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Looking back, Edward really wasn’t sure to be pissed off or grateful for that incident. On the one hand, getting the whole thing off his chest and in the open was a relief, it could have even been called freeing, if not for his many other sins weighing him down. On the other, though, there was a different undertone in the way people treated him now, as if he were something fragile.

He really should have seen it coming though. Anyone who got close to him was bound to find out eventually, cause he couldn’t hold onto things like that to save his life. Just look at Al, he found out within days! But that wasn’t really a fair comparison, since Al was his brother, the one he trusted above all others, and also a suit of armor that didn’t sleep and thus couldn’t have possibly missed his little problem.

Edward clicked his tongue thinking about it. Damn Truth. That stupid toll of theirs made Al worry about him all the time. But well, he’d probably worry too if Al spent every unconscious moment, without fail, screaming and writhing in agony with tears streaming down his face.

It was honestly kind of pathetic, not that he could do anything about it. Edward could hold in the pain and walk through the flames of Hell without batting an eyelash, but only when he was conscious. When he wasn’t awake to control his reactions and power through the pain, there was nothing he could do.

The biggest problem was how damn thirsty he was whenever he woke up. All those tears seriously dehydrated him, and it was really fuckin’ inconvenient .

(No way in Hell was he ever gonna admit, not even to himself, the damage that his unwilling nightly escapades caused his psych.)

So anyways, the incident got started, naturally, when he was up to his ears in pain medication. Mission gone wrong, excessive bleeding, blah blah fucking whatever. He was kinda pissed at the time, cause he sure as hell didn’t need to be layin’ around in a hospital when he could be searching for ways to get Al’s body back. Sure it hurt, but what was that pain compared to having his limbs ripped off, The Gate, automail surgery . He could’ve moved right past it, been up and out of there as soon as he knew his organs weren’t gonna fall out or something. A few stitches did the job just fine, and he was even going to take a whole week off kicking ass for some good ol’ sit-down-and-research-at-the-library. Still would be progress, and he wouldn’t have been at risk of ripping open his wounds.

(Actually, he would’ve been out there without a thought for his injuries, if he didn’t know Al would worry about him.)

What he didn’t expect was Al getting in the way of his perfect, genius plan. He was all like, “Brother you were almost sliced in half! You had to keep your organs from falling out! You can’t just run away from the hospital like that!” as if it were something serious. Replying with “I’m preeetty sure I can, though,” apparently was not the appropriate response. He might’ve been able to handle Al despite this, but it wasn’t only Al. Oh no.

His little brother, that traitor, got Mustang involved. And the rest of the team. The main problem was Mustang though, for two reasons. First of all, the bastard had a thing for tricking him into things he had no intention of doing, and he wasn’t going back on his word even if he hadn’t meant to give it. The manipulative asshole knew it, too, it really pissed him off the way Mustang could read everyone so easily, and Ed was just another victim.

The real issue though, was reason two. At least with Mustang, he had gotten pretty well-adjusted to his subtle bullshitting, and even if he couldn’t play the game (but Al could, and what the Hell , he blamed that Colonel Bastard for corrupting his sweet, gentle little brother with shitty polidicking around) he had still learned to sidestep things that would corner him. No, the problem was that when Mustang got involved, Riza did too. The problem was that, like the terrifying, gun-toting big sister equivalent she was, she wanted to ensure he got a full recovery. Even if it meant forcing him at gunpoint.

Riza was razor-sharp, obviously, and she was well aware that the second he was left alone, he would leap out the window or something equally moronic to escape. So naturally, she drugged him up on pain meds until he wouldn’t be able to think straight, much less walk straight. Of course there was no way she would let him be hurt by drugs, either, so she was real careful in choosing. The end-goal was to keep him in bed, and away from situations where he would rip himself in half or whatever the team had been wailing about, and not being quite lucid could only help with that.

