((A/N: I wrote this for the LiveJournal group fma7sins for a "Zombie Apocalypse" contest that they're doing. I was really rushed with this--and BOY does it show—but I hope you'll enjoy it. It's all finished, but I want to do some last-minute editing, so hopefully I'll be able to post a chapter a day or more.
WARNINGS: Angst, character death, blood & guts, and ZOMBIES!!!))
Shots rang out over the city of Merka, but they could scarcely be heard over the angry roar of the rioting people that flooded into the streets in a pulsing throng, each waving machetes or pitchforks or whatever other dangerous instrument that they could find. The cold, drizzling night was illuminated by red-orange pillars of flames, casting the grim scene in a jerking, spasmodic light that made the shadows beyond dance and writhe like wounded beasts. Colonel Roy Mustang snapped his fingers, calling another plane of fire into existence and effectively containing the riled multitude in a blazing ring of light and heat.
Roy should have never sent the boys here. It had been a mistake. The district had been stewing in its own political unrest for years... the colonel should have known that the appearance of the Elric brothers might send the already incensed populous over the edge. It was like Liore all over again. Unfortunately, this time Ed and Al were still within the city when the rioting started and had been caught in the tumult of protesting and civil disobedience. Roy wasn't clear on exactly what Ed had done to cause such chaos, but when the colonel got the call from the Fullmetal Alchemist to send reinforcements... well, he just knew that something had gone horribly wrong.
Ed would never ask for help unless he absolutely had to, especially from Roy. Sensing the kid's unspoken urgency, the colonel had grabbed his staff and several willing soldiers and had booked it to Merka as quickly as he was able. Now—nearly ten hours later—they had finally arrived and the swirling anarchy had reached such a feverish pitch that it demanded immediate action.
"Sir!" Lieutenant Hawkeye called from her protective station at the colonel's side, her gun drawn and ready as her henna-colored eyes swept across the battlefield. "I see Alphonse!"
Roy followed the direction of her gaze until they landed upon the tall approaching figure. Al's armor shone like a beacon in the firelight, making him look like some sort of god or ethereal messenger as he strode forward slowly, his apparent calm a dizzying juxtaposition to the hellish chaos swarming around him.
"Cover me." He ordered her, drawing his own gun and moving swiftly forward to meet Alphonse, his eyes darting from side-to-side in case of an ambush. When the armored boy caught sight of him he started walking a little faster, but his steps were still very cautious and deliberate.
"Brother's hurt!" Al called out as the colonel got closer, his panicked voice echoing shrilly within his armor. "He's been stabbed!"
Roy cursed. "Where is he?"
"I have him." Al replied quickly, placing his huge metal hand on the breastplate of his armor. Only then did Roy see the blood that was seeping from between the crevices of Al's hollow chest cavity, drawing dark lines down the metal and soaking into the pale loincloth, staining it with huge blossoms of red. The colonel cursed again, then nodded to the boy.
"Let's get him to the car. Come with me."
Alphonse obeyed without question, very conscious of the delicate burden that he carried within him. He was loath to walk too fast and risk jostling his older brother. In spite of Alphonse's careful steps, though, Roy heard Ed give a sharp cry of pain as they approached the car.
"Hawkeye!" Roy called to his lieutenant, "Fullmetal's been injured, we need to get him to the medical van."
"Sir," she began as she backed over to him, her gun still turned on the crowd of rioters that was quickly being subdued by the other military personnel, "the van isn't here yet! They're still over an hour out."
Roy looked at Alphonse, then down to the streams of blood that were flowing from him, trying to think quickly. He turned and opened the car door, climbing into the back seat.
"Alphonse," he said, "Put him in here with me. Let me see how bad it is."
Al moved forward and unhooked his breastplate, removing it and tossing it aside. Al's chest cavity was darkly shadowed, but Roy could vaguely make out Edward's huddled form. He was curled into the fetal position with the side of his head resting against the back of Al's torso, the distant firelight making his only visible eye glow hauntingly yellow. His pained, labored breathing echoed eerily in his metal cradle and as Roy looked at him he slowly absorbed the massive amounts of blood that were splattered and smeared all over him and the interior of his brother.
Roy reached in cautiously and took Ed's automail arm, coaxing him out of the armor and into the back seat of the car as gently as he could. Ed shrieked as Al reached in and helped lift him out of his hollow chest, but the kid quickly bit his lip and tried to stay quiet as Roy pulled him down onto the seat and forced him to lay back.
