Author's Notes: Thank you for the kind words! I bounced up and down when I got reviews! Woohoo! There should be one more part after this. Not so much angst here, but should be some more soon.
"Welcome home Edward."
Ed glowered at Mustang, and then shifted his gaze around the apartment. Home? Not likely. The place smelled faintly of stale cigarettes and beer. It kind of made his stomach twist. He swallowed hard, trying not to remember that he had first done . . . that . . . here.
"BROTHER!" Alphonse hurtled in from the next room, nearly knocking Mustang over in his rush to get to Edward. "How are you feeling? Was the ride here okay? I've got your things in our room already. We can move things around later if you want. Do you want something to eat? I started dinner while Mustang went to pick you up!"
Genius or not, not even Ed could keep up with that much at one time. He blinked at Al, then smiled faintly. "Sure Al," he responded, laying his automail hand on his brother's arm. His flesh arm was in a sling close to his chest, to keep him from over stretching the stitches.
Al ushered Ed towards the kitchen, babbling about making him a sandwich to hold him over until dinner was ready. Mustang watched them go, then sighed and leaned against the wall. He rubbed the bridge of his nose, wondering if he should go ahead and start drinking now or wait until after dinner.
It had been hell getting Edward out of the hospital. The original doctor was apparently not too cowed by the Colonel to not send a psychiatrist in to check on Ed. At the mere suggestion that perhaps Edward would like to stay a few more days and talk with him more often, Fullmetal had nearly jumped out the window trying to escape the room. Mustang assured the man that the military would see to it that Edward received the necessary counseling at home, and managed to coax the boy back into bed.
Edward hadn't been too happy about reconnecting his automail either. Though he'd never seen it before today, Roy knew that it involved a fair amount of pain. His heart ached as he watched Ed writhe in pain on the bed, teeth clenched to keep back any noise that might hint at how much it really hurt. It didn't seem fair. He'd been through enough in the past two days without that additional pain.
"I still think this is a bad idea," the doctor had grumbled under his breath. "He could use that thing to cause himself more damage you realize."
"So you suggest we leave it off and leave him completely helpless to do anything? That he depend on others entirely while his other arm heals?"
That had shut the man up finally.
They hadn't spoken on the car ride back to Mustang's house. Ed had stared sulkily out the window. He hadn't brought up what had landed him in that hospital once since the drugs had worn off enough for him to speak coherently. And Mustang wasn't quite ready for that confrontation yet. Give it a few days, he thought. Let him get adjusted.
Hawkeye was angry at him, not surprisingly. When he'd informed her the Elrics would be moving into his apartment with him, she had nearly blown a hole through him right then.
"Are you INSANE?" she had raged, not caring that half the hospital was staring at them. "You can't possibly expect this to work!"
"It's either that or Fullmetal's going to have to stay HERE," Roy had countered, arms across his chest. He stared at the floor, praying he wasn't insane, that he wasn't making a huge mistake.
"I know you feel some sort of responsibility to these boys, Roy." She had calmed down a bit now, speaking softer now. "But you know as well as I do you have no idea how to care for teenagers."
He had shaken his head. "I knew it might come for this when I took legal guardianship of them when Ed passed the exam," he said. "They need someone to be there for them right now."
"The only reason you did that was to keep Alphonse from being shipped off to an orphanage Roy. You never planned for anything like this."
No, he hadn't. He couldn't lie about that. But this was what adults did. They lived with their decisions. When he had signed that piece of paper two and a half years ago he'd never imagined it would come to this. He'd never wanted to have this responsibility on him, but it was now.
He'd jumped when a hand had fallen on his shoulder lightly. He looked up, surprised to see Riza standing close to him.
"You can't be their father, Roy."
Of course he couldn't. For one, Roy was here. No one had any idea where Hohenheim Elric was. Roy wondered if the man would even care that one son was a soul trapped in armor, and the other had just very nearly committed suicide.
In the kitchen, Ed laughed at something Al had said. It sounded strained, Roy thought as he hung his coat up and went to join them.
"This is very good, Alphonse," Roy said. Honestly, he had been a little apprehensive about letting the boy cook. Who would have thought a suit of armor could make spaghetti?
Al laughed a little, obviously embarrassed by the praise. "Thank you. I used to help my mo.." He broke off quickly. "I'm going to go clean the kitchen."
Edward didn't raise his head when his brother left, seemingly intent on the plate in front of him. He hadn't said more than four words since Roy had joined them. The two of them ate in silence for a long moment, both concentrating fully on their own thoughts.
