Quinta Essentia
by Edmondia Dantes

Disclaimer: FMA is not mine.

AN: End-of-anime AU. Featuring Roy!

- - -

They find him, at last, in the underground ruins of an empty city, a tangle of sprawled limbs and acres of blond hair stained rust-brown with slow-drying blood. Shreds of black leather and red fabric stick to skin and hair and stone, and it's only when he's finally been freed of the muck that they realize that there are two of him.

He squints through his good eye for a better look, but the boys are too-thin and frail against the crisp white linens of the medics' stretchers, and even if one of them is Alphonse, it's impossible to tell which is which, much less how they managed it, if they managed it, if they're ever going to wake up out of what the medics are certain is a comatose state.

He'd ripped off his gloves in his desperate search for a pulse, and now he finds himself staring blankly at his hands and wondering whose blood is slowly flaking off of his fingertips. There had been corpses there, he was sure, but he didn't know where, and Hawkeye, tight-lipped and ice-still, wasn't telling him.

He supposed it was a mercy. She'd always been much stronger than him, and he wasn't really sure if he wanted to know what it had cost them this time.

When he looks across the truck to where they're sprawled, filthy and too-still and barely breathing, he can't help but wonder if they've finally lost their souls for good.

- - -

In the chaos of rebuilding, there's only so much time that can be devoted to the Elrics, so he doesn't see them again until they're awake, and then it's only because of the screaming that they come running, a tangle of military dogs off to defend their only pups.

They streak inside the medical center to the crash of glass and steel, and they slide into the room through a wall ripped apart by the clap of bare hands.

The white-coated physicians are the ones ducking and screaming and rushing forward to try and subdue them, but the sizzle and crack of alchemy is a dangerous weapon, and comatose patients have never been able to move the way Alphonse is moving now.

In the end, it takes the combined efforts of Armstrong, himself, and Hawkeye to bring them down, and even they can't get within five feet before one or the other makes a lunge for their throats.

Through the snap and sizzle of smoking wreckage, he can just barely make out two pairs of golden eyes gleaming in the dark.

- - -

It's not solitary confinement when they're not alone, and their one attempt to separate them left three soldiers permanently disabled. It's a price they can't afford, so they're left alone, and so long as no one enters the cell, neither brother makes a break for escape. It's a wonder - they can't keep them from doing alchemy now, not without chopping off their hands, but so long as they're fed on a regular basis and given a stack of books to read, they seem content enough.

It's too soon to let Winry in to see them, and that much, at least, is a damned shame, because they don't seem to respond to anyone at all, and though Roy had toyed with the idea of bringing in Elysia to see them, the thought of her seeing them in this condition stayed his hand.

On the day that Alphonse first braided his brother's hair, Hawkeye opened the door and walked in with the dog. They both ignored her, but when she came back, Black Hayate had a new collar and tag, expertly crafted out of a bit of the cell wall.

- - -

Three weeks later, he lets Winry in, but doesn't stay to watch her cling to them and weep. She walks out hours later, head held high, but there's no way for her to disguise the tears in her eyes, and when she folds herself into her grandmother's arms, he wonders why he doesn't have a god to believe in. Prayers are never answered, and there's no point in being blind, but if he hopes hard enough, maybe that makes it faith anyway.

- - -

Several months later, they come to him, casually blasting their way through walls, although Alphonse always turns and closes the holes after him. Edward just tromps on ahead, bursting into his office in a move so familiar it feels like a punch in the gut, and flops into a chair, Alphonse only a second behind him.

Roy feels his lips curl up into a faint smirk, even though he's not sure if he should be dancing with joy or screaming. "Fullmetal. Alphonse. I take it you're feeling better?"

Ed smirks, nods, and props his chin on Alphonse's shoulder, gold eyes glittering. Alphonse just smiles at him, sweet and warm, and looking at him now still feels completely alien, even though months have passed since he first realized that there were two bodies lying in the wreckage instead of one.

"Care to tell me what happened to you?" he inquires, trying to keep his tone light, trying to keep from grabbing them and shaking, or grabbing them and not letting them go.

Two blond heads shake in perfect unison, and he finds himself wondering yet again just what those last transmutations cost them.

"Can you not speak?" he wonders out loud, "Or is it something else?"

Edward looks at him for a long moment, then shrugs. Alphonse blinks up at him, frowning faintly, brow crinkling in thought.

"Yes," he says definitively, but when Roy tries to coax more out of him, he just shrugs and smiles and turns back to his brother, burying his nose in his hair. Edward just looks at him through half-lidded eyes and laughs, but the sound isn't in the least bit human, and lingers in his nightmares for weeks afterward.

- - -

In the end, they can't keep them, and they can't let them go, so they unofficially adopt them and settle them onto Roy's family estate. It's kind of like having pets or children, except that it's completely different, and he supposes that's just what he's going to have to live with for the rest of forever. Since that first day, Alphonse hasn't spoken a single word, and Edward never has, but they seem busy and happy enough, disappearing into the library for days on end, the only sign of their presence a continually-building pile of notes and theories left on his desk whenever they complete their latest project.

Three months later, they vanish overnight, and when the first reports come in of a pair of silent alchemists wandering the country and performing random acts of good, Roy Mustang leans back in his chair and smiles.

They've learned to compensate for whatever it is that they've lost yet again, and if they weren't a walking tragedy, he wouldn't feel so guilty about being so proud of them.

He tastes salt on his lips, but the smile doesn't wash away, and even if Hawkeye catches him weeping, she'll never say a word.

- - -

Quinta Essentia: The making of a quintessence, or highly elevated form of a substance.