Edward gripped the edge of the bed sternly, his face flushed and his breathing erratic. Each nightmare left him shaky and disoriented, and he pushed himself out of bed and stumbled into the bathroom.
Bracing himself over the sink, he shuddered violently. The bathroom spun around him and he clenched his eyes shut harshly. He hadn’t been sleeping well, if at all, and his body was starting to protest against him. As if it wasn’t the one sending nightmares every night that left him sleepless and weary.
“Fullmetal is that you?”
Edward cursed inwardly as Roy’s voice echoed through the room. They were paired on a mission together, and despite Edward’s insistence at getting separate rooms, there hadn’t been any others available. At least, that’s what Mustang had told him. Ed was pretty sure it was just an excuse to keep an eye on him; he had been struggling the past couple weeks after a nasty mission nearly took Al from him, and it wasn’t something he had hidden as well as he thought.
“Just gotta go to the bathroom, go back to bed,” Edward muttered hastily, taking a few deep breaths to steady himself.
“Are you sure? Is everything okay?”
Ed could hear the bed creaking as Roy moved, probably to get up and come check on him.
“Yeah, yeah it’s fine,” Ed grunted, turning and closing the bathroom door. His legs were shaky as he made his way over to the toilet in case he got sick; it didn’t happen very often but when it did it left his mind reeling and his body spent.
Taking a shuddering breath, he knelt on the cool tile, nearly collapsing as his knees threatened to give out from under him on the way down. Edward rested his head against the ceramic bowl, and clutched the front of his shirt tightly. Warm trails of salty liquid slowly ebbed their way down his cheeks, and Ed grit his teeth to keep from breaking down into a sob. Roy would hear, and Roy couldn’t know how bad it was.
Not that Roy was an idiot, seeing as how the Colonel sat on the edge of his bed peering off into the night, waiting for Edward to step out of the bathroom. He knew something was off, and had been for the past couple weeks. At first Edward was just irritable, more so than usual which was saying something: quick to storm off if something didn’t go well. This didn’t surprise Roy much, and he didn’t note it as something weird until it stopped. The irritability was short lived and soon Fullmetal just didn’t seem to be…there anymore. He was late to meetings, late to give reports, sluggish on missions, didn’t join the group for lunch anymore, and had always seemed exhausted when he did meet with Roy.
After a few minutes Roy sighed, sliding himself off the bed slowly as to not alert the blonde. Padding over to the bathroom door, he rested his side against the wall, straining to hear any kind of noise from within the cramped room.
At first nothing seemed out of the ordinary, aside from it being really quiet. Every so often Edward would shuffle and his automail would clank against the ground, but everything seemed to be fine, as he had said it was.
However, Roy was hesitant. Something was off, and he was determined to get to the bottom of it. He’d say it’s because he couldn’t have his subordinates slacking off, and needed Fullmetal to be at the top of his game for this mission. But anyone who knew him knew those were just surface level excuses. In truth, Roy cared immensely for his teammates, and he was worried about Edward. Very worried.
Edward, on the other hand, had no idea Roy was there, too caught up in trying to stay upright and not fall asleep on the bathroom floor. His body ached with lack of proper rest, and his head swam with fleeting thoughts and memories. He had lost Al, in his nightmare. Hadn’t gotten to him in time, wasn’t able to transmute his soul fast enough before the Gate swallowed it up as its own.
No matter how much Edward tried to shake off the harsh thoughts and false memories, they stuck to him like burrs, prodding into his mind.
It was his fault.
His fault Al was stuck in a heap of metal. And if anything happened to him, it would be his fault too. Memories of the mission from a couple weeks back flitted into mind and he winced.
Al stumbling and falling, Al gripping the side of the cliff, flailing helplessly as the river thrashed below him. Ed fighting off another rogue alchemist as he tried to make his way to his brother, barely making it in time to transmute a step below him as the dirt caved in and Al fell onto his harshly put together platform.