"Thank you for letting us stay here," Ed said quietly after a while. "We'll try to stay out of you way, and as soon as my arm is better we'll get back to the dorms."
Roy set his fork down with a sigh. "You're going to be staying here longer than that Edward." He looked across the table at the boy, who was opening his mouth to object. "I had to pull quite a few strings to get you out of that hospital. One of the stipulations is you have to stay with the adult legally responsible for you."
Ed snapped his mouth shut, then shoved more food in. It was either that or say something unbearable rude. When he'd calmed down enough, he simply asked, "Why?"
There was silence for a few moments longer while Roy tried to work it out for himself. Why indeed? Why had any of this happened?
"Edward, I hadn't told you about it before because it didn't seem important." He sipped his drink, thinking he was going to have to go buy more vodka tomorrow. "But you're still a minor. As is your brother. The military could take responsibility for you when you passed the State Alchemy Exam, but your brother would have been put in foster care. The only way to prevent that was for someone to become his legal guardian. And taking guardianship of one brother brings along the other."
"But . . . what about our father?" Ed had his teeth clenched, hating to even mention that word aloud.
Another drink, more this time. Yes, definitely a new bottle tomorrow. "Your father disappeared, Edward. As far as the military is concerned, he's no longer alive."
"Why didn't you tell me before?" Edward finally asked, his voice very small.
Roy ran his finger around the rim of the glass in front of him, staring into it as if it might hold all the answers. "I didn't want you to worry yourself with it." He looked up, swallowing a lump in his throat as he saw a single tear slide down Edward's cheek.
"Thanks," Ed murmured, then went back to eating.
"The military is sending over a psychiatrist first thing in the morning." While he hated to bring it up, it was better to tell him beforehand and let him get the tantrum out of his system before the psychiatrist got here.
Sure enough, Edward threw his fork down and jumped to his feet. "I don't need a damn psychiatrist!" he yelled, slamming his automail fist into the table. Wood cracked, and Roy wondered if he ought to invest in metal furniture. "I'm fine. It was an accident, okay?"
"You nearly died from that 'accident', Edward," Roy reminded him calmly. "And those scars say this has been going on for some time. Obviously you're not fine."
Ed kicked the chair behind him, sending it skittering across the floor. It fell over with a loud thunk. "It was an ACCIDENT!" he shouted, tears welling up in his eyes. "I'm not going to talk to some damn quack who thinks he knows more about me than I do!"
"We can either do this here or you can go back to the hospital, Ed," Roy said, an edge in his voice. "Either way, you're going to see a doctor about this."
Ed shot him a look of pure hatred, then stormed out of the room, nearly knocking Al over in the process. Al tried to stop Ed as he went by, but the older brother just shrugged the younger one off and ran up the stairs.
Roy downed the rest of his glass as he heard the bedroom door slam shut.
Ed fell across the bed furthest away from the door, hissing when he landed on his arm. He rolled onto his side, rubbing at his eyes carefully. "I'm not crying," he said aloud, as if someone was watching. "Just mad."
"Brother?" Al said from the other side of the door. "Are you okay?"
Okay. He was getting incredibly sick of people asking if he was 'okay'. "Yah, I'm just going to go to sleep Al."
He heard Al sigh and had to clench his jaw to keep from just yelling. "Okay, sleep well . . ."
I just want to be alone. He pulled off his clothes, hampered only slightly by being one armed. With all the times his automail had been damaged in the past few years he'd gotten used to doing things like that. It felt odd for it to be reversed though. As he slid under the covers he heard Al's soft voice and Roy's answering murmur. Were they talking about him?
He closed his eyes and tried to fall asleep.
"Why won't you admit you need help, Edward?"
"Why won't you shut the fuck up?"
"If you won't admit that you were doing something wrong, Edward, we can't make any progress here."
"Shove it up your ass."
Roy sneaked a peek in the study where the military psychiatrist was talking to Edward. Doctor Young was a good man. He had spoken to him once, after Ishbar. The man honestly cared for the patients he had. It spoke volumes about his character that Young hadn't snapped and knocked the shit out of Fullmetal.
For the past half hour, Young had coaxed, cajoled, and basically pleaded Edward to talk about what he had done, why he had done it, what was going through his head right now.
Edward wasn't having any of it.
He knew he shouldn't, but Roy was glad that Fullmetal's ire was directed at someone else for the moment.
"Edward, you know that I'm the only one keeping you out of that hospital right now."
