((A/N: A short-and-sappy one-shot. Warnings for blood and angst (like just about all my stories...).
I also want to give a big ol' thank you to Forget and Forgive, without whom I probably would have never finished this ))
Second Lieutenant Jean Havoc trudged slowly, lurching forward, one foot in front of the other. His left foot dragged a little, protesting. He hauled it forward again to take another, tottering, unbalanced step and nearly collapsed when the foot didn't want to hold his weight. Maybe it was broken. He didn't know. He couldn't feel anything.
"Come on, Jean..." he rasped giddily to himself, choking a little on the blood in his mouth, "...Keep going."
The phone booth was close now, rocking back and forth in his hazy vision.
Twisted lengths of steel littered the frozen street. Shards of glass glinted from the piles of slush that the snow-plow had pushed to the curb earlier in the day, winking in the winter-grey light like cruel stars. Jean passed the wreckage numbly, momentarily glancing over to see the diver of the other vehicle spread out on the wet, frosty ground. His eyes were glazed, his bluish face daubed with dark red. Jean looked away, trying to make himself focus on his goal. The man was already dead, anyway. No use trying to help him.
Jean took another step, stumbled, and fell. He didn't recall hitting the asphalt. He just lay there for a moment, not quite registering why he was on the ground. He could feel the frigid wetness of the slush trying to seep in through his clothing, stealing from him what little warmth he had left. Maybe he should just stay here. He was tired. But then he took a breath and pulled himself up onto his hands and knees, spit blood from his mouth, and finally managed to stagger to his feet again.
Phone booth. Phone booth.
And then suddenly he was there, holding the phone in one shaking hand and trying to dial the number he knew by heart. He didn't remember getting into the phone booth—much less putting the coins in, but he supposed it didn't matter much at this point. He put the phone to his ear, his bloody hand slipping a little on the slick black receiver.
Then there was ringing.
Then the ringing stopped.
"Colonel Mustang's office, Hawkeye here,"
"Hawkeye, it's Havoc... Something... something happened..." he stopped, trying to think. "I don't know where they are."
"...What? What are you talking about?"
"Truck. Just plowed into us... I got thrown out of the car."
"You got into an accident?" she asked sharply, "Are you hurt? Are the colonel and Fullmetal alright?"
"I think the car went into the ravine... I dunno where they are. They might be dead. The other driver is dead..."
Jean stopped again, bowing his head to watch the blood drip from his brow and splatter against his boot. He was bleeding a lot more than he'd thought he was. It was everywhere, pooling on the frosty ground, streaking down the walls of the booth. His bloody handprint was already frozen to the glass door, a primal mark that somehow reminded Jean of an ancient caveman painting that he once read about in one of his childhood schoolbooks.
"Where are you?"
"...I might be dead, too," he continued finally, calmly, watching the blood drip down down down to the floor of the phone booth.
"Lieutenant, you need to tell me where you are. I'll send help."
"I... I dunno... I'm bleeding a lot..."
"Stay with me, Havoc... "
And then he was on the ground, propped against the wall of the narrow booth, his blood forming ice-crystals on the trousers of his uniform. He was staring up at the telephone, which was now dangling in front of him—swinging on the cord like a hanged man.
"Hello? Are you still there? Jean...?"
Hawkeye's voice was faint and growing fainter. It was cold on the floor of the phone booth and all Jean could think about was going home and taking a hot shower. He hated the cold... he didn't like snow...
The phone just kept swinging in front of him, Hawkeye's words crackling from the mouthpiece. He raised a quaking, dripping hand to retrieve it, but gave up even before his fingertips could brush against it. It didn't matter now. He was too tired. Tired and cold. The blood was stinging his eyes.
The phone kept swinging. Back and forth, back and forth, back and forth...
The image blurred and went black.
Jean let his eyes fall shut.
And then he wasn't cold anymore.
Ed furrowed his brow and forced his eyes open. He was confused for a moment, not understanding what he was seeing or where he was. It was dim and it was cold and he felt like he was being slowly crushed.
He turned his head to the man who was calling him. Mustang was next to him, looking at him, a line of blood crawling down from his hairline to his jaw in a wavering crimson streak.
"Are you hurt?" he asked tightly.
Ed looked down at himself. The driver's seat of the car had been forced back and was pinning him down from foot to chest, crushing him against the door. His automail arm was stuck under what he presumed was Mustang's lower back, but he couldn't know for sure since he couldn't even completely see Mustang at the moment because of the way he was lying and because of the ruined driver's seat crunched in between them. His other arm was at his side, stuck between his hip and the door. He tried to move his hand and a sharp pain exploded from just below his elbow, radiating over his entire arm.
"My arm might be broken..." Ed rasped dazedly, wincing, "But I think I'm okay."
"Are you okay?" Ed asked in return, still trying to take everything in. Clearly, there had been a car accident. A bad one. The military car was badly damaged—the metal frame reduced to shards that jutted sharply from almost every surface. The door on the passenger's side of the back seat had been crushed inward, forcing the Colonel against the side of the driver's seat that was pinning Ed. The road was nowhere in sight. All he could see was snow, ice, and sad winter-stripped trees that reached their naked, brittle arms skyward as if screaming for someone to save them from the cold. The slush on the ground had splattered inward from the broken window at Ed's side, soaking him with freezing water and chunks of ice. He was so cold that he ached.
They must have been knocked down the steep ditch on the side of the road. He could vaguely remember the impact, followed by the car rolling down a steep hill, tumbling over and over, Mustang shouting at him to hold on to something...
"Can you see Havoc anywhere?" Mustang asked, ignoring his question.
Ed craned his neck to look toward the empty remains of the driver's seat, then panned the wet, slush-covered ground outside of the car.
"No, I don't see him. He must have gotten thrown out. What hit us?"
