.”
Those words were a dagger to his heart then and as Ed stares long and hard at him now he can still hear them echoing in his mind. Nothing he could do then and nothing he can do now can change the fact he doesn’t trust him. You can’t force trust anymore than you can love and there’s no point in belaboring it now. He holds Ed’s gaze and tells him softly, “I’ll do everything in my power to help you Edward. On that you have my word.”
Ed holds his gaze for another long moment and then his lips part as if to say something. Roy’s breath catches in his throat because from the look in his eyes he can almost believe he might be listening to him. Ed’s hand tightens over his left one and he leans forward slightly. He shouldn’t hope for the impossible but when he’s staring into those eyes as soft as honey and bright as the sun he can’t help himself. If Ed could just give him a chance….
A sharp knock at the door shatters the moment and before he can process it Ed’s pulled his hand away and moved back a few inches. But it could be a mile for all the distance it puts between them. Roy sighs softly then looks toward the door to see Havoc coming in with what seems to be a medic. Ed scrambles to his feet as Havoc leads the medic over and Roy doesn’t miss the way Ed doesn’t look back as he heads for the door.
“I’ll leave you alone to tend to the Colonel.”
Roy closes his eyes and sighs. So it’s “the Colonel,” now. Not even Mustang. He wets his lips and swears he can still taste the traces of his kiss. He shouldn’t have given in, even for an instant. He looks up as Havoc and the medic reach his side. The doctor is already looking over his shoulder and Roy can think of one good thing about this. He’s probably about to be in too much pain to even think about Ed and what might have been.
With as many years as he’s had automail you would think he’d know better than to walk into a barracks full of soldiers without a shirt on. Thankfully one young soldier was able to stop gawking long enough to help him find a shirt. It’s white, military issue, and nothing he’d usually wear, but it’ll have to do for now. It only cost him one nosy question about the origin of his automail but he’s learned how to deal with that. When your answer is “Ishval rebellion” people tend to lose interest in pushing the issue further. He just shouldn’t have been so careless in the first place. It’s all Roy’s fault.
Ed dips his stale bread in the small bowl of watery soup. The food isn’t very good but it’s hot and right now that’s more than enough. He thought about making sure Roy got something to eat too but Havoc’s probably already taken care of that. The Colonel’s always taken care of, just like he always makes sure to take care of his men. Ed runs his hand over his bandaged shoulder. Why didn’t he ever see all this before?
He scowls and tears at the bread with his teeth. Stupid Mustang, why does he have to be everything he’s made out to be? All these years he was just the smug, cocky, manipulative bastard who was using him. It was easier that way. He didn’t have to think about the feeling he’d get when he’d study him with those piercing, jet black eyes that always saw everything. Ed drops his bread on the metal plate beside the bowl and shakes his head. It’s not going to work. No matter how he tries to dig up the old anger toward Mustang, it’s just not there. Not when he can still look at him and make him forget all about being self conscious about his automail.
Ed props his chin on his hand and stares down into the murky soup. That’s why he forgot to cover his automail when he left the room. From the first time they were together Roy did that to him and he still doesn’t understand it. He looks at him like he’s whole, like the automail doesn’t matter and after awhile…it’s almost easy to start believing it. Ed holds up his right hand and studies the sleek lines and smooth edges of his automail hand and arm. He wouldn’t have let anyone else transmute his arm. He wouldn’t have trust—.
And there’s that word again.
How did he do this to him? The bastard is a military dog, someone he knows has taken advantage of him before but…hasn’t he done the same thing by taking advantage of all the resources Mustang could provide? No one else but Winry would probably know him well enough to fix his automail, including Al. It’s just too complicated unless you’re an automail mechanic, or it’s your arm. He fists his hand then slowly uncurls his fingers one by one. Everything works perfectly, just like he knew it would, so why is it slightly different?
He stretches his fingers out and pushes up his shirt sleeve. It’s subtle, very subtle, but the differences are there. He doubts anyone else would even notice except Winry and there’s no question she’s going to be pissed he let someone else mess with his automail. She’s going to be ready to kill him when he tells her he likes it better this way. He’s not sure why but whatever Mustang did makes his arm look a little more…human. It’s silly and he wants to believe he’s seeing things but he knows he’s not. Edges are a little smoother and somehow it looks a little less like a machine, but there’s no reason Roy would’ve done this on purpose. There’s nothing to gain, so that can only mean one thing.
