((A/N: Just a silly, sorta angsty one-shot... Enjoy.))
Maes turned his eyes heavenward, looking up at the almost-full moon that lit his path. Thank goodness it was bright tonight because—even with the intermittent streetlamps lining the pleasantly cool residential street—he was finding it increasingly difficult to find his footing on the half-shadowed sidewalk.
...Well, really, he was finding it increasingly difficult to find Roy's footing for him, since he was hopelessly distracted with other, clearly more important concerns than keeping himself from falling flat on his face.
Or running into a mailbox.
He'd done that twice, now.
"Because... because—Heeey, you listenin'?" Roy slurred, turning mid-stride to shoot Maes an accusing glare and nearly plowing into a parked car in the process. Maes grabbed him by the collar of his uniform again and steered him back onto the sidewalk.
"Yeah, I'm listening," Maes chuckled, more amused that he could possibly put into words. He was having one of the most entertaining nights that he'd had in a long time, in spite of—or perhaps because of—the fact that he was practically babysitting his unbelievably intoxicated best friend while still half drunk himself. He shouldn't have let Roy have those last two—or three—drinks, but... oh... this was so worth it. And, to be honest, Roy needed this.
Roy had been having a bad day. A bad week, really.
On Monday there had been some sort of crisis with the budget in Roy's department due to a error made several months ago—something about a miscalculation that related to Edward's frequent invoices demanding reimbursement for traveling expenses... Maes wasn't too sure on what the actual issue was... something about a decimal place being in the wrong spot... But, whatever the case, the problem had required Roy to work some massive overtime before it was actually solved.
On Tuesday there had been a surprise inspection of Roy's office and personnel. While this was not something that Roy would typically worry about—since his office was always reasonably organized and his staff was usually impeccable—this unexpected assessment of his workspace came at a bad time. With his desk still a disaster zone from ignoring paperwork all day yesterday to rectify the budget fuck-up, and then with the added pleasantness of Master Sergeant Fuery breaking rank to run to the bathroom and vomit—since, you see, he'd gotten food poisoning that very morning after eating some questionable sausage for breakfast—the inspection did not go very well at all.
On Wednesday morning while Havoc was driving him to work, some jackass who couldn't watch where he was going rear-ended them, forcing Havoc to ram the car into a telephone poll... which meant that all the phone-lines in the area went down, including those in Roy's home. Everyone involved in the car accident was okay for the most part, though Roy did suffer some minor whiplash and the back of his neck had been stiff and sore ever since... not to mention that the military car was now rather dented at both ends.
On Thursday the phone-lines were still down, which caused Roy to miss his morning wake-up call from Maes. He ended up not waking up until Havoc came pounding on his front door to take him to work in a different company car that sputtered and stalled just about all the way to HQ. And then, still half-asleep with hair in disarray, Roy had dashed in late to work and orchestrated a mad rush to finish all of the forgotten paperwork that had been shoved aside in the chaos of the three preceding days. Suffice it to say, Roy and his poor staff did not make all of their deadlines.
...Now it was Friday. After such an unpleasant week, Roy was convinced that at least one final tragedy would strike him before his streak of bad luck was broken—but as of yet, the day hadn't been too awful other than the high level of make-up paperwork and the persistent crick in his neck. Determined to help Roy end his week on a good—or at least not a bad—note, Maes had insisted on taking him out for drinks to raise his spirits and help him relax.
Happily, this seemed to have worked wonders. Roy liked to drink, but he didn't really get drunk all that often... which was a shame, because he was a hilarious drunk.
"F'you were listening, then what... what did I just say?" Roy demanded, his alcohol-hazed eyes accusing, squinting at his friend through the dimness of the street.
"You were talking about trying to redesign the military uniforms of our female officers..." Maes sighed, inhaling a deep lungful of the crisp night air and enjoying his own alcoholic buzz as he waited gleefully for Roy to start up one of his drunken rants again; they were always priceless.
"Miniskirts!" Roy shouted, stabbing one finger dramatically skyward as inspiration struck him anew. "I'm talking about miniskirts, Maes! Think of it! They'd be much cheaper uniforms than pants, 'cause... 'cause, you see, there'd be less material to sew, right? And the soldiers would have better freedom of mo... moment... movement, get it?"
"Ah, but if that's the case, then shouldn't the men be wearing them too? Since these miniskirts are so very practical and cost-efficient?"
Roy stopped dead in his tracks and stared at him, forcing Maes to halt and look back. But Roy just stood there for a beat, blinking his disarrayed black hair out of his eyes.
"You don't have the legs for it, Maes," he decided finally, lurching forward again to walk beside him.
"Oh, and you do?"
"Have you seen my legs? They're breathtaking. My calves... are like rocks."
Maes rolled his eyes with another little laugh, but then had to grab Roy's shoulder and turn him around as he started walking toward the wrong house. Maes steered him toward his own home patiently and guided him up to the door. Roy was still muttering something about how, if it really came down to it, he would look damn good in a mini-skirt ("And don't you forget it!"), which made Maes start giggling again. Ah, he'd missed seeing Roy like this, so completely relaxed and at ease with himself. They really should make a point of going out for drinks more often...
"Alright Roy, get some sleep," Maes said as his friend tried to put his key in the lock, failed, tried again, failed again, then just handed the keys to Maes so that he could unlock the door for him. Maes took the keys and slid them into the lock easily, smirking at the groggy disbelief on Roy's face when he was able to do it on the first try. "Drink some water before you go to bed, though... I know you and you'll have one hell of a hangover if you don't."
"Yes, mom..." he sighed with a theatrical bow of supplication that would have made him perform a spectacular face-plant into the concrete if Maes' hadn't grabbed him and hoisted him upright again.
Roy stumbled back onto his feet, allowing Maes to support him, but then he abruptly burst into a rich peal of laughter. "Keep thinkin' about you in a miniskirt..." he confessed, then buried his face against Maes' shoulder and laughed even harder. "You'd have to sh-shave your legs..."
Oh, god, the man was so drunk...
"...You're a nutjob, you know that?" Maes cackled, pushing him off. Roy swayed a little where he stood, but seemed like he could stand on his own long enough for Maes to actually get the door open. He turned the key in the door, only to find that it was already unlocked. "And you forgot to lock the door this morning."
"Yeah, yeah... whatever..." Roy said as he brushed past him over the threshold of his house, still giggling to himself. "...Miniskirts..."
"But seriously, Roy... drink some damn water before you go to bed," he reminded as he watched his friend attempt to hang his overcoat on the rack beside the door, then stare at it stupidly when it fell to the floor in a black puddle of leather. "Or you'll regret it tomorrow."
"Ppht..." the colonel countered intelligently, waving a careless hand. "I'm fine... Just fiiine... I feel great..."
"I'm sure you do right now, but tomorrow—"
"I'll prove it to you! Come back over in the morning! I'll make you breakfast!"
"You'd damn well better, after all the drinks I bought you..." Maes snarked with an affectionate smile.
"Good, then I'll see you at... at... eight?"
Maes sighed. "Alright, fine. I'll bring aspirin." Then he clapped his inebriated best friend on the back and stepped back out onto the sidewalk. He turned once to see Roy waving an enthusiastic goodbye, then close the door. Maes chuckled to himself again and started home, his own drink-blurred eyes admiring the stars.
Oh, what a night.
Roy stood there for a moment with his back resting against the door, smiling stupidly to himself in the darkness. Man, why was it so dark? Was it always this dark in here at night? He usually had the lamp on, so he'd never really noticed how very little the streetlights outside shone in through his windows.
He turned his head and looked at the dim silhouette of the lamp beside the couch. The ivory-colored shade on it was crooked as if it had been bumped, even though he could have sworn that it hadn't been at such a shabby angle when he'd left this morning. He considered turning it on for a few moments, but then shrugged. He was suddenly very tired... so if he was going to bed anyway, he didn't really need light. He half-tried to tell himself to lurch off to bed, but at the moment he was actually pretty comfortable just leaning against the door and he didn't really feel like moving.
Maes had been so right. This had been exactly what he'd needed. God, Maes was so smart... And funny. Damn, was he funny...
Roy laughed again, covering his mouth with one hand to muffle the sound. Some repressed, prideful part of him was horrified to see that he was giggling like a little kid, practically doubled-over in drunken mirth... but the rest of him just felt too good to care. After such a shitty week, he deserved the opportunity to be relaxed and perhaps even a little silly, didn't he?
Damn right, he did!
He sighed contentedly, then finally took a stumbling step toward his bedroom. Almost immediately though, he halted again, just staring at the darkness in front of his eyes.
"...Huh," he grunted to himself curiously.
He wasn't quite sure at first of what had stopped him. It was just a feeling that made him pause, a sudden, gut-clenching stab of anxiety that made his heart beat a little harder...
He tried to shake it off, telling himself that he probably just needed to puke or something... but something was bothering him. Something just wasn't right. He felt...
...As if he weren't alone.
Roy's eyes widened as the thought struck him, but then he shook his head with a harsh scoffing sound. He was just imagining things, surely. He was very drunk, after all... But, then again, Roy would have noticed the crooked lampshade before he left for work this morning... wouldn't he? He was admittedly anal about such things; he liked things to be straight and organized and it drove him mad when things in his apartment were out of place... He didn't care much when the disorder was in the workplace, but this was his home and, yes, he certainly would have noticed something like a crooked lampshade, right? Right.
Moreover, the door had been unlocked when he'd come in just now. Even if he was just being neurotic about the lampshade, he couldn't ignore that. Roy always locked the door. Always.
Maybe there was a burglar or something... and, if Roy's gut feeling was to be trusted, the culprit was still here. He held his breath and listened. There. Fuck, he could hear someone, shifting around and whispering from the direction of Roy's bedroom. The words were so soft that Roy couldn't make them out, but the cadence of low human speech was unmistakable... and now that he was looking that way, he could see a dim light leaking from under his bedroom door. Someone was here.
Well, that's just great. The robber couldn't plan his invasion for when Roy was actually sober, could he? No, no, he just had to wait for Roy to be shitfaced to break into his home, just to make Roy's week that much worse.
What an asshole.
Roy scowled to himself, trying to think. What should he do? His pistol was in his gun-belt, hanging on the coat rack beside the door... though Roy didn't know how great his aim would be in his current condition. Hm. He could always slip on his alchemy gloves... but, then again, he'd probably just end up setting his house on fire, and that would be most unpleasant indeed. The gun was probably his best option. Yeah.
Carefully, so that he didn't trip over himself, Roy backed toward the front door again. He wasn't really afraid of this unknown intruder—just irritated. He'd known—just known—that at least one more bit of bad luck was going to bite him in the ass before this week was over. That's just the way things went. Maybe—hopefully—the burglar would just kill him quickly and be done with it without being too much of a bother. Then at least Roy would be able to relax a little, reclining peacefully in the afterlife...
He reached back behind himself to pull his gun from the holster dangling on the coat-rack, but his hand found nothing but empty air. He cursed under his breath and looked over to where the dark silhouette of his gun belt should have been... and saw only empty space.
Fuck, now he remembered... He'd put it all away in his gun safe yesterday morning. He hadn't taken his guns to work in the past two days, what with all the bad luck he'd been having. He'd figured, "Hey, better safe then sorry. Better lock the firearms up tight before I accidentally shoot myself in the face, right?" and so now his weapons were all on the other side of his apartment in a tightly-sealed safe...
In his closet.
In his bedroom.
Where the burglar was.
Just perfect. That's what he got for trying to be careful. What a great fucking week this was turning out to be. Truly, truly epic.
