One Year, Six and a Half Months (part 3)


The sound of a ringing telephone jarred Roy Mustang awake. He blinked a couple of times, rubbing his eyes, glancing automatically at the alarm clock. The dim lighting in his bedroom let him know more than the barely-seen arms of the clock that it had to be early morning, probably close when he'd normally be shutting off the alarm. The telephone jangled again, reminding him of what had woken him, and he reached for the receiver. "Mustang," he said thickly.

"Brigadier General Mustang, I am sorry to disturb you, however a telephone call came in for your attention." The voice wasn't one he recognized, but Roy knew from the officious way of speaking, it had to be someone from the military's telephone banks.

"Thank you," he mumbled. "Is there a message, or am I being connected to someone?"

"A message, sir."

Roy fumbled on the night stand, turning on the light and finding the pen and pad he kept under it. "I'm ready," he said. He took down the telephone number, and the name. "Captain Hattenbach?" he repeated the name.

"Yes, sir. Captain Hattenbach. She said it's in regard to someone in your command."

"Thank you," he said, "I'll take care of it."

"Again, sir, I'm sorry to have woken you," the voice said, and rang off.

Sitting up, Roy rubbed his eyes, wiping the sleep from them. He didn't recognize the name Hattenbach, but that didn't necessarily mean anything. His recollections didn't bring to mind any of his men planning a debauched evening out, and Havoc and Breda were pretty vocal about things like that. Reading over the telephone number brought on a frown. It wasn't local.

Only one of his command was out of the Central City area, and that one was supposed to be on his way to Dublith. Roy picked up the receiver, dialing the numbers. The operator came on the line and promised to connect the call. A few clicks and hums later, a woman's voice came on the line, sounding more than a little harried. "Sondem Police Station," she said, and a dull roar came through from the background.

Roy blinked, trying to place Sondem in the map of Amestris he carried in his head. The name didn't sound at all familiar. "Brigadier General Roy Mustang," he said, "I was told I have a message from a Captain Hattenbach."

"One moment, please, Brigadier General." Her harried voice was replaced by another click and a hum, and then another woman's voice came on the line. "This is Captain Hattenbach," she said in clipped tones that didn't belong in the South Area. To Roy's ears, she sounded more like someone Olivier Armstrong might've served with in Briggs.

"Captain Hattenbach, Brigadier General Roy Mustang. I received a request to contact you regarding someone in my command." He hesitated for a split second. "Are these lines secure?"

"As secure as we can make them, Brigadier General," Hattenbach said dryly.

"First, Captain, I appreciate you not using any names. I'd like to continue that. I understand you have something of mine in your care?"

"Yes, sir, I do." From the way her voice went drier still, Roy knew whatever the circumstances that had brought Edward to the attention of the officials of Sondem, they weren't good.

"I'll be sending someone to collect the item, Captain. In the mean time, I appreciate your time and effort in contacting me."

"Just doing my job, sir," Hattenbach replied, though she warmed up slightly at the thanks.

"Someone will be in contact with you shortly, Captain." Roy thanked her again, and replaced the receiver in its cradle. Digging his fingers into his hair, he huffed, "Edward, you're being such an idiot." Getting out of bed, he dressed himself quickly, and caught the receiver up to make a call. Even as she spoke her greeting, Roy was saying, "Hawkeye, yes, I'm aware of the time. I need to know the telephone number for Miss Rockbell's shop."

Was that a hesitation on her part? "Has something happened with Edward?"

"Yes," Roy growled softly. "He's in the care of the Sondem Police Office, under a Captain Hattenbach."

"Sondem?" Hawkeye didn't sound like she recognized the name of the town, either. "I will need to locate Winry's number, sir."

"Excellent. I'll call a car, and pick you up on the way to the train station." Roy pulled his static gloves from the drawer of the nightstand. "I'll spring for breakfast, even."

"Sir?"

"Someone has to go retrieve the idiot puppy," Roy said. "I figure you're better at keeping track of him than anyone."

She sounded almost as dry as Hattenbach as she said, "I've certainly had the training for looking after idiot puppies."

Roy grinned, knowing all too well Hawkeye wasn't talking about her dog. "You have my permission to wipe the floor with him, Hawkeye."

"Thank you, sir, but it'd probably make more of an impression coming from Winry."

"We can discuss that on the way to the train station. I'll see you in approximately twenty minutes." Roy broke the connection with that and dialed the motor pool, requesting a car to pick him up as soon as possible. With his rank, that meant it wouldn't be very long before a vehicle was idling outside his tiny military house, and he'd better hurry if he was going to get in touch with Havoc to let him know what was going on.


