OK, it's probably not going to interest anyone on my flist, but as it's my LJ, I figured I should post it here. Sorry it's not LOTR, or DW or Sherlock, or even Firefly, all of which I dearly love and do read some fanfic from, but I guess you can't choose which plot bunnies bite...
Title: Critical Care
Fandom: Fullmetal Alchemist
Universe: Brotherhood / Manga
Author: elasg (Ariel)
Characters: Edward, Heinkel, Darius, two doctors and one nurse
Words: Total fic - 10,439 (I might not be able to fit it all in in one post)
Summary: This is a gapfiller crack!fic that I scribbled down to go with my illustration of the same name. It's probably one of a million 'what happened to Ed after Baschool' angstfics, but you know I can't resist good angst.
Warnings: High Angst
Disclaimer: This work is a piece of derivative fiction based on the works of Hiromu Arakawa. Hiromu Arakawa and all rights are reserved to Fullmetal Alchemist (Hagane no Renkinjutsushi) © Hiromu Arakawa // Square/Enix. I present this story for my own pleasure and because I very much enjoy her creation.
Thank you, Arakawa-shi.
It was full night when the two men and their burden emerged from the tunnels on the outskirts of North City. Darius shoved his shoulder against the mine door they'd ripped open, trying to at least make it look like the thing was still locked shut.
"Help me with the kid," said Heinkel, shifting the unconscious burden off his back. The Fullmetal Alchemist hadn't come around even once since his alchemic 'healing' and over the last hour the lion in Heinkel's blood had felt the thud of the boy's pulse slow and weaken. Darius slipped his good arm around the boy's torso and helped lay him down on the snow.
"We'll need a car."
Darius nodded. "He's bleeding again." The ape-like chimera showed his companion the red smudge on his uniform where he had held the boy. Heinkel nodded and looked around. They were at the edge of a vast flat covered with snow. It had once been fenced with chain link and there was a gate at the end furthest away from them. A parking lot, most likely, although with the mine closed, it was abandoned and empty. A snow covered road, as trackless as the lot, led away towards a sprinkling of lights in the foothills below.
"We'd better change back in case someone sees us. It'll make it harder to carry him, but we don't have much choice."
"If you are tired, I can take him," Darius offered, but Heinkel shook his head.
"With your arm like that, you couldn't hold onto him well enough. He's like dead weight; he isn't conscious enough to hold on himself."
"How much worse is he?"
Heinkel shrugged. "You can smell his condition as well as I can. At least he's not dead yet. Until he is, we've got to try to keep him alive." The lion-man shook his mane and then, concentrating, forced his shape back into its former configuration. His body was smaller in human form, but not by much, however it was much easier to chill or fatigue than when he took on his chimera. He quickly buttoned up his shirt and coat.
"Damn kid," Darius, who had also changed back, was examining his wounded arm. The boy's blade had gone between the radius and ulna bones leaving them both intact but the gaping wound was caked with blood and stuck fast to the fibers of Darius's coat. "This hurts."
"Come on." Heinkel took his charge's arm and slung him back onto his back, hitching the boy high enough to settle him there. The mine had been chilly, but Heinkel's lion body had kept the youngster warm enough. Now, with the cold of a clear winter night blowing on them, the little alchemist twitched with feeble shivers. "Hold it," he said, setting Edward down again. He took off his coat and handed it to Darius. "He'll be hypothermic before we get out of the parking lot if we don't keep him covered. That coat's designed to stretch for our transformations; I should be able to get it on over him."
Darius nodded and helped Heinkel get the boy and his garment situated. The coat covered Edward completely, hiding him very well, though it made Heinkel look even more monstrous than his chimera form. Darius took out his knife and sliced a flap out of the back of the coat where Edward's face lay.
"So he can breathe," he explained. Heinkel nodded and the men headed for the town.
A car had turned out to be the easy part.
The suburbs of North City were apparently so crime free that no one bothered to lock their vehicles. Finding a hospital in the early hours of the morning, however, was not proving as simple. They dared not go any place official; their uniforms would draw too much unwanted attention and the events in Baschool likely had been reported to the authorities. When they didn't find any bodies they might start circulating descriptions in the hope that the Fullmetal Alchemist had survived. If large hospitals were out, that left clinics and small private hospitals. The best of those would likely also be a mistake, since they would certainly report such an odd trio of customers. Their only remaining options were the seedier places – the ones that catered to criminals and people who either couldn't afford a top facility or the attention going to one would bring.
The third place they stopped at that looked like it would fit the bill also indicated it had round the clock service, something the previous places had not. Darius rang the bell. It took a few rings before he saw a window brighten high on the second floor and several more minutes before a face peered at him from the sidelight. Apparently satisfied, the door opened a crack.
"After hours are for emergency only," came an aged woman's oily voice. "Come back in the morning if you can walk."
"We've got a kid who needs help now," Darius explained. "He's got a belly wound and he's fading fast. He needs attention or he'll be dead by morning."
A squinting eye peered around the edge of the doorframe and looked the man over quickly.
"Military, eh? Hmph. OK, you can bring him in. But our rates are double after hours."
Darius snorted. "Don't worry," he said. "If you can keep him alive, he'll be good for it."
Heinkel turned at the sound coming from the back seat. Fullmetal hadn't made a voluntary noise in hours, but the sound he was making now reminded Heinkel faintly of gurgling.
"Damn," the man hissed and quickly shut off the car's engine. They didn't have any more time. The alchemic healing the boy had performed had been failing bit by bit all night, and now it seemed the part that had kept his diaphragm whole was letting go too. Without an airtight bronchial cavity, the boy would not be able to draw enough oxygen into his lungs and would suffocate. Heinkel opened the car's rear door and roughly dragged Edward out. There was no more time to look around – this place was going to have to accept them or it was going to be too late to get any help at all.
He slung the boy over his shoulder and headed for the door Darius stood at. There was a light behind it and as Heinkel ran towards the building, the door swung open to reveal a very short, grey haired woman in a stained lab coat.
"Get your doctor, this kid needs help NOW!" he called, rushing past his companion and into the little lobby.
To her credit, the little woman kept her cool and directed Heinkel to a gurney against the wall. He laid the wounded boy down where she'd indicated and was relieved when, after a quick look at Ed's blue lips and pallor, she reached into a nearby cabinet for a resuscitation mask. While squeezing its bladder, she jabbed a button on the wall with her elbow and the two men heard a buzzer ringing somewhere in the back of the building.
"You two need to help me get him upstairs," the woman commanded. She was small, but spoke with the force of someone who knew their business and expected to be obeyed. She climbed onto the side of the gurney and aimed a nod at an elevator door at the back of the lobby. "Shut the front door and turn off that light. We've only got two doctors on and this kid will need us both. You there, latch that deadbolt and start pushing the gurney. You, open the elevator door and help us get him inside."
The two men knew better than to argue or hesitate. While the woman stood with one foot on the gurney frame, the other knee beside her patient and her hands operating the resuscitation mask, they got into the elevator and up to the second floor. Greeting them as the doors opened was a balding man of indeterminate age, a few days growth of beard and eyes that clearly had been sleeping moments before.
"You said he had a belly wound?" the woman asked Darius.
"Yeah," the man replied. "Well, more than just the belly – he got impaled by a piece of steel."
That comment made both doctors pause.
"Hmmm. Maybe you need to give us a little bit more information on this patient." The new doctor said, taking over the respirator as the short woman began to cut the boy's clothes off him. "Impaled? By what?"
As Darius briefly explained what had happened, the short doctor got Edward's coat and shirt off of him. Heinkel could now see the extent of the boy's injury. That steel beam had made a frighteningly large wound on the slight teen, but the sight of the automail arm and scarring around it was even more unsettling. Heinkel had been a soldier his whole adult life and had seen his share of bodies wrecked by war, but seeing evidence of such violence on one so young was unexpectedly disturbing. ‘He's been through hell long before this’, the man thought.
Edward's newest wound was a ragged 'H' shaped injury with a sheen of newly transmuted skin over it. Traceries of blood seeped out along the edges indicating that this repair was also failing.
"A steel beam?" The male doctor sounded incredulous. "How long ago?"
"This afternoon," Darius answered. "The kid's military and was hurt fighting a rogue alchemist earlier today."
The old man snorted but kept squeezing the bladder to help Edward breathe. "An alchemist? Then I suppose this boy is one too? Of course, that explains the look of the wound. He tried to fix it himself." The two chimeras nodded. "How many hours ago did you say?"
"It was mid-afternoon," offered Darius. "Maybe three o'clock, so it's been over 10 hours."
