Normal people would be completely unconscious after trauma like that. Normal people didn't shift and stare and hold onto scraps of metal so impossibly tight after experiences like that.
But Ed had proven time and time again that he wasn't normal.
His eyes were open by the time Hughes and Roy were able to reach his side, blank gold circles that stared at something neither man could see. Roy could make out a plate of metal in the boys hands, pressed to his chest tight enough to turn his knuckles white, but gently enough to not damage the precious blood seal there.
And of blood . . . there was so much of it, and no way to tell who it belonged to. Scar was a mutilated mess lying in the dirt, covered in swollen bruises, deep gashes and red fluid. Roy transmuted the man's unconscious form to a tree, unwilling and unable to deal with him at the time. He turned away from him in complete and utter contempt. Perhaps it was wrong, but they had enough on their plate without worrying about moving him, too, and he was predominately responsible for what lay before them.
Ed looked even worse than Scar, but maybe that was because he was just so small. His face, while devoid of any active emotion, was infused with muted horror and glazed pain on a canvas of blood and bruises.
Roy never wanted to see that look on his face ever again.
It had taken hours for Hughes to gather up the pieces of Al's armor, and since Roy was mostly unable to help, he had spent the time trying to keep Al calm and bring Ed out of his shock, but both attempts failed miserably. Ed was completely unresponsive, and Al was a gibbering wreck.
Once Hughes had gathered all the metal he could and piled it at Roy's feet, Roy transmuted the scraps into a metal cart. He wasn't about to risk transmuting it back into a suit of armor. It was much too delicate for someone such as him to attempt, and besides, they needed the transportation more than they needed Al's substitute body. Hughes and Roy had loaded Ed and Al onto it and it was all Roy could do to hobble along on a transmuted crutch as Maes pulled the cart all the way back to New Optain.
It had taken the rest of the day and part of the night, but they finally arrived at the hospital.
Ed had immediately been rushed to the ICU. Roy managed to pry the plate of metal from his death grip before he was sent off, much to Al's protest, but Roy wasn't about to take chances that the hospital staff would inadvertently destroy or discard what they saw as a piece of debris, and he knew that the last thing the boys needed at this point was to have their greatest sin exposed by the gossip of nurses.
Hughes was treated for dehydration, a sprained muscle in his arm and had the gash on his head and several deep lacerations in his back sewn up. The man was completely and utterly exhausted and barely standing by the time the doctor was through with him, and it was no wonder.
Roy himself was about as well off; he had his chest wrapped, his leg wound cleaned and sewn shut, and was given fluids and blessed pain killers. Though he was dead on his feet, he had business to conduct, so he relinquished the soul to Hughes' care, but just before he was about to find a phone, he was introduced to his night nurse. She was a brute of a woman, as big as Armstrong, and scarier than Hawkeye, and Roy didn't dare argue with her about their destination when she wheeled him to his private room with gruff orders to eat his dinner and sleep.
He quickly inhaled his meal, and once the woman had left, managed to get the attention of a cute nurse roaming the halls. It didn't take too much effort to convince her to help him back into his wheelchair, and it only took a disarming smile to find out where the nearest phone was.
After several phone calls to the local military outpost to start the search for Scar, and a quick call to Hawkeye, he was discovered by his beloved night nurse and none too gently ushered back to his room. She threatened to tear his stitches out one by one if he didn't stay put this time, so Roy put aside all thoughts of further escapades and tried to sleep.
Despite how tired he was, he was too anxious to do much more than doze, and after a long, restless morning, the day shift finally took over. His day nurse was a pretty young girl with a gentle, maternal nature, and Roy was much more comfortable about being persuasive and demanding when he wasn't worried about having his stitches ripped out. He finally got some answers about Ed and would be allowed to see him as soon as he woke up.
It was almost lunch when Roy got the word. He felt a bit guilty about being allowed to see Ed before his little brother, but it couldn't be helped at the moment. He allowed the nurse to wheel him down the hall to Ed's room, then dismissed her at the door.
It eerily reminded him of just the week before, when he had gone to visit the boy in the hospital in Central.
The lights were off, the only illumination coming from the bright sun that slanted through the large windows, bathing the room in a warm glow. The small lump on the bed was turned on its side, facing out the window. Roy didn't know he could get so much comfort by just watching the rise and fall of the blankets as the boy breathed in and out, simple proof that he was alive.
"Are you going to come in, or just sit there in the doorway like an idiot?"
Roy blinked, only just noticing the gold eye slanted to peer over his body and back toward Roy.
A smirk tugged at his lips as he reached to grip the wheels of his chair and rolled himself across the tiny room to sit at the bedside. "You always wake up in such fine moods, Fullmetal," he teased, leaning forward to gingerly prop his elbow on the bed. The movement didn't pain his side too much, but he expected that was the glorious painkillers at work.
Ed rolled over carefully to give him a withering look. "My moods are directly related to your proximity," he growled.
"Careful, Fullmetal. Remember what I told you about using words that are too big for you?"
Roy delighted in the way Ed clenched his teeth and scowled, not just from the way it annoyed him, but from how wonderfully normal it was. "I'm not short! And I'm a genius! I can use all the big words I want!"
Roy kept his smirk firmly in place. "How are you feeling?"
"Fine. You took Al from me. Where is he?"
Roy was wondering when that question was going to come up. "He's with Hughes. I'll tell the nurse to bring them down in a minute," Roy assured him.
The boy nodded and tension that Roy hadn't even noticed was there slowly melted away. "Good. That's good," he said, some of the strain gone from his voice as he turned his gaze up to the ceiling.
