Roy's first conscious thought was that his head was going to split open.

He cracked an eye, blearily surveying the weak winter light filtering through his window. Clouds obscured the sky outside, and snowflakes flew past the glass, whisked away by brisk winds. Havoc must have been right about that blizzard. His room seemed unreasonably cold and he suppressed a shiver, pulling the comforter up and around him.

His entire body hurt, his head fuzzy and aching liked it'd been stuffed full of cotton. He couldn't breathe through his nose at all, and his eyes felt puffy. His limbs felt stiff and sore, and his sheets were soaked with sweat.

He felt like he'd been hit by a bus. He was almost tempted to close his eyes and go back to sleep.

Images of Ed, face twisted in torment and eyes wide with fear, greeted him when he tried.

Images of his body, alight with Roy's flames.

Roy opened his eyes and dragged his weary body out of bed. The movement seemed to set the room spinning, and he had to wait a moment before stepping forward. No one had disturbed him during the night, to his knowledge. He wondered if Ed was supposed to be awake, or maybe Silas had given the boy a fairly strong tranquilizer. Or perhaps, by some miracle, he had awakened and Havoc managed to get him calm after all?

Roy stumbled through his morning routine, conscientious of the fact that he'd had guests spend the night. He took a shower that didn't seem hot enough, took care of basic hygiene, then tried to shave three days' worth of stubble without getting a good look at his own eyes.

He caught a glimpse of them, anyway. They looked tired and sunken, like they belonged on a man thrice Roy's age, lined with worry and guilt and glassy with a fever that hadn't broken. He made a discontented noise in the back of his throat and looked away.

He staggered from his room on heavy feet, peeking through Ed's open door to see the room vacant. The bed was empty, the blond nowhere to be seen. The bathroom door was open, too, so he couldn't be there.

Roy caught the murmurings of quiet voices coming from the floor below and headed downstairs.

As he descended the steps, his eyes fell on Ed. The boy was curled up on the sofa, his head pillowed in Havoc's lap. The older man was reading a newspaper aloud, but it didn't look like Ed was listening. His eyes were open, the bleached, pale gold looking distant and lost. The blanket was gone from his tiny frame and he shivered in only a set of winter sleepwear borrowed from Roy, the long sleeves and pants rolled up to accommodate his shorter limbs.

Havoc looked up when Roy entered, his gaze turning cautious. "Hey, Chief," he greeted quietly, folding the paper over his unoccupied knee. "You sleep well?"

"Where's his blanket?" Roy demanded, ignoring Havoc's greeting. Didn't he realize the kid needed that thing? It was vital for his peace of mind, and besides that, it was freezing!

"Hawkeye's got it in the wash," Havoc informed, stiffening a bit at Roy's tone. Admittedly, it hadn't been exactly laden with kindness and understanding. "The thing was nasty, Colonel."

He looked up, trying to see into the kitchen. "Hawkeye's still here?" He had hoped she would stay, but he hadn't been holding his breath.

"Yeah, Silas, too."

Well, who didn't spend the night?

Roy's eyes fell back down to Edward. He hadn't moved, didn't stir.

"Fullmetal?" Roy asked, a thrill of apprehension rolling through his gut. Why wasn't he answering?

"He's . . . he's not really snapping out of it," Havoc said, his voice tentative as he patted Ed's arm, like he wasn't sure what else to do. The boy didn't react. "He didn't move all night long. This morning Silas suggested we get him out of bed, you know, follow his usual routine, but when we picked him up and started moving him around he . . . well, he started thrashing and. . . and crying, I guess, then he opened his eyes and just stopped. He's been like this since then. He's just . . . not responding."

Roy had a terrible, sickening suspicion, but he wasn't sure. He wanted badly for it to be because of the tranquilizer. He wanted it to be something physical, something that could be put back together with medicine or treatments. Something he could fix.

Because an awful, gnawing feeling in the corner of his gut told Roy that he had finally pushed Ed's mind over the edge, and this might be the time he wasn't coming back.