The man frowned. "It's amazing he's not dead already. Well, if he's military, at least that means he can probably pay for his treatment. We'll give it our best to see he stays alive to do it."
The deep blackness of oblivion kept sliding away as if the table of the world tipped Edward towards consciousness. Yet whenever he approached it, the hint of pain promised agony. Some desperation had brought him up from the depths, but he could no longer remember what had been so urgent.
Murmurs that he knew to be human voices echoed around him, but he couldn't seem to file their patterns into words he could understand. The table tipped him closer to consciousness and though the voices grew louder, they were still muffled as if he'd had cotton wool in his ears or he was hearing them from under the water.
There was a pulling sensation at his belly and suddenly the agony found him in the blackness, lancing his mind with a red rip of pain. He tried to scream, but no sound came out of his mouth. More pulling followed and needles of unbearable torment radiated from the left side of his body. He tried desperately to get away from the pain, but it pursued him doggedly. He lashed out with all the strength he had, but his arms were so heavy and his legs felt like they were tied down.
The voices rose in alarm; he could tell that much from their tone. The pulling sensation at his side stopped but the agony remained. He slid towards consciousness even faster and became aware of the smell of blood, disinfectant and… linen? Cold on the inside of his elbow followed by a distant drop of pain. Now what? The voices continued, talking urgently and there was more tugging, this time of his automail arm and leg. What the heck were they doing to him?
He had just enough time to form the question before the blackness found him again.
"Can you take that sword thing off his arm?" the male doctor demanded. "He's going to kill one of us with it."
The two soldiers shrugged. "We're not alchemists," said Heinkel. "I don't know how they do that stuff. Why don't you try wrapping the arm in a sheet? That ought to keep it safe at least."
The doctor grumbled but nodded to his partner to do it. "What we're going to have to do is open him up again," he told the waiting soldiers. "You don't have to watch, but I'd like you to stick around just in case. I don't need a critical care patient who's been abandoned on my doorstep."
"We aren't going anywhere," Darius growled dangerously. "We owe him that much."
The doctor grinned. "So, what is this boy to you? Surely they don't put children in charge of soldiers like yourselves?" The question was met with stony silence, however it didn't seem to faze the doctor. "Suit yourself. As long as someone pays the bill, I don't much care. That sedative won't take long to take effect and we need to finish prepping him and actually start the surgery. There's a cot in the back if one of you wants to use it. This operation may take a while."
The voices had gone away and there was no one pulling at him anymore. His throat was dry and a little sore and his head still felt like it was full of cotton wool, but that was clearing bit by bit. His belly… There was still a yawning chasm of pain there, but something was keeping the screaming ache down to a dull roar. They'd given him something, a sedative perhaps. As long as he didn't move, it was bearable.
How long he lay, just enjoying the fact that he wasn't hurting, he didn't know. Time seemed to have taken on an odd, irregular quality, speeding up or slowing down without warning. Occasionally sounds would move around him, or his body would be touched, his wounds examined or a blinding light shone in his eyes, but when he tried to respond, time would sped up again and he was left acknowledging silence. Whatever it was they'd given him was really good stuff.
"How's the kid?" Darius asked as the lady doctor, Maybell, prepared his injured arm for stitches. "Your nurse wouldn't tell us anything all afternoon and since you've got him hooked up to all those tubes and things, we weren't sure how he was doing."
The woman merely smiled. "It was a very bad wound, Mr. Darius. Your young friend might have patched things together with his alchemy, but we needed to make sure all of his organs had been properly repaired. After all, how much could a boy know about human physiology? There was a whole great section of bowel we had to resect because of the way he tried to fix it. If we hadn't, the poor child would have died."
"Yeah, and you wouldn't get paid. I understand very well, but that doesn't tell me what I need to know. How long is it going to be before he's up and moving around? We don't want to stay here any longer than necessary."
"Oh, on that we agree, Mr. Darius. We want you and your friend to leave as soon as possible, but we also want him to be alive when he does. We'll have him awake before the day is out, but it may be weeks before he's healed enough to resume normal activities."
"Possibly months, he was very close to death, Mr. Darius."
The chimera winced as the doctor gave his arm a shot of anesthetic. "He's not going to like that."
"Then perhaps he shouldn't have been engaging in such dangerous activities. What did you say he was doing? Fighting a rogue alchemist? Strange how someone who should be being celebrated as an Amestrian hero is instead being looked after in our humble establishment. It makes one wonder who was the rogue."
