OHMYGOD LOOK FUCKING SHIT LOOK I'VE UPDATED
I really do apologise to all my readers for the year-long wait. I've just been really busy and lost my muse completely, but recently I found it again and YES BITCHES, HERE IT IS.
Expect another (reasonably) quick update (though no promises) because I've just started the summer holidays here so I have a whole month to do nothing :D
I hope this chapter was worth the wait...
Chapter Twelve - Recovery
One week later
"How is he?"
Luna bit her lip. "Fine, but the fever hasn't gone yet."
"Hmmm... Are you sure you've been giving him the right doses?"
Luna nodded vigorously. "Definitely! I haven't made a single mistake. I would never be so careless as to endanger his life like that."
Winry could be heard giggling softly on the other end. "Making one mistake with his medicine isn't going to kill him, Luna. You don't need to worry so much. Just relax; his fever took four weeks to disappear last time. This is perfectly normal."
"Are you sure?"
"I'm positive. Now, apart from the fever, how is he holding up?"
"Good. The leg isn't rejecting the automail like you said it could, and there's practically no inflammation, though there is this one spot beneath the left screw that keeps bleeding."
Winry's voice was concerned when she replied. "How much?"
"Not that much, just a few drops, but..." Luna bit deeper into her lip, drawing blood. "I patch the wound up and stop it bleeding, but the next day it tears and bleeds again."
There was a brief silence as Winry contemplated this, before Luna heard her sigh. "Well, it's about time I came over for a check-up anyway, so I guess I'll see for myself. I'll be there in about an hour."
"Mm, okay. Bye."
Winry promptly hung up, though Luna continued to clutch onto the phone for another few minutes, as if the mechanic's knowledge and guidance would somehow seep through the phone line and Luna would know what to do.
She was so focused as she stared at the boy lying so peacefully in front of her that she didn't even hear the muffled clunk as the phone slipped out of her grasp and hit the carpet.
He looks so peaceful... she mused. Almost like he's dead. There was an unpleasant tugging sensation in her chest as she considered that, and she sighed.
She started violently as someone rapped on the door.
"Luna?" Winry's muffled voice cut through the sturdy wooden door, and Luna darted off the side of the mattress where she'd been sitting to open it.
"Winry." Luna gazed up into the older girl's face with worry, and Winry placed a kind hand on her shoulder.
"He'll be fine. I remember there was quite a bit of trouble when I attached his shoulder port, and it was perfectly okay in the end."
Though the gentle reassurance did nothing to even out the twist in Luna's gut.
"I thought you said you'd be here in an hour."
Winry hesitated, her eyebrows furrowed slightly in puzzlement. "I did. It's six o'clock."
Luna blinked, her hair flying as she whipped her head to look at the clock behind her. "But..."
Winry laughed weakly as she returned to unpacking her equipment. "I guess you lost track of time."
Luna continued to stare at the second hand, watching it like a vulture while it jumped jarringly around the blank white face as she whispered, "I guess I did."
A soft knock could be heard from Dr. Anderson's door, and he looked up, half his attention still on the patient summaries scattered over his desk. He mumbled distractedly, "Come in," and Luna slowly opened the door, as if afraid to wake someone.
"Is this a bad time?" She asked airily, and Anderson looked up, setting down the files and considering the young girl in front of him; how... different she looked.
"No, not at all." Anderson showed a kind smile, gesturing to the well-worn leather seat in front of his desk, behind which he relaxed into his own chair.
Luna complied, shuffling over to the proffered chair and sitting, though she looked no less relaxed than she had done standing up. "Doctor, there's..."
When she didn't finish her sentence, Anderson offered, "Something you want to tell me?"
Luna took in a deep breath, looking up and meeting his gaze.
What Anderson saw in those eyes was not what he had been expecting. Every other time she had made eye contact, looked him in the face, her expression had been nonchalant and her eyes glazed, as if she wasn't really speaking to him at all, but to someone or something very far away. As kind as Luna was, there had never been much depth to those pale cerulean irises.
However, as Luna sat on the very edge of the seat, every muscle in her petite body tensed and rigid - much like Elric on his first visit - those pretty blue eyes were not just a shallow paddling pool, but an ocean, and he would have been lying if Anderson had claimed that he wasn't frozen in pure shock and awe at the thrashing storm of emotion in those once bland eyes.
When did this simple child learn to have that kind of look in her eye?
Luna drew in another deep breath in preparation, before saying quickly, letting the words string together slightly: "Ed's operation went smoothly, and at the moment he's sleeping off the fever in his room."
Luna's small, balled fists were still trembling, and Anderson wondered vaguely if he'd missed the point.
When he spoke, his voice was deep and soft. "Pardon me, but... isn't that a good thing?"
After a brief moment of hesitation, the white-blonde teen tentatively nodded.
