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Giants in the Forest

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Roy didn’t collapse, but he damn near sank to his knees.

He certainly started to shake as his mind went skipping and skipping, like the needle of a record player flinching over vinyl to spit a phrase on repeat.

Don’t fall. Don’t fall. Don’t fucking fall.

The room wasn’t empty.

Relief hit him hard and fast like a bucket of ice water being dumped over his neck.

Ed was propped up, looking out the window spilling silvery moonlight across the floor. There were bandages covering his ear, the scraggly wisps of automail that were once there had been removed. He felt dizzy at the sight. Roy’s hand slid away from the door absently and it fell shut with a thud.

Ed stiffened and turned, the light catching on his hair and Roy suddenly felt like he shouldn’t be there. Like he was intruding on something. The blond blinked at him. 

He blinked right back. “Uh, hi.”

It was very, very quiet. 

Ed stared a moment longer, eye wide, before doubling over laughing. Roy watched him, too confused and relieved to be offended, leaning against his crutch precariously. 

“Hi? Seriously?” Ed covered his mouth, trying to stop the snickering, wincing through the small fit. The older alchemist didn’t move.

He simply took in the sight of a fully alive Edward Elric, laughing at Roy like he always did. He looked tired and small, but he was awake with a beating heart. A weight lifted from his shoulders and the offence that’d been reigned back was released. He scowled at Ed.

“I’ll stop.” The blond said with a snort.

He didn’t stop. He kept right on laughing, making no effort to actually calm down. It took Roy a moment to regain his bearings and remember what he was doing here if not to have his ego dragged through the mud by his subordinate. 

“It doesn’t.” He blurted out before he could stop himself. Ed raised his eyebrows, the amused huffs finally slowing to a stop. He tilted his head at Roy questioningly. 

“What doesn’t?”

“You asked if the military has dental insurance. It doesn’t.”

The blond frowned, looking at his lap with distain. “Aw shit.”

“I’ll cover it.” Roy added hastily. It would hardly dent his bank to do so, and Ed, self-sufficient and world-weary, still couldn’t budget for his life. Roy slowly padded over to a chair jammed into the far corner and started to pull it across the floor. Ed eyed him, his expression narrow, waiting for whatever catch the older would tact on, as was tradition with these things. Never in writing, just for the sake of repaying Ed for all the crap he would typically pull.

Namely, property damage.

Ed’s face went flat, his shoulders shrinking in on themselves. “How many favours is it gonna cost me?”

“Just one.” Roy beat back the urge to make unrealistic and worry-ridden demands with a very big stick because it wouldn’t work, obviously. Even if he found a way to subtly air concerns, Ed would grab his comments by the throat and break them over his knee. Probably while smiling. He’s a force to be reckoned with and there wasn’t a thing Roy could do to change that. 

“Okay, shoot.”

“Don’t tell Hawkeye I was here.”

“Why—oh my god you broke out of your room.” He looked like he was going to laugh again. Roy closed his eyes, back going ridged and trying to wash away the remaining hysteria that was still prodding his mind.

“Maybe.” The dark haired man admitted quietly, looking at the ground, pausing from his task of yanking the chair to Ed’s bedside. A task, might he say, that was really hard to do with a crutch.

“You broke out of your room!” The younger alchemist was full on grinning, the devilish look in his eyes batting a million.

“Quite!” He hissed back, dropping down into his seat, shoulders slumped.

“I can’t believe you’re risking the Lieutenant’s wrath to tell me about dental insurance.”

It felt rare to see Ed acting so... unguarded. Wrong, actually. Like this was a breach of trust, some secret he’d just accidentally eavesdropped his way into knowing. After a savoury moment of contemplating how quickly Roy could launch himself out the window, he let his eyes stray back to the blond in front of him.

“That’s not why I’m here.”

This was stupid. He should leave. Or, like, pretend to collapse so he could end the conversation before he admitted to any of the millions of emotions and thoughts that had been tearing up his mind.

Ed’s hellfire smile faded away at the sobering tone. “What?” 

“She—Hawkeye said you were okay but she’s never been afraid to lie to me before.” He tried incredibly hard to not fidget. It wasn’t something he was all that prone to, but it served as an excuse not to watch Ed’s expression as he, sacrificing as little pride as possible, explained his sudden appearance. 

Ed was watching him as though he was puzzle with a few pieces missing: this goes here, that goes there, but the dead centre was missing. Ed tried peering under the older man’s hair to catch his eye because that was where about ninety percent of his bottled up emotions tended to pool. “Lie about…?” The blond leaned forward, waiting for a response. 

How do you delicately tell someone you thought they were dead? 

Is it even possible?

Roy could, in theory, just say it aloud. 

I thought you died.