Roy took a breath, trying to think up another plan though the haze of whiskey in his brain. He supposed he could just leave the house and wait for the burglar to hightail it out of there with his stolen goods... that was certainly the safest course of action, but it really didn't sit well with him. He couldn't just leave... It wasn't his style. He had to—
A sudden noise caught his attention as his bedroom door creaked open and a figure lurched out into the living room, no more than ten feet from where Roy was standing. Roy stiffened, his heart barreling into a harsh rhythm that demanded either fight or flight as he watched the shadow cross the room. He could see only the vaguest outline of his criminal; it was too dark to even size him up properly—not that Roy's perception was exactly accurate at the moment—but he knew that he still had the advantage. The light was at the burglar's back, and while Roy could more-or-less see him, he knew that he was still completely ensconced in shadow, invisible to his opponent. Roy could tell that the burglar didn't even know that he was there as he continued fumbling around the dark room blindly, probably looking for a light-switch.
This was Roy's chance.
Slowly, and with as much grace and silence as he could muster—which, admittedly, was not much on either account—Roy reached down to take hold of the closest thing to a weapon that he had on him...
He pulled off his shoe with only moderate difficulty, miraculously managing not to fall sideways into the coat-rack as he wobbled on one foot to draw his weapon. He held the polished leather shoe aloft and took a step toward the intruder, whose sightlessly groping fingers had finally found their way to the base of the cattywampus lamp beside the sofa.
Roy stumbled forward just as light flooded the room, his mighty shoe-laden hand ready to smite whosoever had dared to unlawfully enter his abode in the dead of night. The perpetrator looked up in shock to see the colonel towering over him, ready to bash his face in with the indomitable sole of justice.
"...Fullmetal?" Roy asked in return, staring down at the boy in front of him in complete shock, the shoe still clutched in his raised hand. "What the hell are you—"
"Where have you been!?" Ed bellowed over him, his own surprise seemingly worn off by a rush of oddly frightened-sounding indignation. "I needed you to be here! You said you'd be here!"
"What are you talking about?! Why did you break into my home?!" Roy shouted back, the rush in his still-pounding heart doing absolutely nothing to disperse his intoxication, and only seeming to add to his bleary-headedness. But then he paused as he looked down at Edward, finally daring to lower the shoe as he noticed the half-dried smears of red covering the boy's bare arms and face. "...And why are you bleeding?!"
"I'm not anymore. Most of it isn't even mine," Fullmetal told him distractedly, looking back toward the bedroom. Even if he wasn't bleeding "anymore" as he said, the kid still looked like he'd been put through the wringer; his skin was pale and his eyes were bloodshot and glassy, looking somehow much duller than their usual vibrant gold. If Roy didn't know any better, he might have thought that he looked just about ready to faint. As if to prove this last thought, Ed wavered a little on his feet as he turned and headed back toward the bedroom, beckoning urgently for Roy to follow.
He was limping pretty heavily, Roy couldn't help but notice.
Bemused, but feeling as if he really didn't have any other option, Roy stumbled after him, scrubbing his face with one hand. "Edward, what the hell is going on? Why are yo—"
But then his mouth fell open, cutting off his question. He stopped dead in the doorway, eyes drawn by the small, starved-looking body lying sprawled on his bed, naked and bloodied, covered only by Edward's scarlet coat.
"Ed..." Roy breathed quietly as his subordinate moved over to the body, wringing his hands with anxiety. "Ed, what is this?"
"You said, Colonel. You said that it would be okay..." Fullmetal accused in a preoccupied hush. "You said..."
"I didn't say anything!" Roy choked after a moment, still staring at the body and half-hoping that he was drunk enough for this to be a hallucination. "I have no idea what's going on!"
"What are you talking about?! We discussed this! I put it all in my note! You said it would be okay!"
Roy tore his eyes away from the figure on his bed. "What? When did we discuss this?" Because surely Roy would have remembered if he'd told Edward that it was okay to stash a body in his bedroom...
"Wednesday!" Ed practically shrieked, getting increasingly agitated. "How can you not remember?!"
Wednesday...? Roy rubbed his eyes, trying to think. What had happened Wednesday? Right, the car accident... Now that he was thinking about it, he did remember seeing Ed that day, right after he and Havoc had finally made it in to work. The kid had been excited about something, talking way too fast and asking questions that Roy had really only been half-listening to... What had he been saying? Roy honestly couldn't remember. He hadn't been able to pay attention to the kid at all, too distracted by the pain in his neck and the stress of facing another unlucky workday, so he'd told Ed to write everything down and he'd look it over later.
"And you'll call me and tell me if you see anything wrong with the equations...? You'll call me, right?" Ed had asked—he almost seemed nervous in Roy's memory—as he placed a stack of papers on Roy's already-cluttered desk.
"Ah, what...? Oh, yeah. Fine," Roy had mumbled back, not even looking up.
"So if you don't call by tomorrow night, I can assume everything is okay and I can get started?"
"Hm? Uh, sure, whatever. I'm kinda busy right now, Ed..."
Roy had never actually gotten around to reading those papers. He'd meant to, he really had... but things just kept coming up and the papers were lost in the chaos.
"Okay, okay..." Roy said diplomatically, trying to collect his thoughts. "Let's just think for a moment..."
"You didn't even read the note, did you?!"
"It was like twenty pages long!" Roy exclaimed, "That's not a note, that's a book, Ed, and I had a lot of other shit to do!"
Ed stared at him for a beat, his eyes wide with fear and rage. "You're risking my brother's life because you are too fucking lazy to read a few pages!?"
"What do you mean your brother? You—" Roy tried to defend himself, but Fullmetal interrupted.
"He's dying!" he screamed, his voice breaking with the abrupt, incomprehensible threat of tears. He covered his face with one hand and his shoulders tensed in preparation of a wracking sob, but he managed to stop himself with a deep, shuddering breath. He let it out slowly and followed it up with another, clearly trying to stay calm.