"I thought you guys didn't ask any questions?"
She smiled even more broadly. "Oh, we don't care who you are as long as you have the money to pay us. I was just making the observation."
Darius eyed the woman warily. "Payment is conditional on you people keeping quiet. It goes against my nature to abandon a comrade in arms, but as far as I'm concerned, we've done our duty by bringing him here. We get even a whiff of military, we're out of here." The less he said about his and Heinkel's unique situation the better. It wouldn't be good for the kid if he was picked up, but at least he'd probably survive the experience. The two soldiers would most certainly be killed. Darius hadn't had much choice in the decision to be made into a chimera; the wounds that had made him a candidate for the procedure had been severe enough that he would have died if they had not acted, but the very fact of the existence of chimeras like him was something the military dared not let out. If they ever learned that he and Heinkel were not buried in the debris of Baschool, they would not stop until the two men were dead.
"There you are," said Dr. Maybell. "You've got remarkable healing abilities, Mr. Soldier. It had already started scarring over. Baring an infection, you should be just fine in no time." She canted an eye towards him. "If your young friend also has such recuperative powers, you may be out of here sooner than I guessed. Does he?"
Darius shrugged. "Beats me." He examined the bandage she had wrapped his right arm in and then pulled his jacket on over it. Even without the bloody gash in the sleeve, his military uniform would have to go. "We're going to need a change of clothes. You guys keep anything around?"
Maybell shrugged as she packed up her first aid supplies. "We've a few things left behind from other, less fortunate patients," she said. "You and your friend are free to look through them for anything that might fit."
Darius nodded, clearly understanding what she had meant by 'less fortunate' patients. "A real full service shop you run here, eh?"
The woman gave a little bow, managing somehow to put a full measure of sarcasm into it. "It is our pleasure to serve."
He was being touched again. Cool air on his chest and cooler hands in places he didn't feel particularly comfortable having them roused him to wakefulness. There was a strange sensation of pulling and suddenly a discomfort that had been dwarfed by the pain in his side was gone.
"There, the cath's out, see if you can't wake him."
The light in his eyes blinded him again and he tried to turn away, though he apparently could not muster much of an effort because the cool hands had no problem holding his head in place.
"Do you understand me, boy?" The voice he'd heard before still sounded like it was underwater, but Ed could make out its meaning. "It's time for us to get you up. You don't need to walk if you aren't able yet, but we need to get you sitting at least. Do you understand what I am saying?"
The voice was simpering, smug and irritating, even through the distortion, and that was enough to motivate Ed to open his eyes. The face above him, bald and lined, looked like it was underwater too; its outline swam and squiggled in his view.
"There you are!" The face spoke with clearly fake cheerfulness. "Don't worry if you can't see or hear right – you're still on some powerful painkillers and they might make things look and feel strange – but it's alright. We'll handle everything. You just relax and we'll take care of things."
Ed tried to open his eyes wider, hoping it would clear his vision. It didn't. He tried to bring his hand to his face to see what was obstructing them, but his left arm seemed strapped down. He tried his right.
"Whoa there!" The irritating voice got suddenly sharp and angry. "You keep flinging that sword thing around, we'll take that whole arm off, got it?"
Ed's automail arm seemed to have turned into a great blob of white. He blinked again, but it stubbornly remained that way.
"Wha…" His lips felt funny too.
"Now, don't do anything but lie there. We'll do all the work. You'll just end up in pain if you try to use your stomach muscles." Two pairs of arms slid under his back and slowly lifted Ed to a sitting position.
The world lurched sickeningly and of its own volition, Ed's stomach tensed.
Pain rippled through his body like a wave and left him shuddering and breathless, but it also cleared his head.
"Sh**!" he hissed through clenched teeth. Even breathing hurt, though Ed understood that the pain he was feeling was being tempered by heavy medication. If it hadn't, he'd have passed out. Another wave shivered through his body and he broke out in a cold sweat.
"Oops! Back down, Jack."
The two men lowered him back though not all the way down. Pillows had been stuffed under Ed's torso raising him up a few inches. It made breathing a bit less painful and brought the world back into somewhat normal focus.
"I'm Dr. Dean and this is my nurse, Jack. Do you remember what happened to you, boy?"
Pain was occupying the most of Ed's mind at that moment, but the question filtered through it. Something bad had happened to him, but the details were hazy. He looked from the doctor to the stocky male nurse and frowned.
