Author's note: This story was written for one of the 25 Papa!Roy/Ed themes from the Hated_Guardian community on LJ, as posted by mabis. Mangaverse. Thank you for reading and enjoy.
Disclaimer: I do not own any rights to Fullmetal Alchemist, nor am I making any money from this work of fiction.
Roy walked through the hospital's pristine hallway at a brisk and purposeful pace. When he first heard that Edward had been admitted, he had not worried much…after all, the boy landed himself in the hospital often enough. However, this time appeared to be more serious.
Maes had called in after stopping by himself, planning on just saying 'hello' and sitting with Alphonse for a while so he would not be bored. The bespectacled man did not say much; he just told Roy that he needed to get there straight away.
The boy had already been whisked into the operating room by the time Roy arrived, and several panicked nurses and doctors rushed into the room shortly afterwards, refusing to speak to anyone on their way.
The Lieutenant Colonel asked Maes to give him the details rather than upset Al any further, as the boy's panic was clear even with a body that could show no emotion.
His bespectacled friend reported that the boys had been investigating a rogue alchemist, as Roy had asked Ed to do, when several of the suspect's supporters had cornered and threatened them, each wielding a firearm. Ed had been about to use alchemy when Al had the bright idea to try intimidating the gun-toting men. The boy had assumed that a large, fearless 'man' clad in solid steel armour would get the men to back down…and if they refused, then their bullets would simply ricochet off him and strike them or the wall.
Al had figured it was a win-win situation. What the twelve-year-old had failed to consider, however, was that bullets do not always ricochet back in the direction they came from…sometimes they bounce to the left or to the right. In this case, that happened to be right where his brother was standing when the men opened fire on the advancing armoured figure.
To make a long story short, Hughes had summarised that Ed took at least one bullet into his upper side and, from Al's description of his reaction, it seemed to have struck his lung. The men had panicked and fled, leaving Al to rush his brother to the nearest hospital, which was where they all were now. It was not as good as the one in Central, but the staff should have been more than competent enough to treat the boy.
At least, that had seemed to be the case until half a dozen doctors and nurses began running in and out of Edward's room as though the hounds of hell were chasing them.
Finally growing tired of not knowing what was going on, as well as Al's fidgeting, worried sounds, and questions (certainly not because he himself was worried), Roy approached the room, waiting outside patiently until a young nurse left the room at a much calmer pace, jotting down something on a clipboard.
Roy flashed a charming smile at the young woman, "Excuse me, miss? Do you have a moment?"
The nurse immediately blushed and grinned upon seeing the raven-haired man, "Of course, sir. What can I do you for?"
Continuing to smile at the now simpering woman, Roy indicated the room she had just vacated; "That is my subordinate in there and I was wondering what you could tell me about his condition. There seems to be a great deal of…flustered activity occurring."
The young woman blinked and then glanced back at Ed's room before turning to Mustang again, "I'm sorry, sir, there must be some mistake. The boy in that room is too young to be in the military…too young by years."
"He isn't an enlisted man; he's a State Alchemist," corrected Roy. "Perhaps you've heard of him, The Fullmetal Alchemist?"
The nurse's head snapped back to look at the door of the operating room again. "That's the Fullmetal Alchemist? I'd heard he was the youngest State Alchemist ever, but…I never imagined…"
She looked at Roy, blushing again, "When we heard the Fullmetal Alchemist was here, we just assumed it was the man in the armour that brought the kid in."
"That's understandable; it happens all the time," replied the raven-haired man with a small smirk. "So, can you tell me what's happening to him or are you needed back in there? I'd hate to waste valuable time while Fullmetal is suffering." Roy's tone and expression turned serious at the final statement; he felt they had wasted enough time already and he wanted answers.
"Oh, of course…I'm sorry," the nurse looked and sounded much more professional now, Roy's tone and expression having clearly reminded her of the circumstances of their exchange. "Well, the wound itself is serious, but Dr. McCabe was confident that he could save the child with no lifelong side effects…"
"He was confident?" the obsidian-eyed man repeated questioningly, trying to ignore the way his heart rate had suddenly sped up. "What changed?"