If he had been just a second too late, Al would have fallen into the water, the blood seal would have washed off, and he would have been gone for good.
A harsh sob threatened to escape Edward’s tightly clenched jaw, and he choked back tears as his body shook with the pain of the memory.
It was his fault.
His fault Al was trapped, and now his fault Al almost died on that cliff.
Edward felt his arms shake as he struggled to hold onto the toilet seat, and with a suppressed shudder he slid to the tile, curling up instinctively on the floor.
Roy paused outside the door, listening to the slow scrape of automail against the toilet and the floor. To say he was concerned was a downplay, and his fingers tapped against each other incessantly as he tried to figure out what to do.
Edward also couldn’t figure out what to do. Panic flooded his brain as his mind replayed Al’s death from his nightmare over and over and over again. His breathing was too fast, his thoughts were too fast, but his reactions were too slow. He grasped his blond hair in his fists as he scrambled for any kind of a plan to get out of this fog. But harsh memories and words kept pulling him under, and he gasped as his chest constricted painfully.
He was going to die on the bathroom floor, he couldn’t breathe, couldn’t think: he was going to die.
Roy raised a hand cautiously and rapped against the door twice.
“Fullmetal? Is everything okay in there?”
Edward’s eyes widened and he opened his mouth to say something, anything that would convince the Colonel that he was ok and just needed a few minutes. But the words died in his throat and his chest heaved as he struggled to breathe. Black spots fumbled through his vision, and he knew that if he didn’t slow down, he was going to pass out.
But he couldn’t.
Roy tapped the door again, waiting to hear a response. He was growing more and more concerned at the lack of anything from the alchemist, and his fingers drummed rapidly against his thigh.
“If you don’t answer me, I’m coming in there,” Roy threatened, trying but failing to mask the worry in his voice.
Still no response.
“Alright Fullmetal I’m coming in.”
Roy wasted no time in grasping the door handle and shoving the door open. Ed hadn’t locked it, thankfully.
At first Roy was worried Ed was going to be sick and didn’t want the Colonel to see, but this was the furthest thing from his mind. Seeing Ed curled up on the tile, his body shaking incessantly as he choked and gasped and struggled to take in a solid breath of air, it sent shivers down the Colonel’s spine. Tears flowed freely down his pale cheeks, and his eyes were glassy and unfocused.
“Shit, Fullmetal, you need to breathe,” Roy quickly knelt in front of Edward, reaching a hand out tentatively. Edward barely registered it, but glanced at it briefly before resuming his blank stare forward.
Roy took that as an ok sign for physical contact, and gently placed a hand on his shuddering frame.
“Hey, you need to sit up,” He muttered softly, helping maneuver the boy until he was sitting against the toilet. His breathing was still way too fast, and his body shifted dangerously to the side before Roy placed steady hands on his arms that were still wound through his hair.
“Edward, listen to me, you’re having a panic attack. I need you to focus on me, can you do that? Listen to my voice,” Roy spoke slowly and calmly, waiting for the blonde to register anything he said.
He must have been able to hear a little bit of it, because he looked up at Mustang, trying to focus on his face.
“That’s it, just focus on me okay? Can you let go of your hair for me?”
Edward could barely hear the Colonel’s voice through the fog of panic that had settled around his mind. All he could make out was Al screaming at him for help, Al crying as his body was ripped from him, Al blaming him for what happened, Al’s voice fading out as he slipped into that godammed river.
“Edward! Focus on me!” Roy was nearing panic himself as the boy’s breathing hitched and only continued to speed up. He listed dangerously to one side, and Roy had to keep his grip steady to keep him from falling over.
“Edward you’re going to pass out, just focus on my breathing and try to slow it down, please Ed,” Mustang whispered softly, trying to break through the panic that was clearly overwhelming the young alchemist.
