Warnings: Langauge, sexual themes, accidental drug use.
Author's Notes: This fic is written for radcat38, who won my services at the Sweet Charity Auction. Along with everyone else in fandom everywhere, we contributed towards a huge donation of more than £10,000 for a great cause! Thanks for bidding, everyone, and I hope you all like it! The effects of the drug are loosely based on the "Ecstasy" of our world. I wasn't going to post this fic on this site, due to the drug use, but in the end I placed it under an M rating for safety. Please read responsibly!
Under The Influence
Roy crept forward, edging his way around a stack of crates as he tried to make out shapes in the gloom. He couldn't believe he had been dragged out of bed for this. It was the first night in weeks that he had fallen asleep as soon as his head hit the pillow, but after a bare hour of rest the shrilling telephone had shattered his peace.
It was never good news at that time of night: Ed's stake-out had gone critical. There were police and prisoners, soldiers milling around in confusion, some kind of argument over jurisdiction and, in the middle of it all, an alchemist hell-bent on tearing the place apart. Three warehouses already lay in ruins, and if they didn't catch him soon the whole district would be nothing but a pile of rubble. Of course, Ed had taken off after the man like a dog after a rat, and Roy had lost him in the chaos.
'Maybe he's destroying evidence?'
Roy flinched, turning to glare over his shoulder at Hughes. He was muffled up against the cold, hands thrust deep in his pockets. 'What are you doing out here?' he hissed, not missing the faint shadows of pain that pinched his friend's face. The old gunshot wound that almost killed him a few years ago might be no more than a fading scar, but Roy knew that it still hurt, especially on frigid nights like this one.
'You know I wouldn't leave my Gracia's side if I could help it,' Hughes whispered with a grin, pulling out his gun.'Unfortunately, one of the thieves is a man in my command. I wish I could say he was an undercover agent, but -' He shrugged. 'Guess he thought a life of crime would pay better. This alchemist's involved with the smugglers, isn't he? Perhaps he's destroying things to hide his tracks?'
'Why? They said they were stealing food and clothes, Maes. At worst they'll go to jail for a couple of years. This was a minor inconvenience to the army until about an hour ago. Now it's heading towards being a major embarrassment.' He darted out to check around the corner, spitting a curse as he realised it was a dead-end. The place was a maze; for all he knew, he was going around in circles. 'We need to sort this out before daybreak. I'd feel a lot better if I knew where Ed was.'
'Of course you would.' The knowing amusement in his friend's voice was obvious, and Roy resisted the urge to roll his eyes as he turned around, listening for any sounds that were out of the ordinary.
'I don't know what you mean,' he whispered. 'I'm concerned about my subordinate, that's all.'
Maes gave a disbelieving snort as he squinted around. 'Save your excuses for someone who believes them. It's been more than a year since Ed got Al back, but he's not left the military.'
'He can't just walk out. He has a contract.'
'A work of genius if I do say so myself.' Hughes grinned as Roy shot him a look. 'I think he'd have renewed his state certificate even if it weren't for that. Despite his protests, he likes it here. I wonder why that could be?'
Stretching out his tense fingers, Roy walked back the way they had come, trying to memorise the route as he murmured absently, 'They still needed money to survive, and Al had to regain his strength. The sensible thing was to stay in the army until things settled down.'
Except that, now, Al was healthy, calm and capable, and Ed... .
Ed had grown up. It must have been happening all along, right in front of Roy's eyes. Throughout those long years he had come back from each assignment a bit stronger, a fraction taller and more breath-taking than before. Now, when they stood face-to-face in his office, there was a different quality in the air. The sharp snap of frustration had turned thick and heavy with an attraction that Roy was helpless to ignore.
It wasn't just Ed's looks that caught his eye, but who he had become. He really was an alchemist for the people: stubborn and powerful, and something like respect had flourished between them. Sometimes Ed even followed orders, although not very often. After years of second-guessing and wary suspicion, there was something like trust building between them. It had been a long time coming, and, to his surprise, Roy found Ed's faith to be something he was desperate to keep intact.
'What was that?'
Roy froze at Maes' question, his thoughts scattering as he listened hard. It sounded like hollow running footsteps, and he looked around in confusion, trying to pinpoint the noise. They were getting closer, and he looked up as two darker shapes flitted through the darkness. 'They're on top of the crates!'
The lights stuttered into life and the shadows fled beneath the glare of the lamps, revealing the alchemist no more than half a dozen steps ahead of Ed. They were running along the peaks of the high stacks, jumping over gaps and tripping on the uneven wooden surface. Automatically, Roy broke into a sprint, trying to keep up as the route ahead twisted and turned. Maes was behind him, and other sounds suggested that the rest of Roy's command were converging on their quarry.
'Try and keep him away from the door!' Roy ordered, not caring who heard him as long as someone did as they were told. 'Don't let him escape!'
'For fuck's sake, Mustang, can't you just set his head on fire?' Ed snapped, jumping over another gap and landing heavily before launching himself forward again, teeth gritted as he gave chase.
A bullet zinged off the crates, and the alchemist veered wildly to avoid being shot. Riza and Havoc hurried out into the main path between the boxes, both taking careful aim, but a moving target was hard to hit at the best of times, and the last thing either of them wanted to do was clip Ed by accident.
Carefully, Roy clicked, sending a wide arc of flame curving around the room. It moved like a whip, forcing the alchemist to change course again before it dwindled away. He couldn't risk setting the supplies alight, but maybe he could give Ed the chance to catch up.
Suddenly, the alchemist jumped down, scribbling something on the side of one of the crates and pressing his hands against the wood. Instantly, it crumbled to ash, making the tower wobble alarmingly before it slammed into the nearby stack. It was like watching dominoes fall, and the air was rocked by the sound of splintering timber as the whole lot began to shift.
Ed launched himself off, swearing as he rolled to absorb the impact. In a second he was on his feet again, giving chase as the walls formed by the crates wavered and collapsed. Supplies spilled over the floor, and Roy jumped over broken planks and scattered cargo as he tried to keep Ed in his sights.
'Sir!' Riza's hand on his arm pulled him up short as another pile fell, smashing apart in front of them. Grain hissed underfoot, and Roy winced as the roaring collapse reached its thunderous crescendo, making the floor shake and dust billow up into the air.
Gradually, calm fell, leaving the lamps swinging on their cords. The occasional hiss and thump sounded from amidst the wreckage, but there was no sign of human life. His heart staggered fearfully as he looked around the mess, trying to see Ed. There were shouts from the police outside, and Roy knew they'd be coming to investigate, but right now all that mattered was finding Fullmetal.
'Ed, can you hear me?' he called out, picking his way over the debris. 'Ed?'
'Over here.' He sounded more angry than hurt, and Roy made his way towards the noise. It took him several minutes, but finally he was able to make out the prone form of the man they had been chasing, lying unconscious on his back with a broken nose. Ed was sitting on the alchemist's stomach, cuffing what looked like sugar from his face. 'Fucker threw it at me,' he said by way of explanation, jerking his head towards a still-intact crate. Its bottom corner had splintered, and a small pile of white powder had spilled free.