So there he was, half-asleep and thoughts moving through a haze about as efficiently as frozen molasses. He would’ve been pissed about that if he could think straight, not that anger would’ve held up against Riza. And of course the whole fucking team was hanging around his bedside like they didn’t have anything better to do. They brought their paperwork along with ‘em, like they thought it was a fucking great idea to keep an eye on him or some shit. Mustang was right there too, chin resting on his folded hands and giving him that smug bastard-y grin that he knew pissed Ed off.

Bastard.

Riza was by his side, calmly cleaning her gun in a vaguely threatening manner, that had started up shortly after she caught him eyeing the windows with a considering glance. Yeah, he could take that hint.

His irritation was buried somewhere beneath the layers of molasses-thoughts swamping his mind, and he knew it existed, but he couldn’t quite reach it. Without pissiness and spite fueling him like it usually did, and combined with utter boredom, the only available activity was sleep until they let him out of this whitewashed realm of the underworld.

Now, Edward wanted to reiterate, if only to himself later on when he was having a crisis over the whole thing, that he wasn’t thinking straight. He was exhausted, suffering from blood-loss, and oh yeah, fucking drugged , so of course he didn’t quite realize his own actions until later, when all the medications were flushed from his systems.

Anyways. So he wanted a rest, and if it had been anyone but himself, all that required was closing your eyes and drifting off. But thanks to what he was, that wasn’t quite how things worked. The first time he slept after The Gate, he fully understood what that fucking creepy silhouette had been on about when it talked about the other toll, aside from his limbs and his brother, that it took out on him.

Alright, enough beating around the bush. The only way to deal with this was to say it straight out. Ed was pretty much a human recycling bin for souls. The very, very short version was: thanks to his deadbeat old man, who happened to be a living fucking Philosopher’s Stone, Ed’s body was pretty much naturally hardwired for having souls pass through it. He wasn’t a Stone because he couldn’t hold onto them even if he wanted, which he sure as all hell didn’t , so all he got was slightly enhanced physical attributes and a higher aptitude for alchemy on top of his natural brilliance, thanks to the residual energy left by passing souls. It never really affected him, and he never knew before Truth, cause it wasn’t as though that deadbeat fucking excuse for a father mentioned anything about it to any of them. Even if he had, it wouldn’t have mattered, because at the time there were no other effects.

Ed was really damn jealous, once upon a time, that Al got their mother’s genes while he was stuck with their dad’s. No matter how people gushed and gasped in awe over his yellow-gold colouring, he still thought Al got the better deal, with his caramel hair and grey-hazel eyes, just like mom's. Well, Al got their dad’s build, while Ed’s physique was like their mom’s, so maybe that was sorta fair, but really it just meant Al was gonna be tall and impressive, and Ed was gonna be short and girly. Ed was eternally in denial about that, by the way. That jealousy jumped when after the gate Ed realized that once again, he was the only one of the brother’s who was cursed with something else from their useless father. For all of a few seconds, before it was replaced with self-loathing. What right did he have to whine, when he lost an arm and a leg and his innocence, and Al lost his whole body?

Al’s pain was infinitely worse than his, so he wouldn’t let himself feel upset that every time he was unconscious, he experienced, in excruciating detail, every single death that had occurred in the time since he last slept.

That was just backstory though, the explanation as to why he screamed and thrashed in agony when he slept. Why he wanted to get the fuck out of hospitals, because what were they going to think when they saw him like that? They’d probably throw some meds and a psychiatrist at him, like it would do any good. There was nothing they could do, nothing they could fix, it wasn’t about trauma (of which he had plenty) or mental health (of which he had none). It was a part of him. You can’t fix what isn’t broken, even if it was breaking him .

So yeah, since he was loopy as fuck and wanted a nap, he automatically went for his usual pre-sleep ritual. But he couldn’t get up and find what he needed, so the obvious solution was to ask for it. Which would’ve been fine, if it was a glass of water or some shit like that. Except his problem was that he screamed and thrashed in his sleep, and a glass of water did fuck-all for that .