Roy stepped around the sofa and headed for the kitchen. If the room weren't so tediously balanced, he might have stomped there with some authority, but any sudden movement seemed to send the room reeling. He found Hawkeye folding laundry on the kitchen island, her own clothing rumpled from sleep. Her hair had been roughly combed back, most likely by her slim fingers, and her sherry eyes were shadowed and tired, but they met his with a surprising amount of irritation. "Colonel, what are you doing up?" she demanded.

He scowled. "You're not my mother, Hawkeye." Only after he said it did he realize the statement made him sound like some petulant child. He covered it up with a glare. "Where's Silas?"

A shaggy head of auburn hair peeked out from over the counter, coming out with a couple of pans. "Yes?" he asked pleasantly, his mood seemingly restored to its typical cheeriness.

"Why isn't he waking up?" Roy demanded. He tried to stalk up to the smaller man, but he swerved when his hip clipped the island and had to catch himself on the countertop with a muttered curse.

"Sir, sit down before you fall down," Hawkeye ordered, coming up beside him and taking his arm firmly. He didn't have much choice as she hauled him to the kitchen table and deposited him on the nearest chair.

He really wished she wouldn't undermine his authority in front of other people. "I'm fine, Hawkeye."

She put a cold hand to his forehead and he shivered at the touch. "You're burning up. You shouldn't be out of bed. Doctor, would you mind?" she asked, gesturing to Roy. "I'll start on breakfast."

"Of course!" Silas said brightly, relinquishing the cookware to her and grabbing his medical bag from the kitchen table. "So tell me, what hurts?"

Roy caught his wrist. Silas looked a bit startled, halting in his action of rummaging through the bag to look Roy in the eye. "Why isn't he waking up?" Roy asked again, his voice coming out much more ragged and much more urgent than he had intended, his controlled, authoritative mask slipping just a bit. He was getting tired of being brushed off and ignored when he needed to know.

Hawkeye had stopped moving, the kitchen now silent save for Havoc's faint murmurings in the room next door.

Maybe it was the underlying desperation in Roy's voice, or the fear he was sure was there, but the cheer in Silas' eyes dissipated, replaced with a sort of weariness that Roy hadn't seen there before. It frightened him, to see the man with the hope and the optimism looking so grim. Silas looked down at his bag and Roy slowly released his arm. "Roy, I've told you before that this isn't my field of expertise," he said quietly. "You've got an MD doing the job of a psychiatrist, but I do know some things.

"Edward's gone through a lot . . . more than we could probably begin to understand. The trauma he relived last night . . . he's been blocking it from his mind, but we just forced him to unbury it. You don't bounce back from that, Roy. Experiences like that . . . they've driven lesser men completely mad. His mind is trying to protect itself, and I suspect this catatonic state is a byproduct of that. I can't tell you if the tranquilizer helped it along, but I can tell you that, judging by what he told us and the state of mind he has been in before now, this was probably inevitable."

Roy's throat closed up, an awful, sickening dread rolling through his stomach. He opened his mouth to speak. "Will—" he choked, took a breath. "When will he wake up?"

Silas shook his head. "No way to know."

Roy's gaze fell, unable to continue looking the man in the eye.

Roy's decisions every step of the way had brought Ed to this. And now, when he was supposed to finally be safe, Roy had put the final nail in his coffin. His hands closed into shaking fists.

He'd promised Alphonse he'd protect him.

He'd asked Ed to trust him.

What poor judgment. They hadn't even realized that they'd casted pearls before swine, charged a wolf to protect a lamb. That they would trust something so precious as Ed's wellbeing to a murderer was inconceivable.

And Roy had been too selfish to warn them.

A gentle hand on his shoulder made him open eyes he didn't realize he'd closed. Riza was there by his side, but Silas was nowhere to be seen. The sneaky little doctor had slipped out of the kitchen when he wasn't looking.

She gave him a smile that was warm, even if a little weak. "Stop it, sir."

He gave her a tired, weary sort of frown in question.

"For a second there, you gave up. Stop it."