"A truck. A big, f-fucking truck."
Edward looked back over at him, struck by the giddy, strained tone of his voice. Mustang was white as a sheet—which, admittedly, really wasn't all that odd considering that they'd just been in a car crash... Ed himself was probably just as pale—and the blood on his face was worrisome.
"Are you sure that you're okay...?" Ed asked again with a shiver, watching him.
Mustang looked over at him again, then glanced down at himself quickly before returning his eyes to Ed. "Nothing I want you to worry about," he said flatly, as if forcedly trying to seem more casual, more like his manipulative, nonchalant self. Something about that sent another, sharper jolt of concern into the pit of Ed's stomach.
Mustang cleared his throat distractedly. "Can you get out?"
"I dunno... I think I can if I can get this seat off of me..." Ed mumbled, assessing his situation. He couldn't move his flesh right leg much because of the seat, and his automail arm—he discovered after a gentle, experimental tug—was stuck. His left arm hurt like a bitch and he knew without trying that he wouldn't be able to use it to get the seat off of him. His only fully functioning limb at the moment was his automail leg.
He brought up the leg and butted his knee against the seat, testing to see how easily it could be moved. It wasn't budging and it was too awkward for him to attempt going at it from another angle. He sighed and sat back, thinking.
"I don't think I can get it off..." Ed admitted, "Maybe if I could get my automail arm unstuck. Can you see what's pinning it?"
Mustang glanced down. "Yeah. Me."
"Well, can you move?"
"...No. I really can't."
Ed sighed again, frustrated and starting to get scared. His initial shock had started to wear off and the gravity of what had happened was beginning to dawn on him. This was bad. His arm was broken... what if he had other injuries? What if he had internal bleeding? And Mustang didn't seem right. His head was bleeding, what if he had a concussion? Or a cracked skull? And then Havoc was missing entirely, possibly even dead...
Ed's heart quickened, but he closed his eyes tightly and took a deep breath to calm himself. The last thing he needed to do now was panic.
"Well... well maybe if I just..." he trailed off, trying to keep himself focused, then gave his automail arm a swift jerk, attempting to free it with all his strength.
Mustang gasped and threw his head back against the seat, eyes wide and face paling even further. He clenched the surface of the lodged driver's seat in one bloody hand, his fingers digging into the torn leather so hard that it made the veins on the back of his hand pop out in vivid ridges.
"D-don't... oh... Ed, don't move me..." he panted, shutting his eyes tightly.
Ed swallowed hard, his stomach twisting and his heart pounding at his commander's sudden affliction of agony.
"You are hurt, aren't you..." he breathed, trying to sit up a little so that he could look over the seat to see the Colonel better. And then he saw it. There was a beam stabbing down through the roof of the car—probably a dislodged part from the truck—a sharp, ragged, serrated length of metal that came down at an angle...
...and disappeared into the torn, blood soaked material of the colonel's uniform, punching through his abdomen and pinning him against the seat like a butterfly mounted in an insect collection.
He had been completely impaled.
Roy cracked open his eyes again in response to Edward's horrified moan, still breathing hard in the wake of having his massive wound torn further by the kid's jostling. No pain in the world could ever be like this. He wanted to vomit. He wanted to scream. He was able to keep himself from doing either only because of the frantic terror that had just spilled across Edward's face at the sight of the wound. Giving in to his pain would only terrify the boy more, and Roy could not afford for him to panic.
"Colonel, oh, damn it, are you okay?" Ed sputtered, trying to sit up a little more from behind the confines of the decimated driver's seat.
Unable to give a vocal reply at the moment, Roy shot him a sardonic "what the hell do you think?" look and tried to focus on breathing. No, he wasn't okay. They both knew that.
"Just... just lay still, okay?" Ed told him, his voice quavering a little as he looked around again helplessly, his eyes searching for a way out that he might have missed.
"Fullmetal," he finally managed to gasp.
"It'll be fine, right? Just don't move, okay? Okay?"
The terror in his voice was raw and pleading, something that Roy could easily say he'd never heard before coming from the cocky teenager. To Roy's ears, he'd never sounded so young.
"I'll get you out of here. Don't worry, Colonel... I'll get you out, alright?"
"Fullmetal, calm down."
Edward raised his automail leg up as much as he could and tried once again to get the seat off of him, grunting under its weight. But then his face tightened suddenly and he fell back with a hiss of pain, letting his leg fall back down, his own injuries making it too difficult for him to keep struggling.
"Shit," he cursed, "Goddamnit, I can't move it. Uh, just, um..."
"Edward!" Roy finally shouted at him, reaching over and grabbing his face with one hand.
Ed's wide eyes flashed back over to meet his. "Yeah? W-what?"
"I need you to do something for me, Ed. It's very important."
"Yeah... yeah, okay. What?"
"Shut up and get a grip."
Edward looked lost for a moment, then his gaze sharpened and sobered as if he'd just been reminded of who he was talking to. He blinked and turned his face away from Roy's hand, looking almost embarrassed, suddenly aware that he'd been caught in the embrace of panic in front of his superior. The embarrassment calmed him almost immediately and Roy had to smile; nothing could quiet a teenage boy more quickly than suggesting that he was being a sissy.
As planned, Ed took a breath and fell silent, but his eyes were still frightened as he chewed his lip as he glanced back at Roy's wound. Roy, though, could not bring himself to look at it again for the moment.
"Thank you," Roy said into the near-silence of the car. "I need to think and you freaking out does not help my concentration." He massaged his temple with one hand, felt the blood seeping from somewhere above his forehead and decided not to think about it. One thing at a time. Actually, he felt strangely clear-headed for someone who had just been skewered with an iron spike, he thought. Perhaps he wasn't as badly injured as he'd first assumed...
