Just to ford all of the comments beforehand…yes, I am still alive; yes, I will be continuing Indiana Elric?; no, I have not forgotten all of the favors I've promised people; and no, no one in my life has ever died or been badly hurt. Hopefully that takes care of all the little side comments you all plan to put in, lol.
Was trying a new writing style with this one…
Please read and review! I hope you enjoy it!
His heart pounds as he slides down the hill into the ditch—though he supposes it had been pounding this hard for awhile now. His raven eyes scan the brush for a long moment, searching wildly, praying vehemently.
"Why do I have to learn how to do this again?"
"Because you're of age and it will be more convenient for you in the long run."
"Hmph…you just want another chauffer to cart your lazy ass around…"
This can't be happening, he thinks to himself. This is all just a dream, and I'll wake up soon.
The crunched automobile that suddenly appears before him stops him cold. The fog swirling lazily about him almost convinces him that this is a dream, but his better judgment knows it to be otherwise. Fighting against the nausea, he races towards the car.
"Now, turn on the engine."
The car rumbled to life.
"Good. Now, slide her into drive and give her a little gas."
A few seconds later, the car lurched forward and then stopped, letting out an awful screech.
"I said a little gas, Fullmetal."
"Shut up, you bastard! I've never done this before!"
"That's no excuse! Now, just tease the pedal. Coax it. A car is like a woman, Fullmetal. You have to make sure you run her in the right way."
But the car rolled forward gently a second later…
He reaches the car. The metal is badly dented and twisted, and it lies on its roof. His heart in his throat, he falls to his belly and peers inside.
"Good, Fullmetal. You're doing fine."
"This isn't as hard as I thought it was going to be."
"You doubted me?"
He could sense the young man's smirk.
The sight of that familiar blonde head covered in blood makes him want to curl up and die. The boy is dangling limply from the seatbelt, eyes closed and skin pale.
"Edward?" he calls. "Can you hear me?"
The boy doesn't move. He wriggles closer to the car.
"Edward?" he calls a little louder.
Still nothing. He feels his chest tighten from the panic.
"Edward, please answer me!"
"What are you doing??"
"Fullmetal, where are you hands supposed to be?"
"…on the wheel?"
"Ten and two, Fullmetal!! Ten and two!! And where are your hands right now?"
"Keep both hands on the wheel!"
"You don't drive with both hands on the wheel!"
"I've been driving longer. You've been driving for five minutes, kid, and until you've been driving as long as I have, I expect your hands to be at the ten and two positions at all times!"
"Oh, so 'do as I say, not as I do', huh?"
"…Ten and two!!!"
"Alright! Alright, already!! Sheesh…"
"Edward?" he repeats, and suddenly, there comes a low groan in response.
"Edward? Can you hear me?"
The boy stirs slowly to life and coughs weakly. It is evident from his feeble movements that he is in immense pain, and the man's heart skips a beat. A broken bone? Internal bleeding? What could it be? In a moment, the questions are furthest from his mind as the boy presently and frantically becomes aware of his surroundings. His golden eyes shift about in a frenzy, panic streaking through them and causing them to widen. At first, he does not see the man peering through the driver window at him, and this causes him to cry out in fear, terrified by the thought of being alone and trapped in this place. Quickly, before the boy can injure himself further, the man calls the boy's name and slides part of the way into the vehicle, resting on his back. He catches the boy's left hand in his own, drawing him away from his anxiety.
"It's alright, Edward. Calm down. You're going to be fine."
The boy is visibly shaking, and tears start to well in his eyes.
"Colonel…oh, God…oh, God…" he whispers harshly, trying not to cry.
"It's okay," the man tries to calm, but soon the boy is weeping openly.
"I thought I was going to die!" he cries loudly. "I thought…I thought…!!"
"You're alright. You're okay. Calm down. It's okay."
But the boy is too frightened, and his hysteria continues to grow until he begins to physically choke upon it.
"Edward, calm down," the man gently but firmly commands.