“Hey, Colonel Bastard,” he started, but then that smug look focused on him and he thought better of it. “Nevermind, go back to making plans to take over the world or whatever you do in your spare time, you freak.” Instead, he turned his eyes on Fuery, the blatantly better option to ask. The bespectacled man blinked back at him in confusion. “Hey, you, can you find me a decently long strip of cloth, ‘bout the length of my forearm, little longer actually, preferably kinda cushiony,” Ed stated, then let his head fall back limply.

He had no clue where Riza found this shit, but it was certainly effective.

Everyone, even that know-it-all Colonel, looked confused at his request, but Fuery nodded and ran off to find it anyways. The guy was nice, to an unreasonable degree sometimes. But it was pretty useful right now, so he sure as hell wasn’t complaining. Riza was shooting a suspicious look at him now though, and she was still polishing her gun. He actually wasn’t plotting an escape though, so he was completely unconcerned. Ed told her this straight out, and she just raised an eyebrow at him. He rolled his eyes at her. He should warn people about that, suicidal tendencies was a serious side effect.

“I need something like that to sleep with. Well, I could sleep without it, but it would be a stupid thing to do.” He got some odd looks for that, which he couldn’t begrudge since he didn’t even see things like running at murderous psychopaths as a “stupid idea”. It wasn’t, by the way, that was a perfectly natural response.

Before they could get over their current confusion and transmute said emotion into skepticism, Fuery walked back in. “Your timing is perfect,” Ed informed him bluntly, taking the cloth he was handed. Glancing over it, he nodded approvingly, and grumbled a thanks.

“What’s that about, fullmetal? I didn’t think you were into that sort of thing.” Ed shot a look at the Colonel, instantly angered by his smug voice. It was actually impressive, just how easily the bastard could piss him off even when he was in this state. It was a reasonable enough question though, (another sign of how serious these drugs were, inducing delusions like that), and so he answered with an added roll of his eyes.

“Didn’t I tell you? I need it to sleep. It fucking hurts to bite my tongue,” he glared at nothing, brow furrowing unhappily. “Plus, it would be a disturbance, and that’s bad enough when I’m not in a hospital.” Ed’s yellow-gold eyes focused on Mustang, looking at his commanding officer as though wondering how he didn’t already know this. Mustang’s eye twitched, but he didn’t say anything. Which was fucking weird, but whatever, Mustang was weird.

Looking back, he had already given too much away at that point. No matter what he said, Ed was perfectly aware that Mustang was really fucking sharp when it came to reading people and piecing things together. Figured out or not though, the bastard probably wasn’t expecting the severity of it, and definitely not the cause. Who the hell would connect nightmares and a recycling bin for souls? Who would even think of shit like soul recycling in the first place?

Well, Truth did, but it was a fucking entity that dealt with The Gate. You couldn’t really compare them.

“Listen, all you need to know, is don’t take this,” Ed shook the cloth at them, “out of my mouth no matter what. I don’t wanna deal with that shit.” Having said that, he brought it to his mouth and bit down. It would work for keeping his teeth from grinding together, and away from his tongue, plus help to muffle the screams. He tied the ends together in a practiced knot, and doubled it just in case he was a little violent in his flailing.

He was half asleep already, and thus didn’t even notice the odd, somewhat concerned looks he was getting. Yes, even from Mustang.

Ed was out in seconds. Which actually had something to do with the fact that his subconscious associated being gagged with going to sleep, but well, the fucking drugs probably were part of it. Yeah, he wasn’t going to let that go.

You know, at the start of all this, when he wasn’t used to it, Edward had resisted sleeping. As soon as he experienced the first few times, understood what he was going to be dealing with, he was terrified to close his eyes. He tried to force himself to stay awake, until he was so exhausted his body forced him into unconsciousness. The long time between rest only made things worse, since the longer he went, the more people died, and the more deaths he experienced in place of dreams.

