Pairing: None; Elric kyoudai
Rating/Warnings: PG-13; mild language, angst.
The day that Trisha Elric collapsed and had to be taken to the hospital, Edward and Al were told what their mum had been hiding from them.
It was a wasting disease, the doctors said. Cancer, even though they never found malignant tissue or metastasized tumors. It was like watching someone fade, because even though her body was still there she still grew thinner and her mind had a tendency to wander more frequently. That mental distance was oxygen deprivation (see, boys, her lungs aren’t taking in as much air as they used to, see how her nails are turning dark) although it could’ve also been low sodium and high potassium in her body (her kidneys weren’t doing so well, the boys overhead the doctor telling Granny, fluctuating electrolytes make the mind do weird things).
But Edward knew it was her heart. It was broken and it was because of their fucking father, a coward and a liar and a worthless man who could walk away from his family, leave it in tatters, divorce himself from his responsibilities as though taking a knife and cutting out the parasites that were his wife and children. Sorry, boys, but daddy’s got better things to do, you were just a brief sabbatical from more important things. Daddy’s bored and probably won’t be back, but do try not to hit your brother, that’s not very nice. Be good for your mum, boys.
The day before Trish Elric died, she asked after her husband. Edward never hated his father as much as he did in the moment he had to tell his mum that he still hadn’t come back. Al just cried and clung to their mum’s hand.
Trisha had never been a big woman, but in the large hospital bed that could be raised or lowered and with all those tubes and machines hooked up to her body, she looked small in a way that mothers weren’t supposed to. Mothers fought the monsters under the bed, comforted Al when Edward was being mean, held Edward when he crawled into her arms after a nightmare. Now she looked like a good breeze would shatter her once unbreakable arms.
It’s too big, Edward wanted to scream. I don’t like hospitals and it’s cold in here and everyone seems to be rushing everywhere while I’m…not moving at all.
It’s too big and I don’t know what to do when the doctor asks me When was the last time she ate or How many ceecees of fluid were drained from her lungs today or Does this kind of thing run in the family, perhaps it’s a hereditary condition, so many things can go wrong at that level.
It’s too big and I don’t know what to do.
The worst part was the helplessness. Edward would wrap himself around Al and the brothers would huddle in a ball in the vinyl armchair that the nice nurse had given to them, and from the time Granny Pinako brought them in the morning to the time she picked them up at night, they sat there. And all they could do was listen to the sound of the machines and the rasping, rattling draw of their mum’s breaths. Sometimes Al would cry, trying to muffle his sobs so that he wouldn’t disturb patients in other rooms or the nurses doing their rounds, and then Edward would hold onto him so tightly that Al sometimes got bruises on his arms.
On a few occasions people commented on how very brave they were, to spend as much time as they did with their mum. The first this happened, Edward shouted some bad words he shouldn’t have known yet and stormed away; Al simply said, Did you think there was any other choice to be made?
Did you think we’re our father, to not be there when we’re needed most?
Did you think we’re that stupid, to expect we would be anywhere but with mum when she’s…?
Edward would spend every moment not in the hospital buried in a book, forgetting to sleep or eat because he knew, he knew that there had to be a cure in alchemy – maybe they could transmute whatever was wrong inside her body, make the bad germs into water or something. Maybe he could find a way to fix a broken heart, since the cardiograms and scan things and ultrasounds weren’t telling the doctors what to do. Alchemy could always fix what was broken, right?
The day that Trisha Elric died, something broke inside of Edward.
The brothers were there when it happened. Trisha’s breathing had been irregular for some time, catching oddly or pausing for such long seconds that Edward or Al would be reaching for the call-button in a panic only to hear a sharp exhale. But the last time she paused, the seconds turned into nearly a minute, and finally a frantic Al punched the button. When a nurse’s calm voice came over the intercom the brothers were nearly screaming, She’s not breathing, oh God she’s not breathing she just fucking stopped breathing.
Death did strange things to a person. The books Edward and Al had both read often went on at great length in poetical verse, particularly when it came to life and death, but Edward didn’t think their mum looked like she was sleeping at all.
She just looked…dead. Cheeks gaunt from weight-loss, hair limp and dull from poor appetite and lack of bathing, lips thin and drawn over her teeth. Her eyelids weren’t completely closed, leaving two thin slits of glazed cornea visible. A skull with flesh, and suddenly Edward’s stomach turned.
In cases where a person had an extended period of time of troubled breathing, the extremities will have already darkened and hardened even before death, as the body begins shutting itself down and reserving its drained resources for the heart and brain. It is a case of beginning rigor mortis while still technically alive. Immediately after death the enzymes in a body begin attacking the cells, breaking down cellular walls and releasing the internal fluid. The body will begin to swell. Blood will pool at the lowest points of the body and coagulate, turning the flesh dark.
He was throwing up in the little ensuite bathroom when the nurses came with a sheet. Al was howling through his tears.