Word Count: 2,353
Rating: Probably R or NC-17 (PG-13ish for this part)
Characters: eventual Roy/Ed
Summary: Alternate timeline ignoring the last few chapters of the manga, most glaringly the part where Roy's eyesight was restored.
Disclaimer: I don't own FMA, blah blah blah XD
The rest of my fics are here.
There were weaker moments, times when Ed looked at the arrays that all but bled from his fingers and longed to make them work. Those were the times he fled the bed meant for him and crawled beneath the covers of his brother's, not because Al needed the proximity, but because he was desperate for a reminder of what he had gained.
"You're squishing me," Al mumbled, stirring enough to squirm to the other side of the tiny hospital bed. He opened one eye, blearily looking at Ed. Al's voice was still slurred with sleep as he asked, "You okay, brother?"
"I'm fine. Go back to sleep," Ed whispered, feeling a bit guilty for intruding on the sleep his brother still needed so desperately.
Al shifted a bit, eyes slipping shut, and Ed thought that was the end of it. He was carefully still, trying not to disturb Al, who looked almost terrifyingly like some sort of heartbreakingly gaunt apparition in the moonlight. The quiet closed in all around them and all Ed could hear was Al breathing and the steady hammer of his own heart. Ed almost reached out, but didn't dare, for fear of waking Al again.
"I don't really think these beds are meant for two." As near to sleep as Ed had come, Al's voice immediately had him alert, as if even dozing off, his only care was for his brother.
"Not like it's broken so far," Ed pointed out. He grinned at Al like they were little again, hiding from thunderstorms beneath the covers, like Al needed this they way he had so very long ago.
"Yeah but... you have a bed," Al replied, looking very much like he didn't need it at all. "Is something the matter?"
Ed opened his mouth to reply, to cobble together a reason, but he couldn't think for the way his stomach bottomed out. He managed a weak smile, insisting he was fine, thanking his lucky stars that l was too tired to argue over it. No sooner had he slipped from the bed and Al stretched out, needing space to sleep more than Ed's presence. Ed retreated to his own bed, trying to believe everything was right.
Something snapped, some thread that kept Ed smiling, kept him insisting that this was the ending he wanted. Whatever transpired to reduce him to this, clinging so hard as to try even Al's patience, it left him hollow and ragged and lost. He'd had the world at his fingertips nearly as long as he could remember, and then it was gone, leaving him with neither purpose or the power to create his own.
Ed was fleeing the hospital before his mind quite caught up with the need for room to breathe. He wandered darkened hallways in search of distraction, something to shatter the monotony for a while. On the outside, he was as well as could be expected, and no one tried to stop him when he left.
It was hardly the first night he'd spent alone, prowling the streets, lost in thought. There was a bleaker air to it, however, where the wreckage did not lie in his mind alone, but all around him. Shattered glass and debris still littered the streets in somber aftermath of what he could not stop soon enough. Maybe it was better Mustang was blind, that he could not see the ruin Ed took in.
Al had spoken, if only briefly, of returning to Rizembul. Even in the dark, Ed couldn't ignore what Central had become, and if there'd been a time he could have gone back home, it was gone. Even supposing Mustang - who had been at the hospital a rather suspiciously long time when Ed thought about it - went back to work and got on having him discharged, it seemed practically a crime to go. to get on a train, a wreckage of a city at his back, a mess he should've stopped, was more than Ed could stomach. With no goals ahead of him, no drive, no grand quest, he could see this through at least.
Without a cause, everything seemed so much more overwhelming. There'd always been distraction in his own responsibilities before but now... Al was whole and didn't need his every waking moment. The world was no longer ending, even if parts of it lay in ruin. Even if it were, he couldn't begin to imagine what he'd do to fix it. Reduced to mere normalcy, he hadn't the first idea how to cope.
Ed wasn't sure how far he wandered, where fragmented buildings gave way to dust and the sparse, dim lighting of the few bars and such still open. The first place he passed by looked packed, and that was what normal did in the face of trauma, wasn't it? They drank and forgot and pretended the world was fine for a moment.
He didn't know where to begin with that, either. Wrecked as Central was, he doubted they'd overlook his being 16, alchemist's pocket watch or no. The watch was a lie, anyway, a temporary remnant of a life he'd given up, and as soon as he picked it up to consider the possibility, he was angrily shoving it back in his pocket.
He was stalking past a liquor store when it occurred to him that while the establishment wasn't likely to overlook his youth, a customer might. It took some doing to find someone who would tolerate his scowling long enough to have a wad of bills shoved at them, but eventually he managed. At a loss for what to actually ask for, he left it to a sketchy looking, nameless man, which might not have been the brightest of decisions, but it landed him a sizable bottle of whiskey with a label he wouldn't have recognized anyway.
A block from the store, Ed considered the fact that he didn't have anywhere to go. The dorms had been largely obliterated, and taking the bottle back to the hospital was entirely out of the question. He slipped into an alley between buildings, where the streets were dark and no one walked, deciding it was all the privacy he was likely to get.
Once, he might have closed himself in, stolen bits of the wall so no one would find him. Ed set the bottle down, hands nearly clapping together on reflex before he remembered it would do him no good. Back to the wall of an old, brick building, he sunk sullenly to the ground. Weary and impatient, he jerked the bottle into his lap, yanking the cap off.
It smelled foul, like it was as likely to singe off his eyebrows as get him drunk. He tossed it back, gulping some down before he could talk himself out of it and immediately spluttering. That anyone ever managed to drink enough to get drunk in the first place was all but shocking, and he grimaced at the way what did make it down his throat burned.
