ZaKai Stonewall (zakai_) wrote,
ZaKai Stonewall
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Descent - Chapter 37

Title: Descent
Rating: R – NC17
Type: Angst, Divergence (splits off from episode 32), Drama, Romance, Mystery, Political, Yaoi, Het, etc.
Pairings: Roy/Ed, Al/Winry, (other minor pairings both yaoi and het)
Warnings: Language, Sex (both yaoi and het), Violence, etc.
Summary: After getting Al’s body back, Ed finds that life after reaching his goal wasn’t what he expected. As the country faces the threat of civil war, will Ed be able to handle life without Alphonse constantly by his side, or will he simply substitute one companion for another?

Chapter Listing Here

A/N: Going over this chapter made me remember just how much I love this story. I really need to start working on it again.




Descent

Chapter Thirty-Seven

Responsibility



Riza hurried after Ed, wondering exactly what he was up to. It was still too early for the meeting, yet the kid was walking down the hall with such determination that people were scrambling to get out of his way.

Out of the corner of her eye, Riza saw Havoc catch up with her. She turned her head to glance at him and he gave her a questioning look. She shrugged to let him know that she was in the dark on this as well. He scowled and she simply shook her head. Ed was their commanding officer, and he’d ordered them to follow him; Lieutenant Havoc may not like it, but that’s the way it was.

She sighed slightly and hurried her pace to keep up with Ed. Havoc had called her several times since... since that night... but she hadn’t been able to get herself to answer his calls or to return them. What happened had torn her up. She should have stayed... should have convinced him to go home... should have refused to go along with his dangerous plans... should have...

Riza swallowed hard. She felt so responsible. If only...

Ed turned the corner quickly and there was a loud yell of surprise before he and someone else went down in a heap.

“I’m so sorry!” a female voice exclaimed.

Ed groaned, then looked up and said in surprise, “Sheska...?” before getting on his knees and helping her collect the books she’d dropped.

“I’m really sorry,” she repeated, to which he told her that there was no need. After a couple minutes of each insisting it was their own fault, Riza stepped forward and held a hand out to help the girl up.

“Oh, thank you so much,” the mousy girl said, taking her hand. Riza pulled her up, but when she was about to take her hand away, Sheska held on a little more tightly and said softly, “I heard what happened... I... I’m really sorry...”

Riza blinked her eyes at the sudden tears the condolences caused and thanked the girl, then her eyes flitted quickly to Ed. He was standing there, watching the exchange, with a heart wrenching look of grief.

It hurt her to see that look. Many knew that she and the colonel had been good friends for a long time, but no one knew of the relationship Ed and Roy had with each other. No one would know either. If they did, it could be disaster. She was pretty sure Ed understood this on an intellectual level, yet on an emotional level...

Riza was sure it hurt him to know that no such condolences would come his way. There really was nowhere Ed could go to share his grief. Even what had happened last night between Ed and her had been very mild; but then, they were the type to keep their pain to themselves except with one or two very close people. For Ed, those people were most likely his brother and the colonel. For her...

She squeezed Sheska’s hand before letting go when Ed turned around and started walking. Again she and Havoc moved quickly to keep up with him. Riza glanced quickly at Havoc, then away.

It had been a long time since she’d let anyone hold her the way Havoc had held her that night... All of her close supports had long since died, and with her devotion to her job, Roy Mustang was the closest friend she’d had over the last few years; and even then, they really weren’t that close...

Riza felt a small blush come to her cheeks and tried to force it away. The way Havoc had held her... he’d been so tender, so caring. It was embarrassing, but she felt grateful he’d been there. She’d been such a wreck that night.

She glanced quickly at him again as they turned a corner. It actually felt a little uncomfortable having to see him again. She had a feeling he was wanting a little more from her than just a co-worker relationship—or at least, that he’d like to take her out—and she wasn’t sure how she felt about that.

He was good-looking, but they worked together. That was never a good thing. She glanced at Ed and shook her head slightly. No, Havoc was a good man, but it wasn’t going to happen. She didn’t want to risk her career like the colonel had. Besides, she wasn’t into kissing a mouth that tasted like an ashtray.

Suddenly, Riza blinked when she realized where they were headed and she began to feel a little wary.

“Ed?” she asked, but got no response from him.