"Well, there were some complications with the anaesthesia and other medications," replied the nurse, sounding tense. "It seems the doses were much too strong for him. You see, we determine the doses by body weight, and while we were able to weigh the boy, we had to compensate for his Automail limbs. The standard method is simply to subtract the estimated weight of the limbs…that's usually close enough, but I'm afraid we underestimated their weight in this case."
The nurse swallowed, noting the darkening of Roy's eyes and the firm set of his face. "Children's Automail is usually lighter than adult Automail, even if it's the same size. I suppose it's less durable that way, but since kids usually have to have it changed out every couple of years at least, to accommodate their growth anyway, it ends up being more cost effective to make it lighter…
"More importantly, the lighter Automail is less likely to stunt the child's growth so harshly. We should have guessed something was wrong by his size, but we don't know anything about his family record and we didn't even know his exact age until the doctor had already rushed him into surgery."
Roy noted the information about the Automail having likely attributed to Edward's stunted growth, but filed it away for later contemplation. At the moment, all he cared about was Edward's current condition. "How is he now?"
"We were able to revive him and we have him stabilised now; the doctor was just about to continue the surgery when I exited the room. We won't be able to say anything for certain until after he regains consciousness and we can run some tests, but the doctor is still confident that there will be no permanent damage." The nurse frowned at the clipboard in her hands before looking at Roy again, "Actually, there is something you might be able to help us with."
The obsidian-eyed man arched an eyebrow, "Regarding Fullmetal?" The nurse nodded, and he motioned for her to continue.
"Well, we really need to contact his parents or legal guardian. It's standard procedure when operating on a minor, plus there are some forms that need to be filled out." The young woman smiled lightly, "I assume you have some contact information for your subordinate's guardian? If you could just give me a name and perhaps a phone number…?"
The Lieutenant Colonel frowned at the door to Ed's surgery room. As far as he knew, Edward's situation was unprecedented. Other children had lost their parents and homes before, especially after the Eastern Rebellion, but those children were taken in by family or the like…they certainly never became military auxiliaries and wandered across the country on their own, conducting complex and sensitive research.
Without any protocol to abide by, Roy felt confident in handling the situation as he saw fit. Nevertheless, he even surprised himself with the words that ever so confidently passed his lips. "That would be me." He held out a hand to take the forms from the nurse, who was blinking perplexedly. "I'll fill those out for you."
The woman wore a confused expression as she handed over a stack of papers that was nearly a centimetre thick. Roy frowned, "All of this?"
The nurse arched an eyebrow, "Well, there are the standard permission and consent documents in triplicate, and we need as much information on his medical history as you can give for his permanent file…it's grossly lacking in information. You won't have so much next time, and there are copies for you to keep as well."
The woman looked Roy over thoughtfully as he glanced at the top page, "I suppose it might be different in Central, sir, but next time, you might want to introduce yourself as his guardian first; it'll get you past all the red tape. Military or not, no hospital is going to deny you information or access to your child."
The obsidian-eyed man looked up sharply at the last two words, but made no comment as the nurse smiled kindly at him, "You're new to this, aren't you? Don't worry. These things happen no matter what you do and even soldiers can be blind-sided…especially when children are involved. Why don't you go sit down and fill those out? It will give you something to focus on and I promise to get you right away once we're finished here or if there are any changes in his condition."
Realising that the woman was mistaking his emotions and thoughts for something more paternal -for surely he was just disappointed at having yet more paperwork to fill out- Roy simply nodded and returned to his seat. The permission and emergency contact forms were menial but time consuming, and the raven-haired man filled them out easily.
The rest was another story…
Full Name: Edward -Roy tried and failed to recall a middle name, but decided first and last would suffice- Elric.
Age: -Roy knew that one at least- 13.
