I wrote this some time ago and thought twice before posting it. I never realized before putting it here that this was so short, I thought it was longer... Anyway, this goes to the same category with Silence; written in the spur of emotions. Any other stories coming? Maybe.
Special thanks to Hyperthia for our long conversations. You might find some of your theories in this one.
I do not own FMA and this follows the first anime.
After finding Nina's body, everything was blurry. Edward would never completely realize how he ended up at Hughes's place. The next thing after getting a lecture from Lieutenant Colonel Mustang would be Gracia rushing him to shower. The boy would never remember the furious, shocked glares on Military Officers' faces or Havoc's attempt to give a consolation speech as the man drove him to the kind family's home. All the boy understood was that Hughes was part of the investigations group and therefore had to stay at the scene longer than him.
By the time he had taken the shower, Hughes came home. The man hung up his coat solemnly and walked to the living room. Gracia was sitting on the couch with Edward on a pillow on the floor in front of her. A white towel was wrapped around his shoulders but it wasn't enough to keep the past shoulder length hair from making the blue pajamas wet. A scraping noise reached the boy's ears every time Gracia ran a comb through his golden hair.
On seeing the man enter the room, Edward lifted his gaze. Hughes could feel his heart break apart by the sight of the tired child. His eyes were red from crying so much and yet a small trail of tears still managed to find enough water in the system to produce even more of those pearls of sadness. He also noticed that the boy had his arms wrapped around his middle like he had a stomach ache. Yet, the man let the fact be casted away from his mind and walked closer to the pair.
"I'm so sorry, Edward," Hughes breathed out, kneeling in front of the boy. He put a hand on the boy's flesh shoulder and noticed how the muscles tightened at the human touch. "This is- I'm so sorry."
That was the only thing he could think of to say. He couldn't bare himself to tell the investigation results; none of that mattered at the moment. No statistics were going to change the fact: a four-year-old girl was dead
"I almost killed him."
The voice did not belong to the Edward he knew. This was the voice of a child who had just lost everything. Hughes looked at the boy's eyes and tried to see some life in them but to no avail. Something else seemed to speak through Edward's corpse.
"Edward, do not blame yourself."
"I almost killed him," The boy stated again as if he had just realized the truth. "I kept beating him. He was laughing and it irritated me even more. If Al hadn't been there, I would have killed him. I would have killed him. I would have killed him."
"Edward!" Hughes took a hold of both the boy's shoulders as he kept repeating those five words like they were a mantra. Gracia who had stopped combing by the killing statement, lifted her feet onto the couch and watched how her husband shook the twelve-year-old boy roughly. Edward's head lulled back and forth as Hughes tried to get some sense into the boy.
Then he noticed the yellow eyes focus back to the real world. Hughes stopped the motion and brushed the wet bangs so they wouldn't be hiding half of the boy's face.
"Hughes," Edward looked at the man desperately.
"Yeah, I'm here."
The boy just continued to stare at him and Hughes couldn't figure out the reason for it. He assumed the boy needed something to hold on to: something that wouldn't disappear. Something that he had known during the last six months might make him feel like his life had not been changed into another one. Something, even after this horrible night, had stayed the same.
A loud whistling noise came from the kitchen and Gracia wound behind the boy and set her feet onto the floor.
"The water is ready. Which do you two want: tea or chocolate?"
"I'll take tea," The man answered and stood up, dragging the boy up with him. Edward flinched slightly and grabbed Hughes left arm to make himself stay upright.
"I'll take nothing."
A mixture of determination and worry flashed in Gracia's eyes.
"Edward, you need to drink something. Otherwise, all that crying will cause dehydration and then you'll feel even worse."
Hughes kept his eyes on the boy as they walked to the kitchen. Edward was limping slightly and he walked with his back bent. He took only small steps as if to lessen the strain on his middle. The man had not been informed of Edward being hurt in the incident. By what he had heard, Tucker had not harmed anybody since making the chimera and Hughes was sure whole Military would know if the man had hurt a State Alchemist, let alone the youngest one.
"Edward," he started quietly. The boy kept his gaze forward but Hughes could see he was listening. "Are you okay?"