She wanted to try engaging him in conversation again, but they’d already arrived at their destination. Instead of stopping to open the door respectfully as any normal, and sane, person would, Ed slammed open the door and marched through the doorway.

“Are you really sure you want to follow him in there...?” Havoc asked, sounding extremely nervous.

Riza took a deep breath and let it out slowly. No, she really didn’t want to follow Ed in there. He was a time bomb waiting to go off right now and he had no idea what he was doing. Giving Havoc a look of both sympathy and frustration, Riza turned and followed Ed through the door.

0-0-0-0


Ed barged into the large room and stalked over to the woman seated at the desk. She was turned a little away from him and the phone was pressed to her ear. As he got closer, the woman hung the phone up and turned to look at him.

“Can I help you?” she asked in a slightly cool tone.

He stopped and stared at her for a moment. Ed had only seen the fuhrer’s secretary a couple of times, but it never ceased to make him stop and stare at her when he did. She looked so damn much like his mother that it caused his chest to constrict and his heart to hurt.

“I’m here to see the fuhrer,” Ed said with a confidence he didn’t feel.

“I don’t believe you have an appointment,” she said looking down at a ledger.

He flinched. An appointment... He hadn’t thought of that... He quickly thought on what he should do. Should he try to make an appointment or should he insist on seeing the man right now? The seconds ticked on, yet the woman’s expression never changed, she simply waited for the only answer he could give.

“You’re right, I don’t have an appointment,” Ed finally said, and turned on his heel to head toward the large double doors that led to the fuhrer’s office. “I’ll only be a moment.” Sweat trickled down the back of his neck as he walked quickly across the large antechamber. This couldn’t wait for some appointment that could be weeks in the future. He needed to talk to the man right now.

“You can’t go in there,” Ed heard the woman say behind him and again he was reminded of his mother, though this time it was an unpleasant memory of when he’d been scolded as a child. Reaching out his hand for the door handle, Ed stopped when it moved and the door opened. Military blue filled his view and Ed swallowed hard before looking up at Fuhrer Bradley.

For a moment, the older man seemed displeased, then his expression changed and he said lightly, “Fullmetal, this is definitely a surprise.”

In that moment, Ed nearly lost his nerve. He was so tense and he suddenly had the worst craving for a cigarette that he’d ever had in his life. Yet, he was here. He was talking to the fuhrer; to leave now would probably mean he’d never get another chance.

“I’m here to speak with you on urgent business,” Ed said more calmly than he felt.

The older man raised an eyebrow. “Is that so? I have a few minutes, why don’t you come inside,” the man invited before turning and moving back into his office. Looking back at Hawkeye and Havoc, Ed beckoned to them before following the man.

0-0-0-0


Riza let her breath out slowly, then followed Ed into the fuhrer’s office. She couldn’t believe what Ed had just done! You just don’t barge in and demand to see the fuhrer, let alone walk into his office unannounced. She glanced nervously at Havoc, who seemed to be thinking the exact same thing, then let her gaze fall on the back of Ed’s head.

“What brings you here, young man?” the fuhrer asked mildly as he situated himself behind his large desk.

Ed walked confidently to the man and said, “I would like to take over Mustang’s duties while he’s away.”

Riza nearly gasped, but she refrained with an effort. Did Ed have no idea what he was doing at all? She glanced at the fuhrer, who was studying Ed thoughtfully.

“As I recall,” Fuhrer Bradley said. “Roy Mustang is a colonel; and you, Fullmetal, are only a major.”

“Yes, that’s correct,” Ed said.

“Colonel Mustang’s job requires at least a lieutenant colonel. You’re not qualified to fill his position,” the man said dismissively. “Your request is denied, major.”

“Right now, I rank the highest among the colonel’s staff,” Ed pressed, and Riza thought she could have strangled him. It had been obvious enough by the fuhrer’s tone that their meeting was over. Couldn’t Ed see that he was lucky enough to have been invited into his office at all? Didn’t Ed realize what problems he could cause if he said or did the wrong thing here?

The fuhrer raised an eyebrow and the corner of his lips pulled down into a frown. Riza could see from those small gestures that the fuhrer wasn’t pleased with how Ed was pushing this, but Ed continued, seemingly oblivious to both the fuhrer’s demeanor and also the danger he was putting himself in. “Someone needs to do Mustang’s job. Right now I have some small amount of authority to do a few things while the colonel isn’t here, but there are many things that I don’t have the authority to do.”