He didn't have anything to say in response to that. Ed was curled up on the couch across from the doctor, legs tucked up under his chin and his automail arm wrapped around them. He hadn't so much as looked at the doctor since he'd walked into the room.
Young sighed, running his fingers through his graying hair. "Why don't you tell me about your automail?" he asked, changing tactics.
Ed raised one shoulder in a shrug. "I did something I shouldn't have, and this is the price I paid," he said coldly. "It's not like it's a big deal."
"Did it hurt much?"
He made a rather unflattering noise. "Fuck yah it hurt. They have to attach each nerve to the port. It hurts like hell whenever I have to put it back on. Like when those morons at the hospital took it off."
Roy shook his head, amazed, as Edward told Young in graphic detail about the surgery to put the automail ports in. He doubted he'd ever be able to get Ed to open up to him like that.
Roy shrugged into his coat at the door, glancing back towards Al. The younger Elric was engrossed in a book from his library. "I'll be at Headquarters if you need me," he said awkwardly. "Ask Ed to call me after Doctor Young leaves."
Al didn't even raise his head, just mmed an affirmative. Roy smirked and let himself out quietly.
About an hour after he arrived at his office, the phone rang. He didn't realize he had been waiting for it until he jumped and nearly snatched the receiver halfway through the first ring.
Everything is fine, he told himself. But he couldn't forget the last time he had answered that phone. "Colonel Mustang."
"Uhm, hey Colonel," Ed's voice came over the phone. "Al told me you needed to speak with me."
Roy laughed slightly. "I just wanted to make sure Doctor Young hadn't throttled you," he said, skimming his eyes over an expense report. "Did everything go okay?"
There was a long pause on the other end. "Yah, sure," Ed replied, his voice tight. "When are you going to be leaving the office? Al wants to know when to start dinner."
Roy glanced at the teetering pile of paperwork, then craned his neck to look out the doorway. Hawkeye was at her desk, the gun at her side painfully obvious. "Uhm, possibly 5:30."
"See you then." The phone clicked, and Roy sighed. He went back to his paperwork.
Ed was quiet while they ate supper. Roy watched him out of the corner of his eye. The boy was mostly just pushing his vegetables around the plate with his fork.
"So when am I cleared to get back to work?" Fullmetal asked abruptly.
Roy glanced up over the edge of his glass. "That depends entirely on your progress with Doctor Young, Ed."
Ed scowled at him, but didn't say anything. He returned his attention to the vegetables in front of him. A carrot was slowly being smashed into a paste.
"So you never really said how things went with Doctor Young," Roy said after a moment.
The fork screeched across the plate, setting his teeth on edge. "It was fine."
Roy stared at his glass. It was almost empty. "What did you talk about with him?"
Ed shoved himself to his feet, his face pale. "I'm going upstairs," he said through clenched teeth.
Damnit, Roy thought. "Ed, calm down and finish your dinner," he said. "There's no need to.."
"Just shut up," Ed screamed. "Just SHUT THE FUCK UP." He stood there, his automail fist clenched at his side. "We've been here for TWO FUCKING DAYS. That doesn't give you any right to pry into my life!"
Roy blinked, setting his glass down. "Edward, I'm just worried about you."
"DON'T!" Ed glared at him. "I don't need your damn concern! I've made it this far without any help!"
"And look where you are now," Roy said, trying very hard not to raise his voice.
Ed blanched, taking a step back. "It's none of your damn business," he hissed. "You're my commanding officer, not my fucking father, so stop pretending like you are."
"I have a responsibility to you!" Roy counted, his voice cracking. "I'm not going to stand here and watch you destroy yourself!" He waved a hand at Alphonse who was huddled miserably in his chair. "If you're incapable of thinking about yourself, why don't you think about your brother?"
Edward grabbed his plate and heaved it at Mustang. "Don't you throw shit in my face you bastard!" he raged.
The plate smashed against the wall to the left of Roy. Alphonse winced and let out a whimper. "Brother, please stop," Al whispered. "He just wants to help. He cares."
Ed's anger faltered, and he stared at his brother. "Al..." he said, his fist unclenching. "I'm sorry…"
Roy stepped around the table. "He's right Edward," he said softly. "I only want to help you." He laid his hand gently on the young alchemist's shoulder.
"Don't touch me!" Ed jerked away violently, his anger returning immediately. "I don't need your fucking help!"
"You could have fooled me," Roy responded dryly, an automatic flippant response that he regretted immediately. Ed's automail fist connected squarely with his gut.
