A Brother's Burden

The Offer

Ed woke up in a cold sweat, the clock read 12, the room was dark; midnight. He wiped one arm across his eyebrows and tried to regain his breath. He was still on the couch in the living room, a fire had been lit in the hearth which was now dying down to embers and ashes. Ed closed his eyes briefly but a wave of panic overtook him at that so he had to open them again. He was afraid of falling asleep apparently.

Waiting for the roiling panic in his abdomen to settle, he thought over the dream he had just experienced. Like his previous nightmare with the cemetery, this one had seemed all too real. What had just happened? It couldn't have been real, could it? Ed didn't know but his thoughts were more focused on how the butterflies in his stomach refused to settle. He was scared of something but yet he could not place what it was that had him so jittery.

Being a logical person even with the illogical Ed thought through what reasonable fears could arise for panic attacks. Was he afraid of the dark? Ed looked to the fireplace where there was a dim glow illuminating the room, no that wasn't it. Was he afraid of the silence? No, that wasn't it either, the droning tick-tock of the clock resounded through his head like drums. That left one possibility, a possibility he did not even want to think about. He was afraid of being alone.

That was stupid though, he had been alone before and had been just fine. Then again he hadn't been sick like he was now, and hadn't Hohenheim stated that one of his symptoms would be panic attacks? Still now he was left with the decision on what to do about it, he didn't want to suffer like this; but then there was the meager scrap of pride he retained to take into consideration. If he succumbed to this now he'd have lost all dignity he had, and that was not about to happen.

Resolute in his decision he drew his knees up to his chest and wrapped his arms around them, determined to sit here until morning. Where was Roy though? Was he in the house at all or was he alone? Maybe he should go look… No, Ed shook his head furiously. He wasn't going to give up like that.

Time passed slowly as Ed sat there, his resolve as strong as a piece of paper before a fan. Somehow though he managed to sit there, with the fear building in him slowly. One hour… Two hours… tick-tock-tick-tock… On and on it went.

From outside something thudded onto the roof that cause Ed to jump and glance up fearfully. When he heard nothing further he just shook his head and chided himself, it was just a squirrel or something. He hated feeling this weak, it was revolting to say the least. Not but one week ago he had been the Fullmetal Alchemist, now he was just… Ed. Not even the Ed after the transmutation, he was the Ed before his mother died, the little boy. It was pathetic.

Ashamed in himself he let out a small whimper when it started raining outside. It had been hours in coming, he knew by how his ports ached. Now his automail hurt and he was acting like a small child, this was just great! Lightning lit up the room and thunder boomed loudly, that was the final straw for Ed.

Forsaking his pride, he climbed off the couch and wrapped his blanket around his shoulders before padding up the stairs and down the hall to find Roy. He made it all the way to the door to Roy's bedroom before coming to a halt, his senses returning. What was he doing? This was ridiculous! Roy wasn't his father he could turn to when he had a nightmare, Roy was his superior officer!

Ed turned away from the door and went into his room instead, lightning lighting it up eerily. Ed climbed on top of the bed and wrapped himself in his blanket, curling into a ball. Ed didn't even notice when tears started rolling down his face.

Roy woke up around three in the morning because hail was smacking against his window. He cursed softly, it'd be impossible to get back to sleep now. Rolling over in bed he pulled a pillow over his head and closed his eyes tight. When the next clap of thunder came by Roy thought he heard someone cry out. That's odd, he thought to himself, there's no one here but him and…

"Damn," he swore, sitting up in bed. Ed, he'd completely forgotten about the boy after he fell asleep on the couch. He must be freaking out right now. While he had been K.O'd Roy had read up on some books of medical genre so he could better understand what was going on. It was overly complicated and he didn't understand a word of it, so he called Dr. Knox and had him explain what set panic attacks off.

Now Roy climbed out of bed and, dressed in his PJ's, left his room to find Ed. He checked the living room first but didn't see Ed on the couch where he left him. Roy panicked briefly at seeing the empty couch, where could he have gone? Roy went back upstairs and checked in Ed's room where he saw the boy curled on his side, wrapped in the blanket Roy had thrown over him, shivering from more than the cold.

Not wanting to scare him Roy knocked on the door softly, still managing to scare the boy. Ed sat up quickly and looked at Roy, his eyes full of relief. That was an odd look, relief mixed with tears, especially when it was directed at him. "Hey, you okay Ed?" Roy asked gently. Ed started to nod then paused and shook his head, not speaking a word. Roy came into the room and sat down at the foot of Ed's bed, wrapping one arm around the boy and pulling him into a one-armed embrace. Ed didn't cry this time, just held onto Roy's nightshirt.

