Author's Note: I've been considering this chapter for a long time, thinking about how best to end this fic. Even with how much time I had to plan ahead, the core idea for this chapter developed relatively recently. I can see considerable influence from Sherlock and Supernatural – which I suppose is only natural, since those are currently the two shows I'm most obsessed with. This might seem like an odd scenario to end with, but the more I think about it, the more appropriate this seems. In the end, it doesn't matter what these two characters are doing, what their mission is, or what scrapes they help each other get into and back out of again. All that matters is exactly what I've been trying to demonstrate in these 100 chapters: the bond that ties them together.
Reaching the end of this fic is bittersweet. This has been where my mind flits to in idle moments for so long, and now that I don't have future themes to think through...I'm not really sure what to do with my brain anymore. This fic has been a constant thread in my life for almost three and a half years, through countless changes life has thrown my way. I'm sad to say goodbye to this fun project, but at the same time I feel a huge sense of accomplishment. I did it, everyone! :D
At the time of writing this note, Till I'm a Hundred has received over 1300 reviews, over 350 faves, and over 300 follows. The amount of love and dedication you all have shown to this fic is astounding, and I can't thank you enough. One of my favorite things to do has been reading the responses to each chapter, and I'm really going to miss our conversations and your inspiring suggestions. You have all been so encouraging and accepting when I needed it most. Thank you, all, and I hope to see you next time! :)
Timeline: Postseries AU (manga/Brotherhood)
Theme 100: Well, let's hurry over there
for my father, who will probably never read this, but who has always been there when I needed him - I love you, Daddy!
Roy slammed the door of his car closed and stomped towards the building, not looking to the right or the left. He paid no attention to the heaps of garbage piled up in the alleyways, nor the hooker leaning in exhaustion against the nearest streetlamp, who dredged up the shadow of an alluring smile as he passed. He hardly noticed how incongruous his smart, clean clothes and thick overcoat were against the squalor around him. People stared at him as he passed, but he ignored them all. He had eyes only for the building ahead of him.
At first glance, the apartment building seemed abandoned, its windows gaping like empty black eyes in the dying light of the sun. But Roy knew better. He strode confidently up to the heavy front doors and shoved them open. A beefy man in a ragged coat lurched to his feet, planting himself sturdily in front of the stairs leading upwards. "And where d'you think you're going, dandy?"
Not even breaking stride, Roy snapped his fingers and knocked the man aside with a blast of fire. "Don't worry," he growled as he stepped over the man twitching on the floor. "Those burns aren't half as bad as they look."
He took the stairs three at a time, scoffing impatiently when he saw that the guard on the second floor was slumped in the corner clutching an empty bottle of booze. He opened the door on the landing and stepped into a large, open space. It seemed this building's construction had never been completed; there were no walls separating rooms on this entire floor. It took a moment for his eyes to adjust to the light, but eventually the faint illumination from neon signs outside allowed him to distinguish numerous lumps in the darkness. They were slumped every which-way amongst piles of rubble and a few rusty bed frames, keeping to no order except to avoid a large hole that gaped in the middle of the floor.
Roy began the arduous task of hunting through the many people sleeping here. Glass and concrete crunched under his boots as he walked, stooping at each figure to look into their face, searching for a few distinct features. Some of them glared up at him or started up in fear, but most of them were too far gone to even notice his presence.
When he finally found Edward, he barely recognized him. If not for the neon pink light glinting off a metal leg, he might have passed right over him. But Roy stopped immediately and knelt down next to him, tugging down a rag to see the boy's face. Edward's eyes slowly opened and stared back at him glassily. He blinked, then groaned and rolled over.
Jaw clenched, Roy grabbed the front of Edward's coat and jerked him to his feet. Edward's head lolled forward and his dead weight fell against Roy's chest. The rage was back, leaving no room for sympathy. Without further ado, Roy bent down, swept an arm under Edward's knees, and tipped the boy over his shoulder. He stomped back out of the room, carrying his former subordinate like a sack of flour. No one tried to stop him, and he hurried down the stairs unchallenged.
The lightly-toasted guard was gone, so Roy just thrust the front doors open again and marched back to his car. The hooker gaped at him with an open mouth as he opened the passenger door of his car and practically threw the boy inside. Roy slammed the door closed again and turned to glare at her. Her jaw snapped shut with an audible click and she scurried away.
"I'm taking you home," Roy snapped as he slid into his seat. Edward blinked blankly at him, and he gritted his teeth. "Well, let's hurry over there, then."
The engine of the car roared in response to Roy's anger as he sped down the streets towards the more respectable part of town. Edward was still out of it, his head thunking dully against the window with every turn. Roy refused to look at him until he'd made it all the way back to his house and turned off the engine. Then, heaving a deep sigh, he looked at Edward and felt his anger ebbing away.
Curled up in the seat, missing his left shoe and wearing dirty clothes he must not have washed in a week, Edward would have looked utterly pathetic even if he wasn't drooling and sluggishly shifting his vacant eyes from side to side. "It's shakban, isn't it?" he asked quietly.
