On Wednesday morning, Ed woke with a sore shoulder. Soreness at his automail port wasn't unusual and he had spent the previous day hauling boxes into storage at his office, so he didn't think much of it. He didn't imagine there were many other twenty-six year olds with the sort of aches and pains he dealt with, but then, he wasn't your average twenty-six year old.
"You all right?" Roy asked as he passed Ed a mug of coffee.
"Hmm?" He wondered if, when Roy was Fuhrer, they could have a national appreciation day for coffee.
"You were restless last night and you look a little pale this morning." The morning paper rustled when Roy set it aside to peer at Ed grunted—like Roy had any room to talk about restlessness. It was a good thing automail didn't bruise the way Roy kicked in his sleep. "I'm a little sore from moving the files, I think." A slow, arrogant grin spread across Roy's face, but Ed smacked at him with his free hand. "One word about my age and I'll spend the rest of the week poking at your fat."
The grin faded to a frown. "I don't have any fat."
Ed reached out and patted Roy's stomach. "Of course you don't, baby."
"Don't call me baby."
"Don't call you fat, don't call you baby, do you have any other restrictions on my affection for you?"
Roy picked up the paper, blocking Ed from his view. "Go to work."
By the end of the day, Ed felt like he'd spent it running through the desert and he couldn't raise his arm over his head without pain. He left work early under the concerned watch of his secretary, thought briefly about calling for a cab to get him home but decided the walk wouldn't actually kill him.
Roy had a late meeting that night, followed by a later function that Ed had begged out of earlier in the week. By the time he got home to the empty house, he figured it was a good thing Roy wasn't expecting him tonight because he didn't feel like eating dinner, let alone getting dressed to go be ignored at some stupid cocktail party.
With the last of his strength, he trudged upstairs and collapsed into bed, still fully clothed because taking anything off was just too much effort. He closed his eyes, feeling the strong pull of sleep and wondered for a moment if he should call someone. Something was obviously wrong, but the phone was downstairs and a little sleep could only do him good.
The bed dipped and Ed woke to find Roy slipping in next to him. He smelled of cigar smoke and fine brandy as he slid closer. "You're home late."
"It's not that late." Roy pressed a kiss to Ed's temple. "You're warm. How do you feel?"
"Tired." He closed his eyes and let Roy settle in next to him. "Good party?"
"It was fine, you would have hated it." Roy kissed him again. "Get some sleep."
He opened his eyes surprised at the darkness. "What time is it?"
"It's about four. How do you feel?" Roy's voice was close to his ear and his hand was pressed against Ed's forehead.
"I'm tired, which would be fixed if you would let me sleep." He jerked his head away from Roy's touch, but the movement jostled his shoulder and sent a flash of pain through him. His gasp was not entirely silent and Roy, of course, jumped on it like a national secret.
Usually, there was a glass of water on his nightstand and Ed leaned up, looking for it. "I'm thirsty and I want to sleep." He collapsed back against the pillows when he couldn't find the glass.
Roy's night vision had to be far superior to Ed's because he somehow found the glass and pressed it to Ed's lips, sending a rush of cool water into his mouth. "I think I should call Al."
"It's four in the morning. Don't bother him, I'll be fine." He closed his eyes, the feel of Roy's hands passing over his face and throat soothing him. Then, just as Ed was drifting back to sleep, Roy touched his shoulder near the port and it felt like Roy had set him on fire. "Roy!" He batted the hand away. "You don't have to push so hard."
The bed shifted as Roy sat back. "I barely touched you. Something's wrong. I'm calling Al."
"You don't have to call." But Roy was already up and out of the room and Ed couldn't fight sleep any longer.
"Brother, wake up for me, now." Al sounded so tired and so worried Ed couldn't help but respond.
"I told Roy not to call you." He blinked in the sudden light of the room and glared at Roy who sat next to him on the bed.
Al took out his stethoscope and pressed the cool metal to Ed's chest. "I'm glad he did. Now hush." Dark rings circled Al's eyes, but his movements were as collected and professional as always as he listened to Ed's heart and lungs. "Can you take off your shirt for me?"
Sitting was something of a struggle until Roy came to his aid, helping him up and guiding his shirt over his head. Halfway off, though, Ed had to stop as the pain in his shoulder flared, stealing his breath and blacking out the edged of his vision. "Little help?" he asked when he could speak and let Roy pull the shirt off completely as Ed tried to remain as still as he could.
"What did you do?" Al sucked in a sharp breath and bent his head close to Ed's shoulder.
"What are you—" he followed Al's gaze and the red, swollen mess of his shoulder made Ed feel a little ill. All around the port at his shoulder the skin was so distended it looked ready to burst and he couldn't remember ever seeing the skin there look so red. "I thought it hurt from moving the boxes." He looked to Roy to back him up.
"I saw him this morning. It didn't look like this." Roy kept stroking his back, his hands solid points of comfort.
Al's mouth was tight with worry as he reached out and then let his hand fall back. "I'm sorry, I need to touch it. I'm sorry."
Roy slid his hand into Ed's. "I'm here."
"Go ahead." He closed his eyes so he wouldn't have to see Al coming at him, but it didn't help. Just the touch of Al's hands on his shoulder felt like fire and when he squeezed Ed had to clamp down hard to keep any sound from escaping, even as he arched off the bed in an instinctive attempt to get away from the pain. Roy's voice was a soft, constant rumble of nonsense in his ear that kept him grounded even when he couldn't breathe through the pain.
Finally, finally Al stopped poking at him. "All right, it's all right brother. I'm sorry. It's all right now. Just lay back down and rest." He pressed the palm of his hand against Ed's forehead. "I'm sorry. Try to rest. I want to talk to Roy for a minute."
"You can tell me what's going on," he said through heaving breaths, not yet ready to let go of Roy's hand.
"I will, I just want to talk for a minute and you need the rest." Al motioned to Roy who pressed a kiss to Ed's mouth and squeezed his hand once before letting go. Bits of their conversation drifted to him, 'fever', 'port', 'serious' but most of their words were lost. Ed wanted to turn his head and watch their conversation, Al gave away so much of what he was thinking with his body language—sometimes Ed thought Al forgot he wasn't an expressionless hulk of armor—but the light was so bright and all he really wanted to do was close his eyes.
After a while, their conversation died and the bed dipped as Roy resumed his seat while Al came around to the other side of the bed. "I want to remove your automail."
"Fuck, no." Just touching the area around the port hurt like hell, he didn't want to think about what the pain of actual removal would be like.
Al sighed. "You have an infection, brother, this is very serious. If I remove the automail now, it might relieve some of the stress on the port." He reached out and rested his wrist against Ed's forehead. "I'm worried that if we can't get the infection under control, you'll need surgery. I don't want you to have to go through the removal of the port and then reattachment."
"I don't want you to, please." He turned to Roy. "Please don't let him."
"I think you should do what Al says, love."
"Al." He reached out and grasped Al's arm. "I don't want you to."
"It's for the best, brother. You're in pain and you're feverish and you're not making the best decisions right now. We need to do this. Trust me."
At his side, Roy stroked down his arm. "It's going to be fine, love. Please, please listen to what Al is saying."
Ed closed his eyes trying to think around the panic he was feeling, trying to see some sense in what they were saying instead of feeling like they were ganging up on him. He felt closed in and pinned from all sides, but there was a small, rational part of his brain still functioning. This was Al and Roy and together, they would never ask him to do something that would hurt him, not in the long run. "All right." He closed his eyes and turned his face into Roy's shoulder as Al made the preparations, injecting Ed with something that made him feel distant and numbed the pain just a bit when Al wrenched his arm from his body.
He was so cold, so tired. At times, he was aware, awake, but too tired to open his eyes. He didn't think Al and Roy knew he was listening.
"I thought this was supposed to make him better."
"It's not magic, Roy. Removing the automail removed some of the stress on the infection. It's not going to make it disappear."
"He's been like this for two days, now."
"Don't you think it's time to take him to the hospital?"
"If we take him to a hospital now, they're going to remove the port. I'm thinking long term, here."
"If this can help him, why are we hesitating at all?"
"You weren't there the first time. I sat outside the room when they did the surgery and I will not make him go through that a second time. You didn't see what it was like and I will do anything to spare him that pain again."
"Yeah, well, it won't matter much if he's dead."
"One more day and if he's not better I'll admit him myself."
"Ed? Can you hear me?"
Surfacing through layers of fog and the metallic tang of medication, Ed responded to Roy's voice by opening his eyes. Speech was beyond him at the moment.
Roy's face was illuminated by the watery moonlight, casting sharp shadows and creating lines that were still years away. He was so close, Ed could feel the puff of each breath on his face. "I need you to focus on me for a minute, can you do that?"
Ed nodded, even though the movement of his head tugged at the tender flesh of his shoulder. It seemed important and Roy looked so serious.
"I don't know what to do. I need you to fight, love and I need you to tell me what to do. Al doesn't want to take you to the hospital because they'll remove the port but you're not getting better. I can't, please, Ed, you have to be strong because I don't know what to do anymore." A long time had passed since the last time Ed had heard such desperation in Roy's voice. His words were thick and choked as though he didn't have the space in his mouth to get them out. Ed couldn't tell if it was the moonlight playing tricks on his eyes or if there were tears in Roy's eyes.
He reached out and fumbled a touch along Roy's jaw, feeling the sharp prick of his stubble. "You look tired."
"Are you listening to me? If we don't take you to the hospital, you could die, but the surgery for removal might be too much for you now. We might have waited too long and I can't—"
"Shhh. It's all right, love. It'll be okay, you'll see. Trust Al." He let his hand drop, too tired to keep it in place and closed his eyes.
"I love you, I love you and I'm sorry I don't say it enough. I'm sorry I fight with you so much when I should be telling you how much better you make my life. It's been worth every living second of it. I love you."
"I'm not dying, Roy." He was so tired.
"Keep fighting. Please, please, love. I can't be here without you."
Ed dreamt that he was on fire. He knew it was a dream, but it didn't stop him from the overwhelming panic as flames surrounded him. In the distance, he could see Roy, gloves on and snapping for all he was worth, trying to put the flames out. Someone had clearly forgotten to tell Roy that he was much better at starting fires than stopping them.
If only he had some water. He was surrounded by empty glasses and dozens of faucets that poured sand instead of water when he turned them on. Every time he thought he found water, it turned out to be a trick of his eyes and the fire just kept burning.
Ed woke with a gasp, so hot and thirsty for a moment he thought he was on fire and that it hadn't been a dream. But Roy was there, pressing a cool, wet cloth to his forehead and lifting a glass to his lips. If Roy could only provide this service to everyone in Amestris, he'd be Fuhrer in no time.
"Go slow. You don't want to make yourself sick." Roy's voice was hoarse and cracked and Ed blinked up at him, noting he looked worse than he sounded. "Your fever broke in the night, and the medicine seems to be working." He nodded to the empty chair on the other side of the bed. "Al went to go get more supplies, but he thinks you're through the worst of it now."
Ed swallowed the last of the water and wondered how long Roy would make him wait before he could have more. "It's been a while? I remember you talking," he reached out and grasped Roy's hand whose grip in return was strong enough that Ed was surprised his bones held. "Little bits and pieces, but," he shook his head. It was all one hot, hazy blur.
"It's not important, it doesn't matter. All that matters is that you're getting better and I love you. I love you."
"Okay." Ed drew out the word like a question.
"I do and don't ever doubt it, don't ever let me get away with not telling you. You're getting better and I love you."