"Lion king?" he slurred. His mouth was still numb and wouldn't work right.
"What?" the nurse asked chuckling. "What's that supposed to mean?"
The doctor shrugged. "I think it means he's still loopy. We'll try to get him sitting again in a bit. Keep an eye on his blood pressure. It might have dropped because of the pain or he might still have something bleeding in there."
The nurse nodded. "His buddies were asking about his condition. What do you want me to tell them?"
The doctor shrugged again. "Tell them he's still alive and that's amazing enough."
Though they were talking about him as if he were a piece of meat on the slab, Ed was growing disinterested in the exchange. He actually felt like a piece of meat on a slab, so he couldn't really argue with their treatment of him. Now that they weren't trying to move him anymore, he let the easing pain take him, his focus faltered and his eyes slid shut again.
"Hey, you, soldiers!"
Dr. Maybell stuck her head into the room where Darius and Heinkel were playing cards. It occurred to Heinkel that he wasn't sure if 'Maybell’ was her first or last name, though he didn't much care as long as she did her job.
"Yeah?" Darius answered.
"Our nurse has left for the evening and the doctor needs a hand with your friend. Come on."
The two men put down their cards and got up to follow.
"Well, we wanted to see how the kid's doing," said Heinkel.
"Don't expect much," offered Maybell. "He's on medication and in a lot of pain, but the doctor needs him up to make sure his systems are all working. We tried to rouse him earlier today and it didn't go well. The doctor wants to make sure he's got enough hands to handle him if something goes wrong."
"Something goes wrong?" both men asked in unison.
Maybell waved absently at them. "You know, that sword he's got attached to his arm. If he's going to try and kill someone with it, it might as well be those who brought him rather than us, understand?"
"He must be feeling better if he's trying to kill people," offered Darius.
Edward was being housed in the recovery room on the second floor, probably the cleanest room in the building, Heinkel noted, though it was far from what he would have called sterile. The tubes and devices they'd had attached to the boy the day before were gone, though he still had an IV stuck in his arm. Other than that, the kid looked awful; pale as the sheets he was on and with dark circles under his eyes. He looked like someone had run him over with a truck.
The male doctor, Dean, Heinkel didn't know if that was a first or last name either, motioned him to the other side of Edward's bed.
"Put your arms under his back, one up by his shoulders and the other in the middle of the back. We are going to lift him slowly so that he's in a sitting position. Support him completely; I don't want him using his stomach muscles for anything. Understand?"
Heinkel resisted an impulse at sarcasm. "We're elite military," he explained. "I've got a little experience dealing with the injured."
Dean made a face and motioned to Darius. "Then you keep a hold of that metal arm of his. He almost took my nurse's head off with it."
"That was a trick in his condition," the other man muttered, but did as he was asked.
"What's his name?" asked the doctor.
Heinkel hesitated, then decided he wouldn't be giving too much away with just a first name. "Ed," he replied.
The doctor leaned over and gave Fullmetal's flesh shoulder a gentle shake. "Ed? It's time you got up again. We've held off on the pain medication a little so your head should be clearer, but it's going to hurt if you don't do exactly as I say. Wake up, young man."
The boy opened his eyes slowly and blinked at the sight of the bald doctor's face. He grimaced, though whether from the view or some pain he felt, Heinkel didn't know. Then he looked up at Heinkel and the soldier could almost feel the pain that haunted Fullmetal's golden eyes. They always said belly wounds were the worst.
"You?" Ed's voice was hoarse and weak. "You got me help?" He looked down to where Darius was holding his automail arm. "Thanks," he whispered. "You… you saved my life."
Seasoned veteran that he was, Heinkel felt a rush of warmth at the thanks. In the two days he had known this young man, Fullmetal had displayed courage, fortitude, resourcefulness and selflessness. He had earned the soldier’s respect. Now, in obvious pain, the boy showed he also had the strength and quality to thank those who helped him. Kimblee, similarly wounded on the way to Briggs, had not been so gracious. For many years Heinkel had wondered if his loyalty to the military was misplaced, if the leaders whose orders he followed had something other than the best interests of their country at heart. The contrast between the two alchemists' character and the events of the past days had seemed to answer that question clearly. Heinkel smiled back at the boy with genuine esteem.
"Well, so far we have," he said. "But wait till you're back on your feet before you call it even."
Continued in Part 2