A pair of silver-framed glasses were dropped to the messy desk below as Anderson let out a quiet huff of a chuckle, rubbing the bridge of his hooked nose. "Oh, Luna... Only you."
Luna resembled a startled rabbit at the unexpected reaction, and her eyes widened with alarm as the white-clad doctor's laughs grew in volume.
Anderson recovered from the mild outburst relatively quickly, although a disbelieving smirk remained, twisting the corners of his mouth upwards and distorting his original frightening persona. "Trust you to come to my office looking like you'd just seen someone being murdered in order to relay good news that I was already aware of."
He chuckled once more, before replacing his glasses and shooing Luna out of the room off-handedly. "Go, go. I'm sure Elric misses you."
It seemed Luna was practising her animal impressions that day, as now she looked rather like a confused goldfish.
"Go!" Anderson urged, though he was... grinning?
Luna high-tailed it out of the office, forgetting - again - to shut the door behind her.
As Anderson wearily stood to close it, he wondered idly if that dusting of pink on the girl's cheeks just then had been because of the humid summer heatwave, or perhaps something else entirely
Two months later
Luna pursed her lips in mild annoyance, fretting as she once again attempted to persuade Ed to take his medicine. "Ed, if you don't take the medicine, the nargles will be angry, and they get violent when they're angry."
"I said no, and I meant it!" Ed bellowed, crossing his arms immaturely and glaring out of his bedside window with one angry eye.
"But Ed," Luna sighed, "I'm just concerned for your safety. I don't want the nargles to eat you, and I doubt you do either."
Ed stayed stubbornly silent.
Luna lowered the proffered hand with four outrageously coloured pills in and stared blankly at the side of Ed's face, deciding it was impossible to win a verbal argument with Ed.
An expression of mild surprise and concern flashed across her pale features when the blue-tinged morning sunrays reflected off the glistening tears that Ed was valiantly battling.
A defiant sniff broke the silent contest, and Luna sighed in some unnameable emotion when she spotted a lone tear dripping down Ed's scarred cheek. "This is another one of your mood swings, isn't it?" she asked in resignation, though it sounded more like a statement to the emotional boy, who simply nodded, for fear of his voice cracking if he attempted to verbalise his current sorrowful state.
Ed's facial expression didn't change, though the tears kept coming and Luna wondered if the episode would be over quickly or if she'd need to book Ed an emergency therapy session again.
Luna frowned, unused to seeing people cry - especially boys - and unsure of what exactly should be done. Back home, she would have simply conjured up his favourite meal, or cast a happiness spell, but she'd lost her wand somewhere in the transition to this world, and so was, in effect, a muggle.
How do muggles comfort each other?
Ed let out a choked gasp as he felt warm arms wrap around his slight frame, and he turned to face a smiling Luna in surprise.
"Y-you..." he murmured, his deep voice raspy.
"Shhh," Luna commanded from her awkwardly twisted position on the bed, legs tangled up in her lilac and scarlet striped summer dress. "Don't speak."
He complied, mismatched arms hesitantly encircling her tiny waist.
They remained that way for a while - Ed wasn't quite sure how long, since time seemed to have lost meaning as soon as Luna buried her face in the dip of his collarbone - even though he was sure it must be awkward and uncomfortable for Luna, and even though her body heat was causing him to grow uncomfortably warm.
The alchemist's grip around her waist tightened fractionally when he realised he liked the feeling.
Luna grinned dreamily into the receiver. "Well he's been a bit difficult, but I've always managed to persuade him otherwise."
"Really?" Winry's voiced raised in pleasant surprise. "Every time?"
"Yes," Luna stated proudly. "He hasn't missed even one round of medication."
Winry's laugh was bell-like on the other line. "Wow, Luna, I'm impressed! Even I could never get Ed to take medicine if he didn't want to. When Al wasn't around to force it down his throat, I'd have to knock him out and feed it to him when he was unconscious," the teen chimed happily, as if the memories she was recollecting were fond ones.
Luna laughed airily in reply, also seemingly unfazed by the somewhat disturbing memory. "Yes, he does appear to be that stubborn."
"Who's stubborn?" a gravelly voice inquired.
Luna blinked, gasping quietly in mild surprise. Her shimmering blonde hair whipped around as she turned to face the limping teen. "...Ed?" she breathed.
Winry's voice was heard shrieking many bad words at the boy even as the phone slipped out of Luna's weak grip.
Luna's eyes shined like pale azure moons, her stare unyielding, as she very slowly padded over to the amber-eyed man, her bare feet silent on the white tile. When she spoke, it was as if every syllable was so carefully thought out, and her feathery voice was hardly more than a whisper.
"How are you standing?"
Ed barked out a laugh and gestured to the wall. "Technically I'm not standing, I'm leaning."