"Sorry," Ed whispered softly.

"It's no big deal," Roy responded, feeling that this was becoming routine.

Another clap of thunder resounded about the room and made Ed press himself closer to Roy's side. Roy held onto the child, trying to convey that he was safe here, that he could be at peace. Ed calmed slowly, leaning on Roy; depending on him. Roy was perfectly aware that he was going above and beyond what a superior did for a subordinate, he was bordering on fatherhood. No, I am past that line by now, he thought, remembering what Hawkeye had said earlier that day. In a few short days Roy's whole word had been turn onto its head and set to spin, he didn't know if this moment was even real. Was he dreaming it all and in actuality he was back in bed dreaming?

Roy didn't even know for certain if this is what he wanted, did he even want Ed looking to him as a father? It would mean changing the whole way he lived, no more dates, no more drinking, no more fun of any sort really. It shouldn't hold any temptation to him at all… and yet, looking down at the blond head in his embrace, he couldn't help thinking how could he have wanted anything else?

Roy sighed to himself, he'd regret this in the morning, or maybe the day after, or maybe when he was on his death bed. Whatever the case for the moment there wasn't going to be any looking back. He'd regret it one day, but not today. "Ed," he said gently, pulling the boy from his side and making him look up to meet Roy's gaze. "You need to go back to bed and get some sleep, you'll be no good if you stay awake all night." Not to mention I won't be any good, Roy thought to himself.

Ed shook his head wildly and tried to burrow back into Roy's side. "Can't sleep," he murmured into Roy's side. "Scared, ports hurt."

Roy frowned, he didn't know anything about automail so he couldn't exactly help there. He knew Ed was having a panic attack right now, something had scared the wits out of the kid. What was it though that made him attach himself to Roy like this? Was he afraid of the dark or something? "Would it better for you if you slept with me?" Roy asked gently.

Ed gave a nod, or at least what felt like a nod. Roy stood up and pulled the blanket Ed had brought from the living room around the boy's shoulders. Then he lifted Ed and carried him to his room, one hand under his bottom and one on the back of his head. For his part Ed wrapped his arms around Roy's neck and buried his head into his shoulder.

As Roy entered his room a chill went right through him, the kind you get when you feel like you're being watched. He thought for sure at that moment the ghost of Hughes was watching him and laughing his ass off while snapping a million pictures. The thought made him smile.

He set Ed down under the covers and climbed in next to the boy who didn't hesitate to press himself against Roy, seeking comfort. Roy held onto Ed and smiled as the boy swiftly fell asleep, feeling protected and safe. Roy stayed awake a lot longer, listening to the droning rain on his rooftop, thinking the events of the day over. He knew he was moving quickly but in the past few days he had become attached to Edward; he was almost certain the boy felt the same way with him. That brought something very serious to mind, something he thought he was mad to even think about. There it was though, the possibility hanging before him. In the end Roy decided to take a chance on it, and with that resolve in mind he fell asleep.

Ed woke up slowly the next morning, his mind clouded with thoughts and emotions. He finally managed to open his eyes to find the sun leaking through the curtains to illuminate Roy's room. Roy's room. Shit, Ed thought to himself, sitting up. He had given in and bothered Roy, hadn't he? He couldn't remember properly, he remembered standing outside Roy's room then some… very confusing memories that didn't make sense. Then he woke up here, what gave?

The next thing Ed noticed was that Roy was absent, but the smell of something sweet was wafting into the room. The problem being, he wasn't hungry. Ed climbed out of bed and padded downstairs to find Roy making breakfast. Making breakfast, not transmuting it like Ed did.

A yawn escaped him and he rubbed one eye while Roy turned from his pancake flipping to look at him. "Good morning," Roy said cheerfully, flipping another pancake.

"Morning, what time is it?"

"Noon," Roy said with a smirk.

Ed blinked in surprise. "Well that's not morning at all now is it? Why did you let me sleep for so long?"

"Because I had some business to attend to when I woke up. That doctor I sent for from Xing? Well he can't make it because it seems the whole of Xerxes has just blown up and there's too much ash to cross the desert. So I had a long phone conversation with him about what to do."

"And?" Ed asked when it seemed Roy wasn't going to say anything more.

Roy grimaced as he flipped a pancake. "You're not going to like it, just warning you."

"Does it involve a needle?" Ed asked, fear climbing up his chest.

