The room was silent for a long moment. The vending machine in the corner let out a long, shuddering whine and switched itself off.
"I took the injection." Edward clarified. "While you were unconscious and Al was out of the room." He didn't look embarrassed about it, nor was he apologizing – he was just stating the facts as they were, completely tonelessly.
Furiously, Roy pushed forward to stand up, but Al forced him back down onto the couch again, his eyes focused on his brother, a look of shock on his round face. He hadn't known either.
"I had to. You don't understand. They were coming and I panicked. It was just a shot – just a needle. I had to. They're still coming, still trying to find us, but we're here and we're hidden and we're safe. For now." He gave a weak laugh. "You won't believe how amazing it is, Roy. It's fantastic. I can do anything I want. Anything." His voice was still dead – it was starting to scare Roy.
The man growled, and shoved at Alphonse's hand, pushing the boy away and sitting up with relative ease. He sat up, wings coming up on either side of him, feathers bristling. Edward looked at him, doe-eyes wide and not at all reproachful. The look was so unlike him that Roy shuddered, reaching out to touch his hand against Edwards. The boy flinched violently away, glaring at him and being Edward for a moment before once again the stranger overtook him and he went quiet and complacent. "Ed, you need to tell me what the needle did to you." He wouldn't admit it, but he was worried, and there was something altogether odd about the way Edward was acting. "What's wrong with you?"
It was in that moment that Edward cast a fearful look at him and Roy felt his protective instincts engage in a way that hadn't happened for anyone he had ever met before. It was in that instant, more than any other that he realized he wanted to protect Ed, and not just because he was the fabled prince. There were two of those, it wasn't as important as it used to be.
But there was only one Edward. Loud, brash, gold-eyed Edward, who was fourteen years younger and seven centimetres shorter than him and for the first time in his whole life, they were trivial concerns. Nothing was as important to him as gold hair and red wings and a fiery temper set loose in tanned skin. And it was in the way Edward looked at him sometimes, just sometimes when he thought Roy wasn't looking, and the way that Roy shamelessly looked back when he knew that Edward was.
It was their relationship – full of bloody fighting and verbal war, more hard looks than soft ones, and battle and enmity and none of the things that Roy had ever looked for in the perfect match. It just went to show him that one didn't know what was right for them until they found it. So Roy frowned at Ed and reached forward to loosely take the boy's hand. "Ed." He said breathlessly, "Tell me what's wrong."
The boy didn't pull away, but Roy was holding his hand such that he could at any moment if he chose to. "The needle. It unlocked all the abilities. It hurts, Roy, it hurts." Edwards small sob was more terrifying to Roy than anything that the man had ever heard in his life. "It's like fire. Through all my veins, and thoughts are pouring in from everywhere and I can't control them. And it's like ice in my heart and like I'm bleeding from every pore and never going dry. It hurts."
Roy gamely reached up to touch Edwards hair and the boy didn't pull away, pressed into the touch. "It's like every sadness you've ever felt in your head." Roy whispered. "All at once and they won't go away because people don't have happy thoughts or feelings nearly as often as sad ones."
"How do you cope with it?" Ed sobbed. "How do you make it stop?"
"You don't." Roy said, feeling terrible and wishing that he could make it better for Ed. "It's always there, always making you feel guilty and dirty and hollow." Edward took a step forward, Roy untangled his hand from Ed's and placed it on the boy's hip. He had forgotten Al's presence, but the boy was surreptiously studying the lounge room cupboards to give them at least some privacy. Alphonse was always too clever for his own good. "But every so often, something good happens amongst the bad and you learn to focus on those and the bad doesn't seem as terrible." He smiled. "And if there are no good thoughts, there are always good memories. Like when you kissed me, do you remember that?"
Al gave a scandalized little cry, then went back to studiously not paying attention. Edward gave a wet laugh. "Yeah." He whispered, "That was nice."
Roy returned the laugh. "We're going to have to do it again some time."
Edward frowned, turned his head away, and Roy thought he'd said the wrong thing, was panicking about it, (Which was so unlike him that it caused him to start for a moment) until Edward whispered, "We will. But not for a long time."
Edward looked straight at him. "We won't see each other after today for a very long time."
"No, Ed. Don't be silly." He said, "We'll get out of here alive, all three of us and we'll live long, happy lives together. You, me, Alphonse, Winry, Lisa, all of us. And no matter what happens, I'll always come back for you – no matter how long it takes, two minutes or two years, I'll come back."
Edward leaned forward, onto him. "You promise?" He asked, his voice almost childish.