Birthdates: -Roy quickly subtracted Edward's age from the current year and was somewhat surprised by how recent the date looked on paper; he could actually remember what he had done that day- February 17, 1899.
Blood Type: -Roy frowned slightly, trying to recall if that had been anywhere in Fullmetal's State Alchemist exams-
Weight: - Roy left that blank, thinking that they obviously needed to figure that out sometime soon-
Height: -Roy sighed quietly-
"Do either of you know how tall Fullmetal actually is?"
Both Hughes and Al turned to look at the Lieutenant Colonel; the former looked as though he had asked what made the sky blue.
In the end, Roy had to borrow some measuring tape from a little old woman who was knitting quietly on the other side of the waiting room and measure up to the point on his chest that the boy reached. It was not going to be exact, but it would be close enough for a (hopefully) growing child.
It took all three of them to fill out the rest and there were still several blank areas on the pages where they had not been able to provide the information requested.
After what felt like hours, but had likely been less than one, the obsidian-eyed man turned in the mostly-completed paperwork and returned to his seat, studying the copies he had been given. Al wandered to the other end of the waiting room, where there was a stack of reading material on a small table. Roy was re-reading Edward's allergy information when he realised that Maes was staring at him with a grin that meant he was about to be tormented.
"What is it, Hughes?"
"You could have let Al fill out those forms and just tell you where to sign, you know," stated the green-eyed man, clearly holding back on something. "It would have saved time."
"I doubt he would have been able to focus," replied Roy easily. "Besides, we could all use something to distract us…sitting and staring at the walls is hardly mentally stimulating."
"Ah, so that's why you're studying your copy of Ed's file so earnestly…just because it's so much more interesting than any of the newspapers or magazines Al's flipping through." Maes made no move to hide his mocking tone, although he at least had the grace to speak quietly enough for no one else to hear their conversation.
"As his appointed guardian, state sponsor, and military liaison, I will be required to disclose this sort of information again in the future," the Lieutenant Colonel drawled out, hoping his friend would catch a hint for once and just keep his mouth shut until the nurse came with news of Edward's condition. Obsidian eyes glanced toward the doors to the surgical wing again. It was beginning to really bother Roy that no one had come to tell him they were finished working on Ed yet…a simple overdose and one punctured lung could not take this long to fix, could it?
Hughes' eyes were practically sparkling with diluted (for he was still worried about Ed) delight as he continued teasing his friend. "On that note, why exactly did you just appoint yourself Ed's guardian? You could easily have named that Rockbell woman or even the boys' old teacher and her husband-"
"That would mean more hassle for me and, considering his situation, it would be better for Fullmetal not to bring anyone else into his personal affairs. They would only complicate things…especially since they despise State Alchemists." The raven-haired man hoped his logical explanations would bore his friend soon...and end the line of questioning before Maes got to the question he was obviously itching to ask.
"You could have asked me," the green-eyed man stated with a grin. "You know Gracia and I are excellent parents and we don't have anything against State Alchemists-"
"Yes, and I really need you to have more of a reason to feel free to intervene in my life," Roy muttered, rolling his eyes. "I think Fullmetal will be pleased to hear he just dodged a different type of bullet…" The obsidian-eyed man looked for a clock, wondering if Ed had been in surgery as long as it felt and momentarily forgetting the State Alchemist issue watch that rested in his pocket.
He noticed that Al was across the room, colouring with a boy a few years younger than him as the boy's father paced a few feet away. Roy vaguely wondered if the man was here for another child and if all children caused this much stress in the lives of the adults responsible for them. Those thoughts came back around to Ed's current state, and the obsidian-eyed man returned to his visual search for a clock after taking another glance toward the surgical wing and seeing no signs of change.