A weak smile found its way to his own lips. "Using my own pep talks against me, Lieutenant?"

"I've heard it enough. I think I'm qualified to dish it out now."

He put his elbow on the table beside him, buried his face in his hand and took a deep breath. "What have I done, Hawkeye?" he murmured. He couldn't help but think he sounded pathetic. Not at all like a colonel of the Amestrian military, or a nationally acclaimed war hero. He sounded like a lost child.

"You're best," she replied simply. "You've done your best. If you're going to blame someone for what happened, then maybe you should be blaming me. It was my call, after all."

Roy shook his head. "I could have stopped you at any time. I'd never blame you for my own mistakes, Riza. I guess I was just hoping to finish this. We could just yank off the bandage and then we could move on to finding the scum who did this, and Ed could finally start healing."

She shook her head. "We have valuable information, on both the case and on the details of Ed's imprisonment. We have several leads to follow, and now we have information that will help us get Ed the treatment he needs. And who knows? Maybe when he wakes up, he'll be better than he was before just from talking about it."

He looked up to meet her eyes. "You really believe that, Riza?" he asked, sounding less sarcastic and more hopeful than he had intended.

"I believe that Ed is stronger than this. He wouldn't have survived as long as he did if he wasn't." Her gaze slipped to the window. The snow brushed the glass and the wind whistled past like a howling train. It sounded aching and mournful and frigid. "I'm not going to give up on him just because there's been a setback. And I think he would appreciate it if you didn't, either."

He shook his head. He wasn't giving up on Ed, but maybe . . . maybe he wasn't doing all he could fix this. Maybe there was something else to be done, something Roy had neglected or ignored. Something that would be best for Ed, even if neither of them liked it.

The chiming doorbell broke the silence. The Curtis' were here.

Roy swallowed back a sickened feeling that tasted a lot like failure and stumbled to the door, eyes lingering on Ed's lifeless form as he passed. He ignored the sympathetic looks Havoc and Silas were sending his way.

He reached the door, feeling like a man being led to the gallows as he twisted the knob and opened it.

Izumi wore her coat this time, bundled up against the foul weather that whipped snow past in thick flurries. Several inches had already accumulated off the front porch and Roy was faintly surprised that they had made it to his house in the blizzard. Sig stood behind her, their suitcases in his large hands and his face set in its perpetual glower.

Izumi brushed past him, stomping snow off on the rug and stripping from her coat as she did. Sig followed, taking her coat and hanging both by the door. "Where is he?" Izumi asked, barely sparing Roy and Hawkeye a glance as she ventured into the living room.

"Ah, more guests!" Silas exclaimed. "Should I put some tea on?"

Roy did not want to be around for the train wreck that was Izumi in closed quarters with Silas. "That sounds perfect," Roy assured him. "Hawkeye, Havoc?"

Hawkeye came behind Silas and ushered the babbling doctor into the kitchen with her. Havoc stood up carefully, situating Ed's head so it was resting on a throw pillow before giving Roy and the Curtises a worried glance and following.

Izumi locked her gaze on Edward, her dark eyes seeming to harden with realization as she took in his state. "What happened?"

Roy decided it was more dignified to sit than it was to collapse on the floor. He lowered his swaying body on the opposite sofa, Ed's golden head within arm's reach. "He finished his report last night. As he was giving us details on his imprisonment, he became distraught. He began to lash out, and to keep both himself and others from injury, Doctor Silas administered a tranquilizer. He was this way after he woke up this morning."

Her eyes flicked to him, narrowing slightly. "You're ill. Have you been handling Edward this way?"

A bit put off by her perceptiveness, he shifted uncomfortably. "Of course not. I've kept away from him since I've developed obvious symptoms."

She approached Edward, leaning down in front of him so that she was eyelevel with him. She brushed his bangs from his face and stared hard, as if she were looking for something in his blank eyes. Apparently not liking what she found there, she frowned then stood up, gathering his slight body in her arms and sitting with him in her lap. Sig followed, sitting beside her and putting a large, protective arm around the pair.

