Title: Give me a Reason

Rating: M

Warnings: Cutting, suicide attempts, depression, angst, yaoi/shounen-ai/slash/whatever else you may want to call it. Probably OOCness.

Pairings: RoyEd, mentions of AlWin

Summary: Alphonse, after getting his body back, has gone to Resembool to spend time with Winry. Ed feels the loss of the reason to search for the Philosophers Stone has taken his reason for living. He thinks he has nothing left to live for, so he tries to end his meaningless life, only to be stopped by Hughes and Roy. But can they give him a reason to live or have they just delayed the inevitable?

Chapter: 1 of 2

Author's Rant: Wow, what a crappy summary. And what a cliché plot. I apologize sooo much! Anyways, I promised myself that I would not post another full story until I finished the one I'm on, so I'm making this into just two chapters so that I won't break that promise.
I apologize if it all seems a bit awkward.
Though this is my second story with cutting in it, I am not a depressed person so thus I had a little trouble getting into the mentality of one…
Anyways, hope you enjoy it!

Give me a Reason

By Demias

Ed stared blankly at the gray light that managed to filter through his window. Outside, he knew, the sun was shining happily and cheerfully. He hissed at the weather that was so opposite his mood and jerked the curtains closed.

A glance at the time told him he was late for his meeting with the Colonel to present his report, but he couldn't bring himself to care. He dropped back onto his bed and pulled the blankets over his head to further block out the light. He sighed into the darkness.

Ed wanted nothing more than to stay in bed. He didn't want to have to don his mask again and face the world. He didn't want to smile and pretend nothing was wrong. He didn't want to answer the usual "How're you, Edward?" with the normal "Fine, thanks" when all he wanted to do was scream he wasn't okay. He was just so tired of it all.

After a long moment, Ed reluctantly pushed the blankets off of him and blinked into the dimly lit room. Slowly he pushed himself off his bed and dressed, grabbing a packet of paper from his bedside.

Ed paused at the door. He scowled, slapped his cheek lightly, and schooled his features into a normal look. He hid the emptiness he felt and gathered his wits for the façade he knew was to follow. That being done, Ed opened the door and strode out into the public.

The walk to Roy Mustang's office was, for the most part, a blur. Ed passed nameless people who saluted or waved at him, and he made the appropriate response. Ed blinked when he realized he was in front of Roy's door. He took a moment at the door to gather himself in preparation, then he threw the door open.

Ed scowled at the Flame Alchemist, who simply set his pen down, a smirk already tugging at the older man's lips.

"Here's you damn report," Ed said as he strode over. Once he was close enough to the desk, he tossed the packet down and slumped onto a couch.

"Why Fullmetal…You're late. Although you could have been here all along… Perhaps I missed you," Roy drawled, shuffling the papers he had been working on when Ed waltzed in. Hawkeye had been there recently. That was clear in the fact Roy was actually working (the bullet holes behind him was a good hint also).

Ed bristled because that was what he was expected to do. "Who're you calling a midget who could get lost among stacks of paper!?" he growled.

Roy ignored the outburst in favor of glancing through the report. He flipped through the pages for a moment, then scrawled his neat signature at the bottom.

"You managed to accomplish your mission without destroying anything valuable… I'm impressed, Fullmetal."

Ed scowled and crossed his arms defiantly.

Roy clasped his hands before him as he leaned forwards. Ed knew he was about to receive a play-by-play of his mission, undoubtedly heard through Mustang's extensive network of sources. He sighed and slumped against the back of the couch. He wanted nothing more, at that moment, than to go back to bed.

Roy opened his mouth to ask about the criminal that Ed had managed to apprehend (the kidnapper had just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and Ed had caught him, despite it being completely irrelevant to the mission), but stopped as Ed slouched against the seat. For a moment, he looked so… tired. The assignment must have drained the boy more than he thought.

"Alright, Fullmetal. You're dismissed. Get some rest," Roy ordered, setting the report aside for later. Ed glanced up in surprise, shock reflecting off his features. Then gratefulness flooded his face and Roy wondered if the boy was sick or injured.

