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Author: crazybeagle
Characters: Edward, Alphonse, Winry, Mustang, Hawkeye, Hohenheim, more to come 
Genre: tragedy, h/c
Rating: T for non-canon character death, language 

Teaser: Pillars...or, the pillars that never fell. A series of oneshots requested by my Tumblr followers, who sent me names of FMA characters and asked for a ficlet featuring said character's death...and Ed's reaction to it. So far we have Al and Winry, and coming soon are Mustang and Hohenheim.
Notes: Manga/Brotherhood 'verse. No real pairings.  
Disclaimer: Moo! 'Tis I! ARAKAWA! BOW DOWN BEFORE MEEEEEEE--- *flails and dies*






Winry

It was stupid, completely idiotic really, that it had never occurred to him that this could happen again. That the cosmos would gleefully take another opportunity to fuck with them again. That there really was nothing in his and Al's lives that was allowed to be safe, to be sacred, to be home. 

Another epidemic in Risembool.

The same epidemic, in fact, that had carried off Mom, but a different strain. Which was exactly why it hadn't even occurred to Ed as a possibility--a vaccine had been developed after last time--but the illness had returned, with a vengeance, and had once again devastated the already-scarce population of Risembool. And all while Ed had been safely tucked away in some damned library in East City, sucking down coffee and complaining about the rain outside. 

It took Winry.

By the time Ed got the call from an unnaturally quiet Granny, a sick feeling in his gut that he desperately tried to ignore for the entire duration of the train ride home told him that it was already too late, she'd be gone or very nearly so. The train ride took two days. For Mom it had only taken a day and a half. Al must've been thinking the same, because he barely spoke a word the entire trip. Once, though, when Ed had come back from the bathroom, he'd come back into the train car to find Al with his helmet pressed up against the window, a soft, desperate sobbing noise coming from somewhere inside him. Ed put a hand on his shoulder, but said nothing about it. There was nothing to say, really. It was beyond his capacity to even attempt to offer comfort at this point.

It turned out they were right. By the time they arrived, Winry was so far gone, Ed doubted she knew they were there. She looked terrible. 48 hours had completely ravaged her--her skin was drawn and gray; her cheekbones sharp. Her eyes were open and glazed, roving aimlessly around the room, lips moving soundlessly, fists clenched weakly around the sheets. Her chest rose and fell with what seemed to be a tremendous amount of effort, and she wheezed a little each time. She looked like she couldn't have moved if she tried.

Ed tried to say something, but behind the surgical mask he'd been required to put on before coming in here, his jaw worked silently--he couldn't make the words come. His eyes were burning, and he felt a little dazed. No. Wrong. This is all wrong....this wasn't supposed to happen. Not to her. She was supposed to be safe here. 

"Winry?" Al finally said, timidly, behind him.

Winry's eyes did focus a bit at the sound of his voice, as if some part of her mind were trying to place it. At that small shift in her expression, Ed suddenly, finally felt jolted into the need to do something, however pointless it might wind up being in the end. If he could get this stupid mask off, she might actually be able to recognize them, at least one of them. 

But if Ed caught the epidemic, nobody would be around to get Al's body back. His hand clenched at his side. He did, however, manage to walk over to the bed and sit down. Granny would probably make him burn the clothes he was wearing later; he didn't care. He put a hand on her forehead, her cheek. "Winry?"

This time, he did get a bit more of a reaction from her. Her eyes rolled towards his general direction, and she made a vague sound in her throat, which turned into a wet cough. Something in Ed's chest ached. His hand didn't leave her face. "Hey. It's Ed. Al and I came to see how you were doing." He wondered how in the hell he managed to keep his voice so damned calm and even and reassuring--he'd been sure that it'd have been Al who'd be doing all the talking anyways when they got here. All of a sudden the air in the room felt very hot, stifling.

Winry blinked, once, twice. "E-ed?" she finally managed. Her eyes didn't focus, and her voice was completely wrecked--it sounded like it was coming from a throat full of gravel.

His eyes stung, but he nodded and smiled, even if she couldn't see it behind the damn mask, even if she wasn't seeing anything right now. "Yeah. I'm here. We both are." 

And then her eyes were closed. Screwed shut, more like, a hard crease between her eyebrows. "N-n-nnn...." 

"Winry?" He and Al both said it, alarmed, and in two giant steps Al was right next to Ed, looming over both him and Winry. 

"N-n-no," she finally managed, her voice a weak moan. "N-not here."

"Yeah we--"

"East C-city," she breathed. "Safe." And then, as if a switch had been flipped, her eyes were bright, and the words were tumbling out in a rush. Her hand, trembling a bit, reached up to grab onto Ed's with surprising strength. "T-told Granny not to t-tell and th-they never come anyways u-unless f-f-f'r automail stuff...." And then her hand was falling back on the bed, her chest heaving hard. "Safe...t-they're safe...." She sounded winded.

