Strands of Nightmares
D M Evans
Disclaimer - not mine, all characters belong to Hiromu Arakawa et al, Square Enix and funimition. I don't make a profit
Rating – PG-13
Pairing – Ed/Winry, Roy/Riza,
Time Line – manga based, future fic, based heavily on the dark future Riza predicted should Roy attain his goals. Spoilers for manga beyond #38.
Summary – It should have been a time of great happiness but fate is rarely kind
Warning – apparent character death
It wasn't supposed to be like this. Al wondered how it all had gone to hell. He had always imagined getting his body back as a joyous occasion and it was for a brief period of time. Even the fact that Ed didn't get back his limbs hadn't dampened Al's joy nor Edward's.
However, it hadn't taken things long to go horribly wrong. When the parliamentary soldiers came, Al had wanted to fight them but Roy and Ed stopped him. Ed explained to Al all the frightening things Riza had confided in him, things that were now coming to pass.
Things happened so quickly that Al felt like he were trapped in the strands of an ugly nightmare. The Parliament formed. The army shifted to their control. State Alchemists were disbanded and those old enough to have been in Ishbal were arrested. Mustang had made Ed resign before it all started. Al knew Ed was safe enough even without that step. He wouldn't face what Armstrong and Mustang did, having been a mere boy during Ishbal.
Armstrong was eventually cleared of charges based on his insubordination during Ishbal. Mustang, on the other hand, was going to be the public display of retribution and justice to soothe the Ishbalans.
Al had thrown up for two days when he heard the news. Ed denied crying but Al didn't believe him. Whatever else, they both knew Mustang was a good man and that he had fought for this new country even though he knew the price to be paid. After the emotional pain faded, the brothers got angry. When they went to see Mustang in the stockade, they found their angry ideas fit his.
"It's too beautiful a day for this." Armstrong's deep voice rumbled in Al's ear, shaking him from his miserable memories.
He glanced up at the disgraced alchemist. Tears stood in Armstrong's big blue eyes. Al had to force his gaze away before he lost control. "No day is good for this," Al said caustically, fixing his gaze on Hawkeye who stood just a head of them on the grassy rise. Al didn't want to get any closer to the proceedings than this. He felt so weak that he wasn't sure he could do what he needed to.
"Al! Al! There you are. I never thought I'd find you in this mess. What's wrong with these people? Who would camp out for days to see this?" A feminine voice asked, each word a nugget of pain.
Al whipped around, his pony tail slapping him in the face. That was Winry's voice but that couldn't be. She could not be here but she was. "What are you doing here? Why did you come?" He took a step back as she vaulted into his arms. Al hugged her tightly. "You shouldn't have come." He didn't want Winry exposed to what he knew was coming. It was too horrible a thing for her.
"They can't kill him," she gasped against his neck.
Al ran a hand down her back, her hair soft against his hands. "Go back to your hotel, Winry. Get on the train and get out of here," he mumbled into her hair. "You shouldn't see this."
"I had to be here for you and Ed." Winry pulled away from, wiping tears from her face. "Where's Ed?"
His heart ached. Al looked back at Armstrong who shook his head. There was no time to get rid of Winry now. "He's with Mr. Mustang. They allowed him one friend to make the walk with him. They probably felt safer with Ed where they could see him."
"He'll be up there...when..." Winry shuddered, brushing a hand over her eyes, then spotted Hawkeye's back. "Someone should be with Miss Hawkeye. She shouldn't be alone for this." Winry's voice was so small and lost Al didn't know how to handle it.
His eyes flicked over to Hawkeye who stood alone, her coat wrapped tightly around her. It looked out of place, since the day was barely cool enough to warrant it. "Stay with me, Winry," he whispered, knowing he couldn't let her get near Riza.
She nodded, trying to tuck into him. Al didn't hold her. He needed his hands free and the guilt over denying her that comfort tore at him. Al couldn't stop his shaking as Roy was led out and onto the platform. Al was surprised by the serene look on the alchemist's face; if the crowd wanted fear, they'd be disappointed. Ed's expression, on the other hand, was barely leashed rage. He turned his golden glare out on the crowd who had come to see the executions, another public gesture; an overture to the Ishbalans of whom Al noticed only a handful of in the crowd. Maybe they had had enough of blood, he mused. One man's death couldn't fix all that had been taken from them. It just added to the toll.
Hearing Winry sniffling, Al patted her back, wishing she hadn't felt compelled to be with him and his brother on this day. Ed and Roy seemed to be looking straight at him. There was so little time left. With one smooth move, Riza tossed off her coat, revealing a rifle. She had the weapon shouldered and had drawn a bead before Al could register it was happening. The rifle cracked and Roy dropped like a stone.
The crowd screamed and people started darting all over. Ed and Falman dove for Roy. Before the crowd could surge back towards Riza - the guards too far away to be of any use since they had been stationed near the platform - she dropped the rifle and pulled her pistol. Al watched her press the muzzle between her breasts. Winry screamed 'no!' in his ear but Al didn't let it distract him. When he saw Riza's finger tighten on the trigger, Al's palms met. He winced as the gun roared and Riza fell. Winry raced forward but Al caught her, pulling her away from all the blood pooling around Riza.
