He'd never really understood what people meant when they said that they had been so afraid that their minds went completely blank.

But staring down the business end of a monstrous hand pistol helped make the meaning clearer.

Like an idiot he stood there, whole body frozen in shock and fear, mind as blank as a fresh sheet of notepaper. Flee! his body screamed, but his legs refused to move, and all he could do was stand there and stare in horror as the man's finger started to squeeze the trigger. Everything moved in an eerie sort of slow motion, the kind that would remain forever burned into his memory for a long time. If, of course, he was still alive after all of this.

Run, you idiot! he begged himself.

I…I can't move, he replied. Oh my God…I can't move!

And then suddenly, he was moving, but not under his own power. Strong arms were around him, encircling him as a body moved into the way just as the gun cracked with iron hot lightning. He and the other dropped to the pavement heavily, where the back of his skull cracked against the concrete and he didn't suddenly know anything anymore.

He awoke after what seemed to be only a few minutes later. His head felt thick and dumb, and his mind was dim and fuzzy, but the pouring rain hitting his face helped to rouse him a little more as he slowly became aware of his surroundings. He was lying on his back on the now wet pavement, soaked through to the bone and cold. There was something heavy straddling his body, and it took him a long, dizzy moment before he suddenly recognized that heavy something as a body.

A cold, lifeless body.

He sat up, fighting the sudden wave of nausea and dizziness as the wound on his head made its presence known, and he stared in sheer horror at the huge, dark stain splayed across the man's back like a morbid coat of arms.

Oh my God.

He shook the man by the shoulder, calling his name repeatedly, asking him to wake up, please wake up. When the man didn't, the panic started to set it, and he felt himself having trouble breathing. He scooted out from under the body completely, trying to think past the pain that he was sure was splitting his skull in two. He grabbed the man's shoulder again and shook harder, calling his name more loudly, having a very hard time getting the words past the lump swelling in his throat. He pleaded with the man, begging him to open his eyes, get up, please! But the man continued to lay there, no traces of life in him. With fumbling, trembling fingers, his left hand flew to the man's neck, searching desperately for a pulse. It was there, small and feeble and in grave danger of slowing to a stop at any moment.

Oh my God.

He didn't know how exactly he managed it, but somehow or another he pulled the man to his feet and started walking. The throbbing in the back of his skull was very real now, and he wasn't entirely sure if the wetness he felt back there had been completely caused by the rain or not. Confused and disoriented from the blow, he stumbled forward, fighting to stay calm and to think, but he had little luck. He was dimly aware of walking past people, people who didn't bother to stop and help him, but who stood and watched him go by as if he were on a completely different plane of existence from them.

After awhile, the ache in his head began to make his vision swim in and out of darkness, and he started to cry. He didn't know where he was going, just kept moving forward, dragging the man who was easily a foot and a half taller than him and many pounds heavier. He's going to die if I don't find some help, he thought helplessly, and that thought alone gave him a little more energy. He readjusted his burden and kept moving forward, but his newfound energy was a passing thing at best, and soon his strength began to fail him to the point where he was sure he was never going to make to…wherever it was he was trying to go. His fearful weeping began anew, and all he could think was how much he despised his own inadequacy. I can't do this, he thought, collapsing to his knees and crying. I can't do it!! I…I'm not strong enough!! He's going to die because I'm not strong enough to carry him!!

Oh please, God, no. Please. Give me some strength. I can't let him die here. Not after all he has done for me. Please, do something!

He suddenly looked up and saw the blue and white sign before him, and a tiny sliver of hope gleamed again in his teary, bloodshot eyes. Stifling a sob, he rose to his feet again and hoisted his companion to his feet, stumbling forward again drunkenly. He was so close! He had to get there!

After a few short turns, he was suddenly bathed in the welcoming glow, and he choked out a sob of relief, nearly falling to his knees as he slipped and slid on the sopping pavement. There was an incline up to the building, but he pushed forward with all his might, unable or unwilling to admit defeat with his goal so close at hand. The next minutes blurred together until he found himself being blinded by the indoor, fluorescent lights, and his found his grip on the man's arm slipping as he dropped to his knees in relief on the immaculate white tile, staining it a horrid crimson red color while sobbing and crying out for someone, anyone, oh please God, someone help! Fifteen people rushed at him, all seeming to talk at once. The commotion surrounding him only served to further disorient him, and he tightened his grip on the man's body when a wheeled gurney appeared at his elbow as if by magic. They lifted the man from his arms and wheeled him away, sticking tubes and wires into him as they rushed him down the brilliantly white hallways. He followed them, confused and unsure that he could trust them with the man's life, but the others following with him stopped him before he could follow the man in through the swinging double doors.

