A/N: This is an updated version of the story I uploaded back in 2007, with symptoms revised and text improved, but the story is the same. When I was at uni, we kept getting pamphlets shoved under our doors describing the symptoms of a potentially fatal disease most commonly found in young children and teenagers. I thought I'd write a short fan-fic about it to raise awareness. I was immunised against this disease around 1999/2000, and many of you will have also been immunised too, but you must remember - the vaccine won't prevent all strains of the disease!
All spellings and grammar are in British English, so silent U's and stuff blah blah blah...
Disclaimer: I don't own FMA – all characters and places belong to Hiromu Arakawa.
"Come on Brother, time to get up." A walking suit of armour opened the curtains and bright morning light spilled into the room, falling across the bed where a bundle of blankets and duvet lay. The bundle moved slightly, squirming and letting out an annoyed moan.
"Close the curtains, Al…" it murmured groggily, "The light hurts."
"Don't be silly Brother, its time you got out of bed. You still have that report to deliver to the Colonel by noon," The armour loomed over the bed where the bundle moaned again.
"Don't want to. Don't feel well. Gimmie 5 more minutes…"
"Brother…" Al grabbed the duvet and pulled it off the sleeping occupant of the bed. Underneath it lay a small teenage boy wearing a black vest and grey slacks, curled into a small ball like a cat. His spun-gold hair was splayed out on the pillow behind his head. He moaned louder and huddled into an even smaller ball as the source of warmth and comfort was removed from his lithe form, shielding his eyes from the light with a metallic right hand.
"Wha ya do tha for," he mumbled sleepily. Al ignored him. It was like this most days. Ed was not a morning person. In fact, today he was actually putting up less of a fight than usual. Half the time, Al ended up initiating a tug-of-war with the duvet between him and his brother and usually it was accompanied with numerous expletives and the occasional pillow thrown.
"I'll be in the kitchen making you breakfast," he said, leaving the room. "It'll be ready in 15 minutes."
Ed just moaned again, holding his head in his hands.
Ed stumbled into the kitchen in his PJs, hair hanging loose around his shoulders. He had gone to bed the night before with a banging headache and sleeping had done very little to cure it. He had assumed it was caused by a combination of eyestrain from trying to read in dim light and stress from overworking. He yawned, wincing as a sharp pain shot up his neck.
Odd… what did I do to make my neck hurt?
It wasn't just his neck that hurt. His whole body felt stiff and lethargic and his headache was, if anything, worse than yesterday. His stomach was doing uncomfortable somersaults in his midriff, churning around in a sickening way. He felt like he could quite happily return to bed.
I sure hope this is just a cold…
"Morning Al," he mumbled, collapsing onto one of the chairs at the kitchen table. He leaned onto the table top, holding his head in his hands. His brain felt as if it was fighting to get free from his head, expanding and pounding against his skull. He moaned and massaged his forehead with his flesh hand.
"About time you got up," said the armour, placing a stack of pancakes in front of his older sibling. "I made you your favourite."
"Thanks Al," he replied. He didn't particularly feel like eating and as he stared at the sweet stack of pancakes with syrup he suddenly felt nauseous. The sight of the rich, sickly food caused him to gag. "Excuse me," he managed to blurt out before running to the bathroom where he threw up violently into the toilet.
"Brother?" asked Al, following him and dithering nervously outside the bathroom, his voice sounding worried. "Are you alright in there?"
There was a pause, silent save for the sound of gagging and retching coming from the bathroom.
"Uh-huh…" replied Ed weakly, kneeling over the toilet bowl, clinging to the seat with white knuckles for stability. He spat the last of the evil-tasting yellow bile from his mouth in disgust. "I'm fine now, I think. I just woke up feeling a bit crap… must have a cold or something." He flushed the toilet and stood up shakily, wiping his mouth on the back of his hand. He caught sight of himself in the mirror above the sink. He looked pale and tired, dark marks ringing both eyes making him look like a sleepy panda. He washed his hands, scooping water into his mouth with a shaky left hand to rinse out the bitter taste of stomach acid.
He left the bathroom to find Al hovering around the door, body language indicating a state of uneasiness.
"Brother, are you sure you're alright?" he asked in a small voice.