This must be how he sees him. Ed shakes his head because it’s stupid and makes no sense. But then he remembers all the times Roy took his automail hand and ran his fingers over it in a soft caress he could hardly even feel. He did treat him like he was whole and for the short time he was with him he actually began to feel that way, until he hid all his research on healing Havoc from him. Ed fists his hand and barely keeps from slamming it down onto the table. Why couldn’t he trust him? Why did he have to try and keep it a huge secret? His unit knew. And why did he have to turn that power against him instead of talking to him?
Ed pushes his plate and bowl out of the way and rests his forehead on the long wooden table. All these months he hasn’t understood Roy at all. He was just a stupid bastard who kept things from him for no good reason. Ed squeezes his eyes shut tight because he can’t pretend he doesn’t understand anymore. He didn’t tell him about the research because he didn’t want Ed to stop him. Roy knew it could be dangerous for him but it wasn’t going to make a difference. He was going to find a way to heal Havoc and the worst part is Ed now knows without a doubt, Roy would do the same for him.
“Edward, I know what I’m doing. You have to trust me.”
But he couldn’t trust him because—
Because he used the alkahestry against him. It’s the same reason he’s told himself again and again, but it’s not exactly true, is it? He hadn’t used the alkahestry against him yet. Ed raises his head up enough to bang it on the table. Roy tried to tell him he knew what he was doing, that he knew how to make the reaction work without killing himself but Ed didn’t believe him. He didn’t trust him before Roy did anything to break his trust. He’s been holding the fact that Roy used the alkahestry to prevent him from stopping him like it was the ultimate betrayal for months. But the thing is…he didn’t believe in him before that. He didn’t think he could do it and instead of asking to see the research he was ready to throw down and fight him. He’s as much at fault as Roy was. He never even considered the possibility Roy knew what he was doing….
“You ok, Boss?”
Ed lifts his head to find Havoc giving him a curious look. “I’m fine.” He reaches for his soup bowl and brings it to his lips to finish it off. It’s not great but it should stop the rumbling in his stomach. Havoc sits down across from him and snatches the scrap of bread left on Ed’s plate. “I thought you were looking after the Colonel.”
“I was.” Havoc takes a bite of the bread and makes the same face Ed’s pretty sure he made when he first tried it. “Doc’s finished with him now. Had to do a little work on his shoulder. Seems the fire stopped the bleeding but damaged the muscle.” Havoc polishes off the last of the bread and makes a motion for Ed’s water. Ed pushes it over to him. He’s had all he plans on eating tonight. “Doc said he won’t be able to use his arm for a few weeks. The Chief seemed less than pleased.”
Ed stares down at the table again and fists his hands. It was too close of a call. Maybe if he’d listened and gotten out of the line of fire like Roy wanted to it wouldn’t have happened. Now he’s all but useless and Roy’s maimed all because he wouldn’t listen. But he’s not used to looking out for someone else. Al’s pretty much indestructible and he can usually take care of himself, or at less he thought he could.
“He’s going to be ok, Ed.” Ed snaps his eyes up to meet Havoc’s and he can see everything he’s not saying. They’ve never talked about what happened with Roy and he has no intention of starting now.
“Did I say he wasn’t?” Havoc tilts his head at him as he reaches for the cigarette behind his ear and Ed sighs. There’s no point in pretending he doesn’t care. Not anymore. “Thanks,” he tells him softly. If Havoc says he’ll be alright he believes him. He’s not the type to lie to make him feel better…not the way Roy does.
“Probably should get some sleep soon. The train heading back leaves early. Might as well get all the rest we can now.” He nods and watches as Havoc lights his cigarette then blows out a stream of smoke. He should get in touch with Al in Resembool, but there isn’t time and he doesn’t need him to know about the issues with his alchemy. There’s no point in worrying him now. They’ll get back to Central and go over those books they found. There has to be something to fix his alchemy, or maybe it’ll just wear off on its own.