The boy stopped immediately after hearing the question and Hughes slapped himself mentally; he ought to have formed the question better. The pair was already by the kitchen door and Gracia and Alphonse could see Edward's pupils grow smaller.
The boy turned his head to Hughes breathing heavily.
"I just found out a girl I thought as my little sister had been turned into a chimera by her insane father and saw the bloody remains of that same creature splattered on wall and you're asking whether I'm okay?"
Edward's voice grew louder with each word and by the end of the sentence he was screaming with all the power his lungs could muster out. Hughes's ears were hurting by the noise but he did not cover them like Gracia did. If he covered his ears, he would give the boy the impression that he was weak. He needed to let the boy let out his anger and frustration. Hughes knew Edward needed someone to be strong for him at the time when the world seemed to be falling into pieces.
A minute went in silence with Edward and Hughes staring at each other and neither was backing down. Gracia, being familiar with her husband's temperament, clapped her hands together like she had seen Edward do on the day she went in labor. The choice of motion was bizarre since she had always been against alchemy and today's incident just proved her fears to be justifiable.
"Boys, come here," the woman motioned the pair to join the living armor and her to the tea table. Alphonse, not being able to eat, had to do with just watching his brother's actions. Edward sat on the right side of his little brother who was occupying the place at the end of the table. Hughes sat himself next to Edward and chose lemon flavored tea. He lowered the bag to the steaming water and meanwhile took a chocolate cookie from the bowl.
Gracia poured two spoonfuls of chocolate powder to the boy's water and mixed it for him. Then she positioned her warm hand onto the boy's back and rubbed it gently, encouraging him that everything was going to be all right someday. It would maybe take some time but she would be there for him.
Edward didn't know whether that was the message she had wanted to deliver him but he hoped so much it was it.
Both of the newborns parents were eyeing him worriedly and tried to make them feel more at ease by taking a sugar cube and dropping it to his drink. His mother had always warned him not to add any sugar to the already sweet drink: it would just make him hyper-active but at the moment Edward knew no one would mind him as a smiling, cheerful youngster.
The chocolate drink was brown, almost reddish. Edward frowned; this wasn't the kind of powder they had used in Rizembuul. The waves caused by the cube made the colors swirl in the mug. His heart clenched: the color reminded him of the ally where Nina had been found. The drink was the same color as the wall, at least it had seemed so in the dark.
His throat was burning, new set of tears were ready to be set free. Edward bit his lip unable to even touch the dish and suddenly his eyes widened. The insides of his stomach were turning upside down: the burning wasn't caused by tears.
In a split second, Edward rose hurriedly from his chair. The piece of furniture fell down and the boy ran from the table with a hand covering his mouth.
"Niisan!" Alphonse exclaimed, rising up from his chair also but didn't follow his brother. The boy wasn't sure what Edward wanted and he didn't want to bother his privacy.
Then they heard loud gagging. Hughes set down his mug and rose up.
"I'd better make sure he won't choke," the man explained as he walked out of the room to the lower stair's bathroom. The door was wide open which Hughes had been expecting: the wave of nausea had been so sudden.
Edward was on the floor on his knees, hands wrapped around the toilet seat and head deep in the bowl. Some of the hair strands were hanging dangerously close to the lost stomach contents and the man decided that saving the boy from another shower section was to be his first task. He gathered the hair into a ponytail which he held up with his left hand. The boy's back and stomach contracted when hurling began again. Hughes tried to not care about the acid smell or nauseating noises of the boy gagging and puke landing into the toilet water. Instead, he tried to concentrate on rubbing the boy's back and counting the intervals between coughs.
After five minutes, Edward's body calmed down. The boy still leaned into the bowl and breathed in deeply. Hughes was worried the smell of vomit would send him into another spell of throwing up so he carefully maneuvered the boy's fingers off the edges of the toilet seat; surprisingly, the automail fingers were easier to separate than the flesh ones. As he flushed the toilet, he began to lower Edward onto the floor with arm around his back. Then he used his now free hand to support the fragile head and finally the boy was resting on the cold surface.
Hughes stood up and took a towel from the cupboard. After watering it under the flow of cool water, he forced the extra moisture from it and went back down to his knees.
