Hey, I forgot I couldn't post the lyrics. Oh well, just listen to the song and imagine it playing behind the fic! ;)
Edward Elric stared at his toes, his automail hand curled into a fist, the other clutching his pocket watch. His hair, silk-spun sunlight, had been plaited back to keep it out of the way, but two, long strands in the front stubbornly refused to stay out of his face. Swallowing hard, he made his way through the military camp, headed to his tent. He tapped on the flap before entering. His sponsor, the man who was supposed to show him the ropes of living in the military, was already there. Major Roy Mustang, the Flame Alchemist. It was said he could control fire through Alchemy – Edward figured that it could be possible. After all, he could perform Alchemy without a transmutation circle. Coal-black hair hung messily in his face obscured obsidian black eyes that now locked with Edward's own, golden gaze momentarily before dragging heavily up and down his body.
"I didn't know the army was accepting minors, now," was the first comment past Roy's lips. Edward's eyes searched to look at anything but the man appraising him. "I'm Major Roy Mustang – you must be Edward Elric – you're a Major too, right?"
"Yeah, the Fullmetal Alchemist," Edward replied as boldly as he could. He went and sat down on his bedroll.
"Yeah, I was told about you – no transmutation circle, eh?"
"Yeah, I just…form a circle…with my hands…" Edward explained. Roy's brows furrowed. "So, what do I call you?"
"Flame is fine, and I'll call you Fullmetal."
"Fine." He lied down and closed his eyes. Al…I'm sorry, he whispered, thinking back to the note he'd left on the table for his brother to find. That had been three months ago, when he'd first left his home in Resembool.
Alphonse, it read. I'm sorry to not have discussed this decision with you or even informed you of it. I'm sorry for not saying goodbye, but it's my fault that you lost your body, so I've gone to get it back for you. The military offers a lot of research opportunities to State Alchemists, so I've gone to join the army. I know you'll be upset when you read this, but my mind is made up. I don't know where I'll be placed, but know that I'll always be thinking of you. I cannot explain how horrible I feel for pushing you to participate in my transgression in an attempt to bring back our mother. I will not forgive myself until you have your body back as you rightfully deserve. Please don't worry about me, either. I won't let myself die until I have given you back what my foolishness took from you. Also, do not try to find me and persuade me to come back – I will not return until you are no longer confined to that suit of armor. My mind is made up, so you won't convince me otherwise.
He had slipped away well before dawn, caught a train to Central City, and taken the State Alchemist Exam. Because he could perform Alchemy without a transmutation circle, something he'd gained when he'd attempted to perform human transmutation, when his brother had lost his body, he had passed and become a State Alchemist. Then, he'd been sent to Ishval, to participate in the war. Moral reservations aside, Edward had vowed to get his brother's body back using any means necessary. Even if that meant taking part in a war that was more like an extermination. These people were all going to die anyways. If it was by his hand, that was a necessary sacrifice…right?
Roy watched the boy sharing his tent with a sort of intensity that surprised even him. He was so young, and yet he looked so broken. Broken not only in his body, with two automail limbs – broken in spirit. Worry lines etched across his face, his lips curved into a permanent frown, his brows furrowed deeply even in his sleep. So young to have joined the army. He couldn't be older than sixteen. He was little more than a child. So…so young. For some reason, Roy's mind fixated on that, clinging to it. Driving him to protect the boy in any way he knew how. Never before had Mustang felt such compassion, such sympathy. But these feelings drove him to demand why. Why would someone so young do something like this?
"Al!" the boy cried out in his sleep. This was almost a nightly occurrence, as the past two weeks had proved. Roy crawled over to him and placed a hand on his shoulder. "No! Al! Mother! AL!" Roy shook harder and Edward's eyes snapped open, his breath coming in a deep, sharp gasp. His wide, gold eyes stared up at Roy for a long, agonizing moment, then they flitted down his hands. "Did I wake you up?" Edward asked at length.
"Yeah." The boy took a deep breath. "Forty-two." Roy didn't need to ask what the number meant. It was the death count. The number he'd killed in that week. Six people a day – not a bad record compared to Roy's. Of course, Edward did hand-to-hand combat whereas Roy specialized in mass destruction. "What about you?" The Flame Alchemist pressed his lips together.