It would be the quickest and easiest. Ed would understand why he’d come to check in and think less of it. But also... absolutely not. He wouldn't be that blunt in these matters, and maybe Roy didn’t want that kind of anxiety traipsing about in the open.

He took all of three seconds to throw caution to the wind and hope that whatever his brain and mouth conspired to say wasn’t too damning. “I passed out before Havoc found a pulse on you. I… didn’t know if you’d made it back or not.”

“Yikes.” Ed looked taken aback. “Well, I’m not dead.”

“I’m aware.”

“You could be hallucinating or something.”

He rubbed his temple. “Do not say that.” Roy grumbled without a single ounce of authority. He wasn’t an officer right now. He wasn’t a Colonel or a State Alchemist. He was just tired, sore, and submerged in relief. And Ed was alive.

The blond waved to him cautiously. “Spacing out on me?” 

Roy shook himself from the stupor and focused on Ed who, unsurprisingly, had started trying to shift out of his bed. No one else was this stupidly tenacious, or even half as determined and it was going to kill Roy one day.

Like, actually physically kill him. The kid was going to do something and he would drop dead from sheer exasperation. 

“You shouldn’t do that.” Roy had half a mind to try to stop Ed from getting up. He was reasonably certain that Ed’s injuries would hinder the attempt, but he liked having all his fingers intact so he backed off and waited for the kid to buckle.

“You are definitely right.” Ed said with a wince, his arm cradled against his chest. “Ow.”

“Lay down,” He aimed for stern but missed by a mile. It sounded pretty frail, his voice becoming rather brittle as another relentless wave of oh thank fuck came crashing down. It was by far the most pleasant tsunami he could imagine, though.

“Your request is being processed,”

“You’re gonna hurt yourself—“

Ed cut him off. “Request denied.”

Roy sighed, running a hand down his face. “I can’t believe I was worried about you.” He muttered. His voice was a bit too loud, apparently, because Ed had stopped trying to get up and was staring at him. 

He wasn’t smiling anymore, just watching. 

“Was it really that bad?” He asked softly.

Error. Nope. Ed wasn’t ever supposed to sound like… that. Whatever it was.

“It... yeah.” Roy deflated. Once again his shields were crumbling. “It was bad. I honestly thought you might’ve died.”

“Oh. Sorry.”

“Sorry for what?”

“For making you worry? I dunno.” There he goes ago, putting on steel-soled shoes and clattering against touch sensitive bombs, leaving a lost and frustrated Roy in his wake. Tappity-tap and he’s off doing pirouettes.

Ed pulled at a loose string on the sheets. “Nearly dying is a pretty dick move, if you ask me.”

Roy couldn’t refute it in the slightest. It terrified him more than he ever thought something could. He wouldn’t say it, but those moments of not knowing if Ed would breathe past the moon’s shift had edged into his official book of gut-wrenching horror, claiming a spot right near the top of the list with smug ease. But that would just start up a round of the blame game and he didn’t have the mind to wrestle Ed’s obsessive ownership over responsibility into a waste basket. 

So he changed the subject. Evasion was a good tactic for these sorts of things most of the time. “Do you remember the last thing you said?”

Ed slumped against the headboard, “Yeah. I called you a liar.”

Emphasis on most of the time. 

“You sure did, prick.” Roy tried to let himself chuckle but it was pulled tight over the air. Ed’s brow pressed into line, his eyes dulling. It could’ve been guilt had it been anyone else, but that was impossible with Ed. It wouldn’t be.

(It was.)

“You said I wouldn’t die and... I called you a liar.” His voice had grown very fragile in the precious seconds it took to say those words, as though they were thinning his defences as he spoke aloud. 

Roy nodded. “Yeah.”

“That was mighty shitty of me.”

“I suppose.”

“No seriously. That was... crap, Colonel. Are you okay?”

Since when does Ed sound this apologetic? A sharp jolt shot through Roy’s head, tumbling through his ribs and bashing his torn leg. He grimaced, then painted on the best smirk his could, barreling through the throbbing mess of wounds with sardonicism.

“I told you to have more faith in me.” Roy leaned back, mindful of the bruises that still prickled beneath his skin. It looked casual enough, not too pained.

Ed huffed weakly, his head tilting in tandem with a lopsided smile. “Still a cocky bastard, I see.” 

“Of course. How long have you been up?”

The younger alchemist paused, frowning in thought. Roy did, in fact, notice how his hand had left the blankets to hug at his side. There was an IV in his arm, disappearing into the folds of cloth. He wondered how many pain killers were being pumped through Ed to allow him to speak. How much of him was missing now? 

How much blood had he needed? 

Had the wound claimed a rib or two? More? What if it had taken a organ or torn into—

It took a lot of effort but he pulled himself from the nasty catalogue of presumptions, refocusing on Ed when he answered. “An hour, I think.”

