First Lieutenant Heymans Breda ran, keeping low as he, Havoc, and several other soldiers moved forward, sweeping through the trees—rushing, but still wary of enemies that might be hiding in the brush around them. Those last two cannon-blasts had been close and Heymans could have sworn that he'd heard Mustang shouting something urgently, even though he hadn't been able to make out anything more than Ed's name. Regardless, it filled him with a feeling of foreboding that he could tell Havoc tacitly shared. Mustang only rarely shouted like that, his voice filled not with authority, but with sharp panic.
Whatever had happened, Heymans could only hope that they weren't too late to be of some aid.
They came to a small clearing, following the tendrils of smoke that floated upward into the heavy gray sky from the explosion sites. Heymans saw Edward standing off by himself, facing the Drachman stronghold, his shoulders hunched and heaving. Mustang was walking away from him, his face was carefully blank and as he got closer Heymans could see that it was streaked with blood from an abrasion on his brow.
Havoc raised his hand to hail him, but then he stopped when Edward suddenly loosed one of the most frightening sounds that either of them had ever heard, a scream that seemed to wash over them in a frozen wave of tangible anguish. Mustang winced at the sound as if it had pierced him through his heart, but he didn't turn until he heard the popping, electric sound of alchemy that came from Edward as he clapped his hands and fell to his knees. Mustang stiffened and then spun, the skirt of his uniform whipping around his legs as he turned.
"ED, STOP!" he shouted as he ran back toward him. Before he could get more than a few paces though, the ground beneath his feet began to tremble.
Roy's insides clenched in terror when he heard Ed begin the alchemy sequence. He turned to see him on his knees in the mud, sparks twitching all around him and for a moment Roy couldn't breathe. Oh no... no, no, Ed couldn't be that stupid. He couldn't think of trying to bring him back... could he?
The ground between Ed and the stronghold rumbled and buckled, then swelled upward in a veritable wall of mud, rock, and ice. The wall reared, a fifty-foot high wave of earth that flickered with the blue light of Ed's manic power. The quaking ground threw Roy off his feet but Hawkeye caught him before he could fall. He struggled upright again, lurching toward Edward—trying to stay focused through the dizzy pain in his skull, the shifting ground at his feet, and the sudden fear in his chest. What was Ed doing? He wasn't trying to resurrect his brother as Roy had thought in those first terrifying moments after he'd begun the transmutation. This was something else entirely, but somehow something just as frightening. A raw kind of power spilled from Edward's crouched form, a cold radiation fueled by sorrow, hate, and adrenaline.
Ed cried out again and the animated earth surged forward, growing as it collected rocks and trees into itself, tearing up and consuming everything it its path. It swelled and hit the side of the Drachman stronghold, instantly flowing over the top of it and crushing the men who had murdered Edward's brother with their cannons. The dozens of men who had been guarding the front of the stronghold had been completely obliterated as well, their brief screams silenced by a quick end. Roy could feel the power rolling off of Edward as he brought the wave up and slammed it down again, the immeasurable weight of the mud cracking the stone walls of the structure.
Roy couldn't do anything but stare, his body frozen with awe and his thoughts jumbled by both fear and injury. He had never seen anything like this. Not even in Ishbal. Even with the red stones that they'd been given, none of the State Alchemists in that terrible war would have been able to something so awesome as this.
Ed brought the wave of earth up again, the strain of controlling it making the tendons in his neck stretch hard under his skin. His face was intense, unspeakable in its anguished rage as he committed every ounce of himself to the act of violent revenge. His teeth were bared, saliva-streaked lips pulled back in a feral roar as he screamed his murderous agony to the sky. His amber eyes were bright, looking almost demonically red in the light of his transmutation. Roy could have almost sworn that they were glowing, as frightening as they looked.
Edward's nose was starting to bleed, running red down over his bared teeth. Roy stumbled forward a few more paces over the rocking ground, trying to get to him. He wouldn't be able to survive exerting this kind of power for much longer; if he kept going, the energy that he was giving to his hellish attack would take too much and kill him. Then again, perhaps that was the whole point.
"EDWARD!" he shouted, part of him knowing that he wouldn't be able to hear him over his frantic alchemic tantrum. Unsurprisingly, Ed didn't respond and instead forced the mountain of mud down onto the stronghold once more, finally collapsing it, killing every enemy soldier housed within in mere seconds. If the weight of the earth didn't kill them, then asphyxiation would surely do it and Roy couldn't deny the dark thrill of sated vengeance that ran down his spine at the thought.