"I HATE YOU you smart ass fucking BASTARD!" Ed screamed as Roy doubled up. "You know nothing about me. NOTHING!" He turned and fled the room.
"Brother!" Alphonse called, jumping to his feet and rushing after Ed.
Automail hurts, Roy thought as he fell into the chair beside him. That didn't go the way he'd planned. He was contemplating whether another drink would numb the pain in his stomach when he heard a startled yelp. There was a loud thump, then Al shrieked.
He was in the living room in an instant, running to where Alphonse was kneeling next to Edward at the foot of the stairs.
"He fell! He fell!" Alphonse babbled, hovering over his brother.
"Ed," Roy said, dropping down to his knees, "you still there?"
"Mgh," was the response he got, and Edward opened his eyes slowly. "That hurt…"
"Well, if you took the steps like a normal human and not three at a time these things wouldn't happen," Roy said, feeling Edward's head carefully. "Doesn't feel like your skull if cracked. That hard head of yours came in handy."
Ed growled, trying to move away. "Stop poking, head hurts," he muttered, raising his right arm to push his hair away from his eyes. "Lot hurts."
"Can you move everything?" Roy tried to get a good luck at Edward's eyes. The boy probably had a concussion from that fall.
"Don't think anything's broken," Ed groaned. "Just need some aspirin…" He levered himself up with his automail arm.
"No wait," Roy began, too late. A moment later Ed was laying on his back again, looking very embarrassed, and Roy was staring blankly at the mess on his boots.
"Back to the hospital," he said firmly, overriding Edward's mumbled protests. "Don't argue, Ed. You've got a concussion." He looked at Alphonse, who was staring in mute horror. "Go call headquarters and have a car sent around Alphonse."
"Yes sir!" It was disconcerting for a suit of armor to squeak like that.
"Colonel?" Ed mumbled. "I feel really sleepy."
"You can sleep later, Ed," Roy said, kicking his boots off. That was going to be fun to clean up later. "You can't sleep with a concussion."
Ed grunted, then sighed and stared the ceiling. "I feel really stupid right now."
Roy carried Edward to the car when it pulled up. He hadn't even allowed him to try to stand this time, just scooped him up and headed out the door.
Ed didn't argue, nor did he struggle thankfully. Roy hadn't expected him to be so heavy, even with the automail.
Havoc flashed a worried glance back at Edward and Roy before he pulled away from the house. "Colonel, you realize you're not wearing shoes, right?"
"I'm aware of that," Roy replied, helping Ed arrange himself with his head pillowed on a coat. Ed groaned, curling himself into a ball of misery on the seat.
"You doing okay back there boss?" Havoc asked, his voice a little anxious.
"I'll try not to puke in the car, Havoc," Ed said weakly.
Roy leaned over and frowned. Definitely a concussion. The kid's eyes were unfocused. And he looked a little green. "Pull over," he said urgently, waving his hand at Havoc.
"Sorry," Ed said a moment later in a very small voice.
Three hours later, Havoc unlocked the door. Roy stepped inside, cradling Ed's sleeping form in his arms. "Thank you again Jean," he said quietly, trying not to disturb his burden. Ed's head was cushioned against his shoulder, automail arm thrown limply around his neck.
"Not a problem Colonel," Havoc replied, popping off a salute. "Tell Ed I said to watch those stairs in the future, they're a killer."
Roy smirked as he nudged the door shut behind him. Alphonse was sitting at the bottom of the steps, waiting for them.
"I cleaned up while you were gone," he said softly when he saw his brother was sleeping. "Is he okay?"
"He'll be fine, Alphonse," Roy said with a reassuring smile. He started up the stairs slowly. "They gave him a shot for the nausea and it knocked him right out is all."
Al followed him to the bedroom and watched as Roy carefully laid Edward down and pulled the sheets over him. "He didn't mean what he said, sir," Al said quietly.
"I know Alphonse" He made sure the sheets were tucked in snuggly, then sat back and rubbed his forehead.
"I'll go get a glass of water for him for if he wakes up." Al disappeared out the door, and Roy heard the soft blanks of the boy trying to walk quietly.
He turned back to the bed, seeing Ed's eyes opened slightly. "Just sleep Ed," he said, patting the boy's shoulder. "That's the best thing for you right now."
"You stayed with me, right?" Ed mumbled, eyes closing again.
"Thank you," Ed said simply, dozing off again. "Sorry I called you a bastard."
A small smile stole across Roy's face as he watched Edward fall back to sleep. That was a start at least.