It was getting harder. Night brought dreams that disturbed and disorientated him, leaving him to wake restless, snatching at thoughts that were already beyond him. The days only tired him more quickly, and it was a struggle just to get through the tasks he could do. He got annoyed at Alphonse for trying to hurry him, for talking too fast, sometimes for talking too slowly. Mustang irritated him just by being in the same room. The cat annoyed him by being a stupid cat, and the days were too cold, the sofa by the fire was too warm, he wasn't hungry, and he hated jigsaw puzzles.
So when Roy came to collect him out of bed that morning, Edward rebelled.
"Good morning, Edward," Roy said, opening the curtains. "It's a nice day, isn't it?"
Edward scowled, burying his face in the pillows. It wasn't a nice day, and the sooner it was over, the better.
Roy obviously had a different opinion, coming over to place his hand on Edward's shoulder. "Well, time to get up—"
Deliberately, Edward pushed his hand away, pulled the blankets up over his head, and curled up under them.
There was silence and then a hand was hesitantly placed on his shoulder. "Edward? Don't you want breakfast?"
Edward shook it off and stayed very still.
He heard the floor shift as the man hesitated, then his footsteps going to the door. Edward relaxed as the door shut behind him. There was something warm and familiar in the dark, and staying was easier than dealing with everything.
He didn't get long to rest though; a few minutes later and the door opened again. "Nii-san? Is everything all right?"
Everything was all wrong, Edward thought peevishly, remaining curled in the blankets.
The bed shifted as Alphonse sat down. "Are you feeling all right? Nii-san?" The blanket shifted, and Edward tugged it back immediately, curling up more tightly. "Nii-san, don't you want to come downstairs?"
"Aren't you hungry? We're having sausage and scrambled eggs this morning. You like scrambled eggs—"
"I hate scrambled eggs."
"What about toast? I could make you some toast."
"I hate toast."
Alphonse sounded bemused as he answered. "You have to eat something, Nii-san. What do you want?"
"I'm not hungry."
Alphonse was quiet for a while, his hand resting on Edward's shoulder through the blanket. "Are you angry at us, Nii-san? Did we do something wrong?"
Edward wavered at the note of hurt in Alphonse's voice, but his resolve was firm. "Not getting up."
"What—you want to stay in bed all day? You can't do that, Nii-san."
Alphonse huffed exasperatedly. "Well, if you're going to be like that." His feet sounded lightly across the floor and the door shut again.
Success. Edward uncurled a little, but left the blanket over his head. It was better this way, darker. He could pretend the rest of the world didn't exist and just drift for a while—
He may have fallen asleep again, drifting in and out of thoughts. The opening of the door didn't annoy him as it might have earlier, and his only reaction to the footsteps coming to his side was to curl up a little tighter.
But they didn't try to speak or wake him. The blankets at the base of the bed were shifted and something placed on the bed. And then, nothing.
Edward waited, wondering what had happened. He hadn't heard footsteps, whoever it was had to be there still—he started as something shivery brushed his foot. What was that?
There was a querulous mew, and then a cold tickly nose was thrust against his foot. Edward started, drawing his foot up and eliciting another mewl from the kitten.
Edward tried hard to ignore it, clinging to his bad mood stubbornly. It had to be Al, he thought, sourly. This was the kind of low trick his brother would stoop to. Then the kitten climbed onto his stomach, and it was all he could do to keep himself from squirming. Those little feet tickled! And it was somehow hard to be grumpy with a kitten nosing the back of your neck. Edward gathered it up carefully and pushed the blanket back.
Alphonse smiled hopefully from the foot of the bed. "Feeling better, Nii-san?"
Edward shrugged. "Scrambled eggs?"
Alphonse made him fresh scrambled eggs from scratch, and Roy found him orange juice and set up a table so he could sit in the window seat in the longue and look outside as he ate. Edward was quite happy to let them spoil him. Being in a bad mood had tired him, and left him feeling rather mellow and sleepy. He was content to look out the window, watching the snow fall and listening to Alphonse talk as he peeled him an apple at the other end of the window seat.
"—early this year, isn't it?" Alphonse was saying. "We've got snow on the ground, and it's not yet your birthday, Nii-san."
"Speaking of that august occasion, we should be making plans," Roy said. "We'll need to go shopping."
"You'll need to go shopping," Alphonse said, smug. "I've already got Nii-san's present."
They sounded relaxed, happy. Edward let their words wash over him, soaking in the tone rather than the meaning . . . although, the word 'birthday' had triggered interest. He accepted a slice of apple from Alphonse thoughtfully.
"Look at him," Roy says with a fondness that undercut the bite in his words. "Any more spoilt, and he'll be declaring himself fuhrer."
Alphonse snorted, giving Edward another piece of the apple. "You're just jealous. Anyway, if you want an apple you can peel your own."
Edward smirked in Mustang's direction and ate the apple. His mood was now pretty near perfect.