He grabbed Edward by the shoulders and hauled him to his feet, breaking his contact with the earth. His vast weapon of mud broke apart and fell still, almost entirely burying the Drachman stronghold with dark mud.
The silence that filled the battlefield now was harsh and grating somehow, vibrating against the eardrums. Heavy. Ed alone broke the silence, his entire body heaving each time he took a breath. He gasped, his shoulders shaking under Roy's firm grip, from both exhaustion and yet-unspent emotion.
"...Good work, Fullmetal," was all that Roy could think to say, trying to dispel the horrified silence of the soldiers standing around them, staring. "I think you may have just single-handedly ended this war..."
He hoped that no one noticed how his voice wavered.
It took Ed several seconds to tear his eyes away from the spot where his brother was still strewn—the whole area had been miraculously untouched by Ed's destructive hands. When he finally did turn his head to look up over his shoulder at Roy, his eyes were completely unfamiliar. The boy he'd known for so long was suddenly a stranger. He even looked different somehow; much of his hair had come undone from his ponytail and obscured half his face, clinging to the muddy tear-tracks on his cheeks. The blood under his nose had smeared down over his mouth, darkening his lips and daubing his teeth. His visible eye was shadowed and wide, with only the barest hint of recognition as it met Roy's gaze.
"You..." Ed whispered, his voice breathy and hitched.
His back heaved again as if he might be sick, but then in a swift movement he half-turned and raised his arm, quickly digging the mouth of his gun into Roy's neck.
Roy went still and let his expression harden into a dark kind of calm.
Ed wouldn't really shoot him. Roy knew that, but from the sharp curses and the sounds of guns being cocked all around him he could tell that his men did not. Even Hawkeye had already taken aim, only too willing to take Edward down if it was required of her.
"Put it down, Ed," Roy warned him quietly, one hand still resting on his trembling shoulder. "You're hysterical. You don't really want to do this."
"Shut up!" he shouted, turning to face him completely and backing up a few paces, the gun that he had never once drawn before now aimed at Roy's chest. "Don't you f-fucking talk to me! You killed my brother!"
"Edward, you know that I didn't—"
"SHUT UP!" he screeched again, aiming back up at Roy's face, holding the gun in both hands, his finger tensed on the trigger. Roy went silent, not wanting to anger him further—this situation was bad enough... Not for Roy, he really wasn't that worried about himself... but for Ed. Hawkeye looked ready to kill him, inching steadily closer—and she didn't miss. That, and all these soldiers standing around them were witnesses to the attempted assassination of their Fuhrer; even if Ed dropped the gun now, he might still face jail-time for treason.
"Don't make me shoot you, Fullmetal," Hawkeye said. She was almost at Roy's side, now, keeping her voice low and soothing as she spoke. "Just put the gun down."
"Fuck you! This has nothing to do with you!" He was crying now, shaking convulsively in his manic grief, the gun in his hands wavering slowly downward. "Look what he's done! Look at what he did to Alphonse!"
"Listen to me..." Roy spoke up again softly, his heart aching with sympathy. "You have to know that I never would have purposefully harmed Alphonse. He chose this path on his own. I cared for him... both of you... like s—"
"I SAID SHUT UP!"
Something must have given him away, some kind of subtle movement, some miniscule change in posture that alerted her to what he was about to do... because she knew even before Ed fired. Hawkeye leapt forward in an instant, standing between them before either of them had seen her move, before Roy had even registered the sound of gunfire. But then she was flung backward against him, a sharp, panic-induced pain stabbing into his stomach—sympathy pain, he thought in that first giddy instant, when he looked down over his wife's shoulder and saw the bloody stain begin to spread across her abdomen. He cradled her in one arm before she could fall and she squeezed off a round at Edward. Her aim went low, missing him entirely.
Roy looked up at Ed, shocked into speechlessness by what he had just done. Ed looked just as horrified, mouth slightly agape as he lowered his gun. They stared at each other for a long, nauseated beat, eyes locked. Then, without really even thinking about it—without thinking about himself, or his men, or this war, or anything that was not his Riza—Roy called a spark to his unencumbered hand and sent a bolt of fire screeching.