"Yeah, it's just a cold. I'll be fine," he replied. He sat down at the kitchen table again and looked at the pancakes. He had no appetite whatsoever. He pushed the plate away from him. "Al, I think I'll miss breakfast for today. I'm not really feeling that hungry."
"But Brother, breakfast is the most important meal of the day," said Al. "You have to eat to keep up your strength. It's even more important to do so when you're ill."
"To be honest Al, I feel that if I eat anything I'm just gonna bring it back up again," he replied. "I'll pick something up at HQ later, I promise." He stood up and dragged himself over to the bedroom again. "I'm going to get dressed and then take this report in early so I can come back and sleep whatever virus I've picked up off later."
Al watched Ed close the door behind him, worry eating at his soul. It was unlike his brother to skip any meal, even when unwell. Usually his appetite was voracious, especially for sweet or unhealthy fare – and it was highly unusual for him to pass on pancakes which were one of his favourites. He hadn't looked his usual self either. Al had noticed he was shivering and holding his head a lot.
It's probably just stomach 'flu. Yeah, it's just a tummy bug or a bad cold or something. At least, that's what I hope it is…
Whilst he had said he was going to hand the report in early, it was another three hours before Ed left their dorm, his report in hand. He had spent much of the morning worshiping the porcelain and the rest in a detached haze, contemplating weird thoughts while he stared absentmindedly at the ceiling. He vaguely remembered spending fifteen minutes fascinated in an almost OCD manner by the colours and shapes dancing in his vision. He ignored Al's worrying and fussing, claiming repeatedly that all he had was a bad cold and he'd sleep it off later.
Despite the warm spring weather and the fact he was wearing both a black jacket and his trademark red coat, he was shivering uncontrollably. Idly, he scratched at a rash on his left hand. The rash didn't itch, but he was subconsciously aware of it, having noticed it that morning not only on his hand but also on his lower torso and legs. He wasn't too worried about it though, as it didn't hurt and was relatively small. However, his headache hadn't reduced in size. Rather, it had grown in intensity, making his vision seem fuzzy with the pain. It hadn't responded to the aspirin he had taken before leaving home and the bright spring sunlight didn't do much to help either. He was obviously suffering from world's worst migraine.
He stumbled into East City HQ around noon, signing in at reception and making his way unsteadily through the maze of corridors to the office of his superior. Numerous people greeted him on his journey, and he wearily waved or saluted to them depending on their rank and status in his friendship hierarchy. Eventually, he reached the wooden door labelled as 'Colonel Roy Mustang' and he knocked tiredly upon it before cautiously entering.
He found Colonel Mustang talking to Lieutenant Hawkeye about the work that needed to be done that afternoon. Hawkeye was nodding at him as he assigned work to each of his subordinates. He looked up as Ed entered his office.
"Ah, Fullmetal. Take a seat and I'll be with you shortly," he said, motioning to the leather sofa he had in front of his desk. Ed flopped down into the comfort of the padded leather, grateful to be off his feet, wrapping his coat further around his body. He yawned again, feeling inexplicably tired and achy, vision switching from clear to fuzzy and back to clear again as his head pounded viciously. The room seemed to sway from side to side, tilting in the manner of a ship at sea. He couldn't understand why it would do this. Logic dictated the floor was solid, sturdy and flat, so why did it appear to be wiggling? He tried ignoring it, screwing his eyes closed, feeling sleepy and heavy...
After about ten minutes, Hawkeye saluted Roy and left the office to find the other four subordinates in order to distribute paperwork among them. Ed didn't notice her leave, as he was dozing on the sofa.
"Fullmetal," said Roy. "Hey! Fullmetal! Wake up!" When calling his name failed to wake the young alchemist, he clicked his fingers at the youth's face, thankfully not wearing his spark-cloth gloves. "Wakey wakey!"
"Wha?" said Ed, jerking awake and lifting his head suddenly. He wished he hadn't, as the movement sent a wave of pain through his stiff neck. He winced, raising a hand to his neck and rubbing where it was inexplicably stiff, shifting his body round slightly to face Roy.
"You were dozing Fullmetal. Did you not get enough sleep last night, or did you think that maybe a smaller body would require less rest than recommended by health experts?" Roy was baiting the child, hoping to get a rise out of him. However, totally out of character, Ed just sat there and stared at him with tired, unfocused eyes.
