Chapter 22: Make It Up To Me
"Unngh…" Ed stirred, his head falling to his right side as he was too tired to hold it up. His fingers twitched as his blood began to circulate more strongly.
Two voices called out unanimously, and Ed felt someone take his left hand. A sudden weight appeared on his stomach and he groaned in the darkness.
"Elysia honey, don't sit on him," Winry's voice said softly. "Your brother's injured."
"Brother," the word repeated next to his head.
"Al?" Ed asked drowsily. He lifted his automail hand to his face and felt a mountain of bandages covering his face, eyes, neck and shoulder. That certainly explained the darkness and his lack of vision.
Two skeletal-like arms wound their way around Ed's waist as Al clung silently to Ed, leaning heavily on the hospital bed. For Ed was definitely in hospital; the antiseptic smell and the needles in his arm told him that. A pair of smaller arms joined the first as Elysia joined the hug. A slight rustling alerted Ed to the fact Winry was leaving the room, and seconds later footsteps returned.
"Edward Elric? It's me, Dr. Marcoh. How are you feeling?" Marcoh asked the question casually, but Ed detected a faint undertone of relief.
"Like Armstrong's playing the drums on my head," Ed muttered. His head throbbed with each breath he took, but he couldn't move much thanks to Al and Elysia lying on his waist.
"Ed!" more voices called and Ed winced at the sound.
"Damn Eli, don't be so loud!" Ed complained. Eli apologized, and Elysia spoke.
"Brother, Eli showed me kung fu moves! He said you could teach me too!" she jumped up and down, forcing Al to finally let go and move over. Ed coughed as Elysia bounced around.
"I don't think Edward's well enough to play, darling," Hughes' voice interjected, and Elysia's weight was removed as he lifted her off him.
"Sorry to interrupt, but I need to speak with our awakened patient," Dr Marcoh interjected. Slowly the others left the room and congregated outside Ed's hospital room.
"How do you think he'll take the news?" Eli asked softly, running a hand through his deep chestnut-coloured hair. Winry and Al took Elysia out of earshot so they could talk.
"What part?" Hughes sighed, watching the three go. "The fact he's been asleep for over three months, or that Al's in a wheelchair, maybe even permanently?"
It was true. Ed had been hit extremely badly on the head- it was a miracle he was awake at all, let alone without brain damage or memory loss. Marcoh would be examining him now, but Ed seemed normal enough. Al had been trapped under the collapsed ceiling also; the trauma to his leg had been accentuated by his lack of nutrition. He could barely stand on his own and was currently undergoing extreme physical rehabilitation.
"Three whole months?!" Ed's voice suddenly erupted from behind the door, and Eli and Hughes shared a quick look. Down the hallway Al and Winry had turned to glance at the door as well. It seemed Winry was having trouble handling both Al's wheelchair and Elysia's antics.
"Listen Eli, have you seen Roy at all? He should know Ed's finally awake," Hughes inquired.
Eli shrugged. "Last I saw, he was with the blonde woman in her hospital room. Riza."
"Ah," Hughes voiced with a sigh. "In that case, I'll just go check up on Armstrong and Fuery then." He headed off towards Elysia, and Eli watched as he embraced his little girl tightly and kissed her on the forehead before leaving. Eli wasn't sure where the girl's mother was, and at this stage no-one seemed inclined to say anything about it to him.
Meanwhile, Winry and Al were travelling up the hallway with Elysia running circles around them happily. They spoke in low voices so she wouldn't hear.
"What are we going to do?" Winry gulped, putting her strength into pushing Al's chair. "Ed seemed more open to touch just then, but he is still pumped full of drugs. Once he wakes up more, he may revert to his usual hating attitude."
"I don't care," Al said unexpectedly. "I just… I'm so glad he's awake. And alive. And we're together again. It seems so unreal, after these last few years… My life is more perfect now than it's been for a long time."