"I guess I’ll go do that.” Havoc nods as he stands and Ed doesn’t waste anymore time. If the medic is done with Roy then that probably means he’s alone and he shouldn’t be. Not right now. Even though this is a safe house Ed doesn’t trust it all that much, not after his run in with those thugs. What if they had friends that might want to come attack them while they’re weak? Ed shakes his head because if that were a real danger Havoc probably wouldn’t have left his side, but why chance it? “I’ll see you later.”
Havoc gives him a wave and he crosses through the makeshift mess hall without another word. He feels eyes on him but he ignores them along with the uneasy feeling they give him. He doesn’t trust this place. Not anymore. Lior shouldn’t be this way, not after what he and Al did here. Those monsters must have something to do with it, but he can’t focus on that now. Right now all that matters is getting out of here safe and fixing his alchemy.
Ed stops when he reaches the door to the small room Roy’s in and he hesitates. He feels like he’s intruding, but Roy gave him no indication he didn’t want him to come back. Besides, there’s nowhere else he could go anyway. They took the only room available. Ed takes a deep breath and quietly opens the door then closes it softly behind him. The only light in the room now is coming from the moon light streaming through the one small window near the ceiling. It takes a moment for Ed’s eyes to adjust and when they do he sees the basin of bloody water has been replaced with a one full of fresh water. The dirty cloths and his torn clothing are also gone. The only things remaining are the tatters of his red coat in the corner that has the knife and books wrapped up in it.
He quietly moves further into the room and he sees Mustang still on the pile of straw and leaning against the wall, but his eyes are closed. He’s wearing a clean white shirt, half unbuttoned, and his blue military coat is draped over his shoulders. Ed has no doubt he demanded both and now he understands why. It’s not vanity or arrogance. It’s because even now he looks every bit the Colonel down to the ignition gloves on his hands. The fact that his right arm is in a sling doesn’t change the fact he’s still an intimidating figure. He can’t be too comfortable this way but if anyone were to try and attack them here they might think twice if they saw him this way.
Ed silently makes his way over to the edge of the straw. He won’t chance disturbing Mustang by getting too close, at least that’s the reason he’s going with. He thinks about going around him to lay down near the far wall, considering there’s more straw piled there, but then he remembers the defensive way Havoc always made sure to stay between anyone else and Mustang since they left the church. He’s been protecting him ever since he was injured. Shouldn’t he be doing the same? Ed kneels down and stretches out on the bit of straw between Mustang and the door. Now if someone tries to come and bother them he can at least try to slow them down, not that he can do much now anyway. Ed sighs soft and pillows his arms under his head. He probably won’t get much sleep anyway.
He’s just beginning to relax when a sharp knock gets his attention. No one should be knocking now, not unless it’s something important. He jerks his head up and sees that Roy’s eyes are still closed. Maybe he can take care of whatever this is before he wakes up. He scrambles to his feet and hurries over to the door. Mustang needs his sleep. He can handle things just this once.
Ed pulls the door open and he’s surprised to see Havoc standing there. Why would he knock? He has to know Roy was trying to get some rest. Havoc motions for him to come out of the room and he does, quietly shutting the door behind him.
“Havoc? What’s going on? Is something wrong?” Instead of answering he makes a motion for Ed to follow and he does without question. He must be trying to keep from waking Roy, but then why did he knock so loudly? Ed shakes his head and then stops short when they come to a door that looks a lot like the room he just left.
“He’s in here.”
Havoc’s voice is flat and even and somehow doesn’t sound right but Ed can’t put his finger on it. “Who’s in there?” Havoc moves to the side of the door instead of answering. He can’t mean Mustang. They just left his room. He looks back over his shoulder and his eyes widen when instead of seeing the hall they just walked down he sees the way leading to the mess hall. Is he hallucinating? Could it be from the poison? He looks back to see Havoc is still standing by the door, looking at him expectantly. Did he doze off in the mess hall? He stares at the door again and there’s no question, it’s the one to their room. Ed runs his hand over his face and takes a deep breath. He needs to tell Roy about this. They have to find an answer. Now.
“Thanks, Havoc.” The lieutenant gives him a salute in answer and Ed shakes his head. None of this feels right but he’s obviously in no state to question it. He nods at Havoc then opens the door. The room is dark and as he steps inside the door closes behind him. Strange, he would’ve thought Havoc would be staying with them. He walks forward into the darkness and realizes it’s too dark. Where’s the moonlight that lit up the room earlier? Or was that all a dream? He takes another step forward toward a dim light he can’t see the source of then freezes. This can’t be right. This can’t be happening. Not again!