"H-he's not waking up..." he managed to whisper after a long, long pause, sounding like a child relating a nightmare to a parent in the frightening darkness of his bedroom. "Something w-went wrong and h-he..." but then he had to stop and breathe again, shaking like a leaf.
Roy looked back over that the body on his bed, for a moment not fully comprehending... but then, from beneath the whiskey fumes, something clicked and a wave of horror spilled down his back.
"That... That's Alphonse, isn't it...?" he breathed, stomach turning.
Ed gave a tiny, jerking nod.
...Then that's what Ed had been talking about, when he was trying to get Roy's attention on Wednesday. God, he'd done it... he'd actually done it, what he'd been striving for, for years now. He'd given Al his body back... but at what end? Alphonse didn't look good. He wasn't dead as Roy had first assumed, for he could see that his horribly thin chest expanded with the sleepy passage of breath...
And then there was Ed; he certainly didn't look good, either. He—
He turned to Edward again, forcing himself to look away from Alphonse's motionless, emaciated form as the words "Equivalent Exchange" floated like a grim fog to the forefront of his mind.
"Ed..." he rasped, his heart suddenly heavy. "What did you sacrifice?"
Edward lowered his shaking hand a little to look over at him with wide, haunted eyes, but didn't say anything.
The nauseated fear in Roy's gut intensified. He stumbled over to the boy as quickly as he was able and clumsily grabbed him by the shoulders, his eyes roaming over him, looking for damage. Ed's biological arm and leg were intact, at least. That had been Roy's first wild, lurching thought—that Ed had been stupid enough to give up yet another limb in payment for his brother's body—but, no, Roy would have noticed that immediately, even as drunk as he was... Ed was limping, but he still clearly had his leg. What had he exchanged, then, if his remaining extremities where still attached? His organs, perhaps...? Yes, planned carefully, Ed could have very easily given up a few feet of intestines... or a chunk of his liver... perhaps even a kidney, if he was desperate enough... He did look very pale and weak, and Roy didn't think for one second that his appearance was due entirely to emotional trauma. He'd done something. Roy was sure of it.
"Ed, y'have to tell me what you gave up for his body..." Roy slurred urgently, shaking him roughly by his shoulders, which nearly made Roy lose his balance himself. "You could have, like, seriously damaged yourself...!"
Ed stared up at him, looking a little surprised. He blinked several times as if he was having trouble focusing, then shrugged Roy off and rubbed his blood-streaked face with his hand.
"It's not too bad," he promised, still sounding both frightened and tired, but for now his anger seemed to have dissipated. "It was mostly just blood..."
"How much blood?"
"...And a toe."
"Yeah... the blood wasn't enough for what I was doing... I needed at least a little bit of flesh and bone to—"
Ed blinked. "Which what?"
"Which toe!" Roy barked, shaking him again. For some reason that his alcohol-tainted mind didn't really understand, he was suddenly convinced that this bit of information was terribly important.
"Which toe?" Ed spat back, starting to get aggravated again, "What the hell does it matter?! The little one!"
"But... but you only had like fifty percent of your real toes left to begin with! So now you only have like..." he stopped and had to count on his fingers, "forty percent!"
"I mean, do they even make automail toes?!"
Ed didn't say anything for a long beat, just looked up at his superior with a furrowed brow. Then his eyes widened.
"Oh my god, you're drunk."
"Yes you are! You bastard, you were supposed to help me and instead you went out drinking?!"
"You're imagining things... I'm not drunk, I'm just..." Roy stopped and searched his mind for an adequate lie. He found nothing. "I've just had a bad week, that's all," he finished lamely.
"And I haven't?!" Fullmetal exploded, gesturing wildly at his brother with one trembling hand.
Roy took a breath through his nose, mentally trying to sober up while keeping himself from snapping back. Ed had a right to be upset, considering what was going on...
"Okay," Roy said finally, as soothingly as he could manage, "Just tell me exactly what happened... And sit the hell down before you pass out."
Ed, who had been swaying a little, looked as if he were going to protest, but then thought better of it and seated himself on the corner of the bed, reaching one hand out to rest on his brother's bare leg. He closed his eyes for a moment, apparently collecting his thoughts before he spoke.
He'd been working on the transmutation for months, he said. He'd worked it all out, planning to do it this very night. It was Al's thirteenth birthday tomorrow, it seemed, and Ed had wanted to give him the gift of his body back.
"He's going to be a teenager..." Ed whispered, "His childhood is already gone, and I can't stand the thought of him losing any more time because of what we did..."
The plan sounded pretty ingenious the way Ed told it, but Roy had to confess that his distracted mind wasn't able to completely comprehend it all. The return of Al's body had not occurred in one transmutation, but two, and Ed had obeyed the laws of Equivalent Exchange. The thing was, the mass that he'd sacrificed hadn't really been his.
Well, not most of it, anyway.
Edward had, in effect, created a doppelganger of himself and had tricked the Gate into taking its payment from the decoy.
He'd tricked. The fucking. Gate.
The thought just completely blew Roy's mind.
"I m-made a chimera..." Ed tried to explain, shivering bloodlessly. "...I mean, kind of... I used my flesh, bone, and blood and combined it with this stray dog..."
"Aw, Edward, a dog...?" Roy lamented, appalled. "I like dogs..."
"Colonel, please! The transmutation was supposed to lock onto my DNA in the dog and use it instead of me... and... and it did. It worked, Colonel... but... Something must have gone wrong, because h-he's just not waking up and I don't know what to do..."
Roy ran a hand through his hair, looking over at Al again. This was bad. It was really bad and, like Ed, Roy had absolutely no idea what to do to fix it. He couldn't admit that, of course, not when Edward was so clearly frightened and in need of some kind of reassurance—even intoxicated, Roy could see that.
