Don't be fooled by the chapter title, folks. This marks the end of what I'd like to call Part One, because it marks a sort of turning point. Eh...you'll see when you get there. I really thought this was longer when I was writing it, but maybe that's only because it took all day.
Warning: Spoilers for the end of the series.
Disclaimer: This was done whilst watching episodes 16 - 19, but I don't own them. I mean...I own the DVDs but I don't own the-...I'll shut up.
Roy's lungs were exploding. Or perhaps they were doing a funny little dance around his other internal organs that made it feel like they were exploding, but the whole situation was still just as unpleasant. His gloved hands were pressed to the wall as he coughed and choked, and as his dark eyes scrutinized the small panel of the obviously vacant Interrogation Room door, he lost his breath all over again.
It was quite funny, actually. Well, to anybody who wasn't Roy. He'd joined the State Military as soon as they'd take him, and since then he'd forced himself to be cold and stoic at all times; priding himself on his ability to detach himself from anything that could plague him during the dark hours. And now, this...this brat had him on his knees with a coded report and a few tears. It was ludicrous.
He cursed. Or at least, he tried. What actually came out was, "Shi...hiiiii...." and another hoarse cough that had his whole body shaking. He abandoned that plan of attack pretty quickly, and instead he told himself firmly that he had to concentrate. Hakuro had obviously taken Edward somewhere he didn't want to be found, which left all manner of possibilities as to what he was going to do to him. Roy shivered. If he didn't force something useful out of his brain, and soon, Hakuro was going to destroy him.
Groaning in desperation, he curled his hand into a fist and snapped his fingers, creating a small flame at the tip of his middle finger that was barely larger than the miniature inferno Havoc used to light his cigarettes. It illuminated the stark-white wall he was leaning against, giving it even more of a sickly hue than usual, and throwing the shadow of the figure standing behind him into sharp relief.
He tensed. "Can I help you?"
His tone positively dripped impatience, making it painfully obvious to whoever had dared interrupt his misery that they were not welcome. He didn't turn around; didn't offer them the respect of eye contact, but he could almost feel a pair of eyes burning into the back of his head, coupled with a smirk that made him shiver.
"Looking for Ed?"
He recognized that voice. He'd recognize it anywhere, but couldn't explain why he suddenly hated it. Turning his head, he peered over the shoulder of his crisp, perfectly regulation military jacket and scowled. His guard was firmly in place. He had been completely ignorant of those scrawled reports branded with Archer's name, and he certainly didn't think it an accident that nobody had bothered to inform him. How many times had Edward been given that smirk Frank was directing at him, now?
He narrowed his eyes. "What did you do to him?"
Frank laughed: a laugh that Roy had heard a thousand times before, but suddenly it sounded so much more sinister. "What're you gonna do, Roy? Charge in there and rescue your little damsel in distress?"
Roy felt a growl rising in his throat, and bit it back. He didn't have time for this. Whipping around, he stepped away from the wall and had barely made a single move towards the end of the hallway when Frank stepped in front of him: eyebrows raised, smirk firmly in place, and effectively barricading his route.
"Alright," he gave a pseudo-nonchalant shrug. "Tell them. Tell them you fucked him. Tell them you tried to kill him, tell them you let him liefor you," he bared his teeth in a leer that made Roy wince at the truth of it. "I'm sure that'll go down real well with the Fuhrer."
He clenched his fists. "Why the Hell are you doing this, Archer? You're no better than me! I know what you did, you sick son-of-a-bitch! It was you that was hurting him, wasn't it?!"
Again, Frank ignored him. "Or, you could walk away. Keep your mouth shut. And one day you'll be giving the orders, and those Ishbalan kids will stop screaming every time you close your eyes," Roy flinched, and regretted it in less than a second as Frank smirked again. "You're not gonna throw your dream away for that kid, are you?"