"Where the hell is he?" Fury made Winry want to stomp her feet like a kid or even throw a wrench into the wall. Edward's bedroom was empty, his suitcase missing. She'd knocked on his door around seven in the morning to wake him up, get him breakfast before the train left for Dublith, only to find rumpled sheets, no suitcase, and a single left shoe half under the bed.

Izumi looked over her shoulder, studying the room for a second before crossing it and pushing up the window. "The screen's missing," she said, leaning halfway out the opening and picking it up. Mud coated the rim, and Izumi's lip curled. "He went out the window?"

"Because the doors all have bells on them," Winry groaned, slapping her forehead. "We would've heard him leaving otherwise."

Sig's footsteps made the floor tremble under her feet. "I called the train station. Ed was there late last night. The ticket seller recognized my description."

Fists clenching, Izumi snapped, "That idiot!"

"Where is he going?" Winry turned to Sig.

"Central City," he said. "I told him to hold three tickets for the next train."

Her mouth tightened and Winry glanced sideways. Edward needed someone to kick his ass, but, "I have my other customers."

"Don't worry." Izumi made a fist and cracked her knuckles. "We'll go get him. You can keep working."

Sig's huge hand landed on her shoulder, giving it a squeeze. "Once we get to Dublith with him, we'll call you, and you can come there. Like we planned."

"Yeah." Winry knew she was right; knew that Izumi and Sig could take care of Edward. Besides, she had other customers who needed her. Sucking her lower lip between her teeth, she wondered if Edward might need her more.


Cold.

Edward frowned, turning his head slightly. Harsh light seeped in through the seams of his eyelids, making his eyes ache. What the fuck had happened last night? He couldn't remember what Josie and he had been doing. Had they gone to the bar? His head pounded in time with his pulse, disrupting his thoughts when he tried to gather them together. It felt like he'd start to have some conclusive memory, then ba-boom! It shattered in the pulse of pain.

A clatter intruded, making his head ache worse. Groaning, Edward rolled, trying to pull his pillow over his ears. No pillow, no soft mattress, no warm body next to him. Instead, his arms rattled and his nose crashed into a wall, making him curse and jerk, his balance lost when he tumbled off the edge of the cot. The floor reached up to smack him, hard enough to make him lose his breath. His stomach clenched around itself, like a hot stone lodged deep in his gut. Swallowing hard, he tried to keep his body under control, knowing it was a losing battle.

Edward spat bile. He could almost swear his nose hairs were burning from the stench of his vomit. Everything around him swayed for a second, and he started to reach out his hands to help keep his balance, but his right hand went along with his left. Stocks encased his wrists, holding his hands prisoner. As his tearing eyes cleared, Edward realized a wooden dummy foot poked out from the left leg of his pants. Oh, fuck. Everything came crashing back – the hospital stay; the train ride south from Central City to Rush Valley; breaking into Winry's medicine cabinet. Shit! He started to rub his temples, only to smack himself in the forehead with the stocks. Stars exploded in his eyes for a few seconds, and Edward was hard pressed not to vomit again.

Gaining some faint semblance of control over his body, he blinked his eyes clear enough to study his current whereabouts. Concrete floor, partial walls and ceiling, with a lone window high overhead letting in a pale, diffuse light. When he swung his head carefully, Edward saw bars making up the rest of the walls with a corridor and more bars beyond that. A man stared at him blankly from across the way, trapped in his own cell. What the hell did I do? Edward wondered, racking his brains, trying to remember. Yeah, stealing from Winry's medicine, that hadn't been the greatest idea, but, he passed his dry tongue over his lips, he'd needed the laudanum to keep from hearing the voices.

From hearing Al. Edward shuddered, trying not to think how Alphonse would react to seeing him like this. It doesn't matter, he reminded himself fiercely, cuttingly, Al's dead. He can't see anything any more.

With a muted groan, Edward turned his thoughts elsewhere. He pressed his hands against the hard surface of the cot, using its steadiness to help him get to his feet. The acrid scent of urine and feeling of wet fabric against his thighs let him know he wouldn't need to use the head any time soon. A part of him knew he ought to be disgusted with himself, running away from the people who were only trying to help him, but Edward ignored it to sit down on the cot, the weight of his head pulling him horizontal. He remembered it'd been impossible to get comfortable while wearing stocks in Briggs. This time was even worse, since his left leg, for all intents and purposes, was gone, and what replaced it was a nearly inanimate hunk of wood.