His vision was fuzzy, and bright white spots threatened to engulf his line of sight. Ed knew he was on the verge of losing consciousness, but he didn’t want to fall asleep again. He didn’t want to dream, didn’t want to see Al’s face as he fell into the screaming waters.
He shut his eyes tightly, blinking away some of the blurriness until he could make out the fuzzy shape of the Colonel in front of him. He was saying something to him, but Ed could barely make it out. His chest was burning from the effort it was taking to breathe, yet he couldn’t seem to hold any air in.
A cold hand was pressed against his sweaty flesh hand, gentle but strong fingers attempting to pry his grip off his hair. Edward shuddered and relaxed his hold, resting it against Roy’s open palm as both his hands were lowered slowly to his side. Ed half expected Roy to let it sit there, but he held his hand sternly, bringing it up to his own chest. His other hand still clasped against Ed’s automail arm, keeping him from sliding to the side.
“Hey, listen to me, just focus on me ok? Listen to my breathing and breathe with me ok Ed? Deep breath in,” Roy felt his voice quake but he tried to keep it as calm and steady as possible. He was relieved when Ed seemed to process his intentions and had let go of his vice-like grip on his hair, but they still had to get his breathing slowed down or he’d faint.
Ed took a deep breath, nearly choking when his body resisted the attempt, sending him into another stream of gasps for air.
“Hey, hey it’s okay, just like that. I know it’s hard but you need to keep trying, just match me okay?” Roy gripped the boy’s hand tightly and took deep exaggerated breaths. Fullmetal wearily watched as their joined hands rose and fall with Roy’s chest, and he struggled to match the pace.
After a long while, with many hiccups and shaky gulps of air, Edward was able to get his breathing slowed to a much steadier pace. Still a little quick, but stable enough that Roy felt comfortable lowering Ed’s hand from his chest.
“Can you hear me Ed?” He bent down slightly, trying to make eye contact from under Ed’s thick bangs.
Ed nodded shakily, his head suddenly weighing almost as much as his automail. The action sent him off balance and he lurched forward, his knees unsteady.
“Whoa hey, you’re okay,” Roy caught him and pulled him into his chest, a steady hand placed against the back of his head. His body was warm and covered in a thin sheen of sweat, but he was going to be ok.
He was going to be ok.
Ed pulled his arms forward until he gripped the front of Mustang’s shirt, his face scrunching up as tears threatened to stream down his face. Mustang felt his body tense up, and he rubbed the small of Ed’s back reassuringly.
“It’s ok, just relax, let it all out,” Roy whispered down to him.
Ed felt his body cave into the hold, and a week’s worth of tears burst through the gates. Warm liquid flowed into Roy’s shirt, but he barely noticed or cared. He just gripped the sobbing child closer to him, resting his head on top of Ed’s.
“You’re ok, it’s going to be ok,” He repeated reassuringly as Ed cried into his chest.
Minutes passed, and after about ten Edward was down to a few sniffles here and there. He was afraid to lean back and see the Colonel’s face, afraid to hear what he had to say. He appreciated the Colonel helping him, but surely there’d be a cost to pay.
“Edward?” Roy noticed the boy’s lack of sound and grew worried.
Fullmetal slowly leaned backwards, and Roy let his hands fall back to his side as he waited for him to speak.
“M’sorry,” Edward choked, his throat dry and voice raspy.
“Hey, don’t apologize. None of this is your fault,” Roy reassured him. “Do you want to talk about it?”
Ed shook his head slowly, “Not right now.”
Roy nodded understanding. “How long has this been happening?”
Edward paused, seeming to think on it.
“Couple years, but worse these past couple weeks.” He muttered. Roy tried not to look stunned at the response, but it was hard to hear.
“Why didn’t you come to me if you weren’t feeling well?” He asked gently. “I could have helped you sooner, you shouldn’t have to deal with this for so long on your own.”