The bespectacled man's grin broadened as he shook his head slightly, "I never thought I'd see you acting like a concerned father…it's so cute! I wish I had thought to grab my camera on the way here. No one will believe th-"
"Maes, if you tell anyone about this, I will have you court-martialled for slandering a superior officer," interrupted the obsidian-eyed man smoothly. Then he blinked and frowned, "And I am not behaving like a concerned father. I am merely taking my new responsibilities seriously and attempting to take care of a valuable State Alchemist under my charge."
"Uh-huh," the Major obviously did not believe a word his friend was saying. "Come on Roy, it's just us here…you can admit you care about the little guy." Suddenly, the man deadpanned, "Don't tell Ed I called him that if you ever mention this conversation."
"Neither of us will ever be mentioning this conversation to anyone," Roy grumbled.
"Well I have to tell Gracia," commented Hughes zealously, his moment of solemnity having passed. "I tell her everything! She's such an insightful and understanding w-"
"Maes, for just this once, do you think you could contain yourself?" The obsidian-eyed man rubbed his temple with one hand while the other still held his copy of Edward's medical records up so he could read them…assuming his friend would let him concentrate. "Fullmetal could be in there losing a lung or suffering brain damage and you're actually beaming."
The bespectacled man immediately sobered and turned to his friend with an apologetic expression. "Oh, Roy I'm sorry. I was just trying to lighten the mood and then I got too caught up in how adorable you're be- Err…" Maes held up a hand and rubbed the back of his neck with the other before clearing his throat.
"I shouldn't make light," the older man continued. "I'm worried about Ed too; you know I am. I don't even want to imagine how you must feel. If it were Elycia in there…" Maes shook his head slowly, his expression suggesting that the thought was too terrible to contemplate. "I'd be a complete mess inside."
Roy was not sure how he should react to the last comment. A part of him wanted to argue -again- that Ed was not his child…and even if he had considered the boy as such, Roy would still be more sedate as a father than Maes. However, the comforting hand that his friend placed on his shoulder led the raven-haired man to believe that Hughes was being completely sincere.
He settled for glaring at the front desk across the room. "Why hasn't anyone updated us? Does it normally take this long?"
"Sometimes no news really is good news," Maes responded gently. "If something had gone wrong, they'd have sent a nurse to talk to you. Remember, most medical procedures are a little more delicate where children are concerned…their bodies are still developing and there's less room for mistakes. Imagine how small Ed's lung-"
The Lieutenant Colonel was just about to interrupt, not wanting comments on the demure size of Edward's organs adding to the visuals that were running through his head of things that could be going wrong. Just then however, the same nurse that had spoken to Roy outside of Ed's operating room approached the two soldiers with a small, reassuring smile. Roy still found himself standing abruptly and shoving the paperwork he had been holding against Hughes' chest, forcing his friend to hold them.
The nurse spoke to the Lieutenant Colonel in a comforting tone; "Relax, Mr Mustang, I just came to tell you that Edward is out of surgery. The doctor ran some tests, and his vitals look good. We cannot say that there was no additional damage until he wakes up, but there definitely isn't anything serious. Maybe just some memory loss or temporary fits, but the doctor is confident that he will be fine.
"He'll have to take it easy for a while with that lung though," the nurse warned, her tone becoming more businesslike, but still kind. "Once it's healed, it'll take some time to rebuild his stamina, but he should recover fully within a few months. We're setting him up in a room now; you should be able to see him sometime in the next half-hour."
Roy smiled appreciatively at the young woman. He felt as though a vice had been tightening around his chest without him even being aware of it, until just now, when it vanished. He took a deep, steadying breath before thanking the nurse.
She smiled and nodded, but paused halfway into turning away. "Oh…one more thing; His Automail leg took a couple of bullets too. He's lucky it wasn't a real leg, or he probably would have bled to death on the way here."
The woman frowned slightly as Maes hissed sympathetically and Roy seemed to loose some colour, but continued speaking. "We were worried about the shrapnel and wires sticking out, so we removed it after the surgery. He should be taking it easy for a week or so anyway, but I'm sure you'll want to contact an Automail mechanic to repair it and then reattach it. We don't do that here; sorry."