Winry refrained from mentioning Al's weak and damaged legs- at least he had a body. "Al… are you going to tell Ed how those scientists…"
"Got my body back?" Al replied softly. Elysia giggled at a painting off to their left, and he watched her dash around excitedly. "I will eventually. After we've gotten more accustomed to the shocks dealt to us lately. And besides, if I don't tell him, one of the other officers surely will."
Winry nodded slowly, although Al couldn't see it. "I understand."
The two had reached the end of the lengthy corridor and they turned around, Elysia trailing behind them. The view up the hallway was unexpectedly devoid of people, so they had a clear view of Dr Marcoh leaving Ed's room, a weary and fatigued expression etched into his face.
"Dr Marcoh?" Winry called, and Al interrupted her.
"What's wrong, doctor? Brother seemed okay earlier."
Marcoh came forward and placed one hand on Al's shoulder and one hand on Winry's. He spoke with a seriousness they hadn't seen him express before.
"You two… go to Ed's room. I'll take Elysia, and don't worry- it could be worse," Marcoh nodded to himself. "Yes, it could be much worse…" He left muttering to himself, Elysia in tow.
Al panicked. What could that possibly even mean?! Winry ran the two of them to Ed's door and threw it open, uncaring of what state Ed could be in.
"Ed?" she cried out quietly, and noticed he was sitting on the edge of the bed, all the chords disconnected and bandages undone. After three months the wounds had mostly healed, and Ed was left with some slight scarring down his neck and on the left side of his face. But this was not the worst part of his injuries.
Ed looked up in their general direction, and the brilliant flairs of gold called his eyes were tarnished and unfocused. He tilted his head to where they were standing, an unreadable expression on his face.
"Oh my… god…" Al clenched his fists in worry. "Brother, you're…"
"Blind." Ed's voice cut through the tension like a steak knife through butter. "Marcoh told me."
Winry gulped, unable to speak. She went to his side and took his hand in hers. Ed heard her approaching, but still jolted a little in surprise when she touched him.
"Don't," Ed snapped, standing up unsteadily. He tried to move forward but stepped straight into a chest of medicines by his bedside, falling over it quite spectacularly.
"Brother, let Winry help you! Geez," Al spoke, rolling his eyes. He was trying to be casual, but Ed could hear in his voice that Al was crying.
Winry did help Ed up, steadying him by placing his arm around her waist so he could hold on to her.
"There," she said eventually, her voice hoarse and raspy from unshed tears. "Just follow me, okay?"
"Wait," Ed didn't move from his spot. The other two waited as he hesitated.
"It's… been three months since the breakout at headquarters, right?" Ed turned his face away from them, even though he couldn't see their expressions. "And Elysia and Alphonse are awake, so… I guess I'm asking how everyone is going."
Al smiled as he answered despite his tears beginning to overflow. "Elysia's fine. She was weak with hunger for a few days once she woke, but she's well otherwise. Hawkeye was up and about after just a few weeks after injuring her back; she's about two months into her therapy and she can walk and run just like normal. She's nearly finished her rehabilitation." Al had to stop there- jealousy was creeping into his tone.
Winry continued. "Major Armstrong had to go under intense surgery and counselling. He's not doing too well… Fuery's been looking out for him. He had quite a tale to tell of escaping from the enemy fire in the initial raid, if you want to hear it sometime."
Ed grunted uncommitedly, so she kept going. "Hughes is over the moon that Elysia's fine. I swear he took over 100 photos of her on the first day!" She smiled, but it soon faded. "I'm okay, along with most others. We've all healed in the last three months. But Mustang's not… he's not okay. Not mentally."
"His acts are very random- sometimes he'll be confident, other times angry, then depressed, then excited… he's all over the place." Al contributed again. "Miss Riza's trying to help him, but progress has been pretty slow so far. And then I-" He paused, and Ed felt something was amiss.
"You what? Are you okay?" Ed queried gruffly. The other two said nothing, prompting Ed to head in Al's direction.