The voice is twisted and distorted but that’s because the mouth it’s coming from is nothing less than a complete abomination. This can’t be happening again. He can’t be in this room. He turns around to go back out the door but there’s nothing but blackness behind him. The inhuman cry from the thing on the floor chills his soul and he forces himself to turn around and face it. Again.
It’s a nothing but a twisted mass of flesh in the center of the chalk drawn transmutation circle and fear races through him. It called out to him. It was using Al’s voice. Fuck, is Al really in there? The thing reaches out for him and its skin bubbles and melts to reveal bone and tendon. It scratches on the floor and Ed forces himself to look it in the eyes…in its all too human eyes.
“Al!” He tries to take a step forward but the next thing he knows he’s falling to the ground as pain shoots up his leg. He looks down to see a bloody stump and tries to crawl forward with his other leg. The armor. It’s across the room. He needs the armor to save Al’s soul. He has to! He can’t lose him. He won’t! “Al, hold on. Please, please, hold on.” He draws himself forward inch by inch until his fingers brush the foot of the metal suit. He wraps his hand around the ankle and jerks hard. The armor crashes down in front of him and he scrambles for the back plate. The seal. He just has to draw the seal. His hands are shaking as he paints the sigil with his blood. Almost there. Almost there. “It’s going to be ok, Al. It’s going to be ok.”
He claps his hands together to activate the reaction. He doesn’t care what the poison does to him he has to save Al. But nothing happens. Not even the nausea, just nothing. He looks down and that’s when he understands. His arm is gone. It can’t be gone. He hasn’t made the trade yet. “Nooooooo, Al.”
“This is your fault. All yoooooooour fault.” The voice is raspy and grotesque. It’s lost all semblance of Al’s sweet tenor and the golden eyes that were in the monsters face melt and run down the blackened skull. He’s too late. He’s too fucking late! This can’t be happening! His vision’s going dark and he can’t let this happen. He can’t!
“No! Al, come back! Pleeeease.” He takes a breath and shouts with all the energy he has left,” GIVE ME BACK MY BROTHER! DO YOU HEAR ME??? GIVE ME BACK MY BROTHER YOU PIECE OF SHIT!!!!!!!!!!!”
“Brother, brother it’s me. I’m right here.”
Someone is shaking him and he doesn’t care because he’s lost Al and this time he couldn’t even save his soul. He goes limp when hands shake him again. It doesn’t matter. They can let him bleed to death this time because he’s not going on. Not alone. He can’t go on alone.
“Brother, please, open your eyes. You’re worrying me. Please, Ed. Open your eyes.”
Al? It can’t be, but he forces his eyes open anyway and…why are they under the streets of Dublith? He looks around and there’s no question about it. These are the sewers they used to escape from Greed and his chimeras. He pushes to his feet suddenly and spins around, splashing in the shallow water. He doesn’t hear anything coming, but he does see a seven foot tall suit of armor somehow managing to look at him like he’s crazy.
“AL!” He lunges forward and throws his arms around the cool metal the best he can and nothing’s ever felt so comforting. He’s here. He didn’t die in that thing. Ed doesn’t care why they’re here or how they got here. Al’s alright and he’s not alone. “I tried to save you. I’m so sorry, Alphonse. I promise I’ll make everything right again. I’m so sorry. I’ll fix my alchemy and get your body back. I promise.”
“It’s getting too late for all your promises.”
“What?” The soft echoed tones of Al’s voice shouldn’t be that harsh and cold. Ed raises his head and the two pure white lights of Al’s soul are replaced by burning crimson beacons. He tries to pull away but large metal hands hold him firmly. This can’t be Al, but it is and somehow it’s all his fault. He took too long. It’s all his fault.
“You promised you’d save me. You said you’d get my body back but you didn’t.” The voice is definitely Al’s but it’s filled with a hatred Ed’s never heard before. And it’s directed right at him. “Now it’s too late.”
Too late? What’s happening? Ed falls backward a step when he’s released with no warning and he looks around rapidly when the silent tunnel suddenly echoes with the sounds of angry hisses and growls. Claws scrape against the concrete and tails splash in the water, but he can’t see them. All he sees is the empty blackness of the tunnel in each direction, but he knows they’re there. He spins around trying to pinpoint the source but it’s coming from everywhere. Is it Greed’s chimeras? They were more like people, weren’t they? And didn’t the Fuhrer’s men kill them all?
Something bolts from the darkness and he braces himself for the hit…that doesn’t come. Whatever it was rushed right past him and all he could make out was teeth and fur. He peers into the darkness again and his heart races when he sees them. Dozens and dozens of pairs of eyes stare back at him and he knows without his alchemy he can’t begin to fight them all. He brings up his hands to defend himself when they all launch forward at once. He grits his teeth and steadies himself for the battle but each one flies right past him. What’s going on? A crash of metal sounds behind him and his blood runs cold. It’s not him they’re after!
The beasts are all over him, lions, dogs, serpents, things he doesn’t even recognize and they’re all tearing apart the armor. Pieces of metal fly everywhere and he runs toward the writhing pile of creatures. He has to do something. He can’t let them destroy him. He slams his automail fist into the side of one then pulls the tail of something else but they continue to ignore him. He manages to throw one off but it doesn’t matter. They’ve shattered the entire suit of armor, each one clawing and biting at bits of metal but there’s only one piece that matters. He spins around, searching for the back plate with the blood seal but all he can find are random scraps.
“Brother, pleeeeeeeeeeease. It huuuuuuuuurts. Make it stoooooooooooop.”
Al’s tinny voice echoes through the tunnel and it seems like it’s coming from everywhere, but it can’t be. He focuses when he hears Al’s voice again. It’s coming from further down the tunnel. There’s a doglike creature scratching at a piece of metal and that’s got to be it. Ed sprints toward the monster that’s scratching its paws over the blood seal. “Stop it! You twisted monster, stop it! You’re killing him!!” He skids to a halt, splashing water on the beast and his entire body grows cold when it looks him in the eyes.
“Little Big Brother, you broke your promise. You said you’d come play with me. You never came and now I’m dead.”
Ed shudders as violent shakes overtake him. “Nina…,” he whispers, but it can’t be. The thing he’s looking at shouldn’t even be alive. Half the face is rotted off and now that he’s gotten closer he can see the hole in its side. The ribs are exposed and he nearly vomits when he sees something slithering inside. “Nina, please. It’s Alphonse. Please don’t hurt him. I’m sorry.” Ed drops to his knees into the stagnant ankle deep water. “Please don’t take him. He’s all I have.”
“Now Big Brother can come play with me.” The milky eyes narrow at him and the voice changes to one that’s hard and cold. “It’s all your fault.”
Al’s voice cuts off as the claws break the blood seal and Ed screams out his anguish. He failed him again. He’s lost him and he’s all alone. He hangs his head and whispers softly. “Please, please take me too. I don’t want to live….”
“Get up, Fullmetal.”
The voice is strong, commanding, but he doesn’t want to listen. Why should he get up? There’s nothing left to get up for. There’s a rough shake to his shoulder but he ignores it and continues to stare down at the sandy ground. Wait, why is it so bright in the sewer? Where did the water go? He blinks to clear his vision when the commanding voice comes again.
“On your feet. That’s an order.”
An order? Mustang? He looks up and he sees him silhouetted in the bright eastern sun. Ed can’t read the look on his face but his posture is all commanding as he looms over him. He finds a way to drag himself to his feet and he looks around. How did he get back in Lior? Is this the same street they were on yesterday? Could that mean that Al’s….
“Fall in line, Fullmetal. A soldier never quits.”
“I’m not a soldier, I mean…not like you.” Everything looks the same as yesterday. Does that mean the homunculi are still alive? “Mustang, why are we here? Didn’t we already—” His words cut off when he sees the crumbling building. There was a mother and children in that structure. He sees the mortar cracking and he runs as fast as he can. What if he’s too late this time? Ed hears voices as he draws closer and his breath catches in his throat when he recognizes them.
“Brother…please. Save us.”
“Little Big Brother…I’m scared….”
He catches a glimpse of them, huddled together, and he doesn’t care why they’re here. He just has to save them. Al’s huge golden eyes stare back at him filled with trust just like they were on the day they tried the transmutation. He won’t let him down this time. Nina’s braids fall over her shoulders as she clings to Al and as he reaches the front of the building he sees the woman behind them.