“Didn’t wanna seem weak…” Ed trailed off, looking anywhere but at Roy. “Al helps sometimes, but I don’t want to scare him either.”
Roy sighed, bringing a hand to his forehead. “Having panic attacks doesn’t make you weak Edward,” He grabbed the boy’s hand gently in both of his.
“You have people that care about you and want to be here for you, you need to rely on them a little more. We just want to help you Ed, you shouldn’t have to handle all of this on your own, no matter how long you have been.”
Roy bit his lip, trying not to let his own tears fall. There had been enough for the evening.
“I’ll try,” He rasped. A moment went by before he said anything else.
“Thanks Mustang,” Ed mumbled, golden eyes peering into Roy’s. It was unnerving to see him so serious and sullen, but Roy knew he was being genuine.
“I care about you Ed, not just as my subordinate but as family. I’m always here for you, as are the rest of the team.” Roy smiled at him, but it wavered a bit as he saw the dark circles under his teammate’s eyes.
“When was the last time you got some sleep?” He asked.
Ed shrugged. “Been a while…” He trailed off, not really wanting to talk about too much more. His head hurt, his chest hurt, and he was exhausted mentally and physically.
“Ok, we can talk about it later,” Roy slowly stood up, offering a hand to the alchemist.
“Let’s get you to bed so you can get some proper sleep.”
Ed nodded slowly, reaching up to take the Colonel’s offered hands. He stood on shaky legs that seemed to wobble with the intense effort it took to stay upright.
“Do you need help?”
Edward turned to the Colonel and scoffed. “You’ve helped plenty…bastard,” he mumbled.
Roy couldn’t help but grin, glad to see the boy was starting to recover from his panicked state. He couldn’t have been more grateful to hear those words.
Ed glanced up at him smiling and rolled his eyes, taking a step out of the bathroom and towards the bed. He made it about a foot before his shakiness got the better of him and he pitched forward, vision getting hazy.
“Whoa, whoa, I’ve got you,” Roy placed steady hands under his arms, and pressed him upright until he was leaning against Mustang’s side, one arm wrapped around his body supportively.
“Just take it easy, you’re ok,” Roy said as the two of them made their way over to the two beds. Roy helped Edward sit on the edge of the mattress, and placed a hand under him to support him as he laid back down. Seeing as Ed was in bed and situated, he turned to get back to bed himself. That event had worn him out as well, though he’d never think of complaining about it. He was grateful that Ed was ok, as ok as he could be, and that he was able to help.
“Wait..” Ed’s voice broke his train of thought. Roy turned back to the flushed face of the alchemist.
“Can…can you stay?” He whispered, voice barely audible in the quiet room.
“Of course,” Roy nodded, walking over to the other side of the bed and laying down. Edward kept his back to him, but he placed a hand on his shoulders reassuringly, slowly and lazily massaging the stiff muscle with his palm.
A few moments went by, and Roy was certain that Ed had fallen asleep, when the alchemist stirred.
“How did you know?” He muttered.
“How did you know what to do?”
Roy let his hand fall softly, and he sighed.
“I used to get them too, Ishval wasn’t a pleasant time to us military folk,” He explained quietly. It had been many years since his last serious episode, and he had always hated them. But in a way he was grateful that he had the experience, and was able to use it to help Ed.
“Oh…I didn’t know…” Ed trailed off, his shoulders tensing once again.
“It’s ok, I’m happy to talk about it,” Roy said. Maybe happy wasn’t the best choice of word there, but he was comfortable discussing it, especially if it helped make Ed feel better.
Roy smiled softly, running a hand through the messy golden locks that flowed across the bed.
“I’m always here for you Ed,” he reminded the boy.
“And please, call me Roy.”
Edward chuckled at the thought, a welcomed sound in the darkness of the room.
“Night then… Roy,” He said after a while.
There was still a long way to go, and some talks to be had, but for the moment everything was ok. They were ok.
Ed was ok.