"I can't breathe!" the boy nearly shrieks, grabbing for the shoulder strap on his seatbelt and trying to pull it away from his throat. It is clear that he feels strangled and trapped, his movements like a captured animal as he struggles and squirms around in a frantic effort to get free. With no immediate freedom forthcoming, he lets out a cry of frustration, anxiety level rising, but his actions only serve to further ensnare him in the entangled seatbelt. The result of this is to panic him further, and a vicious cycle of panic begins to ensue.
"Edward, stop it!" the man shouts, and the boy freezes in surprise, a strangled gasp escaping his throat. He stares down at the man in wide-eyed, blatant fear, biting his lip in effort to keep his tears back.
"Now, listen to me. You need to stay calm, do you understand? Getting upset isn't going to help. We need to have clear heads if we're going to get you out of here, okay?"
The boy whimpers, but he nods a moment later and gulps, trying to calm his racing heart.
"Okay, now put your hands down here. You can hold yourself better."
The other complies, putting his gloved hands down on either side of the man's head and supporting himself from below, lifting the pressure off his throat and off the seatbelt. It's a tight space between the man and the boy—tighter, still, because of how twisted and crunched the vehicle's frame has become—and the man feels the boy's tears drip onto his face as the boy mentally relives that horrible moment when he thought he was going to die. The man doesn't mind the tears, knowing that they are necessary. He lets the boy cry for a few minutes, realizing that they must wait until the boy is ready before they can move forward.
"Alright," he says, voice once again quiet and soothing. "Take a deep breath and try to calm down."
The youth draws in a few shaky breaths, and eventually reduces his distress to gentle weeping.
"You're alright," the man says, eyeing the shaking arms on either side of his head and hearing the raggedness in the boy's breath. "Everything's okay."
In a few moments, the boy calms enough so that the man is confident that they can make their next move.
"Okay, Edward, I need you to see if you can release the seat belt. Can you do that for me?"
"I…I think so…"
"You think so?"
"Yeah, what of it?"
"This isn't a matter of 'thinking so', Fullmetal. You can either do it, or you can't. So, can you do it or not?"
"You can't hesitate, Fullmetal. Decide now. Can you pass the test or not?"
"I've only had one lesson!!! How the hell should I know??"
"I thought you were a quick study. You're always constantly reminding me about that."
"Shut up, you bastard!!"
"Can you do it or not??"
"Alright then. You get to drive home."
"Really. But, Fullmetal?"
"Where are your hands supposed to be?"
"…ten and two…"
"I…I can't get to it!"
The man snaps back to reality in enough time to catch the anguish in the boy's voice.
"No. It's trapped between the seats!"
For the first time, the man realizes how badly the car has been crushed. The entire middle section of the vehicle is folded completely in half, crushing driver side and passenger side together, evidence of frighteningly strong impact.
"Okay, that's okay. Stay calm."
The boy puts his right arm back down onto the roof in defeat.
"What are we going to do?" he moans, voice thick with sobs.
"I…let me think for a second."
While the man takes a moment to think, he suddenly detects a strange sound coming from the boy, and realizes shortly after that the boy has given himself quite an epidemic of hiccups as a result of all of his crying. He can tell the boy is trying to keep them as quiet as possible so as not to distract, but the man can't help but smirk a bit.
"What?" the boy finally asks.
"Nothing. I just noticed the hiccups."
The boy tries a shaky smile, but can't hold it for very long. The seatbelt biting into his hips serves a constant reminder of the whole incident, and he feels himself teetering on the edge of another breakdown. Yet, with every successive hiccup he emits, the man's grin widens a little more.
"Stop it," the boy tells him, embarrassed. This is part of the reason why he hates to cry. Somehow or another he always gets hiccups afterwards.
"Sorry. I just think it's funny."
"What's so funny about it?"
"It's just funny how badly you try to play the 'bad boy' and the 'cool kid', and you go and cry over a little thing like a flu shot."
"Hey! Those things hurt, okay?? It's not natural!! I can immunize myself against the flu just fine, thanks!"
"Their just needles, Fullmetal."
"They should not be going into my body!! Period!!"