"Perhaps... we should take him to a hospital," Roy suggested as confidently as he could, moving over to the other side of the bed and setting his hand to the side of Alphonse's neck. Al's skin was cold to the touch, but his heart was beating a strong, steady pace beneath Roy's fingertips. That was a good sign, at least.
Roy looked up. "Um... why not?"
Edward heaved a great, heavy sigh and looked at Roy as if he were insufferably stupid. "Because. You think that no one's going to wonder who he is? You think they won't investigate where this sick, comatose, emaciated child came from? If they figure out what he was and what I've done to bring him back, I could be arrested for practicing forbidden alchemy... and Al would be taken by the State... And who knows what they'd do to him...?"
He trailed off, his voice tapering into a thin, choked whisper.
"Hm. You prob'bly shoulda thought of that before doing all this, then," Roy advised sagely.
Ed shot to his feet, his trembling, clenched fists held at his sides. "I know, okay?! I need your help, Mustang, not your f-fucking lect—"
Edward probably would have continued his rant for another several seconds, but instead his tired, bloodless body decided to buckle his knees and send him crashing to the floor. Ed disappeared beyond the other side of the bed, his body hitting the carpet with an impressive-sounding thud. Roy waited a few seconds, then crawled across the bed and peered down at him over the edge.
Ed was flat on his back, looking both confused and perhaps even a little frightened, as if he wasn't quite sure how he ended up on the floor.
"Ed," Roy called when Edward's dazed, bewildered eyes finally rolled over to meet his.
Ed's face darkened. "What the hell do you think?" he spat, not yet even trying to move.
"What I think is that you've lost more blood than you think you have."
"I told you I'm fine, damn it," he mumbled, finally grabbing a corner of the bed sheet to try and pull himself upright.
Roy didn't say anything for a moment, just watched him attempt to get back to his feet from his unsteady crouch. He wasn't putting any weight on his right foot at all now, Roy observed with a frown.
Without really thinking about it, Roy reached down over the edge of the bed and grabbed Ed's foot, hauling it upward so that he could look at it. Overbalanced, Fullmetal fell backward onto his ass with a sharp cry of both surprise and pain. Taking advantage of his momentary shock, Roy yanked off Ed's boot and tossed it aside.
"What the fuck, Mustang?!"
"...I also think you're a liar," he scowled, ignoring him. "You're not fine, Ed; you're still bleeding."
Edward blinked, then looked up at his foot. His once-white sock was now completely soaked with blood, darkened to near black in the dimness of the room. The cloth was so saturated that it started dripping steadily, creating dark spots on Roy's favorite Xing rug on the floor below. He frowned at that, not at all pleased. That thing had been expensive...
"...Damn, I thought it'd stopped..." Ed rasped softly, his pale, sweat-sheened brow furrowing.
Roy sighed at him, then reached over and peeled the soaked sock off of Ed's foot, revealing an unsettling wad of soggy gauze wrapped around his toes—of which, Roy could now clearly see, there were only four.
"Ugh..." he grimaced, the whiskey in his stomach churning with dismay. "That's nice..."
"It's just a toe, I'm sure it's f-fine..." Ed tried to convince him weakly, attempting to pull his foot out of his grasp.
Roy tightened his grip to keep him still and Ed hissed pain. "Stop moving!" he commanded, hoping that he didn't sound as queasy as he felt. Ed's skin was clammy and almost as cold as Al's was. "Lemme see if I have any bandages lying around. You just... stay here. And keep your foot ele... elevated."
He coaxed Edward into scooting a little closer to the bed so that he could rest his bloodied heel on the mattress—on Roy's nice, white, silk sheets... ugh...—to hopefully lessen the blood flow a little. Damn, that stupid kid should not have been walking around on the injury so much...
Moreover, he probably shouldn't have cut his fucking toe off to begin with.
"But what about Alphonse...?" Edward asked softly, his voice betraying his fear and weakness—traits that Roy had only rarely heard from him, and which didn't help his growing nausea.
"He's not the one who's bleeding. I think the only thing we can do for him right now is just keep an eye on him... You, on the other hand..."
"It's okay, I've got a plan!" he interrupted curtly.
He was lying. He didn't really have a plan.
"Look, I'm gonna go in there..." he continued after a moment, pointing toward the bathroom. "And I'm gonna throw up. Then, I'm gonna find you some bandages. Then, I'm gonna come back out here and we're gonna to think up a new plan."
That said, Roy stood and walked over to the bathroom. He shut the door, knelt in front of the toilet, vomited, decided that it really did make him feel much better, and then vomited again for good measure.
Man, why hadn't he thought to go vomit earlier? It's so much better to just puke and get it over with than to be nauseated forever. He straightened back up again and flushed the toilet, trying not to pay any attention to how muddled and spinney his brain still was. The vomiting had actually cleared his head a little, but he was still hopelessly drunk and he knew it.
But he could not be drunk right now. He had to pull himself together, for the Elrics' sakes. Ed was hurt and Al was... well, they didn't even really know what was wrong with Al, but whatever it was, it was bad. Roy just wanted to take them both to a hospital, but Ed was right; not only could that put both Edward and Alphonse in serious danger, but would they even be able to do anything for the younger brother? He was breathing steadily and his heartbeat was strong... the part of him that was most likely damaged was his soul, not his body... and there is no medicine for that.
Maybe he should call Maes... But no, he probably wasn't even home yet... And, fuck, the phone lines were still down... Well, there was no way that Roy was going to leave the boys to find help. He was going to have to do this on his own...
Roy took off the jacket of his military uniform and hung it haphazardly on the back of the bathroom door, then rolled up the sleeves of his white dress-shirt and turned on the sink. He cupped his hands under the icy gush of tap water and splashed his face.
