A Brother's Burden

Time Left

Ed woke up screaming. He sat up quickly, his head snapping each way as his scream cut off abruptly, tears streaming down his face. The nightmare had been something beyond compare, too real to be a nightmare, far too real. Now though he couldn't remember the specifics of it, there'd been the Truth again and the gate… Something about prices being paid, then his mind drew a blank. He could still feel his heart pounding with terror though and his stomach doing summersaults.

Ed realized vaguely that he was not in his own room but in his dad's. He remembered going to the cemetery to visit Hughes, then he'd fallen asleep there. Chances were that his Dad had found him and brought him back home, but why wasn't he in his own room? Probably because dad didn't trust him to not run off again.

Ed drew his knees up to his chest and buried his head in them, tears still flowing from the nightmare. His body was shaking all over and it was so cold despite the fact a thick blanket still covered the lower half of his body. The bed sank down as someone sat down beside him, a hand rested on his head. "Hey, Ed," his dad said softly. "Are you okay?"

Ed bit his lip and tried to stifle his stupid tears, he cried way too much these days. Once he deemed he could speak in a normal voice he said, "I'm fine."

"You know I don't believe that right?" Dad said, Ed could almost hear the smirk in his voice.

"Yeah," Ed said quietly, looking up at him.

There was a crash from downstairs followed swiftly by a curse that made Ed's eyebrows shoot up. "Is Al here?" Ed asked. He was a bit surprised if it was, as Al didn't normally curse so colorfully.

Dad nodded his head, "He and Hohenheim came here after a discussion at a cemetery." Dad shot Ed a hard look. "I don't ever want you going to a graveyard at dark without me knowing again, you here? I heard you leave and you scared the hell out of me."

"Sorry," Ed said, sniffing.

Dad sighed and rolled his eyes. "Don't give me that look, I can't stay mad when you're looking at me like that."

Ed smirked impishly, suddenly gaining insight into a skill he could use to get his way later. Roy swatted the back of his head playfully. "Why don't you get to your room and get changed."

"Okay dad," Ed said scrambling away to get changed.

Roy sighed as he watched his son exit the room, that boy was going to be a handful. That was, if he got to keep him. Earlier when Roy had been fixing breakfast for his guests he had seen Hohenheim reading a law book, that had given Roy a bit of the chills. He didn't want to take this matter to court because it'd just make the rift between Ed and Alphonse all the more apparent, but he'd fight for Ed if he had to. Edward was his son now, not Hohenheim's; and he wasn't about to give him up.

Ed came scrambling back into the room suddenly, fully clothed in a red T-shirt and blue jeans, his feet bare. Roy had enough time to wonder at how the boy could get changed so quickly and braid his hair, then he was tackled by the boy. Ed climbed into Roy's lap and sat there looking up at Roy. Roy had to stifle the urge to laugh at how innocent and sweet Edward looked at that moment, smiling up at him. Roy hugged his son which Ed gladly returned, but didn't leave from his place on Roy's lap.

"What is it you want, Ed?" Roy asked, smiling softly.

"Not to have to go," Ed whispered, the light leaving his eye. Roy saw Ed's gaze twitch down to his hand briefly.

Roy frowned and grabbed Ed's wrist and tugged it so he could get a look at the boy's hand. There was a faint trace of red on his hand that could only be one thing. "You've been coughing again?" Roy asked. Ed nodded meekly, his eyes downcast. Roy buried his feelings of fear for his son and instead lifted Ed as he stood up, balancing the boy on his side like he'd seen parents do with their small children. Ed yelped at the sudden movement and wrapped his arms around Roy's neck in an effort to stay on. "I think it's intervention time," Roy said, holding his son like he was eight rather than thirteen. Sometimes he seemed short enough to be a child of eight, not that he'd ever tell Ed that.

"What do you mean?" Ed asked.

"We'll be asking Hohenheim and Alphonse what they think on the matter, chances are they have the cure after all."

"But then I'd have to go away," Ed said, "And I don't want to go."

"I'm not letting you go anywhere," Roy promised. "I just want to hear what those two have to say on the matter."

Ed nodded but bit his lower lip, a tell-tale sign that he didn't believe him. Roy carried Ed down to the kitchen where Alphonse and Hohenheim sat at the table. When Al saw that Ed was allowing himself to be carried in such a manner his jaw fell open wide. Ed blushed and Roy thought at that moment he'd start trying to break free and pretend that he'd never been caught being treated in such a manner. Rather though Ed, red faced, buried his head in Roy's shoulder and looked to be trying to ignore the other two people in the room.

Roy set Ed on top of the kitchen counter and asked him if he was hungry while he fixed himself a cup of coffee. Ed shook his head and looked down at his hands again which reminded Roy of why the two of them were there in the first place. "Right then," Roy said; looking to Hohenheim and Alphonse, both using their mouths to catch flies. "We need to know if you know how to fix Ed here. He's starting to get worse again."

Hohenheim and Al shared a look before turning back to the other two, everyone's face was solemn. "There may be a way, but you won't like it," Hohenheim said slowly.

"What is it?" Ed asked.

"There's a transmutation we can do that we'll fix you."

Ed frowned, thinking it over. Alchemy to cure a disease? It wasn't so farfetched that he didn't believe it, but it seemed a little odd of a thing to do. Alkahestry would be better suited wouldn't it? "Okay," Ed said slowly, turning to look at Al. "I guess that's one way to do it, I don't see a problem wit-" Ed's eyes widened as he suddenly understood. "No," Ed said quickly, shaking his head. "I'll go to a hospital before I consent to that."

Roy who had been in the middle of taking a drink of coffee did an expert spit take upon hearing those words. He didn't fully understand what the issue with a transmutation was but obviously it was serious for Ed to prefer medical professionals.

Now Ed looked like a cross between a deer caught in the headlights, and a rabbit faced with a large dog. "I'm not doing it no! I'll… I'll die, I just won't do it!"

"Ed please, listen." Hohenheim said, holding his hands up before him.

"No!" Ed all but yelled, he turned quickly to Roy. "Dad, please don't make me do it, please!"

Roy effectively looked torn on what to do. He looked first to his adopted son, then to Alphonse and Hohenheim, then to his coffee mug; looking sad and confused. Finally, he sighed, looking resigned. "I can't do it, I'm sorry."

Everyone held their breath.

Roy looked to Hohenheim. "I can't make Ed do what he doesn't want to, there has to be something else we can do."

"Not that I know of," Hohenheim said.

"Then let me enjoy the time I have left." Ed said, folding his arms across his chest petulantly.

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