"Mind your hands, Fullmetal."
"Goddamn, you're so anal retentive about that!"
"If you mess up now, it's my life on the line, you know."
"I have perfect control over the vehicle!"
"You may think so, but I'd rather not chance that."
"Ten and two, Fullmetal. That's an order."
"Goddammit, you freak…"
But the young man listened.
"Edward? Are you listening?"
The boy's trembling has increased, along with his breathing rate, alerting the man that all is not well. Sure enough, the tears come back. The boy grows slightly infuriated with himself because he cannot figure out why he will not stop crying, but he gives into his tears none-the-less, weeping anew.
"What's wrong?" the man asks, genuinely concerned. He'd thought they had been making some good progress, and this total reversion back into despair alarms him slightly.
"I had my hands at ten and two, Colonel."
The pleading tone in the boy's voice, as if he were trying to apologize for some transgression, stops the man for a moment until everything comes into focus. He stiffens nervously as he realizes that the boy blames himself for the carnage of the car around him.
"I had them at ten and two," the boy insists, voice raspy with tears, and the broken edge on his voice nearly breaks the man's heart. He reaches up and grips the upper part of the boy's left arm.
"I know you did, Ed. I know you did. It's not your fault. You did just fine."
A sob escapes the boy, broken up only by his hiccups, which would be amusing if this were any other situation. The man only stares up at in him in sympathy, silently supporting him with the reassuring grip on the boy's arm.
"I really thought I was dead!"
"They just came out of nowhere, and I thought…I thought…"
"Shhhhh, it's alright now. It's okay. Please calm down, Ed. I have a plan, but I need you to stop crying so that I can explain it, okay?"
The boy takes a moment to collect himself, and in a few moments, he calms to a gentle weeping again, still hiccupping with abandon.
"Okay," he says when he feels he is ready.
"Okay. Here's the plan; I'm going to have to cut apart the seatbelt. At your angle, you wouldn't know where to aim the alchemy, and mine could explode the whole car…"
The boy whimpers at the notion, and the man puts up a hand.
"This is why I'm not going to do any such thing. So, I'm going to have to cut you loose."
"Okay," the boy agrees.
"Here's the problem, though; I have to cut by the buckle, and I can't see that too well."
The boy stiffens a little, nervous at the idea. Meanwhile, the man produces a pocketknife.
"Do you trust me?" he says, staring the boy in the eyes. The boy doesn't hesitate, but nods in total confirmation even before the question fully leaves the man's mouth.
"Okay," the man says, trying to feign confidence, but he's just as nervous as the boy is, fearful of any potential slip.
"Ed, you have to hold really, really still for me. Can you do that?"
"Yes," the boy answers weakly, throat constricting. He badly wants to get out of this wreck as fast as possible, and the man can clearly see it in his golden eyes.
"Okay. Here we go."
The man reaches across and grabs a section of seatbelt with his right hand. He guides the knife to the spot with his left, waiting until he can feel the flat of the steel against his right thumb, and then he slowly begins to saw away at the thickly woven material. The man makes good progress, and he only accidentally pokes the boy once with the dull tip of the knife, eliciting a small squeak, but the boy immediately goes rigid again and allows the man to work.
Finally, after what seems like an eternity, the two perceive a loud ripping noise. The man feels the seatbelt slide out of his hand, and the boy feels it drop away from his waist.
"Okay," the man says, voice holding more confidence than before. He grabs a hold of the shoulder strap—the last thing keeping the boy trapped within the vehicle—and pulls it as far from the boy's chest as possible.
"Can you slide out under this?" he asks, and the boy nods, carefully and slowly slipping down and under the strap. He winces several times, and the man suspects broken ribs.
"Okay, now slide down on top of me."
The boy hesitates.
"It's okay. Come on."
The boy does as he is bid, and he comes down to rest on the man's chest. The man puts an arm around him and helps support his weight as the boy slides his legs free from the steering wheel and dashboard. When the boy's entire body is free, he rolls himself off the man's body and to the side and lays there gasping for air for a moment. The blood loss he has no doubt suffered is obviously beginning to take a toll on him.
