Rating: R – NC17
Type: Angst, Divergence (splits off from episode 32), Romance, Mystery, Political, Yaoi, Het, etc.
Pairings: Roy/Ed, Al/Winry, (other minor pairings)
Warnings: Language, Sex, Violence, etc.
Summary: After getting Al’s body back, Ed finds that life after reaching his goal wasn’t what he expected. As the country faces the threat of civil war, will Ed be able to handle life without Alphonse constantly by his side, or will he simply substitute one companion for another?
Chapter Listing Here
Pinako Rockbell stood outside Winry’s door and frowned. She could hear the soft sounds of sobbing within. Sighing, she knocked lightly on the door.
“Who is it?” Winry called from inside.
Pinako shook her head and smiled at the girl’s attempt at sounding normal. “It’s me.”
Pinako opened the door, closed it quietly behind her, and looked around. Winry’s room was never tidy. There were always screws and bolts and tools lying around. Pinako shook her head again in affection. How many times had she told the girl to keep things in their proper places?
She made her way to the bed where her grand daughter lay with her back facing the door. Winry was shaking slightly; trying hard not to show she was crying. An occasional sniffle sounded; another sign of her distress.
Pinako sat on the bed and laid a hand on Winry’s back. “Why don’t you tell me what’s wrong?” she invited.
Winry shook her head. “I can’t. It’s stupid. It’s nothing…”
“Don’t be silly, child,” Pinako said gently.
The young mechanic turned over onto her other side and put her arms around her grandmother. “Oh granny! Why hasn’t he called?” she sobbed. “Is he ever going to come back?”
Pinako smiled sadly. She had a feeling their conversation was going to go this way. “That is a good question, Winry, but I don’t know if I can answer it. That boy has always been a stubborn one.”
“Doesn’t he care at all about us? Doesn’t he know that we’re worried about him?” she cried.
Pinako gently stroked Winry’s hair. “I’m sure he knows we care. If I could tell you what goes on in that boy’s head, I would, but I can’t,” she paused, then said, “You care for him very much, don’t you?”
Winry nodded and sniffled.
Pinako sighed the sigh of those who have already been through the drama of young love. All the years those two boys were roaming the country side, Winry waited for them to come home. When they did visit, it was impossible to not notice the look of adoration in her eyes for Edward.
Impossible, unless you were Edward Elric.
“What about Alphonse?” Pinako asked. “You care about him too, don’t you?”
Winry looked down, and nodded.
She nodded to herself; just as she’d thought. When Al’s soul had still been attached to that hunk of metal, the young mechanic had only had eyes for the older of the brothers. Pinako could only imagine that she would be the same way. After all, it would be difficult to develop romantic feelings for a suit of armor. But just as Winry’s feelings for Ed had been obvious, her feelings for Al were not too hard to see either.
Pinako chuckled and thought, That is, unless you were Alphonse Elric.
She was sure Al had noticed Winry’s feelings toward his older brother each time they visited during their searching years. Pinako frowned. She was also sure that Ed had noticed Winry’s recently developing feelings for Al. She could only guess that Ed’s anger toward Winry had something to do with that situation.
Not because he returned Winry’s feelings, Pinako had never seen that look in his eye, but because Al was spending an increasing amount of time with her, and less with him. She was sure Ed was used to having Al around him almost all the time. They had lived for each other. Now though, it was different. Alphonse was free to live his life; he didn’t need to be with Ed all the time.
Truly it was a sad situation.
To her aging eyes it had been obvious how much Ed had depended on Al to be there. Al had been the constant factor in his life. Pinako could only imagine the feelings of loneliness and abandonment Ed must have felt; must still be feeling.
Pinako sighed sadly. She had seen it, but done nothing. She had left it for the two boys to figure out, thinking that because of the close relationship they had always shared, things would turn out for the better without her interference. Being old didn’t exempt one from being wrong, she supposed.
“I’m going to let you in on a little secret,” Pinako whispered.
Winry looked up expectantly.
“Alphonse cares about you too. Very much. I’ve seen it in his eyes, in the way he looks at you, how he treats you, how he reacts when you enter the room.”