"I told you we were going to talk, Mustang," she said, her voice low as if she were worried about disturbing the child in her arms.

Roy almost let out a short, cynical laugh. Just one more failure in a string of them, and now she was going to lecture him as if he didn't realize it.

She looked up at him, her gaze severe. "What were you thinking, sending a child by himself to Drachma?"

It was a question Roy had been anticipating and was prepared to answer. "I didn't have a choice. Those were the orders he had received from the Fuhrer himself."

"And you couldn't have done anything? You couldn't have sent someone with him? Not even Alphonse?"

He shook his head. "I can't discuss the specifics with you. Just know that the parameters of the mission would not have allowed for anyone else to accompany him."

Her lip curled in disgust. "So you would send a child to his death because you were ordered to? Is that right?"

Roy's fists tightened. What she was saying was cruel but true. He hadn't believed it to be dangerous enough to warrant disobeying orders and sending someone else along. He'd overestimated Ed, the little spitfire that always came back. He'd believed him to be invincible, just like everyone else. Just like Ed. He'd believed it enough to risk Ed's life on it and throw caution to the wind, and now he'd done it again, trusting that Ed would bounce back like he was supposed to.

When would they learn that the child wasn't invulnerable? When would Roy figure out that, no matter how strong he pretended to be, he was just a kid? A damaged, broken, blind kid that needed help that Roy couldn't seem to provide.

"If I had known this would happen, I would have gone in his stead," Roy said, his voice coming out weaker than he had planned, but he was able to meet her unrelenting gaze as he said it. He meant every word.

She seemed to regard him, the same way a wild animal regards a smaller one to see if they're suitable prey. Maybe she found his response acceptable, because she turned back to the boy in her arms. "He's too thin. Are you incapable even feeding him?"

A wave of nausea rolled through Roy's gut at the memory of just why Ed's appetite was probably so diminished. "He . . . he generally refuses food. There's not much to be done short of intubation."

"Then clearly you're doing something wrong," she said. "Edward doesn't turn down food."

"I assure you that we're doing all we can, Miss Curtis—"

"It's not enough!" she snapped, some emotion in her voice making it twist and break, but she didn't stop. "Look at him!" She shifted her arms slightly, Ed's upper body limply following the movement. "He's wasting away, and now he's unresponsive!" she snarled with all the rage of a mother bear. "What does it take for you to see that something isn't working? Whatever you're doing, it isn't enough!"

"S-stop."

Roy stopped breathing. The room came to a complete still.

All eyes locked on Ed. The boy blinked owlishly, like just the simple movement was a great effort. His hand twitched, moving to wrap around Izumi's wrist in what could almost be called a weak grip. "Stop."

It was like all of the fire went out of her. The anger left in a rush, leaving nothing but a bereft woman grieving for a child she seemed to love like a son. A single tear traced down her jaw as she took a shuddering breath, her body slumping over the boy, holding him against her tightly. Ed didn't fight the movement at all, almost looking like he was unaware of it altogether. His eyes still held most of the distance they had that morning, but there was a small frown wrinkling his brow, and his flesh hand inched forward to hold Izumi's arm. Sig put a large hand on Edward's head and Izumi leaned against his shoulder, the makeshift family holding onto each other.

"Silas?" Roy called, trying to get his clumsy feet under him to stand. His relief was a palpable thing, something that made his voice weak and his knees even weaker. Ed was awake. He'd come back, even if only partly so. "Silas!" he tried again.

Silas appeared from the kitchen, his medical bag in his hands. Without preamble, he went over to the Curtises and knelt before them with a gentle smile. "I don't think we've met," he said to them, "but I'm Doctor James Silas, Ed's physician. Would you mind laying him out on the couch so I can have a look at him?"

Apparently Silas had some sort of charm that rivaled even Roy's, because instead of snarling some sort of response, Izumi only looked up at him, then let Sig lift Ed's near-lifeless body from her arms. They removed themselves from the sofa and stretched Ed out on it. The boy immediately curled up on his side, the hand that had previously held onto Izumi moving to hold his throat, face tightening with anxiety.