Eventually though, he came to terms with it, mostly thanks to getting his ass kicked as therapy until he pulled himself out of his slump. Dying every night became normal to him, he was used to it. It was fine. For some reason though, when he told Al this, his little brother’s responding tone was a horrible combination of heartbreak, regret, and hatred. He never wanted to hear that again.

(Heartbreak at his brother’s pain, regret that he couldn’t help him, and hatred for the entity that did this to Edward.)

Edward Elric was just fine.


 

The first death of the night was peaceful. It was nice, considering how rare it was to start off like this. He enjoyed the time to brace himself, because in the time he was awake, innumerable horrors were committed, many resulting in lives lost, to lie in wait for him to close his eyes and sleep.

She was old, had lived a long and fulfilling life, and was prepared for this. Her son and his wife sat at her left, her grandchildren crowded around the bed, some adults and others only just now nearing their teens (she would never see them grow up, now), numerous in comparison to the single child she had borne. God, she loved them all, so much, so much.

She didn’t want to die.

She didn’t want to die, but she knew she was going to, and she accepted it. In her youth, she wanted to outrun death, but she gained wisdom with age, unlike some people she could name. Death, even if you slipped by it for a while, always caught up in the end. And there were far worse ways to go than in a soft bed, surrounded by family, and her husband already gone ahead.

She closed her eyes. Opened them again.

“I love you momma,” that was her son there, he hadn’t called her that in years, prideful little brat. All those years in the city had smoothed out the drawl he got from her, he sounded like a right proper city slicker, now.

He was such a sweet boy.

Her lips curved up as all her grandchildren chorused the same, following their Da’s lead.

“Ah luv ya’ll too, and don’t chu forget it eitha. Yer my darlins, all uff ya. Take care ah yaselfs, fer yer grandmum. I expect not tah see any ah yuh fer years ta come.” The words barely got forced out, whispering from between her lips, and by the end she was right next to gasping. The air seemed heavier somehow, sitting like a stone in her lungs.

“Luh’ yew,”

And she died smiling.


 

It was kind of worrying when tears started to silently bead in the corners of Edward’s eyes. His expression hardly changed, but an observant person might notice a smile on his lips behind the gag.

Tears fell from the corners of his eyes, and he didn’t make a sound.


 

As if to make up for the peace of the last one, this one was especially violent.

“Sweetie!” A man breathed in black smoke and coughed it right back out, not even pausing as he scrambled around his burning home, searching for his daughter. “Sweetie! Lina, sweetie, where are you, daddy’s here, daddy’s here for you sweetie! I came, I won’t leave you, just please,” flames licked at his skin. He didn’t even notice as burns spread across the healthy tan. “please answer me. Swee-” a hacking cough, this time blood came up with the smoke, “-tie, please.” His voice was going hoarse. He tore through her room, her closet, under her bed and in the dressers, manic out of worry and pain, not at all logical, hardly conscious.

A fire-lit beam fell from the ceiling, into the dresser he was pawing at, and both constructs landed atop him. He screamed, felt his ribs shift in his chest. The dresser was aflame too now. He was scared, shit, he was so fucking scared. Pinned like a butterfly to a corkboard, he couldn’t ignore the pain anymore. It seared through him, lit up a trail across his body with fire-covered glass, and he screamed some more, now closer to a sob. He was too dehydrated for tears, though. He scrabbled at the wood on top of him, but he was already weakened by lungs full of smoke and simple exhaustion. He managed to shift it, but it didn’t help. Instead, the full weight of the dresser fell on his leg, and he felt his dry throat tear with his wailing screech as the limb was crushed and started to burn.

It was the pitiful, terrified keen of a wounded beast that knew it was about to die.

The flames spread further up him, lit upon his body and started to feast. He was delirious with the pain, could swear the fire was laughing at him as it ate him alive. “Lina, Lina, sweetie,” he chanted, mindless, not even able to understand his own words through the haze of pain. What was he doing here, why was he here, where was here, who was he? It didn’t matter anymore, the only thing that existed, the only thing that mattered was the fire that was eating his flesh. Even without his conscious guidance, his lips continued to mouth the same words, even when no sound emerged. Just his lips, burning like the rest of him, silently mouthing the words, “Lina, sweetie, Lina, Lina, sweetie,” again and again and again.