Dilated golden eyes groggily looked up at him. "Uh?"
But Roy didn't need his confirmation. He'd seen the drug's effects plenty of times in Ishbal. Apparently, it came from a root that only grew in the desert. The Ishbalites used it to make a numbing concoction that served as a primitive sort of anesthetic, but when it was concentrated and injected directly into the bloodstream... Unfortunately, the sale of shakban had been the only way many exiles had been able to survive after the extermination. It would take a long time before their economy would recover enough for them to survive without it, no matter how hard anyone tried to help.
With another sigh, Roy got out of the car and crossed over to Edward's side. There was no use thinking about that now. For the moment, shakban was here to stay, and he just had to deal with what was right in front of him. When he opened Edward's door, the boy almost fell out, but Roy managed to catch him and heave him into his arms. Carrying a sixteen-year-old boy with a metal leg was no joke, especially now that he didn't have adrenaline to aid him anymore. He made it down the path and up the three steps to the front door, but then he had to lay Edward down on the stoop to unlock the door. Once he got the door open, he just dragged the boy inside by his wrists.
Roy stared at the daunting height of the stairs leading up to the bedrooms, then gave it up as a lost cause and heaved Edward into the living room instead. He somehow got Edward onto the couch, then flopped into his armchair and watched the boy drooling on his upholstery. What on earth was he going to do? He'd been through a lot of things with this kid – a lot of strange, daunting things he'd never dreamed he would have to figure out. But nothing had prepared him for this.
I don't know what to do, he thought, almost in a silent prayer. He closed his eyes, trying to think of what Hawkeye would do in such a situation. Or, better yet, Alphonse.
He must have dozed off, because when he opened his eyes, the thin grey light of predawn lit the living room. Edward had rolled onto his back and wiped the drool from his chin. Now he lay staring up at the ceiling, his eyes hollow and exhausted, but clear. With a groan at the cracking of his spine, Roy straightened up from his uncomfortable slump in his chair. He stretched with a yawn, wishing he'd just gone to bed.
"You shouldn't have done that," Edward said dully.
Roy gritted his teeth, weariness forgotten. "Oh, I beg your pardon, Mr. Elric. My mistake. I should've just left you to die."
Maybe it was just the insubstantial light, but Edward's face looked pale and drawn, as though he hadn't had a good night's sleep in ages. "I wasn't gonna die just from a little shakban."
Roy surged to his feet, looming over the idiot on his couch. "A little? I know how much it takes for that effect! How long have you been taking it?"
Edward gave him a scornful look, a mere shadow of his old defiance. "Stop overreacting. Just a week."
Roy narrowed his eyes.
Edward hesitated. "Okay, maybe a couple weeks."
Roy continued to glare.
He heaved a heavy, shuddering sigh, closing his eyes and letting every shred of defiance seep out of him. "Two months," he said dully.
"Two months..." Roy sank down onto the coffee table, staring at Edward as if at a stranger. How could he have degenerated from the bright, lively boy he knew so well into this in just two months?
But then...it was perfectly reasonable that it would happen, because two months ago... "Ed," he whispered, stricken, "do you really think this is what Al sacrificed his soul for?"
Edward's eyes flew open, and he half-rose from the couch. "Don't," he choked out, tears building up in his eyes. "Don't you dare-" But his hand flew to his head, and he sank back onto the couch. He gripped his head with both hands, breath heaving in his chest as he tried not to cry.
"Don't fight it," Roy said softly. "It's part of the crash. Shakban will numb your emotions when taken at such a high dosage, but in the aftermath you'll spiral into a depression deeper than the one you were trying to escape."
"I – know – that," Edward forced out between his hands, his chest still heaving with half-suppressed sobs. "Why d'you think...I kept taking it?"
"This is not the answer, Edward," Roy said firmly. "Has shakban actually helped you solve your problems? Has it made any of this easier to bear, in the end?"
Edward's hands pushed back into his hair, revealing his glaring, tear-stained face. "Nothing will ever make this easier to bear! Don't you understand? I don't care anymore!"
His heart ached. He wanted to cry too, but instead he just felt empty. "That's where you're wrong. You care so much. You try to block all of those feelings, but no matter how hard you try...it breaks through anyway. That's just how strong your heart is."
Edward's arms flopped to his sides, one of them hanging off the edge of the couch. "I want to die."
The words stabbed like knives in Roy's chest, but he pushed the pain aside. He knew it was as nothing compared to Edward's. "Well," he said stubbornly, "that's just what I'm not going to let you do."
Edward looked over wearily. "Why?"
"Because." There were so many reasons, so many good, convincing reasons...but he couldn't seem to think of them right now. "Because you are you, and I am me. And I can't let you do that. I can't."
Tears were welling up in the boy's eyes again. "That's not gonna work forever, you know," he said. "Just how long do you think you can keep saving me, anyway?"
"I'm going to keep trying till I'm a hundred." He reached over and shoved Edward's unruly hair into his face. "You idiot."