"Don't look, Winry. Don't look," he said, trying to shield her.
"Let me try to help her, Al!" She struggled against him. Winry was used to blood but Al knew how fond she was of Riza even if she didn't know her well. He didn't want her to see this.
"It's too late Miss Rockbell," Armstrong said, scooping Riza up in his massive arms. He whirled and ran like a bull, the crowd parting in front of him.
Al knew Armstrong could handle things from here. He put his arms around Winry, feeling her tears soaking into his shirt. Over her shoulder, he could see Falman and Breda carrying Mustang's body away from the platform, Ed making a spearhead through the crowd, roughly if he had to, while Fuery brought up the rear. There was already an ambulance waiting near the platform, assigned to transport the body when the execution was over. Seeing Armstrong reaching it, Al knew that it would transport two bodies. He tugged Winry along, the crowd getting dangerous.
She paused at the pool of blood, the smell of gun powder still in the air. "This wasn't right, Al. The new government was supposed to make things better. How is this better?"
"I don't know," he replied flatly. As far as he was concerned, the parliament should have done more to protect its former soldiers. Mustang hadn't wanted to do the things he had been commanded to do. "I'm taking you back to our hotel room. It's too dangerous out here."
Winry didn't protest. Al got her home without incident and let her cry herself to sleep on Ed's bed. He crumpled up on his, shaking so hard it hurt. Time stretched, seeming impossibly long before Ed came home. His face was swollen on one side where someone had most likely hit him during the confusion after Riza had shot Roy. Ed looked like he had aged twenty years. He stopped, seeing Winry there. His pupils dilated and his nostrils flared as a quake hit him.
"What the hell?"
"She arrived just as it all started. I tried to get her to go but..." Al ran a hand through his hair. "We should tell her."
Ed shook his head sitting on the bed next to Winry. "You know we can't. It's not safe, not yet. Damn it."
At the loud curse, Winry woke up. "Oh...Ed...there's blood on you." She reached, not for the bruise on his face, but the spatter of Mustang's blood on his shirt. "Are they..."
Ed nodded. "Dr. Knox pronounced them both dead. They're in his care now," he said, gentling his tone.
Al thought about what that meant. It had been a lucky thing to have Knox as Central's coroner. "I'm sorry you had to be here for this Winry."
"Why did you come?" Ed asked, too weary to be angry with her.
She hugged him. "I didn't want you to be alone with this."
Ed just held her for a moment. No one said anything more. What was there to say?
"Ed, Al, wake up!" Winry's distressed voice cut through the brothers' slumber. Al sat up in time to see Ed's hand fumbling for Winry on the mattress and finding only cool empty space. She had shared the bed with him all night, albeit platonically and Al suspected that would have been the case even if he wasn't lying on the second bed in their hotel room. No one was feeling romantic. Any hopes Al had had that his brother would finally admit to his feelings for Winry had fizzled in the chaotic aftermath of the war. Maybe now that it was all over...
"What's wrong?" Al asked.
Winry tossed the newspaper onto the bed with Ed and pointed at the head line. "Someone stole Mr. Mustang and Miss Hawkeye's bodies. Who would do such a thing?" she asked horrified and the brothers tried to muster up surprised expressions. "Why isn't someone doing something?"
"I'm sure they are," Ed said soothingly as he sat up on the bed.
"What if they're doing terrible things to the bodies? It's not fair," Winry sobbed, tears trickling down her face. Ed held out his arms to her.
"Winry, it might not have been their enemies who took them." It hurt Al to see Winry this upset. He had to do something for her.
"Who else would?" she asked, folding up against Ed.
"It could be Mustang's men," Ed said, rubbing her back. "So no one would mess with the body in retaliation."
"I'm betting Ed's right, Winry," Al interjected, thankful for Ed's quick intellect and his ability to pick up on Al's thoughts. "If it was anything else, they'd want to make a statement with the bodies and we'd already know what happened to them."
Winry wiped her eyes. "I hope you're right." She took a deep breath. "What now?"
"We go home," Ed said and she looked at him in shock. "Mustang's men are getting together tonight for a private ceremony. Al and I will take you and then we'll go home to Resembool. I don't know what we'll do then but Al and I deserve a rest." Ed waved his brother over.
Al sat on the bed with them, putting his arms around Winry and Ed. "We've already spoken to Granny. We'll stay with you for a while until we find a place to live. I know it looks terrible now but life will get better."
"It didn't solve anything," Winry whispered, still thinking on the execution. She shifted in the brothers' arms. "You are too thin, Al. You stay with us until you're better at the very least."
Al smiled gently. All that time beyond the gate had taken a toll. His body was smaller than it should be and painfully thin. He still tired out easily. It was a small price to pay for all he and his brother had done. "I'd like that Winry. I want to go home," Al said and didn't need to be told that's what they all wanted. He knew that within twenty four hours home was where they all would be and maybe then things would get better. He only wished he were free to tell Winry everything.