He died half-crushed and eaten by fire.


 

The change was subtle at first. Ed’s lips twisted, changing from that odd contented smile in contrast to the tears slipping down his cheeks, to a somewhat uncomfortable looking grimace. His eyebrows furrowed, and he started to shift. He made a sound, what was probably words made indistinguishable by the cloth between his teeth. A hacking cough, as if there was something in his lungs, ripped from his throat. The only thing that hadn’t changed was that tears were still streaming down his face.

He jerked, tossed his head, and twisted his body. His legs kicked out, as if running, and his arms flailed at empty air. This went on for a short while, and the group lost focus on their work to stare at the older Elric brother in concern. Not that they weren’t already concerned with the silent crying, but this was worse.

His expression twisting was the only real warning they got. Yellow-gold eyes snapped open, but there was no awareness in them. Ed was still asleep. His expression became one of shock, then terror, and for a brief moment his entire body froze, muscles tense, breathing halted.

Then his back arched, and he screamed. The sound was halted by the cloth, quiet enough that it wouldn’t go through the walls, but somehow it’s still the loudest thing they’ve ever heard. Ed contorts his body, twisting unnaturally, and then drops his back down to the mattress once again, springs squealing in protest at the treatment. His spine curves again, inward this time, and hazy yellow eyes dart around unseeing while he scrabbles at thin air, as if trying to push off a great weight. He freezes again though, lets loose another scream, and his leg, the good one, jerks harshly. The entire thing is peppered with horrible coughs that increase in severity with each one, and smoke in the lungs seems an increasingly accurate comparison.

He flails some more, but the movements seem weaker somehow. He curls and uncurls, limbs jerking and body convulsing. He seems to be in utter agony, and begins clawing at his own skin, as if something were upon him. It isn’t until blood begins to stain his clothes that they snap out of their frozen state, and realize that his flailing had ripped open his wounds. They were usually quicker on the uptake, but they hadn’t expected anything like this. Certainly not from Edward Elric.

“Shit,” Roy muttered, the word hissed out like steam escaping from a container, “hurry up and hold him down! He’s going to kill himself at this rate!”

Muffled screams pulled themselves from the blonde’s throat, each one ripped out like they were dragged with plyers.

Then, very abruptly, it all stopped. All his movements ceased, body going limp, and he went completely silent. They didn’t let their guard down though. The changes were too sudden, too abrupt to trust.


 

The knife was pushed in farther, shit that hurt , and she knew she was going to die. She had seen it coming though, knew that with the kind of life she lived it was bound to end up like this eventually. Women of the streets like her, without a Madame to watch over them, well they didn’t get the good endings. She lived in the gutter, and she was gonna die in it too.

A rough, dirty hand went lower, leaving her chest and trailing past her belly button.

She knew she was going to die someday, but damn it all to hell, she really didn’t want to die like this. But for women like her, they didn’t get a choice.


 

He was writhing again, but it was much calmer now, easier to deal with. Sad, pitiful keens wavered out from him now, and through it all, he continued to cry.


 

Crushed under a cave in, an entire group of miners died. He felt every single one, whether they died from being crushed, or suffocation, or something else.


 

Ed writhed again, off and on, and between every change he went still, still as death. They threw the thought away.


 

Another peaceful death, but this man died alone, looked back on his life and regretted it.


 

Ed was calm again, but it was a terrible sort, felt wrong somehow. Not that any of this felt particularly right.