"Well, I believe you have a report due today," Roy continued, acting unfazed by the lack of reaction. Maybe he just hadn't heard him correctly.
"Yeah, here you go," Ed leaned forwards and placed the written report onto the Colonel's desk. He squinted in the sunlight blaring through the large window behind Roy, the brightness hurting his eyes. He raised a hand to shade the glare, squinting and trying to ignore the incessant pounding in his head. He could have sworn an entire rock band had taken up residence in his skull and wouldn't stop practicing the drums. It would be rude to turn away from the Colonel though, even if the absence of sunlight might ease his agony.
"Uh-huh – badly written as usual. Tell me, what about the Amestris language were you taught during those few years you were at school?" said Roy, flicking through the neatly stapled pages, trying another tactic to annoy the youth by insulting his intelligence. Ed, however, wasn't playing along and just ignored the teasing. It made a pleasant change for him not to be bouncing off the walls in anger, but it was a change that carried worry with it. Edward acting out of character was always a cause for concern.
"You damaged six houses and the town's memorial fountain," he continued, reading the left-handed scrawl on the paper in front of him. "Is there ever a mission when you don't destroy something of value?"
Again, he received no response. Ed just sat there gazing at him with a slightly glazed expression as if he was finding it difficult to focus. It was then he noticed the boy was shivering, his breathing slightly more rapid and lighter than usual.
"Are you feeling alright, Fullmetal?" he asked, concerned.
"Yeah, fine Sir, just a bad headache and a cold," he replied, pulling his coat even further round his body and crossing his arms in an attempt to warm up. This was very worrying – he was being polite and quiet. Not once had he called Roy a bastard. Roy observed him curiously, admiring his determination and loyalty. Despite being obviously ill, he had still come in to HQ to deliver his report. Even Hawkeye would have thought twice before coming into work in the state Ed was obviously in.
"I think you should go home and rest. You don't look well," said Roy. "Come back when you feel better and I'll give you another mission. You are dismissed."
"Thank you Sir," he said weakly, rising shakily to his feet. He stumbled a few steps towards the door before falling onto hands and knees, trembling.
"Fullmetal?" enquired Roy, standing up and hurrying round the desk to where the boy had fallen. He knelt down next to him, noticing the paleness of his complexion and the dullness of his golden eyes. They lacked the usual Elric fire, the determination extinguished by sickness. He was shaking uncontrollably, obviously in a lot of pain.
"Colonel, I don't feel right…" he whimpered, clawing at his forehead with one hand and supporting his body with the other. "It hurts… why does it hurt?" He still held that vacant expression on his face, as if he didn't know exactly where he was or what he was supposed to be doing. The Colonel's voice sounded to him like it was miles away, distant and muffled. "Where's Al?"
"Come on Ed, let's get you to a doctor," said Roy, supporting the teenager and helping drag him to his feet. He switched from using titles to using names in a seamless transition from boss to caring friend.
"No... no doctors..." Ed whined weakly. "Don't need a doctor."
"I'm afraid you have no choice in the matter," Roy exclaimed, hiding the worry in his voice. "Edward, you can barely walk! I'm taking you in and that's it!"
"Colonel… I'm gonna be sick," he said doubling over as stabbing pains ripped into his midriff. He vomited clear liquid onto the carpet, his stomach holding nothing but acid. It burned his throat and lips as he regurgitated and dry heaved, gasping for air. The room was spinning alarmingly around him, his head continuing to pound and his ears feeling like they were full of a mixture of fuzz and angry bees. He felt dizzy and confused – he wasn't entirely sure where he was anymore. What had he come out to do today? Where was Alphonse? Everything was too bright, the roaring in his ears too loud and getting louder, like an approaching tsunami. He swallowed down a sudden feeling of panic and straightened up as best as he could with the Colonel's help. He took a further two shaky steps before lights and multicoloured wiggling shapes exploded in his vision and he collapsed.
