[Edward Elric, Cast; MA] Pandora's Box: Chapter 10 Character/Series: Edward Elric, Cast; AU to the original series Rating: MA Notes: Written based on the 'what if' idea that Ed had never been able to bind Al's soul to the armor. Please heed all warnings. All chapters can be found here. Title: Pandora's Box: Chapter 10: A Single Battle Lost Author:yuuo Word Count: 5527 Summary:For what reason I still can't fathom, the military bunked us together.
tomorrow's another day and i am not afraid so bring on the rain -JoDee Messina
For what reason I still can't fathom, the military bunked us together. I decided to sleep on the floor, until Hawkeye- somehow telepathic or maybe just very observant- requisitioned a cot to go next to the bed. She insisted I take the bed, claiming it'd be easier for her to get up if something happened, and she was my bodyguard.
I thought the whole thing was stupid, so I said whatever and sat on the bed to start working on my report for Mustang. As soon as Hawkeye stepped outside though, I pulled out my notes on Marcoh's work and got to work. I needed that array, and fast, before the military pulled anything else with me. The fact that they gave me a clearance rank promotion, without putting me in uniform to do it, led me to believe that something was going on, and I didn't want to fall under Central's eyes again before I could finish with Marcoh's research and had exhausted it for possibilities.
Hawkeye returned to the room some time later, after the sun had gone down and the night had cooled, and I quickly hid my research notes under my report. She didn't say anything about my obvious deception, a fact I appreciated.
"How are you, Edward?" she asked, unbuttoning her uniform jacket and hanging it up.
I didn't look up from my writing, giving her a whispered, off-handed 'fine'. She stepped over to the bed, sitting crosslegged on the floor by it, on the side closest to where I sat. "Are you sure that nothing is bothering you?"
For a moment, I wasn't sure what she meant and I blinked blankly at her, before it occurred to me that she, like Mustang and Hughes before her, was trying to 'reach me' and 'save me' or whatever bullshit they were doing. Prying, is what. I turned back to my work. "Just these reports that the colonel requires."
"Of course," she said quietly. "Edward, I won't say that what happened in Liore was okay, because we both know it wasn't, or that everything's going to be fine. Because I can't promise that. However, I can say that the reason I am here is to help and-"
"That's enough, Lieutenant," I interrupted her, not looking at her or away from my work. "You're out of line." I didn't know how to be a commanding officer, my only two real examples were Mustang and Archer, and my hostility to having my scars poked and prodded at tended me towards Archer's style, which would prove disastrous as time went on.
She tried again after a moment of silence. "Do you know why, on the field, a platoon lieutenant will follow the sergeant instead of the other way around, if they're a good one?"
I knew why, I'd seen it in action up north, in Acheron, in Firebase Olivia. But I decided to humor her, putting on a patient look and setting my pen down, half turning to her. "Why?"
"A platoon leader is straight from the academy. A sergeant has the years of field experience to recognize when a situation's a bad one. It's not out of line to advise a senior officer on matters to protect them. A subordinate helps their superior to their fullest extent."
I gave her a cold stare. "I have more field experience than you think, Lieutenant," I said with a bland tone to my movements. "Your advice is duly noted."
"I'm not saying you don't, Edward," she said quietly. "I know you do. Part of my job is to help you avoid making choices that could harm you as well."
"I don't need your concern, Lieutenant," I said one-handedly as I stacked my papers into neat piles. "And you will address me as Fullmetal." I put my papers away in my travelogue and Marcoh's book and tucked them away in my suitcase, then turned to face her and speak with both hands. "I outrank you, Lieutenant. I'm pretty sure officers are trained better than to act so familiar with their superiors."
She closed her eyes. "As you wish, Fullmetal. But I wasn't trying to speak to a superior officer, I was trying to speak to that boy I taught sign to all those years ago. Who I can still see behind those walls."
I jerked my head back, recoiled as if struck, my lips curling up over my teeth in a defensive snarl. "I didn't take you for the emotional sort, Lieutenant," I said as mockingly as I could force myself to do. I liked her, I didn't want to be an outright jerk to her, but she was pushing at all my buttons right then, and I didn't appreciate it.
She smiled. "Funny what walls can hide, hm?"
"I'm not interested in what you think you see, Lieutenant," I snapped, my gestures becoming marginally more animated with my anger. "I've taken your advice into consideration, and quite frankly, I don't give a shit. This conversation is over."
Her smile fell, flattened into a thin line as she pursed her lips in frustration. "As you wish, sir. I'll leave you to your work for now." With that, she got up and headed for the door, pulling her jacket back on as she went.
I let out a shaky breath. She was going to be difficult to work with if she insisted on trying to 'save me' from myself or whatever she thought she was doing.
Our train broke down in a small down called Andover and we were forced to take shelter at the local inn while the train was repaired so we could make it the rest of the way to East City. It was raining, of course.
It didn't typically rain in the east this time of year, waiting for when harvests had been gathered and people surrendered the land to the winter floods, too warm along the desert's edge for snow. Rizenbul was the same, too far south, too far east for snow, and I preferred it that way. When I was little, Al and I both wished for a chance to see a good snow storm, to curl up by the fire as it raged outside, and then go play in it the next morning.
I hated snow now.
I wasn't exactly fond of rain though, either. Which is what it was currently doing, the weather cooled by the system that had moved in and started dumping rain on the land.
The fact that it was raining and rather cool out was made worse by the fact that I was out without my coat, only my long-sleeve turtleneck and my pants between me and the chilly rain that was soaking my skin and clothes and plastering my hair to my face. I huffed, pushing my bangs away from my eyes as I wandered the streets, avoiding going back to the hotel just yet. I'd had to pay the average man's daily wages to get someone to wear my coat to keep Hawkeye from realizing right away that I wasn't actually sitting at the bar so I had a moment's chance to escape, to get away from my newly-adopted shadow. Once she'd returned to the room the other evening at the base, I hadn't been given a moment's peace, the woman hanging just behind me, always within eyesight, silently fussing when I woke up in cold sweats, and I was sick of the forced company.
Now that I'd been out in the rain for awhile, I couldn't say with total certainty which was worse- the lieutenant or the damn rain.
I ducked underneath a storefront's awning, squeezing the water out of my ponytail as I cast the sky a baleful glare. It wasn't even storming, no thunder or wind or lightning to match my foul mood, just a steady, constant, downpour. Fucking rain.
I mentally snarled at the weather, crossing my arms and huddling back against the brick wall, debating about returning to the hotel. Hawkeye had no doubt discovered my duplicity by now, and possibly was already looking for me; if I went back now, I might actually have some time before she returned to try to unknot some of my nerves, or at least change and warm up a bit.
Brother, did you hear that?
I paused, half-straightened away from the wall, and glanced around. The sound had been so quiet, I almost hadn't heard it past the steady thrumming of the rain on the awning above my head, but it'd been distinct, a quiet little squeak of a noise.
Willing whatever it was to make a noise again, I began to look around, inspecting the edge of the building and down around storm drains a bit hesitantly, not entirely certain I'd actually heard anything, the more I looked and thought about it. It would've been easy to imagine- it'd been raining like this back then, too, hadn't it?
Brother, where are you going?
"'m not gonna get caught, dummy," I whispered without thinking, ducking my head around the corner of the building into the alleyway, peering through the shadows and the rain. A couple metal trash cans, some old crates and boxes, nothing out of the ordinary for an alley next to a store. Anything in there could've made the noise, maybe the hinges of the screen door that was half hanging open down the way, or something.
I was imagining things.
The noise came again, and I frowned, turning back again, crouching down and trying to peer behind the trash cans.
Something moved, and I crawled forward, wondering if perhaps I'd completely lost my mind to be crawling around on the streets in the rain like that, but a frantic scramble of movement told me that I at least hadn't been hallucinating.
The kitten was barely bigger than my fist, its black fur soaked and its entire body quivering. It let out another pitiful meow, trying to huddle down farther away from me without moving from its spot. I smiled, holding out my hand. "Hey," I whispered. "I'm not gonna hurtcha. C'mere."