'At least you got him,' Roy replied, 'even if you did need our help.' He blinked when Ed didn't bother to retort, instead giving him a weak glare as he pressed his hand to his temple. Quickly, Roy crouched at his side, putting one hand on his shoulder as he checked him over for serious injuries. 'Are you all right? Did you hit your head?'
'No, I'm okay,' Ed mumbled, swallowing and making a disgusted face. 'That stuff tastes fucking weird – kind of like sweet chemicals. It's giving me a headache.'
Roy frowned, looking back at the gritty substance on the floor. Cautiously, he dipped a gloved finger in it. It was too fine to be sugar or salt, but what else was going to be in a warehouse like this? 'Havoc, get that crate open.' Roy waited impatiently as a crowbar was found, and the wooden box was prised apart to reveal dozens of clear bags, each filled with the same powder.
'Get the police over here,' he ordered. 'I think we just found what the smugglers were really dealing – and someone get me a bucket of water.' He turned back to Ed, cupping his jaw in his hand and tipping his head up so he could look into Ed's eyes. 'Did you swallow any?'
Ed shrugged as if it didn't matter, and Roy cursed quietly. 'Ed, answer me. Did you swallow or inhale any of what he threw at you?'
'A bit. Not much. Why?' His words were fast, short and a little slurred, and Roy's worry increased ten-fold as a long list ran through his head. Street drugs were not uncommon in Central, and there were new chemicals flooding in from other countries every day. It could be anything in the crate; he didn't even know how much had worked its way into Ed's system. He was covered in it, on his skin, in his hair, on his clothes... .
God, what if he overdosed? Roy's personal experience of drugs was mercifully limited and at least he'd known the name of what he was taking, but this was a different matter entirely. 'Do you feel anything other than the headache? Sick? Dizzy? Anything?' he demanded as he wiped more of the powder away with gloved fingers.
Ed shook his head, his lips curving into an open, easy smile as he said. 'Headache's gone. I'm fine.' He wrapped a hand around Roy's wrist and went to stand up, but his balance was completely off, and Roy barely caught him before he landed face first on the floor. Ed snorted with laughter, and Roy shut his eyes in disbelief, his heart still beating fast with alarm.
'Well, at least he's happy,' Hughes pointed out, trying to keep a straight face as Ed tried and failed to stand up properly.
'Maes, this is serious! Where the hell are those police?'
A couple of young men edged closer, following Roy's pointing finger to the packed crate. One of them whistled, eyes wide in surprise as the other pulled out one of the bags and turned it over in his hands. He looked at his companion, jerking his head towards the door as he said, 'Get the captain. He needs to see this.'
'Do you know what it is?' Roy asked, watching the policeman narrow his eyes at something drawn on the bag. He still had both arms full of Ed, or he would have grabbed the man and shaken the information out of him. 'Well, do you?'
'Yes, sir. It's "Euphoria". It's been flooding Central's drug scene for the past three years, and we had no clue where it was coming from. A haul this big is worth more than I'd earn in my life.' For the first time, he noticed Ed, taking in his whitened hair and jacket with raised eyebrows as comprehension dawned. 'What happened?'
'The crate was leaking and that guy threw a handful in his face.' Roy gestured towards the unconscious alchemist, looking down as Ed struggled upright again. 'What should we do?'
'There's not much you can do, if it's Euphoria,' a new voice said. Roy glanced up to see a police captain walking towards them. 'Wait ten minutes. If he starts throwing up then take him to hospital and pray they can get him through the overdose. If not then all you can do is let him ride it out.'
'Captain Murphy, I don't think an overdose is likely,' the policeman explained. 'The bags are sticky. It's probably been cut with large amounts of icing sugar and flour – that means it's been mixed in,' he added for the benefit of the soldiers. 'It's not impossible, but I've seen people who've taken too much before. There are normally signs within the first few minutes.'
'He said he had a headache right after, and he can't stand up,' Roy pointed out, frowning as the soldier shrugged. 'At most he only swallowed some of this stuff ten minutes ago, and he's already behaving differently. Are you telling me that's normal?'
'Euphoria can do a lot of things to people,' Murphy explained, 'but generally the name's a give away. It acts quickly, building up over about an hour. Once the high really takes hold, he'll be energetic and happy, but he'll have very few inhibitions and not much sense of self-preservation. I strongly recommend against leaving him alone. It should be over within about six hours.' The captain looked thoughtful. 'I've probably got a leaflet about it in the car, but, for now, he can't go anywhere. He's wearing evidence.'
Roy shifted, rising to his feet and pulling Ed up after him as he snarled, 'Forget your evidence, Captain. There's enough of it in that crate. My first responsibility is to my subordinate. I need to get him out of here.'
Murphy shook his head, opening his mouth to speak. Whatever he had been about so say was interrupted by Breda staggering up with a pail full of water. 'I had to break the ice on this, but it was under a tap. Should be all right to drink.'
'He's not going to drink it,' Roy said grimly, perching Ed on some of the debris. 'We need to get him clean so he doesn't get any more into his system.'
'Wait! Don't throw cold water over him!' Murphy shouted, frowning as Roy scowled. 'For god's sake, sir, it's him I'm thinking of. Warm it up first. Euphoria puts a lot of strain on the heart, and a sudden shock could kill him.'
Biting back an irritated retort, Roy reached into his pocket for some chalk and drew a quick array on the floor. Placing the bucket in its centre, he touched his fingers to the edge of the design, watching the energy ripple across the water's surface. Soon enough it was the temperature of a pleasantly warm bath, and he heaved it in his grip before upturning it over Ed's head.
He expected a scream of fury; at any other time he knew Ed would have smashed his face in, but after a few seconds of surprised silence, Ed grinned, laughter bubbling in his throat as he said, 'Do that again!'
'Whoa,' Havoc said quietly. 'That's kind of creepy. The Boss only laughs when he's up to something.'
'Sir, can I suggest you get Edward out of here?' Riza asked, crouching down and throwing a blanket around Ed's wet shoulders. She smiled warily as he leaned his head against her arm with a happy sound. 'I can wrap things up, with Captain Murphy's cooperation, of course, but I think Edward needs to be somewhere safe.'
Roy nodded, holding out his hand. 'Come on. Up you get.' He curled his fingers around Ed's palm and tugged him to his feet, dragging the blanket up so it didn't trail on the floor before nudging him in the right direction. 'Let's get you back home to Al.'
'Didn't Al leave for Risembool this morning?' Hughes asked, falling into step at his side and watching Ed with interest. 'I thought he was visiting Winry?'
'Al loves Winry,' Ed said bluntly, tipping his head back and squinting up at the lights. 'Thinks she's hot.' He screwed up his face as if that thought was a mystery to him, but the expression faded as something sparkling among the debris caught his interest.
He moved too quickly for Roy to react, and it was Havoc, who was following a little way behind, that caught him mid-sprint, wrapping his arms around him and holding him tight. Ed turned, cat-quick, but it wasn't an attack. Instead he looped his arms around Jean's shoulders and hugged him tight, making him splutter in shock.
Maes chuckled, and Roy shook his head in growing horror. 'Al can't be in Risembool. Who's going to look after Ed?'