"Edward!" snapped Roy as the boy slid out of his supportive arms and tumbled to the floor. His limbs and face twitched slightly, eyes rolled up into the back of his head and his teeth clenched tight as he lay spread-eagled on the plush carpet, as if he was having a minor seizure. "Hey – wake up! Stop joking around!" Roy knelt down again and shook him lightly on the shoulder. "Hey! Don't worry me like this Ed!" he yelled, but Ed registered nothing, his breathing shallow and rapid with a light sheen of sweat glazing his forehead. After a few seconds, he stopped twitching as violently and his body relaxed, the only movement that of constant shivers. He didn't regain consciousness though, or if he did me gave no signs indicating it.
"He's feverish," muttered Roy to himself, placing a hand over the boy's clammy forehead to check his temperature. He was on fire, burning hot to the touch. He noticed that Ed wasn't wearing any gloves today. His left hand lay next to his head, fingers curling over slightly. Roy noticed a weird purplish-red mark on the palm of the boy's hand, spreading up the wrist. He grabbed the hand, which felt ice cold in comparison to the rest of his body, and pulled up the sleeve of his coat and jacket, noticing the rash spread further up the paler side of the arm, some areas blotchy and bruise-like in appearance. He placed a thumb over the rash and applied light pressure, but it didn't fade.
"Shit…" he swore, remembering something and standing up. He grabbed a glass tumbler from his desk, tipping the water inside it out into a nearby wilted potted plant which would probably benefit from the liquid nourishment. He knelt back besides Ed and rolled the cold tumbler over the rash, examining it through the clear glass. The mark didn't disappear, glaring back an angry blotchy purple through the tumbler. "Shit!" repeated Roy.
Now knowing exactly how sick Ed was and knowing he didn't have time to lose, Roy scooped the teenager bridal style off the floor and carried him from the office. He noticed vaguely how light Ed was, laying limply in his arms as he rushed out into the corridor. He'd never really considered how small and frail the boy actually was until now.
Hawkeye stood just outside talking with Havoc about day-to-day life in the office, his ever present cigarette hanging casually from his mouth and periodically dropping little bits of ash onto the carpet. They looked over in confusion upon seeing Colonel Mustang leave his office, carrying Ed in his arms.
"Chief?" enquired Havoc, frowning. "What are you doing?"
"Edward is very ill – we have to get him to a hospital soon or he may die," replied Roy. They didn't need to see the desperate, commanding look in his eyes to know the seriousness of the situation; they had known the minute the Colonel had addressed Ed by his proper name. "Can one of you bring a car around?"
"I'll go, sir," said Hawkeye, saluting and leaving to collect a vehicle from storage.
"Sir, what's wrong with him?" asked Havoc, walking besides Roy as he hobbled awkwardly through Eastern Headquarters.
"I'm not sure. He wasn't himself this morning. He seemed to be in an absent daze during the debriefing. He acted very out of sorts and didn't register any of my teasing. Then he just suddenly collapsed in my office and started having a seizure of some sort. He has this rash which doesn't fade when you apply pressure. I can't remember exactly what that signifies, but I know it's not good," replied Roy. "Havoc, can you inform his brother that he's been taken into hospital and if necessary go and collect him. Also, let the general know I won't be available for the rest of the day."
"Yes sir, right away sir," said Havoc, dropping the playful 'chief' or 'boss' and addressing Roy in the proper, formal salute.
Roy stumbled out of HQ, ignoring the questioning bark of the puzzled receptionist and walking gingerly down the steps to where Hawkeye was waiting with the car idling. She stood outside the car, holding the rear door open for him. He lay Ed on the back seats and climbed in beside the ill child, cradling his head in his lap.
"Hawkeye, get us to the nearest hospital as fast as possible!" commanded Roy. Hawkeye answered by revving the engine and driving off as fast as the busy and winding urban road network would allow. Roy stroked the blonde teens' hair and grasped his cold left hand, feeling his small form trembling uncontrollably next to his thigh as the fever attacked his system. He could hear his breathing, fast, shallow and fluttering, as if his lungs were faltering.
Gods Ed, you better survive this… to think, you can fight criminals, terrorists, even god-dammed homunculi and survive relatively unscathed, but you have been defeated by organisms smaller even than yourself! The irony just isn't funny…
They arrived at East City hospital in record time, Roy practically leaping out of the vehicle to carry Ed into A & E, Hawkeye following. He kicked open the swing doors and strode through them into the hospital foyer.
"Doctor!" he yelled. "Nurse! We need assistance!"