Winry seemed to think on this for a moment, then said, “But… what about Ed?”
The truth is hard, Pinako thought sadly, then continued. “Edward…” She shook her head. “I’m sorry, Winry, but I’ve never seen any indication that he feels that way toward you. He cares about you I’m sure, but not like that.”
Winry’s lower lip trembled, and Pinako squeezed her hand. “You think about it. You’re a strong girl; a smart girl. You’ll figure out what to do.”
Ed looked up when a timid knock sounded at the door. He wasn’t sure if he should open it or not since he didn’t live there, but when the knock sounded again, he closed the book, walked to the door and opened it.
An old woman stood there with a bag in her hand. She looked startled for a moment, then checked the number on the door. Satisfied that she was at the right place, she said, “Is Roy here?”
Ed shook his head, and replied, “No, he went out for a while. Can I help you?”
She sighed and held up the bag. Whatever was inside made a clinking noise. “Well… I broke this plate and I was going to ask him to fix it for me.”
The poor old woman looked so dejected that he said, “Well, I can fix it for you.” She smiled in relief and he moved out of the way for her to step inside. “Are you his neighbor or something?” Ed asked after she gave him the bag with the broken plate in it.
“I suppose you could say that. I own these apartments and I live in the one on the end,” she said, waving her hand vaguely in one direction.
Ed nodded, then set the bag on the table. He opened it, clapped his hands together, then touched the shards. When he was finished, he pulled the plate out and let her examine it.
“Oh!” she exclaimed in delight. “That was so fast! You didn’t even draw anything.”
“That’s right,” Ed said smugly.
“Well thank you, young man,” she patted him on the arm, then gave him a confused look and said, “Who are you anyway?”
He paused, not sure what to say, then decided on, “Just a friend of Mustang’s”
At that, she smiled and exclaimed, “Oh good! I’m so glad that young man has finally found himself a friend!” Her words surprised him and he started laughing. She looked at him seriously over her spectacles. “I mean it. The only people I ever see visiting him are those military people he works with, and even then it isn’t often.”
Ed shook his head. “Well, I’m in the military too.”
Her eyes widened in surprise. “No! Not a little boy like you.”
This woman has a death wish, Ed thought grimly and said in a flat tone, “I’m seventeen, and I am in the military. I’m Edward Elric, the Fullmetal Alchemist.”
She nodded. “Oh, yes, I do remember hearing of a short alchemist with that title.” Ed was about to start telling the woman off, but her next words stopped him cold. “But I had heard your brother traveled with you in a suit of armor. Is he here too?”
“No,” he whispered.
She looked at him in concern. “Are you alright? You’ve gone pale.”
He looked away from her and murmured, “Yeah… I guess I just don’t feel well. I’m sorry.”
She patted him again on the arm. “Well you should lie down young man.” She walked to the door and opened it. “Thank you for fixing this plate for me, and you tell that Roy to come and visit me when he has some time, alright?” Ed nodded mutely as she shut the door behind her.
The bar was empty except for the bartender behind the counter. They set their grocery sacks under their stools before sitting down.
The barkeep, a thin man who looked to be in his fifties, approached them. “Wet day out today, ain’t it?”
Hawkeye nodded and said pleasantly, “It is. You’re lucky not to be out in it.”
“Maybe so, but it’s been purdy quiet since this here storm has come on in.” He looked them over, then said, “Well then, ya’ll lookin’ for some lunch or just somethin’ to warm ya up?”
“Just something to warm us up,” Roy answered.
The barkeep nodded. “So what can I get for ya?”
“I’ll take a Hot Peppermint Chocolate,”(1) Hawkeye said immediately.
The thin man smiled and said cheerfully, “That should warm ya right up.” He turned to Roy. “An’ for you?”
“Long Island Iced Tea.”(2)
The barkeep nodded, then left to make the drinks.
For a few minutes neither of them spoke, then Hawkeye said, “Roy, you know you don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to. Outside of work, I’m your friend. You know that. I’m here to listen if you need, or to just be here if you’d rather.”
