1Ed let out a soft sigh and continued starring out the window; gazing out over the pastures. The odd building popping up every now and again as the train sped along; Central shrinking in the distance. He closed his eyes and took a slow deliberate breath, his head was killing him.
He'd been feeling lousy since waking up that morning. He had hoped that he could simply sleep it off during the train ride, but no such luck was afforded to him. "Are you alright brother? You've been pretty quite all morning."
"Fine," he said turning his attention once again toward the window.
"You sure? You've been kinda out of it since you fell in that pond yesterday."
"Pushed Al. I didn't fall in, I was pushed."
Not receiving a response, Ed glanced up at his brother, and noticing the somewhat uneasy expression he was wearing, gave him an appreciative smile. "I'm fine. It's just past time we get out of Central and back--" he paused and sneezed quickly towards his side. "I'm fine," he said again with an innocent wave and another smile. "I'm just gonna sleep till we get there ok?" and without waiting for a reply, Ed leaned back into the seat, eyes closing. Several minutes later he was asleep.
"Thank you…..yes, yes it's fine." Ed's ears perked at the voice. 'It couldn't be.' "No, I'll go. You can stay here." 'Damn, it was him.' Ed opened his eyes his headache returning in full force.
"What the hell is he doing here?" he said angrily.
"Huh?" said Al, surprised to see Ed awake. "Who do you mean brother?"
"We finally get away from Central yet he STILL manages to find me!" he grumbled, ignoring Al's question.
"Brother, who are you ta--" the compartment door slid open with a rattle as Colonel Mustang stepped into the car. "The Colonel?" Al questioned. His suspicions confirmed Ed let out a loud groan and slumped down deeper into his seat, arms folded across his chest.
Mustang shut the door with a snap and glanced around the compartment. 'What is he doing?' he thought. Then with a pang of horror Ed realized he was looking for a seat. Ed looked opposite himself, at the only available seats in the car. 'No, no, no!' The Colonel, seeing the free seats began making his way down the car towards them.
Ed lay his head in his hands. 'This is gonna suck.'
Mustang took the seat across from Al with a weary smile, "Alphonse, Fullmetal."
"Good morning Colonel," Al said in his characteristically bright, cheerful voice. Ed let out an undistinguishable grunt, not removing his eyes from the window. Mustang let a smirk play on his lips.
"In a good mood I see Fullmetal?" Ed shot Mustang a look. "Ah, I see," Mustang said turning back towards Al.
"Don't mind him. Brother's just….a little tired today."
"I understand…. The report I received yesterday must have taken a lot of energy." Mustang allowed the smirk to grow.
Ed's temper shot up. His report on their findings had been short. Very short. Because, once again, their search had turned up nothing but dead ends. Nothing…..nothing that could help them get any closer to reaching their goal. "What the hell do you want?!" Ed said his voice rising angrily. "Do you want me to admit that I found nothing? Fine! I found nothing ok! Now will you leave?!" Ed knew that he was asking for the impossible but he didn't care, he was starting to feel worse and worse by the minute and he wanted to be left alone.
Mustang's expression grew slightly colder; however his voice still contained its calm nonchalant air as he responded. "No, that's not what I wanted; and I would gladly leave you to brood, however there are no other seats…. It's not like I really want to sit here and--"
"Cough cough!!" Mustang looked over at Ed in time to see him double over, "cough cough cough!!"
After a while Ed;s coughing finally began to subside, and he fell back in his seat with a sigh.
"Fullmetal?" Mustang prompted again. Ed suppressed a sigh of irritation.
"Are you alright?"
For some reason the question caught Ed off guard….he spent so much time detesting the Colonel…his cocky looks and smug remarks, that it felt odd that he ask a question of genuine concern. "Wha-? Yeah…I'm fine…." Ed said thoughtfully "…thanks."
He gave his head a little shake to clear it. It seemed that the coughing had only served to increase the fog in his head, not clear it. He hated admitting it but maybe there was some truth to what Al had said. 'Great! Just what I need!... Isn't being stuck on a train with Mustang while healthy enough torture?!'
Mustang watched as Ed though, his amber eyes staring at the empty seat without really seeing it….Ed was obviously thinking about something.
'Could he really be sick?' Mustang mused. 'Well there was one sure fire way to find out….'
"Well that's good," Mustang said leaning back casually in his seat, eyes still on Ed, "because it would be a shame if such a trivial tiny thing as a cough could bring you down." Ed's eyes flashed dangerously as he looked at Mustang outraged.
"WHO ARE YOU CALLING TINY?!" Ed shouted, realizing a little too late that it was a bad idea. His head started pounding even worse and his already irritated throat throbbed painfully. "Ugh!" He leaned back quickly; eyes shut tightly his hand clutching his forehead.
"Brother?!" Al squeaked alarmed "Are you ok?! What's wrong?!"
"N-nothing I'm fine," Ed lied quickly, the pain receding slightly. "It's just having to sit with HIM is giving me a headache!"
"Brother!" Al persisted "that's NOT it!"
Mustang stayed out of it and merely watched the two bicker back and forth. 'Well, if he still had enough energy for all that he couldn't be too bad.'
"I've got a headache from that bastard and I coughed because it's dusty in here!" Ed said defensively.
"What? It's true!"
Al let out a small sigh, giving up.
Glad that the argument was over Ed glanced out the window….. Central could no longer be seen. 'Good…can't be much longer now.' Soon he could find a place that had real beds and get some proper sleep. The nap he'd taken earlier had only made him realize how much he wanted to lie down and rest in peace and quiet—
"So Alphonse, where are you two headed?"
--Of course that was just too much to ask for.