Edward closed his eyes against the continuous pain in his head, dreading what might come next. The drugs he'd stolen were seeping out of his body; carried by his sweat and piss. His body trembled, heralding the beginning of his crash. A slow, dull throb reminded him his arm and fingers were still healing, as well as his ribs. He'd hauled himself out of a window in the rain, and that whatever else had happened last night, he'd pushed his body too hard in an attempt to escape. Look where that got him.

A tingling began in his left big toe. Edward swallowed, his breathing shallow, eyes still closed, trying to ride out the phantom pain from his left leg. Automail kept him from feeling the sensations that often came with a missing limb, but now that Winry'd taken his leg – damn her! – he'd have to deal with this on top of his queasiness and shakes. He wondered if someone would come and check on him soon. He wondered how he'd gotten here. Again.

"Hey, buddy."

Ignoring the voice outside his head, Edward stubbornly kept his eyes closed. The window had to be facing the east, the way the light crawled down the wall. Or maybe there was a window in the cell opposite his that was illuminating his skull like a spotlight shining through his eye sockets. Fuck. Maybe he should go under the cot. It'd be cooler there, on the floor, and the light wouldn't be frying his brain.

"Buddy, are you an alchemist?"

Something about that voice cut through Edward's spinning thoughts. Possibly the sibilant hiss to the last syllable of the question, reminding him of the way Truth spoke. Maybe someone actually asking him what he was, who he was. Notoriety was almost as good as fame, after all. But Edward didn't really want to make small talk, not with his head beating like a drum. The thought of aspirin twisted his gut into tighter knots. He automatically brought his arm up, realizing when his automail arm got jerked, too, that he couldn't block the sunlight with his arm. If he rolled onto his side, he could block part of it with the stocks, he realized, but moving seemed like a hell of a lot of trouble. Edward wasn't sure if his stomach would cooperate with moving, anyway.

"Psst. Buddy. I know you can hear me!"

Edward squeezed his eyes even more tightly closed, even though it made his lashes ache. He remembered getting on the train, and taking a nip from the bottle. After that, everything was gone. Now, he didn't even know what town he was in. His head felt like it was trapped in one of Winry's vices, and the jaws were closing ever more tightly on his skull, squeezing out all ability to even think. He knew he'd been heading back to Central City, and Josie, but beyond that, a haze coated his memories.

Why the hell couldn't it cover up the memories of Al?

Something rattled along, the sound hammering against Ed's ears. He whined, curling up as best he could, the wooden leg refusing to bend; the stocks digging into his wrists. His stomach twisted again, and he breathed through his teeth, trying to keep from vomiting.

"Hey!"

The shout reverberated inside his skull. Edward squeezed his eyes even more tightly closed, ignoring the headache that brought on, trying to ignore the voice even when it announced its presence again. A man's voice, from the timbre, though really, he didn't care. At least it was coming from outside his head, he thought, wishing he could burrow deep into something and hide out there until the pain in his body settled.

"You, boy." The voice went silky and officious. "Lieutenant Colonel."

Yes, that was definitely his title. Edward didn't want to move, though. If he ignored the voice, the man it belonged to would go away, right? The thought flitted through his mind that Alphonse would be disappointed if he didn't speak up. He ignored that, too. Alphonse was dead, and now, Winry had to hate him, too. He could go to Central City, and he and Josie would…would be all right, he thought. They'd figure out a way to make things work out, and they'd be okay.

"Someone's coming for you," the voice went on.

Edward stiffened. That wasn't what he wanted to hear. Oh, hell, if Winry came. Or Izumi. He gritted his teeth, ignoring the additional flare of pain that brought on.

The man laughed, as if that was the reaction he expected, and with the same rattling noise, he seemed to leave. Good, Ed thought, trying to relax as much as he could on the damp cot. His clothes itched where he'd pissed himself, and the stink of vomit still rose rankly in his nostrils. He couldn't clean himself up; couldn't do much of anything with the stocks on his wrists. His left leg began aching, even though it didn't exist. The pain rolled up from his nonexistent toes all the way to his hip, worse than any storm-induced aches he'd dealt with in the past. Stomach twisting again, Edward hung his head over the side of the cot, bile stringing out of his mouth. He fell back with a groan, throat and nose burning, his gut still roiling.

"Hey!" someone shouted at him again. "Lieutenant Colonel!"

Edward used the stocks to block the light. He wished he could cover his ears to blot out the sounds around him, but that wouldn't do anything for the sounds inside his head. God didn't want him, Edward knew, but now, he was just drifting into hell.