“Ah.” A tiny pinch of regret stemmed in his throat. Ed had woken up to a dark, unfamiliar room. Alone. He was calm enough now, though, so many Roy was overthinking this. “You feel okay?” Roy asked.

“No, I feel like I got kidnapped and attacked by wolves.”

Oh.

There goes his resolve. A puddle at his feet. Roy’s vision tunnelled and tilted. It happened all at once with no real warning. The words made him dizzy. His stomach flipped and his heart nearly broke his ribcage down the middle, thrashing in his chest while he clenched his teeth, willing himself not to get sick at the memories bombarding him relentlessly. 

“Hey, Colonel.”

Ed sounded a bit far off. Roy was getting more and more lost in his own head. He could feel it happening but was too caught up in the cold mix of guilt and anger to claw his way out. 

Down, down, down, it dragged him. He was stuck in place. A house of cards ready to fold and cave.

“Mustang.”

Ed had been so close to dying. If Hawkeye had been even a few minutes later, he’d’ve been gone. People appear and disappear off the face of the earth and Ed would’ve been added to that. He could have disappeared. A statistic. A number. It would’ve just… happened. Because Roy hadn’t done enough. What could he have done different? Better?
There had to’ve be some way to prevent this. He knew that the younger alchemist was capable. Closer to an adult than most people twice his age, but it wouldn’t change that he should’ve been looking out for Ed—

Roy!”

He jerked back, blinking at Ed who suddenly was watching him nervously, searching for something that wasn’t there. His bright eyes softened by a fraction, brows tilting up with a weak smile. “I’m fine. Okay, not fine, but I’m not dead. Relax.” 

He forced air into his lungs. It was tasteless and thick, filled to the brim with the stench of a hospital, sharply cutting through the clouds forming over his head. “I—right. okay.”

The blond fell back a little. “Good.” He sighed, looking relived for a micro-second before it was replace with a twisting, disgusted frown. “Holy shit that was weird. Who the fuck is Roy? That felt wrong.” Ed shuddered. “Don’t make me say that again.”

Roy looked down, his good hands wrapping around his broken fingers while they twitched, trying to curl into a fist. “I’m—“ 

“If you say sorry I’m going to knock your teeth in.” Ed said sternly. He even had the gall to hold up his hand, dragging the IV with it and reducing any menace he could’ve had to that of a very angry mouse. The older alchemist blinked owlishly. A small bubbled bloomed deep in his throat, pushing through him until a feeble laugh slipped out. He glanced out the window to where the moon was firing bullets of white and silver down onto the land, breaking through the glass and ricocheting around the room. It was rather calming.

His eyes flicked back to Ed, who was frowning at him. Childishly, at that.

“Hey, Colonel.”

“Hum?”

Ed give him a hard smile, the young, troublesome side of him charging up to the home plate. Five days ago, Roy would’ve been loathed to see that smirk. Now? Eh.

“Are dogs still your favourite animal?”

Hell no.”

 


 

Hughes wanted to be anywhere else.

Even a wasteland would be preferable to this tiny box of a room, one way mirrors glaring at him and a smile spread against a blank face like a grisly slash. Hildy hummed at him from across the table, a tape recorder sitting between them. Hughes kept his face neutral, sending a glance behind him to where Fuery and Falman stood. 

The were armed, passively hoping for an excuse to pull the trigger on the woman before them. In writing, they were here to protect him, in truth, they were here to keep him from committing a crime. They wouldn’t do anything unless Hildy gave them a reason. Hughes on the other hand…

His fingers had been tracing the knife in his sleeve since he walked into the station.

He did up his face in shades of intimidation and took a deep breath.

“State your name.”

“Brunhilda Markov.” She replied easily.

“Where were you born.”

“Eastern Command training camp, fifth barrack. As luck would have it, that’s where I died too!” She spread her bound hands like she was showing off a prize. A pleasant thought of breaking her nose wormed into Hughes’ normally pragmatic mind. He shooed it away with a scowl.

“Why did you kidnap Colonel Mustang?”

“God, you’re boring.” She huffed, blowing a strand of hair out of her face. His hands curled, from the corner of his eye Hughes saw Fuery glowering harshly, backed by his teammate’s steely glare. Hildy continued before he got the chance to intervene. “I’d much rather be around Mustang and that little prodigy of yours. They were much more…” She paused to fire off a cruel look, “lively.”

If looks could kill, Hildy would be a corpse on the ground, beaten by the three sets of eyes trained on her. Hughes gripped the cuffs of his jacket. “What exactly happened when they were in your… custody.” He spat the word out, the rotten feeling of the bureaucratic bullshit burning at his throat. 

Prisoners. They’d been prisoners. 

There was no tip-toeing around that but all he could do was cock back the official words like a bullet in a gun and shoot them full throttle. 

She shrugged. “Oh, this and that.” 

Murder is a crime. Murder is a crime. You can’t claim self defence. Murder is a crime.

“Just asked some questions.” Hildy lit up, leaning forward in her creaky folding chair. “Oh, you should’ve seen Mustang when I filled up the golden boy’s lungs. Like a true dog of the military, snarling and everything.” She exclaimed. As if it was something to be happy about. Hughes felt his stomach curdle, the sourness clawing into his mouth with a helping hand from nausea. He growled, hands shaking below the table. She beamed. “Yes! Exactly like that!”

“Stop it.” Hughes hissed through his teeth.

“He started out all big and tough, but he was pleading soon enough.” His blood boiled as she chuckled to herself. “Stop! Wait! He doesn’t know anything.” She intimidated in a high, shrill whine. It broke off into another airy snicker.

“Can’t see why he’d be so adamant though. The kid’s a brat, through and through.” 

Fuery’s tight hand on his shoulder was the only thing that kept him from slamming her head into the wall. Hughes drew in a deep breath, struggling to calm the nerves that had been frayed and sparked viciously at her words. He slammed both hands not the table, pushing away from his chair. His knuckle jammed down on the recorder, halting it coldly. 

She raised a brow. “Oh, did I strike a nerve? Pity.”

“Excuse me.”

Hildy tilted her head. “By all means.”

He wordlessly pushed through to door and made a B-line for the restroom. 

His fists found a home in the plaster wall, shoulders trembling. “Damn it all.”

He wanted to be in the hospital, watching over his friend and checking in on Ed. Talking to Alphonse and Hawkeye, keeping himself updated. He wanted to be there if they woke up, but instead he was stuck interrogating the delusional terrorist who’d torn them to pieces. 

“Damn it all.”

He washed his hands till they were red and raw, then strode back to the horribly small room.

 


 

He was gone. 

Of course he was! Why would she expect anything else? Riza marched through the halls of Flamborough’s general hospital, her expression neutral save for the half-dozen knives shooting from her gaze and leaving holes in the walls. 

She’d arrived to find the Colonel’s room empty and the crutch she’d hidden was missing. His IV hung limp and she watched her self-control fly out the window. Riza was ready to slap him upside the head as soon as she found the stubborn idiot.

Though… part of her understood. He’d probably panicked in the night and ran off to make sure all the worst case scenerios bouncing around his skull were just figments cooked up by his own frantic mind.

Edward had been slipping away when they got to them, barely alive and rapidly falling into the damning clutches of shock. She’d been in the ambulance when they started doing rescue breaths and scrambling for an oxygen mask. It shook her to the core.

Still, Riza wished the Colo—Roy would’ve trusted her. For his own sake.

If that man had torn his stitches so help her…

Riza halted in front of room thirty-five. It was the most likely place for him to have gone. If he had passed out in a hallway, the staff members surely would’ve found him and dragged him back to a bed, syringe in hand filled with something to keep him down. She turned the knob swiftly.

The sight she was met with was… not what she expected.

Sure enough, there was Roy. Sitting in a rickety looking chair, slumped forward, his face buried in his arms on the edge of the bed with a growing stack of paper cranes balanced atop his head. Ed stopped midway through placing a tiny bird on the mop of dark hair when she burst in.

He was propped up against roughly ten pillows and managed to look dignified with the impish surprise written over his face.

“It’s an experiment.” He said plainly, nodding to his paper flock.

“An experiment.” She repeated, dumbfounded. There was at least ten cranes, varying in size and shape. They didn't look exactly like cranes, actually... ravens? Crows?

Riza sighed. “When did you wake up?”

“Few hours ago.”

“How do you feel?”

“Terrible.” Ed offered a pained smile. “Could you get someone to up the painkillers? I am in absolute agony.” He said it so glibly that it seemed like a joke, but Riza didn’t miss how he was straining. Shoulders drawn up tightly and his hand looking for anything to stay busy with.

She couldn’t help the fond, worried smile that tugged at her lips. “Of course. Right after I get him—“ Riza looked down pointedly. “—back to his room.”

He sank back into the cushions with a huff. “Please do.”

With the help of a conveniently located wheelchair, Riza dragged a comically drowsy Roy back to his room and unceremoniously dumped him back into bed, tossing blankets and pillows over him until he was awake and scowling at her.

“I’m not a child, Lieutenant.” He grumbled when she convinced (threatened) him into letting a nurse replace his IV.

“You’re certainly acting like one.”

That shut him up quick enough. The frown stayed put, but he let himself be looked over while Riza strode back to the left wing to discover that Ed was running a fever. He looked tried and flushed as a middle aged woman calmly explained that he’d developed pneumonia.

He was still recovering from… everything else, so this threw a big shiny wrench directly into her day. Havoc had gone off to retrieve Al from where he was curled up in a phone booth, talking to the young girl Riza had meet once in Resembool. He’d been like that since Ed had been admitted to the hospital, unable to bring himself to sit and wait for his brother to wake up but too anxious to focus on another task. Al had gently approached her alongside Hughes and her teammates to meekly ask if he could borrow some money. In a blink they had showered him with coins, no questions asked and stalwartly refusing reimbursement of any kind.

He’d camped out with a receiver cradled in one hand, bouncing between the Rockbell’s to someone she overheard him calling Sig. Of course, Riza had stooped by twice a day to give him updates and pull him out of the cramped box for an hour or so of walking. Even if it was in circles around the block, she made a point to get him into the open before he drove himself crazy.

The nurse assured her that Ed would recover, but it was disheartening nonetheless.

Apparently the boy had passed out mere moments after getting shot full of morphine and fever-reducers. There was a chance he would be able to sleep if off, if they were lucky. Al would be relived.

Everyone would.

Hughes, Feury and Falman were all dealing with the more technical fallout go the kidnapping, so she could volunteer to watch Ed while Breda and Havoc stared the Colonel down in her stead. Riza spent the time brushing sweat-soaked bangs away from the young boy’s face and obsessively replacing the cool cloth on his forehead, listening to his feverish murmurs carefully. 

Most of it was incoherent, but she caught him whispering the word liar more than once.

Riza's hand rested over his the whole time, squeezing gently when his face would pinch.

Her heart bled itself dry before the sun was overhead.

Ed slept until noon, eyes flying open urgently as he tried to sit up just after the minute hand brushed the hour. Riza managed to catch him before he ripped his side open and eased the blond back down. “You’re alright,” She said gently. His skin was hot to the touch, opposite of the deathly cold he’d been when she’d been in contact him, desperately trying to haul him onto a stretcher before a chunk of earth went melting off the gorge. She promptly purged the memory and concentrated on the Ed in front of her. The one who was blinking at her, squinting and drawing in heavy breaths. 

“You’re not—“ He coughed. “Lieutenant?”

“Hi, Ed.” She touched his arm lightly, just in case his vision had gotten spotty. “Do you know where you are?”

He frowned, looking past her to the ceiling. “Hospital?”

“That’s right. You’ve got a fever.” He groaned and draped his arm over his eyes. Riza reached to the wall and flicked off the lights, drawing the curtains shut before returning to the boy’s side. Hopefully it would ease the migraine kneading into his head.

“A fever...” He started, lowering his arm hesitantly to meet her eyes, “why the hell do I have a fever?”

 


 

Ed was dead. A nurse had come in said that pneumonia killed him. She smiled when she told him and Roy couldn’t remember if she had ever been in his room before. She had holes for eyes and the space looked hazy. It didn’t much matter because she’s just told him that Ed was gone. The nurse melted away into the floor with a splash.

After everything, it had been sickness that took the kid.

He was dead.

The room shook and Roy bolted upright out of bed with a strangled gasp, blinking hard. The hallways were dim and his leg screamed as he limped down the corridor all the way to the left wing and into room thirty-five. 

He sat pressed against the wall and watched Ed’s chest rising and falling, feeling sick with worry and fright because fuck

It was a nightmare. It was a nightmare. He’s alright. It hadn’t been real. There was no nurse like the one who’d appeared. He’s still breathing.

Hours later Hawkeye found him and tried to coax him back to bed.

“One minute.” He said weakly, eyes still locked on the younger alchemist, silently counting the up and down of his inhales. 

“One minute.” She agreed softly.

She managed to pulled him back to his room before the nurses started tearing their hair out. Roy didn’t want to close his eyes after that.

 


 

Calamity was a pretty word, wasn’t it? Euphonic too. Which is why Ed wanted to know who in the fresh fuck decided to drop-kick the word over to the destructive side of the dictionary and dump it into the lap of chaos.

Calamity. 

It was the only thing he could think to fit his situation right now. Apparently Mustang had decided to perform not one, but two encores of his dumb little disappearing act whilst Ed had been soaring with the clouds, high on painkillers and cocooned in a metric ton of blankets like some kind of junkie caterpillar. 

He was only awake for the aforementioned second reprise.

“Runt.” He’d announced the second he stepped through the door.

“Bastard.” Ed replied after digging his head out of the mountain of covers. The man hobbled to his chair and propped a battered leg against the bed, tilting precariously on the back legs of his seat. Ed almost expected him to fall.

“Aren’t you supposed to be, you know, recovering?”

Mustang shrugged back. “Bored.”

“So you decide to annoy me?”

“Bingo.”

Ed glared at him weakly. He couldn’t really ace the intimidation check with an icy cloth over his head and the worlds longest straw floating just a few inches from his face. The absolute mess Ed’s hair had become only made matters worse. His bedhead rivalled the sandman himself. “I’ll call Hawkeye.” He threatened.

Mustang toppled out of his chair. Gracelessly. “You wouldn’t.” 

“Oh, but yes I would.”

The dark haired man pushed himself upright, glowering like someone had dumped out his coffee. He fixed Ed with stony glare. The blond gave a one-armed shrug and flopped back. “Have fun talking to the wall. I’m gonna try to untangle my insides.” He rolled over and burrowed into the mattress until nothing but a few loose strands of hair gave away his presence, a hand pressed to his side as he failed to sleep.

Soon enough, Mustang was being yelled at by a very exasperated Hawkeye. Ed is sure he heard her swear through the lecture and he could hardly hold in the snickers that bounded forward from his throat.

“Fine!” She threw her hands in the air and stormed out of the room. Mustang was pale and blank-faced.

“Oh my god.” Ed laughed into his hand unabashed and demonically gleeful. “I’m going to break a rib. Oh my fucking god.”

“She’s going to kill me.” The older said dumbly, staring at the door.

“And I get to watch!”

Mustangs head thumped against the back of his chair. “You’re being very insensitive. I’m about to be murdered.”

“Maybe if you’d just asked to come visit, you cryptic weirdo, she wouldn’t have to.” He just sank down further into the chair while Ed cackled at his very outright embarrassment. It was his job, after all. It said right there in the contract that he must be an asshole and make fun of his CO. That’s how Ed remembered it, anyways. 

Maybe it had been his own personal amendment, actually. Either way, it was in writing.

Hawkeye didn’t, in fact, kill the Colonel. 

(Ed was devastated.)

She did arrange that Mustang’s room be only a few doors down so that he would drop all two hundred pounds of stress and stupidity onto a creaky hospital bed and take a goddamn nap.

With his own personal shadow gone, Ed quietly acknowledged that he’d been robbed of a rib and the sharp pain that filled every coherent moment didn’t let him forget. It was a good thing he’s grown used to acting through the loving blaze of aches. It could’ve been far worse, he knew that, but it didn’t make the lengthy recovery time any easier to swallow.

The Lieutenant had given him the rundown of everything he would need to pull through as his face fell to the floor.

Missing arm aside, he would be on bed watch for the next three weeks at minimum. The hole in his side could spell lasting consequences.

As in, lifelong issues.

Phantom pains and breathing difficulties could hang over him for years after, but it’s not like he wasn’t already familiar with that. It was just another knot of, ragged, twisted skin that would solidify into a scar. Another tally mark on his flesh. She’d left him after explaining, claiming to need to talk to one of the nurses concerning his recovery, but Ed knew she was giving him space.

He ran his hand lightly over his ribs, feeling where his skin gave way to nothing beneath the bandages swathed around him. The dent was enough to steal away his breath in shock. Horror too. 

Ed didn’t cry, but he did hold his flesh hand over the space for a long while. Like that could fix it, somehow.

Winry was working overtime to get him a new arm, according to Al.

Al, who had been in and out like a currier for the first day and a half, relying messages both to him and Mustang’s team, much to Ed’s dismay. He simply wanted to take a few ounces of comfort in his brother’s presence, was that too much to ask?

Ed knew not to press. Al coped with things very differently than him, so Ed let his brother clank around until he was ready to sit and talk. Which is where he was now, staring at the suit of armour that he could only ever see as something small and young.

“Don’t you dare.”

That was the first thing Ed said. Without fanfare or preamble, giving the sternest look he possibly could from under an avalanche of sheets. 

“Huh?” Al tilted his head, his fists coming loose from where they’d been tightly coiled.

“You’re beating yourself up over this. Stop it.” Ed demanded, stubbornly planting his hand on Al’s head in a light smack. It was barely admonishing, leaning into affectionate and worried beyond a real scolding. He softened at his brother’s sigh. “Al, there’s nothing you could’ve done.”

“But—“

Al.” 

“…okay.”

They sat and talked for hours about anything they could. From guessing games to complex alchemic problems, they blasted through discussion material until the stars glared down at them through the window. It was overwhelmingly reliving to have Al there. Ed made a note to thank Hawkeye for bringing him out.

It was a bit selfish, as it had forced his brother through yet another traumatic experience, but Ed also needed someone familiar. They already have baggage crammed up to the eyes, one more thing to their list was par for the course. A morbid thought, but truthful. But Ed still made sure that Al wasn’t stuck watching over him day and night, knowing full well how much it pained the younger. Even if he never said it, Ed knew it hurt.

The third night Mustang snuck out, Ed snapped.

“Alright, what’s going on with you?!” He cried when the older silently took up residence beside his bed, quietly having cracked the door open in the watery moonlight that bled through the curtains.

“No idea what you’re talking about.” Mustang said casually, flipping through a book Al had left on Ed’s side table. It was obvious he wasn’t paying any mind to the words written on the pages, just skimming, leafing through to appear busy. Ed wished he could cross his arms. 