It seemed like such a stupid thing, something that was no more than a childish fantasy, but this was Ed, and Ed always worked on two levels, no matter what happened in his life. It had taken Roy too long, far too long to realize this, and he thought, about what Ed knew, about the situation and he smiled. "I promise." He said.
Mustangs never lie. He wrapped his arms around Edward and held on for all his worth.
They needed to move. Edward felt them coming, slimy apes with guns loaded, causing tremors through the ground, faint but coming closer, always closer. It wouldn't be long until they worked out where they were, Edward felt them thinking, felt the cogs turning, felt them coming to realization. He wondered if this was how Mustang felt all the time and wondered how the man handled it. He was still wrapped in said man's arms, feeling a small comfort amongst greater fears, and even Al's tutting couldn't get him to move from the embrace.
Mustang had promised him, but it didn't matter. They weren't coming out of this together.
He wrenched away from Mustang's grip, turning his back on the man and gathering his composure. There was a fight coming, he knew it, even though he didn't quite know how. His body was still burning, but it was ebbing now as his muscles stretched and shifted themselves and his mind learnt to accommodate to the new strange strengths he had. He frowned. "We need to go." He said, though he was reluctant to leave, "They're coming for us and we're not very secure here." Mustang stood behind him, and Alphonse gave a little cough.
"With all respect, Brother, The Captain still went against your orders and committed treason." He said. Edward sighed, his brother was ever the diplomat, even in the situations where nothing was going according to plan and everything would have to be thought up on the run. "Why we even bothered to rescue him I don't…"
"We rescued him because I said so." Edward snapped, fully aware that it was the complete truth. It was a funny time to become so aware of his powers in this situation, funny how easily he could turn to anarchy if he wanted to.
A bizarre thought crossed his mind; he felt like a parent.
He looked around the room for anything that could be used as a weapon, but finding nothing. He would have to rely on his strange new abilities and Roy's fire to get him out of this, resources which he didn't fully know the capacities of and therefore couldn't quite trust. He felt Roy's touch on his arm and was profoundly grateful for it. "It's alright." The man said. "I know my capacities, so we won't use yours unless we have to."
"Cloak us, Al." Was his reply.
He felt the familiar feeling of illusionment wash over him as he moved towards the door of the little lunchroom. The guns were coming closer, the vast majority of him was terrified, the rest struggling to hide it behind a mask of impassiveness. They were shouting in his brain and he tried to think of happier things, and not the fear that was leaking off Al, or the calm indifference of a soldier that Roy embodied. He closed his mind and opened the door, stepping into the corridor, the others on his heels.
They ran, hardly knowing the way and Roy still not completely fit to, they ran down as many twisting passages as they could, Edward keeping his hand to the right wall so that they could escape from the rabbit-warren passages like it were a hedge maze. People whirred past, the illusion working perfectly on them as mounted guns were dispatched of with a quick snap of Roy's fingers before they even had a chance to fire. He was leading, and he didn't know why, when Roy was so much more qualified to do so, but he didn't question it, stepping over a fallen water cooler and pressing his wings as tight as possible to his chest.
A feeling like warm honey enveloped his brain as an explosion went off outside the compound. He knew it was Lisa, though he couldn't quite say how, and then he started recognizing the thoughts of other avians as well, Havoc, Breda, Feury, even that one muscle man with the sparkles who Ed thought was called Armstrong but wasn't quite sure. Roy's hand was pushing at him slightly and he realized with horror that he'd stopped running, and that he better start again or the masses would know where they were, even without being able to see them. Even if they couldn't be seen, people could still run into them, which would totally ruin the element of surprise.
Gunfire prattled outside, and he heard it as clear as if it were happening a room over. Even Izumi was fighting, even Sieg was putting his life on the line, and Ed realized suddenly that they were doing it solely to get him back.
And then, just as clearly, "This war's over me, isn't it?"
Roy didn't reply, but he tensed for a moment and stumbled, staggering upright and starting off again down the path. There was a doorway up ahead, clearly marked as an exit point and Edward frowned, compressing air behind it to blast it open.
It worked, but a sharp pain shot down the right side of his head, and he hissed and clutched at it, wiping his eyes where they teared up from a mixture of dust and pain. They were out on the surface of the planet, no longer surrounded by metal and security devices.
And everything seemed to freeze in an instant, then it came like snapshots to him, each more frightening than the last.