"Right. See ya, Colonel," Ed called as he left. Roy stared after him for a few seconds. He couldn't help but think whatever was wrong with Ed was something simple rest wouldn't cure.

Ed contemplated the knife. It was a simple switchblade that he had picked up at as a souvenir a while ago. The blade hadn't even been sharp when he bought it. It was now, though. Ed had honed and sharpened the blade, both conventionally and alchemically, until it cut with ease.

The blade gleamed dully as Ed flipped it open. He turned it until it caught the last bit of morning sun filtering through into his room and glinted dangerously. Then he flicked it shut and dropped it onto the bed.

A moment later, Ed picked it up again and repeated the process.

This time, however, instead of snapping it shut, he lowered it to his left wrist.

How simple it'd be. A quick flick of his automail wrist would send the blade through his flesh veins. A moment of pain…. Then the rest Ed craved so much.

He was so tired of everything. He had no purpose anymore. Al had his body back, and was enjoying his returned life with Winry in Resembool. Ed had nothing to work towards anymore. Life had become… a litany of meaningless missions and monotony. No one cared. No one noticed. Sometimes Ed's mask would slip and he knew his pain would show to anyone who cared to look, even as he walked down the halls of HQ, but No one ever noticed. No one ever cared. No one ever thought to see how the youngest state alchemist was faring.

No one was expecting Ed until tomorrow at the earliest. He could slit his wrist and no one would know until someone came to his room to find his body, long cooled. How easy it would be…

Ed applied a bit more pressure on the knife and a thin line of red appeared on his forearm. Sharp exquisite pain shot through his arm from the shallow cut.

Do it.

Ed growled as he jerked the knife away from his arm. He stared at it for a minute, then flung it away from him. It skittered across the floor.

"Coward," Ed hissed to the empty room as a thin line of red dripped down his arm onto the blanket beneath him.

Ed sat and stared at the leak of crimson liquid until it had clotted and cooled. A lethargy had settled in his veins, but it was different from the weariness of before. It was… peaceful. Comfortable.

That shallow cut was the first time Ed had ever raised a weapon to himself for self mutilation. It bled a surprising amount for such a small cut. He had played with the knife countless times before, but never had he drawn blood. Shuddering in remembrance of the sharp pain piercing through the haze that had seemed to settle over Ed's mind of late, Ed's eyes trailed to where the knife was laying near the wall.

Finally, Ed stood and fetched the knife and his first aid kit. He wiped the blade of the few drops of blood before slipping it into the drawer of his nightstand. Next, he wrapped bandages sloppily around his wrist-- just enough to keep it from making any further mess-- and bundle the bloodied blanked into a ball to wash later.

Ed heaved a sigh as he dropped back onto his bed. The lethargy in his body seemed to make his automail limbs clumsy and abnormally heavy. He closed his eyes and drifted to sleep.

"Hawkeye," Roy called softly as he spotted his First Lieutenant returning from wherever she had disappeared to. The blonde looked up sharply from where she had been about to sit. Roy set his pen down and regarded Hawkeye carefully.

"Yes sir?"

"Have you noticed anything… unusual about Fullmetal recently? Was he injured or anything?" he asked slowly. Hawkeye frowned.

"I haven't seen him at all since he returned," she admitted.

The feeling that something was wrong in Roy's gut doubled. "Ah… I see," he muttered thoughtfully.

"Colonel… Is something wrong?" Hawkeye prodded, her eyes narrowing.

Roy shook his head. "I don't know. It's probably nothing. I'm going to lunch."

Roy was mostly out the door before Hawkeye could object.

'My instincts are telling me something's wrong… My instincts are usually right… But what?' Roy thought to himself as he walked to the cafeteria, absently returning greetings.

Growing in frustration, Roy helped himself to a sandwich and munched it in silence. He half-hoped he'd find Ed wolfing down his food and talking loudly with Armstrong or Hughes or Havoc or someone. He just wanted to see something that showed Edward was okay. Roy didn't like worrying about something he didn't understand.

He didn't even have to look up to know the Fullmetal Alchemist wasn't there.