"Winry, we came to see you." Al's voice sounded small over Ed's head, devastated. Ed nodded.

Winry was shaking her head. Something at the corner of her mouth looked suspiciously like blood, and Ed's stomach lurched when he finally noticed the stains on the wadded-up tissue in her hand that was farthest from him. Now that he was looking for it, he could see a tinge on the very edge of her nightgown's collar, and a few dark spots in her limp, colorless hair. "Dream," she gasped out. 

"No--" Ed began, but Winry cut him off.

"D-dream," she insisted, "B-b-b't good one..." Her bleary eyes finally zoned in on his face. "S-stay?" She broke off into another coughing fit at that, and by the time she'd finished, there were flecks of blood on her chin, her chest. Her eyes were closed.

"Course we will." Above him, he knew Al was nodding. 

Damn it all...

"'M-m-m g-gonna s-sleep now, k-kay?" She gasped out, after a minute of nothing but increasingly labored breathing. "D-don't leave," she repeated.

"I won't." His voice cracked. 

A sigh, and then she was gone. 

***

Alphonse 

Ed had been in explosions before. For an alchemist, it came with the territory. Hell, he was pretty sure it must be some kind of unwritten rule for State Alchemists, Thou Shalt Withstand Explosions Many and Varied. And it was typically never a problem-- burns could be annoying, and so could shrapnel, but either he could protect himself from the worst of it with alchemy, or else Al could shield him from the blast. The sheer weight and thickness of the steel was usually enough to keep them both perfectly safe.

Until the day that it wasn't.

The case should've been harmless- it was like so many Mustang had sent them on before, some errand involving shutting down the operations of some wayward alchemist in some one-horse town who was stirring up trouble and sticking his nose in where it didn't belong. The man himself should've been harmless, too-- a Mr. Cal Collins, who owned a jewelry shop, was suspected of forging his own precious metals with alchemy. It wasn't even like the guy was fucking with the economy on a massive scale--once Ed and Al did some investigating, it seemed the guy was just some crabby, jewelry-obsessed old-timer who didn't like or trust mined gold, silver, or platinum, and preferred to make his own, more refined versions. Sure, they expected the guy to be a pain in the ass, but it should've been an easy enough operation to shut down. Ed was really expecting to back on a train bound for East City before the weekend was out. 

But what he and Al didn't account for was the fact that Cal Collins was a madman. And a narcissist. 

And it was this very oversight that led Ed to return to East City three days after, flesh hand and shin still bandaged from rummaging around in the wreckage of Collins' shop, alone. 

Or at least, without Al. Because even with Mustang and Hawkeye--who had come for him as soon as they'd gotten his very quiet, very abrupt report over the phone-- playing the role of his concerned shadows, Ed had never felt more alone in his life. 

Collins' shop had been open for a good 25 years--and he'd spent 20 of those years trying to perfect his alchemic formulas in his shop's heavily-padlocked back room. In the last five years, business exploded for him, the quality and quantity of his wares going through the roof, and he was gaining county-wide renown for it. But it was all happening too fast, and money was changing hands too quickly, which is why Ed and Al had been sent to investigate it in the first place. What they should've reviewed a bit more closely when going through his bills and papers, however, was exactly what Collins was doing with all of that wealth. 

Because, Ed would remember later, there were several scattered bills from the last five years that came from a mining supply company. At the time he and Al had written it off as purchases of precious metals for the sake of his researchbut as it turned out, it wasn't a raw materials supplier those bills had come from; it was an equipment supplier. 

Specifically, a supplier of mining explosives

And it wasn't until after Ed and Al told Collins that they'd be shutting down his operation that they found out. 

The bastard had been stockpiling those explosives for years, keeping them packed all around them, in the walls, in the closets--in the event that he was caught, he didn't want anybody to find out his secrets, and was prepared to blow the whole place to hell to make sure that didn't happen.

Well, he did blow the whole place to hell. 

Blew himself there, too. 

Ed and Al never even saw it coming. They'd been in the back room, Collins screaming himself hoarse at their apparent disrespect for his art and his life's work--them on one side of Collins' expansive, cluttered worktable and Collins on the other--and then Collins was reaching behind him to pull some sort of lever he'd been standing in front of--

Al, at least, realized what was going on at the very last second. He yanked Ed towards him, wrapping both arms around him and ducking his head. Both their backs turned away from Collins, Ed felt a blast of pressure and heat unlike anything he'd ever felt before slamming into him like concrete wall, coming from behind his back. He was tossed forward like a ragdoll, ripped from Al's arms and being hurled, headlong and hard, into--into...something. The door frame, maybe? He couldn't hear. He couldn't breathe. He couldn't see. Everything was all white and gray, swirling dust and debris and heaven-knew-what.