"Mus . . ." He stopped, breathed two or three times, tried again. "Mustang?"

Roy had to stop himself from lunging to the boy's side. "Right here, kid."

Ed's free hand flexed, as if searching for Roy's familiar sleeve and Roy felt his heart break. Something still wasn't right. He was awake, but it was as if everything were happening in slow motion for him, taking far too long to sink in. Even the act of speaking seemed too much effort, his mouth too tired to properly form the words.

Silas knelt beside the couch. "Hey, Ed, how are you feeling?" he asked, bringing out a clipboard and pen from his bag. "You know, you had a pretty rough night last night."

Ed made a grunting sound in the back of his throat, almost dismissive.

"Okay, I'm just going to ask you some questions and I want you to answer them as best you can. Sounds manageable, right?" He slipped a blood pressure cuff around Ed's thin arm. Normally Ed hated the thing, but he didn't fight it this time as Silas strapped it in place and began pumping it with air. "First question: what's your name?"

He opened his mouth, but the words died before they sounded. He closed it, breathed for a moment before finally managing, "Edward . . . Elric."

"Fantastic! How many siblings do you have?" He penciled something in on his clipboard and removed the cuff.

"Al."

"Hard to forget about him, yes? Okay, who is the current Fuhrer of—"

Izumi stepped in front of Roy, blocking his view and distracting him from Silas' exam. "A word," she ordered, eyes glistening with tears she refused to let fall.

Roy glanced back at Ed and Silas a moment before nodding and following her past Sig to the entryway.

She stopped at the door, her back rigid as she stared out the window at the weather howling past. Roy waited in silence for a moment before nerves got him. "Look—" he began.

"I don't know what those boys see in you, Mustang," she said lowly, almost too quiet for him to hear. "But for some reason, they trust you, so I will give you the benefit of the doubt this time." Izumi turned to face him, her eyes hard like stone. "Sig and I have to leave now before the trains stop running, but as soon as the shop is handled, I'm coming back. I expect to see improvement, or we will be looking into other arrangements. Do I make myself clear?"

Roy gave a weak nod, and after staring him down a moment longer, she stepped past him and back to the living room. He was left alone in the entryway, shivering and frail and helpless to do anything for Edward until the cursed illness passed.

Izumi was right, though. Something wasn't working, and Roy had to fix it.

XxXxX

When Teacher had woken him up with her yelling, Ed had been dreaming.

Maybe it wasn't a dream, though. He wasn't too sure about the things that went on in his head anymore.

It was almost like being back at the Gate. Everything was white, except for flashes of memory that he somehow felt detached from, like watching a reenactment of the events. He would watch memories he had seen, hear the ones he didn't, and none of it hurt.

None of it hurt.

He'd watched everything, seemingly watching his entire life. He saw Alphonse and his mother and the Rockbells. He saw his biggest mistake. He saw the Gate and Truth and Mustang's visit. He saw his automail surgery and his rehab and the years after that, no memory lasting more than a second, but he witnessed everything. He saw the basement, and he watched it without fear.

It wasn't the same as before, somehow. The memories didn't trigger that mind-numbing terror, that icy grip of fear. He felt almost numb, like the stark whiteness inside his head soothed everything.

Teacher's voice had jarred him from all of that, throwing him back into the present. The white peace faded to something foggy, tainted somehow by reality.

And then he heard her voice, yelling at Mustang . . . and, well, it wasn't Mustang's fault. He'd summoned up the energy to ask her to stop, but then they all left him alone with Silas.

But without distraction, that familiar fear was creeping back in, staining the white with black.

Ed decided it was almost like treading water, trying to stay above the black. His mind was a murky mess, punctuated only by the sporadic questions, the scribbling of Silas' pen on paper and Teacher's voice murmuring in the next room.

Now that he was more awake, he realized he was exhausted. It was like his body and mind wanted desperately to sleep, but he was too uneasy to manage it, too afraid to go to sleep for fear that the black would completely overcome the white he had somehow managed to find.

