It had all gone so utterly wrong so quickly.
Roy hadn't been worried when, only a few minutes before, he'd been leading his small group of men down into the tunnels following Fullmetal's tip-off. He hadn't really been worried either, when, as he'd anticipated, they found Edward already in the middle of a five-to-one fight. He'd perhaps been a little concerned when Fullmetal had yelled, incoherent and ungrateful, that Al was in worse trouble, that they should go, get out of his face, help his brother. But his head was cooler than Ed’s, and once he'd relinquished Hawkeye and a couple of his men, he wasn't worried at all. Edward seemed to forget it sometimes (was it elder brother's pride?) but Alphonse was practically invulnerable, an even better fighter than his brother, and nearly as impressive an alchemist. Against a gang of ordinary thugs like this, and with the aid of an exemplary sharpshooter — well, concern was unnecessary. And so when one of the men they were fighting — the tall one, with something suspiciously chimerical about his appearance — had slipped away from the action, Roy had followed after him without a moment's hesitation. So quickly, in fact, that it took him a good few seconds of quiet pursuit to realise why he'd done it. He would shadow the man just long enough to work out if he was fleeing in panic or to alert his comrades. Then, depending, Roy would either flash-fry his opponent enough to get him scared and pump him for a little information, or he would carry on shadowing him until he knew which way he'd need to lead his men to find the heart of the organisation.
He hadn't even been worried when he realised, a moment later, that he didn't know if any of his men had noticed him slip away, or what way he'd gone. A little sloppy of him. He was too used to having Hawkeye at his side, noticing everything without being told — but it didn't really matter. This was hardly going to take long.
For a short while longer, things went smoothly. His quarry picked up a little speed. Yes, definitely some kind of chimera, Roy decided. There was something off about the shape of his back, the set of his ears, the sound of his quick breathing. Dog? Wolf, maybe? He took a left turn. Roy gave it a moment, then followed, jogged quietly round the corner — and found himself suddenly face to face with his quarry. The chimera was standing a little way down the tall, narrow corridor, head forward, nose distended into a wolfish snout, showing his teeth. Ready to fight. Ah. He'd known he was being followed. How? Of course, wolf. Canine hearing. Roy found he'd snapped before he finished his train of thought. The burst of flame was small, a warning shot. Size up your opponent. After all this effort, he was still hoping to get some information he could use. The wolf-man snarled, bolted for him. Roy snapped again, and the chimera ran straight into a wall of flame, recoiling with a howl as it vanished.
Footsteps sounded from behind the chimera, shouts. Roy aimed another bolt of flame high at the dark ceiling of the tunnel ahead, counted as the running figures were briefly lit up. Two? Three? He was concentrating properly now, watchful, feeling the adrenaline, and a little irritated with how this was going. The chimera pushed himself to his feet, charged for him again — and this time Roy got him quicker, with a more intense burst intended to drop him — and then snapped again without pausing, aiming a fireball at the spot of darkness where the approaching reinforcements ought to be.
Then, suddenly, he was lying on his back on the damp ground, ears ringing, no idea how he'd got there. Odd. It was as if someone had taken a pair of scissors and chopped a few frames of film from the last minute. He was in a fight. He needed to get up now, to move. His head felt somehow welded to the floor. It was as if there was a magnet in his skull. He'd hit his head, then. How had he managed to do that? Had he slipped? Someone spoke, close to him. "He's out, but he's breathing." I am not out, thought Roy. You're not even paying attention. Then he passed out.
It was too bright. Roy squeezed his eyes shut but it didn't do much for the horrible, splitting ache at the back of his head. He squinted, picked out a string of bare bulbs and a concrete ceiling, and turned his head to one side, to see if that was any better. It wasn't. The motion of turning made him suddenly, intensely nauseous. He managed not to retch, rode it out, listening to the voices he could hear carrying, echoing across the room.
After a few moments, the sickness subsided enough for it to be worth trying to get his brain working. Concussion, he managed. He'd been fighting the chimera, he'd fired at the reinforcements, and then – what? He definitely hadn't slipped over, which was good, because that would have been mortifying. It had been a blow to the back of the head — had someone come from behind, taken advantage of his distraction to crack him on the head? That was a sharp move on their part. His fighting style was long-distance, and it needed his concentration. He was always vulnerable to an enemy smart enough to get in close to him, where it was far more difficult to use his flames, where they could use an advantage of height and weight, or try to disarm him. Ah. His gloves. They hadn't left them on, of course. His hands were bare against the concrete floor. But had they got the spare pair tucked inside his jacket? He should check as soon as he could.
So, his brain seemed to be working, then. That was good. The headache was still there, but the sickness was better. He cracked an eye open, looked for the source of the voices, picked out a group of figures over the other side of the room. Focusing on them made the pain in his head worse. He tried anyway. Three of them. A thin man, sitting on a pile of crates and dangling his legs. Another, leaning with his back to Roy. And was that the wolf-man, curled on the floor? He seemed to be down. Good. The odds were improving a little. The two other men were talking fiercely, both of them looking away from Roy. Better. Hadn't there been a fourth man, back in the tunnels? Roy rolled his head slowly and cautiously to look at the other side of the room. It was bare and empty apart from a chair and a closed door. There didn't seem to be anyone else in the room. Good again. Roy slid his right hand under his jacket, reaching up to the inside pocket. Ah. Damn. His jacket was already open, and the spare gloves were gone. This was not good. For the sake of thoroughness, he checked the holster at his right side for his service revolver, but of course that was gone too. So, not only was he unarmed, but his opponents obviously had a modicum of brains. Damn. Another thought struck him, and he reached into his right trouser pocket, and — ha! — his fingers touched on a lead pencil and a thin piece of paper. He pulled it out: the receipt from today's lunch, at that cafe on the little town's main square. Pork chops with paprika. It seemed like a long time ago. With pencil and paper, he could draw an array. So his opponents weren't quite that smart after all, and he wasn't quite unarmed.
Roy held the paper and pencil loosely in his right hand, out of his captors' view, and considered his next move. Fire alchemy was of course best, if he could manage it. Neither of the two uninjured men had been smoking — but if either of them lit a cigarette, he could begin and end the fight in moments. Lacking a spark, he could, if necessary, fall back on the basics. Changes of state: he could raise the temperature, boil the air around them, although that would involve boiling himself along with them. A straightforward decomposition and reconstruction? Outside of revising for annual assessments, he hadn't done anything like that in years. But still, he had a surer eye and much stronger mental focus than in his student days. If it came to it, he was fairly sure he could manage a hole in the wall. But he was no specialist, was never going to be able to manage a real offensive strike like Armstrong's forests of spikes, or Fullmetal's instant polearms.
Decision made, Roy raised his head a little way, painfully, used his right hand to spread the paper out plain side up, and started to draw his arrays. This took rather longer than anticipated. The circles were difficult — the angle was awkward, and Roy was annoyed to find that his hand was shaking, but when he was done they looked workable. He moved on to fire next, sketching out the formula quickly and automatically, like signing his name. Finally, the formula for simple decompositions and reconstructions. He drew a plain and versatile version, not trusting his memory for anything else, and tried to fix the array in his mind as he drew. His task complete, he pocketed the pencil, grasped the paper in his hand and lay back again, savouring the little piece of control he'd regained over this unpleasant situation. Then he rolled his head again to the left, let his eyes fall half-shut, and moved on to his next task: watching and listening for an opportunity.
Fifteen minutes later, he was still watching, tense. His head was pounding again. The burst of adrenaline was wearing off.
Initially he'd been irritated. Didn't either of these thugs smoke? It was ridiculously bad luck. Petty criminals, mercenaries and other kinds of goon usually smoked like chimneys, in his experience. These idiots were nervous, twitchy — surely they ought be dying to light up?
The next few minutes had been frustrating, but in truth rather useful. Roy had learnt quite a bit about the situation, much of it distinctly heartening. First, that the main battle had already been fought and won by Roy's own side. It seemed that the Elrics had already taken care of the ringleader — who'd incidentally and gratifyingly turned out to be the man Roy had guessed was in charge, a disgruntled State Alchemist, Gregor Milne, who'd worked on military chimerae. God only knows how he'd got some of his former experiments working for him again when they should have been enjoying a little closure by tearing his head off. Milne wasn't a concern now, at any rate. As far as Roy had gleaned, he'd managed to blow himself up while aiming a shoddy offensive transmutation at Alphonse. Half of Milne's gang had been subsequently scooped up in a transmuted concrete holding pen — Fullmetal's handiwork, no doubt. Roy's team must have come in as the brothers were mopping up the remaining gang members, which was doubtless how they had got separated in the tunnels.
Now, these three were discussing how to make their escape as best they could. They were not agreeing. They were also definitely not all three chimerae. Roy knew this because the stocky man with his back to him was arguing, crudely and vociferously, that they should leave the injured wolf-man, and was using a barrage of insults about chimerae in general to make his point. The thin man, still sitting on the crates but now leaning forward intently, wanted to take the wolf-man with them, both out of some loyalty and because he was seriously underestimating the extent of the latter's burn injuries. Was he a chimera too? It was difficult to tell from this distance. Roy had also discovered why he hadn't been killed on the spot or left where he'd fallen. The thin man was the one who'd cracked his skull for him. He wanted to use Roy as collateral, a hostage to allow them to bargain their way past the military troops to a clear exit. That the thin man even thought this would work showed his ignorance and desperation. Desperation makes people stupid. Another potential advantage Roy could use. And here was another: they weren't watching him closely. They had noticed him moving, but Roy had been discreet enough, and they'd dismissed the movement as semi-conscious shifting, which the thin man had argued was a hopeful sign that Roy was alive enough to bargain with.
The wolf-man was semi-conscious and indifferent. The other two seemed seconds away from a fight. Roy took a slow breath and got ready to move. The thin man jumped down from his perch on the crates and eyeballed his colleague, standing deliberately too close. Go on, Roy thought. Push him. Like clockwork, the stocky man swore and shoved. The thin man moved forward and pushed back, standing on the balls of his feet. The stocky man ran at him, caught him in the middle with his shoulder, tackled — and Roy moved.
The moment he was on his feet, he realised he'd severely overestimated his readiness for a fight. The room tipped and swayed around him sickenly, but he managed to keep moving, staggered inelegantly to the door. He already had his left hand on the light switch, his right on the scrawled array in his pocket as the two brawling men turned to look at him. Ha, thought Roy, and flipped the switch.
A moment later, the room was in darkness, illuminated only by the spark zipping out like a firework from the lightswitch over to the men on the adjacent wall. Roy saw them scramble to get out of the way, then the bloom of the fireball he'd aimed at them. He flipped the switch again. The stocky man was sitting stunned on the floor by the crates, red welts already forming on his face and arms. Behind him a crate smouldered gently. The thin man was crouched a couple of metres away, singed but intact, and hissing with anger. Roy could only aim at one of them. Deciding quickly, he flipped the switch again, going for the stocky guy again. A small burst, enough to put him definitively out of the fight, and with any luck to leave a burning flame on his clothes or on the crate which Roy could use to divert a chain of fire on to the thin man.
The first part of this worked beautifully. The light went out and the spark zipped from it again. The stocky man howled and kicked, batted at a flame on the crate by his shoulder, a bright, easy target in the darkness. Roy touched his fingers to the array, focusing on the air around the flame — and suddenly found himself tackled from the front with some force, sliding along the floor with an opponent on top of him, pinning him down. The thin man? How had he approached so quietly? There was a hand round Roy's right wrist, trying to pull his hand from his pocket. He was going for the array. Roy resisted, screwing himself up to it, but somehow his arm gave way of its own accord. The thin man was prising the paper out of his numbed fingers. Roy heard a couple of quick rips, then the thin man snorted a laugh, and scraps of paper landed on his face. It was unexpected and nasty, being suddenly physically outmatched like this. In normal circumstances, Roy could have got a few good punches in. As it was, he needed to get away fast. He shoved the heel of his right hand out, as hard as he could, felt it connect satisfyingly with his opponent's jaw, and the man's head jerk back. Then he pushed his weight sideways and managed to haul himself out from under the thin man, stagger up and over to the wall, hit the light switch and grope for the door.
It was locked.
Almost instantly, as if that had somehow been the last straw, a powerful wave of dizziness hit him and he found himself leaning back against the wall, struggling to stay upright. The thin man had gotten to his feet, his face red, pumped with fury. Roy was more than half expecting some kind of hideous chimerical transformation, to see wings or scales or spikes bloom from the man's body. Instead he just gave another one of those snorting laughs, pulled a knife out of his jacket, and stepped forward.
And that, in short, was how Roy found himself, weaponless, utterly exhausted and with a swimming head, braced against a dirty wall in a disused bunker below a one-horse town, waiting to be struck down by an opponent whom ordinarily he could have dropped in a second. Roy might be still standing and ready to move, but still he knew with a tight certainty how this was going to play out. He would dodge the knife with everything he had, but in this condition he would never be fast enough. And then, in all probability, he would die right here on this patch of concrete, pointlessly and without purpose, while, perhaps only a few dozen yards away, Hawkeye, his men and the Elrics fought on or searched the tunnels for him fruitlessly. This had all been so avoidable — such a stupid mistake, a stupid death. The part of his mind that wasn't bone tired was furious with himself.
The thin man was still watching Roy. He shifted his posture a little, tensed the arm holding the knife. Roy sucked in a deep breath and hauled himself up the wall a little further. At least he'd prepared for this, he told himself. Even without him, the plan could continue, change could be brought to the country. Hawkeye knew where the papers were kept, knew everything he did. His team were excellent. He'd made the right choice in every one of them. They would carry on what he'd started. He could trust them with this. Roy locked eyes with the thin man, clenched his jaw, and waited.
Then the wall Roy was facing made a deafening crackling noise, heaved, and rolled itself up into an arch. Roy blinked. The thin man blinked. The cloud of floury plaster-dust around the new arch cleared a little, and the thin man turned and peered into it, but Roy already knew who he was going to see. Fullmetal stood in the doorway he'd made, feet apart, grinning like a lunatic at the thin man and his knife. He slammed his palms together and slowly, dramatically extended a long blade from his automail arm. He bent his knees and dropped into a fighting stance, bringing the blade up. Then he lifted his left hand and made a showy little beckoning motion. Normally Roy would be laughing inwardly — quite possibly outwardly — at the vast entertainment value of Edward's adolescent sense of theatre. Right here and right now, though, he just couldn't muster the laughter. It was pushed out by a rush of relief so powerful that he could feel it through his whole body, so intense that he had to concentrate to keep his knees from buckling.
The thin man had his back turned to Roy now, taking in this new development. His posture was stiff; he seemed somewhat stunned. Very briefly, Roy considered attempting a tackle from behind, but things being as they were, this was so clearly going to end up with him stabbed that it wasn't even an option. Part of him was frustrated, resentful that he wasn't up on his feet, running the show here. The rest of his mind was exhausted and vastly grateful. This fight was going to be over in moments, then all he would have to concentrate on would be salving his dignity as they got back to the others, by staying upright and summoning up a dry remark or two.
In front of him, the thin man made an odd sound in his throat, hunched forward, and started to stretch. His joints shifted impossibly, reconfiguring themselves. This really was turning out to be a day of surprises, thought Roy. Then — hey! Only now was he choosing to transform. Roy could be taken care of with a hunting knife, but Fullmetal warranted the full effect? Roy knew he couldn't look very impressive right now, but that was just insulting.
The thin man had clearly completely forgotten about Roy. He and Edward were circling each other now, wary and tense. The chimera's skin had turned rough, grey and scaly, his skull stretched out into a pointed snout, a long, permanent grin showing rows of sharp little teeth. Some kind of lizard? His shoes were kicked off, feet stretched long at the ankles up into an extra leg joint, and he was bobbing on the balls of his feet.
Roy looked at Edward, trying to work out what had impressed the chimera enough to make him pull out the big guns. There was the showy alchemical entrance, the wall and the blade, yes. But now that he thought of it, Fullmetal himself wasn't looking quite like the scrappy brat he'd grown used to seeing on the other side of his desk. He'd grown a little, but more than that, he'd filled out. Edward's shoulders looked broad and muscular under his thin shirt. His face was longer, the puppy fat had dropped away, his jawline was a little heavier. Huh. When had that happened? When had he shifted from looking like a baby-faced teenager whose opponents underestimated him, to a tough, wiry young man who immediately gave them pause?
And now that he thought about it, it also wasn't like Fullmetal at all to take this long before making his first move. He was used to seeing him charging in propelled by rage and boundless energy, relying on improvisation rather than strategy. It was odd to see him coolly sizing his opponent up like this.
Blindingly fast, the chimera moved, bounding across the room in two rapid leaps, striking for Edward's throat with an open mouth. For a moment, Edward didn't react at all, and Roy's stomach clenched up. Then the chimera was on him and Edward's arms were moving, not up to block his jaws but on his upper arm, moving down and in, using the chimera's own weight to throw him efficiently over Edward's shoulder, crashing to the floor a couple of metres away and sliding over nearly as far as the opposite wall. An elegant, economical move — quite unlike the chaotic, inventive strikes that he thought of as Fullmetal's style. Yet another surprise, then. Roy hadn't seen him in action for a good few months before today, he realised. It seemed his skills were maturing.
Roy's legs had started shaking again, worse this time. Since no-one was looking, he sighed, and let himself slide down the wall until he was in a sitting position. With a fight going on around him, really he ought to be on his feet, ready to move even if he couldn't contribute anything useful to the situation. But all the blood seemed to have left his head, and if Roy wanted to preserve his energy and indeed what remained of his dignity, the floor was the better option. So he sat, leaning his back against the wall, breathing as slow and deep as he could, concentrating on the fight.
His first judgment, that Fullmetal's fighting style had undergone some interesting developments, turned out to be right. He was still mobile, acrobatic, but his moves had become smoother, far less wasteful — elegant, even. He seemed stiller, more watchful. He even shouted a lot less. That was perhaps the most disquieting thing of all, so much so that Roy was cheered and relieved when the lizard man bit his automail calf, and Ed shook his leg and yelled over the chimera's surprised whine, "How d'you like the taste, huh?" It was reassuring to see signs that this graceful, assured young fighter was really Fullmetal rather than some eerie döppelganger.
The lizard-man was tiring now, but his face showed a clenched and desperate energy. Roy recognised the look immediately, a cornered man who knew it, who with nothing to lose could become suddenly deadly in the final moments of the fight. He didn't shout a warning; he could see in Edward's posture and his intent concentration that he didn't need to be told. The chimera sprang at Edward again, a move with fury but no real power in it. Edward threw him back to the floor almost casually. The chimera groaned, rolled over, and turned his eyes on Roy — and suddenly he was in the air, springing for Roy's throat like a striking snake.
What happened next was so quick and fluid that Roy had to reconstruct it for himself, in the moments afterwards. A wall from nowhere cut the chimera off at the knees as he sprang, the lizard-man stepped backwards to steady himself, and as he did so, his foot behind the wall seemed to drop into a hole, and he went flying backwards to the floor. His head struck the concrete with a resounding crack. The back of Roy's head throbbed briefly in sympathy even as the rest of him glowed with revengeful satisfaction. Another clap and a touch of Ed's hands to the floor, and the new wall flowed back, filling the hole in the floor, as bands of concrete rose up round the lizard man's torso and thighs, holding him in place. He seemed to be beyond even noticing.
Ed stood up, snorted through his nose, and finally looked at Roy. "Where the fuck are all these idiots coming from? If I was this guy, and Milne tried to drum me into his lame little gang, I'd have bitten his ass off."
Roy snorted. "Quite." His voice sounded odd and scratchy to his own ears, as if he had a sore throat. There was a little pause.
Ah, well, thought Roy. Let the mockery begin. He supposed letting Fullmetal get a few jibes in was only fair, a polite gesture towards equivalency for saving his life. Roy could wait until he could see straight before he attempted to gain the upper hand.
Edward broke the short silence with a shouted opening salvo: "What the fuck was that about, then?" Roy winced at the volume. The direct approach.
"Where the hell did you go? We didn't even realise you weren't there until Hawkeye and Al got back! We've all been running round these stupid tunnels like idiots looking for you! And! You've got your skull bashed in! Bet you thought no one could get the jump on you! This, this is what you get for being an arrogant, smug one-trick pony! And," he paused for breath, then moved in for the kill, "Lieutenant Hawkeye is going to go so crazy on your ass, you stupid bastard, and I am going to get popcorn and watch."
Roy bristled out of reflex, but then thought, woozily, fair enough. He considered his reply, but found himself already talking.
"I made a mistake. Basic. Stupid of me." Roy felt a mild pang of alarm. He'd meant to put a better spin on the truth before he spoke, but his brain seemed to have mailed the words straight to his mouth without consulting him first. He'd seen soldiers with head injuries come out with some truly bizarre things, in the past. He was going to have to watch himself once they were back with his men.
Another silence. "That was actually rather impressive. You've improved." Roy heard himself speak again. Damn it, damn it. As if being dizzy and helpless wasn't bad enough, he had to have involuntary honesty on top. He really hated head injuries, he decided. Another lesson learnt from today to add to the list, he thought.
Edward looked at him in response, shocked and sceptical. For a moment he seemed to be looking for an insult concealed somewhere in Roy's words, then he snorted derisively and stepped forward. "You hit your head pretty hard, huh?"
Roy's hand went up to his head. It was sticky at the back, and much of his hair seemed to be stiff with dried blood. He touched his face, and more dried blood flaked off in his hand. He must look an absolute state. Now Edward was stepping towards him, frowning, crouching in front of him. He raised his left hand to the back of Roy's head, and Roy winced in anticipating of his poor cracked skull being mauled about. But his touch on Roy's scalp, moving the matted hair aside, was surprisingly gentle and deft. Edward's other hand, the automail one, cupped Roy's jaw and the base of his skull at the back, supporting his head while Edward looked over the injury. It felt oddly intimate, but it was odder still to see Fullmetal showing no signs of embarrassment at the proximity. How bad must Roy look, to provoke a reaction like this? Still, Edward's movements were competent and careful, so Roy stayed still. His head was angled down, close to Edward's chest and the hollow of his throat. He watched the even breaths, noticed the triangular patch at the front of Edward's shirt which was soaked through with sweat, noticed the contours of muscles that could be traced where the shirt stuck to his skin. He smelled like fresh sweat, and gun oil. It somehow wasn't an unpleasant combination. The coolness of the metal fingers at the back of his neck felt soothing, eased his headache a little.
Then Edward's hands gently tilted Roy's head back to lean against the wall, and moved down to his shoulders. His right hand lifted again, then the palm moved across Roy's forehead, holding his hair away from his eyes. Automatically, Roy leaned his head a little into the cool metal. He found himself fighting off the impulse to close his eyes. Edward was looking intently into his eyes — checking for unequal pupil size or loss of focus, Roy guessed. Competent of him. He must have actually cracked that pamphlet on field medicine Hawkeye had pressed on the brothers. Roy found himself looking back. It was slightly disconcerting, seeing Edward this close. Now his face had grown thinner and longer, the lines of his cheekbones stood out. There was a little rasp of brownish stubble on his jaw. Roy considered a joke — "started shaving at last, I see?" — but found he didn't want to draw attention to their proximity or his study of Edward's face. Edward's eyes were large with concentration, the irises clear, amber. He must have no idea that he was beautiful now, Roy thought. He was so focused on his quest, on his brother, on the path ahead of him, that Roy was willing to bet that he wouldn't even have noticed admiring looks or attempts at flirtation. Which, right now, was an excellent thing for the remnants of Roy's dignity. To his mental list of lessons from today — tell someone where you're going, head injuries are embarrassing, sew a spare glove into the lining of your jacket — he added, Edward Elric. To be reviewed, later, when he had all his faculties back.
Edward pulled back, his examination done. "How d'you feel? Because you kind of look like you're not all there."
Roy bristled a little, and tried to focus his wandering mind on the moment. "My head hurts. There's some dizziness. A little nausea. My balance is off." Great. He'd intended to play it down, a long-established habit with injury. Damn this concussion for making him honest and straightforward.
"Think you can stand?"
Roy nodded, and pushed himself up onto his feet. There was a little shakiness, but Edward came in before he was all the way up, hooking one of Roy's arms over his shoulder. Roy straightened his spine, tried not to lean too much, and then took a moment to concentrate on breathing through the head rush and not vomiting. Edward's voice sounded near his ear. "Puke on my pants, Mustang, and you buy me a new pair."
"I'm fine," Roy said huffily. Good. He'd managed a lie. Edward responded with a derisive snort, but they started walking anyway.
The pace was slow, which was embarrassing but necessary. Roy stared at the patch of ground in front of him as they shuffled along and tried to bully his own body into cooperating with him. Breathe, don't throw up, don't lean, take another step. After a short time, the nausea was receding and Roy was starting to feel a little more fully present. As his head cleared, he became steadily more aware of the feel of Edward's shoulders and neck under his arm, the muscles tensed from supporting him, the ridges of the automail port under his shoulder, shifting smoothly. Roy's legs seemed to be tiring quickly. He tensed his muscles, tried to take firm steps, to keep the occasional shaking from being noticeable.
"You're going to the hospital, you know," said Edward, conversationally but with a hint of malice. Then, he added, rubbing it in: "And if you want to argue, you can have it out with Hawkeye."
In the absence of a comeback, Roy just nodded. They walked along in silence for a little while. Roy noticed he'd started leaning on Edward more. His legs weren't improving. But Edward didn't seem to be having any problems supporting his weight. Really, this could have gone worse, Roy thought. At least he was on his feet, at least he hadn't fainted into Fullmetal's arms. That would take some living down.
Edward's head turned to look at him. Roy kept his eyes fixed on the tunnel ahead, pretending he hadn't noticed. He felt Edward's grip on his wrist pull a little harder, his automail arm tighten a bit around Roy's back. What? Roy thought. Then patches of static were floating in across his vision, and his ears were ringing. Ah, he thought in resignation, of course, and then fainted.