Woe is me, my other one appears to have been misplaced. 

Instead he picked up one of the dozens of pillows and threw it at Mustang’s head. His aim was impeccable, nailing the idiot right between the eyes and leaving him dazed and deadpan. Ten points!

Ed had exasperation and curiosity swallowing him up to his chin, threatening to drown any pride for the sake of some straight answers from Colonel Cryptic. “Why do you keep coming here? I get the first time, but now?” He leaned forward, crossing his legs beneath the blankets. “What the hell, Colonel.”

Mustang looked at him. Past him, actually. 

His eyes were ringed red and shadowed with sleeplessness. Ed tensed a little, looking over the older alchemist and noticing that he looked pretty disheveled and out of sorts. His voice was low, edged with a line of fuses. “You ever have nightmares?” Mustang asked, dropping the book into his lap.

Ed frowned, brain running like crazy to find the logic in any of this. Otherwise he was going to be lost forever in the confusing, unexplained void pouring off Mustang like oil or something even darker. “What does that have to do with—“

Whish goes the match.

The older man cut him off with a weary sigh, pitched like the cry of a dying storm. “I just needed to be sure.”

Hiss goes the fuse.

The blond wrinkled his nose, head tilted and catching slivers of light out of the corner of his eye, port glinting just slightly. He parroted Mustang’s words. “Needed to…”

Bang goes the bomb.

 “Oh.”

The man looked defeated, burying his face in his hands. “Don’t laugh.”

That was not what he’d expected. Ed doesn’t know what he did it expect, but it certainly wasn’t what he got. Ed’s lips pressed into a line, gravity and maybe a little bit of sympathy pulling the corners down. 

“I’m not going to laugh.” He was sincere, gazing over with a very disorientated look playing over his features. 

“You did last time!” Mustang huffed. 

Ed winced a little. “I didn’t know that’s why you snuck out! I thought you were just trying to bug me.”

“Yeah, well…”

“You’re real stupid, you know that?”

“Thanks, Fullmetal.” He muttered, combing a hand through his hair in a very half-ass attempt to make it look like less of a rats nest. It only improved slightly. From a rats nest to, like, a rats vacation home. Cottage? Whatever.

Ed shook his head, muttering some creatively put together curses under his breath. Havoc would’ve been proud. He watched Mustang from the corner of his eye, expression caught between a glare and a meaningful shine. “If you’re that worried, just ask for a shared room.”

“What?”

“It’d save Hawkeye some of the years you keep chipping off her lifespan.” The younger alchemist had already calculated the woman would be greying by thirty at this rate, so really, he was just doing her a favour. He tried not to flinch when Mustang’s head jerked up to look at him in surprise, his good hand wrapping around the busted one.

“Not that I’m opposed but, uh, you sure?”

“You’re not the only one who get’s nightmares, Colonel.” The spiteful admission felt bitter on his tongue. 

“I…I see,” Mustang said slowly. 

Ed was very tempted to throw another pillow because the look on his face was far too gentle and understanding. It didn’t even register as the same person, his brows pitched upwards empathetically, eyes dark while his entire demeanour twisted to cautiously extend a branch in Ed’s direction. He begrudgingly accepted the offering with a tectonic eye-roll. “Whoop-dee-fuckin’-do. Trauma buddies.”

“Not how I would put it.”

“Whoop-dee-freakin’-do.” He amended, piling on snark like an overeager toddler at a self-serve buffet. Mustang stood, shakily grasping the back of the chair while he rediscovered the fine art of not falling flat on his face, tilting dangerously before his feet graced him with balance. He limped towards the door, kicking the cushion Ed had pelted him haphazardly. 

He touched the wall whilst Ed eyed him curiously. “I’ll bully the hospital staff tomorrow.”

“Tomorrow?” The younger prompted.

“Yep.” He sounded almost cheery, “I’m gonna steal a spare cot.”

The blond saluted with the wrong hand, grinning. “Godspeed, Colonel dumbass.”

 


 

There was an understanding to simply not speak about the tiny moments that existed in the intervals between twilight and daybreak. It was only the first night spent in the same room when Ed had shaken Roy awake from a vivid dream and calmly, silently, allowed the older man to hug him like his life depended on it.

Ed didn’t move, just wordlessly rested his chin on Roy’s shoulder, letting him cling. The whole time, Roy expected Ed to just… vanish.

To not be there anymore.

To dissolve and leave him in an empty room.

Of course, he was still there and torrent after torrent of relief crashed over him. 

The younger didn’t seem to care much, neither leaning into or away from the contact, so he held on as long as he damn well pleased. Every time another fresh epiphany that the kid was alive hit Roy, he squeezed Ed tighter.

