Three short, angular glasses of whiskey were downed, all in less than fifteen minutes, much to his surprise.
The warm rush spreading through his body from the inside out alerted his muddled mind that he was ready. He could do this now.
After all, today was Friday night. He always went on this night, each week, and every month.
But, no matter how he tried, he could never handle it sober. The one time he did show up completely clear and alert was the same day he had nearly broken down from the raw pain that emitted from his clenching stomach.
And he had accidentally become intoxicated the next time.
It was for the best.
Heaving a heavy sigh, the Colonel lifted his cramped body from the barstool, paid his way and left into the cold December air.
Frost lingered on a wintry street, crisp against his heavy footfalls. Bits of stranded snow fell and stuck to his clothes, one in particular clinging to his nose, burning it hotly. He pulled his heavy coat tighter to him, attempting to keep out some of the invading trespassers.
Wearily, he tilted his head back, gazing at the dark black sky lined with speckled stars, scattered in the darkness of night.
He both hated and loved these days.
Hated that he only held the courage to make the short journey once a week, when he should have stayed there as long as possible. Despised that he had to see what was left, looking to what was not there.
Loved that he had the slightest chance to bring it all back. They had told him that he could do it. And he loved to think he was doing this for someone else.
However, they did not know that he did it more for himself than anyone.
Because he missed it the most.
This journey, past all of the familiar places, hurt him the most. It cut so deep he was amazed that he had the strength left to persevere, push forward and reach his goal.
Being a tactical fighter who preferred to battle with wits and flame, rather than swords and impulse, this new pain etched onto him was bewildering.
He never thought something so philosophical could feel this way.
He was inexperienced at receiving the other end of a white hot poker.
The normalcy of his manipulative skills as he prodded his puppets with a sharp burn was purely instinctive. Now, it was as if he were on the other side of the equation.
It was not a pleasant sensation.
The Colonel's gaze fell onto a closed pastry shop residing on a windy corner.
He saw a bright sky lined with silver clouds, people bustling in the busy streets, warm goods freshly baked and displayed for the customer's to view, and a flash of red and gold smiling at him cockily.
He blinked disbelievingly.
But, no one was there. The heavens were dark, the streets empty, the area resigned. There were no golden eyes begging him to buy just one more cinnamon roll to eat.
It infuriated him when his memories played these cruel tricks. So much that he didn't even bother to notice damp moisture gradually spring to his eyes.
His hands slumped into warm pockets and were met with a cold steel lump. Briefly, he trailed his fingers over the carved surface, feeling each additional scrape and mar, likely from serious inconsideration to its care.
Inside, he knew, were words engraved roughly into the surface.
His own lay disregarded at his house, inside of a hidden drawer near a bedside.
He hadn't bothered to carry it with him anymore, this one would suffice.
It was a reminder of what had once been.
The comforting sight of a cramped house met him. He had arrived, a little later than he had intended, but there nonetheless.
Wasting no time to knock, he opened the door and let himself drown in the surge of heat that rafted over his freezing frame. There was no point in addressing his presence. He was expected near this time, and it was known that he would come however harsh the weather had become.
A young boy greeted him in the hall, removing his coat to be placed on a hanger.
"He's been waiting for you," the sandy haired youth whispered, though they both know it was merely a greeting, and not the truth.
"I got held up."
The other left graciously, willing to give the two some time alone together.
He crept up rickety creaking stairs to where the one he was visiting dwelled. Swallowing thickly, biting back the bile rising in his throat, he entered the shady room and took his usual place.
"Hello, Full Metal," Roy murmured quietly.
Leaning back against a wooden headboard, legs awkwardly curled up to a bare chest, it was a broken sight of what was once there.
Dull golden locks delicately framed a pale face, curling around rigid shoulders and down a slender back. Hands, one metal and one flesh lazily draped overtop the knees, cushioned by the soft blanket underneath. Distorted eyes stared at him momentarily, before returning to the light snowfall outside.
Though it would make no real difference, Roy carefully grasped the rejected steel limb.
The eyes flickered back to him, a fleeting question placed on the face. But, it disappeared just like usual and reverted back to how it was now.
No recognition whatsoever.
That first day Roy had come to witness the damage that Al had spoke of for himself, those same eyes looked into him, so far in that they went past.