"That's fine," Mustang reassured the woman once he had regained his composure. Hearing that Edward had taken multiple shots and had only survived due to his Automail had shaken the man more than he would like to admit. "I'm sure he'd prefer for his usual mechanics to handle that anyway. We'll be sure to contact them."
The nurse smiled again and tentatively patted Roy's arm. "He'll be up and driving you crazy in no time, you'll see."
"I'm sure he will," Mustang replied as the nurse left, and then he turned to Maes. "Why does that woman keep acting like she has to placate me? I'm completely rational and composed."
The green-eyed man grinned, "Because -despite the rational tone and overall composure- you have the telltale tension around your eyes and gut that suggests a worried parent who is ready to go feral at a moments notice should they feel their offspring is in danger. The gun doesn't help any either…"
The obsidian-eyed man frowned slightly, but Al appeared beside them before he could comment.
"I saw the nurse talking to you…what did she say? Is brother all right? When can we see him?"
Roy was quickly trying to decide exactly how much details the younger Elric should be given when Maes answered. "Ed's going to be all right, Al. He's going to have to stay here a few nights so they can watch him…you know the drill."
The man smiled as Al agreed, and then continued in an easy tone, never letting on that he was leaving anything out. Roy had to admit that he was impressed. "We're going to be able to see him within the hour, but it might take a while for him to wake up fully. Even then, he'll need a moment to get his bearings and he might be a little out of it from the surgery for a while, so go easy on him, okay?"
Roy suddenly understood why people normally marred before having children…at least they could work as a team that way. He could not imagine how Trisha Elric had managed her two sons by herself. He also made a mental note to talk to Maes about influencing children, because it seemed to work quite differently from manipulating adults.
"Of course," Al agreed immediately, his voice sounding much lighter, as though he had caught Hughes' obvious relief. "How long before he can leave; did the nurse say?"
"She didn't say specifically, it will probably depend on how well he follows their instructions," commented Maes, still sounding calm and sure of his words. "He'll have to take it easy while his lung gets used to working at full capacity again though. Oh, and it sounds like his Automail leg was damaged a bit, did you notice anything?"
Al sounded a little nervous again, but not nearly as much as before. "No, but I didn't see him walk after the fight and then he got shot, so I carried him while he was unconscious…is it serious? Should I call Granny and Winry?"
"Hmm, I don't know." Maes rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "It wasn't ruined or anything, but the doctors were scared that Ed would hurt himself because some metal and wires were sticking out, so they removed the leg. Does he need them to reattach it?"
"Well…usually you do, but Ed tends to handle the small stuff himself," Al explained in a tone that suggested he was unsure if he should reveal so much, but he clearly trusted Hughes with the information. "He can use alchemy to fix any little breaks and he has reattached them himself before…but it hurts a lot. Maybe we should let him look at it and decide. At least having the leg off will get him to stay still while his lung heals."
Roy smirked lightly and Hughes chuckled gently. "That's a good point,' the bespectacled man commented, "We'll let Ed make the call then."
"While he's at it, ask him to find out exactly how much his Automail and ports weigh," added Roy; "It will make the doctors' job much easier in the future." As much as he doubted he would never be in this exact situation again, Roy knew that Edward would find more ways to injure or endanger himself and the raven-haired man did not want to worry over that particular complication.
"Uh…okay. Is that why it took them so long? They had to figure that out for some reason?" Al sounded confused, clearly not understanding why that would be an issue.
Roy did not want to tell the boy that they had almost lost his brother because of it, so he simply nodded once. He would let Al assume they took the extra time making calculations as opposed to fixing their mistake and checking the damage.
"Hey, now that we have a timeframe, I'm going to grab a cup of coffee from the cafeteria," stated Maes. "Al, you wanna come with me?"