Too anxious to sleep, but too tired to do much else. Even shivering was too much for him, despite the chill that had settled in his bones.

"Ed?" Silas asked, his tone implying that he'd called him more than once.

Ed managed a small grunt in question, struggling to keep his eyes open, then immediately wondering what for. He let them close.

"I said that I think this is a side effect of the tranquilizer. I gave you a pretty strong one." He sounded both sheepish and concerned at the same time. "Possible side effects are increased anxiety, shortness of breath, confusion and insomnia, to name a few."

Well, that explained some things.

Ed frowned, but he was too tired to muster a response. They'd drugged him? Again? Mustang had promised it would be a last resort, so maybe he'd really gotten out of hand. He didn't really remember much of the actual debriefing. Just lots and lots of memories that he was doing everything to not think about. He didn't want the black to gain a foothold.

To distract himself, he mumbled a question he hoped Silas would understand. "Mustang?"

"He's having a conversation with that lovely lady . . . what was her name?"

Somewhere farther in front of him, a deep voice murmured in verification. Ed was too tired to manage a flinch from Sig's low voice, but his heart jumped a bit in his chest in a reflexive response. He'd almost forgotten the man was in the same room.

"Yes, Sig, that's right! Izumi," Silas agreed, his pen still moving over his paper. "Would you like me to send Roy in? He's sick, you know, so he can't be very close, but I'm sure he could sit nearby without too much trouble."

Ed hummed a confirmation. He wasn't too sure why, but he felt the need to know he was there, to feel his sleeve under his hand and to smell that familiar smell of earth and mesquite. He needed some sort of familiar comfort, something to put his mind at ease and get rid of the horrible sense of uncertainty he felt.

Mustang being sick, though . . . Ed had somehow missed the smell of illness on him entirely, but now that Silas had mentioned it, he could discern the faintest of scents in the house. It was as sharp as it was faint, sickening like the smell of singed wood and too-ripe fruit.

Guilt was a distracting enough emotion for him to entertain. He was good at that.

Ed knew that surely the only reason Mustang was sick was because of him. He'd worn himself ragged caring for some stupid, needy blind kid no one else could take. He wondered faintly if Mustang was regretting it all now. Ed wouldn't really blame him for it.

He heard footsteps enter the room. It took him a moment to know it was Izumi by the soft, balanced footfalls. She stopped in front of him for a moment, the before he could summon the energy to form a question, she moved into the dining room. Sig's heavy steps followed and he could hear quiet voices in the kitchen beyond.

Ed opened his eyes amidst his frown. Maybe she'd thought he was asleep?

"Hmm, odd," Silas commented, bringing Ed's mind back from its musings. "Well, guess we can just call him now, though, right? Roy!" he raised his voice just a bit, and Ed could hear the stumbling, staggering steps of the colonel. His brow pinched in concern. Just his footsteps sounded awful. Not at all the smooth, sweeping gait he usually managed.

"What is it?" Mustang asked, voice quivering the faintest bit. His voice sounded strained and thick, his illness evident to Ed's sensitive ears. How did he miss the signs? How could he be so self-absorbed that he didn't see Mustang's own suffering? The man's nightmares should have been the first red flag.

"He wants to talk to you!" Silas informed brightly. "Here, sit down, Roy. I'll go get Ed's blanket from Riza."

He heard Silas' light steps travel around the sofa and after Izumi and Sig.

Mustang shuffled forward, breathing heavy and ragged. He sank down into the end of the other sofa above Ed's head, close enough that Ed could stretch over the arm of his couch to reach him. He wanted to reach out to Mustang, to grab his sleeve and get rid of the nauseating floating sensation he felt, but something about raising his arm away from his body felt too exposed. He held his own throat instead and tried to breathe steady breathes. He didn't want Mustang to have to worry about him, especially when he was in such bad shape himself.

"Hey, kid. How are you feeling?" Mustang asked, low voice even lower with his sickness.

"Fine. Silas says it's just the tranquilizer," he explained slowly.