Ed claps his hands together to support the building over them, the same way he did before, but the instant his hands touch the whole world spins. His head pounds and nausea slams into him like a punch to the gut. He falls forward and the sound of crumbling masonry is all around him…along with their screams. Three pairs of terrified eyes pin him down accusingly and he can’t move until something jerks him back. Dust’s everywhere and he chokes on it. It’s in his eyes, his nose and his stomach rolls from the poison and the acrid sand in his throat.
But none of that matters.
He let them down. Again.
Ed turns against the hands holding him up and swings as hard as he can. He misses as much as he connects but he doesn’t care. He stopped him. He could’ve helped him. He could’ve let him die with them! He should’ve died with them. Strong hands catch his wrists but still he fights and kicks. He spits in his smug face and screams with rage until he’s finally able to make words again. “You BASTARD! You fucking bastard! You could’ve helped me!! You could’ve done something. WHY?! Why didn’t you do something? WHY THE FUCK DIDN’T YOU LET ME DIE??!!”
Ed thrashes against him until he has no energy left to fight. It hits him all at once as if the thirsty sand beneath his feet drained all the will from his body. He failed them. Again. He’s useless. He doesn’t deserve to live and he doesn’t want to. Not alone. A gloved hand brushes down the side of his face and it’s only then he realizes he’s crying. He tries to push him away but stubborn bastard that he is he won’t let him go.
“I can’t help you change the past, Edward.” Ed blinks up at him and instead of the hardass Colonel he sees Roy. His Roy, or at least he was his Roy. His touch is gentle but his look is resolute. He’s not lying to him. Not now. Ed reaches up and wraps his hand around Roy’s wrist as Roy brushes his thumb across his cheek. “I can only help you change the future.”
The past. Is he saying that he couldn’t have saved them? Ed looks back at the pile of rubble that was the building and somehow…his words feel true. His mom is dead, not by his hand but by fate. He can’t change that anymore than he could fix Nina. He wanted to save her too…but Tucker sealed her fate the instant he transmuted her with Alexander. The only one who’s really his fault is Al, and he’s not gone. Not yet. He knows it in his heart. He can still save Al. His eyes turn back to Roy who smiles at him. He must see he understands. But what about the future?
“You…you want to help me?”
“I’ve always been helping you, Edward. Even from the beginning.” Ed stares at him because this doesn’t sound like the manipulative bastard he knows. It’s too honest, all the masks are stripped away, but in his heart he knows it’s all true. “We can’t change the past. We can’t bring them back, but we can change the future.”
He met this man during the worst time of his life. He wanted to quit then, but there was Mustang in all his glory giving him a reason to fight, giving him a goal. Is that what he’s doing now? Ed can see the old pain buried deep in Roy’s dark eyes and he knows the cause. He could see it the first time Roy looked around Lior and even more so when he killed the bandits. He has his own sins to bear but still he moves forward. “I think I understand.”
The smile Roy gives him makes his heart ache and he knows now how wrong he was. How many times has he wanted to lie down and die? More than he can count. His own curse has nearly suffocated him so many times, the thought of being alone, so overwhelming. But if what he’s saying is true…if he could keep moving forward. Ed leans up on his toes and brushes a soft kiss to Roy’s lips. Roy’s hands tighten on his arms and for an instant all the pain of the past melts away. But then a sharp crack rings out and makes them both jump. Ed pulls back to find the source but everything around them looks the same.
“It’s not your fault, Edward. I’m sorry, but never forget…it’s not your fault.”
Ed’s head turns at the sound of Roy’s voice because something isn’t right. Roy’s eyes are still filled with emotion and for a moment Ed doesn’t know what’s wrong. But then he sees the crimson stain spreading outward from the center of his chest.
“No. NO! Roy, you can’t!”
“I’m sorry.” Blood runs from Roy’s mouth and Ed moves forward to catch him. He gets his hands under his arms but then he’s ripped out of his grasp. Ed reaches out, trying to hold on, but there’s an immovable hand on his chest. He tries to pull it away but he can’t budge it. His eyes widen when he sees the evil grin. This can’t be happening. Roy killed them already!