You can't go in there, they told him, but he tried to move forward anyway, afraid that the man might slip away without his knowledge. The hands holding him were gentle but firm and he found himself being turned about.

How about you let us take a look at your head, one said, and he looked at the woman in confusion, not understanding until her hand suddenly appeared before him bright with blood.

Your head is bleeding, they told him when he still didn't understand.

Oh my God.

He let them lead him away, crying without really meaning to, but unable to stop. He trembled like a machine on overload, and they helped him down the hall, supporting him and then helping him sit on the table. One tended to his head while another sat before him, a plump woman with a kind face and a gentle voice who asked him a couple of questions like what was his name and what had happened to him? What was the man's name, and how did he know him? He answered her as best he could, asking her where the man was and was he going to be okay? For a moment, her face darkened with something he didn't comprehend, but then she smiled at him and patted his knee, asking him was there someone you'd like us to call to come get you? He blinked at her, and for a second all he could see was the flash of the muzzle, and when he didn't answer right away, she called his name three times. He blinked again, and stared, forgetting the question. She repeated it.

Lieutenant Hawkeye, he finally said, and he relayed the woman's number. The nurse patted his knee another time and told him everything was going to be alright, why don't you try to rest? She left the room, and he flinched as the nurse working on his head applied pressure to the gash. She apologized, but he didn't hear her, seeing again the flash of the muzzle and hearing the sickening thud of hot lead entering flesh. He suddenly registered that she was calling his name and looking at him concernedly, and he jerked, the tears springing up again. I'm sorry, the woman said, did I hurt you? But he assured her that she had not, it was just that he couldn't get what had happened out of his head. Was the man going to be okay? he wanted to know, and she looked grim.

He was in pretty bad shape, she confessed, looking at the floor. She picked up some bandages off the table at his elbow and started wrapping his head. There's no telling what could happen.

Please, he begged, tears running down his cheeks. He can't die. He's got too much work to do. Please, you can't let him die.

The woman studied him for awhile, feeling sorry for him. He's so young, she thought. It's not surprising that he's so upset. She handed him a tissue box.

We'll do the best we can, she promised, pushing back some of his hair, and then she left the room.

He spent the next minutes trying to get his shaking down to a minimum, but was having little success. He wasn't used to being this out of sorts, and the recognition of his uncharacteristic behavior scared him a little. Suddenly, Lieutenant Hawkeye was in the doorway, her amber eyes wide with something that could be interpreted as fear. Her gaze alighted on him, and he stared at her wordlessly, letting his face do the talking. As he read the question in her eyes, he started to cry again.

Her expression softened.

Oh, Edward, she breathed, moving forward as the streams of tears grew thicker and he couldn't contain his sobs. She put her arms around him and pulled him close. It's okay, she assured him. Everything's going to be alright.

He calmed a little and she moved back a step.

I've brought Alphonse. He's in the waiting room. Do you think you can walk?

He nodded, and then rose from his seat, following her out to the waiting room. A seven foot suit of armor rose from a chair as they entered the room.

Brother, are you hurt? a small voice echoed out from it.

Not really, he said. Not like him. The image of the man's blood-soaked back flashed before his eyes again. He felt his brother's hand come to rest gently on his left shoulder.

He's going to be okay, Brother. You'll see.

He nodded, tongue numb and cottony in his mouth. I wish I could believe you.

The next three hours passed with agonizing slowness. The others showed up, one by one, Havoc arriving first and gently ruffling his hair, followed by Breda, who patted his arm. Falman and Fuery arrived together, Falman giving him a nod before moving off to talk to Hawkeye, and Fuery giving him an encouraging smile. He made no moves to acknowledge their greetings, sitting dully, feeling empty and hollow inside. He dimly heard Alphonse apologize on his behalf. He's very tired, he heard him say.

Tired. Yes, tired. Tired of this game of waiting, hopelessly waiting for some unlikely miracle.

Please, don't let him die.

A few MPs appeared.

Mr. Elric, one said tentatively, removing his hat. We need to ask you a few questions.

He didn't answer, couldn't really. He didn't want to talk about it.

Mr. Elric?

The tears started welling in his eyes, but he hid them behind his bangs. Havoc came to his rescue.