It was the first battle that Edward had ever seen up close – the first fair fight. Dead bodies were strewn across the ground, Avian and human alike, all lifeless and unmoving. Severed limbs were scattered, bodies were blackened by lightning, drowned standing up or simply peppered with bullet holes. He saw Falman's body and couldn't quite bring himself to look at it – the kindly avian had given him a hot chocolate to calm his nerves when he first boarded the fleet ship, and he had thrown it away, not trusting the man and thinking it was poison. Lisa was taking out as many humans as it was physically possible for her to do so, but he could see that she was tiring, and soon someone would get in a lucky shot and she would fall.
Poor Feury, young and childish and too young in spirit to be in the army was the one electrocuting humans. They were falling as strike after strike of lightning appeared out of no-where and took them out.
Behind him, Roy snapped his fingers and a huge pillar of flame shot out, and with each agonizing scream Edward received both a wave of mental pain, and a sudden cease of all emotions into black nothingness. Roy was nothing but a cold shell behind him, filled with remorse and sorrow. Edward was feeling exactly what he was, and wondered how the man could stand it, because he was the one causing it.
There were great and terrible beasts rampaging amongst the bodies, some were feasting on the flesh like carrion, others were stalking and hunting their own prey from both sides, and these were what people seemed to be taking out first, the fear that even once a side won this battle, they would still be killed by the monsters. They were not chivalrous or brave when killing the creatures, if one was attacking someone of the other side, they would leave it, until the person was dead, and then cut it down from behind. Lividity, hatred and pain came from all sides and Edward's eyes went wild as he felt Al throw himself into the battle behind him, as yet more humans came pouring out of the compounds and avians from their ships. Roy's fire was burning everything in sight, flame and explosions and gunfire pressed on him from all sides, and the dawning thought that both sides were fighting to keep him, to own him was enough to drive him to desperation.
He didn't want the fighting.
He didn't want the screams and the blood and the fire.
He didn't want people dying as unnecessarily as they were, as they had been for the past fifteen years.
He wanted a blanket and a mug of cocoa and for Ana to embrace him and tell him that everything was alright, that everything would work out in the end and that the world was a good and gentle place.
Chasing on the heels of that thought was another. That at the end of the day, he would be captured or dead, that everything was not alright and had never been alright for him, and it wasn't fair. He closed his eyes, put power into his vocal chords and clapped his hands, slamming them into the ground in front of him. He wanted it to be fair, but more than that, he wanted the war to end.
"ENOUGH." He yelled, stepping forward, the crackle of electricity spiraling through the ground and physically forcing avian and human apart. It wouldn't stop them, avians could fly, but it would be enough for what he wanted. "I've had it with you lot!"
There was a pause, and everyone looked at him. A stray shot was fired, but it ricocheted from some invisible barrier before it even touched him. They turned, looked ready to start fighting again, but Edward shouted once more and they were stopped merely by the strength of it. He made avian wings like lead, and human guns break, just to make sure.
"Honestly." He said, not knowing how to continue after his initial outburst. "You're like children, fighting over a toy." He frowned and looked around at them. "And if I'm the only one of you who can be an adult about this, then that's what I'll bloody well be." The silence that followed this bizarre statement was punctured only by the groans of wounded and dying men. "What should I do, to get you to get along, huh? Blow up Mars? Will that work or will you only start fighting about who belongs to Earth next? Idiots. I should get rid of Mars right now, and then while I'm at it, I'll get rid of myself, if you've all got it in your head that I'm some sort of weapon." He was ranting now, bottled anger all coming out at once. "I'm not sure how many of you have actually noticed, but I'm not something to fight over. I'm a person. I'm not a gun or a sword or a cannon. And didn't your mothers ever teach you about sharing for trees above? Look, you have TWO planets. TWO races, it really doesn't take a genius. Or maybe it does, I've never had my intelligence tested, but I'm pretty sure it's up there."
Once again, silence reigned as they all took in his small stature and red wings. The humans paused, as did the avians before throwing themselves at one another and brawling instead of warring.
"Oh for Pete's sake." Edward muttered, sounding remarkably like Al, and thoroughly fed up. He clapped, and sent a pulse through the earth, causing a spear to rise up just under his chin. "ENOUGH" he cried again, and once more heads turned.
"So it's come to this, has it?" He demanded, "You can't share, so neither of you gets it. I've had it with you, I'm the grandma who throws the stuffed toy out of the window of the moving car. If I have to fucking kill myself to get the message through, I fucking will!"
"That won't be nessecary, Gabriel." Said a voice.
Crossing the battlefield now was a broad shouldered man with an eyepatch over his right eye. He stood tall over most of the other people in the field, regal prosperity in the way he held himself. "You have made your point and now I believe we are at an impasse. Negotiations should begin if we are to go any further." He smiled gaily. "What are your terms?"