It was times like these that Roy wished he had a better relationship with his subordinate. Sure, they could trust each other in battle, but they had never really talked. To be honest, though Roy knew the Elric brothers' history with human transmutation, and though Roy had seen Ed close to tears on a few occasions, Roy didn't know Ed. He knew how to rile the boy up with implications of being short, and he knew how to push the blonde's buttons without a single short-comment, but he didn't know what Ed did in his free time, or what he felt about certain things.

Roy furrowed his brow as he tried to think of times he had actually talked or listened to Fullmetal. That time in the rain after the Nina incident…

Roy frowned. Though they had known each other for years, and though Roy cared for the younger's wellbeing (dare he say he even cared for the boy more than was normal?), he had never really conversed with him about anything other than work or alchemy.

He needed someone who knew what Ed was thinking. Al would have been a good choice, since the two brothers had been so close, but at the same time, Roy suspected Alphonse wouldn't have been the best choice. He was too close to his older brother. Sometimes one needed to step back in order to see the big picture…

Hughes. Roy needed to talk to Hughes. As far as he knew, Hughes was on pretty good terms with Edward, and though a bit of an annoyance sometimes, Roy knew from experience Hughes listened, gave good advice, and most of all, retained what you told him. If Ed hadn't told Hughes already, Roy suspected Hughes would be able to get at least some information out of the short alchemist.

Damn it… This was too much thought to be putting into a hunch. Roy downed the rest of his drink and stood to return to his office. First, though, he had a call to make.

Ed woke to a dimly lit room. He knew, judging by the amount of light, that it was probably around three in the afternoon. After spending so much time in his room with the curtains drawn, he had begun to be able to tell the time easily. In the morning, his window got direct sun, so even with the curtains, it was fairly bright. As the day wore on, his room got darker.

A check of his pocket watch told Ed it was indeed three seventeen.

Ed sighed and ran his hand through his hair, dislodging it even further from it's already disheveled braid. His stomach chose that moment to growl loudly. He hadn't eaten since yesterday morning. He hadn't been hungry. Even now, the thought of eating anything too heavy or rich made him want to retch. He hadn't been eating well lately, so his body was unused to the richer foods now.

He supposed he should eat. Hopefully whatever food he managed to keep down would last him until tomorrow night at least, hopefully longer. Ed didn't like going into the cafeteria. It was too easy to be dragged into a conversation while eating. While he silently wanted someone to notice him and help him, he was too proud to say anything. He would not ask for help. Not even from his brother. Al didn't need him anymore. Right now, Al needed Winry… Ed wasn't blind. The budding relationship between Winry and Al was painfully obvious to him, though he doubted the two concerned had even noticed it yet…

So the three childhood friends became a couple and a third wheel. Ed closed his eyes wearily.

No matter what prospective he put it into, he was useless. He had no purpose other than the pointless missions he was sent on… The missions that could easily be assigned to a different State Alchemist.

There was nothing for him. Nothing. He just… existed.

Biting his lip, Ed pulled his hair into a ponytail and pulled on his coat and gloves.

His body needed food to function. He supposed he could just ignore the gnawing in his midsection and not eat, but if he ever gathered the courage to finally finish it, he'd undoubtedly do something much quicker. It took a long time to starve to death.

Ed peeked out of his dorm room into the empty corridor and let a wry smirk pull at his lips. Figures. Everyone was working.

Since no one was about, Ed didn't worry too much about acting normal. He kept his face and eyes carefully blank but he didn't worry about the little things, like the fact that his stance was a tad off.

Ed managed to reach the cafeteria without running across anyone (quite a feat considering he would normally run across one or two people around ever turn). He grabbed himself a light sandwich and a cup of water and plopped down. The cafeteria was nearly empty. The only others in the room was a Second Lieutenant talking in hushed tones to someone else, whose rank Ed couldn't see.

Edward ate the sandwich mechanically. He was about a quarter of a way through when he felt eyes on him. Forcing his eyes to be bright and strong, Ed glanced up.

"Hey Hughes," he called to the man who was already most of the way to the seat across from him.

"Ed! Back from your mission, I see! How was it?" Hughes asked sitting and grinning idiotically.

"Tiring, but it was all easy enough," Ed replied, stuffing another bite into his mouth.