'Well, you're his commanding officer,' Hughes replied, watching Havoc extricate himself from Ed's embrace. The lieutenant looked embarrassed, but he laughed out loud as Ed mumbled something Roy couldn't make out.
Maes was right. It was his responsibility to see to the welfare of his subordinates, but it was hard enough to keep Ed safe when he knowingly threw himself into trouble. How was he meant to look after him when he no longer seemed to understand the concept of danger?
If Ed was drowsy and lethargic then it would be simple. He'd stay in one place and probably fall asleep, but he was already twitchy, bright-eyes and easily distracted. If what Murphy had said was true, it was only going to get worse.
Havoc was guiding Ed towards the door, listening incredulously to his random statements. He seemed to say whatever came into his head and kept getting distracted by the most mundane things, like the fall of a shadow across the floor or the skitter of dead leaves rattling along the road outside.
'This is just the start of it. What else is going to happen?' Roy looked to Maes for answers, but his only response was a shrug. 'I need to know more if I'm going to be able to take care of him properly.'
'I'll see if I can get that leaflet the captain mentioned. Get Ed into the car, and I'll meet you there,' Hughes said. 'You're probably going to be better off taking him to your place. At least then you won't be rummaging around looking for things while he's bouncing off the walls.' Without another word, Maes trotted off, leaving Roy and Havoc to try and steer Ed in the right direction.
'You've got to admit, it's kind of funny,' Jean said as Ed started to tug at his gloves, face pinched in a puzzled expression. It cleared into a blissful smile when he finally got his left hand free, and he clung to Roy's coat. 'I think it's the most defenceless I've ever seen him. If a chimera ran at him now he'd probably try and pet it.'
Roy made a non-committal sound, looking down in surprise as Ed's fingers dragged down his sleeve and plucked at his cuff before he held Roy's hand, weaving their fingers together. He wasn't paying attention to his physical actions, was too busy twisting around and taking in, but he was swinging Roy's arm back and forth as if he couldn't stand the thought of being still.
It was a shock being touched by Ed, who was so fiercely possessive of his personal space that he snarled at anyone who got within ten feet. Now those boundaries had melted away, and that warm, gold gaze roamed the warehouse before settling on Roy's face, focussed and fascinated.
Roy's mouth went dry as he saw the dilation of Ed's pupils and the flush on his cheeks. He looked mesmerised, and Roy had to force himself to look away, dragging his gaze back to the floor so he could concentrate on where he was going. Absently, he tightened his grip on Ed's palm, helping him pick his way over the debris and out into the icy night.
A sharp wind was blustering over the city and Roy shivered as Havoc stamped his feet and cursed, hiking up the collar of his coat. Ed, on the other hand, closed his eyes as if it was a cool summer breeze rather than an freezing northerly, smiling as it swept his hair back from his face and snatched at the blanket that still sagged around his shoulders.
'Get the car,' Roy ordered, angry at himself for not thinking things through. 'He's sopping wet, and just because he doesn't seem to feel the cold doesn't mean he's immune to it. I'll stay inside with him.' He watched Havoc nod in agreement, fumbling for a cigarette and lighting up as he trotted across the yard towards the perimeter.
Ed went to follow him, only stopping when Roy said, 'Not you, Ed. Come on, this way.' He tugged on the hand still wrapped in his palm, feeling another prickle of unease sweep through him as Ed followed, docile and happy. Roy knew that mind-altering substances could radically change personalities, but this obedience was disconcerting. It wasn't out of respect for authority; it was simply because Ed didn't see the point of saying "no".
'Do you feel all right?' he asked as he pulled Ed into the shelter of the warehouse and out of the clutches of the wind. 'Nothing hurts?'
'Feel tingly,' Ed wrinkled his nose as he bounced up and down on the balls of his feet, always in motion, 'and thirsty. I want a drink.' He was already looking around again, and Roy gripped his shoulders, trying to hold him in place before he could bolt. 'I want a drink, Roy.'
His name in Ed's voice should not have sent such a thrill of heat down his spine, but it was husky and inviting and made Roy think of a warm bed and passion-wrecked sheets. 'You can have some water soon,' he managed, clearing his throat. 'I promise. Ed, what – what are you doing?' Roy gasped as Ed ducked out of his grip and pressed himself close, arms wrapped tight around his waist as his nose brushed against the pulse thudding in the crook of Roy's neck. He could feel Ed's too-quick breaths fluttering against his skin, and he didn't seem to be in any hurry to let go.
Roy finally let his hands settle around the neat line of his waist, at least keeping a bit of distance between their hips. Ed trembled at the contact, and Roy frowned, noticing the sharp, strange heat of his skin. It was burning through his wet vest and jacket, and his forehead felt scorching. Was that supposed to happen?
'You're hot,' he said, feeling stupid for stating the obvious.
Ed's shoulders shifted in a shrug. 'So're you.' He stood back a little. His expression was beatifically calm, but his eyes took on a distinctly hungry gleam as he met Roy's gaze. 'Very hot.'
Normally, Roy would have smirked at such a blatant compliment, but there was something almost enchanting about Ed's frank statements. The drug was making him say things without any prevarication or ulterior motive, and Roy couldn't help but smile. It seemed that Ed's internal mechanism that decided what he could and couldn't say out loud had been switched off. He didn't seem to be afraid of rejection or reprimand, and when Roy gave a small smile and murmured his faintly embarrassed thanks, Ed's face lit up.
'Are you two ready?' Hughes called out, and Roy looked through the door to see the car idling in the yard. 'We really should get him somewhere safe before he gets much worse.' There was still a hint of amusement to Maes' voice, but now it was tempered with more concern, and he held the door open as Roy got Ed into the car before settling next to him.
'What have you found out? Is a fever listed as one of the effects?' he asked, blinking in surprise as Ed twisted around in the seat, getting up on his knees to look out of the back window at the disappearing view. 'Ed, put your seatbelt on.'
'Yes, raised body temperature and dehydration are standard. Euphoria does more than just make people happy.' Hughes tipped the glossy paper in his hands towards the shifting light, trying to read the neat type. 'I imagine not everyone experiences all of the symptoms, but you can probably expect hallucinations and he'll be very suggestible.'
'You should give the Boss an order, sir. He might follow it for once,' Jean said jokingly, but Roy could see his eyes, tight with concern, in the rear view mirror. 'It won't get that bad, will it? I mean he won't do anything, will he?'
Hughes turned around in the passenger seat, looking back at Ed. 'To be honest, I don't know how much worse it gets. From reading this, it's pretty clear that it interferes with the user's inhibitions. There's no thought process to stop them from acting on impulse. Someone on Euphoria thinks everything's a good idea, whether it's going to Xing or pointing a gun at themselves and pulling the trigger.'
'Shit, that's not funny,' Havoc muttered, sounding shaken as he turned onto the main road and accelerated. 'Are you sure we're doing the right thing? Wouldn't he be safer in hospital?'
Hughes was already shaking his head, his glasses winking in the gloom. 'It might seem like a good idea at first, but you don't just need to worry about looking out for him while he's high.' His voice was tense and low as he explained, 'The hospital will admit him and keep him there through the up and the down.'