The kid was absolutely covered in blood, Roy realized as he began to examine him. It was astounding that Ed was even still conscious. Ed's hand was up under his shirt, no doubt putting pressure on his wound as he panted rapidly through his pain.
"Ed? Can you hear me?" Roy asked, taking Ed's face in one hand. His ashen skin was cold and covered in a fine sheen of sweat that mingled with the smudged flecks of blood that marred the corner of his mouth.
Ed nodded slowly, a soft moan escaping his lips as he fought to keep his eyes open.
"Good." Roy encouraged him, "Stay awake for me, okay? I need to have a look at you." The colonel took off his gloves and put them in his pocket as he lifted up Ed's shirt, peeling the blood-soggy cloth from the boy's abdomen.
For a moment Roy wasn't quite sure what he was looking at. The masses of blood and the dimness of the car's interior combined into something that skewed his perception briefly, but then he realized what he was seeing and his stomach churned with alarm.
The injury was just below Edward's ribcage in the middle of his abdomen... and it was big. At the moment though, it was bleeding very little due to the fact that Ed had effectively plugged the gaping hole with his clenched fist. Edward's hand disappeared at the wrist into his own body, stopping the blood flow like a cork shoved into the mouth of a wine bottle. As horrifying as this sight was, Roy recognized that this was perhaps the only thing that had kept the young alchemist from bleeding to death already.
"Smart kid." Roy commented, trying very hard to keep his tone light even though his heart was thudding sickly within him.
"G-glad you approve." Ed managed to gasp faintly, a wry smirk tugging at the corner of his mouth.
The colonel smiled back at him—more because he thought that he should rather than because he honestly felt the compulsion—and gently wrapped his fingers around Ed's wrist, telling the kid to relax his fist. Roy slowly eased Ed's hand out of the wound, pulling another sharp cry from him. Al moaned frantically as he looked upon his brother's torn form and turned his head from the sight, covering his eyes as the injury was revealed.
"Shh, shh... You're okay, Ed." Roy calmed the panting, trembling boy, even as the full impact of the wound's severity hit him like a sledgehammer to the chest. Roy had seen enough battles to know what a mortal wound looked like, and this one was bad.
It was very, very bad.
The gash in Ed's abdomen was perhaps three inches long and deep enough that Roy could actually see the kid's organs pulsing within him. The ragged hole in Ed's gut was like an open window to a nightmare world of twitching muscle and blood-slick intestines.
"Oh, this is just a scratch." the colonel lied loudly, looking down at Edward with an expression of false confidence, "I've had paper-cuts worse than this."
Ed closed his eyes and grinned at him again, his lips trembling as they formed a haunting smile. Ed wasn't stupid. He knew how bad the wound really was.
"Hawkeye, we can't wait for the van to get here." The colonel said, keeping his voice calm. "We need to drive... see if we can meet them halfway."
"Sir!" The lieutenant complied, rushing to the other side of the car and sliding into the driver's seat. "Alphonse, get into the passenger's seat. There isn't enough room for all three of you in the back." Alphonse did not hesitate to obey and hurriedly got in next to Hawkeye. The engine roared to life and the lieutenant gunned it, speeding past the crowds of people and the military personnel that were quickly containing them.
Roy looked back down at the wound, which was bleeding freely again now that the hole had been unplugged and was sending tiny, gushing rivers of red down Edward's bare sides. The colonel reached back into his pocket and fished out one of his alchemy gloves, pulling it on as he shifted to straddle Ed's legs, pinning them down.
"This is going to hurt, Edward." The colonel said softly after a moment's thought, "It's going to hurt a lot, so just try to bear it, okay?"
"What are you doing?" Al squeaked, trying to turn in his seat so that he could see them.
"Burning the wound shut." The colonel informed him grimly. "We have to get the bleeding to stop."
With his ungloved hand, Roy reached forward and pressed Ed's shoulder down onto the dark leather of the seat, restraining him against the agony that he was about to endure.
"Ready?" Roy asked him.
Ed reached up and gripped Roy's forearm desperately with his bloodied biological hand, bracing himself for the pain that he knew was coming. Teeth clenched, he steeled himself, his breath lurching from him in short, shallow gasps as he nodded for the colonel to begin.