Two nurses answered his plea, dashing over and asking what was wrong. A further nurse rolled in a trolley, which Roy carefully lay Ed on.
"What's the child's name?" asked one of the nurses who wore a uniform of a darker shade of blue to the other two. Her auburn hair was held up in a tight bun on the rear of her head, her clean apron starched to a brilliant whiteness. She was obviously a matron.
"His name is Edward Elric. He's 15, suffering from a high fever. He said he had a cold, but he seemed out of character and sort-of distracted. Then he just collapsed in my office and had a seizure. There's a rash on his arm," explained Roy as the nurses took note of Ed's vitals, checking pulse and breathing.
"A rash you say?" asked the matron. "Abbi, fetch a doctor – I think we may have a case of septicaemia. We're going to need to prepare a lumbar puncture. Janine, get this boy into a private room and out of those clothes. Get him on oxygen and provide an intravenous of Benzylpenicillin. Quick – we haven't got time to waste!"
"What's going on? What's wrong with him?" asked Roy, voice wavering. He couldn't understand the medical lingo used between the nurses. He wanted to follow Ed as the nurses wheeled him into the bowels of the hospital, but the matron held him back. He could see a young doctor in a white coat chasing after the nurses down the corridor before they turned a corner and went out of sight.
"Please sir…" The matron paused, knowing the uniform meant he was of military status but not knowing Roy's name or rank.
"Colonel Roy Mustang," he added helpfully.
"Colonel Mustang. We can't tell for certain until the doctor confirms. Until then the best thing for you to do is to calm down and wait in reception for further details," she pointed to a series of chairs in a waiting area for visitors to the hospital. A couple of people sat there, a mother and child here to see an ill grandpa and a man wearing a neck brace awaiting an appointment time, staring curiously at the commotion in the foyer. "Wait here and we'll get back to you with details as soon as possible."
Roy sighed and took a seat with Hawkeye in the waiting room.
"There's nothing more you can do for him, sir," she said by way of comfort.
"I know," he replied. "But I feel so helpless."
Alphonse arrived at the hospital with Havoc about half hour later in a state of near-panic. They witnessed the closest thing to anger they probably ever would emitting from the armour as he argued with the matriarchal head nurse, needing to see his brother, but in the end she won the battle with a combination of common sense and hospital protocol. The matron made him wait with Roy and Hawkeye in the reception area, but the soul of the child would not sit still, continuously standing and walking about, pacing impatiently up and down and wringing his large manacled hands like a worried mother. Havoc left the room at 5 minute intervals to chain smoke outside. Even Hawkeye was having trouble sitting still, her legs bobbing up and down with barely suppressed nerves.
Eventually, a white-coated doctor entered the waiting area, holding a clipboard. He seemed rather young, with cropped ash-blonde hair and intelligent blue eyes, his stethoscope hung casually round his neck and over his shoulders.
"Who here is waiting for a Mr. Edward Elric?" he enquired to the waiting patrons.
"We are," replied Roy. They all stood up and crowded around the man. The doctor seemed a bit overwhelmed at the diversity of the group at first, but soon settled into a professional calm.
"I am Dr. O'Neil, leading resident at this hospital," he introduced himself. "The boy is suffering from a severe case of bacterial Meningitis B and related septicaemia. The disease affects the upper respiratory tract and the lining of the brain and spinal cord."
"Is Brother going to be alright?" squeaked Al.
"It was very lucky you got him here so quickly – bacterial meningitis can be fatal and it develops quickly. We confirmed diagnosis through spinal tap – analysing fluid taken from the spinal cord. We were able to administer antibiotics and he is now stable and improving. We also administered an anti-convulsant to stop him having more seizures because of the pressure on his brain and he is on an intravenous drip of fluids to help with shock," explained O'Neil. "He's a very lucky boy. Your quick thinking probably saved his life. Any later and we may not have been able to rescue him. I suggest you issue a warning to everyone he's been in contact with within the last few days to be on the lookout for symptoms, although he is the third case we've had this week. We had another child, a baby, come in yesterday who wasn't so lucky. Young children tend not to show as many of the characteristic symptoms, so it's harder to diagnose." O'Neil hung his head briefly in memory of the poor lost child. He hated nothing more than seeing children suffer.
"When can we see him?" asked Roy.