'Is that bad?' Roy asked, realising that while Ed had sat back down he still hadn't buckled himself in. Quickly, he pulled the restraint around Ed's body and clipped it in place, watching him start to pluck at the tight belt as if it were a guitar string.
'Think about it,' Hughes said. 'He's happy, relaxed, energetic and that's going to intensify over the next half an hour, but what about when the drug's gone? His mood is going to plummet. He'll feel bad enough without being in a hospital. You know he hates them at the best of times.'
'They smell funny,' Ed supplied. He had given up with his seatbelt and now had his head tipped back, body arched against the restraint as he stared at the flash of the street-lamps passing by, 'and they hurt. I'm still thirsty.'
'We'll be home soon,' Roy replied absently, leaning forward and trying to read the leaflet in Maes' hands. 'At hospital he'll get medical attention if he needs it. I don't think I've even got any bandages at home.'
'You probably won't need them.' Maes ran a hand through his hair as he quietly confessed, 'Look, "bad" might be a bit of an understatement. Perhaps "depressed" is more accurate. It's unlikely he'll need anything a doctor or nurse can offer him. He'll need somewhere warm and comfortable where he can hide until his mood stabilises, which could take anything from a few hours to a week. It all depends how he reacts. He needs to be with someone he can trust, Roy, and in Al's absence, that someone is you.'
Roy closed his eyes, pinching the bridge of his nose as he tried to think things through. 'Okay. Is there anything else I should know about? What about the hallucinations? Is he likely to get violent?'
'No, definitely not. Even if he has a bad trip and sees horrible things, he won't fight back. It simply won't occur to him as a possibility.' Hughes sighed, looking up as Jean slowed to a halt outside Roy's house. He looked exhausted and in sore need of his bed, but he still asked, 'Will you be all right looking after him on your own, or do you need me to stay?'
Roy glanced back at Ed, considering his options before he shook his head. 'I think he's going to be embarrassed enough by this without having an audience. I'll call you if things get out of hand.'
Maes looked like he was thinking about arguing Roy down, but eventually he said, 'If I don't hear from you by morning, I'll drop by and check you're both all right. I've still got your spare key.' He glanced at Ed, who was drawing frantic patterns on the misty windows with his finger, before holding out the leaflet to Roy. 'You'll probably need this.'
Wordlessly, Roy took it from him, folding it up and shoving it in his coat pocket before he climbed out of the car and walked around the other side. Ed gave a little surprised noise when the door opened, looking puzzled as the window moved beyond his reach. He was still buckled in, and Roy ducked his head, groping around Ed's waist before he managed to get the belt undone. 'Come on, this way.'
Ed leapt out of the car like a greyhound at the start of the race, but this time Roy was ready for it. Before Ed got more than a step away, he grabbed him and picked him up, throwing him over his shoulder as he kicked the car door shut. Both Ed's hands were fisted in the back of Roy's coat, and he could hear muffled snorts of laughter.
'Got him?' Havoc asked with a grin, watching as Roy retrieved his keys.
'For now. Get Hughes home to Gracia, and then get some rest yourself. With any luck next time you see Ed he'll be back to his normal self.'
Jean flicked an idle salute out of the window as he pulled away, and Roy waited until the car was out of sight before he let his breath out in a heavy sigh. Ed was being very still, and Roy jogged him gently as he climbed the steps before putting the key in the lock and pushing his way inside. It was only once he'd shut out the night's wide horizons and flicked on the light that he felt confident enough to risk letting Ed go.
Lowering him back to the ground, he realised that Ed was far too busy looking around to bother with something as boring as finding his balance. Roy held him up, feeling the wetness of Ed's jacket seep through his gloves. They'd left the blanket in the car, and Ed was dripping water on the floor.'We need to get you out of those clothes,' he murmured, his thoughts racing. 'Stay here, Ed, right here, and I'll get you that drink you wanted, okay?'
'Okay,' Ed chirped, tipping his head back to look at the lights and the lazy spiral of the staircase. 'This is a nice house. It feels good. Not creepy. Not bad. Have you ever noticed how some places feel like that? Really wrong?' The litany of questions continued, and Roy took off the thick, military coat and the uniform jacket beneath, throwing them over the coat rack before turning back to watch Ed, fascinated.
It seemed he didn't need answers – the chatter went on regardless of whether Roy said anything or not, and he was walking in a continual circle, balancing on the spiral pattern of tiles on the floor as if they were a bar rather than a flat line on the ground. He seemed safe enough, and Roy backed away towards the kitchen, pausing to automatically light the fire in the living room before he turned his back and hurried through to the sink.
He would have brought Ed through with him, but there was too much here he could hurt himself on: the stove, knives, shiny and breakable objects... . No, better to keep him out of the kitchen all together. Roy grabbed a glass and flicked on the tap, filling it to the brim. It was only when the torrent of water stopped that he realised something was missing. Ed's voice had fallen silent, and Roy peered out of the open doorway, trying to see what had captivated him this time.
The hall was empty.
'Shit!' Roy hissed to himself, darting out of the doorway and slopping water on the tiles as he did so. 'Ed? Ed, where the hell did you go?' The doors were locked and the windows were shut, so he was probably in the house somewhere, but where? So much for Fullmetal doing as he was told. 'Ed?'
It took Roy a moment to realise that the hall wasn't quite as empty as he'd thought. Ed's black jacket lay in a soggy heap, as if he'd shrugged out of it and let it fall. A short distance away was one boot, its laces draped forlornly over the floor next to the white splayed form of a glove.
Roy raised an eyebrow, realising the trail was heading towards the living room. A spasm of fear shot through him as he thought of the fire, but surely Euphoria didn't stop pain? If Ed hurt himself he would at least cry out, wouldn't he?
Shoving the door open, he stopped dead. Ed was standing in front of one of the bookshelves, obsessively taking each tome off with great care, running his fingers over the cover and then putting it back, but it wasn't his behaviour that had made Roy's breath catch in his throat: it was the sight of him.
The muscles of his back shifted beneath warm skin turned bronze in the firelight, and bare automail gleamed in the unsteady glow. A dark pile at Ed's feet was probably his vest, stripped off and cast aside, and the leather trousers were slung low around slim hips. His ponytail was still in place, but it was coming loose, and long tendrils of hair scribbled over Ed's shoulders.
'Fuck,' Roy whispered, closing his eyes for a moment. When he opened them again Ed was still there, half-naked and glorious, and Roy felt his body pulse with desire. He wanted that, all of it, warm and willing in his bed and in his arms. In the office it was easy to wave aside the attraction, to draw the line and stick to it because that was easier than risking it all, but now... .
Now there was a different line, Roy realised, and it was one he couldn't cross. Ed was utterly in his power, defenceless and open and trusting. He would do almost anything he was told, and if Roy suggested that sex was a good idea then Ed'd probably race him to the bedroom. The truth of it was that Ed didn't – couldn't – know his own mind right now. He had no inhibitions, nothing to make him think twice, and that meant that Roy had to be the voice of reason, no matter what.