It hit Ed in the side of his face and he went down hard, shrieking as the flames consumed his flesh.
Roy turned back to the woman in his arms, uncaring of Edward's screams, ignoring the soldiers who rushed forward to put out the fire and keep him down. He sank with her to the ground and she looked up at him, her face gray and confused-looking.
"I missed," she said, moving her hand down to the hole in her stomach, applying pressure. The blood ran freely from between her slender fingers. She still held her gun in her other hand, but her grip had loosened and the barrel of it was resting in the mud. "I never miss."
"Y-yeah, you did," he stammered, his heart hammering. "But I'll allow it this time. You were just shot, after all... I got him, though."
"Were you hit?"
Her eyelids drooped shut. "Good."
"No, don't close your eyes," he pleaded, horrorstruck. "Love, look at me."
She sighed and opened one eye. "You act as if I've never b-been shot before," she commented dryly, her voice entirely too calm and reasonable in spite of its sudden, uncharacteristic weakness.
Not like this, he wanted to tell her, but he just clenched his jaw and said, "Forgive me. My head hurts."
"...My stomach hurts, but you don't hear m-me... complaining."
He forced himself to give a thin little laugh, feeling like he was going to throw up.
Jean and Breda skidded to a halt in the slick mud and hit their knees next to their Fuhrer.
"Shit..." Breda hissed as they both looked down at Hawkeye. She looked bad. She looked real bad.
"Call the medic," Mustang said tightly, his eyes almost childlike in their fear as he hovered over his bleeding wife.
"We just sent someone to get them," Jean assured him, "They'll be here soon."
"No need to rush on m-my account," Hawkeye joked quietly, the strain of keeping herself composed visibly taking a toll on her.
"Don't talk anymore," Mustang told her gently, ghosting his hand over hers to help her hold the wound.
She swallowed hard, then dropped her gun to reach over and remove his hand. "Sir, you need to go. Your m-men need you more than I do right now. There could still be enemies hiding."
"...You're hurt," he said, looking slightly annoyed by her suggestion. "I'm not going to leave you just because—"
"I'll be fine, Fuhrer," she interrupted him, putting a hard emphasis on his title, reminding him of who he was. "The medic is coming you'll just be in their way."
"In the way?" he asked her with a soft smile, feigning incredulity. "How rude. You're making it very difficult for me to feel sorry for you."
She smiled back gently then tilted her head in the direction of the other soldiers standing around them, waiting for orders. They all knew that Mustang had to go.
"I'll be fine, sir. You have work to do."
He bit his lip, but then nodded. She was right. Like always.
"You two stay with her," he told Jean and Breda, still looking down at Hawkeye. "Go with her back to camp when the medics arrive."
He swallowed and gently pressed his lips to her forehead before getting back to his feet. He reeled for a moment, putting a hand to his bleeding head woozily, but then balanced himself and walked back toward his other men, many of whom were gathered around Fullmetal's writhing, moaning form.
Jean could almost feel how hard that was for him to keep from looking back at her as he walked away.
Hawkeye gasped and cringed the moment he was out of earshot, her hard-won composure finally stretched too thin for her to hold it any longer. She moaned and tried to roll over onto her side.
"No, don't move..." Breda tried to tell her, but then he fell silent when he saw all of the blood that had been pooling under her. The mud glistened red with it in the dull grey light and the back of her uniform was completely saturated.
"W-went all the way through..." she panted as Jean and Breda stared at the bloody, ragged hole in the middle of her back where the bullet had torn its way back out of her.
Jean swore and leaned forward to press his hand hard against the exit wound. She grunted at the added pain but didn't say anything more as she weakly held the entrance wound in her stomach, curling in on herself.
She hadn't wanted Mustang to know, Jean realized. She didn't want him to know that her injury was this bad... and it was bad. He had a country to lead, and the last thing she wanted to do was distract him from that. She had worked so hard to help get him where he was, and she could not let him fail now... especially not because of her.
She was his wife, yes, but she was also a soldier to the end and she refused to compromise her Fuhrer's focus, no matter what that meant for her.
"...Just lie still, Hawkeye. The medic will be here soon," Jean said quietly, already knowing that it might not really matter how fast they got here at this point.
She closed her eyes calmly, resigned, listening to Edward crying softly for his brother.