“I need you to keep me from doing something stupid.”
Hawkeye gave him a look that said as if I do anything else? “How stupid are we talking, Roy?”
Roy rubbed his hands over his face. Her use of his first name meant she’d already guessed this was personal rather than professional. But after all this time that was to be expected.
“How bad is it getting over there?” Her tone was gentle.
Roy didn’t know if he got a certain look at times like these or if she just had really good intuition, but she always seemed to know. He dropped his hands to the table. “Bad. I don’t get details—the dreams are never long enough—but I get hints, and emotions come through. I know this much: Ed’s frightened. More frightened than I’ve ever seen him.”
Ed, who had faced down monsters and squared off with the dreaded Gate more times than should be possible while little more than a child, was terrified. And that terrified Roy.
“There’s a war,” he continued. “A big one. That’s all I’ve been able to piece together.”
“Is Ed involved?”
“He’s trying not to be.” Roy stared down at the neglected food in front of him. “But I don’t think it’s that simple.”
“And it’s eating at you, not being there to help,” she said for him. “That’s . . . understandable, but Roy—I sincerely hope that even you would not be that stupid.”
He sighed, favoring her with a half-hearted smile. “Even if I could find a way, Ed would never forgive me.” After a moment, he admitted, “But I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t thought about it. Repeatedly.”
Her gaze was not without sympathy. “How long has it been?”
He rubbed the place on his palm that always tingled. “Seventeen years, two months,” he said. “Give or take.” Sometimes he had a hard time believing so much time had passed. The bond always felt fresh and new. Raw. “I’m afraid for Ed—terrified—but if—something were to happen—I would know. But his wife, their daughter—” people Roy loved without ever having met, “—Alphonse—if anything happened to one of them. . . .”
“Wouldn’t you know from Ed?”
“Perhaps. Or he might try to keep it from me, to protect me. You know how he is.”
Hawkeye ate in silence for a while.
“Tell me what’s happened.”
Finally picking up his fork, Roy took a moment to collect his thoughts. The situation surrounding Ed had no distinct beginning, and he didn’t know where to start. He decided the last two years might do it, and began by outlining every moment or feeling that had raised his concern.
It felt good to be able to talk about it. Hawkeye was one of the few people who knew of his bond with Ed—she had been there when it happened, had watched from the car as that moment of contact had jolted them both. He never could hide anything from her, and this was one instance where he was grateful.
She stayed quiet, giving him space to sort through and pluck fragments of reality from a background dreams. It wasn’t easy. Most of their nighttime encounters were brief, heavy with emotion but short on logic and reason, and not always well remembered.
She set down her fork as he wrapped up with the dream he’d woken from in the early hours of the morning. “I can see why you’re worried,” she said. “I wish I had a solution for you, Roy. I really do.”
He sighed once more, running a hand through his hair. “So do I.” He couldn’t help a small, sardonic laugh. “You’d think I’d be used to this. I could never protect him even when he was here.”
“You know that’s not fair. You did as much as anyone could. More than he ever would have allowed, had he known at the time.”
“It wasn’t enough.”
“What would have been?” she countered. “Locking him away and keeping him from doing what he needed to do?”
He knew she was right. Circumstances had been against them then—circumstances were always against them. But that didn’t ease the heavy feeling of guilt in his stomach.
“Ed’s a survivor,” she continued. “He always has been. We have to trust in him.”
“I know,” he replied. “And I do. Always.”
He just wished he didn’t feel so damn useless.