"Oh! Elysia's grown so much since you last saw her! Here she is with her hair clipped back! Isn't she soooo cuteee?" Hughes prompted, pulling a photo from his breast pocket and waving it at Ed. Ed took it reluctantly and glanced at it. Elysia was cute, but Hughes always overdid it.

"That's just the first! Wanna see the rest?" Hughes continued, sipping his soda enthusiastically.

'She's so lucky she has a father that cares so much…' Ed couldn't help but think. He put a lid on that line of thoughts quickly, before his expression could do more than flicker.

"No, no, I don't want to get the pictures dirty…" Ed muttered in excuse as he gestured at his half eaten sandwich. Hughes nodded, snatched the picture back, planted a kiss on it and slipped it back into his pocket.

"So, Edward, how are you?" Hughes asked, suddenly serious. Ed had a sudden worry that Hughes knew something, but ignored it. Ed had been playing his part flawlessly. He didn't know. Hughes couldn't know.

"I'm good. Why do you ask?" Ed replied as he cocked his head to one side.

"It's nothing. Just with Al being in Resembool… How long's he been gone now?" Hughes continued, the previous seriousness faded as he waved his hand dismissively.

"Nearly two months," Ed answered, scrunching his nose for good measure. He sent a lopsided smile at the Lieutenant Colonel and took another bite of his sandwich.

Ed ate the rest of the sandwich quickly and washed it down with the rest of his water while Hughes babbled away. Finally, Ed stood and gave the older man another smile.

"I've got to get going…"

"Of course! It was great seeing you again, Ed!" Hughes laughed as he waved at Ed.

After Ed was gone, however, Maes Hughes sobered rather quickly. He took off his glasses and ran a hand over his face.

"Roy… Looks like your instincts were right once again… There's something different about that kid…" he muttered to himself.

"I can't place what's bugging him though… Damn, that brat's a good actor."

"Roy, I need to talk to you," Hughes called, raising an arm in greeting as he strode into the Colonel's office.

Roy frowned. "Lieutenant Colonel Hughes… Can it wait?"

Hughes shook his head and gave an apologetic smile to Hawkeye. She, ever the perceptive one, quietly excused herself (but not before casting a meaningful glance at Roy-- as if to say 'I'm letting it go, but you'd better not slack off!').

"What is the meaning of this, Hughes?" Roy asked, fully expecting Hughes to pull out a stack of photographs of his daughter. When nothing of the sort happened, he frowned.

Hughes looked oddly serious. Roy's frown deepened.

"It's about Ed."

Roy leaned forwards in his seat and gave Hughes a nod to continue.

"I just talked to him… I met him in the cafeteria. I think you're right. There was something off about him."

Roy rubbed his temples as he nodded gravely. "Could you tell what it was? Maybe he just misses his brother," he ventured, though his gut was telling him it wasn't so. Hughes just confirmed it when he shook his head.

"Alright, Hughes, keep an eye on him. Report back to me if you notice anything else."

"Aye aye, sir!" Hughes grinned as he saluted. It was funny how the few times Roy could coax a salute from the lower ranking officer before him was when Hughes found it funny.

Ed sat and stared at the knife before him. Normally, Ed wouldn't have a stare down with an inanimate object (milk being the exception) but Ed felt the knife was stare-worthy. He wanted to just pick it up and slash his forearm until his blood drained out and he was left to rest in peace. He'd be just one last burden on those around him as they had to clean up after him, but it would be okay. Al and Winry were the only ones who actually cared about Ed and now they had each other. They would mourn, then they would move on and their lives would be better for it.

With a shaky hand, Ed reached for the blade once more.

'C'mon, Fullmetal. Be strong. Do it.' Ed grasped the handle of the blade firmly. 'You thought you'd give your life for Al's body, but it turns out the price wasn't that high… You'd just be correcting the mistake.'

The blade was resting against his arm now. Ed knew, logically, that a slash across his wrist wasn't as damaging as a slice along his wrist, but he didn't care. Whether he died or not was irrelevant. All he wanted was that peace that had settled in him after the first cut.

Ed slid the blade along his skin until three parallel cuts lined his wrist. Though fairly deep, Ed knew they weren't deep enough to kill. The pain cleared the fog from his mind and for a moment he saw things with a sharp clarity he had lost when he lost his purpose.