Roy dropped his gaze to the floor and was silent for a long moment. He hated to think it; he loathed and detested and despised to think it, but Frank was right. For almost a decade he'd thought of nothing but becoming the Fuhrer: of ensuring that another massacre never happened. Edward had even given his own rank to help him achieve that, and on the same day, spared his life and told him to earn it.
How was he supposed to earn his own life? Turn his back and live out his dream of controlling the State as Fuhrer Mustang? Or by saving Edward as he had saved him: by Equivalent Exchange?
He narrowed his eyes; grit his teeth and felt a determination engulfing him unlike any he'd ever felt before. It was strong, empowering and it almost frightened him, but he succumbed to it. He'd made his choice, and God, was he gonna need it.
"Edward deserves better."
Frank sighed, shaking his head despairingly. "I hoped you wouldn't say that, Roy. I really did," he smiled, trying and failing to withhold his amusement. "'Cause now I'm gonna have to do something you'll regret."
Roy cocked a brow. What was that, a slip of the tongue? He even opened his mouth to question him, but he didn't manage a single word. They died in his throat as Frank withdrew a revolver from his back pocket and held it perfectly level with his chest, not a single trace of hesitation in his expression.
Roy's eyes widened. Without even thinking he raised his right hand, fingers poised, but he was a second too late. Frank pulled the trigger. He hadn't expected the recoil, hadn't thought about it when he liberated this particular piece from the armory, but it jolted his wrist, and instead of puncturing his chest, the bullet took a slightly different path: straight through Roy's left eye.
He took it in silence, which surprised them both. The only sounds were his boots scraping the tile as he stumbled backwards, and the dull thunk of a body hitting the floor that Roy had heard so many times before. This one sounded strange though, maybe because it was his, he wasn't sure. It was dulled, like he was listening underwater, or from a hallway on the other side of Central Command, or-
God, he was dense. It sounded like he was dying.
He wanted to laugh at his own idiocy, but his body wasn't really up to it. He had collapsed on his hands and knees, allowing him to watch through a blurred and blood-stained eye as the tile turned crimson, and his body decided to inform of its weakness by letting his arms give way, and he fell flat on his face.
He didn't move again.
The silence as Frank pocketed his revolver was deafening, though he showed no sign that it had affected him at all. When he looked at Roy, there was nothing but disgust, like he had asked for it. Like he deserved it.
He gave a grim smile. "Not much of a way to go, is it?" he raised his shoulders in a vague shrug. "I'm sorry, Roy. But you were a problem. You had to go away."
He tried an expression that looked like sympathy, but it didn't feel right. It faltered within seconds. Shrugging it off, he turned on his heel and swept from the hallway, his hands shoved in his pockets. He looked somber, even hurt, but it was not out of regret.
He was trying not to laugh.
Edward's eyes were closed, and he was certain they were bruised. He tasted blood in his mouth: the coppery scent making him retch, and tilting his head slightly to the side, he spat it to the floor. He got another one for that: a fist colliding with his jaw and snapping his head to the other side, and he blinked the stars from his eyes. He didn't even know what he was supposed to have done, any more.
Coming to think of it, the Fuhrer hadn't asked him any questions at all. Hadn't given him a chance to prove his innocence, or even confirm his guilt. He felt sick. Maybe this wasn't an interrogation at all. Maybe this was his execution.
The Fuhrer straightened up, inspecting his blood-stained knuckles for a moment, before averting his gaze to the young blond he had shackled to a small, wooden chair. His head was bowed: golden hair escaping its usual braid and cascading over his face, but Fuhrer Bradley wasn't satisfied. It was barely there, and the kid probably wasn't even aware of it, but Edward was smiling.
Scowling, he turned towards the soldier standing guard by the door, and gestured with a small flick of his hand that the two of them should leave. The soldier raised a hand in a brisk salute with the faintest hint of a smirk, and opened the door, leaving Edward alone and still bound to his chair. He didn't even bother to look up.