 

She stared over the edge of the roof, nervous, almost wanted to back out, but no, it would only be scary for a moment, much simpler than living…

Dying at the hands of some creature, he hadn’t expected that when he woke up this morning, shit it hurt, but the pain seemed to be getting distant, sorry, honey…

7 years old and water everywhere, it was in his eyes, in his ears, in his nose, his mouth, his lungs, he slammed into the riverbed, and newly made scratches stung at the water and silt getting into them…

She couldn’t remember not being sick, and it looked as though she couldn’t hold it off any longer, she never had been good at sticking to her word, she hoped they would forgive her…

Everything was one fire, and he was burning…

She slipped peacefully away, husband at her side…

The ground was getting closer, closer, far too fast…

What the hell was this woman, her fingers had grown all of a sudden, but it didn’t matter considering he was about to die…

Crushed…

Passed in his sleep…

Sliced in half…

Bludgeoned to death…

A tornado raged…

Everything was dark…

Burning, burning…

Water everywhere…

Again, and again, and again…


 

Ed finally woke up, frowned, and worked his jaw a bit. It always felt a little stiff after he slept. Deftly, he reached up and untied the gag, tugging it out of his mouth and fixing the damage with a quick transmutation. He noticed a serious pain in his stomach ( sliced in half, bleeding out, no help in reach ) and pushed away the death memories, they were always fresh when he woke up but would fade soon enough.

Ed glanced at Mustang ( burning, burning, burning ) and looked away, glowering in annoyance. It was irritating when older deaths came up alongside the new ones, not least of all because it made dealing with Mustang hard when he could remember being burnt alive by him. Ed managed to look just to the side of his face, avoiding his Commanding Officer for now ( the smell of ash and her children burning clogged her nose ) because he didn’t want Mustang to see his automatic fear. It had been hard at first, filling their interactions with insults to hide his terror at the person who had killed him so many times ( not him, others, separate yourself from the memories, they aren’t you, Ed ) but the fights had become more enjoyable than anything, a reminder that the one who had burnt him to ashes again and again was also the man who was fighting with him like a child. It was comforting, somehow.

Right now though, he was caught with the memories still fresh, before he could separate himself from them. Ed didn’t want to meet Mustang’s eyes when he was still like this. Unfortunately, he didn’t seem to have a choice, as Mustang shifted so he was directly in his line of sight. Instantly, Ed flicked his eyes away again, but not before the fear was seen and catalogued. He hoped that Roy wouldn’t realize that fear was because of him.

Roy narrowed his eyes at the clear avoidance, but ignored it for now. “What the hell was that, Fullmetal,” he snapped instead, furious at having something like this hidden from him, because it was obvious this was a regular thing.

Ed flashed a sardonic grin, and tapped his throat. “Water, or do you expect me to talk like this, colonel bastard.” His voice was hoarse and ragged, and Roy’s irritation increased at having forgotten that his subordinate had just been screaming his lungs out in agony. Once again, Fuery was the one to stand and head for the door, but this time he was stopped.

Or rather, he ran right into a walking suit of armor.

Al bowed frantically, holding his left hand steady so the glass of water in it didn’t spill. “I’m sorry, I was worried about brother, so I didn’t notice you coming out,” glowing red pinpricks met Fuery’s eyes, clearly apologetic. Uncharacteristically, though, he then ignored everyone in the room and focused on Ed.

“Brother, I brought you some water, I thought you would want a nap so I made sure to get some for when you woke up,” Al then noticed the gag, and the fresh bloodstain on Ed’s shirt, and winced. “I’m sorry I wasn’t here to help restrain you brother, I didn’t think of your injury. But usually you tie yourself down before you sleep, what happened?”

Ed rolled his eyes, but still gave Al a fond smile as he took the water. Drinking a couple inches worth, he seemed content, and answered the question. “I was out of it, I barely remembered the gag. It’s a good thing I did though, me screaming like that in a hospital full of doctors and sick people wouldn’t turn out well.”

Al gave the impression of frowning in disapproval. “You shouldn’t worry about anyone else, take care of yourself first, brother.”

Ed cocked an eyebrow. “You do realize that if the doctors caught me while I was asleep, they’d probably think it’s something that can be fixed with therapy and medication.” He bared his teeth in a parody of a grin. “I wish it were that simple.”