Roy nodded. It was true. He had known her for a long time, even before the war. They had also fought together in Ishbal. She was probably one of the few people that really knew him well… Sometimes he thought she knew him better than he knew himself.
He cleared his throat. “No… I think I do want to talk about it. I guess I’m just having trouble knowing where to start…”
“Why don’t you start with Ed? I think that’s what’s really bothering you here.”
He looked at her for a moment before saying, “Are you charging me for this?”
Smiling slightly, she shook her head and said, “Never mind, I can see you aren’t comfortable talking about it.”
“No,” he said quickly. “No… I’m sorry, Riza.” Roy let out a sigh and began. “Ed… Well, basically one minute he can be acting almost normal, the next he’s either yelling, or crying, or he just stares off at nothing. He’ll hardly eat anything; that by itself is enough to make anyone worry. I’ve tried getting him into a conversation so I can ask about Al, but he cuts off all my attempts.”
“Have you asked him straight out about Alphonse?”
Roy shook his head. “No. Frankly I’m nervous to bring him up at all.” Roy told her about the nightmare the first night Ed had been there, although he left out the part where he had comforted the boy. By the time he had finished, the barkeep arrived with the drinks.
Hawkeye nodded, sipped at her drink, then asked, “What else?”
“He keeps talking about how much he wants to die,” Roy said, unable to keep the pain out of his voice.
“I see…” she said, concern written in her features.
“So… what do I do?” he asked quietly.
Ed sat on the edge of the bed and stared at the phone.
‘I heard your brother traveled with you...’
“Yeah… He did…” Ed said to no one. He laid his hand on the phone’s cool surface.
Ed didn’t even know how Al was doing… He didn’t know… That night he had hurt Al; hurt him really bad. What had happened after he’d left? He felt so ashamed of what he’d done. There was no way they would want him in their life again; not when he could just turn on them like that…
Ed shook his head. No. The best thing he could do now was stay away. He had already caused Al too much trouble for one lifetime.
He bit his lip, trying to make himself pick up the phone.
Every night he dreamt that Al died from the fight; that there were complications and they weren’t able to save him.
He had to know…
Even if he never saw them again, even if they didn’t want him around, he had to know.
Hawkeye sighed and looked at him with a considering expression on her face. “Well. This is how I see things. Edward is a very troubled young man. His father left the family at a young age. His mother died when he was ten, leaving him to care for his younger brother. Then there was the transmutation…” She looked at him meaningfully, not wanting to go into the details of the failed human transmutation out loud.
Roy nodded and she continued. “Then the trauma of losing his limbs, and being responsible for what happened to Al.” Another meaningful look. “Then becoming a State Alchemist at the age of twelve and all the problems that have come with it; problems that would be hard for even adults to bear. He’s made a lot of dangerous enemies over the years that have been after his life, like the homunculi. There have been several times that he’s been tricked, used, beaten, and almost killed. He’s seen people die, and people have died because they were trying to help him.”
Roy nodded, took a sip, then looked at his drink with a frown. He had already drunk half the glass…
“All of that, and he is only seventeen. His life has been one big whirlwind of chaos and confusion.”
“Yes, but,” Roy interrupted. “He’s never been this unstable before.”
She nodded. “He’s had to push all his feelings aside to accomplish his goals; he’s had something to focus on with getting Al his body back, but now… Well, he’s done what he set out to do, and life is comparatively quiet now. He’s not always on the run, trying to find the next lead. All those pent up feelings have to catch up eventually, right?”
He nodded, remembering how things had been for him during the war. It had been hard while he was there, but the true nightmare had begun when he’d returned from the battlefield. The people he’d killed had haunted, not only his dreams, but his waking hours as well. The fear in their eyes just before he killed them wouldn’t leave him. He could still hear their screams; could still see the charred and mangled corpses…
During the war he didn’t have time to think about them all. He was numb to it all. He would push himself until he was exhausted, then he’d collapse and sleep like the dead; sleep without dreams. It had all happened so fast. Afterward, when there was time, his mind made him revisit every detail. That’s when he had started drinking heavily. He’d been drunk most of the time those first few months. He had tried to kill himself, but couldn’t find the courage. He had even tried to come up with a theory for human transmutation; as if he could bring them all back. But all that was in the past… He was much better now…
“Yeah, I see what you’re getting at,” he said softly.
