yuuo: (Pandora's Universe)
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Character/Series: Edward Elric; Fullmetal Alchemist (2003; Pandora's Universe)
Rating: R
Notes: Written for the [profile] 30screams theme #20: Stranded
Title: 20 - Stranded
Author: [personal profile] yuuo
Word Count: 1537
Summary: O'Riley's death had made him careless.




O'Riley's death had made him careless.

That was all he could think, hunched under the branches of a conifer tree. The branches hung heavy over him, snow dragging them down and creating a small lean-to for him to hide in. The world past them was pitch black, and the overwhelming silence made the creak and groan of the wood under the weight of the snow sound like a storm in his ears. He had no idea how long he'd been there, or where his patrol might've gone without him. Or if they'd come back. There were so many crisscrossing tracks from their men and Drachman guerrillas and animals, that there was no way of figuring out the way back. At least not in the dark, not until there was at a little sunlight to see with.

Edward huddled down under the layers of his uniform, feeling colder than he should past all that material. His bones ached where steel rods had been screwed in, and his muscles were so tense from fear that they hurt. His toes felt numb, and it took everything in him to keep his teeth from chattering under the balaclava over his face. His goggles were smeared from the tears he was trying desperately to stop. He was lost, he was alone, he was cold, and he could be in danger. And not just from the guerrillas, nature had her own forces out and about.

The image of Lance and Scott's half-eaten intestines on the forest floor snuck up behind his eyes and he shuddered, wrapping his arms around his knees. The position was awkward with his M-1 on his lap. He wouldn't let it stray from his person. He saw to that.

But that was the only lesson he seemed to have learned from the attack that'd left the second lieutenant dead. Not paying attention had gotten O'Riley killed. And not paying attention had gotten Edward separated from his fellows on the patrol. McLaughlin had been in the group, but he'd been on point, and Edward had lagged in the back, until the darkness had swallowed the others whole.

He should've been paying attention.

Edward squirmed as an itch traveled along his lower back. Even if he weren't worried about drawing attention of something with noise, with the layers of cold weather military gear, there was no way he could get to that. He huffed before he could help himself, the warmth of his breath wetting the lower parts of the weave on his balaclava. As quietly as possible, still wiggling a bit to try to ease that itch, he lowered the face mask and rubbed his lips dry.

From somewhere off to his left, snow began to crunch underfoot of something. He went stone still, barely even breathing, straining his hearing to determine if it was human or animal coming his way. If animal, he'd have to risk his alchemy being seen and put up a wall around him. If human, how many and who.

Please be my patrol, he thought. He kept quiet in case it wasn't, but leaned forward a bit to get a better look past the snow and branches.

The footsteps turned out to be human in origin, but the light-colored bulk of clothing on them said they were Drachman. The Amestrian cold weather uniform was dark. Edward shrank back down against the tree trunk as much as possible. He silently begged for them to not see him.

The three Drachman guerrillas that led the group were followed by two more, dragging a figure in the dark blues of the Amestrian cold weather gear. The Amestrian was missing his goggles and balaclava, displaying a number of bruises and a bloodied lip. Despite the swelling from the injuries, Edward recognized him as Jonathan Cubbins, a man that was on his patrol.

Sweat started to bead on the back of Edward's neck. What happened to the rest of the patrol? Where were they when Cubbins got caught? Far away, or too close?

And how long would it be before Edward could safely leave?

Edward could barely breathe, watching in horror as the Drachmans shoved Cubbins up against a tree trunk. One of the men dropped a pack he was carrying onto the ground and pulled out a length of barbed wire.

Oh please no, please no.

Lance and Scott flashed through Edward's mind again. He put a hand over his mouth to keep himself silent. His first inclination was to try to save his patrol mate, but he couldn't risk his life on just one man. Not when Al still needed him. Compared to Al, Cubbins was a nobody to Edward.

So instead, he held as still as possible, watching the Drachmans wrap the wire around Cubbins's wrists, then around the tree, securing him with his arms spread. Cubbins began to scream and struggle, cries for mercy falling from his swollen lips.

Mercy wasn't something the guerrillas had for Amestrian soldiers.

Cubbins's winter clothes were sliced down to expose his bare skin to the cold. More cries. Large spikes were retrieved from the Drachman's bag and, one at a time, driven into Cubbins's hands, into the tree. In case someone got the idea to try to rescue him. Like so many invading soldiers had before, at the hands of the guerrillas defending their homeland.

Cries turned to screams.

Edward nearly lost his ability to keep quiet when a curved knife was pulled out, the sharp tip pulled across Cubbins's chest, against the curve of the blade. Blood spilled. Edward wanted to sob, drown out Cubbins's pain, drown out the noise and the smell and the cold and he wanted to go home, not be there.

But he couldn't close his eyes, no matter how much he wanted to shut reality out. It was like staring at a trainwreck, unable to look away, no matter how horrific.

So he watched as Jonathan Cubbins was torn open until his rib cage was visible. He watched when a string of small explosives were woven through Jonathan Cubbins's ribs. He watched as the long fuse was lit and the Drachmans took off at full speed.

He watched and listened as Jonathan Cubbins screamed for help, hands nailed to a tree, barbed wire around his wrists, and explosives tucked neatly in around his organs.

And he watched as Jonathan Cubbins exploded.

Blood splattered against the snow of the tree branches in front of Edward, soaked through until the thin layer of snow at his feet dripped red, and shot through the branches and onto Edward's face.

His breath congealed in his throat as thick red tissue slid down over his tear-smeared goggles. He was certain his heart stopped beating when he could taste the blood through his balaclava. His thoughts numbed into nothingness.

It was the sound of the tree Cubbins had been nailed to cracking and splintering that snapped him out of the cold place he disappeared to. The tree leaned heavily backwards, and no matter how likely it was or wasn't, Edward didn't want to take the chance that it'd fall and the shattering trunk would throw shrapnel in his direction.

He decided to run.

With his goggles almost impossible to see through, Edward scrambled out from under the conifer tree, his M-1 strapped over his shoulder. Fear nipped at his heels. Terror became his best friend when he heard voices yelling in Drachman behind him. He tore down his balaclava to get the wet blood out of his mouth, and slid his goggles up under his parka's hood. He couldn't see anything in the dark, the goggles only made it worse.

His breath condensed into a thick fog in front of him, sliding back across his face into streaks of water that froze his skin. The only thing he could hear was the sounds of the men behind him, the sounds of the wolves drawn to the smell of Cubbins's blood- blood all over Edward. His heartbeat pounded loudly in his ears.

Another thunder crack of an explosion sang out in the dark and something hard hit the front of his automail leg and jerked him off his feet. The snow was an unforgiving fist of ice that he fell face first onto. It knocked the wind out of him.

"It's Eddie!" McLaughlin's voice yelled.

Edward wanted to cry with relief.

Strong hands were wrapping around his arms before he could fully get himself up off the ground and hefted him upwards. "I gotcha, Eddie," McLaughlin said, and half-dragged Edward back towards the others.

The sound of the Drachmans still filled the air around them, making Edward's vision swim. "Cubbins-"

"I can guess," McLaughlin said. He pulled Edward into a spot that the others on their patrol had circled around, keeping him locked in with them. "We got it. We're not gonna leave you this time."

Edward didn't believe that. O'Riley had made him careless. This ensured he would never be again. They hadn't come for him, he got out himself. They'd leave him again if he wasn't careful.

Nobody came for him in Acheron. Nobody came for him in Drachma.

Edward learned that eventually, he'd always find himself abandoned.
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