Breaking the Habit
A/N: This is purely a parental!Roy story (no yaoi). The idea came to me after reading some poignant parental!Roy fanfics. Man, I've had to sift through some sad Wikipedia articles and medical websites to get accurate descriptions. I hope my college web-browser inspection thingy doesn't think I'm a junkie or something… ^^;
Lithium, don't want to lock me up inside.
Lithium, don't want to forget how it feels without...
Lithium, I want to stay in love with my sorrow.
-"Lithium" by Evanescence
It had all been so sudden. One moment, he had been right there with them, and the next… gone. In the middle of an ordinary, happy day, Alphonse Elric had stopped speaking, stopped moving, just… stopped. Ed had examined the blood seal for signs of damage, but had come up empty-handed. Only weeks later, after extensive research, did he realize that the bond between armor and soul had broken, that no matter how well he may have attached Al to that hollow shell, it was unable to house a foreign soul indefinitely. There would have been no way to predict the rejection, and nothing would have been able to stop it. Despite all his work, despite all his promises… Al was gone… forever.
In the time following Alphonse's unexpected death, Roy figured Ed wanted to be left alone, so he gave the young alchemist his space and privacy. After several months of barely hearing from the boy, Edward appeared in Mustang's office, fully garbed in standard military uniform. He looked worn-out in more ways than one; it wasn't a pleasant sight.
"What happened to that red coat you always wear?" asked the Colonel, beginning the conversation on what he thought was a casual note.
Edward didn't meet his superior's eyes as he replied in an emotionless voice, "I didn't need it anymore. Besides, uniform is required for soldiers."
"You mean you've joined full-time?"
The sixteen-year-old nodded solemnly. "It just… felt like the next step, what with… you know."
"I see," Roy sighed, interlacing his fingers and smiling thoughtfully over the tips. "So, I guess that officially makes you Major Elric, doesn't it?"
Mustang blinked. "'Sir?' What warrants the formality?"
"I'm just… practicing. For superiors who actually care about that kind of thing."
Ignoring the dig at his own character, the Colonel cleared his throat and moved on to what he could quickly tell was the heart of the matter. "How… how are you holding up?"
"Fine." The one-word response immediately tipped Roy off that Ed didn't want to talk about it… about Al.
Nevertheless, the boy's unconvincing expression urged Roy to press him just a little further. He leaned over his desk and did his best to meet the young major's listless eyes. "Are you really doing okay?"
"Yeah," Ed replied just as apathetically as before. "It's, um… it's hard… but I'll be okay. I'm… I'm managing."
"Well… if you ever feel like you aren't managing… you can talk to me; you know that, right?"
Ed nodded feebly. "Noted, sir. Am I dismissed?"
Roy frowned; he didn't like the way Ed was putting up this barrier of military protocol between them, but he could see he wasn't going to get any more out of the disheartened boy. "Yes," he said at last. "You're dismissed."
The first thing Colonel Mustang did when he arrived at work the next day was ensure that the newly-instated Major Elric would be continuing to work under his command. In Ed's lackluster condition, Roy didn't want to entrust him to anyone else. As the next few weeks passed, he made note of the small blonde's minor behaviors, anything that could indicate what he was really going through.
And that's when he noticed the spasms. Eventually, he established the pattern: Ed's hands would start shaking, and he would excuse himself from the office for a minute or so. When he would return, the tremors would have stopped. This cycle happened two or three times each day, and Roy couldn't help but wonder why this was, so he watched more closely, using all the detective skills he could muster. When Ed would come back after recovering from an episode of spasms, his left sleeve would look particularly wrinkled, as if he had scrunched it up only to pull it back down. Also, he would flex the fingers of his left hand, like something was tingling inside his arm. And then… there was his face. For about three or four hours afterward, Ed would seem a little happier, but it was with distant, unfocused eyes. Mustang sometimes had to call the boy's name several times before getting a response. Roy had seen these symptoms before. In the War, he'd had comrades who would slip away for a little while, mentioning they were going to "shoot up", and they hadn't been talking about killing Ishvalans.
After enough observation, he decided he couldn't just stand by any longer. He picked the day of confrontation and waited with baited breath, trying to figure out exactly how he should approach the troubled boy. As predicted, Ed began trembling a few hours into that chosen workday. He rose to leave, and Mustang knew he had to act now.
"Where are you going?"
"Just for some air," Ed replied. "It's stuffy in here."
"Well, it'll have to wait, because I need to talk to you about something."
"It'll only be a minute," Ed protested, starting to lose his calm, and all the while the spasms increased in intensity. Without a word, Roy stood, moved to the door, and locked it, pocketing the key. Ed looked horrified, terrified.