He watched the blood well up and flow with a morbid fascination. That was the life giving liquid….

As Ed watched the blood flow, he thought of other times he had seen blood. The spray of blood from one of Scar's victims, the blood that clouded his vision as his temple bled… Edward Elric was no stranger to blood.

Though he had seen blood in general countless times before, Ed was inexplicably spellbound by the flow of it from his forearm.

It was amazing how much blood a body could lose before feeling the effects. A puddle of blood was pooling on the floor next to him, growing as more red liquid dripped down his arm. The splash of crimson had spread quite a bit before Ed realized he was getting lightheaded.

Ed tried to get to his feet to get a bandage but suddenly the room seemed to spin before him. He had lost too much blood and had stood too fast. He managed to stumble the couple steps to his bed and collapsed on it.

It didn't matter, he decided. The bandages didn't matter.

All that mattered was that welcoming darkness that loomed at he edge of his vision.

It was just after dawn when Ed woke again. His body felt sluggish and his mind was muddled, but Ed didn't mind. It provided a peace from the pain that had become his constant companion. It was pleasant.

Slowly, Ed rose, cleaned the floor with the already bloody blankets, and decided to shower. HE needed to wash the dried blood from his body, and his hair was beginning to feel greasy.

An hour later, Edward was dressed. After a moment of debate, he decided to venture out into the world again. He needed to make appearances to keep the others from getting suspicious. He left his arm un-bandaged because it had stopped bleeding and pulled on his normal red coat over his black jacket and shirt.

Quickly braiding his hair, Ed donned his mask once more and set out.

Within minutes, Ed found himself blinking into the bright sun as he emerged onto the roof of Central City military Headquarters. He didn't remember making a conscious decision to come here, but he didn't regret it. It felt nice to be out in the open but away from the prying eyes of the public.

He made his way to the edge of the roof and stared out at the city.

Maes Hughes glanced up as he walked. Everyday, just as he passed this spot, he'd glance up at the HQ building, which peeked from between the closer buildings. This was the only glimpse he'd get of it through his whole walk until he was much closer. There was something he liked about looking at his place of employment from afar. It was like a glimpse of what his family saw. For this one moment, Hughes was like a civilian looking towards the tall building.

This time, however, there was something different. Pushing his glasses up and squinting, Hughes gasped. He could make it out now. He recognized that red coat. Even from here, Hughes could tell the figure was too close to the edge.

Reacting on instinct, Hughes flew to the nearest phone booth and punched in the number to HQ.

"Connect me to Colonel Roy Mustang! ASAP! This is Lieutenant Colonel Maes Hughes!" he said urgently as the phone was picked up.

"May I have the code please?"

Hughes bit off a line of curses as he dug out his notebook and gave the string of nonsense words. The operator verified the code and Hughes cursed loudly as he waited for Roy to pick up.

"Hughes? It's me," Roy answered after a moment. Frantically, Hughes wondered if that moment made a difference.

"Roy! Go to the roof! Now! Ed's up there! He's on the edge. I'll be there as soon as I can."

Hughes didn't need to say anything else. He heard a scratchy thump and he knew Roy had dropped the phone. Slamming his own phone down, Hughes ran back towards HQ, praying he hadn't taken too long and that Roy would be able to get there in time.

Ed stared down at the ground from the edge of the room and sighed. It was a good eight or nine story drop to the unrelenting ground below. It would be messier, but all it would take was a single step… One he took that step, there would be no chickening out. It was a nice thought. He'd have to finish it. There was no half-assing this like he had earlier with the knife.

Before Ed could do anything, a sharp shout rang out and suddenly arms snaked themselves around his waist and pulled him violently away from the edge and against the chest of someone taller than him.

Instinctually, Ed struggled and managed to break mostly free. A hand caught his left wrist as he looked frantically up into the face of his superior. Emotions ran rampant over that normally composed face as Roy tried to pull Ed back against him. Ed could see worry and anger and shock, as well as countless others that Ed couldn't even begin to name.