"Well, he's still unconscious at the moment and we're keeping a close monitor on him in intensive care, so not for another couple of hours. However, I am confident that in due time he will make a full recovery," he replied, flipping a page of his notebook. "Can I ask you to fill in this form for me please? It's merely a record of his personal details, all confidential, but it's needed for his medical record." He held out the clipboard and a pen which Roy took. "I'll come back later and let you know when you can visit." He left them in the waiting room to fill out the forms and sigh in relief that the youngest member of their military family was still alive.
They were allowed in to see Ed later that evening, but the doctors were only allowing immediate family and guardian's entrance to the wards. This meant that only Al (a close family member) and Roy (being the current legal guardian by default of both children) were allowed in.
They found Ed wearing the usual Amestris male patient hospital dress, the pale mint green trousers and tunic vest, hair unbraided, lying in a bed with an IV in the back of his left hand and an oxygen mask over his face. A monitor at the side of the bed bleeped periodically, monitoring heart-rate, blood pressure and vital signs. His breathing had regulated and he seemed to be sleeping peacefully, but he was still feverish and pale in appearance.
"Oh Brother…" murmured Al, gazing sadly down at the bed with those brightly glowing eyes of his. He knelt down next to the bunk, reaching out to grasp Ed's right hand. He received a slight shock when the automail digits curled round his manacled fingers in response and Ed moved slightly, emitting a low whine.
"Colonel," said Al, happily. "Colonel, I think he's waking up! Ed, can you hear me Ed?"
As if it took all the effort in the world, Ed opened his eyes, squinting up at the ceiling.
"Al?" he enquired, voice weak and confused.
"I'm here Brother," replied Al. "So is the Colonel."
Ed groaned and rolled his eyes in an unimpressed fashion upon hearing that the Colonel was there.
"Where am I?" he asked in barely a whisper, still feeling a little lost and confused. "What happened?"
"You're in hospital – you collapsed earlier. The Colonel brought you here. You could have died! The doctor said you had mining… meninj… something…"
"You had Meningitis," stated Roy. "And I should reprimand you right here and now for having us all so worried."
"Bastard…" muttered Ed, closing his eyes again. Roy noted the use of the swear word. Fullmetal was obviously feeling better.
"Seriously though, you're lucky to be alive. You should really tell people you feel unwell instead of trying to hide it. If you weren't in my presence when you collapsed you could have easily died," said Roy, frowning slightly. "You really scared me back there."
"I'm sorry," sighed Ed sincerely, keeping his eyes shut. He was still reluctant to look at the light, and his body still felt stiff, but the headache had reduced and his stomach no longer hurt. "I thought it was just 'flu. I didn't want to worry anyone or be accused of being lazy."
"Bit late for that now," replied the Colonel. "Not that it matters – you're still alive. How do you feel now?"
"Like crap," he answered truthfully, opening his eyes again and feeling some strength return to his body. "Did I really almost die?"
"Let's put it this way – another hour and you would have been a goner," said Roy grimly.
There was a moment of silence as they all considered exactly how close they had come to losing Edward.
"Thank you Colonel," said Ed, breaking the uncomfortable pause. "I owe you my life."
"Any time," replied the older man, smirking. "You now owe me big time, Fullmetal. I expect you to return the favour in full one day."
"Bastard," said Ed without malice, knowing the man was just joking around.
"Brother, you shouldn't be so impolite to your superiors," scolded Al. Ed laughed weakly.
A nurse came in and with a grim expression told the visitors their visiting time was up.
"This child needs rest. I must ask of you to leave now. You can come and see him again tomorrow," she said in a bossy voice. She reminded Ed and Al vaguely of a schoolteacher they had once had in Risembool, who had thrown chalk at them when they were discussing alchemy in her class instead of listening to her boring maths lecture. Good times...
"Ok, thank you," said Roy. "Fullmetal, we'll return tomorrow. Your orders are to rest and get healthy again."
"I'll try my best, Colonel Bastard," replied Ed, smirking. He raised his right hand and saluted as best he could with his low energy levels.
"Bye Brother, I'll come see you tomorrow. I promise," said Al, joining the Colonel at the door.
"Bye guys," he replied weakly as they were ushered out by the bossy nurse. Shortly afterwards he dropped back into a restful sleep.