“As I recall, General Hakuro is looking into filling Colonel Mustang’s position as we speak,” Fuhrer Bradley said.

“Yes, sir, I understand, but where is he going to find someone to do the job? With the war in the east, there are already many positions here in Central that are vacant. I’m here, and I can do the job. I don’t want to take Mustang’s place; I simply want to be sure that everything gets done in his absence.”

“Do you really believe that Colonel Mustang is alive?” the fuhrer said flatly.

From Riza’s point of view she could see Ed’s eye’s darken slightly with pain before he said, “Yes. I do.”

Fuhrer Bradley eyed Ed up and down before saying, “You seem to be very loyal to Colonel Mustang.”

Riza’s eye twitched slightly and she desperately wanted to slap her hand over Ed’s mouth and drag him bodily from the room before he made a huge mistake, but to do so would have been extremely suspicious. All she could do was watch in dismay as Ed answered the question.

“That’s right,” Ed said calmly.

The older man made a ‘hmmmm’ sound, then continued to study Ed silently. Riza felt her hands twitch at her sides and she was beginning to feel uncomfortably warm. She knew Ed meant well, but he was doing a good job at digging himself into his grave.

Finally, the fuhrer said in a low tone, “Very well, Fullmetal... I’ll have my secretary send word to General Hakuro that you came to me and asked for the job.” Riza could have groaned at that, and what the man said next did nothing to soothe her. “I’ll also inform him that you’ve been promoted to lieutenant colonel seeing as how the position calls for at least that rank.”

Ed blinked, then grinned. “Thank you, sir,” he began, but was cut off.

“That does not mean I’m giving Colonel Mustang’s brigade to you. You’re filling in for his office job, not his military obligations. Also, I expect you to take the training meant for a lieutenant colonel. You should already have had it to be promoted, but I’m making an exception for you.”

Ed frowned. “Training...?”

The older man leaned forward and gave the teen a hard look. “We’re at the beginning of a war, Fullmetal. As a lieutenant colonel, you will be assigned your own battalion. You need to know what to do with it.”

Riza glanced quickly at Havoc, then back to the fuhrer. State Alchemists generally didn’t get promoted unless they also became part of the regular military as well—like Colonel Mustang had. State Alchemists were in a league of their own. They were the fuhrer’s ‘private army’, so to speak. They had higher rank because of their abilities, but...

Her mouth went dry and she swallowed hard. If the fuhrer was talking so seriously about giving Ed his own battalion, the problems in the East were much worse than she had previously feared. Of course, with the way things were going, Ed might not live to see the war...

“Ah, yes, sir,” Ed said, and though Riza could tell he was trying to be calm, his voice shook slightly and confusion was woven through his words. Of course he was confused, Ed probably never really understood that there was a difference between their every day office lives and the responsibilities of being a soldier. He’d always been able to run about free, doing his research and whatever jobs he was sent on.

“Dismissed,” Fuhrer Bradley said in an emotionless tone that held no room for argument.

At that, both Riza and Havoc stood straight and snapped a sharp salute. For a moment, Ed just stood there, as if unsure what to do next, before glancing back at them. Quickly, he saluted too, then headed out of the office. With a sigh of relief and frustration, Riza followed him. That went very badly, and Ed didn’t even realize it...

0-0-0-0


Kyle (1) yawned and shifted on his feet. Supposedly it was a good thing that he’d been asked to be one of Kagegkuski’s runners, but so far it was just boring. All the man did was have meetings and wander around talking to people and write things up... He sighed and stared dully at the big man. If he was lucky, Kagegkuski actually had something for him to do, but usually not... Just like now.

Shifting his weight again, Kyle thought longingly of his home back in Youswell. It hadn’t been all that much, but their inn had been home to him. Everyone suspected that the town was dying, but all the miners tried to hold on, tried to make it last...

With the help of Ed Elric all those years ago, they’d finally been able to get the mines back from the military; they’d been able to regain their pride... Many people in the East called Ed “The Hero of the People”, and they had good right to. He was the only one in the military who was willing to stand up for something right...