"FULLMETAL! Stop! Edward!" Roy exclaimed as Ed continued to try to pull himself away. His arm hurt. Ed knew Roy had ripped the cuts open once more, but that didn't matter. Ed just needed to get away. He lashed out and gave an inarticulate cry as Roy tightened his grip and tried to catch his right arm.

"LET ME GO!!" Ed shouted as tears began to prick at his eyes. He didn't know why the tears were coming. Was it the pain? Or the humiliation of being caught? Either way, Ed doubled his efforts to get away.

"Stop! Edward! Just… STOP!"


Finally, Ed tore himself free. For an instant, he considered leaping off the edge, but the moment was ruined. He didn't want to force his colonel to see his death. The man had already seen too much death. Ed couldn't bring more pain to Roy's shoulders if he could help it.

Roy lunged once more for Ed and Ed danced out of the way as he stumbled towards the door. He crashed down the stairs and down corridors. He was lucky he was still in decent shape, for the many flights of stairs would surely have tired him out. As it was, he was panting as he reached the front doors to HQ. He knew Roy wasn't far behind him.

Ed dashed out the doors and nearly ran into Hughes on the steps. The Lt. Colonel skidded to a stop but Ed didn't even pause. They crashed and they were both He vaulted down the steps and away from HQ.

Roy stumbled out of the building and blinked at the sudden sun that streamed into his eyes. Cursing, Roy staggered a couple more steps as his eyes adjusted.

"Roy? Ed just-- I couldn't stop him."

Roy blinked up at his best friend and frowned. "What? Damn it! Fullmetal, what're you thinking?!" Roy panted. He hated the fact he had been outrun by a boy with shorter legs than him.

"We'll find him. Call the others," Roy barked suddenly.

"Roy-- your hand!"

Roy gave Hughes a curious look and glanced down. What he saw made his stomach flop. Blood. His hand was coated in drying blood. How had he missed that? Where had it come from?

"Fullmetal… SHIT! I grabbed Ed's arm! His flesh arm!"

Hughes gave Roy a worried look. Without a word, they shot into action. Hughes ran out into the street searching for a glimpse of a red coat or golden hair while Roy sprinted back into the building to gather his subordinates for a search.

Ed punched the wall with his flesh fist and gasped as pain shot up his arm. As it seemed to always do of late, the sharp bust of pain helped Ed think clearer. He needed… Well, he needed to change the way he looked. A long red coat and golden braid was too easy to see.

Ed frowned in thought. His arm hurt from the cuts and his fist throbbed periodically with his heart. It was almost funny how contrasting the pain in his left was to the nothingness of his automail right.

Stripping off his coat, Ed clapped his hands (wincing as his left throbbed at the contact) and transmuted the red coat into a red shirt and a pile of red bandages. Next, he removed his black jacket and tank top to transmute it into a black coat.

Ed sat against the wall of the alleyway and wrapped the cuts quickly.

Then he dressed and pulled his hair out of the braid. After a moment, he decided to leave it unbound. Roy and Hughes had rarely, if ever, seen him with it down.

He pulled his black coat closed and pulled up the hood.

Satisfied in his makeshift disguise, Ed stood , wobbling for only a second, and emerged from the alley. He needed to find a good crowd to blend into now… He needed time to think.

Ed made his way to one of the busier streets and ducked into a crowded café. He ordered something simple and selected a seat towards the back.

'What do I do now? Where do I go?' Ed thought to himself, blowing on the hot drink.

'I suppose it doesn't matter. I can just finish it all tonight.'

As if summoned by Ed's thoughts, Hughes ran past the café window, looking frantically from side to side. Ed felt a pang of guilt for putting him through this, but dismissed it.

Ed calmly sipped his drink as he contemplated his next move. When he saw Havoc pass the window a few minutes later, Ed realized they had gotten everyone in on the search for him. He'd have to be extra careful then…

Roy was scared. He had faced death without flinching countless times, yet at this moment, Roy was terrified. He remembered the wild look in Edward's eyes as the small blonde struggled against him after nearly jumping off the roof. His heart had leapt to his throat when he registered Hughes's words on the phone and it was still there.

With each passing moment, Roy's fear was growing. What if they didn't find him in time? What if Ed was already lying dead in an alley? What if Ed was dead and Roy didn't even know?!!?

Roy didn't know what to do.

He could still feel the blood on his hand, though he had wiped most of it off. It was smeared on his pants leg now. The implications of what had just happened had hit Roy like a punch to the gut.

Ed had been about to jump! Roy had seen it in his stance… The way the Fullmetal Alchemist's knees were slightly bent as his golden gaze was locked on the ground so far below him. And the blood on Edward's arm-- there wasn't many things that could explain that away…

Edward, one of the strongest people Roy knew, was cutting. That was the only thing that seemed logical in the situation. The boy was suicidal.

Roy clenched his fist and gritted his teeth as his dark blue eyes surveyed yet another street with no sign of Ed.

When had this happened? Roy had noticed something was off about the boy, but he would never have thought it was something of this magnitude.

How had he not noticed sooner?

Roy had always thought he could read Fullmetal rather well. He could tell when he was angry. He knew when he was upset, even when Ed tried to hide it.

But… apparently Roy didn't know the teenager as well as he thought he did.

Roy was about to turn another corner when something caught his attention from the corner of his eye. He turned and frowned. A short figure with a black coat was walking in the other direction. Though the hood was pulled up, occasionally the wind would whip long strands of gold hair out. The figure would simply lift a gloved hand and tuck it back in the hood.

Roy's stomach flopped. It was him. There was no way Roy would be unable to recognize his subordinate, even though Ed had changed his appearance. The way he walked, the gloves, the length of the step-- with every detail Roy noticed, the more certain he became that he had found the missing blonde.

Relief flooded through him. He wasn't too late.

Walking quickly, a determined frown set on his features, Roy trailed after Ed while calling Hawkeye to give her their location. When he spotted the black car nearing, Roy lunged forwards before Ed could notice either of them and pulled Ed against his chest, his arms pinned to his sides.

Ed gave a strangled shout and struggled, but this time Roy was prepared. He held on long enough for Hawkeye to stop, leap out and help Roy shove Ed into the car. Roy leapt in to make sure Ed didn't do anything stupid, but Edward had seemingly given up.

Ed slumped against the far door, his bangs falling forwards to hide his eyes as the rest of his hair hung limp around his head. He said nothing.

"Fullmetal…" Roy began uncertainly as Hawkeye began to drive. She gave him a look in the rear view mirror that told him she was taking them to his place because they all knew Ed would react badly to anywhere hospital related.

"…Bastard…" The whispered word was so quiet Roy had to strain to hear it. That single word was so full of pain… Roy bit his lip. He tried to hard to find Edward, and now that he had, he didn't know what to say.

Silently, Roy reached for Ed's left arm, ignoring the way Ed seemed to shudder at his touch, and pulled up the sleeve. He frowned at the crudely wrapped bandages and unwrapped them. Ed remained limp throughout it all, as if he didn't care anymore.

Roy traced a finger lightly over the shallowest of the four cuts that marred the pale skin. Ed shivered but still refused to look up.

"Full-- Ed. Why?"

Finally, Ed looked up. Roy found himself pinned by two tired amber eyes. Eyes that were too old for the seventeen year old before him. Eyes that had seen too much. Roy's breath caught in his throat and his eyes burned. How in hell had he missed this before?!

Ed broke eye contact first, looking back down to his lap. Roy knew Ed was withdrawing and it made him angry that he couldn't do a damn thing to stop it.

"Edward… I don't know why you would do this, but promise me you won't do it again, at least until you talk to me about it," Roy said, trying to make his voice both authoritative yet sympathetic. It was hard. Normally, he could make his voice one or the either easily enough… but both was hard.

Ed turned his head stubbornly away.

Not knowing what else to do, Roy talked. He ignored the fact Hawkeye was in the car also, and focused only on drawing a reaction from Ed.

"After the Ishbalan Massacre," Roy began, "I blamed myself for everything. I had killed countless innocents. Their blood was on my hands. I had to atone for it some how. I had the gun in my mouth before I could even think about what I was doing."

Roy ignored the way Hawkeye looked up sharply, her eyes staring at him in the rear view mirror. He noted only that Ed was looking at him again.