“Look what you did, Fullmetal pipsqueak. This is all your fault.” Ed swings with all the might of his automail arm but this time Envy doesn’t budge. He’s an immovable wall who only laughs at him. “Is that all you got? Looks like you get a meal after all Gluttony.”
“Mustaaaaaaaaang. Swallow. Swallooooooooooow.”
Roy’s scream echoes in the quiet of the dusty street and Ed nearly vomits when he sees Gluttony rip off Roy’s arm. He tries to get around Envy again but this time his arms are around him like bands of steel. His eyes lock with Roy’s and he expects to see the same betrayal and hatred in his eyes, but it’s not there. Just anguish as he’s ripped apart and Ed barely makes out his words.
“Not…your…fau—” The light in his eyes goes out when Gluttony takes a bite from his side and Ed fights to get free even harder.
“Nooooooooooooooo, Roy! I won’t quit! Do you hear me?? I won’t quit!” The nightmarish scene continues to play out before him as Roy’s ripped to pieces, but he won’t fail him. He won’t! He’ll destroy them all for this. Ed claws at the arms around him, scratching, biting, anything to get away. “I’ll KILL YOU! You won’t break me! Not this time. NOT THIS TIME!!!”
Envy is shaking him but he doesn’t care, he’ll break free. He won’t fall apart again. He’ll avenge him. He’ll save Al.
“Edward. Wake up. Please.”
Ed thrashes again and he realizes he’s not standing anymore. When was he thrown to the ground? The tight arms binding him fade away and he jerks up to a sitting position as the bright Lior day turns to night. No, not night. He’s inside. He blinks to get his eyes to adjust and things slowly begin to sink in. The smell of dirt and straw. The tight binding on his shoulder. The sight of Roy slumped against the wall with a worried look on his face.
“You’re alive!” Ed launches into his arms and presses a kisses to his lips. He remembers about his wounded shoulder at the last second and presses himself against Roy’s left side. He holds on to him carefully but tightly and as Roy’s lips part he deepens the kiss immediately. He’s given up so much time. He could’ve lost him today and he never would’ve seen the truth. He can’t waste anymore time, not when it’s all so precious.
Ed runs his hands over Roy’s chest to make sure he’s still whole and he kisses down his neck. He breathes him in with every breath and he can’t believe he let this slip away. He was a stubborn idiot, too concerned with his own pride to see what was in front of him. He won’t make the same mistake again. He lifts his head to capture Roy’s lips in another kiss when he feels his hand against his chest, pushing him back. No, no he won’t let him say no. This is right and they both know it. He won’t be put off any longer.
“Edward, stop. Please.” Roy shoves at him again with his left hand and Ed growls as he sits back on his heels. He doesn’t understand. They don’t have to wait anymore.
“It’s ok, Roy. I understand now.” He leans in to kiss him again but Roy pulls back as much as he can. Ed frowns and huffs at him. “Mustang, I know I was an idiot. Do you want me to beg?”
“Edward…it’s not about begging.” Roy reaches his left hand down to take Ed’s. He gives it a squeeze and Ed is immediately lost in dark eyes filled with concern. It’s not often Roy’s so readable and Ed has to wonder if it’s the pain he’s in or the situation. “It’s been an emotional day. You just came out of a nightmare and as much as I’d like to….” Roy shakes his head then takes a careful breath as he lowers his voice to a near whisper. “Edward, you don’t even trust me.”
“But I do trust you.” Doubt is written all over Roy’s face and Ed scowls in frustration. How can he make him believe? “I’m not emotional, Mustang. This isn’t about what happened today or Lior or the dream.”
“But the dream was about me.”
“Damn it, Roy, stop trying to protect me.” Ed scoots even closer and locks his eyes with Roy’s again. He needs him to see, to understand, he’s not being his usual rash self. This all makes sense now. “I know that’s what you’re doing and I don’t need it.” He laces his fingers with Roy’s and brushes his thumb over the rough fabric of the ignition cloth. “I want to try again. I want to be with you….” Ed’s eyes widen when a thought occurs to him. Maybe Roy doesn’t still want him in that way anymore. It’s been months and he could’ve decided being with someone with so many issues isn’t worth it. He knows he still cares, but maybe this is his way of letting him down easy. Ed drops his eyes and adds softly, “If you…even still want that.”
