And here we go! The last chapter. Thanks for sticking through this the past couple months, guys, I'm touched that my writing is so well appreciated.
Dobby's Polka-Dotted Sock
He paused for a moment, fumbling with his courage at the door. But he caught it up once again and pushed his old bedroom door open. A bedroom that would soon be empty once more. The brief echo of his childhood that Allen had provided would settle once more.
Right now, Edward sat on the edge of the bed, staring out the little window as Roy himself had done often in years past. While he had been imagining what it would be to roam the main streets and go beyond the cities to the world, Edward already knew what it was like. But he still wanted to try again, Roy knew it.
The blond boy turned to look at him and a silence, somewhat uncomfortable, stretched between them. Where did they stand now? Maes had made this sound much easier than reality. He didn't even have a plan.
"So uh," Edward cleared his throat. "Thanks." Roy blinked. "For watching Al while I was…out." He nodded at this. It was probably all the gratitude that Edward would acknowledge out loud, and that was fine. Roy hadn't even expected that much from the teenager.
"It wasn't a problem, he generally looks after himself," he replied as he came into the room proper, stopping short of the tiny bed he had called his own. If he were truthful, it wasn't much smaller than the bed in his apartment now. He still had a long way to go to reach his goals.
"Yeah, yeah he's- he's good at that." Edward looked down at his shoes and blew the air out of his lungs after a moment to take up time. Roy decided enough was enough and just to cut to what he needed to know.
"Are you recovered now? You seemed quite, well, shocked when Alphonse—"
"Yeah, I'm fine," Edward cut in, cheeks stained red in embarrassment. He seemed to take some reassurance, though, when he looked up and saw no smug smirk or equally mocking expression on Roy's face. "I wasn't surprised, not really. I guess I just didn't want to believe…what I'd done." The last words were spoken so quiet that if Roy had not been paying attention, he might have missed it. But he was determined now to pay attention, to all of his subordinates, not just those who had been with him longest or were the oldest. As such, he noticed Edward's habit come into play, human fingers rising briefly to trace a line of metal and flesh on his shoulder. It made Roy think of the other observation Falman had brought up.
And it hit him. What he, Edward, had done. Not what they, Edward and Alphonse, had done. Edward was not angry, not ashamed, not hateful of his brother.
He was angry, ashamed, and hateful of himself.
It was guilt that ate at Edward Elric day in and day out, making him irritable and bad-tempered. Guilt that kept him awake at night in the form of nightmares. Guilt that made it near impossible for him to raise his eyes to meet his brother's, whom he felt he had unforgivably wronged. Guilt was what drove him and kept him working at a breakneck pace to correct the mistake he felt was to be shouldered by him alone.
"You feel everything that happened was your fault." Edward's wide eyes snapped up to him in shock, because Roy had a feeling no one had guessed so nearly before.
"Yeah, it was," Edward said, quietly but with an air of matter-of-factness that called for absolutely no dispute. Roy thought about that for some time. In an idyllic world where he—or hell, Hohenheim himself—were the perfect father, a young boy like Edward would never have such a weight as that placed upon his small, but broadening shoulders. He would make him realize that no, he was not to blame and that everything would be alright.
But Roy knew that everything was not alright. People walked around with weights of all measure dragging them down. And this burden, however tragic, was what made Edward Edward. Take that away, and he would be tiny, naïve Allen.
And that would be an equal tragedy.
"We take responsibility for what we feel responsible for. No one can tell you what is or isn't your fault. It's for you to decide." Edward nodded solemnly. "But you can't let that feeling of responsibility completely take control. You have to use it as its own weapon. And never forget that there are those who feel just as responsible who are there when you need them."
A gloved hand, like his own was resting on his shoulder. It was heavy, but also strong, like it was both giving and taking away. Equivalent Exchange.
Edward found he could actually offer a grin. He'd wasted enough time wallowing anyway. "Sure," he promised Mustang, and a half-smile briefly flitted across the Colonel's features.
"I'll have Maes get the car. If you could locate your brother—"
Oh no, Alphonse must have been worried sick! "Yeah," he jumped up and headed briskly down the hall, but was stopped by a voice calling him back from the Madame's door.