Edward was suddenly unsure of himself, and sought out a horror-stricken looking Roy for reassurance. After a dark look and a promise of swift retribution graced his face, Roy mouthed "President" at him and Edward looked at the man in front of him very carefully.
"Well," He said, weighing his words, "The way I see it, is you want two things. You want me and the planet Mars." The man nodded.
"This is correct."
"What about a compromise?" Edward said quietly, feeling Roy's dread as the man's carefully laid plans were all but shattered because of Ed's free will. He liked that. He'd been trying to do that from day one, and then he had to go and fall in love with the stupid ship and the stupid commander and everyone on board. He had to start to want to save them, didn't he.
"What about a compromise?" Roy choked as he stepped forward out of the masses of grounded avians and disabled humans. Edward had a spike at his throat and it was killing Roy to see it, both that Edward would be stupid enough to try such a thing, and that he thought it was absolutely necessary to take his own life if need be. Bradley merely looked grumpy in the way that only Bradley could, with that stupid simpering smile on his face. "How about you get me, and the Avians get Mars?" Ed was speaking in that cocky way that drove ice into Roy's gut. And the boy was aware of it, glancing over at Roy sympathetically before plundering on. "It's the best solution – the avians get a place in which they can live, and you get a weapon that can establish enough fear into them to keep them at bay."
"A planet for a person is hardly a fair trade." Bradley replied, and he had the guts to be unconcerned with the whole idea that if Edward were to leave, Roy's heart would shatter.
"It'll be a planet for a dead person in a minute." The rock-blade at Edward's throat shot up and Roy let out an involuntary yelp reaching forward just as the blade stopped millimeters from Ed's throat. "Just think, all that work was put into cultivating me, and I was the only survivor of the program. All of that wasted effort gone just because you didn't agree to a compromise."
Now Bradley looked worried, but Roy was terrified, sliding behind Edward and reaching out to touch him. Edward nimbly stepped out of the way, the stone blade following him. "Stop, Roy." He said. "And obey my commands as I give them."
Roy froze. Edward had learnt to pull rank at the worst possible time. "Ed," He whispered, and the boy turned quickly to give him a sad look before turning back.
"It's the best solution." He said, meaninglessly, because Roy knew it was, but that didn't mean it was tearing out his heart any more or less.
Bradley sighed and his mouth twisted ever so slightly. "Name your terms." The man said to the young prince, and the young prince did so.
"You can have me on the terms that the war ends in effect immediately, for starters."
"Your other terms?"
"The avians get Mars. And," Ed turned to Roy and flashed a shit-eating grin the likes of which Roy had only ever seen once before on the boy – the day he met him. "You" He said to Bradley, all cocky smiles and glee, "Must make sure that I'm not the first person in the world to make a liar out of one Roy Mustang."
There was a surprised muttering through avian and human alike, but Bradley merely smiled that enigmatic grin, and shook his head. "An unusual request." He said, turning to Edward, "But it does not matter. I agree to your terms, all of them, and in the following months negotiations will take place to establish others that you may have overlooked. You may order your troops to leave."
Edward did so with a dismissing wave of his hand, keeping the stone blade pressed against his throat. Roy moved past him, knowing that it was the best solution, knowing it was what Ed wanted, but hating it all the same. He was stopped by a hand on his sleeve, and turned to look briefly at Ed, who was tugging slightly. He could only think to say one thing. "I love you."
Edward nodded, and whispered lowly, "Two minutes or two years, Roy, You promised."
"I did." He said, as Edward lifted the weighting on the avian's wings, and they took off into the night.
He felt Edward watching him, but he didn't look back, there was no need.
End Part 3 / The End
A/n: SO. HOW MANY OF YOU HATE ME?
I'm sorry, I know it's open ended and I know Ed went all sue-ish in that last bit, it was much better in my head, I swear. But yeah. This is how AWWA was ALWAYS going to end – even in the early days when I was just formulating the idea, this was the ending.
Anyway, can you please be kind and leave one last review for this little author? It's nearly midnight and I really should be sleeping given how early I have to wake up tomorrow, but WHO CARES. AWWA IS FINISHED AND I FEEL LIKE I'VE LOST A CHILD.-breaks down into very noisy tears)
At least I still have the Lief version to keep me going. (Oh, speaking of that, it's so far 170 pages long when I'm up to chapter ten of the re-write. Also – the emails didn't work last time around in the reviews – can you please re-post them in the form (And I mean this exactly) yourname (at)yourhost (dot) whatever (dot) etc. Alternatively, just email me and I'll put you in my address book for updates. )
It's the last time you get to leave a review, so please? -puppy eyes-