What he’d done for the town, what he’d done for his family by restoring their inn... In that day he’d become Kyle’s personal hero, along with his brother Al who’d saved his life, the night Lieutenant Loki had ordered their inn to be destroyed...

Unfortunately, Ed Elric hadn’t been there when the military had decided to destroy their town. The government had gotten word that they had been supplying rebels with coal, back when the rebellion was helping Lior and wasn’t yet The People’s Government, and they’d come down on the small mining town with a vengeance.

The men had urged the women to run while they tried to fight, and the women had begged the men to flee with them. There had been a big debate until they’d found out that the government was sending more than one small detachment to ‘deal with them’.

Most of the town fled, though some remained, thinking it better to surrender to the military than be forced to go somewhere where there was no guarantee of a roof over their heads and food to eat.

Kyle swallowed hard and blinked his eyes rapidly. They’d watched from the mountainside as their town burned to the ground. He’d hated the military then, but not so much as when they’d finally left and a few men had been sent to see if there was anything left. When the men had returned, they’d told in somber, horrified voices of the fate the remaining towns folk had faced. No details of how they’d been killed had been given, and no one had wanted them.

Suddenly the flap on Kagegkuski’s tent opened and Kyle was pulled from his dark memories. A soldier walked in and held the flap open for an older, tanned-looking man with a little white hair on his head, white bushy eyebrows and a long white beard and mustache. He used a long walking stick and his faded yellow and red clothes were worn and ragged.

The next man to enter the tent was a tall, bald man. This one was even more tanned than the old man. The only hair the taller man had was a long, dark mustache. He wore a tight, dark shirt and a faded vermillion robe. A sash striped with yellow and black was draped over one of his shoulders.

Following that man, another soldier walked in and the tent flap was closed. Kyle couldn’t tear his eyes away from the two strangely dressed men. He’d heard of these people, but he’d never actually seen one before...

Kagegkuski stood and made a small bow to the two men. “I would like to thank you for accepting my invitation,” he said politely, then motioned to a couple of chairs. “Please sit. Can I get you anything to drink, or perhaps something to eat after your journey here?”

“No, thank you,” the taller man said as he sat in one of the chairs.

Nodding, Kagegkuski sat, then thanked the soldiers before asking them to leave them. Kyle nodded a little. That was one of the reasons why the people loved Bartholomew Kagegkuski. He was a good man. He treated everyone well, yet he was passionate about what he believed and willing to fight for it...

“Why have you asked us here?” the younger, tanned man asked.

Kagegkuski smiled a little. “To the point... Well, then I will be too. I would like to invite your people to join with my people.”

The men were silent for a moment, and then the old man said, “We do not fight. It is not our way. If you are looking for recruits, you will have to look elsewhere.”

“You misunderstand,” Kagegkuski said mildly. “I have no desire to ask you or your people to defy what you believe in. I know the people of Ishbal are peaceful. If you were to join with us, we would protect you from the persecution of the military.”

“And why would you do such a thing?” the old man asked again. “Surely it would take resources you do not have to protect us.”

Kagegkuski nodded. “I had hoped that if we protected you, then your people would be willing to help supply us with things that we need. Food and clothing are only the beginning of things we need. We could give you lands in the heart of the East and you would be protected you while you peaceably grew food and made clothing for our soldiers.” He paused, then said, “We also have women and children in our camps. They do the best they can to help, but...” Kagegkuski stopped when there was a small tap on the flap of the tent door.

“Come,” Kagegkuski said loudly.

The flap was moved aside and a young teen about Kyle’s age walked in and made a small salute. “I’m here to replace your runner.”

Kagegkuski nodded and turned his attention back to his guests. With a sigh, Kyle headed for the flap. He was interested to know what the Ishbalans would say, but he knew better than to try to stick around. Letting himself out of the tent, Kyle waved to the two soldiers guarding the tent before heading in the direction his family was camped.

0-0-0-0


Ed walked down the hall feeling slightly relieved and elated. That had gone so well! He’d gotten permission and he’d been promoted! He’d been so worried that he wouldn’t be able to convince the fuhrer, but he had! Without warning, he was grabbed and thrown against the wall.

“What the fuck do you think you’re doing?!” Ed raged angrily as Havoc stepped in front of him.

