No one knew how it happened, or how it had all began.
One day it had been normal, the next it had not.
It sounded simple when you put it that way, but it really wasn't.
The sky's blazing orange had become a raging inferno of colour within the darkness, with the citadel enclosed in a mighty arch of fire left decaying from its former glory still alight under the shining sun. Beyond that, the mountains seemed to go on forever, slopes of blended slate grey, capped with the Northern snow that set as a never-ending battlefield, untouched by the roaring hearth.
They were barely even visible in front of the very climax of the flames; shaking silhouettes crouched in the shadows, outlined with the ring of the eternal heat that licked at their clothes and carved ash into their bruised skin. The alleyway, narrow and blindingly complicated, with little more to offer other than the few battered trashcans that had already dented and melted from the sweltering fingers of the blaze, did nothing to shield them from the cruel reminder that death was knocking on the door just outside.
They were all gone. Every single one of them. Lost to the holocaust, their broken ashes lay somewhere between the flames, rotting and burning and why did they have to go? How could he just leave them out to die? Why did they have to lose the fighting battle in the midst of the coals so quickly? They all had so much to live for and so much life left to experience, yet they had let their walls tumble to the oxidation that inflicted upon their world. Not one of them - Breda, Falman, Havoc, Feury, Hawkeye, Hughes, even Alphonse - deserved such a disrespectful death. Not at all.
He'd have to give them a proper funeral...
... when he was finished with this one.
There was nothing he could do to help him. Everything he could have done had been lost along with their world. The fire still raged on outside of the shadows but, here he was, crouched in the ashes, holding a broken boy against his quivering body, sobbing more than he had ever done out of fear and grief and pain and so much more pain. A Colonel, a man who had powered through a civil war and back, a man who was pronounced for his bravery and his pride and his talent, was crying over a teenager.
Oh, but he was so much more than a teenager.
A home base for trouble.
An prima donna.
An unpretentious man.
An elder, wizened by the trauma.
A (vertically challenged) hothead.
The older brother you could only wish to have.
He was so complicated, yet simple all at once.
Said complicated person hadn't been lost to the ashes. He was going to be lost soon enough, but he wasn't lost yet. No, Edward Elric would never let himself fade away that easily.
Edward Elric had said he wasn't going to die before the 'Bastard Colonel', but as his challenger stared softly down at the boy, holding his hand over the gaping hole blown through his stomach and trying to quench the bleeding, he realized that he may just lose the bet. It wasn't difficult to tell that he wasn't going to live for very much longer and he couldn't stand knowing that there was absolutely nothing he could do.
Brick by brick, his walls came tumbling down. He bit his tongue to stop more tears that threatened to leave his dark orbs. And that's when they broke through his dam of restraint and everything came down at once. A small bead, escaping from his right eye. That single droplet was what began the second phase of the flood, pouring down his cheeks like rainfall. They weren't warm like they were supposed to be; they were just as cold as the icy claws of the shadows.
Edward Elric was just another subordinate. Just another soldier to boss around and just another orphan in this world of lies.
Except he wasn't.
He was young, yet he was the wisest of them all. He was disrespectful, yet he was the best solider in the entirety of Amestris. He was loud, brash, reckless - yet somehow, he managed to become the most tactical on the battlefield. He wasn't just another dog of the Military or just another teenager.
He was so much more, in a smaller package.
But none of it mattered now, he realized as the boy spluttered in his arms, pressing closer to him as the flames' heat neared the shadows. Everything that had blossomed - the adventure, the new-found purpose - in those beautiful golden eyes would be lost to the blazing inferno laid out across their broken destiny. Crumbled to nothing in a matter of moments because of a stupid, stupid, stupid snapping noise. That was all. A snap. That had started this mess, and it was going to finish it, too.
Edward Elric's heart stopped beating in his battered chest and his body fell limp.
"F-Fullmetal?" he whispered through the shadows, his shaking hands ghosting across the boy's chest. "Fu- Ed? G-god dammit, E-Ed! Wake u-up!" A beat of silence. He desperately wished that the beat belonged to Edward's heart and not the unforgiving silence surrounding him.
There was no response. He knew it was too late. Edward Elric was gone and there was no getting him back.
And Roy Mustang didn't think he had sobbed so hard in his entire lifetime.