"I thought that I didn't have anything to live for. I joined the military to help the people and instead I'm ordered to kill." Roy closed his eyes against the painful memories. Though it was years ago, Roy could still taste the cool metal in his mouth as his finger tightened on the trigger.

"Hughes stopped me. He walked in just as I was about to pull the trigger. He talked me into waiting until I was sure there was nothing else I could do. So I gave him the gun and we talked through the night. He told me that if I wanted to repent, I should live for those I killed and try to make things so that nothing like that would happen again.

"God… I don't know what would have happened if Hughes hadn't been there. I would have gone insane long before, or I would have succeeded in killing myself. Even though he couldn't physically do anything to help me, just talking to him helped.

"Ed… Talk to someone. I'll listen. We may not get along, but I do care for you, you know. Hughes will listen. I'm sure Alphonse would listen. You're surrounded by people that'll listen to you… You just need to talk to us."

Roy winced a bit at the sappiness of his own words, but he could tell they had an effect on Ed. Golden eyes were uncertain as Ed bit his lips, a fine, miniscule tremor running through his body. Ed was studying Roy, as if searching for the credibility of his words, so Roy offered Ed a tentative smile.

This time, Roy couldn't help but feel a surge of hope as a familiar spark of fire lit itself in Ed's eyes.

"Don't… Don't tell Al. Promise me you won't tell Al… and I'll promise I'll try to talk." Ed's voice was determined, but his expression was uncertain. It seemed Ed was expecting a rejection of the deal.

Roy softened his gaze.

"If you'll promise, then I won't tell Alphonse," Roy agreed quietly. The look of relief Ed sent him made his heart ache.

Roy peered into the room he had given Ed for the night and felt his eyes soften. Ed was curled on his side under the pile of blankets Roy had provided (he honestly hadn't expected Ed to use them all). The hair that always seemed to remind Roy of spun gold was loose and spread across the navy of the sheets. Pale lashes rested against paler cheeks as soft breaths made a few strands of his braid sway periodically.

The starch whiteness of the bandages bound around Ed's forearm was a sharp contrast against the darkness of the sheets.

Nothing had happened since that afternoon, really. Roy had called off the search and told Hawkeye to make sure he received at least a week off from work. He asked Hughes to stop by the next day after work. Then he was left to his own devices in his house accompanied only by the Fullmetal Alchemist.

They hadn't had a chance to talk yet. Rather, Ed hadn't gotten up the will to talk yet. Roy had left as many openings as he could without seeming suspicious, but each was met with a hesitant refusal or change in subject. It was frustrating, really, but Roy, having been there himself years ago, was able to be patient. He wondered how Hughes had put up with him though.

Finally, night had fallen and Roy had provided Ed with some pajamas and blankets.

Ed had fallen asleep almost instantly.

A soft moan brought Roy out of his musings. He turned to peek back into Ed's room and winced as he saw Ed thrash for a moment. He was about to go in and wake him when Ed woke himself.

He sat upright in one sudden, jerky movement and stared unseeing at the far wall for a moment as his breaths came in frantic puffs. As his breathing slowed, Ed hugged his knees to his chest with his left arm while his automail arm clenched at the blankets.

"I'm sorry…" Roy heard Ed whisper.

As Roy watched, Ed lifted his head and stared at the bandages for a long moment. Roy was almost afraid Ed would tear them off and break his promise, but instead Ed just made a fist and dropped his head back over his knees.

Roy turned resolutely away as the first quiet sob reached his ears.

'What am I going to do with you, Edward? I don't know how I can help you… I don't even know why it hurts me so much to see you like this… I've seen it countless times before… I thought I was numb to it all by now. Damn it, Fullmetal! I've never seen a pair of siblings closer than you and your brother! Why did you think you're in this alone? I always thought it was amazing how well you managed to stay childish after all you'd gone through… I guess I was wrong. You're just a kid who was forced to grow up too fast… You're an adult. An immature adult, but an adult nonetheless. I'm sorry for underestimating you, Edward. And for overestimating you. Damn you, Fullmetal Shrimp, what were you thinking?!'

Roy let out a hiss of breath as he shut himself in his own room.

3 March 2007

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