“I’d like to ask the same thing of you!” Havoc returned, just as angrily.

“I’m doing what I need to!” Ed returned with a growl. What was Havoc’s problem? Why was he yelling at him? “I don’t—”

“Stop this!” Hawkeye snapped. Pressing her fingers to her forehead, Riza looked at Ed and sighed before saying, “Ed...”

“No!” he shouted, angry that she seemed to be taking Havoc’s side. “I’m in charge and that’s what I decided to do.”

“You little son-of-a-bitch!” Havoc snarled and slammed his hand against the wall near Ed’s head. “Why the hell didn’t you tell us you were going to do that?!”

Ed slid around the taller man and glared at them both as he straightened his uniform. “Because, Lieutenant, I work on a need to know basis, and you didn’t need to know.” Havoc’s eyes widened and he took a step forward as if he wanted to get into a fight with Ed, but Hawkeye stepped forward and grabbed ahold of him.

Voice tight, Ed said, “The two of you are dismissed for now, but I expect you to be at the meeting today.” With that said, Ed turned on his heel and stalked down the hall.

0-0-0-0


Winry tightened the bolt on the piece of automail she was working on, the wiped her arm against her forehead. She’d spent a lot of work on this piece and it was really paying off. Finishing a job was probably one of her favorite things about working with automail because she got to see it all come together.

Her eyes slid from the automail to the ring Al had made her. Smiling, Winry turned her hand slightly so that the metal glinted in the light. She loved the ring, and loved the fact that Al was so aware of what she liked that he’d made it for her. She only wished that there was something she could do for him...

Humming to herself, Winry placed a cloth over the automail and turned to leave the room but stopped short and gasped when she saw someone in the doorway.

“You do very good work,” Russell said smoothly.

Winry tried to smile, but she was sure it came out as a grimace. “Eh... thanks...”

“Do you mind if I come in and take a look?” he asked while letting himself in anyway.

“Actually, I’m finished for now,” she said and watched as he shut the door. “I have things to do, but perhaps I can show you another time.” It was a lie. She had no intention of showing him her work anytime. Walking to the door, Winry said, “Excuse me.”

Russell moved, and, as she started to reach for the doorknob, his hand pressed against the door by her. When she turned, he placed his other arm on her other side, pinning her between him and the door.

“I want you to move. Now,” she growled.

“Alphonse is lucky to have you...” he said quietly.

“I’m lucky to have him too. Now move.”

Russell smiled a little and said, “It’s too bad he doesn’t trust you.”

She narrowed her eyes and said, “Yes, he does.”

“Oh? Really... Why does he tell you not to go to town without him? Why is he always keeping an eye on you or wanting you to tell him what you’re doing? It sounds like he’s trying to control you...”

Winry scowled. She and Al had already had several discussions about this and it was still a sore spot with her that he kept trying to coddle her. But whatever her feelings on the subject, it was none of Russell’s business.

“He’s trying to keep me safe from certain people. He means well,” she said tightly.

“But you don’t like it. I can tell,” Russell said with a small grin, then moved his hand down to caress her hair. “I personally agree with Alphonse. Weak women like yourself shouldn’t be let out. Who knows what could happen to you.” Winry growled angrily, but when she tried to speak, he just talked over her. “Though I don’t know what you’ll do when you don’t have him here to look out for you.

“He’s not going anywhere!” she said, and angrily moved her head away from his touch.

“We need him. He’s very... important... to us. He will come with me when I leave,” Russell said with a small smirk.

Pushing him out of her way, Winry opened the door and stormed out of the room. Al would not go with him. She knew he wouldn’t. And she could go wherever she wanted! It wasn’t like Al was her boss!

0-0-0-0


Ed reached out to open the door, but at the yelling from within the office, he simply let his hand rest on the doorknob. It was obvious that the other officers were arguing... and arguing about him... The urge to turn around and leave was strong, but he knew he couldn’t. Instead, Ed took a deep breath and let himself into the room.

When he stepped inside, the noise died and Hawkeye, Havoc, Breda, and Falman all turned to look at him. It seemed that Breda and Havoc were the ones who had been yelling—their faces were flushed and they were looking at him with blatant anger—and Hawkeye and Falman had been trying to be the voices of reason.