"What's wrong?" Roy demanded at last.
"Nothing's wrong," Ed lied, wiping nervous sweat off of his rapidly paling face. "Sir," he appended.
Seeing that Ed wasn't going to cooperate, Roy stepped closer so that he could see every nuance of the boy's expression. "Edward, are you… taking anything?"
"…No." The trembling voice was so unlike Ed's that it cut Roy like a knife.
The Colonel exhaled heavily, letting his pain show through. "I've known you for quite some time now, Edward, but I can say, without a doubt, that that was the least convincing lie you've ever told."
Before Ed could react, Mustang slipped his hands into the boy's pockets. It didn't take long for his fingers to find what he had been looking for. As Ed watched in stunned silence, Roy pulled out a capped syringe filled with a light brown liquid. For a long moment, they just looked at each other in silence, then…
"Give it back." Ed's tone was desperate, dangerous. "Give it back." He made a mad grab for the hypodermic, but – having the advantage of several inches – Roy held it far out of the boy's reach. "You bastard! Give it back right now, or-"
"Or what?" Roy cut in, knitting his brow. "What will you do?" Getting no response, Mustang deposited the suspicious object onto his desk, but as he did so, Ed moved again to seize it. Roy anticipated the boy's dash just in time to set down the syringe and grab both of Ed's wrists. The kid wasn't thinking clearly, and Roy couldn't afford for him to lash out alchemically.
"LET GO OF ME!" Ed half-screamed. "LET GO!"
"No," Roy replied sternly, but calmly. He forced Ed into a chair and sank down so that they were at eye level. "I can't believe you would do this, Ed." Roy momentarily choked on a painful lump of emotion. "How long? How long have you been injecting yourself?"
For nearly a minute, Ed said nothing, his lower lip quivering violently. "Since… since a little after…" he couldn't make himself finish.
"After Al died?" Roy supplied.
"DON'T SAY HIS NAME!" Ed snapped, his voice breaking. "J… just don't…" His breathing was becoming shallow and rapid, panicked.
"Please, Ed. Talk to me. Tell me what happened."
"I… I don't know… some guy… he comes up to me, tells me he's heard I'm struggling with loss… says he has something to make the pain go away…" He sniffled as he continued, "I thought it was just a normal pain reliever at first, but… by the time I realized… it was too late. I couldn't stop…" The boy's sentence devolved into unintelligible whimpers as he hung his head.
"Edward…" Stewing through a whirlwind of distress, Roy made a futile effort to reestablish eye contact. "Why did you hide it? Why didn't you come to me right away?" The fact that Ed wouldn't look at him was answer enough: he was ashamed. The small blonde hadn't wanted Mustang to be disappointed in him. Hoping that Ed would remain calm, Roy let go of him and faced the desk, eyeing the syringe with hatred. "I don't suppose you want to tell me what exactly you've been taking."
"You know damn well what it is."
Roy sighed and nodded.
"So… what are you going to do?"
"I don't know," Mustang admitted. "Except that I can't let this continue. I need you to tell me who's been supplying you, Ed, then we'll-"
A sharp blow to the back of his neck cut him off. It was well-aimed, precise, and effective. He blacked out before he even hit the floor.
Hawkeye was shaking him by the shoulder. After a few hazy moments of disorientation, Mustang sat up, feeling the sore part of his spine where Edward had struck him. Edward... the drugs… Immediately, Roy was on his feet, and the first place his eyes landed was the desk. The syringe was gone.
But, that should have come as no surprise. When threatened, Ed had resorted to violence. It was a common sign of intense opioid dependence.
"What happened in here, chief?" asked Havoc, chewing on the end of his cigarette. Roy frowned at the lieutenant. Nicotine was a drug, too, after all. With what he had just learned, Mustang couldn't help but feel resentment and disapproval toward the whole lot, legal or otherwise.
"I had… a talk with Fullmetal."
"And he knocked you out?" Fuery gasped with a squeak.
Mustang looked around at his subordinates. He knew he could trust them, and he didn't want to try and help Edward by himself. The Fullmetal Alchemist was their friend, too; they deserved to know.
"Lieutenant Hawkeye, close the door."
As she did so, Mustang ran a sweaty hand over his face, steeling himself for the declaration of the bitter reality. At last, he faced his five attendants and found the strength to say it.
"I've just received firsthand confirmation… that Edward has a heroin addiction."
I want to stay in love with my sorrow.
Oh, but God, I want to let it go.
A/N: No Homunculi in this story (shocker, I know). Just consider this separate from canon plot altogether.
This marks the second fanfiction where I've killed off Al. T.T I'm so cruel...