"Come on, Roy. Sober up," he muttered to himself, the frigid chill of the water making his jaw ache. He needed to focus. This was serious. Alphonse and Fullmetal could both die because Roy was too trashed to help them. He needed to get sober and he needed to do it now.
He raised his dripping face and looked at himself in the mirror. He looked tired, but that wasn't exactly surprising; he was tired. Exhausted down to his bones, and then drunk on top of that. If given five seconds on a soft mattress, he knew that he'd be dead to the world until morning... but the luxury of slumber was going to have to wait.
Sleep is for the weak anyway, right?
He laughed to himself humorlessly and yanked the hand-towel off of the rack, pressing it to his face. The water hadn't really helped much and he was nowhere near sober, but he couldn't let that stop him. Even if he was intoxicated and exhausted, he was still Colonel Roy Mustang, and one of his men needed him.
He sighed and stooped unsteadily to rummage through the cabinet under the sink until he found his first-aid kit. It was old and hadn't even been opened in years, but he knew without looking that it was well stocked. A good solider is always prepared.
Tucking the metal case under his arm, he wobbled to his feet and moved back out into his bedroom.
"...EDWARD!" he barked immediately after opening the door.
Ed looked over at him blearily, wavering on one foot as he hovered over his brother.
Roy stormed over to him—though his power of intimidation was diminished somewhat by him stumbling over Edward's discarded boot—and tossed the first-aid kit onto the bed. "Lay back down, you little shit! You're getting blood everywhere! D'you wanna faint again?"
"I'm just checking on him..." he rasped.
"Yeah... well... now you've checked, so lay the hell down."
Ed bowed his head a little and then—a little startlingly—complied, crawling up onto the bed and curling up next to his brother, resting his cheek against Alphonse's bony chest. Ed's injured foot dragged a huge smear of blood across the bed as he settled, dying the sheets with crimson.
Roy cursed. Not because of his hopelessly stained sheets—he'd already come to terms with throwing them out in the morning—but because of how much blood there was. Ed's foot had clearly been oozing blood since he'd injured it, but his sock and boot had been putting enough pressure on it to keep the bleeding under control. Now, though... with only a loose, saturated mess of bandages to staunch the flow, the bleeding had gotten pretty heavy. Worse than that, Ed had mentioned that he'd already sacrificed some of his blood to the transmutation... and from his gray, cold skin and from how unfocused he seemed, he probably couldn't stand to lose much more. They had to get the bleeding to stop now.
Roy bit his lip and sat at the end of the bed, opening the kit. He pulled out a length of pressure bandage and a handful of gauze swatches, which he then dampened with a dusty bottle of peroxide.
"Hold still," he mumbled, taking Ed's foot by the ankle, doing his best to be at least moderately gentle as he fumbled off the soaked tangle of soiled bandages. His stomach lurched again warningly when he saw the actual wound—a small, meaty recess with visible bone and vein—but he just clenched his jaw against the unpleasant sight and pressed gauze into the bleeding void.
Ed stiffened, a plaintive grunt escaping from between his gritted teeth. The pressure Roy was putting on his injury coupled with the bubbling sting of peroxide was clearly something too painful for him to suffer silently. Edward knew that it had to be done though, and so didn't complain as Roy had half-expected him to. Instead he just tried to relax and hold still as Roy packed in more gauze and started to wrap the whole thing up in the sturdy bandage.
There was a brief silence in the room as Roy worked, wrapping layer upon layer of cloth around Ed's foot... until it hardly resembled a foot at all, so much as an amorphous lump... After a few minutes, though, Ed spoke.
"...What if he doesn't wake up?"
"Maybe... maybe his body just needs a while to adjust to... ah... existing again, you know?" he ventured after a beat, completely making it up as he went along. "It's just taking time. He'll wake up."
"But what if he doesn't?" Ed insisted sickly, burying his nose into his brother's collarbone. "What if I've killed him, Mustang?"
Roy bit his lip again and tied off the last bit of bandage. "...I don't know what to tell you, Ed."
Edward closed his eyes tightly and swallowed, wrapping his arms around Alphonse's motionless body and hugging him close.
"I c-can't believe I fucked up this badly..." he whispered as a soft, devastated sob finally broke from his throat.
"Aw, c'mon... don't..." Roy pleaded awkwardly at the sight. Normally, Roy would have just pretended not to notice his misery—or, if he was feeling particularly harsh, mock him for it—but with his defenses so lowered by alcohol, such coldness was impossible. Roy wasn't exactly a weepy drunk, but he was a sympathetic drunk, and he knew that it wouldn't take much prompting for him to join Edward in his tears if he let his guard down... "We'll figure this out, okay? Just... don't cry. It's weird."
Ed ignored him, clutching Alphonse close and sniffling against him quietly. He just shivered and cried, weak with injury. He was clearly not in his right mind, and might have even been a little delirious... Roy felt that he'd gotten a pretty good hold on his bleeding for the moment, but Ed could still go into shock from blood loss—if he wasn't already in shock. Roy should probably go get him something to eat, to help steady him and refuel his system... if only to get out of the room for a minute and leave him to his grief...
"I'll be right back."
Roy stood up, paused for a moment, and then turned and went back out into his living room, crossing over to his modest kitchen. He poked around for a few moments aimlessly, then found something that suited his needs and wandered back into his bedroom a little grudgingly.
Ed glanced up at the apple that Roy was offering him, sniffling through his blur of tears.
"'M not h-hungry," he hiccoughed, visibly trying to stop crying and not really making any headway.
"Just eat it. It'll make you feel better," he said, then lamely added, "Your body needs the sugar," when Ed still didn't seem convinced.
The kid sighed, knowing that he was right, and moved off of Alphonse enough to sit up and take the apple.
Roy sat down at the end of the bed, not knowing what else he could do for them at this point. He'd done as much for Ed and Al as he was able to at the moment... but a few bandages and a piece of fruit seemed like very little indeed in the face of such tragedy.