Still, desperation inspired funny, stupid things, and he'd gone to all the trouble of getting it in the first place. The second swig of whiskey burned as much as the first, but Ed was prepared, clenching his teeth against the urge to spit it out. The third time was easier, not smooth, but easier.
That was how people drank it, wasn't it? Shots of it in one fell swoop? Well, not if they were Mustang, who drank whiskey or something like it in a glass with ice at parties like there was anything poised or elegant about this crap. Still, Ed put the bottle down, waiting for the world to fade.
Nothing happened, at least, nothing Ed noticed right away. The alley was still there, gritty and sharp against his back. The cold night air coiled around him until he hunched in on himself, frowning at the darkness like he could intimidate his surroundings into being less miserable. He was still drifting and without his alchemy, and Al was probably sleeping better without him there to be a pest. No, it wasn't working at all, and so Ed did what he did best. He tried harder.
The bottle was half gone by the time Ed noticed the buzz that crawled through his limbs. His lips felt numb when the mouth of the bottle met them, and even the sharp sensation of his teeth across them was dulled. The cold fled too, as the whiskey hit him all at once, leaving him somewhere far away and floating.
He was aware, distantly, that he still ached for things lost, that the world was no better for his temporary leave. He didn't care, and while it was no solution, it was temporary reprieve. There was peace he had never had, by virtue of apathy if not happiness, and Ed clung to that for all he was worth.
For a blessed little while, Ed was alright, coping if not altogether well. Unfamiliar with his accomplice, and unpracticed in the art of straddling the edge between pleasant drunk and violently ill, he drank a little more in hopes of drawing out what sanctuary he'd found.
There was blessing enough in the way his memory fogged after that. He forgot the details save that he was violently ill, stomach empty and still heaving as he trembled against the wall. The pleasant warmth of intoxication was gone, leaving on the bitter afterwards, all the pain he was in, and none of the mental faculties to deal with it.
He had sense enough at least not to go back to Al. Al would worry, and whatever else, he had to protect his brother. Still, he couldn't stay, couldn't risk being caught like this, and so Ed stumbled to his feet as soon s they'd hold him, racking his alcohol addled brain for a safe place to go.
Mustang. Mustang had always looked out for him, even if he was a bastard. Mustang was... also in the hospital. Still, if he could slip by the night nurse, who never paid him any attention anyway, maybe Mustang would let him hide for a little while, at least until his stomach wasn't threatening to stage a coup. Maybe he'd at least ignore the way Ed could scarcely pull his thoughts together, let alone words.
For lack of other options, Ed made his way back in what he hoped was the direction of the hospital. It was all he could do to put one foot in front of the other, only the walls he leaned against keeping him in a straight path. Cold and ill and the world still lopsided, it felt like hours before he reached anything he recognized in the dark and the rubble.
He could have cried in relief for the way the hospital seemed to rise up out of nowhere, stark against the graying skies of almost morning. Desperation won out over caution, and Ed slipped inside, trying as best as he could in his current state, not to draw attention. The hospital smell, disinfectant and death, nearly bowled him over, and he swallowed against the way his stomach roiled. He made for the stairs, no one used them this time of night anyway, folding in on himself on the steps.
Ed wasn't sure how he made it up to the third floor, only that the stairwell let out four doors down from Mustang's room. If the nurse at the main desk had seen enough of him to notice, she hadn't tracked down where he'd gone yet and he scrambled across the hall, nearly running into Roy's door in his frantic need to be on the other side of it. Hoping Mustang wouldn't give him too much shit for this, would just chalk it up to boredom or stupidity, Ed let the door close behind him, sick and wobbly, eyes very slowly adjusting to the dark.
A saner, more sober version of himself might wonder why they'd bothered to close the blinds for someone who couldn't see anyway. All Ed could think was that if he couldn't tell whether the world was getting any less loopy around him, maybe no one looking in would see him either. He felt his way around to the chair by the bed, curling up in it in a fashion his inebriated mind was certain was stealthy.
Roy sat up, and Ed jumped, somehow not having expected to be discovered. Even if the near darkness of the room, Ed could make out Roy's head turning in search of something he could not see, fingers heartbreakingly poised to snap like he could do anything without his gloves. Somehow, that made Ed feel worse in the moment than everything else, and he gave up with a sigh. "Relax. It's just me."
"Fullmetal? You sound terrible. What time is it?" Roy asked, sightless eyes looking right through Ed.
Ed cursed inwardly, caught out. He wanted to leave, but there was nowhere to go, and if he'd had the luck to slip into the hospital, he doubted he'd manage to stumble back out of it. He glanced at the clock, barely making out a hand pointing to the four. Hoping Roy's uncanny ability to sort him out was linked to being able to see his face, Ed lied, "Dunno."
Roy made what was probably a disapproving sound, but he didn't press the issue. He laid back down, rolling over until his back was to Ed. "I'd suggest a shower before you go back to your room. Your brother's recovered sense of smell might be new, but I imagine he'll recognize alcohol."
And that was the end of it. No lecture, no dressing down, no being kicked out of the room. Just a vague wave in the general direction of the bathroom like Ed couldn't find it on his own, and Roy went back to sleep, leaving Ed to the spot he'd claimed in the chair. It was almost disconcerting in its acceptance, and somewhere amidst his slowly sobering thoughts was a terror that maybe Roy was ruined too.