Roy took a deep breath and clenched his jaw, pressing his fingers together and snapping deftly.
Ed threw his head back and screamed as the jet of fire kissed his skin, digging his nails into the colonel's arm as he thrashed beneath him frantically. His eyes flew open wide and his pupils contracted into sharp pinpoints of agony as he arched his back off of the blood-soaked seat and shrieked.
"Hold on, Ed..." Roy tried to soothe as he forced him back down onto the seat, doing his best to ignore the all too familiar reek of burning flesh as he called another spark to his fingertips. "I'm almost done..."
Ed's only reply was a harsh, screeching sob as he tensed and shuddered under the onslaught of Roy's fire. The kid turned his head and gagged, the pain too much for his already taxed body to handle as Roy finished sealing the last bit of the gash.
"That's it, kid. I'm done." Roy said, still trying valiantly to keep his voice light as if he had done nothing more serious than pull a splinter from the boy's finger.
The burn was solid and held back the blood flow as much as Roy had hoped that it would. Now at least the kid was not going to bleed out. In the long run though, Roy wasn't sure how much it would matter. If Ed was bleeding internally—which he almost certainly was—then there was nothing that the colonel could do about it. At most, Roy had just bought the young alchemist some time... hopefully long enough for them to rendezvous with the approaching medic van.
He let Ed go, doing his best to hide the fact that his hands were trembling as he backed up off of him. Edward gasped and whimpered, his entire body twitching with little tremors of bodily trauma as he tried to roll over onto his side.
"No, lie still." the colonel ordered him, taking his arm again and making him lie flat on his back. Roy took off the jacket of his uniform and rolled it up, raising Ed's head enough to slip it under him. The least he could do was try to make the kid more comfortable. "Better?"
Ed looked up at him blearily and gave a tiny, jerking nod. He did not look good. His complexion was entirely bloodless and his eyes were glassy with shock and pain. His lips trembled as he sucked in air desperately, unable to get enough oxygen in spite of his rapid gasping.
Edward abruptly tossed his head to the side and coughed hard, spattering the back of the seat with a fine spray of blood. He gasped again and choked on the red fluid, sending him into another coughing fit that left him shaking, his eyelids fluttering weakly. Roy froze, watching a thick trail of blood crawl from the corner of the boy's mouth and drip down the side of his face. This was bad. Ed's lung must have been grazed by whatever he'd been stabbed with, and if that was the case then he didn't have long at all.
With a trembling hand, Ed reached up and wiped the blood from his mouth, then stared at the redness that dyed his fingers. His golden eyes snapped over to look at the colonel, silently asking a question that he did not have the strength to ask aloud.
"Is he going to die?"
Al asked softly, voicing his brother's unspoken words.
"No." Roy said flatly, not taking his eyes off of Ed, "Of course not. Don't be stupid. Just turn around and help the lieutenant watch for the medic."
Al hesitated, but then obediently turned back to the road. Ed looked at his colonel for a moment and then shook his head.
"Liar." he whispered, displaying his blood-daubed teeth in a wry smirk that looked more like a grimace than a smile. Roy sighed and clenched his jaw again, not having any sort of reply to that. Ed's smile faltered and died on his lips as he tried to suppress the urge to cough up more blood, his throat heaving and twitching with the strain. In spite of his efforts, though, another mouthful of redness bubbled up from between his lips and spilled down across his cheek, the bright color making his skin look even paler by contrast.
The colonel ghosted his hand forward, silently offering it to the boy to hold if he needed it.
In Ishbal, a soldier had died in Roy's arms. The then-major hadn't even known the private's name, but as the only person that hadn't been killed or injured when the bomb went off, Mustang had felt it his duty to comfort the bleeding, writhing man on the ground before him. There was nothing else that he could have done. Roy just held his hand and talked to him, even when the man was far beyond being able to hear him anymore. And now Roy felt the same obligation to Edward. Even if Ed didn't like to admit it, he was part of Colonel Mustang's staff and Roy cared for him just as much as he cared for Lieutenant Hawkeye or any of his other men.
Ed glanced at the offered hand and took it slowly, closing his eyes as Roy squeezed his fingers.
"Keep your eyes open, Ed." Roy said quietly. "We'll meet the van soon, just stay awake."