At first, the kitten didn't seem too inclined to listen to me, but it wasn't leaving, either, so I reached out my other hand, slowly moving to pick it up. The kitten cried in protest as my soaked gloves covered it and I hauled it up off its feet, but didn't take long to settle down and cling fearfully to my shirt once I'd gotten it gathered up in my arms properly. "That's a bit warmer than the street, huh?"
My nerves began to jangle and the hairs on the back of my neck stood up as I abruptly realized I was being watched, and I whirled, tensed and looking around quickly for my observer. The only other person stupid enough to brave this wet and miserable weather was probably the lieutenant, looking for me.
A man in a faded old tan coat and sunglasses that did little to nothing to hide the large white scar that marred his face was watching me a few paces away, and I could swear he hadn't been there before. Walking by, maybe, and stopped to wonder what the hell the soaked blond kid was doing, crawling around like an idiot and talking to no one. I narrowed my eyes, taking a step back and holding the kitten away from the man defensively, giving him a challenging stare.
The man looked at the two of us over the rim of his glasses a moment, then lifted his head, pushing his glasses farther up his nose. "This is poor weather. You should find shelter," was all he said before he started walking away.
I didn't answer, just frowned in confusion as I watched the man leave, only relaxing once he was long out of sight, then looked down at the kitten. "Probably a good idea," I agreed under my breath, and turned and hurried back in the direction I'd come.
To my surprise, the lieutenant was waiting for me in our hotel room, her hair and clothes wet as if she'd already gone looking for me and given up. Well, at least she realized she wouldn't find me until I was ready to be found. She almost seemed to relax when she looked over at me from her place by the window, then the cold, professional demeanor returned as she stepped over to the dresser in the room and held up a towel for me. "Your coat is on your bed, sir," she said quietly, a hint of annoyance in her tone. She turned to the bathroom to change once I'd taken the towel from her hand.
"Lieutenant," I said, hoping she would hear me before she disappeared, unfolding the towel and carefully extracting my squirming companion's claws from my shirt. "Get another towel when you're done in there."
Hawkeye looked at me, then down at the black and white bundle of fur I was wrapping up in the towel, and I thought for a moment that her expression softened. "Yes, sir," she answered, then turned and stepped into the bathroom, pausing only to grab a dry change of clothing from her bag.
I dreamed that night, as I usually did. Also as usual, it was a nightmare, the children from the church accusing me of being a hypocrite, giving mercy and compassion to a cat instead of them. In my haste to keep the cat from their reach, I snapped its neck.
I'm sorry, but that's about as far as I want to relive that particular nightmare.
I woke up in a cold sweat, my stomach tying into unpleasant knots. A little paw batted at my hair, mewing incessantly next to my head. I held perfectly still, staring at the little kitten, unwilling to touch it, lest I break it. Finally, I got up and went to the bathroom, retching into the toilet. I was sure by now that Lieutenant Hawkeye was awake, I doubted the military had let her ever become a deep sleeper, or had broken her of it back in Isbhal if she had been before.
I sat back against the wall, rubbing my hand over my face, trying to settle my muscles and nerves. The kitten mewed at the door, paws reaching under the door crack. I reached up and let her in, not touching her until I was sure my control over myself was absolute, then I picked her up and pet her behind the ears tiredly. After a moment of listening to the kitten's quiet purrs, I stood up and walked out.
If Hawkeye was awake, she gave no indication of it, so for the moment, I had the illusion of privacy as I changed out of my sleepwear into my daily clothes, a dry turtleneck and black pants, dried earlier with alchemy. I picked the meowing kitten back up, shushed it and sat on the table by the window, leaning against the cool glass as the kitten snuggled up on my lap and went to sleep.
I stayed like that until dawn, dozing in and out, always waking with a jerk and a check on the kitten, relieved to find it still purring away in sleep. Eventually, Hawkeye awoke, and sat up quickly after checking my bed. "Edward?"
I didn't bother to correct her this time. I simply raised my hands and signed a question to her. She blinked, rubbed her eyes, then frowned. "I'm sorry, say that again?"
"You've got a pet already, don't you?"
She looked confused. "Yes, I do. A dog that the sergeant found about a year ago. Why?"
Why? Why did she think, why? What a stupid question, I thought. "Interested in another?"
She shook her head. "Edward, you're the one that fou-"
"Traveling isn't a good life for a pet," I interrupted. "If you don't want her, I'll just leave her. Someone will want her." I was bluffing, of course, appealing to Hawkeye's sense of compassion that I knew she had to have, since she was taking on a pity case like me.
"No, I'll take her," she said quickly. "If Hayate doesn't appreciate the newcomer, I'm sure the colonel will be happy to take her."
I resisted the urge to laugh at the thought of Mustang with a kitten wrapping him around her little paw, which is exactly what this ball of fluff would do to anyone that chanced across her. If I didn't have to travel in my work, I'd keep her myself, she had me owned already.
But I didn't, just made a derisive noise, turning my head to rest my check against the cool glass.
"Edward?" I turned my head to look at her, still not correcting her slip. "I'll make you a deal. I'll take the cat, but as soon as your life settles down and you're able to, you have to take her back. She's grown rather attached to you."
I looked down at the cat. "Fine," I whispered. "Get dressed, we have a train to catch."
"Yes, sir." She pulled out her uniform and disappeared into the bathroom, while I packed my sleepwear I'd left on my bed. I used one of the pillows and a bedspread to transmute a small soft carrier for the cat, and set her down inside it, snapping close the mesh door. She made unhappy noises, pawing curiously at her new abode.
"Relax," I told her. "You'll be safe this way."
Hawkeye emerged a few minutes later, fully dressed, and immediately looked at the carrier, then at the bed, then at me. I gave her a sour look. "I planned on paying for it," I said. "Despite my reputation, I don't break the law unless I have to."
"Yes, sir." She packed her night wear and followed me out of the room.
Oh goodie. I just loved being approached by growling voices. I glanced behind me, looking at the man who'd spoken. He was the guy in the coat and sunglasses from the night before. And he looked pretty pissed this time. I had no idea who shat in his morning oatmeal, but it was obvious it was about to be taken out on me.
Damn. So close to the train station, too.
I turned, facing him down with both hands full- one with my suitcase, one with the cat carrier- and stared him down. Hawkeye moved in front of me slightly, drawing her sidearm, her duffel abandoned beside me. "What do you want?" she demanded on my behalf after I tried an abortive attempt at speaking to the man.
"I'm not interested in you, woman. My only interest is State Alchemists." He pushed up his sleeve, revealing a very elaborate transmutation circle tattooed around his arm. It looked like it went higher up the sleeve, but his coat was only pushed up to his elbow.
I quickly dropped my suitcase and grabbed Hawkeye's arm, shoving the cat carrier into her free hand. "Get her out of the line of fire, I'll handle him until you get back," I ordered, then drew my own sidearm.
Hawkeye looked like she wanted to disobey orders, but a stern look made her obey, and she moved out of range, heading for the platform where the ticketmaster was. I aimed my sidearm. The man lunged forward at an incredible speed, giving me no chance to fire. I jumped to the side, putting away my firearm, realizing that he wasn't going to give me a shot with it.
He followed my movements, right arm raised and crackling with alchemical energy. I didn't know what he intended to do with that arm; human transmutation would just rebound on him, but I knew it probably wouldn't be for my health, so I transmuted a blade from my automail, swinging it at his head.
He ducked, reaching up his right hand for my ribs. He had a crushing grip, and I felt the alchemical energy start just as there was a loud crack of gunfire, and then he jumped back, dropping me and the transmutation. Hawkeye had her sniper rifle raised behind him, although he'd been moving too fast for her to get a killing shot lined up.
I used the chance to lunge forward, my blade piercing flesh just under his ribs on his right side. He grunted, then reached down to grab my blade. A flash of alchemical energy, then my blade shattered, as if he was stopping his transmutation at the decomposition stage. I staggered back, drawing my firearm. He was fast, but there was no way he could dodge a goddamn bullet.
Which he did, as I shot at him. Either that, or I'd lost my skill at shooting, and I knew damn well I hadn't. What the flying fuck.