As the seconds ticked on, Ed felt increasingly nervous. His palms started to sweat and suddenly the uniform seemed too constricting. Ed worked to keep himself emotionless and calm as he said, “Good, you’re all here. We can start then.”

He walked over to Roy’s desk, then paused as he tried to decide whether he should sit behind the desk or if he should stand in front of the desk and lean against it. Roy often did both, but...

Quickly, he decided that standing in front would be best. It seemed less formal, plus he felt that, with him standing and them sitting, it would give him a little more... well... something... At least he’d be taller than them...

After situating himself in front of the desk, Ed let his eyes move over their faces and he felt his mouth go dry. How did Roy do it? They were looking at him so expectantly... and unhappily. Roy probably never had to deal with that...

Taking a deep breath, Ed tried to remember everything that was supposed to happen in these weekly meetings and he suddenly wished he would have paid more attention... He watched as Breda plucked a doughnut from the box on the coffee table, then said flatly, “Congratulations on your promotion, Lieutenant Colonel.”

Breda slowly bit into the doughnut and chewed deliberately as he stared reproachfully up at him. Ed pressed his lips together in anger. There was no missing the contemptuous sarcasm that dripped from the man’s words.

Ed wanted to start cursing the man, but he held his tongue. Roy wouldn’t let insults get to him. Roy would be calm and he’d simply deal with the situation in a detached sort of way.

“Well, thank you,” Ed said tightly. He was going to be like Roy. He wasn’t going to let things get to him...

Scowling, Breda sat forward and said angrily, “Do you have any idea—”

“Lieutenant,” Hawkeye said in a low voice.

He clenched his teeth and stared at her before saying, “He’s not a child, stop babying him.”

She drew in a sharp breath and said, “You’re going about it the wrong way.”

“Well, then at least he won’t be alone!” Breda growled, and Ed could see that Havoc was nodding angrily.

I will handle this,” she said tightly. They didn’t argue, but then, of course they wouldn’t. She outranked them... Turning to him, she said, “Edward... listen... We really need to talk to you about what happened today.” He could tell she was trying to be calm and polite, but her voice was strained. “You really went about it the wrong—”

“Why?” Ed interrupted. “Because now I’m officially over all of you and you can’t use me?”

Havoc opened his mouth to say something, but Riza held up her hand to cut him off. Trying to remain patient, she said, “No. The fact that you have more authority actually works for us as a whole.”

Folding his arms, Ed frowned and said defensively, “Okay, fine, then how was it bad?” He was starting to lose what little control he had on his anger and he gripped his arms tightly in an effort to stay calm.

“First of all, your raise in rank is going to earn you a lot of enemies. The colonel’s quick climb of the ranks has made many people resent him, and he was older than you when he reached the rank of lieutenant colonel.”

She paused, then said, “When you became a state alchemist the news spread like a wildfire; I don’t expect it to be less so with you becoming a lieutenant colonel. By the end of today, everyone is going to know that you were promoted.”

She paused, then said, “Do you remember what the fuhrer said? He said that he’d let General Hakuro know that you asked for this. The fuhrer wasn’t very pleased with what you did, Ed. Not only will Hakuro hate you for being promoted, but he’ll also be furious that you went over his head. The proper way to do things would have been to go see him first.”

Ed swallowed hard. He wanted to rage at her, but the words were stuck in his throat. What she said made sense. He hadn’t even thought of that...

“Also, when the fuhrer asked about your loyalty to Colonel Mustang...” She paused, looking very troubled. “Ed... he’ll be watching you from now on... A soldier should be loyal to the military and to the fuhrer. Loyalty to a superior officer should only be because they’re in the chain of command, not because of who they are. What you said today... well, let me just say that you’ve earned yourself some very powerful adversaries... You’ve made yourself a target in something that you don’t really understand.”

Ed swallowed. The king... he’d made himself the king... Ed wanted to bury his head in his hands, he wanted to hide, but instead he worked to keep his face impassive.

“Ed...” Hawkeye said in a pleading voice. “You need to trust us. You need to let us help you...”

“I don’t see why we should help him,” Breda said angrily. “If he wants to go it alone, fine. I don’t want to be dragged down by his stupidity.”

“That’s fine, because I don’t trust you anyway,” Ed snarled, completely forgetting that he wanted to try to be more like Roy. “Trust goes both ways, you asshole! You just wanted to use me! You didn’t trust me, so why the fuck should I have trusted you?”

“There’s a reason why we don’t trust you,” Havoc said contemptuously. “You act without thinking! You’re smart, but do you actually use those brains of yours?! Don’t you understand that this isn’t some sort of game?”

Hawkeye turned and opened her mouth as if she was going to say something, but Havoc man stood up and growled, “I’m not staying in this sorry excuse for a meeting another minute.”

“I didn’t say you could leave,” Ed barked angrily, but Havoc simply walked out the door and slammed it shut behind him. Standing up, Breda began following Havoc, then he stopped, turned around, and grabbed the box of doughnuts before stalking out the door.

There was silence in the office for a moment before Falman cleared his throat and said, “Permission to be excused...?”

“Yeah, whatever...” Ed said in frustration, then watched as the man quickly left the room.

“Ed...” Hawkeye said hesitantly.

“Just leave me alone,” Ed said in hurt anger, then stalked past her and out of the office. He needed to go outside. He needed to think. He needed a fucking smoke... He hadn’t even left the building before he was pulling out a cigarette.

Those bastards... Ed thought angrily, then stopped to light the cigarette when he was finally outside. He was so angry. He was the one who had put his neck on the line by going to the fuhrer. Hawkeye even admitted that him being a higher rank was better for them. So what if he became a target? It’s not like they were the ones who were in danger.

Ed puffed hard and fast on the cigarette as he stalked across the lawn, but stopped when he heard his name called. Turning, he saw Lieutenant Havoc striding toward him with a furious look on his face.

Folding his arms, Ed waited. When Havoc was to him he cocked back his fist. Ed only had time for his eyes to widen at the realization that Havoc really meant to hit him before the blow landed.

Ed staggered and fell back with a hard thump. He felt a pain in his eye and cheek where Havoc’s fist had connected with his face. His teeth bit his cigarette in two, and he quickly sat up and spat it out before scrambling to his feet and assuming a fighting posture.

“You can’t hit me!” Ed yelled, looking at him through only one eye now. “I’m your commanding officer!”

“Well, apparently I did just hit you, so I guess I can!” Havoc returned mockingly. “Go ahead, report me. I don’t give a rat’s ass. I know that you could probably beat the shit out of me too, so sure, why not go ahead and do that as well?”

Right now, Ed felt very much like taking his anger out on something, and if Havoc was volunteering, then he’d be happy to grant his request. He was about to rush forward when the man’s next words stopped him.

“You interfering son-of-a-bitch. If it hadn’t been for you, then the colonel would still be here. It’s your fault that this happened! It’s your fault, and now you’re going to get the rest of us killed with your irresponsible stupidity!”

Ed felt a stab of pain in his chest and he swallowed hard before saying, “I wasn’t even here! How is it my fault?” It wasn’t his fault... It couldn’t be...

“That’s right, you weren’t here. I think that was part of the problem!” Havoc snarled.

“What do you mean by that?” Ed said defensively. Havoc was just being an ass... It wasn’t his fault...

The taller man stared at him for a long time before saying in a low voice, “Do you know what the colonel’s last words were before he passed out?”

“Like I said, I wasn’t there, so, no. Obviously I have no idea what he said,” Ed answered tightly.

Havoc’s face crumpled a little in pain before he said in a hoarse whisper, “He thought Hawkeye was you... He said, ‘I love you... Ed...’”

Ed’s eyes widened in shock and, letting his hands fall, stumbled backward a couple of steps. Roy... loved him...? That’s what he’d said? A torrent of emotions raged inside of him; amazement that Roy loved him, shock that Havoc knew, bitter despair because of all the time he’d wasted by being gone and being angry...

“If he hadn’t been so obsessed with you, then maybe he’d still be here now,” Havoc said, pain lacing his voice. “So you see, this isn’t a game. Every move you make needs to be carefully considered because it affects us too! If you want to be treated with respect, then you have to earn it...” Ed stared at Havoc in stunned silence for a few moments, then watched as the man turned around and started walking away, leaving Ed alone with his thoughts.

--

1 – Kyle is the son of the innkeeper in Episode 9. His father has already made a slight appearance in this story in chapter 12.
Tags: descent, stories
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