Ed obeyed without comment or expression, staring up at the ceiling of the car as they sped down the highway. Feeling eyes upon him, Roy lifted his head and saw Hawkeye looking back at him through her rearview mirror. She raised her eyebrows at him and he looked away quickly, uncomfortable under her questioning gaze. He turned his eyes back onto the gasping child beneath his hands.
They both knew that they were going to lose him.
As if this thought had been spoken aloud, Ed stiffened and pulled his hand from Roy's grasp, reaching instead for his younger brother.
"I'm s-sorry, Al... I—" Ed managed gratingly, but then with a soft keening, choking sound his body relaxed, his hand falling back down onto the leather seat. Edward Elric went limp and his eyelids slid half-closed over his emptied gaze as one last shuddering exhalation escaped from his lips. As Roy watched, the light in his yellow eyes died like candles being snuffed by a cold wind.
And then there was silence.
The colonel froze. That's it? After all this time, that's how it was going to end?
No, no, no... He couldn't accept that. They could still save him. Quickly, he tilted Ed's head back and held the kid's nose, leaning forward to press his mouth to Ed's and force air into his unmoving lungs.
"Hawkeye, pull over!" He ordered breathlessly as he straightened and compressed Ed's chest with his open palms. There wasn't enough room in back seat of the car for Roy to give mouth-to-mouth effectively. He needed to get the kid out on the ground.
"DO IT, LIEUTENANT!" he roared.
The car swerved into the muddy grass beside the road. Roy hardly waited for it to stop before he jumped out and ran to the other side.
"What's going on?" Al asked frantically as the colonel opened the other door and gathered Ed in his arms. The colonel hit his knees in the mud and put Ed on the ground, pressing his lips once more to Ed's and filling his lungs. He sat up and pushed on the kid's frail chest in a violent rhythm, trying desperately to coax the motionless body back into life.
"Damn it, Fullmetal!" He barked at him, "Come on!"
Ed did not respond. Roy cursed and pumped air into him again before compressing his chest so hard that he swore he could feel Ed's ribs cracking beneath his hands.
"Colonel..." Hawkeye said softly as she crouched beside him.
"Breathe, Ed. Come on." Roy panted distractedly, tasting the coppery invasion of Ed's blood in his mouth as he ignored his lieutenant and went through the steps again. Hold. Blow. Press. One, two, three...
Hold. Blow. Press. One, two, three...
"He's gone, Roy..."
"I KNOW, alright?!" He shouted, rounding on her. Her eyes were large and powerful as she looked at him, startled but unwilling to back down from the anger in his voice. After a beat he sighed and rubbed his temple with one hand, streaking the side of his face with blood. "I know..." he said again, looking away from her defeatedly.
She put her hand on his shoulder, but he wrenched away from her and got to his feet, stalking back over to the car. He pressed his hands against the cold metal and leaned against it, his head bent as he collected himself.
"He... he's dead?"
Roy raised his head to look at Al. The metal boy was still standing next to the passenger-side door, staring down at his brother's lifeless body in shock.
"Yeah. Yeah, he's dead." Roy told him, turning away again. There was silence for a moment, then Roy slammed his fist into the side of the car with a muffled scream of anguished frustration. Pain shot up his arm and he clenched his teeth against it, closing his eyes tightly with a soft grunt. He took a breath and straightened himself, holding his throbbing hand against his chest. He looked down and caught sight of his jacket lying on the ground beside the car. It had no doubt tumbled out of the door when the colonel had grabbed Ed.
Roy reached down and picked it up, walking past the still-dumbstruck Alphonse to drape it over Ed's body, shrouding it in the dark blue cloth. The colonel expressionlessly lifted the covered body from the dank ground and walked back toward the car with it, cradling it as he would an infant. He approached Alphonse and offered his burden to him, holding it out as the boy hesitantly took his dead brother in his arms.
"Sit in the back with him, if you want." Roy said, then turned from him and got into the passenger's seat. Al slowly did as he was told, squeezing into the back carefully as he held Ed against him.
After a few moments, Hawkeye got into the driver's seat. She didn't make any moves to start the car, for there was no reason to drive now. They could wait for the medical van. The patient no longer needed immediate aid, so there was no point in rushing forward. All Ed needed from them now was a body bag.
"How's your hand?" Hawkeye asked after a long pause, breaking the silence inside of the car.
"I think I broke it." Roy answered her dully in a near-whisper.
In the back seat Al started weeping quietly.