Hey, the blue-eyed man said. He's had a rough day. Why don't you come back later, okay?

The two men seemed surprised for a moment, but the one who had spoken agreed and the MPs vanished. He shot Havoc a grateful look, and the man reached over to squeeze his shoulder supportively.

Finally, a doctor clad in scrubs appeared.

I've got good news, he said. Mr. Mustang is going to be just fine. We've removed the bullet and re-inflated his lung, and we've managed to stop all of the bleeding. His condition has finally stabilized.

He looked up, hope returning to his eyes.

Oh my God.

He's going to live? he dared to ask. The doctor nodded confidently.

He's going to live.

Can…can I see him?

Well, we're still moving him out of the O.R., but I'll send a nurse out once we've got him settled in a room, okay?

Before he could reply with his thanks, a voice warbled overheard, and the doctor was suddenly on alert.

If you'll excuse me, he said, and he disappeared behind the swinging door into the rest of the main hospital.

Relief flooded through him. He's okay. He could scarcely believe it. He's okay.

A nurse materialized before him.

Excuse me, but are you Edward Elric?

He recognized her as one of the few who had stopped him from entering the O.R. He nodded, and she looked noticeably relieved.

We've moved Mr. Mustang to 108. He's asking for you.

Everyone stared.

He's…awake? he asked dumbly, voicing all of their thoughts. The woman nodded.

Yes, and he's been calling for you for the last few minutes. He said he wanted to see you.

He rose from his chair, but hesitated, looking around at everyone.

Go on, Breda told him. We'll catch up.

He followed the woman down the hallway and then to the left. She pushed open the door to 108, and he wasn't fully prepared for the sight on the other side. Normally the man looked…regal and almost…superior somehow. Now, he looked pale, battered and…


He entered the room nervously, and the man's coal black eyes opened. He could see that they were clouded by the morphine, and they squinted confusedly for a long moment.

Edward? the man managed to rasp.

He struggled to find his voice, coughing slightly to clear it. I'm here, sir, he answered tremulously. The man squinted again.

Ah, damn these drugs…come here, I can't see you.

He stepped over to the man's side, knees quivering. When he reached the bedside, the man reached out and grabbed his left forearm.

Are you alright?

He balked. You're the one who was shot, and you're worried about me?? Yes, sir, he replied. I'm alright.


His eyes dropped away. The man studied him for a long moment, and he shifted feet uncomfortably.

Fullmetal, you know this isn't your fault, right?

His eyes shot up in horror, but the man squeezed his arm before he could protest.

Edward, this isn't your fault.

He felt the tears come back, hot and unwanted. No! Not here! I can't show him how weak I am!

But…if you hadn't tried to protect me…if I wouldn't have stood there like an idiot…, he stuttered, searching for the words, a tear slipping down his face. He hid behind the curtain of hair again.

Edward, this was an act of a madman, okay? No one is to blame here, not you, not me, not anyone. This was the act of a madman, and it's not your fault.

His arm was squeezed again.

Do you understand me?

He swallowed hard, but nodded.

Edward, look at me.

He hesitated, but finally looked up, meeting the man's onyx gaze.

Do you understand me? he repeated, voice quiet and gentler than it had ever been. For a moment, the tears blurred his vision, but he stubbornly blinked them away.

Yes, sir, he answered. For a moment, the man held his gaze and his arm, before squeezing his arm one last time in a comforting gesture and closing his eyes.

Go home and get some rest, Fullmetal. You've had a long day.

He blinked a few more times before nodding.

Thank you, sir, he said, voice thick with tears. He saluted the man briefly before hurrying out the room in a desperate attempt to get home before the tears really started to flow. The man sighed tiredly.

Lieutenant Havoc?

Sir? answered the blonde man, poking his head around the doorframe.

Please make sure he gets home safely.

Yes, sir.

Teachings that do not speak of pain have no meaning, for humankind cannot gain anything without first giving something in return…


Um, so yeah…finished this at 1:05 in the morning. I hope it wasn't too confusing, but I was trying a different style. I wanted to portray Edward's confusion throughout the story, hence the lack of quotation marks. Was it too confusing in this format? I hope not…

I'm sure a lot of you will be wondering what happened to Roy. Truth is, I don't know. Basically, a guy who had a bone to pick with the military cornered Ed and Roy in an alley and tried to kill them. Beyond that…I'll let you guys decide that for yourselves.

Anywho, I hope you'll leave a review!