"Back to Risembool: Al said happily. "Winry's been insisting we come back and see her for a while…something about a new automail enhancement! And since we haven't really been able to find anything usefull--"
"Ugh" Ed muttered.
"Um!" Al stuttered nervously "I-I mean not that we haven't found anything—it's just that we have time to go because we weren't doing anything really impor--"
Ed made another grunting noise. This time Al looked over at Ed. It seemed that he wasn't really paying attention to their conversation at all….his annoyance seemed to be coming from elsewhere….. he was trying very hard to keep his coughing silent, and not draw attention to himself. His eyes were shut and his shoulders were shaking hard.
Even though Edward being ill wasn't a situation to be taken lightly, Mustang couldn't help but think how foolish Ed was being .…the boy could be so stubborn sometimes. "Just do it right and be done with it."
Ed ignored him and gave a few more strong silent coughs.
Don't do that" Mustang said cringing slightly at the sound "you'll hurt your self."
Ed continued, ignoring him completely . Mustang reached over and grabbed Ed's wrist. "W-what are y- - cough-- you doing?! Ed stammered with breathless anger.
"I told you not to do that."
"Like I give a-- cough cough cough—a damn what you think?!" Ed retorted trying to wrench his arm free. "Let go!" he choked, trying again to free himself.
Satisfied, Mustang loosened his grip and Ed yanked his hand out. For a brief moment Mustang felt Ed's skin touch his own….it was hot. Mustang frowned and leaned close to touch Ed's forehead. "H-hey! Cut it out!" Ed protested, trying to shrug his way out of Mustangs grasp but Mustang was too quick, and pinned him to the seat; forcibly pressing his hand to Ed's forehead. 'He's on fire!'
"Colonel?" Al said hesitantly at the deepening frown on Mustangs face "….what's wrong?"
Mustang hadn't noticed before, but now that he was close, he could see that Ed's cheeks were slightly flushed. 'His fever must be high if he's sweating this much.' Mustang mused, taking note of how damp his hand felt against Ed's forehead.
Mustang looked at Ed sternly. He avoided his gaze and looked at his feet, resembling a pouting child. "Edward!" he said sharply, but it had no effect, Ed kept his gaze lowered.
"Colonel!?" Al said again, unease edging into his voice, "what's wrong…i-is he ok?!"
Mustang moved in his seat, forcing Ed to look at him despite his best efforts to avoid eye contact. "Well?" Mustang asked, "are you?" The anger in Ed's face left, as he once again lowered his gaze, and stared blankly at the floor.
Mustang softened as he removed his hand from Ed's forehead. 'He must not want to admit it with Alphonse here…..always feels the need to act strong while he's around.'
"Alphonse," Roy said suddenly turning his attention from Ed. "Do you think you could go get Edward some water?" Ed looked up.
"Uh," Al said uncertainly, looking at Ed then back at Mustang. 'Should I really leave the two of them alone together? Brother will probably hate me…….but he hasn't said anything…..'
"He's fine," Mustang said reassuringly, "but I think a drink might make him feel a little more like himself."
Al stood up with a nod "I'll be right back," and with one last glance at Ed he left.
The two of them watched silently as Al exited the car. After the door closed Mustang looked back toward Ed.
Now that Al wasn't around to see, it seemed Ed had dropped the 'I'm ok' act, he gave a somewhat relieved sigh and closed his eyes.
Ed opened them again, resisting the urge to roll them at Mustang. "What now?" he asked, however there wasn't much force behind his words, they seemed to be softer and less forceful then normal.
"You never answered the question." Mustang replied flatly. "Are-you-ok?"
Edward looked up at Mustang, some choice words forming in his mind, when another bout of coughing seized him. Ed turned away slightly, his fist up to his face. "Cough! Cough cough!" Ed lowered his arm and sighed again wearily. Then, slowly but surely his shook his head no.
"That's what I though," Mustang said moving into Al's seat, so that he could have a better look at the boy.
"Urg," Ed moaned as Mustang moving closer. He scooted as far away as the seat would allow him to, pressing himself against the wall of the car.
"You don't have to be so childish," Mustang remarked "you were so serious about lying to everyone after all."
Ed stared hard out the window, then after a few minutes began slowly, "it just I…..I have no right to make him worry about me……after what happened to him."
Mustang watched as Ed pulled his arms tight to his body as he began to shiver. "T-this is nothing…..compared to what he's been through." Ed remained motionless as he spoke, continuing to stare out the window until that increasing familiar feeling came over him.
"Cough!" He quickly brought his hands up to his face and let out a powerful "Cough cough cough!"
He gave a strong sniff and brought his legs up to his chest, hugging them as he shook even harder. "Cold?" Mustang asked. Ed hugged his legs tighter before giving a quick shrug.
"Well you have pressed you self up against the window."
Ed moved back to his original position, but the shaking did not subside. "Here." Ed looked up and watched as Mustang took off his jacket. Normally Ed would protest…. but he was so cold.
He kept silent and allowed the Colonel to place the warm blue fabric on his shoulders. As Mustang leaned him, he could feel the heat of his body.
He leaned toward it. All of a sudden he felt very tired, but more so, he felt it was alright to show it.
Mustang froze as he felt Ed's head bump his chest. "Edward?" he asked confused, looking down he saw that he was asleep.
Carefully, he sat up and lowered the boys head to his lap. Ed merely turned slightly in his sleep as a response. Mustang continued looking down at the boy in wonderment.
'After all that he's been through, he doesn't think that he had the right to show weakness?... He is still just a child after all.'
Mustang smiled as he watched the boy. 'Finally' he thought, 'I have the chance to give him the help that he always refuses.'