"Ed, wait!" Winry grabbed his arm, but it was too late. Ed's automail leg had banged into the wheel of Al's steel chair.
"What…" Ed said softly. "Alphonse?"
Al gulped before wrapping his arms around Ed's waist again, as high as he could reach since he couldn't stand. "I'll be fine… I-I'm taking rehabilitation and it's going okay."
Edward hung his head, feeling all of the injuries of himself and those close to him pile up on his conscience. He hesitated, and abruptly changed the subject. "Let's go outside."
Winry blinked. "Huh?"
"Come on, come outside with me," Ed reached out and felt the air until he connected with Al's shoulders. "I need someone to tell me where to go. Be my eyes for a sec."
Al pulled back and gazed into Ed's blank eyes. "Y-yeah. Let's go." Ed found the handles of the chair and leant on them with a sigh before pushing. Al directed him around the corners and down the hallways, with Winry tailing concernedly. She left the two alone as they reached the hospital courtyard, where any patient well enough went to sit in the sun. Ed parked Al next to a small stream and quickly sat, feeling dizzy from the sudden exercise.
Al stretched his arms and torso lazily, feeling a strange sense of calm take over. He had always felt better after sitting next to a stream or river, a habit he'd picked up in Risembool. His legs would probably still heal- things weren't that bad. Ed certainly knew how to make him feel better, by taking him to a calming place; however, Al didn't know what to do for his brother. Al snuck a look at Ed's conflicted expression before realising Ed wouldn't be able to see him staring anyway. The teen was gazing off into nowhere silently.
Ed felt… damaged. His arm, leg and now eyesight were gone, along with his parents and sense of humanity. He felt oddly incomplete, despite the fact he finally had his human brother fairly safe and Elysia was awake and content. He eventually daydreamed of a silhouette walking away from him, his independence and purpose leaving with it.
"Excuse me," someone interrupted, and both brothers looked over. Mustang stood next to the pair uncertainly, hands in his pockets.
"I'll leave you to it," Al murmured, clumsily wheeling himself away to talk with someone else. Edward didn't say anything to the dark-haired man, who sighed at his stubbornness.
"I guess everyone we know is recovering now," Mustang sat next to the blonde, looking everywhere but at his face. Edward stayed silent, and Mustang sighed.
"Look, I… I'm terribly sorry," Mustang began awkwardly. "About what I said that day in HQ, and everything since… I should have been strong enough to stand up to their manipulation, to protect you boys and my officers. Now we're all scarred, and most of my team is dead. I should've done everything differently. I should've been better to you from the moment I first saw you. I can't apologise enough for my betrayal-"
"I don't care," Ed muttered. Roy's heart sank, but Ed wasn't finished yet.
"I don't care about your shit apology, alright? I don't care we were manipulated or what you 'could've' done. We can't change the past." He paused. "If you really meant the things you just said… then make it up to me. Show me you mean it." Edward looked in Mustang's general direction sternly.
Roy slowly smiled. That sounded like the Edward he knew. "Aye aye, sir."
Ed rolled his opaque eyes. "Sarcastic bastard."
Roy chuckled. Having this casual banter was something he'd wanted to do for a long time. On a whim, he reached out and placed a hand on Ed's shoulder, causing him to jolt in shock.
"Sorry, I just…" Mustang withdrew. "…Is there anything I can do for your eyes, or Al's legs? Medical alchemy or anything?"
"I don't know… I thought about it for a while, but I- I don't have the energy just yet. Not for anything." Ed pulled a knee up to his chest and leant his chin on it. "You can look if you want." He sounded flippant for the last part, but Mustang instantly knew it was a test.
"You and Al rest for now," Mustang stood and brushed off his pants, feeling better than ever now his amends were underway. "Leave everything to me and the others. We'll find something that works."
Edward doubted he'd find anything even if he bothered to try, but didn't answer.