Al sighed but, shocking everyone who expected him to pursue the matter, gave a nod of agreement. “I don’t like it, but you’re right, brother.”

Roy snapped his (gloveless) fingers to get their attention. “Fullmetal, do you think you can explain now, or is it too inconvenient,” his voice became somewhat mocking near the end, clearly irritated at not getting a proper answer. Ed’s soft gaze sharpened when it turned away from Al, and he snorted.

“Come on brother, you should tell them,” Al urged.

“That’s right Fullmetal, listen to your far more sensible brother and tell us,” Roy muttered, making Ed’s temper rear its head. Surprisingly though, he just gave a heavy exhale and a contemplative look.

He still wouldn’t meet Roy’s eyes.

“Fine then,” Ed flopped back onto the bed, staring up at the ceiling and wishing it had cracks he could count. “I’ll give you the short version.”

Ed was silent for a moment, thinking over how he was going to put it. He sighed again, then began. “To start, you’ve got to know something. Our dad ” he gestured to himself and Al, “is basically a human philosopher’s stone.” He chuckled bitterly at the stunned expressions that covered every face, except Al, who already knew. “As you know, philosopher’s stones are made out of human souls. For most of my life, it didn’t actually have any effect. But then, we committed the sin of human transmutation. Part of my “toll” was to become a humanoid recycling bin for souls.” He smiled. It wasn’t a nice smile. “Guess I’m pretty similar to my old man after all, beyond just the coloring. I’d have been a lot happier being more like mom.” Al frowned at his brother’s dislike of their father, but knew better than to try and change Ed’s mind by now.

“To answer your question, every single soul that passes through me to be cleansed and purified, leaves behind the memories leading up to and including their death.” Blood drained from all their faces, but Ed wasn’t done yet. “Everyone who dies in the time that I’m awake, I’ll personally experience their death as though it’s happening to me.” He shrugged, not blinking as he felt the motion pull at his wound. “It’s fine, I’m used to it. Mostly it’s just uncomfortable.”

“So, you were screaming like that, because,”

“It was from the pain of being burned alive, if you’re referring to the first really painful one. People die in quite the variety of ways, usually I could handle it, but it’s not like I can do anything when I’m unconscious, so my body just reacts.” He smirked at them. “Like I said, I’m fine, so don’t worry about it. It’s not like there’s anything you could do, after all, it’s part of my toll.”

Most of them were completely silent, horrified simply thinking about what they had learnt.

Ed rolled his eyes at them again, really, it felt as though he was doing that a lot today. “It’s painful sure, but how do you think I find murderers so easily? I’ve already experienced being killed by them, so I tend to have a good idea of where to look. It’s pretty damn handy for other things as well.” Like finding out about the Homunculi, and the true makeup of Philosopher’s stones. He had personal experience with both long before he joined the military.

“Fullmetal,” Roy suddenly spoke up, making the teen jerk in surprise. “Why won’t you look me in the eyes.” It wasn’t a question, it was a demand. But Ed wasn’t one to obey orders easily, so he kept his jaw shut and glared at the man. The Colonel was genuinely furious this time however, dark blue eyes going even darker and fists clenching and unclenching at his sides. Intimidation never had worked on him though, so Ed didn’t even blink. However, betrayal came from an unexpected place.

“Brother just woke up, so he’s having trouble separating himself from the death memories. Older ones from years ago tend to be brought up too, like this,” Al blurted, and ignoring Ed’s betrayed stare that was rapidly becoming horrified, he soldiered on in his explanation. “When brother first became like this, all the deaths that occurred since his birth were shoved into his head. That’s why he had so much trouble at the start, he was trying to deal with it all.” There was a look of dawning realization on Roy’s face as he spoke, and Al felt sort of bad about telling him this, but his brother was the most important one to him. Holding in all these secrets wasn’t good for him.