"You're on your feet, Ed. I would be speechless even if you managed to stand with my help; but you managed to walk down the corridor by yourself, and it's only been two months!"
Ed snickered at her, and she found his lopsided grin quite contagious as she herself smiled in baffled amazement. "It's actually a bit of a cop-out," Ed chuckled, rubbing an automail hand on the back of his neck. "The crutches are just around the corner out of sight, and it took me about fifteen minutes to drag myself the twenty metres to get here. I'm surprised you didn't hear me swearing as I approached, actually."
Luna didn't seem fazed by Ed's devaluation; she continued to beam at him in delight and - was that a hint of pride he detected?
"The simple fact that you aren't sprawled on the floor in agony right now is astounding," Luna whispered, her face just inches away from Ed's own.
Both teens were harshly yanked back into reality as Winry's voice had reached a new record for volume, and Luna hurried to pick up the receiver that she'd left dangling from the wall socket. "Winry?"
She flinched as a shrill, manic voice screamed in her ear, holding the phone away as if it had a pungent smell.
Ed had not dared move from his position leaning casually against the wall, as his crutches were now out of reach and if he attempted to walk without them he was sure he would regret it. Even from a few metres away, though, he could hear every earsplitting word clear as day.
"What do you mean 'Ed', Luna?"
"He's here-" Luna answered quickly in fear of inciting the mechanic's infamous wrath, though her gaze remained firmly on Ed, who had readjusted his position so his back was against the wall.
"I thought you didn't have a phone in your room!"
"... He doesn't."
There was a long, tense pause.
"Ed... is standing?"
"Mm," Luna confirmed confidently as she watched the blonde teen hum tunelessly to himself as he daydreamed a few metres away. "Definitely."
"... I'm amazed. Really. I never thought he'd be on his feet this quickly. Still, don't let him move around too much, or he'll end up injuring himself further.""
Luna nodded vigorously. "Okay."
"I should be there for the checkup tomorrow, so I'll double-check that the leg's working okay then. But in the meantime, since he seems to be able to move the leg now, could you check that the joints bend properly?"
"Okay, I definitely will."
"See you both tomorrow then, Luna."
"Yes, goodbye, Winry. Have a safe trip."
"A safe trip?"
Luna giggled, nodding knowledgeably at the blind receiver. "Yes, there might be Death Eaters around, you know."
"... Okay, I'll keep that in mind. Bye, Luna." Winry promptly hung up after her uncertain reply.
Said girl, however, did not seem fazed by Winry's awkward behaviour at all; in fact, she completely ignored it in favour of all but dragging a certain eyepatched teen back to his room.
"I'm fine, Luna-"
She simply hushed him as she looped a slender arm around his ribcage and wandered gradually back towards Ed's room, her steps in sync with Ed's awkward limp.
She pretended not to hear the pained hiss of breath every time his weight shifted to his right foot.
Three weeks later
Al strode briskly up to the looming double doors, not sparing a second glance at his loaned military automobile (currently the sole vehicle in the modest car park) as he passed the welcoming sign 'Welcome to Rosefields Psychiatric Hospital'.
He raised a hand to knock before noticing the bored receptionist sitting behind a battered desk, and tentatively pushed open the glass door.
She had looked about ready to drift off, her head lolling in her small palms, but at the sound of Alphonse's entrance her head snapped up, and she greeted him with her brightest smile. Al was a little taken aback by the service.
"Hello sir, how may I hel-" Liz paused as she took in the handsome figure standing gracefully before her, eyeing him up and down without restraint. "Ooh my, aren't you gorgeous?"
Al was slightly startled at the blunt comment, clearing his throat and shifting in place out of embarrassment. "That's... very nice of you to say," he replied politely, mustering his best smile.
Liz looked slightly taken aback by her own words - Al supposed it had been a slip of the tongue - but she went with the flow anyway. "Aww, and you're sweet to match!" Liz sighed dramatically, placing a well-manicured hand over her heart. "I bet a man like you must have women falling at your feet."
"Um..." Al shrugged noncommittally, slightly flushed at the attention.
"Oh sorry," Liz laughed, "Am I embarrassing you? I didn't mean to, I'm sorry."
Al joined the laughter easily, waving it off. "It's okay. I don't mind."
Liz's charming smile didn't drop, even as the topic of conversation moved to more mundane matters.
"So what is a Prince Charming like you doing in a place like this anyway?" she questioned lightly, sifting through various papers absent-mindedly. "Please tell me you're job-hunting. I'd love to have a face like yours around here."
"I'm here to visit my brother, actually," Al chuckled kindly. "Sorry to disappoint."
Liz mock-pouted before opening her mouth to ask him who, exactly, his brother was. However, she didn't manage to get the words out of her mouth before her jaw dropped to the floor with a harsh slam as she put two and two together.