He braced himself and looked down. Nausea and mortal fear crawled up his throat again. No. No, it was bad. It was very bad. He swallowed hard and tried to breathe evenly.
Be rational, Roy. Be calm. Think. Come on, think...
Anatomy charts and flashes of first-aid training lurched to the forefront of Roy's mind. The metal beam had entered low on the left side of his abdomen; what had been hit? His spine had been spared, so that was good. His small intestine was certainly damaged, though, and potentially his descending colon as well. Sepsis was imminent, no matter what he did at this point. His pelvis had to be broken. His iliac arteries might have been damaged, but from what he could tell he wasn't really bleeding all that much after the initial impalement. The beam was still plugging the hole that it had made in his belly, effectively keeping everything in place as long as he didn't remove it. That, at least, would buy him some time. Not much, but hopefully enough to think of a way to get Ed free.
He looked over at Ed again. He certainly looked scared, but not too badly injured. He'd said that his arm was broken and he had some cuts across his cheek and one larger gash across the bridge of his nose... he was probably battered and bruised a little, too, but hopefully that was it. Roy's goal at the moment was to get Edward out of here so that he could run for help, but that plan relied entirely on whether or not Ed could run at all. The snow and slush outside was pretty deep and Edward was going to have to wade through it back up the steep wall of the ravine, and if he was injured it was going to be damn near impossible.
Before worrying about that, though, they needed to figure out how they were going to get him out of the car. The doors were likely dented far beyond being able to be opened again. Most of the windows were broken, though, and Fullmetal was small enough to get out that way... They just had to get him unstuck first. Freeing his automail arm was going to be difficult; Roy could feel its cold solidity under his back, the beam that had impaled him likewise stabbing through the automail, pinning them together. The only way to release it would be to pull the beam out, but Roy would be as good as dead if he did that...
The beam was the only thing keeping Roy alive at the moment and if he moved it he'd quickly bleed to death... long before Ed would be able to come back with help. He'd do it if he had to, to save Edward, but that would have to be a last resort. He had to think of another way...
Ed could take the automail off at the shoulder once they got the seat off him, perhaps. He would have to make his escape with only one broken arm to aid him.
But then how to get the seat off of him to begin with?
Both of Ed's hands were compromised, thus he couldn't do his alchemy. Roy might be able to use his blood to draw a circle on the seat... but no, damn, the broken windows had let in the frigid moisture from outside and every surface was too wet for him to draw a circle clearly, and some of it was already frozen into glistening droplets of ice. Roy knew better than to even try lifting the seat off of him himself. The strain would only tear him open even more and if Ed wasn't strong enough to get it off of him, then Roy probably wasn't either in his current state—even with his hands free.
Damn it. There was no good way out of this.
"Fullmetal." Roy tried to speak Edward's title with authority, but he couldn't tell exactly how he sounded over the roaring of blood in his ears.
Ed was still watching him. Roy must have been silently staring into space for longer than he'd thought, for when he finally spoke Ed jumped a little, startled by his speech. At least Roy had his undivided attention, he thought wryly. That was a first.
"...You're sure that you can't get out?" Roy asked, careful to keep his tone as even and normal as he could.
"Pretty sure." Ed's words were tight, but calmer.
"And you can't see Havoc?"
"No." The word left his lips in a white cloud. God, it was cold... Roy had his greatcoat on, but he'd left it unbuttoned for the car ride and now the front of his uniform was wet with cooling blood and he couldn't exactly button his coat now... He shouldn't complain, though... Poor Ed looked chilled to his core...
"Colonel, what do you want me to do?"
Roy closed his eyes for a moment, trying to pretend that the world hadn't started spinning around him. Damn it, it was so hard to think.
"I don't think there's anything we can do at the moment," he replied quietly after a few seconds, eyes still closed.
"So... so, what? We just... wait for someone to find us?"
"Do you have a better idea?"
"Then we wait."
Ed went quiet and Roy sighed, glad for the silence. His head was pounding and there was a sharp, throbbing pain coming from the gash in his scalp. He must have hit his head pretty hard. So hard that at the moment it was actually hurting more than his gut. His torn abdomen did ache, but dully for now...
As long as he didn't move, it was bearable. He could stand it. It was fine.
Hawkeye sprinted down the hallway, the keys to a military car flashing in her hand.
Breda was running after her, shouting over his shoulder for Fuery to call for an ambulance to follow them down highway 11, along the ravine. Hughes had been informed and was already forming a search party.
She hoped somewhere in the back of her mind that someone would think to call Alphonse.
"...Maybe you should keep your eyes open."
It looked as if it took a moment for Mustang to realize that Ed was speaking to him, but then after a beat his eyelids raised and he looked over at him blankly.
"You're too calm about this," Ed said, watching him carefully.
"I work well under pressure." The reply was slow and soft. He sounded tired.
"No, I think you're in shock, Colonel."
Mustang smirked. "...You're probably right."
"Then you should keep your eyes open. Just... stay alert, you know?"
Ed couldn't keep the slight tremor from his voice and he knew that Mustang heard it from the way his bland smile quickly disappeared. He nodded grimly. He knew all too well what trouble he was in. He knew that he might not live through this.
The thought sent an icy dagger of fear through Ed's own stomach. The Colonel could die. Right here. Right in front of him. And there was nothing he could do. He couldn't even scratch his own nose, let alone offer any kind of aid to his wounded superior. There was a good chance that he was just going to have to lay here, held down by this stupid driver's seat, watching as Mustang slowly bled to death. And if the blood loss didn't get him, the cold surely would. It had been cold in the car before the accident, but now that the windows were busted in it was freezing. Literally. Ed could feel his wet clothes stiffening with ice already. Worse still, it was early evening and it was only going to get colder was the sun went down. They could both freeze to death before anyone could save them.