It nearly broke him.
They were dead lifeless eyes, and had no place accompanying one that had been so vibrant and full of life and passion.
Each time, Roy got his hopes up that the boy would respond to him, whether it be from voice or touch, but, it had yet to happen.
And after four months, his colleagues predicted it never would.
With reluctance, he began to slowly realize that perhaps they were right.
Brokenly, Roy pulled the boy's head close and tucked it under his chin, immediately feeling the cold skin. He inhaled desperately, searching for that scent, the one thing that told him the one in front of him really was the boy he had known.
When faint lavender reached his nostrils, he wept quietly.
He should have known better, this was his fault.
Roy knew that.
That if he had merely picked up on the signs, he could have seen something was wrong and maybe things would not be as they were now, if he were not so blind.
'The door unceremoniously burst open (as usual) with no introduction. Not even the usual greeting of 'hey, bastard'.
Instead, the blonde was absolutely silent, and had been for the past few days. No one at Headquarters knew just what was bothering the young Alchemist. And sadly, no one chose to simply ask.
This disturbed Mustang, "What, Full Metal? Are you actually trying to act your age and give up the temper tantrums?" He knew that if he could provoke the other enough, he would come out of his little depression stage by himself. Likely with an amusing string of outraged cries of which no one had accused him of.
Much to his surprise, he was met with more of the terse silence.
Ed walked to the front of his desk and placed something atop it discreetly, making sure that he kept the older one's eye contact.
"Colonel, I won't be needing this anymore."
His hand remained covered over the object as he quickly pressed his lips on a befuddled Mustang's.
Once the boy pulled away, Roy wondered why that had seemed like a goodbye.
The Alchemist retreated a step back, saluted his superior briskly, and then left the room.
On his desk lay a discarded pocket watch.
Roy had thought that he would see Edward at home, like every other day.
He was wrong.
That night, at precisely two in the morning, he received a rushed phone call from Hawkeye.
Apparently, Alphonse had thought to call her first.
Roy arrived at the Elric's residence, Riza trying to control the panicking boy (who he assumed must have been Al, due to his resemblance to Ed).
A blanket was haphazardly thrown over his shoulders to which he paid no regard.
The haunting cries from the younger trying to get his brother to respond rang off of the walls.
Off to the side, a transmutation circle was drawn, clearly forgotten already in the hustle.
Roy knew that circle well. A Human Transmutation circle.
He blanched and rushed over to the blonde he had seen just hours ago, lying on a carpeted floor.
Admittedly, he had expected to find blood, from something that had been taken away in exchange. There was none.
As a replacement, hollow eyes gazed into his own.
Karma proved to be vicious and cruel.
It nearly made Roy wish that a limb had been taken instead.
To take the boy's very spirit seemed too painful a fate, even for someone as strong as the elder Elric.'
If he had only realized sooner.
Roy stayed captivated with embracing Ed, remembering the feel of the boy's arms wrapped around him as well, and imagining that he was doing so.
The snow violently picked up in intensity, until a full blown storm had arisen.
Alphonse insisted that the Colonel spend the night. And he literally commanded a military ranking officer to sleep in the same bed as his brother.
Mustang was slightly reluctant to do so. The last time he had was before the boy had changed.
But Al told him that it would make Ed feel better, and he found he couldn't argue with that.
Roy crawled in beside the boy who was currently turned away from him. He wasn't really sure what to do. Normally, his arm would have slipped around Ed's waist, and he would have curled into his lover tightly.
He nearly gasped in shock when the blonde rolled over to face him, with tears glistening down rounded cheeks.
This was the first time any real emotion was drawn from the usually emotionless face.
Roy tentatively wrapped his arms around the other and dragged him closer, "I guess this must be hard for you too."
He felt a weak nod into his chest and was sure that he had imagined it.
No 'What, can't you see I'm trying to sleep?' or 'Mustang quit hogging the bed,' replied to him.
And he would have felt disheartened were it not for the small kiss that was placed at the base of his neck. Something Ed had always done after they had made love.
A grin swept Roy's face, "You really can hear us can't you?"
AN: Just a random idea, after contemplating on the Veggie!Ed alteration of Blue Bird's Illusion. It was actually difficult to write out, so I'd appreciate some feedback.