"I try not to count," he lied. He counted every single one he could. It was hard, when you were burning buildings, but he had a pretty good idea.
"Estimate." Never before had Edward asked for him to give him a body-count. "I…I want to know." We all want a lot of things, Roy reasoned. That doesn't mean we get them. Yet he found himself giving the number anyways.
"Fifty…" he began. Ed nodded, but then he finished his count. "Just today." The boy stared, his lips parted in a subtle gasp.
"Oh," he whispered after a stretch of silence. Roy met his eyes and held his gaze. "I'm sorry." Mustang sighed and looked away, not sure if he was glad or not that Edward had broken the silence. He stood up and went back to his bedroll, twisting the ring on his finger. It was a simple gold band with a red stone in it, worn on his forefinger. The military had given it to him to increase the power of his Alchemy. With it, he could raze whole villages in a day or so. Just like his white, Ignition Gloves, with transmutation circles stitched onto the back in red thread, he never removed the ring. It was a form of a reminder of what he was doing. He refused to forget the faces of those he killed. He would not turn his back on his deeds, no matter how much they disgusted him.
"Get some sleep. You'll need it," he grumbled at last before lying down to go to sleep, himself. Edward glanced back at him. Fifty, he mused. Fifty a day…how does that man live with himself? Maybe that's why he always seems so unhappy. I wonder…why he's in the military at all. A brilliant Alchemist like him could've done a lot of things in life…He closed his eyes, willing the nightmares away.
"Fullmetal!" Roy's voice called out a warning. Edward spun around – late, the gun went off and the bullet hit his shoulder. As the gun went off, again, a large, heavy body collided with him, forcing them both to the ground and to safety. "Are you okay, Fullmetal?" Edward forced his eyes open and nodded. Roy snapped and his gloves created a small spark which caught and twisted around them protectively, writhing in the air like a snake, threatening to instantaneously reduce anything it touched to ash. It died away as Roy picked up Edward, looking around for a way to safety. He snapped again, bringing up another protective barrier from the approaching Ishvalans. "Looks like they've cut off our way off." Snap. "Give me a minute to figure something out." Snap. "Here, this way." Snap." The flames billowed larger than before, allowing them to make a run it. They made it to a little cabin that was halfway burned down but still enough to provide some cover.
"We can probably hold out here until sunrise when the next wave comes," Roy muttered, his eyes scanning the area quickly. "Now, let's see about that shoulder of yours." Now that they were no longer in immediate danger, the full force of Edward's guilt hit him. They were in this situation because of him. Because he'd been careless. And now they both were in danger.
"I'm sorry," he whispered as the man set to removing his jacket and shirt.
"I'm sorry…for causing you trouble and…I mean…putting you in this situation."
"You didn't. I could've left you."
"But you didn't." Roy hummed his agreement.
"I'm going to have to get this bullet out." He flicked out his knife. "This is going to hurt….a lot." Edward nodded as the man snapped to run a flame along the blade before beginning to dig the bullet out.
"AH!" the blonde cried out, his head falling forward onto Roy's shoulder and his legs curling in. It was all he could do to force himself not the yank away. Some rocks unfortunate enough to be near his automail hand were grabbed and crushed while his other hand clutched at the other man's jacket.
"Almost there. Just hang on a moment more…" Clink. The bullet hit the ground and Roy's knife withdrew. "I'm going to seal the wound and then I'm done, okay?" Edward nodded, bracing himself. Snap. Flames seared the injury shut, tearing another scream from the younger boy. Tears sprung to his eyes and spilled out over his cheeks, but he quickly choked them down. "There we go…" Edward placed the cool metal of his left hand to the burn, soothing it. "You okay?" Roy asked.
"Y-yeah…thanks to you."
"Ah, you'd have been fine." Roy sat back against the wall, his eyes falling shut as Edward put back on his shirt and military jacket, wincing. They lapsed into silence as they bunkered down for a long, restless night. Darkness descended upon them slowly, and once it was fully dark, the stillness came. No more straggling voices, murmuring in Ishvalan, no footsteps seeking them out. Just emptiness and the chill of a autumn evening.
"Why are you here?" Edward asked after about two hours of silence. His voice jolted Roy from his deep contemplation.
"In the military, I mean. You don't have to tell me, but I just thought….I don't know," he trailed off pitifully at the end.
"It's fine. I joined the military thinking I'd be helping people. I didn't…well…I didn't expect this." The Flame Alchemist laughed bitterly. "Well, it's not like my master didn't warn me. I just didn't listen. I figure…now…I've just got to change things. And I'll do what it takes – even if it means doing all this…to get to place where I can stop this kind of thing from happening, again." There was a long pause as Edward took in his words. What kind of a sad life is that? I mean…he must be so…disillusioned…like when we failed to bring mom back… "What about you? You're the one that really has no place here, after all." Edward hesitated. "You don't have to." Well, he told me…
"No…I'll tell you. After all, maybe…maybe it's better to tell someone. When I was eleven, and my younger brother Alfonse was ten, our mother died. Our father was the sort of walk-away-without-a-single-word type, I guess, so he'd left almost a year prior – not that he'd ever been home much." Edward didn't even try to keep the venom out of his voice as he explained. "Anyways, I studied Alchemy and when I was sixteen, I tried…to bring our mother back. Al didn't want to, but I pushed him into it, anyways, and in the process…he lost his whole body. I managed to bind his soul to a suit of armor – that's what cost me my arm and my leg. So I swore that I would do whatever it takes to get my brother his body back. I know that the military gives funding and resources to State Alchemists, so I joined." Mustang listened to his whole story without a word of input, and afterwards, he didn't say anything for a long time. When he did speak, it wasn't scornful or disgusted or disturbed, even.
"That must have been very hard. You are strong to have decided to make such a choice. Does your brother know…that you're here?"
"He knows I joined the army, he doesn't know…what I've been doing or where I am though." Mustang nodded.
"Are you going to tell him?"
"No…I don't think I will."
"He won't understand…how you've changed…why you've changed." Edward nodded pensively.
"But knowing what I did wouldn't make him understand how I've changed either. It would simply let him know why."
"I suppose that's true."
"Do you have anyone at home…waiting for you to get back?"
"Yeah, his name is Maes Hughes. We were in training together, but he asked for a desk job. His last letter said he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel."
"Wow. Do you miss him?"
"I don't do sappy stuff like that." Silence. "But yeah…I miss him. You miss your brother?"
"Mhm. And I worry…about never seeing him again." Roy's hand came down on Edward's metal shoulder.
"You will see him, again. I promise." Edward flushed slightly. Why would he say something like that…make such a promise? To me? How can he promise such a thing? But he found himself nodded, transfixed by the man's deep, serious onyx eyes. Roy slid his arms around Edward's waist and hugged him, pulling him practically into his lap. "I'll take first watch. Get some sleep." Edward closed his eyes, leaning his head against the other man's warm, broad chest. Roy stared down at the sleeping face of the boy in his arms. He felt his heart go out to him in a way that was completely foreign to him. Sighing, he rested his cheek on Edward's head and listened to the deafening silence all around them.
Morning came without Roy ever waking Edward up. He was used to the occasional all-nighter and Edward had been positively exhausted. In fact, even once morning came, Roy couldn't bring himself to wake the boy so he just settled down with him in his arms to wait to be found hopefully by friendly forces.
The sounds of war woke Edward with a start. He jolted, struggling momentarily against the sinewy arms around him. Then he remembered where he was and why and just whose arms were around him and he stilled. Slowly, it occurred to him that he'd slept the entire night.
"You didn't wake me," he noted. Roy nodded but did not release him. "Why?"
"You needed the sleep. It's fine." Part of Edward informed him that he should really get off this poor man's lap, because his legs were probably starting to go numb, and it wasn't exactly appropriate for him – a sixteen-year-old to be cuddled up in his arms like that. However, the rest of him kicked that part of him in the stomach and shoved it aside. He was incredibly comfortable where he was, and if Roy minded, he'd just push him away, right?
"How long before you think someone finds us?"
"I'd give it an hour tops. If no one finds us, we only have a few more hours before this town is completely empty and it will be safe to come out." Edward nodded and nestled his head lower under Roy's chin. It had been so long, since he'd been able to lean on anyone. An hour later, they were indeed discovered by the army and taken back to camp.