The cold did, however, buy them some more time. The colder it was, the slower Mustang's blood would flow. His wound might even freeze shut entirely around the beam; it looked like his head wound had already slowed to a near stop, ice-crystals forming in the blood on his cheek. That had to be a good sign, right?
Mustang's eyes slid shut again as a deep shiver coursed through him. He grimaced as the cold spasm forced his stomach muscles into movement, but he bore the pain silently with little more than a muffled gasp. When his eyes opened again, they were watery with pain and not quite as focused as they had been mere minutes ago. He was already starting to fade and they both knew it.
"...This sucks," the Colonel opined shakily after a moment, another odd smile pulling at his lips.
Ed almost cracked up. What a completely insane thing to say. He didn't think he'd ever heard the Colonel say that anything "sucked" before.
"Yeah," he had to agree, struggling to keep back the hysterical bubble of laughter. "It really does suck, doesn't it?"
Outside, the wind howled and fresh snow started fluttering to the ground. Oh great... the last thing they needed was for it to start snowing again. He turned his head and looked out the broken window above him, watching snowflakes twirl toward him on the breeze. It was almost calming though, watching the snow fall... comforting in a soft, sleepy way...
He looked over at Mustang and saw that his eyes were closed again. For just a split second, Ed thought about just letting him go to sleep. They could both sleep, huddling in the false warmth of unconsciousness... But then he shook himself. No. That was just the cold talking. Hypothermia didn't take long to set in at these temperatures—especially when swathed in wet clothes—and Ed knew without a doubt that it had already started taking a hold on him.
Mustang's eyes opened again quickly and he took a breath.
"Talk to me. We both need to keep alert," he said suddenly, this thoughts clearly reflecting the worry in Ed's own mind.
"Ah..." Ed stalled, trying to think of something pertinent to say. "So... read any good books lately...?"
Mustang arched an eyebrow, looking almost amused by Ed's awkward attempt at small talk. He sighed, then decided to play along. Then again, what other option did he have? "A few. Hughes forced this weird detective novel on me last week. It's alright. You?"
"Al bought me an alchemy book on plant theory for my birthday. It's pretty interesting."
"Don't you and Alphonse ever read anything other than alchemy books?"
"Well..." Ed shivered, trying to keep his mind on the conversation as a particularly frigid gust of wind blew snow across his eyes. He could feel his wet hair freezing to his scalp. "Al l-l-likes comics..."
"...I read newspapers sometimes."
"Oh, that doesn't count. I mean novels. Literature. Fiction."
"Can't say I'm a fan of fiction... I mean, what's the point? It's n-not real."
Mustang frowned. "So? It's enjoyable. I devoured adventure stories when I was you age."
"I get enough adventure on my own, thanks."
"I s-suppose that's true," Mustang agreed, smirking wryly. But then, abruptly, he grimaced and leaned his head back against the seat, gasping though a sudden pain.
"Colonel?" Ed asked warily, the façade of normalcy that their forced conversation had briefly created instantly shattered.
"My s-stomach muscles... are spasming," he grated out. "It's normal with... shit... these kinds of injuries, just keep talking." His whole body clenched and he covered his face with one hand, panting hard.
"...I... I... uh..." he stumbled, too flustered and horrified to even remember what they'd been talking about.
Mustang took several steadying breaths and visibly forced himself to relax a little. He wiped his eyes and continued with admirable steadiness, "If we get out of this, I'll l-lend you some books."
"...Okay," Ed whispered shakily, not really wanting to talk anymore.
"But you h-have to really read them. I'll quiz you when you least suspect it... and I'll make you write essays if you... g-get the questions wrong..."
Ed's heart shuddered in his chest, frightened by how desperate and sad their conversation was. It wasn't going to save them. It was only delaying the inevitable. Still, it was all he could do to help his commander so he plastered a look of mild irritation on his face and shot back:
"You couldn't make me write an essay on a stupid detective book if you life depended on it...!"
On the inside, though, he just wanted to shut his eyes tight and cry.
Where were they, where were they, where were they?
Riza Hawkeye drummed her fingers on the steering wheel, her eyes darting across every inch of the frozen street she was driving down, looking for any sign that there had been an accident.
"See anything?" she asked Breda in the seat next to her.
They had to be on this road somewhere. It was the only road within ten miles of Headquarters that ran along the ravine. Havoc had specifically mentioned the ravine. The Colonel and Fullmetal were somewhere down below the road, most likely injured in the wreckage of the company car... but the ravine ran for miles and miles... They could be anywhere.
No one had reported an accident. Then again, that was likely because no one outside of those involved had seen it. The freak snowstorm that had covered the past few days with frigid whiteness had kept many people off the roads. Where she was now, there were no other cars in sight at all except for the flashing lights of the ambulance behind her and a two other military cars.
Riza swallowed hard and gave the car a little more gas, driving carefully but still trying to hurry.
It would be dark soon.
It had been over half an hour since the accident.
It was very cold and it was getting hard to breathe.
"S-stay awake, Colonel. They'll be here soon." Ed had been saying the same thing just about every five minutes. The hope in his voice was starting to fade, but he kept saying it anyway, trying to make them both believe it.
Still, Roy forced his eyes open once again. It was getting harder and harder each time. His pain had diminished somewhat for the moment—he was almost getting used to the infrequent muscle spasms—but he was getting so tired. His body was ready to give up the fight, but Ed was pushing him forward, tacitly begging him to keep living.
He raised a hand to the side of his neck and checked his pulse. Too fast and too weak, little more than the wing beats of a butterfly fluttering against his fingertips. He probably didn't have much longer. He couldn't get enough air. He was breathing hard, but his head still spun from not having enough oxygen. Deep breaths hurt too much, so he made do with short, erratic gasps.