Roy pulls his hand away and Ed’s heart sinks. He just assumed if he changed his mind that Roy would still be there. He curls his hand into a fist and swallows hard. It doesn’t mean he has to give up though. It may have just been a dream but he can still remember what Roy told him. He will keep moving forward and if he has to he will change his m—.
Ed’s startled from his thoughts by the soft brush of Roy’s glove against his face. He raises his eyes and he doesn’t see rejection. No, he’s smiling, maybe a little sadly but he is smiling. Ed blinks at him because he’s not sure what’s going on. Roy’s thumb brushes along his cheekbone and Ed holds his breath when he parts his lips to speak.
“I never stopped wanting this, Edward. But I’m not going to rush it either.” Ed frowns slightly but it only seems to make Roy’s smile grow. “I know you think all of this isn’t affecting you, but it is. It’s affecting me too.” Ed shifts restlessly, wishing he would get to the point already. Sometimes he swears Roy does this just to torture him and he’s not in the mood to be toyed with.
“Good. Then we’re even.” Ed leans forward again and presses his lips against Roy’s. He expects resistance considering his whole speech, but instead his lips part easily and Ed groans when Roy’s tongue slides over his own. It’s only a kiss and he knows they can’t go any further but still it sends heat through him like nothing else he’s ever felt. He was an idiot to give him up and not only for the physical, though it is a nice bonus. He slides his hand up Roy’s chest, careful not to bump his arm or the sling, and he grins when he hears that low throaty sound Roy always used to make when he touched him. He’s tempted to reach up and tug at his hair just to make him growl, but then he feels Roy’s hand at his chest pushing him back again. Damn it, what now?
“What the hell is your problem now, Mustang?” Ed scowls even more when he sees Roy’s smirk. He better have a good reason for this. “Don’t even tell me you didn’t want that.”
“I wouldn’t dream of it, Edward.” Roy reaches up to brush a loose lock of hair from Ed’s face. “But I do think it would be best to not give the Lieutenant a free show.”
“Wha—?” Ed whips his head around and sure enough Havoc is sitting on the ground and leaning back against the wall across from Roy. Havoc gives him a two fingered salute and Ed feels his cheeks flush as he turns toward Roy again. He was shaken awake. Now that he thinks about it he remembers feeling two hands on his shoulders. Roy couldn’t have done that. Ed closes his eyes as his face grows hotter and he grumbles softly. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
“I tried, Edward. You didn’t give me much of a chance.” He’s still smirking at him but for once the amusement in Roy’s eyes doesn’t fill him with rage. He must be getting soft.
Ed mutters to himself about bastard Colonels and nosy Lieutenants and scoots closer to Roy’s left side. He’s not going to admit it, but he’s still a little shaken up by the dream. Parts of it, not so pleasant parts, are still much too vivid in his mind and he has no desire to curl up on the edge of the straw again. He looks Roy over for a long moment then he lies down beside him and pillows his head on his lap. He throws his arm across Roy thighs as well and grumbles loud enough to be heard. “Still your subordinate so you can tell him to keep his mouth shut.”
Roy chuckles and Ed sighs softly when his fingers run through his hair. He lets his eyes drift closed and for the first time since he arrived in Lior he actually feels safe. Not to mention no one will be getting to Roy without his knowing it. He has a feeling Roy won’t be sleeping much, probably trying to protect him and he knows now isn’t the time to argue. He’ll make sure he gets rest tomorrow whether he likes it or not.
“I meant what I said before, Edward. I’m not going to rush this.” Ed huffs softly and raises his head to look up at Roy. He has a serious look and his face Ed sighs. He should’ve known he’d make this difficult, not that he doesn’t deserve it. “Let’s give it a few days, until we get back to Central, and if you still feel the same way—.”
“I will.” Ed rests his head on Roy’s lap again then reaches for his hand. He laces their fingers together as he closes his eyes and smiles. He’ll play Roy’s game if it makes him happy, but he knows he won’t be changing his mind. Just like Roy told him in the dream he has to keep moving forward, not looking back. Things will be better this time and when they get back to Central they’ll find out what the homunculi poisoned him with and they’ll fix it. There’s no doubt in his mind. He trusts Roy. He really, really does and he knows they’ll make this work. It’s just a matter of time.