"Now, let's clean you up some," he whispered in case the boy had a headache. Edward's face was pale and covered in sweat yet the half-open eyes were clearly alert and gazing around the room. Hughes kept the boy's head still while he wiped the skin on his face and neck. He left the vomit-covered area around the lips last.
"Feel any better now?" The man inquired during the process.
"My stomach hurts."
"Well, that is to be expected."
"No. That Gran, Tucker's protector-"
Hughes hand stopped on hearing the name of his commanding officer. Personally, he hated Gran; the name seemed to have been born with no moral or ability to feel compassion.
"What did he do to you?"
Edward felt guilty by hearing the dark, serious tone on Hughes's voice. For a second, the idea of waving the matter aside as some hallucination occurred to his mind. Nevertheless, the sensible side of his mind reminded that Hughes would find out sooner or later. After all, there had been about a dozen men to witness the scene and Hughes would probably blackmail either them or him in order to find out the truth.
"He- he stroke me into my stomach with that metal thing he has in his hand."
Before Edward could say no, Hughes had opened the buttons of his pajama shirt to reveal a blackening spot on the boy's stomach. The man traveled his right hand's fingers across it gently and Edward flinched at the pressure.
"That monster," Hughes muttered quietly, eyes on the damage. He fisted his hands; how he wanted to hit something. "I knew he would do something like this to an adult- but a child!"
"Hughes," Edward whispered scared; he had never seen the man like this. Usually he was all smiles and nice words but Edward had noticed he could be serious also. Yet, this was something much more serious: Hughes was furious. The boy was young yet he knew what most men would do in a situation like this and he could not afford it.
"I'm going to court martial him for this. He's going to-"
"Hughes!" Edward interrupted the man's monologue and tried to sit up. He could only go halfway before his abdomen began to scream against the action. The man seemed to snap back to the reality and tried to make the heavily breathing boy lie down again but Edward would take none of it.
"Just forget this, okay. Gran has too much power and he is your commanding officer. You're going get demotion if you tell anyone or worse: you might lose your job. Besides, if we told who would they believe? A child? I don't think so and those men want to keep kissing his ass."
Hughes was taken aback by the speech. He knew Edward was a bright little boy but he had no idea he understood the ways of Military this well.
"But I can't just pretend this never happened."
"You must only pretend to everyone else, okay. Furthermore, he didn't technically do anything wrong. He had already told me to stay away from the mason and I got in the way of Military evacuation. If anyone's getting court marshaled, it'll be me."
The boy sniffed.
"It's just so wrong."
Hughes put his hand onto the boy's shoulder.
"C'mon, let's get you to your room. Do you want me to carry you?"
Edward tried to stand up but the after-effects of getting hit and throwing up had both made him weak and caused his stomach to hurt. Walking up the stairs would be impossible.
"Okay," Edward said as he lowered himself back to the floor, "but only this one time."
Hughes nodded unable to hide his smile.
"Only this once."
He lifted the boy to his arms, right arm around the back with left arm supporting the boy's knees. The man began to make his way from the bathroom to the hallway and was met both by Gracia and Alphonse. After assuring them that Edward would be alright, they let him to the passage leading to the stairs.
Edward was leaning his head onto his shoulder, warm breath tickling the skin. Hughes found himself feeling strange. It wasn't erotic kind of strange he always felt with Gracia: the feeling was most likely the same he felt when being with his daughter.
He looked down at the boy's face; Edward's eyes were closed but the rhythm of breathing let out that he was not yet sleeping. At that moment, Hughes knew what that feeling was; he wanted to protect the boy. The sensible side of his mind screamed that the thought made no sense. He was not Edward's parent; he had no responsibilities concerning the boy. Still, the emotional part that he most often listened to told him that the feeling was normal. Edward had no other family than his year younger brother and he hadn't even reached puberty. Throughout centuries humans had taken care of the orphaned children because they held the key to the survival.
Like so many times before, Hughes listened to his emotional sense. He hugged the boy closer to himself, hoping the boy enjoyed the closeness of the human touch he so rarely received. The sensible part of him decided to give him a reason to not feel bad for his actions.
Well, comrades look after each other.
I honestly thought this was going to be more... immense, in lack of a better word. I might add Al's part into this. I've pretty much written the dialogue for it.
Reviews are given chocolate!