Part of Roy wanted to scream at Edward for being so careless, to shout "What were you thinking?!" and give him endless lectures until morning... but such words were useless. Edward knew what he had done. He knew how brash it had been to rush into this... but he had gone to Roy first. And Roy had ignored him completely. One of the very few times that Edward had actually lowered himself to ask Roy for help, Roy had let him down... and now his brother might die because of it.
Roy rubbed his face again. This was as much his fault as it was Edward's, and there was nothing that he could do to fix it.
"...What am I gonna do?"
Ed's voice cut through Roy's dark musings, the words muffled by the unbroken red skin of the apple that he had pressed against his lips.
"I don't know. I really don't, Ed."
The kid wilted a little, then took a very small bite of the apple and chewed it silently.
"...I'm sorry that I wasn't there for you, Edward... I truly am," Roy managed after a moment, just needing him to know. "You depended on me to make sure your plans were solid and I... I just forgot..."
Edward swallowed the piece of apple, wincing a little as if the motion was painful.
"Well..." he rasped hollowly, sounding completely defeated, "I should have called you to make sure it was okay instead of just assuming... I was just so excited that I could make h-him normal again..."
He stopped for a beat, then gave a tiny, choked laugh that was far too bitter to hold any humor. "I probably would have done it anyway, even if you'd told me not to... I just w-wanted..."
He went quiet again and set the mostly uneaten apple on Roy's book-cluttered nightstand disinterestedly, then turned his heavy head to look down at his brother. He reached over and ran the backs of his fingers down his cheek.
"...He's cold..." he continued, his voice catching softly in his throat, like a butterfly halted by a spider's web.
Roy swallowed, trying to dispel the lump in his throat enough to keep his voice from breaking. "I know. You're both freezing."
He stopped and thought for a minute, then stood and reached down to grab the navy blue blanket folded at the foot of the bed. He shook it out and tossed it over the boys nonchalantly, earning himself a calculating—albeit still a bit teary-eyed—look from Edward.
"...Thanks," he said after a moment, adjusting the covers so that they went up to Alphonse's chin. Roy's heart wrenched in his chest, watching Ed tuck his brother in with such tender care that Al couldn't even feel. Ed always seemed so rude and rough around the edges, a spitfire who didn't care about anything except getting what he wanted...
...But now he was gentle and lamenting, wanting nothing more than to help his brother... and he was failing. There was nothing that he could do for him, and he carried that hopelessness—not like a mourning brother, as would seem logical—but like a father, brokenly watching his child die. Because Alphonse really was so much more to Ed than a brother... he was his best friend, his only family, the other half of his soul... and, yes, perhaps even his child... because, in all honesty, Ed really was the strongest, most constant male figure in Alphonse's young life. He had practically raised him, in a way.
Edward was Al's hero... and Al was Ed's lifeline. Roy had never imagined that he would ever have to think about what one of them would do without the other... but here that tragic crossroad was, grimly staring him in the face and pleading for him to do something about it.
But, like Edward, Roy was completely helpless. Even if he'd been sober, this damage was beyond his skills, or even his comprehension. With time and a team of well-educated alchemists, maybe they could have done something... but as it was...
"...Maybe you should try to sleep," he suggested quietly, knowing that there would be no other way to shield Edward from his pain other than the deep, dark bliss of unconsciousness. "It's late and I know you're tired..."
Ed didn't say anything, but obeyed silently, visibly locked in an aching haze of depression that left his face completely empty now that his tears were beginning to dry. He knew that sleep was his only solace for now, and even though he knew the pain that would likely await him tomorrow, he was exhausted and the trauma of his physical wounds were only adding to his fatigue.
He scooted down under the covers and snuggled up against his motionless, near-lifeless brother, cradling Alphonse in one arm and tucking his tawny head under his chin. His eyes remained open, though, staring pensively toward the open doorway of Roy's bedroom, probably just listening to the sound of Al's somnolent breathing—just as Roy himself was—savoring it as something that he may never hear again. It was a sound that Ed hadn't heard since the day of his and Al's fated attempt to resurrect their mother. How cruel it was that such a small—yet sublime—thing was almost certainly going to be taken from him once again before tomorrow, not even allowing him a full day to revel in it.
"...What will we do with him in the morning?" Edward asked quietly, his eyes still riveted to the door. "If he... you know..."
"We'll cross that bridge when we come to it. No sense in worrying about it now," Roy replied bracingly, daring to lean forward and place a hand on Ed's shoulder. "Get some sleep; I'll stay up and watch over him. I'll wake you, in case anything happens."
"You'll... watch over him? All night?"
"All night," he confirmed, smiling gently at the incredulous-sounding gratitude in Ed's voice. He consulted his watch. "Not that there's really much night left... it's nearly four."
"Hm," Ed choked after a long moment, allowing himself a tired, sad, desperate-looking smile. "...You know, you're not as much of a jerk when you're liquored up, it seems."
"...I am not drunk. I told you."
Ed gave a tiny, vaguely hysterical giggle and closed his eyes, choosing not to argue the point. He took a deep breath, inhaling the scent of his brother's hair, and let his body relax as he tried to find sleep.
Roy sighed and lowered himself onto the floor, settling down in the open doorway and drawing up his knees. Yes, he would watch over them—both of them—until morning. What they would do then, Roy didn't know. His mind would surely be clearer then, the alcohol in his system burned away by the passage of time, and perhaps he'd be able to think of something—anything—to make this right again... if it wasn't already too late.
Soon—sooner than Roy had hoped for, even—Ed was asleep, his slow, deep breaths nearly matching Alphonse's. Roy leaned his head back against the doorjamb, silently wishing them both a dreamless slumber.
Roy opened his eyes to the sound of someone knocking on his front door. He groaned and shut them again tightly, the pale sunlight that was working its way into the room making him violently aware of the massive headache that was crushing down upon his brow like a ten-ton anvil.