He wondered absently which would stop first: his heart or his lungs?
He looked over at Ed, dizzy and numb. The kid hadn't really taken his eyes off of him since the crash, and he wore the worry on his face like a mask that carved itself deeper and deeper into his flesh with every passing moment.
Neither of them were able to contribute much to conversation anymore.
Ed was pale and shivering hard. It had started snowing again outside and the powder was blowing in through Ed's broken window, coating the side of his shoulder, neck, and head with white. His clothes were still soaked from the slush that had invaded the car when they hit the bottom of the ravine. Locks of his damp hair had already frozen solid against his face, stiffening into surreal tendrils spiraling on his cheek. Hypothermia was going to become a real threat if he didn't get out of here soon.
Roy looked down at his wound, ears ringing. The bloody cloth of his uniform had frozen to the metal beam. It didn't really hurt that much anymore. He put both hands around the beam and squeezed hard, testing his grip.
"I'm going to pull it out." The decision came to him quickly, egged on by the pallor of Ed's face and the chattering of his teeth. They didn't both have to die. Just one of them. Ed's death was preventable if they could just get him out of the car, and he'd be able to do that if only Roy removed the beam. It was a simple solution. It was rational.
Ed made a nervous, incredulous sound. "Are you crazy? You'll bleed to death if you pull it out. Just be patient. Someone'll be here soon, okay?"
"You need to get out of here. The cold is getting to you, I can see it."
"I'm f-f-fine, really." He was lying. "You're hurt. You can't be thinking right... It'll be okay if we just wait some more."
"Ed, this is the only way."
Roy rolled his head to the side to look down at Edward, almost moved by the concern in his voice. He smiled. "I'm already dead, kiddo. I don't think I'm walking away from this, no matter what I do at this point."
Ed licked his lips, agitated, knowing that he was right but not wanting to admit it aloud, not daring to let his commander give in to his looming mortality just yet. "Just wait a few more minutes. Alright? Someone will come, you'll see. Just give it a few more minutes."
"No one's coming."
"Fuck, just be patient. Just five more minutes. Please."
Roy chuckled at the thought of Ed telling him to be patient, but even that small movement made pain lance through his gut again and he couldn't hold back the muffled cry that tore out of his throat. His pulse beat a hazy black design behind his eyes and it was all he could do to will them open again as he desperately sucked air into his failing lungs.
"I-if I wait any longer... I won't be strong enough... t-to move it," he gasped, the cold air burning his windpipe as he struggled against the darkness trying to pull him down. No time, no time. He had to do this now. He was getting weaker by the second.
"Only a little longer," Ed pleaded, "Just five minutes, come on!"
"I might already be d-dead in five minutes... and if I die, you die."
"You don't know that!" The kid was shouting now, furious and scared, understanding that Roy's mind was made up but still fighting to change it.
"I'm tired, Ed... It's okay." Roy had the sudden, deep urge to reach over and touch him, to brush his frozen hair out of his face, but he resisted.
"It's not okay!" Fullmetal screamed at him, lifting himself up as much as he could to glare at him over the driver's seat. "Nothing about this is okay! You can't just give up because you're tired. You have to keep fighting!"
"I'm not 'giving up!'" Ed's anger was contagious, it seemed. Roy felt it like a sudden wave of warmth in his chest that made his heart pound just a little harder. How dare Edward even insinuate that he wasn't fighting! "I'm dying! This is a little beyond my control. You think I want this?"
"I call it like I see it."
"Well, you haven't been doing a whole hell of a lot to help yourself, have you? You haven't done anything to try and keep yourself alive!"
The anger in Roy's breast boiled over into frustration and rage. "Well how the fuck do I do that? I've gone over our situation again and again in my mind, and there is nothing that I can do!"
"There is something that you can do!"
"Then enlighten me, Edward! Tell me what you, in you vast knowledge of life and death, think that I should do!"
"I think that you should fucking wait."
Silence filled the car after Edward's words, broken only by the whispering of the wind. Somewhere outside, a tree branch snapped under the weight of its icy burden and fell to the earth.
Roy let the silence wash over him, suddenly giddy—whether from injury or from revelation, he wasn't sure... It was almost funny, now that he realized what Ed was doing. Fullmetal wasn't really angry, just frightened. He just wanted his Colonel to be angry. Anger is a powerful emotion; it gets the heart pumping, it forces the mind to work more quickly, and once it gets settled in you, it never wants to leave. As long as Roy was angry and arguing, he was alive and distracted from the need to pull the beam out of his abdomen. Edward was just manipulating him to buy them both some time, and Roy felt an odd little thrill of fondness for the kid when he realized that. Ed just wanted him to wait, that's all. He didn't want him to die, even at the cost of his own life. Roy felt exactly the same way, the only difference being that Roy actually had the power to free him by sacrificing himself, while all Ed could do was try to convince him not to do it. No matter what he did Edward was going to suffer for it, one way or another.
Roy took a breath, thinking.
"...Five minutes. That's all," he agreed quietly.
It was getting so cold in here that Ed could barely think. He couldn't feel the fingers on his broken hand anymore. The side of is face was numb where the snow blew against it. His automail ports were so cold that they burned his flesh in a constant ache that he could neither soothe nor distract himself from. But he had to keep himself alert. He had to do it for Mustang...
The Colonel hadn't been exaggerating when he'd said that his time was short. Their brief argument seemed to have taken a lot out of him. His eyes were closed again, but Ed would only let them remain so for another few seconds before reminding him once more that he needed to keep them open. His breathing had been getting progressively shallower since his injury, but now it was little more than a chain of wet, painful-sounding gasps that made his chest flutter like an injured bird's. His face was coated with sweat and much of it was white with frost as it froze to his cheeks and jaw. His lips were starting to turn blue.
