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Title: Quarantine (1/2)
Author: crazybeagle
Characters: Edward, Alphonse

Rating: T
Teaser: "Do you think that they're right, brother? To keep me away from everyone?" Alone and recovering, Al remembers some things he wishes he couldn't. 

Notes: Set directly post-manga/Brotherhood. Vaguely based on this very old but very lovely chapter 53 fanart by Glyf on DeviantArt: "I Can't Come With You" 
Disclaimer: ALL YOUR FULLMETAL ALCHEMIST ARE BELONG TO ME. Well, not really. 

And a HUGE thank-you to dzioo for doing an incredible fanart, to be found here.


Edward Elric was bored. Really, utterly bored. He'd have thought that, now that everything was over, now that they'd put things right, and won, accomplishing everything he'd been hoping for and more for years, he'd finally be able to relax. But it seemed his inability to sit still was innate, and wouldn't be deterred by victory, and yeah, staring at the cracks in the tiled ceiling of a sterile, fluorescent-lit hospital room wasn't doing much to abate his restlessness. He wasn't even tired, not anymore, not after a nurse came in and informed him that he'd been asleep for two days.

He was just bored.

Oh, and his arm really hurt.

The left one, not the right one. The right one was fine. Weak, tingly from renewed sensation, and slightly atrophied, but wonderfully there, and therefore fine.

Thanks to Al.

That idiot.

The left one, though, it was pretty impossible to forget, had been impaled. The doctors said it was just muscle damage, through the bicep, and that it should heal up fine. But in the meantime, it was a solid, burning throb that radiated from his shoulder to his elbow, which only served to make him irritable and keep his attention span short. He'd only been lying in this stupid bed for less than an hour since he'd woken up, been given food, and been told what was going on, and already he couldn't take it anymore. He figured there was nothing for it, he might as well get up and go find Al.

It'd been really weird waking up alone when the last thing that he remembered was hanging out in one of the many impromptu medic tents with Al, having finally gotten a few minutes alone where they'd presumably been forgotten in the chaotic aftermath of the battle, and stuffing his face with provisions—somewhat stale sandwiches— that had been left for them. Al had initially, eagerly planned on eating too, but when it got down to it, the sight of food made him turn faintly green, and they'd decided it'd be best to wait for doctors' orders before he tried to keep anything down. Apparently, somewhere along the line, Ed had fallen asleep—or blacked out—and he and Al had both been taken to the military hospital. He'd been a little disconcerted by the fact that they weren't rooming together, and had almost panicked by force of habit when his drowsy eyes had darted around the room and found himself sans giant suit of armor, before sense kicked in. A nurse had calmly explained that they were all out of double rooms at the moment, and that Al—who's got his body back, you numbskull, he informed his still muddled brain—was in another room not far away, doing just fine and resting. The thought of that brought an involuntary, excited smile to his face.

He got himself out of bed and did a quick self-inventory before heading out into the hallway. First order of business was to pull out the stupid IV line he was attached to: he swore under his breath as he ripped off the tape and pulled out the little tube, internally cursing whoever had taken advantage of his unconscious state to poke him with a needle the moment the tape came free. Other than that, he was okay, if still a bit battered, the abrasions on his chest and torso protesting a bit as the bandages shifted with his movement, his wounded arm a solid ache. Eh, could be worse. Certainly not enough to stop him from seeking out some form of diversion from boredom, or checking on Al. And if Al was asleep, fine, he could go see Lieutenant Hawkeye, or Izumi, both of whom were supposed to be here, or maybe if he was really desperate, the Armstrong siblings. He owed them both a visit, at some point, but the idea of being bear-hugged by the younger Armstrong, and snapped at by the abrasive elder Armstrong--regardless of the fact that she did mean well--did not seem appealing at this very moment.

…And Mustang. He'd need to find out what Mustang was up to as well. Last Ed had seen him, Mustang had shaken his hand with his own heavily bandaged one, sightless gaze trained somewhere above Ed's head, congratulating him with a smile that was genuine but incapable of hiding deep devastation. The thought made his heart heavy.

He stepped into the hallway, reminding himself to thank whatever nurse was merciful enough to put him in scrubs rather than a hospital gown—it'd have been a pain for either of his arms to have to reach behind himself and hold an open back closed—and looked back and forth. It was midday and hardly very busy, but he could see a few nurses conversing down on one end of the hall and headed that way. He passed a few rooms with open doors; even though he only got brief glimpses of the patients in each, he knew none of them was Al. And even though it was stupid, and that he'd been told only an hour ago that Al was totally fine, he had to clamp down on a tiny surge of panic. He was being stupid; he hadn't even checked the other half of the hall and after all, this was a big damn hospital.