"No, nothing like that." Roy tossed the last pancake onto a plate and carried it to the table. Setting it down Roy reached into his pants pocket and withdrew an inhaler. "When I explained that you were having panic attacks and hyperventilating from it the Doc told me to go out and get you one of these." Roy pressed the inhaler into Ed's hand, who stared at it wide eyed like Roy had just put a bomb in his hand.

"You're right, I don't like this at all," Ed said, shoving the cursed thing into his pocket. "Do I have to?" He realized how childish he sounded saying that but he didn't really care, he had lost all sense of dignity last night after all… at least from what he could remember of it.

Roy smiled and ruffled his hair with one hand, "Yes. Don't worry it's just for a little while."

Normally Ed would have broken the nose of anyone who did that to him, for whatever odd reason though he didn't mind when it was Roy doing it. He didn't fully understand why but that was okay with him.

"Come on," Roy was saying. "Let's get some pancakes into you."

The thought of food made him queasy. "I don't think I can, Roy," he said. "I'm sorry, I just can't."

Roy frowned and pressed a hand to his forehead. "Loss of appetite?" Roy asked.

Ed nodded, "Ever since the fight with Al I hadn't been eating that much but now I can't handle the thought of eating food… Can I just go back to bed? I don't feel that well."

"You don't have a fever, but I won't make you eat if you don't want to. Come on Ed let's get you back to bed." Ed allowed Roy to lead him from the kitchen and up the stairs, it was slow moving because Ed frequently had to stop lest his legs give out. About halfway up the stairs though Roy gave up and picked him up and carried him. Ed protested weakly but didn't argue when Roy hushed him. They entered Ed's room and Roy set him down on his own bed, still freshly made.

Ed looked around his own room and blinked slowly. It was a plain room, no personal items, no decorations, nothing to really say it was his room. Ed looked back at Roy, "Can't I go back to your room? It's kind of cold in here…"

Again Roy smiled at him. What had he done to be smiled at so much by this man? "Maybe later, right now I want you to sleep in your own room. I'll bring a few extra blankets in here for you though, okay?"

Ed nodded, not knowing what else to do. Roy turned to the door, about to leave, but he hesitated. Turning back, he looked at Ed and seemed to be considering something. Ed didn't fully understand why but he thought that Roy was about to do something very important, ask him something some part of him had been waiting on.

He caught his breath when Roy turned all the way around to face him and said in a very serious voice, "Ed."

"Yeah?" Ed asked, forcing his eyes to stay open.

"How are you feeling altogether, clear headed enough?"

Ed shrugged, "I can think if that's what you're wondering. Why, do you have some long algebraic equation you need me to do?"

"Something like that. Listen, Ed, I was wondering if uhm… Well…" Roy stopped, scratching the back of his head.

"Spit it out," Ed urged.

"Well you see… I didn't know how your relations with your family has been of late and stuff but uh… So you see I was just thinking that hey maybe if... "

"Roy you're not making sense," Ed said. "If you can't get the words for it now that's okay, just ask me later or-"

"Do you want me to adopt you?" Roy blurted out.

Ed blinked, his eyes wide. That was the last thing he expected but yet… had he been somehow hoping for it? They'd only lived together for under a week and yet Ed knew he saw Roy more as a father than Hohenheim. It was a very tempting decision; one he knew would affect his whole life. Unable to think it through at the moment he dodged the question with another question. "Wait, wouldn't that be illegal with Hohenheim being alive and all?"

"He hasn't been documented as your parent for years now, and I know some people higher up on the command list. I can get it passed I believe…" Roy answered, his head was ducked in embarrassment.

Ed closed his eyes briefly, he couldn't believe he was considering it. He had hated the Colonel just a week ago and now he wanted to be adopted by the man, it was maddening. There was no rule of logic to follow this idea, no logical way to take it. So, he decided to be a little illogical, he chose to follow his heart for once.

Ed stood up and Roy looked at him with quizzical eyes. Ed looked up at him and gave him a hard look. Roy opened his mouth, his face apologetic; probably about to take back his offer. Ed threw his arms around the man and buried his head in Roy's chest. "Yes," Ed said, his voice muffled. "I want you to adopt me," he said.

Roy hugged Ed back and laughed a deep laugh. "What has the world come to?" he said.

"Chaos," Ed responded, living in the moment there and then. He realized right then and there he was happy for once in a really long time. He hadn't felt such a level of happiness in so long it almost hurt, but he savored every moment of it. After all, he didn't know which moment would be his last.

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