It had been three minutes. Ed was ticking off the seconds off in his head, counting down from three hundred—two minutes left to go.
"Stay awake, Colonel," Ed made himself speak up after another few beats of just watching him struggle to breathe.
Mustang's brow furrowed a little and he gave a faint little moan but—for the first time—his eyes did not open at Ed's words.
Mustang's eyes shot open with a startled, particularly pained-sounding gasp. He gritted his teeth for a moment, trying to make his gaze focus on Edward again.
"...Just a bit longer, sir. Come on."
Mustang nodded slowly. He was already half-gone. Ed's insides shuddered as they held one another's gaze, recognizing the pain, exhaustion, and calm acceptance behind his superior's eyes. Mustang had no doubt in his mind that he was about to die. There was not even one inkling of hope within him that he might survive... and he had silently accepted that. There was no terror, no raging... just a kind of regretful placidity.
"...Aren't you scared?" Ed didn't know why he asked it, or why his voice shook so much, or why his vision had started blurring... but the question had been on the tip of his tongue for the past ten minutes. He needed to know. He wanted to try and comfort Mustang somehow if the answer was yes...
Mustang turned his face away and stared up at the ceiling of the car, looking at where the metal beam had punched through it.
"...No," he said after a long pause, as if he'd given the question deep thought. "I d-don't think so... I'm a little angry. I'm frustrated. Disappointed..." He had to stop for a few beats and breathe before continuing. "Who knew I'd die in s-such a pointless way? A car accident? I should b-be... in battle... I was supposed to change the world... I h-had so much work to do still..."
"...I'm sorry," was all that Ed could think to say.
Mustang raised his hands in a weak, careless little shrug. "Don't be. I'd planned for my death long ago. Hawkeye will continue my work... Hughes'll... h-help her get to the top. And everyone will keep an eye on you and Alphonse to try and k-keep you out of trouble..."
"I don't need looking after." Ed tried to bristle a little at Mustang's words, but his heart wasn't in it and he ended up sounding consoling rather than insulted. Please don't worry about me...
The Colonel turned to look at him again and his pale lips pulled back in a sad, ghostly smile. "Yes, you do."
The blur of moisture in Ed's eyes suddenly intensified and he turned his face away in embarrassed grief, not able to wipe away the tears but not wanting Mustang to see them. When he'd blinked them back enough to see clearly again, he turned back and saw Mustang still regarding him sadly. The Colonel swallowed hard and closed his eyes. There was frost on his eyelashes, giving him a soft look that made his calm, pale face look almost angelic.
"Ed, it's been five minutes."
"No." The word caught in his throat. He had to clear it and try again. "No, you still have almost a whole minute left."
"Nothing's... going t-to change in less than a minute. I'm doing it now."
He raised his hands and fumbled to grip the freezing metal bar that was killing him. His fists took hold of it just above the creased, blood-frozen cloth where it entered him.
There was no more delaying him now, so Ed didn't try. But, very quietly, he asked:
"Is there anything you want me to tell Hawkeye? Or Hughes? Anyone...?"
Mustang considered for a moment. "No. I have nothing to say that they don't already know... even if I've never said it aloud."
Ed wasn't quite sure what that cryptic statement meant, but he quickly committed it to memory. If these were Mustang's last words, they would not go unrecorded.
Mustang tightened his grip on the beam. He looked uncertain for a moment, the faintest touch of fear clenching his jaw. "You have to promise... to get out of here once I get your arm free. Don't try to help me. Just go back up to the road and find a phone. Call Hawkeye to come rescue you. Find shelter and wait for her. Don't come back for me. Promise."
When Ed didn't answer immediately, that tiny shred of fear in Mustang's face intensified. "Promise me."
Mustang had lied, Ed realized. He was scared. Terrified. Only, he wasn't afraid for himself. He was afraid for Ed. He was okay with his own death, but he'd die a million times over before he'd let anything happen to Edward. The realization was like a blow to the solar plexus and hot tears abruptly returned to Ed's eyes—the only bit of warmth in a world of cold.
"I promise, sir."
Mustang's face relaxed a little and he nodded, turning back to his task. He took a breath, then another. Then he gritted his teeth and pulled.
All he could hear was screaming.
It took him a minute to realize it was coming from him.
He bit his lip to quiet himself and kept pulling. His insides were on fire, each inch of the splintered beam that he pulled out of himself ripping at him like a swarm of starving rats. The metal ground against his broken pelvis, cracking it further. His arms shook with the strain, the roof of the car creaking as he forced the beam back up through the hole in the metal ceiling.
But then he had to stop, panting and trembling convulsively. He couldn't do it. He wasn't strong enough. He fell back against the seat gasping, his heart pounding so loudly in his ears that he almost couldn't hear Edward shouting at him.
"Damn it, Colonel, just forget it! Just wait some more! Please! It's not worth it!"
He was crying.
Roy opened his eyes and looked down at the wound—he couldn't look at Ed. He'd pulled through perhaps a foot and a half of the bloodied metal, but he knew that there must be at least that much more left for him to extract. He could feel Edward frantically trying to move his arm from under his back, but it was still skewered on the beam. It must have gone all the way through the car.
He had to try again, for Edward.
Roy moved his hands down again to where the length of half-frozen steel connected to his body, watching blood drip down onto his fingers from the section he had already pulled out. He took another deep, keening breath and gave it everything he had, tearing the bar out of him with one final jerk.
The dimness in the car went completely black. The screams, both his and Fullmetal's, went silent for what seemed like a long time.
But then there was movement. The screech of bending steel and breaking springs. The sound of hard, repetitive blows landing on metal and then the metal giving way. Someone grabbed him. Dragged him. He couldn't even open his eyes to see who it was.
No... his eyes were open. He just couldn't see.