Roy studied him in the afternoon light. He looked pale, but he was no longer flushed with fever. His golden hair was clean and had some of its shine back, splayed across the pillow in a vibrant wave. An IV ran down to where it was taped to his wrist, and he was covered in swathes of bandages from what he could see of the boy. Mostly, the kid just looked worn and weary.
Something else was there, though. A cloud that seemed to hover, dark and bitter, just behind his eyes.
"What's on your mind?"
Ed scowled, keeping his eyes obstinately on the ceiling. "None of your business," he said.
Roy sighed, leaning back in his chair. What a stubborn brat. He wracked his mind for something that could be eating him, but there were too many things to narrow down: losing a leg, fever, being lost in the woods, fighting Scar, seeing his little brother ripped to shreds, almost killing Scar . . .
Wait . . .
Roy remembered staring out across the river to see Al's armor being shattered by Scar's twisted alchemy. He saw Ed freeze for just a split second before he launched himself into the air and landed on Scar, beating and thrashing him to a bloody pulp. He remembered the way Ed had turned his automail into a blade and had almost cut the man's throat before his little brother had stopped him.
For Ed, that was about as traumatic as it got.
"Does this have to do with Scar?"
The tightening at the corner of his eyes gave him away. "Why do you have to be so nosy?" he demanded with false anger, rolling over away from Roy to stare out the window. "Don't you have nurses to flirt with or something?"
Perhaps it was nosy of him, but he had been in Ed's shoes before, so to speak. The first time he had killed someone, he was a haunted wreck for days. Ed may not have done the deed, but he had such high standards for himself that he probably felt like he had.
"I almost killed him."
The words were so sudden and quiet, barely a whisper, and Roy almost missed them entirely. He focused on Ed again and saw the tight tension in his shoulders as he stared out the window.
"But you didn't," Roy pointed out carefully, remembering the results the last time he had pushed the boy for an explanation. The outburst he had almost been expecting didn't come, though.
"But I wanted to," he murmured instead, voice weak and lifeless with an undercurrent of remorse. "That's what matters."
Roy wasn't good at this, but he couldn't stand to hear so much guilt and self-loathing coming from someone so young. Someone so undeserving. "Why?"
Ed shifted, rolling back over on his back to stare at the ceiling, golden eyes anguished. "Because . . . because he had killed— I thought he killed Al," his voice broke and his eyes suddenly glistened. He blinked quickly. "I thought he took my little brother from me. A life for a life. That's equivalency, right?" Roy knew he wasn't really expecting an answer, so he kept silent, waiting. Ed continued after a moment, jaw tightening. "But it's not . . . that wouldn't have helped, it wouldn't have made anything better. It would have just caused more pain, but I didn't think of that. I just wanted him dead and Al back."
"So," Roy said after a silence. "What stopped you?"
"Al," he whispered. "He must think I'm a monster . . . I've never killed anyone before, and I almost slaughtered Scar, right in front of my little brother." A weak, humorless laugh shook his frame. "Some big brother I am. I really am a monster."
That explained why he hadn't asked for Al sooner. He didn't want to face him, afraid of what he would think, how he would react.
"Well, maybe that's the thing about people like us," Roy said. Ed glanced at him with thinly veiled curiously. Roy interpreted it as a sign to continue and pressed on. "We want to do the right thing. We want to make the world a better place, but sometimes we do things; things that are contemptible and disgraceful, and we do it for the right reasons, but somewhere along the line, we've lost sight of the goal. We compromise, we take short cuts, we get our hands dirty and we lose sight of what's important.
"But that's why you need a heart. We need those people in our lives that know us, that know us better than we know ourselves. Someone we want to impress and protect more than anyone in the world. Someone who knows you would do anything for them, but loves you enough not to let you. People like Al."
And Roy saw something in Ed's eyes brighten, a spark that had been missing for days. It was like the curtains finally being pulled aside to let the sun in, and Roy had missed it. "That's the cheesiest load of crap I've ever heard, Mustang," he said, a broad grin spreading across his face.
Roy smirked. "Maybe it was just too long for your short attention span."
"WHO ARE YOU CALLING SHORT?!"
The day passed in lazy splendor. Hughes and Al eventually stopped by, and they shared the afternoon in the tiny room, reveling in each other's company. Roy sat back and watched them bicker, laugh and shout and he was content.
It was people like them, the ones that toed the line between light and dark, that give up their hearts to battle that darkness so the people they loved didn't have to; they were the ones that needed a heart the most. The people they loved became their hearts, their consciences. They were the ones that kept them from being monsters. They may get close, but if they kept those people near, they would always make it back out to the light.
Ed would be alright. As long as he had Al, he would be just fine.
As long as he had his heart.
IT IS DONE! *collapses*
Hope you brought your crackers for all that cheese xD But I guess when you title your fic "Heart," it's bound to get a little cheesy lol.
I hope the ending didn't seem too rushed. It was a bit of a struggle to get it right, you know? Hope it was alright :'D
Some much needed thanks: to everyone who reviewed, thank you so much! I've said it practically every chapter, but your encouragement has really helped me get this written, so thank you :) To everyone who faved and just read this, thank you for stopping by and giving your time to read :) I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it 3
You guys are the best, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise ;)
Now that this fic is over, I have started a new FMA fic! The first chapter of Stairway to Paradise is up, so if you'd like, go check it out and you can join me for another round ;) *shameless self-promotion is shameless*
See you next time!