Hawkeye lined up another shot, which this asshole completely dodged, pissing me off further. I fired off another round, hitting him in the shoulder. Ha, he couldn't dodge two bullets aimed at the same time at least.
Instead of turning to me to fight me for that shot, he ducked, slamming his right hand against the ground, sending a wave of destruction right towards Hawkeye. The building behind her bucked and heaved, then began to tip as its foundations gave way.
I swore, putting away my sidearm as I dashed past the asshole to get to Hawkeye in time to save her. Dust and debris kicked up as I got closer, slamming my hands together and smacking the concrete, which rose up to form a defensive enclosure around the lieutenant, just as the building landed against it soundly and broke into pieces, chunks of cement and support steel dropping down the sides of my barrier.
As soon as the dust cleared, I opened a doorway into the enclosure, coughing. "Lieutenant?" I called as loud as I could. I coughed again.
"I'm here, Edward," she said, moving towards me with unsteady legs. I didn't blame her, she'd nearly had a building dropped on her. "Where is the attacker?"
I turned around, looking through the dust, but saw nothing but bystanders. I hesitated at the sight of one woman. I swore I saw an alchemical mark on her, maybe a sign that she was connected to Scar, but I had to be imagining things. She just had a tattoo. She studied the wreckage, but turned and walked away. "Gone, I think," I answered, pushing aside the odd thought and helping Hawkeye out. "I don't hear him."
We did a sweep of the area, but I was right- the asshole, whoever he was, was gone. I don't know why he left, he had perfect opportunity to get me while I was protecting the lieutenant. Maybe he was one of those erratic psychopaths, I decided. I doubted he'd given up, although with two gunshot wounds, he might've had to. Plus the injury to his side.
That reminded me. I pushed up my sleeve and looked over the damage to my automail. It was superficial, at best; just the tips of what I made into my blade, which was the cover to the wires on the back of my forearm. I'd need it repaired, but it wasn't dire.
"Are you all right, sir?" Hawkeye asked me, watching me inspect my automail.
I nodded. "Superficial damage. My ribs feel a bit bruised, too. Not as bad as his side probably feels."
"I'm not worried about his side," she said. "We should report this to the colonel and get checked out with a doctor. Then see about getting your automail repaired."
"Winry'd have a fit if I let anyone besides her touch this," I told her. "It can wait until we've gotten back to East and are released from this assignment."
"Very well, sir. Let's find a phone, I'll report in."
We borrowed the ticketmaster's phone, who was watching the kitten for us anyway. I took the carrier from him while Hawkeye called East and reported in. I didn't bother listening in; I knew she'd give me a full report of what was said as soon as she hung up. I kept a look out for the asshole who'd attacked us. And dodged bullets. My head was having trouble getting around that one.
She hung up after a few minutes, then turned to me. "It seems we encountered a serial killer the military's been after for quite some time. He's called 'Scar' and he targets State Alchemists specifically, so it was definitely you he was after. Our orders are to drop off radar and hide for awhile until either the military can confirm Scar has been apprehended, or until he's at least lost our trail. With his injuries, I imagine he'll lose our trail fairly quickly. He'll have to tend to those wounds."
I looked at her. "So we're not supposed to go after him? The military can't handle him, the motherfucker was dodging bullets, Lieutenant. I was just barely fast enough to keep up with him, and even then, he got my automail."
"Those are the colonel's orders, sir. Hide."
I sighed in frustration. "What about this girl?" I asked, holding up the carrier. "We can't take her with us."
She smiled. "I made arrangements, the colonel will take care of her. We'll ship her to East."
I couldn't picture the colonel being happy with that, but as long as he did it, I didn't care. "Fine with me."
Hawkeye handled handing the kitten and her carrier off to the conductor, with strict instructions to make sure Colonel Mustang got her, safe and sound, at East HQ, then rejoined me. "Where to now?"
I shrugged. "Pick a direction. Any direction but east." I grabbed my suitcase and started walking.
Behind me, she hurried to catch up. "Are you intending on walking?"
"It's what I always do."
She shook her head. "I can get us a car."
I stopped and stared at her. A car had never occurred to me, since I was too young to get one, and didn't know how to drive anyway. Finally, hiding my glee behind indifference, I shrugged. "If you'd rather do that than walk."
She frowned. "I simply think we'd be able to outrun Scar easier if we were in a car. He seemed to be traveling on foot."
"Then we'll get a car," I said.
She requisitioned one from the nearest military base, and we walked there, although that was a good day's walk and none of the trains ran in that direction. So even with a car, we were stuck hoofing it. But, it'd make getting away from this area that much faster. I told Hawkeye since she was driving, she could pick a direction for us to go in.
I wouldn't have said that if I'd known she was going to pick north. We were still far too east to be anywhere near Acheron, and she never went far enough north to hit Drachma. But it got cold. Fortunately, the car was relatively warm, definitely warmer than walking outside, but it was still chilly.
I asked her her reasoning for going north. "Because, sir," she answered, not taking her eyes off the road, such as it was, "I've spent years processing paperwork related to your travels. I know you've never gone north, so I don't expect Scar to be looking up here. My job is to protect you, and that means trying to keep ahead of the serial killer out for your blood."
I accepted that explanation and huddled down against the cold.
The cold and fatigue combined into a horrible mess of thoughts in my head, thoughts that wanted voice, but damned if I'd give that. I had no voice to give anyway.
But the thoughts came, and that fatigue became worse the longer we drove.
The first problem with traveling on your own so long is that you have plenty of time alone with your thoughts beating against the inside of your skull. You spend all that time aching to give them voice, to scream, even wordlessly, and get them out because they drive you completely fucking crazy.
I think I'm half the reason I'm as much of a lunatic as I am.
I'd been traveling for five years on my own at that point. That's a lot of time to spend with yourself, twenty-four seven trapped in your own head, trying to beat the whispers and fears that lock themselves up back there before they can get to you.
The second problem with traveling alone is when you're suddenly not alone, you've lost the practice to keep up the walls that keep those thoughts from leaking out everywhere like some sort of toxic waste that needs to stay contained.
It was a lot easier to hold up walls and masks to people when I didn't have to have them around all the goddamn time.
I was sick of the forced company.
It was cold and I was tired and it was so fucking cold, it was like being back there again.
I wanted to curl up and sleep.
I didn't want to sleep though. I couldn't stay asleep, stay down in my unconscious mind enough to keep the nightmares away.
Somehow, the idea of puking up my guts and watching it freeze in the snow because my inner ghosts like to kept me from sleeping didn't sound very appealing.
It's hell being trapped in your own mind like this. It's like being in a glass coffin and pounding on it and screaming for all you're fucking worth and knowing that nobody can hear you. But as soon as someone lets you out, as soon as someone can understand you, you want nothing more than to crawl back into that coffin. Because you forgot what it's like on the outside. Because you don't want to share that misery with anyone else.
Because you're scared to relive it enough to share it in the first place.
Fuck. Fucking snow and fucking Lieutenant Hawkeye and fucking lieutenants. Fucking Mustang and fucking Tucker and fucking Bradley and fucking Gate and... fuck.
Worse than all of 'em was this miserable little voice that sat in my brain and used the inside of my skull for target practice. I couldn't tell if it was me or Fullmetal, or maybe it was all the other way around.
All I knew was that someday, I was gonna figure out how to kill the little fucker before he split my head in two. Last thing I needed on top of everything else fucked up about me is to start having multiple personalities or something. I was crazy enough as it is.
I had no idea at this point how much of this I was saying out loud anymore, whispers let loose here and there while the lieutenant listened, without saying anything in reply.
I was pretty sure I was too tired to care what I might've been saying out loud or not. Hard to be afraid when everything in you is ready to just collapse. Nothing left to give. At least not right then. Strength always comes back. After rest.
But I couldn't afford to rest. Not yet. Someday, I'd be able to tell someone. Maybe I'd get lucky and find someone as fucked up as me that I could stand enough to talk to. Someone I couldn't taint. Someone I couldn't poison with this shit I'd been fed all these years, this infection I'd given myself by picking at things over and over and over again. 'Cause I couldn't fucking stand for something to not leave a mark.