She looked at him sympathetically, as if she understood what was going through his thoughts, then said, “I think Ed should get some help.”
“I can help him.” She gave him a doubtful look, and he said, “What?”
Sighing she said, “Roy… you’ve always wanted to help Ed and Al in any way you could, but I think this would be better left to a professional. From what you’ve said, it sounds to me as if he could use some time in the mental ward at the hospital so they can watch him; make sure he doesn’t do anything to hurt himself.”
Roy shook his head. “I don’t think he’d be willing to do that. I can look after him, I’ll just have him do office work for a while and he can keep staying at my place… What?” Roy asked defensively at the unsettled look on her face.
“Roy,” she said hesitantly. “I really don’t think it’s a good idea.” Her eyes glanced at his now empty glass before coming back to look at him. He noticed she had drunk less than a fourth of her drink.
Roy was beginning to feel a little angry. He did not have a drinking problem. Maybe he’d had one after the war, but not now. He was sober most of the time. Of course, he was almost always at work, but if he decided to drink a little bit while he was off duty, what did it matter?
“You and Ed have never really gotten along very well,” Riza began, but Roy cut her off.
“We’re getting along just fine.”
She shook her head. “I just don’t think it’s a very good idea. His emotions are too raw and tender right now. He’s extremely vulnerable and needs someone to guide him and help him with his problems; someone in a neutral position to advise him and counsel him. He doesn’t need an alcho…” Hawkeye cut off what she was about to say, though whether it was because she didn’t want to continue what she was saying or because she saw him motion to the bartender, he didn’t know.
Scowling, she stood up, and grabbed her bag.
“You’re leaving?” Roy asked in surprise.
“I need to go. I’m sorry if I couldn’t be more help.”
She turned to leave, but he grabbed her arm. “Wait. Riza… I was only going to order some water,” he lied.
Riza looked at him with a hurt expression on her face and he suddenly felt ashamed. He knew that she knew he was lying. She’s just too damn perceptive...
She sighed and looked away from his gaze. “I’ll see you tomorrow, Roy.”
He let go of her arm and watched her walk out the door. Turning back, he picked up his glass before he realized it was empty. Setting it down, he put his head in his hands. Why had he said that? He didn’t have a problem; he didn’t need to defend himself.
Frustrated, Roy stood up, and grabbed his bag. He didn’t have a problem, and she didn’t know about him and Ed, he told himself. He was about to leave when he turned back, picked up Hawkeye’s almost full mug, and drained it before stalking out the door.
Al set the book he’d been reading down on the table and frowned. Winry had been avoiding him all day. He’d wanted to apologize to her, though exactly what he was going to apologize about was beyond him. Maybe he would just say that he was sorry he had been a jerk. It seemed like a pretty safe thing to apologize for. He’d thought all day about what he could have said that was so horrible and couldn’t think of anything. But she had said that he was being a jerk, so he must have done something wrong.
Pinako had told him to just give Winry some time, and to not take her so seriously. He was trying to do that, but not succeeding very well.
When the phone rang, he jumped a little in surprise. Picking up the receiver, Al said in a dejected voice, “Hello?” When no one answered on the other line, Al’s forehead crinkled in confusion. “Hello?” he repeated. Again, no answer. He swallowed and hesitantly whispered, “Ed…?”
There was a click, then the line went dead.
1) A warm drink consisting of Hot Chocolate and Rumple Minze. Rumple Minze, or Rumpleminze, is a 100 proof German schnapps with a very strong peppermint flavor. Served in an Irish coffee cup.
2) A drink containing ½ oz each of Vodka, Light Rum, Gin, and Tequila; juice of ½ lemon, and a splash of Coca-Cola for color. Served in a highball glass and decorated with a slice of lemon.