The door slammed to a close, and in the space of less than a second the soldier had shifted, revealing an androgynous figure with long, lime green hair, and a permanent look of contempt. He rested his hands on his hips and sighed heavily in mock-desperation, eyes fixed on the Fuhrer.
"What are we supposed to do with the pipsqueak now?" he demanded in a slow drawl. "Archer obviously did a half-assed job."
"Now Envy, he did as he was told," the Fuhrer chided with a small smirk. "It's no fault of his that Fullmetal knows how to put up a fight."
Envy's displeasure intensified. "We can't just let him go, Pride. As soon as he works out what the Stone's made of, he'll try to stop us. And we can't have that."
The Fuhrer was still smiling, even as Envy clenched his fists and looked about to strike him. "I have no intention of letting him go," he said simply. "Our Master will know what to do with him."
The next time the door of the squalid little dungeon was opened, it was by a woman: dark hair cut short, to the length of her chin, and wearing a long dress covering every possible inch of her body. Edward grimaced. She was wearing perfume. The pungent aroma made him feel nauseous, but it was better that the blood he could still taste.
He knew she was smiling without even looking. "Son of Hohenheim, I'm sorry it had to end this way. You could have been quite useful to us."
Edward blinked in an attempt to clear the fog from his mind. He knew that voice, he was certain he did. Drawing his strength, he raised his head and found himself looking into a pair of very familiar eyes, though now they were narrowed in malice. She almost looked...amused.
His eyes grew wide. "L-Lyra?"
Ignoring him completely, she held out the small, sleeping child in her arms, that Edward only then noticed she was carrying. He had grown weak with the constant torture, though he still felt the alchemic energy rushing towards them, the way the air pulsed and moved in a manner he'd always found intoxicating. He blinked.
The chains were gone. Everything, in fact, was gone, save for the enormous set of ornate doors he'd hoped never to see again. The Gate. What the Hell was he doing here again? Still, he counted his blessings, massaging his flesh wrist with a grimace. He wasn't sure how much longer he could have withstood those chains.
He whipped around so quickly his vertebrae cracked, and his jaw fell slack as he caught sight of the small body curled several feet from him. Alphonse had been crying: tracks of recent tears still staining his cheeks, and the sight was heartbreaking on the ten year old face Edward recalled so clearly from his childhood.
He tried to reach for him, but he had barely moved when the boy disappeared, morphing into an older, taller form: a woman with a smile Edward would never forget. Except, Trisha Elric wasn't smiling now. She was drenched with blood: limbs broken, incomplete, amber eyes gazing but never seeing.
Edward screamed, and she changed again.
Roy Mustang was lying in front of him: flesh tinged blue as his body heat escaped him, one eye indecipherable beneath blood and torn flesh. He didn't move, and Edward was certain he had been killed. At least, until he sat up with a grotesque cracking of bone, looked right at him with that one, onyx eye, and smirked: the furthest thing from a smile that the blond had ever seen.
"Gee, Ed," he mocked. "You screwed something else up. First, you got your brother stuck in a suit of armor-"
"Shut up!" Edward snarled, flesh and prosthetic hands shaking uncontrollably.
"And I just died trying to save your ass," he sneered. "I don't know why I even bothered. You're a curse. You'll never amount to anything but a killer."
"I said shut up!!"
And then, he was alone. Completely and utterly alone, without even the thousands of prying hands that lay beyond the Gate for company. He curled his knees to his chest, resting his chin upon them and fighting for each breath that passed his lips. He wanted to cry, but the tears wouldn't come. All he had for comfort was his mind taunting him, reminding him of what he had done, how he had failed.
He had no idea how long he was sitting there until Alphonse returned to him, until his mother pleaded for him to fix her, and Roy sneered and mocked him like he always did. It happened again, and again, and again. Had to happen. Because Edward was a sinner, a sinner who'd ruined lives and broken laws, and worst of all, allowed himself to be broken over and over until he couldn't even feel it any more, without so much as a word in protest.
And the Gate ensured that sinners could never escape their punishment.