Swallowing tightly, he edged closer, brushing gloved fingertips over Ed's shoulder to get his attention. Immediately, Ed turned away from the books, smiling as if he had thought he would never see Roy again. His eyes fell on the glass of water, and he reached for it, almost snatching it from Roy's hand and gulping it so fast that a few glassy rivulets overflowed, trailing down his neck and chest.
With a massive effort, Roy didn't lick his lips. His mouth watered with the urge to lap the droplets from Ed's skin, but he bit his tongue, forcing his libido down as Ed drained the tumbler and held it out.
'That was a pint, Ed. I don't think you need another.' It seemed to go right over Ed's head, and Roy sighed, snagging the glass from his grip and putting it on the desk. 'You can have a big drink every hour, but too much will make you ill. Okay?'
Ed nodded, but his eyes had followed the empty glass as if magnetised, and he was staring at it longingly. Bright flags of colour still lingered on his cheeks, and even though the room wasn't particularly warm, he wasn't shivering. Was he still feverish? Had it got worse? Exactly how bad was this going to get before Ed started to be more like himself?
Roy reached out, flinching in surprise when Ed's hand moved too quickly for him to see, gripping his wrist. It didn't hurt, but it was firm enough to remind Roy of the fact that, should he want to, Ed could easily break bone. The tiger might be a playful kitten right now, but it still had very big teeth. 'What is it?' he asked Ed, who was looking at Roy's palm as if it puzzled him.
Ed tugged at Roy's glove meaningfully, face wrinkled with concentration as he tried to pull the white fabric off. Finally, he dragged it away and dropped it on the floor, laughing as Roy wriggled his fingers. He was tracing the lines on Roy's palm with his index finger, creating tiny ribbons of sensation with every touch, and Roy paused before pulling his other glove off with his teeth and reaching out to check Ed's forehead.
Instantly, Ed leaned into the touch with a happy groan, shifting closer to rub against Roy's chest. Agile fingers caught in the cotton of his shirt, creasing it in a tight grasp as he flattened himself against the line of Roy's body – thighs, hips, stomach, chest and not an inch of space between them.
It was the drug, Roy reminded himself fiercely as his skin thrilled with the contact and his hand shifted to rest over Ed's hair. He must be reaching the peak of his high by now: Ed probably didn't even know left from right or right from wrong, and... .
Ed licked up his throat, biting carelessly and making the sexiest noise Roy had ever heard. It was a growling kind of mew, something joyfully possessive, and all the will power in the world couldn't have stopped Roy from leaning his head a little, eyes half-closed in automatic pleasure. Ed's behaviour was flicking all the right switches, screaming out for reciprocity and what was he meant to do? How was he meant to say no when this was all he wanted?
Something caught his eye, and it was like a splash of cold water in the face. He stepped back so quickly that Ed wobbled, blinking at the sudden loss of Roy's warmth. Within a heartbeat he had closed the distance again, arms twining around Roy's neck as Roy grabbed his hips, throwing almost all his strength into holding him at bay.
The occasional slick of white powder still marked Ed's chest, glistening lewdly. It had probably been under his vest when Roy had chucked the water over him, and it hadn't all been washed away. He had to get Ed in the shower, had to get all of the stuff off of him. He cursed his thoughtlessness, knowing it should have been the first thing he'd done.
He didn't even know if Euphoria could be absorbed through the skin, but it wasn't a risk he was about to take. Ed was already sky high, and what about him? Most of the time he'd been wearing gloves and fully clothed, but what if he touched some? If he ended up in the same state as Ed then they really would be lost.
Untangling himself, he stepped back again, moving at a steady stride as Ed followed, grinning at this new game in a way that made Roy's heart clench. Did Ed even know how vulnerable he was right now? Roy could be taking him anywhere: to bed, to work, to an executioner's block, and Ed followed him like a lamb.
'Where you going?' Ed asked when they reached the bottom of the stairs. There was no hint of wariness to his question. It was blatant curiosity, nothing more, and Roy wondered if he could say anything that would make Ed hesitate.
In the end he answered truthfully, because while it might not make any difference to Ed, it mattered to him. At dawn, he wanted to be able to say that everything he'd done had been in Ed's best interests. He wanted to come out of this without succumbing to guilt's sick swim, and the gleam in Ed's eyes told him that wasn't going to be easy. 'To the bathroom. You should come too.'
'You need to get clean,' Roy explained, climbing up the stairs backwards. 'Remember that man who threw something in your face? The powder's a drug, and we need to make sure none of it's still on you.'
Roy clenched his teeth, trying to find his patience as he paused on the third step up. 'Because otherwise you might get ill, and I don't want that to happen.'
'Ed... .' Roy shut his eyes, dragging his hands through his hair. 'Please just come with me?'
The thudthudthud of running footsteps was the only warning that Roy got, and he opened his eyes to see Ed sprint past him, a blur of black and gold that was up the stairs and along the hall before Roy had even found his voice. Belatedly, he took off after him, his heart thrashing in his chest as Ed darted into the bathroom and shut the door behind him.
Oh, god! Razors, scissors, a dozen different ways to drown, the bathroom was no better than the kitchen!
Roy accelerated, throwing all his weight at the door and yelping in surprise when it opened easily. He expected to hit cold, hard tiles and instead collided with Ed, who squeaked as they went down in a tangle of limbs. Roy landed between Ed's legs and, almost immediately, Ed's arms were back around his neck, holding him in place as he nestled closer and gave a pleased hum.
With a huff of exasperated laughter, Roy pressed his forehead against Ed's, waiting for his heart to stop hammering his ribs to dust before he murmured, 'Why do you keep running? Is something scaring you?'
'It's fun,' Ed said bluntly, arching his body up into Roy's as his eyes narrowed to lustful slits. 'So's this. Makes your eyes really dark, and -' This time his laugh was more throaty as he jerked meaningfully against the cradle of Roy's hips. '- that really hard.'
"That" was definitely erect, awake and aware of the wriggle of Ed's too hot body underneath him and deaf to all the shrieking logic in Roy's brain. He almost sobbed at the unfairness of it, sucking in a breath as he tried to control himself - tried not to let his full weight settle over Ed's body where it belonged. He could already feel an answering ridge of arousal in Ed's leather pants, and it took everything he had to force himself back and concentrate on the task at hand.
Still, he could only go so far. Ed's legs wrapped around his waist, thighs snug against Roy's sides as he tunnelled his fingers into Roy's hair and nuzzled at his jaw. 'Ed, you need to let go so you can go in the shower,' he pointed out, trying to drag Ed's arms from around his neck.
After a few minutes of trying to get free, he realised it was useless and, bracing himself, Roy curved his arms around Ed's waist, holding on tight as he staggered to his feet. His back would be sore in the morning, and his knees were probably never forgive him, but he jostled Ed higher and carried him towards the shower. A twist of the tap sent the water drumming into the bottom of the bath, and he grunted as Ed arched backwards, reaching for the crystalline spray.
'If you let go of me, you can get in,' Roy suggested hopefully, trying to ignore the squeal of his arm muscles as he held Ed up. He probably wasn't that heavy, but a metal arm and leg definitely made this too much of a strain to keep up for long.