"Hang in there, Colonel..." Muffled words next to his face. "Keep fighting, come on!"
Something hard and unbearably cold struck Roy across the face. His vision cleared for a moment and he saw Ed looming over him, his automail hand ready to hit him again.
"Good. Stay awake, stay awake..." Ed encouraged him, not bothering to wipe away the tears on his face.
"...Promised... you'd leave..." Roy reminded him, distantly terrified that the boy wasn't running. He'd promised... He'd promised.
"Yeah, well, I lied, okay?" he sobbed, "I'm getting you out of here. I have to try."
He was doing something. Roy's head was too bleary and confused to focus on him, though, so he just closed his eyes again and waited for the world to stop.
"I told you to stay awake!" he heard Ed shout, the sound almost swallowed by the consuming silence of the snowy landscape around them. Roy ignored him. Maybe if he just let himself die, Ed would finally have the sense to run and try to get himself some help...
He could feel Ed tearing open his ruined uniform, exposing his wound to the air. Then a sudden, blinding pain stole the breath from his lungs in an agonizing rush. He cried out, trying to raise his head to see what Ed was doing. Through watering eyes, he saw Ed quickly grab another handful of snow and pack it hard into his open wound. Another bolt of that freezing agony ripped through Roy again and all he could do was lay back and shriek though it, not understanding anything but pain in the intermittent darkness.
"Almost done, just hold still," Ed pleaded, his tone bordering on hysterical. "I don't know if this'll work, but please, please just stay with me..."
Roy heard a grunt of pain as Ed put his broken arm to work and clapped his hands together. There was a flash of light followed by one last, even greater surge of agony that devoured all sound, all light, all feeling and threw everything around him into deepest blackness.
That was the last thing he remembered.
Hawkeye's heart—which had reached unbelievable, soaring heights when she'd first seen the outline of the damaged truck littering the road—now sank down into her boots, plummeting like a rock past the pit of her stomach and down into the soles of her feet.
The floodlights bedecking Hughes' military investigations vehicle threw garish brightness onto the chilling scene before them, shining dully off of the dead truck-driver's open eyes and catching in the sea of broken glass surrounding him. The light glinted off of the phone booth on the side of the road, the brilliant burst of red smeared across the glass walls acting as the only color on the scene. Snow flurried around them, coating them all with a fine layer of frozen dust, making it hard to see in spite of the powerful lights.
Havoc had already been found and was under the care of a team of very capable physicians working out of the back of their ambulance. He was alive but, thus far, he was still unconscious and not showing any signs of waking.
Hawkeye stood on the lip of the ravine, peering down at the group of men who were hiking down to the wrecked, snow-covered military car that had taken them over ten minutes to spot. The car was in such bad shape that it made her stomach turn, wondering if it was even possible for someone to survive such a crash.
She saw Hughes, the distant floodlights shining white off of his glasses as he ran the last few paces toward the car, his men right behind him. He stumbled over one of the back doors of the vehicle—which looked as if someone had kicked it open off its hinges—and ducked to look inside, his flashlight glowing in his hand like a bright beacon in the falling night.
He stood upright again quickly, but it was too dark for Riza to make out any kind of expression on his face. Her insides clenched with the suspense of not knowing.
"They're not here!" he shouted up to her, his own voice pulled tight with worry. "There's a lot of blood, but I don't see them!"
Riza cursed under her breath, her heart racing. Where could they be? If there was a lot of blood, then they couldn't have gone far, could they...?
She pulled her own flashlight out of her belt and started down, the beam of light in her hand trembling as she shone it around her. The snow was falling heavily now and had no doubt obscured any tracks that the Colonel and Fullmetal might have left behind. Looking back toward the car, she saw dark patches of deepest red seeping up through the fine powder near the broken door—and it was a lot of blood—but that was the only sign that they'd been there at all.
She tried to swallow back her fear but it came up again in a frigid block that made her throat ache and her eyes sting. They would be okay. They would both be fine. Her boys.
She cast her light around, looking for more signs of blood that she might use to track them. It was the only thing she could think to do and she could see Hughes and his men frantically doing the same thing below her. After a few beats of tense, rewardless search, a flash of scarlet caught the corner of her eye. It was just below her on the steep incline—perhaps halfway up the slope—and several yards to her left. She ran toward it as well as she was able, snow flying in her wake like a bridal train. Soon she was close enough to see that the red was not blood at all, but cloth.
She hit her knees and quickly brushed the snow away, feeling the solid resistance of a shoulder under the red material. She cleared more snow off frantically, her heart clenching as the powder revealed two bodies, both completely cold and motionless. Edward had his automail arm around Mustang, cradling his head against his chest. Their skin was so pale as to almost be blue against the abhorrent whiteness around them.
They weren't even shivering anymore.
She squeezed Ed's shoulder hard under her hand, then dropped her flashlight to reach over and touch Mustang's cheek as well.
No... Oh, god no...
But then Ed made a tiny sound and his eyes wandered open. He looked over at her vaguely, but then his eyes fluttered and closed again.
Heart racing, she turned and screamed for the medics.
It was warm. Almost too warm. But, then again, being too warm was a thousand times better than being back in that car, chilled to the bone and waiting to die...
Was he dead?
...No, Roy reasoned, probably not. It was too warm in here to be Heaven, not warm enough to be Hell. But really, as an atheist, he probably shouldn't be feeling anything at all in death...
He must be alive then. Huh.
He reached up to his face to rub his eyes and felt something blocking his way. Smooth glass. An oxygen mask. So he was in a hospital. Odd, considering how the last thing he remembered was being certain that he was mere minutes from death...
"What, no...! You can't do that!"
"Yes I can, Ed. Knights can jump over the other pieces." That was Hughes. Roy knew his voice anywhere.