For a second, Ed just lay there, flat on his face--what had just happened? What was going on? Where was he again? Everything in his mind was suddenly soupy and slippery and hard to hold on to, and every inch of him--well, every flesh inch, anyways--hurt like hell. Especially his head, fuck, his head felt like it was about to split open, and he could feel some wetness running down his forehead, and his ears, which hurt in a deep, throbbing way, and which still might as well have had soundproof pillows pressed over them. He couldn't hear a damn thing. 

And where the hell was Al, anyways? 

He blinked a few more times, willing his head to clear, or his ears, or at least some of this stupid dust that was swirling around. And then, very slowly, it clicked. Collins. Workroom. ....Lever? 

...And then Al had grabbed him, and now...

On all fours still, Ed managed to maneuver himself a foot or so towards the general direction he'd thought the explosion had come from. His head hurt him so bad at even that small movement, though, that he'd had to stop and vomit, and then once more to just press his palms into his eyes, breathing hard, feeling like he was going to fall sideways off the face of the earth.

Shit. Come on. Focus. 

To give himself something to do until he could move again, he decided to try calling out Al's name. At least that didn't hurt his head, he couldn't hear it anyways. Yet. But he was able to make out what he thought to be piles of rubble now through the white cloud, and through his nausea a surge of panic finally got him moving. 

"Al!"

He distantly heard himself that time. Blood began to trickle into his eyes. He could feel splinters tearing at his skin, and he could smell burnt hair. Eventually, he could make out what appeared to be the legs of the worktable through the swirling fog in front of him, now overturned.

And, in front of it, a heap of mangled steel. 

***

It was the local police who had dug Ed out of the ruins of the shop and brought him to the town's small clinic to be treated--for a concussion, smoke inhalation, burns, abrasions and embedded debris--and it distantly occurred to him how insane he must've looked when they'd found him. Al's blood seal had been shattered, along with the entire back half of his body, and digging through the rubble in his desperation Ed had even managed to find two of the shards where the seal had been. He'd been holding them, so tightly that his flesh hand bled, when they'd found him. No one dared try to take them from him. 

He stayed at the clinic until the Colonel and Lieutenant arrived. He'd told them, dully, over the phone that he didn't need an escort, but when Mustang snapped that they'd be on the next train into town and that he'd better not go anywhere no matter what the doctors told him--and that's an order, Fullmetal--Ed didn't have the energy to argue. 

And when the pair of them actually showed up in his room the next morning, when he'd been staring blankly down at a stack of pancakes and a glass of orange juice that a kind nurse had left him--he found he wasn't even able to look up at them. It was the oddest thing; since that day, his body seemed to be running on a sort of disjointed autopilot--some things, like brushing his teeth, or making that report over the phone, he was capable of doing, but with others, like eating, sometimes, or looking people in the eye, his body just refused to cooperate. He was pretty sure the doctors all chalked it up to the head injury, and he let them think that. 

Whatever it was that Mustang said, it just sort of washed over him; he wasn't really listening. He didn't think he could have listened properly if he'd tried. It sounded gentler, though, than the Colonel's norm. Apologetic. 

And sad. Very sad. 

Ed watched a fly crawl over the sticky surface of the top pancake. 

Then he fell silent for awhile. Ed would've thought he'd left, if it hadn't been for the fact that he hadn't heard the sound of two pairs of heavy boots making an exit. 

Eventually, though, Ed heard him mutter something to the Lieutenant--Ed did make out the word "doctor"--and then boots squeaked on linoleum as one of them left the room. 

He heard what sounded like a small, frustrated huff from the remaining person--and recognized without even looking up that it was the Lieutenant. She'd made that sound at the Colonel's antics before; she'd made it just as often when she was frustrated or worried about a mission, or a comrade. It was one of the few sparse displays of emotion she allowed herself on the job. 

But what truly surprised him was when he felt the tray being lifted off his lap, and the springs of the bed squeak as she sat down on the edge of it, and pulled him into a hug. 

He didn't resist; he was really too shocked to even if he'd wanted to, so he'd kind of melted against her, head buried in the shoulder of her uniform. She smelled good, like East City and typewriter ink and everything that was normal and right and never would be again. 

He hadn't even realized he'd been crying until she'd let him go, brown eyes wide and worried and sad, and he'd seen the dark blotches on the blue fabric. 

***



Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
evil_little_dog
Jun. 25th, 2012 11:27 pm (UTC)
These were both so sad.
crazybeagle
Jul. 4th, 2012 04:05 pm (UTC)
I blame my tumblr followers. But I'm going to a special hell for evil FMA fanfic authors, for that second one in particular....
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )