The initial spike of terror had passed– Edward was still standing in the bathroom, his glass lay shattered on the ground and the water was still running. His toothbrush lay in the sink forgotten. The thing he had spotted in the mirror– the shadow of a dark uniform trenchcoat hanging on the inside of the linen closet door– still hung there innocently.
Edward sucked in a deep breath but his chest still felt tight, was still contracted with fear. He felt like he was floating outside his body, but both his feet felt like blocks of concrete, immovable and heavy. Cold sweat burst out across his skin and, despite the sweater and lounge pants, he started shivering uncontrollably as his weight became impossible to hold up and Ed sunk to the ground.
He tried to breathe again, but now it was like his chest had locked up entirely, and the fuzzy threads of panic began to weave in over the first jagged edges of fear, softening them down but somehow being so much worse than his initial fight-or-flight reaction.
Roy’s voice was muffled as Edward stared at the tiled ground and broken glass. He was distantly aware that he had put his hands on his head, but couldn’t seem to remember doing it, nor could he really feel them.
Another sucked in breath and his chest felt like it was screaming in pain.
Roy’s knees came into the darkened edges of Edward’s vision. It seemed like a black sheet had been tossed over him– cutting him off from the world while it went on around him and left him alone, left him with nothing but crawling fear and a slow sense of suffocation.
“Edward, you’re pulling your hair out. Come on, let go of your hair–”
Roy’s hands pulled his fingers away from his hair. Edward’s hearing still felt like pillows were pressed against his ears, but there was no mistaking that the low keening noise that left his mouth was his own.
“Edward, do you know where you are?”
Ed couldn’t speak, couldn’t swallow past the knot that had twisted up in his throat. He managed a trembling nod instead.
“That’s good. You’re having a panic attack, Edward,” Roy explained quietly, suddenly very close to his ear. “You’re hyperventilating right now. That’s why your chest hurts right now. You’re inhaling and forgetting to exhale. Why don’t you try that, alright? Close your eyes and focus on your breathing.”
Ed– obeyed. He closed his eyes, blotting out the world outside himself and focusing on the fire that was raging inside his lungs. He opened his mouth and tried to breathe again, but it was like the mechanics were broken, like the time the hydraulics in his automail had slipped and the whole thing had locked up and Winry had called him an idiot a million times while trying to fix it.
“It’s alright,” Roy said in his ear, and it was then that Edward realized he’d been whimpering something that sounded approximately like “I’m sorry” over and over again. “It’s okay. You’re okay. There’s nothing to be sorry for. Just keep trying.”
Edward nodded numbly, hacking in another shuddering breath as he fought the salt-sting of tears in his eyes. He was exhausted, too exhausted to fight against the black rot that was building up inside him, weakening him from the inside out and making him fall apart. He was fighting his way up an oil slick and losing, and–
“I know,” Roy was speaking in his ear again. “I know it’s hard. I know this feels like it’s never going to be over but it’ll pass, Edward. I promise you that you can get through this.”
Ed gasped again, trying and nodding and outright panting like a dog, drool sliding out of his mouth as he did. He tried to swallow again and failed, but Roy didn’t seem to mind the drool as he wiped Edward’s face with a wet dishrag. Warm, slightly damp hands suddenly skirted Ed’s sides, pressing in comfortingly as chills overtook him again and he began to shake.
“Focus on breathing, Edward,” Roy murmured, “That’s what you need to do. Try breathing through your nose. Go slow.”
Ed obeyed again. He closed his mouth, inhaling again before finally, finally exhaling. It felt like goddamn relief, like an overinflated balloon being released and left, stretched and worn out on the floor. The pressure in his chest eased and Edward did it again, breathing in sharply before exhaling. The pounding in his ears suddenly subsided, and it took Ed a second to realize just how close he had been to passing out entirely.
“Good,” Roy murmured, “Keep going. Keep on.”
Ed did so, focusing his attention away from the bleak hopelessness that threatened to drag him back into a web of panic. It was a struggle, and by the time his breathing was under control again, he felt like he’d been swimming upstream for hours. His muscles were burning from exertion and he’d fallen completely limp, sagging into Roy’s arms.
“It’s okay,” Roy was saying softly into his ear, and Edward realized that he was making small, half-broken sobbing sounds into the fabric of Roy’s shirt. “It’s okay. You’re going to be okay.”
It didn’t, it really didn’t, but Ed nodded anyway, suddenly feeling his hands for the first time in–
Well. Time felt a bit skewed. He felt like he’d been there for hours, but realistically Ed knew that wasn’t right, that Roy would have taken him to a hospital if he hadn’t been properly breathing for hours.
Edward opened his eyes, blinking against the harsh light of the bathroom. The glass pieces of his rinsing cup had been scattered across the floor. His hands were fisted in the front of Roy’s shirt. Edward managed a small start at the sight of the blood smears in the fabric, then looked up at Roy. The older man’s dark eyes watched him steadily, albeit with obvious worry.
“You put your hand down in the glass before I could stop you.”
Ed didn’t remember that. He couldn’t remember feeling anything, just hearing Roy’s voice and wallowing in the dark panic that had arisen inside him, and–
Ed raised his eyes up to the linen closet. The trench coat still hung innocently inside, one sleeve hanging out from where it had been shoved. Roy followed his gaze to the closet, narrowing his eyes at the darkness within.
“Was it the door?” he asked quietly, arms strengthening around Ed, “Edward, was it the Gate?”
Ed’s breath hitched. He’d thought the coat was– he had thought it was just something behind him, here in the safety of Roy’s house. The Gate hadn’t even been something he’d considered, but it could’ve– maybe it was–
“Breathe,” Roy suddenly instructed, and Edward realized he was started to hyperventilate again. “Come on, you’ve got this. Breathe.”
Ed forced himself to breathe through his nose against for a few moments, tearing his eyes away from the closet and back to Roy. Roy nodded at him, using one hand to smooth his bangs back from his damp face.
“Alright,” he said softly, “We can talk about the whys later. Let’s get you out of here.”
Roy stood and pulled Edward up by his elbows. His knees were like jelly, and he felt like a drunken toddler as Roy half-walked, half-carried him out of the bathroom and into the bedroom down the hall. Edward looked around the room, eyes widening at the discarded uniform on the dresser as he realized that he was in Roy’s bedroom. Roy, for his part, didn’t seem perturbed that he had invited Ed into his private space, instead seating Edward on the bed. He grabbed the slightly rumpled comforter and helped to drag it around Ed’s shoulders, and it was then that Edward realized just how damn cold he felt.
“It’s adrenaline,” Roy explained, sitting down beside Edward, “Why you’re feeling like this. You’re bottoming out after a rush of panic. You’ll be okay, just stay in the blanket.”
Ed worked his mouth for several long moments. He felt… battered, Broken. Like someone had hit him with a car and backed up and hit him again just for fun.
“I’m sorry,” he managed, the first time he felt coherent in forever. “I don’t– I broke–”
“It’s alright,” Roy said soothingly, “A cup can be replaced or fixed. That’s not what I’m worried about.”
Okay this went from a three paragraph blurb to an excerpt out of a full story. I’ll sit down and actually write a full story that actually makes sense I suppose, because this one meanders from Ed brushing his teeth at Roy’s house to not being accustomed to Roy’s bedroom? I literally wrote this in the post and made shit up along the way. Wanted to explore Edward not getting through his many traumas as effortlessly as the animes tend to portray and then it turned into this mess.