"Anything broken?" the man asks. The boy instinctively puts a hand to his left side.
"Ribs, I think. They hurt pretty bad. And my head is killing me."
The man nods knowingly.
After a few minutes, the man turns his attention to the next problem.
"We're going to have to slide over broken glass to get out the window. Do you think you'll be okay?"
The boy looks fearfully at the man, as if he is afraid the man will leave him.
"What do you mean?" he finally manages to rasp out.
"I mean, do you think you'll be okay sliding over glass."
The man knows he cannot possibly leave the boy here in this state. Immense relief spreads over the boy's face.
"Yeah, I'll be fine. Hell, I survived a car accident! What's a little more glass?"
The boy tries a weak laugh, but it's tentative at best. The man smirks and then starts to slide forward. It is difficult, being on his back in such a tight space, but he manages. Once out, he rolls onto his stomach and reaches back into the car for the boy. The other clasps the outstretched hands without hesitation, and, as gently as possible, the man pulls him through the window. The boy winces several times during the process, and as he passes over the bump of twisted frame he cries out, but he bites his lip immediately and quiets, determined not to show his pain. Finally, he is completely free of the wreckage and lies upon the soft earth in the ditch.
The man sits down beside him, letting out the breath he didn't know he'd been holding. He happens to glance over at the boy and notices he's crying again, body trembling as he hugs himself close. Feeling a pang shoot through his chest, he reaches over and pushes back some of the boy's blood streaked blonde hair.
"It's okay. It's over now. You made it."
Soon, the sounds of ambulance sirens fill the air, drowning out any more comforting words the man might have offered.
"You made it," he reiterates softly to himself.
"Now, as reward to risking my life, you get to polish my fenders for two whole months."
"And, you have to wash the car every two weeks during that time."
"You rotten bastard!!"
"It's always imperative to have a fully rounded experience of something, Fullmetal."
"Ha ha…but in all seriousness, Fullmetal, congratulations. You've officially made it into the world of adults."
"Colonel Mustang?" calls a voice. The man looks up to see a young paramedic standing beside him.
"Colonel, we'll take it from here. If you'll come with us?"
He notices that the boy is already on a gurney and is being loaded into an ambulance. He stands up and follows the paramedic to the other ambulance, noticing for the first time the ache in his head.
He finds himself shoved to the corner of the hospital room as his louder colleagues press forward towards the bed, frantic with worry over the boy. The boy assures them that he's just fine thanks to the man, which brings him back to attention. His colleagues slap him gratefully on the shoulder, and he wishes they wouldn't, knows they shouldn't. He is glad when their attention shifts back to the boy, and when they aren't looking, he quietly slips out into the hallway under the cover of a particularly loud burst of laughter from the group.
Once away from them, he lets go of the breath he's been holding since he's arrived and slides down the wall to the floor. He keeps his knees up to his chest, sitting in a half-crouching position he hasn't used since he was a small child. He watches people move past them, idly wondering if they know, if they are judging him.
Apparently, his absence has not gone completely unnoticed, for the door to the boy's room opens and a woman steps out. For a moment she is confused, wondering where he has gone, until she sees him sitting on the floor and stares down at him inquiringly.
"Colonel? Is everything alright?"
He gives a smile he's sure is as hollow as it feels.
"Of course, Lieutenant. Why wouldn't it be?"
Her amber eyes stare at him for a long, long moment, and he's quite sure she's figured it out, and for only the briefest moment, he entertains the thought of fleeing. But he is not a man accustomed to flight, and chooses instead to stay and face her assessment.
He doesn't have long to wait.
"Colonel…how did you get to the wreck so quickly?"
He stares at the floor, hesitating.
"You were there long before the paramedics. And you have a bruise on your temple."
He nods agreeably as she puts the pieces together out loud.
"Sir? How did you know where to find Edward?"
He waits another moment before looking up at her and giving her a shaky, self-loathing smile.
"Because, Lieutenant…I'm the one who almost killed him tonight."