He could almost hear the frown in Mustang's voice. "Side effects?"

Ed managed a small nod.

Footsteps returned. "Here we go! I'll just put your blanket on top of you," Silas said, air and softness brushing over Ed and a familiar, insulating warmth fell over him. His hand immediately grasped the corner and he pulled it close to his face. It smelled like soap and felt clean. Had they washed it?

Was it stupid that he missed the comforting scent it had held before of oil and iron?

He suddenly, acutely found himself missing Alphonse.

But still, it was his blanket. It felt the same, moved the same. It covered his body like a shield and his thoughts became a little less muddled, like closing the door to better hear a conversation. Some of the anxiousness bled away and he was able to relax just a bit.

Silas' steps faded away again and Mustang didn't speak for a while.

"Did you get what you needed?" Ed asked, the short sentence leaving him breathless. Stupid tranquilizer.

It took Mustang a moment to realize what he was talking about. "Yes. We got everything we needed," he finally said. "You did well, Ed."

It felt like someone had just picked up a weight from his chest.

It was over. That much was over.

Mustang coughed, sounding thick and unhealthy, momentarily distracting Ed from his relief and making guilt twist his insides.

"You okay?" Ed asked softly.

Mustang shifted in his seat. "It's just a cold," he choked. "Nothing to worry about. I'll be better by tomorrow." He paused. "Are you . . . are you okay?"

"Fine—"

"Don't lie to me."

Ed swallowed. Blanket or no, that wasn't something he wanted to focus on. No telling how his volatile mind would react to dwelling. "Don't want to think about it."

He heard shifting fabric, like Mustang was nodding. "Okay."

Another question burned in his mind, something he suddenly wondered. He'd asked something similar before, but he needed to know again. Things had changed, maybe for the better. It was too early to tell, but just something in the air felt different. He wanted to know if Mustang felt it, too.

"Do you think . . . it'll be better now?"

More silence, like the question had caught Mustang by surprise. "It's . . . it's hard to say—"

"Don't lie to me."

He could hear the faint smirk in the man's voice. "Well, you woke up. The fact that you're alright makes it better now. Though if you keep scaring me like this, I'm going to have a heart attack."

If Ed's mind were less fuzzy, he might have come back with something witty about Mustang being old. As it was, he settled for a smile. "Sorry."

"Just . . . just keep coming back, alright?"

Ed closed his eyes again. "Right."

He couldn't help the way the smile stayed fixed on his lips.


Mustang got worse . . . Ed got better . . . sort of? xD

First warm fuzzy ending in a long long looong time. I think this is, like, the second time that's happened in this fic lol.

So, this chapter took forever. Wasn't satisfied with it (again) so I added the last bit, because it didn't seem resolved enough. I think it helped :D

I felt like I'd lost the ability to string a complete, coherent, meaningful sentence together sometime between the last update and this one, so it was unreasonably difficult to turn this puppy out, but BOOM. Did it.

Also, I started in-service last week. For those not familiar with it, allow me to explain: they hire really really boring people to get up in front of you for four hours and try to explain to you how to keep students engaged. It's kind of like a personal trainer handing you a bag of Oreos (ie: counterproductive). So, I sat in the back and doodled. Because I'm an adult . . . or something.

I doodled Silas xD I'll have to post it on dA or something c:

Below is a note to a specific reader of mine, so feel free to skip over it if it's not you xD

Dear random person:

Hi c: Yes, I read everything (signed or not) and I love your feedback (signed or not). I appreciate you always taking the time to comment, and I'm sorry I'm unable to message you back responses (because you're not signed in and I don't want to message the wrong person :'D). No, I'm not mad. I'm not sure what I said that implied I don't read unsigned reviews, but I apologize if I somehow implied it.

You're awesome-sauce c:

Weeeell, hope you enjoyed. Next chapter is chapter 30, which is something of a landmark (is that what you call it? *shrugs*) so that's exciting xD

If you have the time, drop a review, and I'll see you next chapter! C:

God Bless,

-RainFlame