"Edward," it was Madame Christmas herself, but Edward thought he could see Madeline somewhere inside. Truly, he felt she had been hurt the most in this whole accident, but even Edward could admit there was no way for him to fix it.
"Yes, Madame?" he asked, not really sure what she would say.
"Good luck." Sometimes the standards really were all that could be said. He nodded and then took off down the stairs, glancing around for the familiar armor, but not finding it inside. So he stepped out into the back alley.
Alphonse was looking around the narrow space curiously, but looked up at his name. Edward could tell his brother was both happy and nervous to see him.
"Sorry I—" they both started before each chuckling a little. It hardly needed said; they both already knew exactly what the other was sorry for. Everything.
"So, that's where I got knocked out," Edward pointed out the spot a few feet away from them and his brother looked with interest.
"Wow, you really were in a corner, Brother. But they found the guys that did it."
"Good." He hadn't really put much thought into it, but it was nice to know that those thugs did get caught.
"One of them was already dead, though, so he didn't go to jail."
"Oh." They stood quietly for a while, before Alphonse decided something more needed to be asked.
"I was just wondering, Brother; why did they call you Allen?"
"Oh. Well, when I was unconscious, Madeline heard me say, 'Al'. So they decided that had to be part of my name."
This answer made Alphonse quite happy, Edward could tell. "I guess you never really did forget me then."
"No, I guess not. Well, what kind of older brother would I be if I couldn't even remember I was one, huh?"
Alphonse laughed again. "Not a very good one, I suppose, Brother."
They heard a horn beep from in front of the bar. "Well, that's our ride, let's go," he told Alphonse, and the two walked inside to head out the front door.
But not before he was attacked by three hugs.
"Come and visit sometime," Jessie invited.
"Don't get hit by anymore bricks," Violet instructed.
"We'll miss you!" Sylvia cried.
"Ok, ok, let me breath!" Edward half-grumbled, but returned the hugs, much to Alphonse's amusement. They stepped through the door, and he threw up his hand in a backward wave before it shut. His brother was the first to the car, and so Edward squished in after, not minding the tight space.
"Everybody in?" Questioned Mr. Hughes, though he could already see so in the rearview mirror.
"Take us back to Headquarters, Maes," Roy said from the passenger seat.
"Oh great, I have to sign stuff that says I'm not dead, right?" Edward groaned in realization of the paperwork that no doubt awaited him.
"If you want to be legally dead, no, but then you'd have no State Certification either."
"Yeah, yeah, okay," he replied, turning to look out the window at the quickly disappearing bar. It was strange leaving the place after all the time he'd spent there. Time…
His right hand, which had reflexively reached for his watch, was met with an empty pocket.
"Hey!" He exclaimed in realization. "Where is all my stuff?"
"We found everything except your journal, which you found," Hughes said, flashing him a grin, before turning back to the stoplight which had just changed to green.
"Once they're released from Evidence, they were going to give your things to me. So I guess you can have them, then. But the suitcase is still in the hotel."
"Oh good. It'd be nice to have those back. I can't believe I'm wearing your old clothes!" He tugged at the vest and made a face at Mustang, who merely raised an eyebrow. In retrospect, he couldn't believe he just spent time with Mustang's family. He'd never really even considered the Colonel as someone with family!
"I'm surprised that they even found those for you, Fullmetal. I'm certain that those stopped fitting me when I was nine."
"Oh boy," Alphonse muttered, taking his turn to look out the window.
"Who are you calling short, Mustang? I'm surprised these weren't eaten by moths if they're that old!"
So they continued on in their usual ways. But somehow the words seemed less biting, and more like just a familiar exchange. Some things that had needed to be said had been said. Now they could all take up their responsibilities once more, but this time together.
What is up with me and sappy endings? Gahh, whatever. I'm keeping it. I hope that you like it at least. I'm sorry for lack of short rant, but I thought all caps would look kind of dumb at the bottom of the page. Regardless, that's it! Thanks so much for all your responses, and for reading this! Please review!