“It’s fine. Nightmares are a bitch.” Was all the blond said when the other finally pulled back. Roy didn’t have the energy to feel any kind of embarrassment at being comforted by a kid.

The image of a body bag instead of white sheets and bandages had stained his mind red. It really didn’t matter if he had some kind of image to uphold because it felt all too real when the dream showed him a battered metal arm spotted with blood, it’s owner staring blankly out of a six foot hole. 

Later the same night, Roy went rummaging through a storage closet for a bucket. He didn’t say a word placing it at the younger alchemist’s bedside, steadying him with a hand because Ed could barely move and was sick beyond belief.

“This is stupid.” Ed muttered between heaves. “This is so stupid.”

“Yeah.” His hand edged around the chilled metal of the blond’s port, keeping him from slumping off the bed altogether. “I know.”

He dug another bin from a room full of cleaning supplied and kept it under his bed in case it happened again. Hawkeye noticed, but she didn’t ask. 

Dozens of times a day he would hobble over and poke Ed once or twice just to know for certain that he’s real. Roy wouldn’t soon forget the far off, panicked look the kid got every time the squeaking of the drains and pipes sounded a little too much like the high squealing of animals, nor the slight buzz of lamps before they flickered on sending goosebumps over both their necks.

There were the times in the dead of night when Roy was staring over at Ed, watching the kid breath as his thoughts ran in circles because he was just a little too still and there was too long of a stretch between breaths.

(Stop panicking. You’re both safe.) 

Right when Roy would be ready to surge out of bed and shout for a nurse, the younger would, without even cracking open his eye, mutter: “Not dead.”

“I know.” Roy replied the same every time.

Ed would flip him off and roll over to glare.

“Go back to sleep. Goddamn paranoid ass...” The expletives would trail and he slipped back into a throne of blankets.

None of it would be brought up later. Roy discovered that a great way to calm Ed down was to plant a hand on his head and tell him all the dumbest stories Roy had piled up of his and Hughes’ days at the academy. 

In turn, Ed learned that the older had a nasty habit of punching in his sleep. 

“Ow.” He said from the floor where he’d been knocked, dumbfounded. Roy’s hand shook, eyes going wide.

“Fuck.”

“Oh relax. You’ve got a weak arm anyways.” Ed pushed himself up and leaned against the wall, subconsciously prodding at his freshly hit jaw. 

“Sorry.”

“Don’t worry about it. I’ll get you back later.”

And he did.

He spent the night side by side with Ed, shoulders brushing as they both quietly looked out the window, sitting on the floor and leaning against his bed. Ed’s hand lashed out and punched him in the arm without warning. He carried on as though it didn’t even happen and Roy almost started laughing at the bizarreness of it. The night was calm for a while longer.

Roy froze entirely when there came a soft weight in his shoulder. He didn’t dare move as the kid’s breathing was ironed of it’s creases by the whims of sleep. He just stayed in place, watching clouds out the glass panes and letting himself essentially be reduced to a pillow.

It was surprisingly easy. No air of awkwardness, just a weird sense of mundanity tinted by... comfort? Yeah.

The peace was interrupted by a terrifying whisper from beside him. 

“I can’t breathe.”

Roy dashed from the room frantically calling for a doctor or a nurse or a miracle-worker.

The stitches had been torn in Ed’s side and he swore not to mention the anxiety that left him shaking for hours afterwards and slipping into the restrooms to wash out his mouth.

Of course he wasn’t going to bring up his own denial at the morphine-induced confession from Ed that he couldn’t remember either of his parents anymore. He certainly wouldn’t ever talk about the conversation that followed.

“Never heard you talk about him before.” Roy sat with his legs folded, a quilt around his shoulders and curiosity in his eyes. Ed steered clear of the topic of his father like the word itself was toxic and would strike him down if it came too close. 

He blinked up at the ceiling sleepily. “What’s to say? He’s a brilliant alchemist and a shit dad.”

“That so.” The dark haired man replied plainly.

“He left when I was, like, four.”

Roy crossed his arms and fell against his headboard, frowning. “For such a smart alchemist, your dad is stupid.”

“Not that I disagree but, uh, what makes you say that?”

“He left two good kids behind. I think that’s a pretty stupid move, right?” He glared at the wall, his mouth running entirely un-policed. “Anyone would kill to have sons like you and Al and he was dumb enough to walk out. Stupid.”

“Oh.”

Ed was staring at him. The implications went barreling through him and Roy blanched.

He really just… said that? Out loud? 

“Wait. I… misspoke,“ He tried to correct himself clumsily.

“Hey.”

“Shit uh,”

“Colonel.”

Roy started again. “For the record, I’m concussed and—“

Listen.”

He stopped and turned to Ed, ready to be teased relentlessly. The careful smile he was meet with instead was a welcome surprise.

“Thanks.”