"I'm going to make you leave if you can't be quiet," another voice said, close by his side. Hawkeye.
Roy heard her sigh at the insincerity in their voices and opened his eyes. She was in a chair at the foot of his bed, primly reading a book while Hughes and Ed played chess on a small table in the corner.
Fullmetal was a little paler than he might usually have been and his arm was in a sling. There were tiny bandages taped over the cuts on his nose and cheek, but otherwise he looked fine. A little irritated by the game, maybe, but fine.
A great weight lifted from Roy's chest and he sighed his relief. Good. He was alive. Roused by the soft sound, Hawkeye raised her head and looked over at him. She blinked in surprise, then smiled.
"Good afternoon, sir. Sleep well?"
Hughes and Edward both jumped and looked over.
"God, Roy, thanks for scaring me," Hughes said as he got to his feet, brow furrowed in mock-anger. "I mean really. Getting yourself impaled? Really?"
"And all just to piss you off..." Roy managed after a moment. His throat was bone-dry and his words came out in a harsh kind of cough.
"I knew it. You ass."
Roy chuckled, then stopped when he was abruptly reminded of the wound that had put him in the hospital to begin with. He winced at the unexpected pain and closed his eyes for a moment. Oh, ouch. Not good...
"You probably shouldn't make him laugh," Ed opined sagely. Roy opened his eyes back up and looked at him, once again feeling a thrill of relief to see him alive and well.
Roy swallowed and tore his eyes away from him. "So, what's my prognosis?"
"Good," Hawkeye said. "Decent, at least. Ed saved your life. He said that he packed snow into your wound, then liquefied it and froze it into a solid block. It made a perfect cast of the inside of your wound and kept everything in place while he dragged you to safety."
He looked back at Edward, arching an eyebrow tiredly. "...You should know that that hurt like hell. Next time, just let me die," he joked morbidly.
Ed gave a weak smile, probably not finding that at all funny.
Roy sighed and turned back to Hawkeye and Hughes. "Give us a second?"
"What? Oh, yeah... Of course," Hughes said quickly as Hawkeye stood. They exited quietly and left Ed alone with him, though Hawkeye looked back once to give Roy a warm—albeit exasperated—smile that, in one glance, told him both how much she cared for him and how brutally she would beat him into the ground if he ever got hurt this badly again. He smirked back at her, knowing that it would be futile to remind her that it hadn't been his fault in any way that he'd gotten hurt. But she knew that.
She knew more than either of them would ever be able to vocalize.
Edward seated himself in her abandoned chair and looked down at Roy. Neither of them said anything for several seconds.
"...Havoc's room is right down the hall," Ed spoke up when the silence started to get uncomfortable. "He's asleep right now. He got a pretty bad concussion and it makes him sleep a lot. That's what the doctor said."
"Is he alright?" Roy asked, pulling off his oxygen mask and setting it on the bedside table. It made him feel claustrophobic somehow.
"Yeah. Mostly. He has some broken bones, but he'll be out of here soon. He likes his morning nurse a lot..." He stopped and a tiny, coy smile touched his lips. "...Maybe a little too much. He's already gotten slapped twice."
Roy laughed again without thinking, then hissed when he pulled his wound. Ed's smile immediately vanished and was replaced by nervous worry.
"That s-sounds like Havoc..." Roy made himself say, trying to play off the pain with another grin. Ed didn't buy it though, and the concern in his eyes remained.
"...You really scared me, you know," Ed told him softly, all trace of mirth gone from him as if it had never existed.
"Well... you scared me, too," Roy countered, his own humor fading. "You terrified me. I gave you direct orders to leave me and you lied. All I wanted was to keep you safe."
Ed crossed his automail arm lightly over his sling and leaned back in the chair. "I am safe. I wasn't hurt that bad."
"But you could have been. The cold could have killed you."
"...It almost did," he admitted, clearing his throat. "Both of us. I... lost consciousness carrying you up the hill. If Hawkeye hadn't found us when she did, we would have frozen to death..."
"See?!" Roy sputtered, heart clenching. "If you hadn't been worrying about me, you probably would have—"
"Would you have left me behind? If I had been the one skewered?"
The question startled Roy, and for a moment he couldn't answer.
"That's... That doesn't matter..."
"Would you have?"
Roy took a breath. "...No, I would have done exactly the same thing you did, but—"
"Then don't lecture me."
Another long silence floated in between them, neither of them really able to look at the other. Finally, Roy braced himself and broke it.
"Thank you," he said quietly, with as much gratitude as could infuse into his voice. He was grateful that Ed had saved his life, more than he could ever fully express... even if he was still a little angry at him for risking his own life to do it.
Ed scuffed one foot on the polished floor. "You're welcome," he said, smiling again, Roy's thanks clearly meaning something to him. But then he cleared his throat and abruptly got to his feet. "I'm just gonna... go tell Havoc you're awake. He's been... you know... worried and stuff."
Roy almost sniggered at Ed's suddenly flustered tone, but he caught it and stopped before he could hurt himself. Ed gave him another shy, worried smile.
"I'll... come see you again tomorrow... if that's okay with you."
"...Sure, kid," Roy said, both surprised and touched. He shrugged and tried to shake off the admittedly sappy feeling and said, "You should get cracking on that detective novel I was telling you about before then, though. Have Hughes get it from my apartment."
"...Yeah, sounds great..." Ed grimaced, rolling his eyes. "I'll read it, but you can't make me write essays."
Ed flashed him one last wry smirk and left, somehow looking a little less pallid than he had when Roy had first awoken. Hawkeye and Hughes came back in not too long afterward, but Roy was already asleep again by then, glad for the warmth of his bed and the knowledge that even his most difficult employees were so loyal to him, even while staring into the gaping maw of death.
And no dream or work of fiction could ever be better than that.