Ooh, he'd had too much to drink last night... Way... way too much.
His head was absolutely pounding and his stomach was churning like an angry sea... and on top of that, his injured neck was a painfully stiff and knotted from leaning his head back against the doorjamb all night...
...Oh, damn it. He'd fallen asleep.
Fuck, he hadn't meant to fall asleep.
He made himself open his eyes again and squinted groggily up at the two boys on his bed. At some point during the night, Ed had shifted Alphonse so that he was lying on his big brother's chest, his tangle of mousy hair brushing against Ed's cheek. Both of them were still breathing deeply, calm under the lull of profound sleep. Ed was even snoring a little.
A tiny wave of relief filled Roy's insides, momentarily lessening his nausea a bit. At least Alphonse was still alive...
The knocking on the front door returned again after a moment and Roy winced, the sound beating into his poor head with each sharp blow. There was no way in hell that he was going to answer it, though, so hopefully whoever it was would just give up and go away if he ignored them... Just the thought of getting up made Roy want to hurl.
"...I'm never drinking again..." he swore to himself quietly, choosing not to remember that this was the exact same thing he'd said the last time he'd had a hangover.
The knocker stopped his banging again and Roy sighed in relief—but the relief was short-lived as he heard the front door squeak open.
"...And the door is still unlocked," Maes mumbled to himself from the front room, closing the door behind him with a quick snap as he entered. Roy heard his approaching footsteps, but didn't raise his head as his friend came to a stop beside him, towering over him in the doorway and—thankfully—blocking some of the painful sunlight coming in from the living room.
"Oh, Roy..." he sighed down at him fondly, sounding both amused and exasperated. "You didn't drink any water before going to sleep like I told you to, did you?"
Roy's only response was a half-hearted groan as he reached up to massage his temples.
"...And are you aware that you're only wearing one shoe?"
"Ngh..." Roy grunted, looking down at his feet. He was right. "I think I was trying to bludgeon Ed with it. Or something."
Roy nodded and pointed toward the bed. After a beat, he heard Maes gasp.
"My god, there's blood all over him!" he exclaimed loudly, forcing Roy to grit his teeth against the pain in his skull. "Is he okay? And who is...?"
But then he trailed off as one of the boys on the bed opened his eyes.
Roy's heart stopped as Alphonse blinked slowly. He looked confused and groggy, probably not entirely awake yet, just roused from sleep by Maes' voice. His sleepy eyes looked up at Maes, then rolled over to meet Roy's. Not really knowing what else to do, Roy raised one hand and slowly waved his fingers at him in hesitant greeting. After a short pause, Alphonse lifted his own tiny hand and dazedly returned the sentiment. But then he froze and looked over at his hand.
His eyes widened in shock as he stared at his fingers, suddenly realizing that—for the first time in years—they were made of flesh and bone instead of metal and leather. He put his hands to his face, feeling his nose and his mouth, running his fingers through his hair. He took a shuddering breath, not daring to believe, but then looked down and finally spied his brother lying beneath him.
"Ed!" he shrieked in sudden terror, patting his cheek roughly. "Oh no, Brother, what did you do?!"
Ed snorted awake, his eyes shooting open to see his brother—alive, conscious, and human—staring down at him in concerned fear.
"Al..." he breathed, his eyes filling with tears again as he understood, though this time the tears were manufactured in joy rather than sorrow. "Oh, Al, I—"
Whatever heartfelt, ecstatic words that Edward had been about to lovingly impart to his little brother were abruptly cut off by said little brother punching him in the face.
"Ow! Hey!" Ed sputtered, trying to defend himself as Alphonse dealt another—rather weak looking, Roy thought—blow to the side of Edward's head. "Ack, stop it!"
"You jerk! You could have killed yourself!" Alphonse screamed, "What were you thinking?! You didn't even discuss it with me first, idiot!"
"Well it worked, didn't it?!" Ed shouted back, covering his face. Roy almost laughed to hear Ed say something so cock-sure, mere hours after thinking that the transmutation had been a deadly failure... But, of course, Al didn't know about that tearful breakdown...
Ed tried to wrestle his brother off of him, but Al held on and both of them ended up going over the edge of the bed and falling to the floor in a tangle of blankets. Al recovered first and gave his brother another quick punch in the side, glaring down at him as only a little brother can. His anger was not at all diminished by the fact that he was still completely naked, Ed's red coat having fallen off of him in the scuffle.
"OW! Damn it, Al! I thought you'd be happy! It was for your birthday!"
"I AM HAPPY!" Al bellowed angrily, "But you're still an IDIOT!"
"...Should we stop this...?" Maes asked quietly, bemusedly watching the fight. He looked so completely lost and bewildered that Roy chuckled and shook his head.
"...Do what you want," he said, slowly getting to his feet. His stomach rebelled at the movement, but then settled again as he straightened. He staggered over to his bed and kicked his remaining shoe off before collapsing down against the pillows. "I'm going back to sleep. You deal with this. I've been dealing with it all night."
"W-what...?" Maes demanded, looking back down at the quarreling brothers. "Roy, wait..."
"By the way, Ed cut his toe off. You should probably do something about that."
"And, if you haven't noticed, I am not making you breakfast this morning."
But Roy tuned him out and closed his eyes, exhausted and probably still a little drunk. Al seemed okay now, and Ed would be fine once he got some medical attention. He snuggled down against his pillow, idly listening to the brothers' argument turn into laughter and tearful proclamations of brotherly love. He smiled to himself, silently swearing that he could actually feel the world beginning to settle itself back into order after such a long week of chaos and hell.
"...Roy..." he distantly heard Maes whine again, but he ignored him, choosing instead to sink back into the comfort of sleep, knowing that he was going to be in trouble with him when he finally awoke again, but not really caring.
Roy's luck, it seemed, had changed.