Al looked at Roy, met dark eyes and dilated pupils with his own glowing red equivalent. “You were in a lot of them, sir. Brother didn’t want to look you in the eyes because he didn’t want you to see that.”

Ed gave a soundless snarl, speaking up. “Don’t make me out to be that nice, Alphonse. Tch, you wanted the whole truth, you’ll get it, fucking bastard. Looking you in the eyes when I just woke up, brought up bad fucking memories, got it, and I don’t want to deal with that shit on top of the rest.”

Mustang’s expression closed off, going completely cold. “That’s why you seemed so nervous when you first joined.”

“That’s right, bastard. But don’t misunderstand, I’m not fucking scared of you or some shit like that. You just made me wary until I got to know you well enough.” He turned his eyes to Riza. “Same for you.” Then he glared at the room in general. “Listen up, cause I’m only gonna say this one fucking time. I trust all of you, got it.” He jabbed a finger at Mustang, “I’m not thinking about being burnt to a crisp every time I look at you,” he ignored the flinch and turned to Riza, not jabbing a finger at her of course, “and I’m not constantly scared you’re gonna put a bullet in me every time we cross paths. The only thing giving me trouble is separating myself from the memories, soon as I get over that we won’t have a problem.”

No one spoke for a long moment, then Roy silently stood up and stalked out of the room. Ed clicked his tongue and glared at Al. “See that, that’s why I didn’t want to fucking say anything. I knew he’d react like that, and we don’t need that shitty bastard feeling guilty about essentially nothing right now.” Everyone stared at him in shock. From Ed, those were words of deep concern, worry, and fondness, particularly directed towards Mustang. Riza nodded her head at him, clearly taking things much better though her eyes were haunted, and went to leave, tossing the words “I’ll take care of him” over her shoulder without turning.

Ed groaned in irritation, and swept the room with a glare. “The hell are you all looking at? I don’t see anything interesting enough to warrant that much staring.” Instantly they were so busy they couldn’t even look up. Ed sighed and closed his eyes, but didn’t go to sleep. The only upside to the whole thing, was that he could get quality sleep in thirty minutes, thanks to the residual energy from souls that passed through him. Thus, he needed very little rest, and the restlessness he dealt with in sleep wasn’t a problem.

Al came and stood right beside his bedside, pushing his leather fingers together nervously. “I’m sorry for upsetting you, brother.”

“The only upset one here is that bastard, apologize to him ,” but they both knew it was a lie. Ed sighed again. “It’s fine Al. It all had to come out eventually.”

Al nodded, even though his brother couldn’t see him with his eyes closed, and the two remained silent, though it was a comfortable sort of quiet.

“Hey Al, did you bring me any books? They don’t have anything interesting in here, shitty hospitals with their shitty entertainment…”

“Ack, I’m sorry brother! I completely forgot about books, because, uh,”

“You met a stray cat on the way, right.”

“It was very cute, brother! It had grey fur, and it just looked so hungry, I couldn’t just leave it there…”

“Whatever, but next time, you’d better not forget!”

Mustang’s team stared at just how quickly the two bounced back. It was good to see, but sad at the same time, thinking how many times this happened for them to be so used to it.

Well, the brothers had always been abnormal, and they were still part of the team. It hardly changed anything, they just knew a little more now. Of course, it sort of rendered all their efforts to protect the two from the worst parts of the military (due to their age) rather unnecessary. They would still do it of course, as a matter of fact, they felt even more dedicated to that particular cause. Ed suffered through enough horrors in his sleep, he didn’t need to deal with them in the waking world as well.

(Even if they knew it was unrealistic, practically a pipe dream, it didn’t stop them from wishing they actually could manage it.)

“Come on brother, I said I was sorry!”

“Well, sorry isn’t good enough, and you’d agree if you were confined to this overly sanitized version of purgatory!”

The team shared amused grins at the brother’s playful arguments.

The two seemed to manage holding onto their childhood well enough without their help. But still, they were precious members of the team.

They watched out for each other.