It was nearly two weeks before Ed was allowed to leave the hospital, despite his arguments after only three days that he was well enough to go home when he was obviously still feeling run-down, such was the stubbornness of the young boy. The doctors point-blank refused, saying he had to finish his treatment of intravenous antibiotics.
"Goddammit – it's so boring in hospitals. It smells funny and doctors keep coming and sticking more needles into me. I don't like needles!" he moaned to all his visitors. "And they keep giving me milk with my food! I bloody hate the stuff!"
Al seemed to be there constantly throughout the daylight hours, keeping his brother company, only leaving when the nurses kicked him out at night. The Colonel made an appearance for about an hour every day after work, much to Ed's annoyance. He was also visited by all Roy's subordinates at varying intervals in the fortnight, with Riza visiting twice, having sought special permission to bring Black Hayate on her second trip. Ed had been overjoyed to have the puppy in the private room he had been provided with, having his face thoroughly licked as he fussed the bundle of fluff and throwing a ball across the room from his bed for him to fetch. He had been a bit less enthusiastic when Major Armstrong had arrived from Central and almost broke his spine in a bone-crushing hug, passed down in the Armstrong family for generations. He received get well cards from both the Rockbell women and the Curtis', although how sensei had found out was anyone's guess. Alphonse had a sneaking suspicion that Izumi and Pinako had been in contact for a while now regarding the brothers and their travels, probably since they had gone off training. I would be just like Granny to want to know what they were up and whether they were safe. Still, it was nice to know they both cared. Winry, of course, had written that she hoped he got better soon so she could come and wrench him round the head for getting everyone worried, most likely re-hospitalising him with head trauma in the process. Her letter had little heart doodles all over it.
Eventually, the doctors gave him clearance to leave. He had changed back into his usual attire, Al having brought him some clean clothing to wear. Dr. O'Neil gave him a prescription of strong antibiotics and analgesic pills that he was to take for a further two weeks, told him to get a lot of rest and he was to return for a check up when his prescription ran out. After thanking the medical staff for their care, he walked shakily out of the front entrance to where Havoc was waiting with a car to drive him home. Still feeling slightly weakened and looking very pale, he leaned on Al for support, glad to be out of the hospital but even more relieved that the Colonel had given him the next fortnight off work. It gave him time to catch up on his precious reading.
"Afternoon Chief," saluted Havoc. "Feeling better I see."
Ed returned the salute before answering. "Yeah, more so for being out of that hell-hole they call a house of medicine," he replied, climbing into the rear of the car, Al following. Al had to remove his helmet to fit properly.
Doctor O'Neil watched from the window as one very lucky patient climbed into a black military vehicle and was driven away. He smiled to himself, knowing that one more life had been saved thanks to both his medical knowledge and the quick thinking of caring friends.
A/N: Meningitis (swelling of the meninges – the membrane of the brain and spinal cord) and septicaemia (blood poisoning) can kill in hours if not treated. It is infectious, attacking the meninges and upper respiratory system, which is why early symptoms tend to mirror those of a cold or 'flu or even a bad hangover. It most commonly affects babies or young adults, particularly those living together in close proximity such as in student accommodation, school dormitories or army barracks. Symptoms include: Aches and pains, listlessness, irritability, stiff neck, dislike of bright lights, fever, confusion, severe headache, stomach pain, vomiting, shivering, cold extremities, rapid breathing, difficulty walking or standing, sleepiness, loss of consciousness, seizures, twitching and a pin-prick red rash which develops into a purple bruise-like blotchy rash, most easily seen on pale or delicate skin. The rash will not disappear when viewed under light pressure through a glass tumbler. Not everyone gets all these symptoms and they don't necessarily appear in any specific order. 1 out of every 10 people can be carrying the bacteria known to cause meningitis at any time, and it is spread by close contact such as kissing or sharing of utensils and food. Usually, the bacterium is harmless and it rare for people to develop meningitis unless the bacterium enters the bloodstream but be aware – knowing and identifying these symptoms can save lives!
Yes – I'm also aware that in the time FMA was set, antibiotics hadn't been fully developed and their full potential wasn't known. However, creative licence is on my side – Amestris has advanced alchemy instead of the physics of our world, so I'm going to say that their medical practices are greater advanced due to alchemic experimentation!