'Nope. Can't,' Ed said as he watched the water run through his fingers. He didn't elaborate, and Roy decided not to ask. He couldn't leave Ed under the shower alone, anyway, and that only left one viable option.
He toed his way out of his boots, glad that the laces were loose enough for him to get free. When he was standing in his socked feet, he stepped over the edge of the bath and moved so that both himself and Ed were under the warm cascade.
As soon as the droplets hit Ed's skin he laughed out loud. The sound rang out through the bathroom, and Ed gracefully unwrapped his legs, his toes splashing in the water as he slithered down Roy's body to stand on his own two feet. The automail shimmered and broke with reflections, and Roy watched the shift of metal plates and muscles as Ed put his hands up in the air, trying to snatch at the shower head.
Taking advantage of his distraction, Roy reached for the band that held Ed's ponytail in place, pulling it free before he combed Ed's hair out with his fingers. He tried to tell himself that this was practical, medicinal– he had to get every last bit of Euphoria off of Ed's body – but the sensuous prickle of desire over his skin and through his core told a different story.
His bare palms swept over the hot silk of Ed's shoulders, following their curves before he brushed his fingers over the hard line of his collarbone, feeling the faint, gritty gloss on Ed's skin vanish as the water washed it away.
He was beautiful – there really was no other word for it. Roy had seen plenty of lovers unclothed, male and female, but they'd never done this to him. They'd never wiped his mind clean and reduced the world's vast horizons to the outline of their form, but Ed – Ed had done all that and more.
Roy had thought that Ed was in his power, shackled and splayed open by the chemicals in his system, but really it was the other way around. Roy was the one who was drugged, dragged under and drowning in need.
Abruptly, he realised Ed was no longer paying attention to the water that sluiced around them. He was watching Roy, poised and still for the first time since he'd been carried through the front door. One hand reached out, tracing the circle of a shirt button before tugging it free. Another followed, then another, and Roy finally found the strength to move, to grab Ed's wrist and whisper a weak, 'Please, Ed, I can't -'
Ed's lips over his silenced him, and Roy made a tight noise as his hands found their natural place at Ed's leather-clad hips, cupping and holding close. Hot tongue and the nip of teeth and he tasted like – God, like air, like life, like freedom: sweet and addictive. Roy couldn't get enough. He slipped his hand up Ed's slick back to tangle fingers in his hair, cradling his head and changing the angle, deepening the kiss.
He nudged Ed towards the wall, pushing him against the tiles so that the shower spray gushed down Roy's shoulders and back rather than drowning them both. Ed might not be aggressive, but he was equally dominant to Roy, riding the kiss and returning it with unmistakable ardour, fists clenched in the wrecked cotton of Roy's shirt as he fought for more.
The tight grind of Ed's erection against his own made him gasp, filling his lungs with steamy air as his body shook, fighting against the leash of his self-restraint. His hands wouldn't stop moving, tracing the sculpted outlines of Ed's flesh and automail, picking out the ropes of tendons and the hidden hardness of his bones. Fingertips drifted lower, down Ed's stomach, curving around his navel before tracing along the waistband of the drenched leather.
Roy longed for him - wanted to delve into the tight confines of Ed's pants and find everything he had to offer - wanted him naked and wet in the shower, warm and sleepy in his bed, wild and alive in his arms... . Ed's need was no less significant. He arched and flexed and dragged at Roy as if he couldn't stand to lose a fraction of his heat, words catching in his throat and falling from his lips in a formless plea of desire.
Ed wanted it now, but what about tomorrow? Would he wake up and look at Roy with anything other than hate in his eyes?
If they had sex tonight, how could Roy convince himself that it would be anything other than rape?
The thought cut through his mind like a dagger, sharp and shocking, and he snatched his hands away from Ed's skin as if he'd been burned. Ed opened his eyes, blinking water from his lashes as he gave Roy a look of dazed confusion. His fingers plucked at the shirt again, and he pressed himself up on tiptoes, whimpering when Roy held him gently at bay.
'No, Ed. No.' He bit his lip, hating himself for all that he had already done. Ed was in no fit mental state to make a decision about anything. He was completely at the whim of the drug in his bloodstream. Even if he gave consent, even if Roy asked him straight if he wanted sex and he agreed, it would be meaningless. He didn't have the capacity to make decisions, and Roy had almost let himself forget that. 'We can't.'
'I want to,' Ed husked, as if that was the only deciding factor. His tongue darted out, lapping at the water on his lips, and his expression changed, lit up by a bright idea. 'Please?'
Roy gave a strained smile and shook his head, trying to keep his voice level as he cupped Ed's face, his hands hovering a hair's breadth from wet skin. 'Believe me, Ed. I want to as well, but you're not yourself right now.' His words turned tight. 'I'd be taking advantage of you. You'd hate me for it, and I'd never forgive myself.' He tried to find any element of understanding in Ed's expression. 'At any other time I wouldn't think twice, Ed, but tonight.' Roy swallowed, his words hoarse as he carried on. 'If you asked me for this tomorrow, I wouldn't even hesitate.'
'But I want you now.' There wasn't anything childish in his words, just an intensity that made Roy's stomach shiver anew. Ed rubbed against him again, more loving than passionate this time, and his arms wrapped around Roy's waist as if to anchor himself. 'Tomorrow will be too late.'
Something stuttered in Roy's chest. Until now Ed had been making sense, but that last part – 'Why too late?' he asked, trying to read his expression. 'Ed?'
There was no answer; Ed was staring at the blank white tiles, watching the water run over their shining surface and skimming the fingers of his right hand through the moisture. He was tracing patterns, Roy realised: arrays that were obliterated by the torrent the second they came to life. It was probably for the best; he wouldn't trust Ed not to hurt himself with a wooden spoon right now, let alone allow him to transmute anything.
Regret ached like a burn beneath his skin, and Roy grimaced as his body whined petulantly. It had been deprived and, while his mind knew it was necessary, a dark, aching part of him didn't care about anything but the hot, bare flesh in front of him.
Reaching around Ed's body, Roy turned off the taps, listening to the water gurgle down the drain as he stepped out. His clothes were soaked through, and he knew he should probably have stripped Ed entirely to wash away any remnants of the drug, but he didn't have the strength. Ed was hard enough to resist now. Naked? Roy wouldn't stand a chance.
Taking Ed's hands, he steered him away from the wall and helped him clamber out of the bath before wrapping a towel around his shoulders. 'Ed, I'm going to get you some different clothes to wear. Something dry, all right?' He pushed him carefully down on the floor until he sat cross-legged, arms-length from anything that might hurt him. 'Stay there. I'll be back in one minute.'
Leaving the door open, he smiled as Ed started to hum something to himself. He recognised the tune, even though Ed didn't seem to have much luck hitting quite the right notes. It was a comforting thing, a tether of sound between them, and he ducked into his bedroom before scrabbling in the bottom drawer for pyjamas.