Those golden eyes, those perfect cheekbones, that charming grin-
"Y-you..." she stammered out of shock, before quickly regaining her composure, though she was clearly still slightly stunned. "I assume you're Alphonse Elric, then? Here to see Ed?"
Al nodded enthusiastically, bending over the desk to get a better look at what she was doing. "Have you heard if he's okay? No after-effects of the operation? He's still fine?"
Liz nodded, shooting him an odd look. "I thought I heard him talking to you just the other day. It is you that he's been killing our phone bill talking to, isn't it?"
"Oh, yeah, but that was three days ago, I thought maybe..." he trailed off, chuckling nervously.
There was an extended pause as Liz gaped, wide-eyed, at the seventeen-year-old. "Seriously? You really care about him, don't you? Wow, I don't think that kid realises just how lucky he is to have an older brother like you."
Al's expression was slightly taken aback, and he tipped his head slightly in confusion for a moment before bursting out in raucous laughter at the realisation of the receptionist's mistake. He could barely see Liz's shocked expression through his tears of laughter as he managed to get out, in a somewhat strangled tone, "Nii-san is the older brother, Miss. I'm a year younger than him."
Her jaw went lax as she murmured breathlessly, "No way. You look about five years older than him! How old are you?"
"Seventeen," he squeaked out through the remaining giggles.
She moaned. "Oh no, now I feel so old! I though you were at least twenty-one."
Al was still grinning wildly, even long after the laughter had ceased. "I get that a lot."
"I bet you do, with a face like that. The only thing that gives it away is your physique - still a bit lanky, eh?"
Al nodded in a friendly manner. You don't know the half of it.
Just as Liz was about to continue the amusing small-talk, a wispy voice drifted over to them from the doorway. "Liz, Ed sent me to collect his medicine for..." Luna's dirty blonde head slowly turned to face Al with a thoughtful expression. "You're his little brother," she stated in wonder. It wasn't a question.
Al hesitantly nodded, unsure of what to say to the mysterious girl. She was a little on the short side and quite pale, and her messy waist-length hair was the colour of fresh cream. She openly stared at Al, with a distant, thoughtful glint in her bright, gleaming steel-blue eyes.
"Follow me," she commanded softly, turning on her heel and drifting back down the corridor. It was clear who she was referring to, and Al politely excused himself before trotting after her, still a little confused.
Now that I think about it, Al mused as he trod in the mysterious girl's footsteps down the numerous winding corridors and staircases, Winry and nii-san both mentioned something about a female friend of his... Al narrowed his eyes in thought. Maybe this is her?
Al had unconsciously caught up to her, his strides being far longer, and by the time they reached Room 108 and Luna halted abruptly in front of the door, Al was so close he almost tripped over her in surprise.
"We're here. Come in, I'm sure he'd like to see you," Luna said cheerily, smiling dreamily at Al before pulling him inside.
"Nii-san?" Al asked cautiously to the blonde boy hunched over a thick tome on his bed.
Ed's nose twitched and he glanced up at the tall teenager gracing his presence. "Al...?" he murmured quietly. "Al!" he exclaimed, and it was obvious he was having to physically restrain himself from leaping up to greet his younger brother. "Why didn't you warn me you were coming?"
"'Warn'? You make it sound like my visiting is a bad thing, nii-san," Al chuckled gleefully, throwing himself at Ed.
The brothers continued to converse enthusiastically - although they'd talked every other day on the phone, Al had been too busy juggling his work at a florist with his part-time employment as Mustang's secretary (it had quickly become obvious to Al that 'part-time' was a serious understatement, and for the first couple of weeks Al had practically been drowning in unorganised paperwork) to visit Ed in person.
Luna discreetly excused herself, shutting the door quietly behind her - although those men were so enraptured in conversations that were beyond her that she doubted they'd have batted an eyelash if she'd slammed it in their faces.
She wandered off in a daze towards Anderson's office - she really should have a talk with him about moving a telephone to Ed's room so he didn't have to stumble downstairs every second day...
There was a soft click - in any other circumstance, Luna would have ignored it, thinking it to be Ed's automail, but now Ed was nowhere to be seen.
"Hello?" she called warily into the corridor.
There was no reply, but there was a startled grunt and a succession of achingly familiar metallic clicks - Yes, those are definitely from automail.
Luna stood statue-still. She didn't even dare to breathe. She listened again for the clicking noise, but it was deathly silent. No one was in sight.
Luna could feel panic bubbling in her chest now. She swirled around, hoping for a sign of life. Still there was no reply, though she knew someone was there. They'd grunted and given away their presence.
"Who are you?" she called. Her voice was tense with desperation. She'd never liked horror films.
She gasped and shot in the direction of the voice. It had been raspy, and clearly in a lot of pain.
As she rounded the final corner and looked upon the hunched and bloodied figure trembling in pain on the sterile ground, her jaw dropped, and she let out an unearthly scream.