Mustang sat back down as Al and Maes walked away, talking about the boy Al had been colouring with, whose mother was apparently giving birth to his little brother or sister. Glancing at Ed's medical records, which Maes had left on the chair beside him, Roy could not help but wonder why anyone had more than one child. Ed seemed to cause him plenty of extra work and stress all on his own…but then, he realised that Edward was likely a special case.
Despite the relief he felt at hearing that Ed's surgery had been successful, Roy found that he still felt an odd tension, as though something were not right. Before he could think long on that, he noticed the pretty nurse enter the waiting room again and fix her gaze on him. He stood, Edward's paperwork in hand, and met her halfway across the room this time.
She smiled knowingly; "Yes, you can see him now. Come on, I'll show you to his room." Roy simply nodded and followed her down another hallway. "He isn't awake yet, but you can see him and speak to the surgeon."
The room she led him into was cold and sterile, but Roy's eyes immediately landed on the small lump in the bed that was Edward. The sheets were pulled up to his heavily bandaged chest, his face was pale and blank, and there was an IV attached to his flesh arm. An oxygen mask was set over his mouth and nose, and his small chest rose and fell weakly but steadily.
The obsidian-eyed man felt his chest tighten and his throat constrict. He set his jaw and clenched his hands into fists. He felt the immediate urge to act…to do something, but he could not think of a single thing that he could do to help or change the situation.
The nurse cleared her throat politely to get his attention. Her smile was gentle as she spoke to him, "I have to drop off a few papers here and there and find your surgeon. Would you like to sit with Edward while you wait?"
Mustang nodded, not trusting his voice to be as smooth and confident as usual just yet. He was not sure why he felt so vulnerable at the moment, after all, it was not him lying on the bed unconscious and severely injured. He just knew that he felt as though he were about breakdown.
If the nurse noticed anything, she had the decency not to comment. "I'll just be about ten minutes or so then. I'll bring the surgeon back and you can ask him any questions you might have about Edward. Why don't you take a seat?"
She indicated a chair beside Ed's bed and then left the room, closing the door behind her.
Roy moved and sat in the chair to Edward's left, and then shifted it closer to the boy. He could smell blood, medicine, and antiseptics, as well as the underlying scent of Edward. Until that moment, he could not have told anyone that he could recognise the child's scent so readily.
After staring at the unconscious boy for a moment, Roy removed his right glove and brushed Ed's bangs out of his face before simply resting his hand over the boy's head. Suddenly, the remaining tension and fear drained out of him, as though Ed's presence proved that he would recover. The obsidian-eyed man released a heavy sigh.
"Fullmetal…I hope you know that I am never having children of my own because of you."
There was no reaction, not that Mustang had truly expected one. He sat still for a moment, just watching Ed struggle to breathe. He did not even know how long he had been stroking the boy' hair when he finally realised he was doing so.
Roy reached over with his other hand and gently wrapped it around Ed's flesh one. He smiled faintly as he realised that for all the times he teased the kid about his size, he had never actually realised how much smaller than he the boy was until now. To think that Ed faced dangers that most of the soldiers Roy had encountered would not have been able to handle…
"Never again;" Roy shook his head slowly. He was going to have to keep closer tabs on Ed. He had always just assumed the kid could handle himself. "I am never letting you do this to me again, Edward."
Ten minutes later, the Lieutenant Colonel managed to look completely composed, yet intimidating as he grilled the doctor on Edward's condition and the complications that had arisen during his surgery.
Maes and Al arrived just as a rather pale and stiff doctor walked out of Ed's room as quickly as possible.
The bespectacled man grinned as Al bypassed both men without a word to sit by his brother and Roy joined him by the door. "You know, it wasn't entirely the surgeon's fault…you didn't have to scare him so badly."
"I know, but better him than the next person unlucky enough to give me an excuse," the obsidian-eyed man responded levelly, his eyes still trained on Edward.
Hughes bit back a chuckle and clapped his friend on the shoulder. "You make a good father, Roy…now you just need to get yourself a wife-"
Maes was down the hall and around the corner before Roy ever had the chance to snap his fingers.