With some measure of relief, he recognized one of the nurses as the one who'd come to see him earlier. She looked utterly exhausted, but she was kind, blonde, with fine lines around her eyes and mouth. Doubtless she was worn down from the sheer number of casualties she'd had to contend with over the past few days. He waved at her as he walked over. She looked up and smiled, while the other nurse, younger, brunette, and rather disheveled, looked visibly startled at his appearance. As he approached, he saw the brunette mouth something to his nurse—Fullmetal, he was pretty sure—and the blonde nodded once in response. The other's eyes grew round, and when he was finally standing in front of them, she ducked into what he guessed was some sort of awkward curtsy, and muttered something, pink-cheeked, about needing to check up on a patient before turning on her heel and hurrying away.

"What's with her?" he asked, watching the nurse's hastily retreating back.

"My guess? She's being shy. You're forgetting just how many people were watching you that day, Mr. Elric," the blonde nurse replied wryly, quirking an eyebrow. "I think it's fair to say you and your brother both can add hero worship to the list of things you'll have to contend with in the aftermath of all this. I've already had to send people away because you were sleeping."

"Uh…yeah? Who came?" Despite himself, he felt his face getting a bit red. There was nothing wrong with acknowledgement in itself—he'd certainly flaunted his state alchemist status and used it to his advantage in the past—but the idea being acknowledged for this particular victory, especially by strangers, was a little less savory, given that the circumstances had been so uncomfortably personal for him and Al, and were therefore inextricably tied up with a lot of pain, and terror, and unwanted memories. But they'd done it. And things would be okay now. He could suck it up and face people; that was a small price to pay. He'd probably handle it better than Al would, anyways—Al might have more people skills than he did, but he was also more inclined to get flustered by an excess of attention.

She rolled her eyes, but looked amused. "Who didn't come? But during my shifts, the two Generals Armstrong, as well as Colonel Mustang."

Ed felt his smile fade. "Colonel Mustang?"

"Mhmm. I believe he was here to check on a Lieutenant Hawkeye? Anyway, he wanted to see how you and your brother were doing."

"And, uh, how's he doing?"

"Alphonse?" she asked. "I've told you, he's—"

"No, Mustang."

"What? He's fine too. Why wouldn't he be?" Her brows knit.

"Huh? But he's—"

"He's what?"

"Blind," Ed blurted, unable to think of a way to put it delicately.

"Blind?" The nurse blinked. "What are you talking about?"

"What?" Edward said, blankly. "But he was…how did…huh?"

The nurse frowned a little. "I…don't know what you heard, Mr. Elric, but I assure you, Colonel Mustang isn't blind."

"You're sure?" he asked her, voice a little sterner than intended. "Absolutely sure?"

"Yes," she said slowly. She was looking at him peculiarly, as though wondering if the fight had somehow managed to addle his brain. "He was reading some files when he came in."

"When?"

"Earlier today."

Could it be—

And then he was grinning again, and he probably looked like a moron for it, but he hardly cared. How the hell... And then it occurred to him. The stone. Dr. Marcoh. Must've been. "Does Al know?" he asked, eagerly. "Did Mustang visit him?"

The nurse's face suddenly turned a fraction graver. "No."

"Why not?" he asked, eyebrows raised, not liking her expression. "Has he been passed out for two days too?"

"No, actually," she said. "He's been awake during the day. He's only been sleeping at night, or, ah, so we hope."

"So you hope?" he repeated, that uneasy feeling creeping back into the pit of his stomach. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing's wrong," she assured him in what he guessed was an often-used and well-practiced placating tone, hazel eyes kind and motherly. "He's just having some trouble getting to sleep and staying asleep, is all. And based on what he's told us about, ah, how he's spent the last few years, we're guessing that's only because he—"

"He hasn't slept at all in that time," Ed finished, with an unpleasant jolt of realization. "Five years..." His eyes drifted away from the nurse and to the scuff marks on the white linoleum floor.

"Right," the nurse said, her voice odd, as though she was having trouble fully grasping that concept. "Well. I'm sure he'll get used to it again, and in the meantime, we offered to give him something to help him get some rest so his body can recover properly, but…"

"But?" His eyes snapped back to hers.

"But he's refusing it," she said, delicately now, as though she could sense Ed's mounting unease. "He says he wants to readjust on his own."

Well that, straight off, Ed knew was bull. Something was up, and he was determined to find out what. "What room is he in?" he demanded, glancing back down the hall. Then, remembering, he added, "And why wasn't Mustang allowed to visit him, anyway?"

"Nobody's been allowed to visit him," she said, words still careful, full of a nurse's tact. "Doctor's orders."

"What?" Ed spluttered. "Why?"

Her lips pressed into a thin line, the look in her eye suddenly, unsettlingly sympathetic.

"Quarantine."

His blood froze. "What….what do you mean 'quarantine'?" His voice sounded small even to his own ears, and he cleared his throat—Get a grip. "He's not…he's not sick or anything, right? I thought you said…"

"No, he's not sick," she confirmed, her voice kind but firm, "And we're trying to keep it that way, which means no visitors."