He didn't wear them much, preferring to heap quilts on the bed and sleep nude rather than bother with clothes that only tangled around him as he stirred in his sleep. Still, he had two pairs, and even if they didn't fit Ed very well, at least they weren't wet. The humming hadn't paused, and Roy made his way back to the bathroom, handing Ed a pyjama shirt and pants before saying, 'Get undressed and put these on. You'll be more comfortable. Wait!'
Roy closed his eyes as Ed's hand flew to his belt, following the orders without question . Sopping leather hit the floor with a "smack", and Ed's humming was harmonised by the whisper of fabric. 'I'll be outside the door,' Roy said, ignoring the way his voice cracked as he screwed his eyes up tight, resisting the urge to peek. 'Stay there until I come and get you, all right?'
He fled, there was no other word for it, pulling the door closed so that it stood ajar as he leaned back against the wall. This was insane. How had Hughes thought he was the best person to look after Ed while he was like this? How was he meant to survive this beautiful kind of torture?
Roy shook his head, reaching down to finish undoing his shirt buttons and peel off the wet material. It was too late to change his mind now. The truth was, there wasn't anyone else. Without Al here, Roy was the next logical choice to take care of Ed, and it was a responsibility he wouldn't shirk, even if it killed him
Pulling on the white pyjama t-shirt, he changed his pants. His skin was still clammy and his hair dripped down the back of his neck, but it'd do. At least he was relatively comfortable.
It took a moment for him to notice that something was missing, and he looked back at the bathroom door. Ed wasn't humming any more. In fact, the only noise he could hear was a rapid squeaking, like someone rubbing their fingertip over a pane of glass. Cautiously, he pushed the door aside, pausing on the threshold and frowning in confusion.
Ed was kneeling on the floor, dressed in the clothes Roy had given him. The pants were too long and covered his feet, and the shirt gaped open like strange, white wings, but he was decent. Wet hair tumbled down around his shoulders, swaying back and forth as he scrubbed at the tiled floor with his towel.
'What are you doing?'
'Getting the blood out,' Ed replied, not missing a beat. 'It's everywhere. Messy. Hate the smell.'
Roy glanced around the clinical room, seeing nothing out of the ordinary. Hughes had said something about hallucinations, hadn't he? Somehow Roy thought they would have started before now. Perhaps they had and Ed kept quiet about them. Either way, he was rubbing at the floor hard enough to shred the towel, and Roy stepped forward, cupping his elbow and pulling him upright.
'Leave it for now,' he said. 'Someone else can clean it up.'
'But I put it there.' Ed frowned, looking up at the ceiling and wrinkling his nose in disgust. 'I should get rid of it.'
It was eerie to hear him talking so calmly about blood, as if it was something that he saw every day, ordinary and mundane. Roy grabbed Ed's shoulders and pushed him out of the room as he suggested, 'Are you still thirsty? You can have some more water now if you like.'
Like a starving dog being offered a bone to chew on, Ed leapt on that suggestion, nodding his head as he wetted his lips. 'Thirsty,' he said by way of confirmation. 'Really, really thirsty. Have to keep drinking if we're going to get through the desert. Who's that?' He pointed down the stairs, and Roy, who was still wondering if an imaginary desert was better or worse than a room full of blood, gazed stupidly at his empty hall.
'There's no one there, Ed.' He grimaced, worried and wondering if this kind of thing was normal. He needed to check the leaflet Hughes had given him, because Ed going from horny as hell to clearly delusional was more than a little concerning. 'Come on, let's get you another drink.'
Roy led him down the stairs, noticing that Ed's hands were shaking, and his movements had become jerky and uncoordinated. Twice he almost pitched forward, and it was only Roy's arms around him that stopped him taking a tumble. 'Is the person still there?' Roy asked, pressing his lips together as Ed shook his head. 'All right, stay here. I'll get you some water.' He turned away, rushing towards the kitchen as he called out, 'Talk to me. Who did you see?'
'A boy. Little boy. Maybe six or seven. He walked out the door. Looked angry or sad -' Ed's stream of words hesitated, and when he spoke again he sounded forlorn. ' - hurt. He left blood on the floor. Roy, where are you?'
'In the kitchen,' he called out, filling a fresh glass to the brim with water. 'Just wait there, okay, Ed?' Silence was his only reply, and he flicked water off his hand before going to investigate. 'Ed?'
The living room door was wide open, and Roy peered in to see Ed kneeling at the hearth, staring at the fire that still leapt in the grate. His knees were drawn up to his chest and his arms were wrapped around them, but he wasn't still. His fingers were drumming, and his jaw kept clenching as if he were grinding his teeth.
Roy turned his back for a second, putting the tumbler down on the desk before looking back at Ed. He had moved, getting up onto his knees and leaning forward towards the grate as if hypnotised.
'No!' Roy leapt forward, grabbing Ed's wrist before he could plunge his left hand into the voracious flames. 'What the hell are you doing?'
'Catching fireflies,' Ed told him, his expression puzzled as he looked back towards the shadowed chimney and the sparks that whipped upwards. 'Never seen so many.'
Roy closed his eyes. How much worse were the hallucinations going to get? So far Ed didn't seem afraid of anything, not the bloodied bathroom or the boy he'd seen standing in the hall, but it seemed it was getting more difficult for him to tell what was real and what wasn't. How much longer before he hurt himself reaching out for something that wasn't even there?
Taking Ed's other arm, Roy pulled him gently away from the fire, trying to think of something that Ed could do that would absorb the restless energy thrumming through his body. His eyes were bright and sharp, but tired shadows stamped themselves over Ed's features and, despite a long day at work and a hard night on a stake-out, he seemed a million years away from a good night's sleep. What was Roy meant to do with him?
'Need a pen,' Ed said suddenly. 'Paper. Something to draw on.'
'Why?' Roy asked suspiciously, frowning as Ed jumped to his feet, scurrying over to the desk and tugging on drawer handles. He rifled through each one until he found what he was looking for, then darted back to the fireside. He knelt on the floor, his body hunched over and his right arm curled around the paper like a child guarding his school work from prying eyes. The quick, erratic movements of his body stilled into something more calm as he began to move the pencil over the blank canvas, creating the smooth outline of a perfect circle.
Roy tensed, ready to leap on him if he showed any signs of performing alchemy. He might not see Ed drawing arrays very often, but he knew the cornerstones of a transmutation when he saw them. Except the symbols Ed was outlining meant nothing to him. They weren't the straight, solid lines of Amestrian alchemy, nor the sweeping whorls that occupied Ishballan designs. This was something more organic: life put on the page, and Roy shifted closer as he watched over Ed's shoulder.
At first glance it was a mess of curves and edges, but as Ed carried on Roy realised that there were shapes within the chaos, natural things, like butterflies and leaves in the wind, stark trees on a hillside. Every time he shifted his gaze he saw something different, and he found himself held motionless, stunned to silence by what he was witnessing.
Of course, every alchemist had some artistic ability. It was essential, because one wobbly line in an array could cost you your life, but few had the imagination for something like this. For many, there were schematics and sketches, not art. Arrays had a purpose, and it was nothing to do with beauty, not really. Yet what Ed was doing was so much more than that.
Roy blinked, and his focus shifted allowing him to see the skeleton of what lay beneath it all. The intended flow of energy was clear, and the pictures that at first seemed to have no purpose except to be admired suddenly became eddies in the current, storage cells and amplifiers, and Roy was reminded once more that Ed wasn't just a good alchemist: he was a genius. Great poets took drugs and wrote sonnets that broke hearts and inspired others. Ed tore apart the fundamental basics of alchemy and bent them to his will.
Sitting back, Roy crossed his legs, watching the firelight catch in the golden fall of Ed's hair. The shirt he'd given him to kept slipping off his shoulders, the sleeve pooling around his elbows until he hitched it out of the way, never pausing in what he was doing. Night moved on, each second marked out by the ticking of the clock, and more than an hour had passed when Ed suddenly looked up, pencil hovering above the page as he stared into the corner of the room.
There was nothing there, not even cobwebs, but Ed's earlier expression of happiness had faded. Now his lips were slightly parted, and a frown of worry creased his brow. His shoulders trembled with a shiver, and Roy noticed that the flush had vanished from his face, leaving him drained.
Whatever Ed was seeing must have disappeared, because he turned his attention back to the paper, carrying on as if nothing had happened. He didn't acknowledge Roy's presence in any way, or notice the clock toll out four in the morning, but every few minutes he'd glance up again, and Roy could see the fear rising like a tide.
The sixth time it happened, he reached out, brushing Ed's hair back behind his ear and catching his breath as the younger man flinched. 'What can you see?' he asked, noticing that Ed wasn't meeting his eyes, was keeping his head ducked and his face turned away as if he didn't want to look up. 'What's wrong?'
Ed shook his head, lips pressed tight in a grim line as he tapped the pencil against the paper. He kept stealing quick, cringing stares at the corner of the room, and Roy got stiffly to his knees, moving around to block Ed's view. 'There's nothing there, Ed. It's not real.'
He looked up, meeting Roy's gaze with dull eyes for no more than a heartbeat before he turned away. 'What about you? Are you real?' Ed asked, and Roy's heart ached at the doubt and hope in his voice.
He reached out and took Ed's left hand, meshing their fingers together. 'Yes, Ed. I'm right here – as solid as you are.' He examined Ed's features, trying to find clues as to what was happening. The gleam had gone from his eyes, leaving them downcast and animal-wary, and there was no sign of his previous open smile. Was the drug wearing off, or was this just a different phase of the high?
A shiver racked through Ed's body, grasping him so tightly in its clutches that Roy winced in sympathy. His shoulders were hunched, and he clamped his eyes shut as he swayed against Roy's chest, trembling like a leaf. 'I'm tired,' he whispered, his voice grating in his throat. 'Weak. Can't fight like this.'
'You don't have to,' Roy replied softly, wishing he knew what Ed was seeing. Maybe if he understood he would know what to say to make it go away. Instead he had to guess at the right words and hope that Ed would believe him. 'The fighting's over. You won. You can rest now.' There was no answer, and Roy got to his feet, pulling Ed up after him and looping an arm around his waist to support his weight. 'Let's get you to bed.'
They made their slow, unsteady way back up the stairs, leaving the fire to burn itself out in the grate. Roy had a spare bedroom, but there was no way he was leaving Ed alone in there. Hallucinations could easily become nightmares, and if Ed awoke frightened and disoriented then he wanted to be there to help soothe him again. In the end, they'd both be better off in Roy's room. He would have his familiar surroundings, and Ed would have a big, warm bed to curl up in.
He pushed the door aside and flicked on the lamp before peeling back the covers and sitting Ed on the edge of the mattress. 'Do you need anything? Food, a drink?' Roy frowned as Ed shook his head, still not looking up to meet his gaze. 'You can lie down, you know,' he pointed out when Ed didn't move. 'You must be exhausted. Don't you want to sleep?'
Shoulders lifted and fell in an ambivalent shrug, and Roy shook his head, taking matters into his own hands. It was simple to give Ed a push back into the depths of the pillows and drag the quilt over him, and he watched, confused, as a few complicated shuffles took place before the pyjamas Ed was wearing were dumped on the floor.
'They've got teeth,' he said by way of explanation, turning so that he lay on his side and pulling his knees up to his chest. 'Bit me.'
Roy swallowed against the dryness in his mouth, trying not to dwell on the fact that Ed was lying naked in his bed. 'Shut your eyes and go to sleep,' he said. 'You'll feel better in the morning.' He glanced towards the window, seeing the first silver light of the new day beyond the curtains. They'd been up most of the night but, even now, Ed didn't seem willing to settle down.
'Where are you going?' The question was tight with fear, and Roy looked back at Ed's face with surprise. Before now he hadn't seemed scared, but that had changed. He was huddled in the bed, watching Roy from behind the fall of his hair with wide, uncertain eyes. 'Please don't leave.'
'I'm not going anywhere, Ed. I'll be on the floor.'
'No!' Metal fingers grabbed Roy's wrist, pulling with surprising strength. 'You can't leave me here!' Ed's breathing had accelerated, and his shoulders were shuddering visibly. Even facing down known serial killers Ed didn't flinch, but now he seemed almost paralysed by the twist of his emotions.
After a few seconds' hesitation, Roy climbed onto the mattress, lying on top of the quilt that covered Ed before pulling some spare blankets over himself. They scratched at his skin, but he'd slept with ease in more uncomfortable situations. Besides, it was clear that if Ed was going to get any rest, then he needed Roy by his side.
It was instinctive to bundle Ed close to him, wrapping him up and holding him against the steady patter of his heart. It was as much to comfort himself as to give Edward peace; Roy wasn't used to seeing him like this – at the mercy of his fears. Even as a child entering the adult world of the army, his courage never seemed to falter, but that bravery was gone. He knew Ed would see it as a weakness, but Roy knew better. To be human was to know fear and, just because it was hidden, that didn't mean it wasn't there.
'Can you leave the light on?' Ed asked from Roy's chest, his voice sounding strangely small.
'Will it make you feel better?'
Ed's sigh whispered against his neck, and Roy almost didn't hear his answer. 'Bad things happen in the dark.'
Roy frowned, feeling something twist, tight and painful, in the pit of his stomach. He almost asked Ed what he meant, but the words died on his tongue as he shifted closer, letting his cheek rest against the damp crown of Ed's head. 'Go to sleep,' he murmured, allowing himself to brush a kiss against Ed's hair as his voice caught in his throat. 'I won't let anything bad happen to you. You're safe here.'
'I know,' Ed whispered back, his tense muscles slowly relaxing as he nestled himself closer to Roy's warmth. 'I'm always safe with you.'
Gradually, his breathing levelled out, becoming deeper and steadier as sleep tugged him into its oblivion, but Roy didn't follow him. Instead he lay at Ed's side and watched the shadows beyond the window lighten with the first soft hues of sunrise, trying to ignore his own fears.
When Ed opened his eyes again, would he be himself once more: vivid and passionate and everything that Roy wanted, or would the toxic touch of the drug still linger on? Would he even remember what had happened tonight, or would everything be lost in a dizzy haze?
Only time would tell, and Roy was left alone to wait.
To Be Continued