"Why not?" His own voice was louder than appropriate for a hospital hallway, fueled by anxiety and a sudden pang of guilt—had Al really been left alone for two days while he himself had been asleep?—and the nurse put a finger to her lips before waving him over to a nearby metal bench that stood against the wall. As he sunk down onto the bench, he bit back a grimace at the surge of pain in his arm and chest, or the audible creak of his automail leg—chances were he'd busted up something inside it during the battle, and chances were Winry would kill him for it—and turned to face the nurse, also sitting. Closer to her now, he could see how tired she must be—her shoulders were slightly hunched, and the bags under her eyes bespoke many long shifts. "Why not?" he repeated, his voice slightly quieter.

"Because, Mr. Elric, if what you both say is true and your brother has been imprisoned for five years without any human contact, what kind of a state do you think his immune system is in?"

And Ed felt vaguely though somebody had socked him in the stomach. "….Oh," he said, rather unintelligently.

"You can speak to his doctor about it if you want," she continued, "But I'm telling you, if he were to contract something, I seriously doubt he's got the strength to fight it off in his current state, especially if he isn't sleeping."

Ed gulped and nodded. He felt a little sick. Dammit… After everything they'd worked for, everything they'd lost and everything they'd achieved, he didn't want to even contemplate the possibility that Al could—

Well, you're the one who wanted to give him back his mortality, right? A traitorous voice whispered in his mind. You asked for this.

"Okay," he heard himself say, his voice a little hoarse. "I understand. Where is he?"

Now the nurse looked uncomfortable. She smoothed out the front of her skirt, eyes studiously avoiding his. "Mr. Elric, when I say 'no visitors'…"

"What?" he said, for what must've been the hundredth time during this conversation. "No! Come on, you can't—"

Her face grew stern. "We can, and we will. Would you rather him be sick?"

"I—" he broke off with a frustrated growl. "I don't want him to be alone for—how long?"

"Best case scenario, we're thinking a few weeks, but it really depends on him," she said.

"Well why can't I see him?" Ed asked her. "I mean, I'm the one who brought him back from—uh, who brought him back. He's already been exposed to anything I might be carrying, and I haven't had any visitors either." He was working hard to keep his voice even; the nurse was just doing her job here, after all. And though she obviously cared about the situation, Al was far from the only patient in her charge.

She exhaled slowly. "Listen…"Her features softened into a small, understanding smile. "I know you're eager to see your brother, but this is an…unusual situation, so we're approaching it with maximum caution, for both your sakes. You need to think about what's best for him."

Now Ed kind of wanted to hit something. Because she was right, but...

Damn it.

He huffed a sigh, agitated, and stared at the floor, hands clasped loosely between his knees. "Look, lady," he said, with as much patience as he could muster, which admittedly wasn't much. "Keeping him totally locked up isn't gonna do him much good, either. It'd probably be almost as bad for him." If Al wasn't sleeping, when by all rights he should be too weak to do much else but sleep, something was definitely up with him, something that solitude was not going to help. Because if fifteen years' experience with his brother had taught him anything, it was that Al and solitude didn't mix. He looked up at her. "Let me see him. Please."

"I'll have to ask his doctor—" she began.

"Then ask!" he snapped, patience wearing precariously thin. His arm throbbed.

"As you can imagine," she replied tersely, "he's a very busy man at the moment." Now it was her eyes that flashed with irritation. Ed knew it probably had something to do with having to deal with a rude 16-year-old who wouldn't take no for an answer when she was already beat to hell from trying to keep half the military alive in the wake of this mess, no matter who said 16-year-old happened to be, and he couldn't really blame her for it. Didn't mean Ed could help being pissed right back.

Abruptly, he stood up. "Forget it," he muttered. "Tell Al hi for me." He turned and started walking back towards his room, knowing he'd owe the nurse an apology later, but finding he didn't really give a damn at the moment. His leg now creaked audibly with every step he took. He'd have to do something about that—maybe muffle it with cloth—if he wanted to be any kind of stealthy when he went to go find Al himself.

He was halfway back to his room when the nurse's voice made him pause.

"Mr. Elric!"

He glanced behind him. "Yeah?"

"He's…" she paused, and closed her eyes for a moment, as if steeling herself. "He's in the south wing, fourth door to the right," she said.

He blinked, surprised. "Uh…thanks?"

"Mmm." She regarded him with a resigned sort of smirk. "I only tell you this because I get the feeling you'll go find him whether we permission or not. You might as well not be wandering the halls while you're at it; you're not exactly in pristine condition yourself."

"Thank you," he said, sincerely.

"Don't thank me, this conversation never happened," she said briskly, turning around and beginning to walk in the other direction. "I'm leaving a face mask in your room for you. Wear it. And keep your hair tied back," she added over her shoulder.

He flashed a grin. "Yes ma'am."

Chapter 2 here. 


Comments

( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
evil_little_dog
Jan. 9th, 2012 08:42 pm (UTC)
Really good look at Ed's waking up period; his relief and sudden realization that Al's not there, and how he freaked out but controlled himself talking to the nurse.

I love that his automail leg is making noises!
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )