ZaKai Stonewall (zakai_) wrote,
ZaKai Stonewall
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Descent - Chapter 45

Title: Descent
Fandom: Fullmetal Alchemist
Rating: R – NC17
Reference: Anime. A few things and people have been pulled from the manga here and there.
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




Descent

Chapter Forty-Five

On the Job



Ed watched as Kain Fuery shifted the bag on his shoulder, then stepped into the dorm room after Vato Falman unlocked and opened the door. This particular dorm building was for long term living purposes and was sectioned off into bedrooms big enough for one person. Every eight rooms shared a common space including kitchen and bathroom. The sections and rooms weren’t big, and there wasn’t much in the way of privacy, but they didn’t have to pay rent, so in Ed’s mind that was equivalent.

Walking in after everyone else, Ed took a quick glance around the room. There was a bed, nightstand, and a small writing desk with a chair. There was also a small closet and window. The short term dorms—the ones he’d usually stayed in during the years him and Al had traveled together—were smaller and had a bunk bed for two people. Basically it was a place to sleep and not much more.

“Welcome home,” Falman said, then held the key out to Fuery. “I’ve been keeping it dusted while you were gone.”

Fuery looked at the key for a moment, then took it with a small, “Thanks.”

There was a moment of uncomfortable silence before Havoc cleared his throat and said, “Where do you want us to put this stuff?”

They’d all come to bring Fuery home from the hospital, partially because they’d wanted to be there for him, and partially because Fuery had amassed so many cards, flowers, plants, and posters, that it had taken all of them to carry it.

“Oh... uh...” Fuery looked around the small living space, looking a little lost and forlorn. “Anywhere, I guess. I’ll go through it all later.”

Ed set the box he’d been carrying down by the window, then looked at Fuery. The man had a pathetically despondent look on his face, and Ed couldn’t help but think he looked a little misplaced, as if he were unsure what to do next.

“Is there anything we can help you with, or...?” Ed trailed off. He wanted to help, but he wasn’t really sure what to do or say.

“No, I’ll be fine,” Fuery said, sounding a little uncomfortable. He gave them a smile, but Ed thought it seemed forced. “I really appreciate you all coming.”

“I’m in the room next to yours,” Falman said, and made a gesture toward the left. “If you need anything, I’ll be in there.” Again Fuery nodded with that slightly confused look on his face. Ed wracked his brain trying to come up with something that he could do to help, but nothing was coming.

“I’ve never been in this building before,” Hawkeye said suddenly to Falman. “I’d love a tour.” He blinked, seeming surprised by the request, then he nodded in understanding. She turned to Fuery and smiled. “I think we should go as a group, what do you think?”

The confused look was suddenly replaced with relief and gratitude. “Sure,” he said nonchalantly, as if it was no big deal to him. They all filed out of Fuery’s room and Ed shook his head, amazed that Hawkeye had not only picked up on what had been bothering Fuery, but had been able to propose a solution in a way that wouldn’t embarrass him.

It didn’t take long for them to tour the place and as everyone was saying their goodbyes, Ed said, “Enjoy the rest of your Sunday and we’ll see you tomorrow morning.”

“Yes, sir,” Fuery said, and gave him a salute. Ed blinked in surprise at the unexpected formality, but returned the salute nonetheless.

With a laugh, Breda said, “Don’t salute him when it’s not necessary. It’ll just feed his already overinflated ego.”

“Really?” Fuery asked hesitantly, as if worried he’d done something wrong.

“Oh, shut up,” Ed snapped, when Breda and Havoc both started to chuckle. He looked at Fuery, then said, “You didn’t do anything wrong. Those two are just assholes.”

“Only to you, chief,” Havoc said with a grin.

Ed opened his mouth to retort, but stopped when Hawkeye lifted a hand. “I’m leaving.” She glanced at Fuery with a smile. “I’m glad you’re back with us.” He returned her smile and nodded gratefully.

As she started toward the door, Havoc said, “I can walk you home, if you’d like.”

“I’ll be fine on my own, thanks for the offer,” she said lightly.

“Yeah, but it could be dangerous and...” He trailed off when she turned and looked at him, eyebrow raised. “But... I guess you’ll be fine on your own.” Hawkeye gave him an amused smile and nodded. Ed watched several emotions play over Havoc’s face as he shifted, then stuffed his hands in his pockets. “Okay... well... have a nice rest of your weekend...”

“I’m sure I will,” Hawkeye said, and Ed thought he could hear laughter in her tone. Then she turned and headed out the door.

Ed frowned. Was it just him, or was there something going on between Havoc and Hawkeye? He didn’t think there was, but he had kind of noticed something at his birthday lunch and now... Ed looked at Breda, then at Falman, then to Fuery before turning his attention to Havoc.

“So, you—” Ed began, but Havoc cut him off.

“Sorry, chief, gotta run.” He gave his good wishes to Fuery, then hurried out the door. Fuery and Falman said their goodbyes to Ed and Breda, then wandered back to their rooms, leaving the two of them standing there alone. There was a long, awkward silence, then Ed stuck his thumb out the way Hawkeye and Havoc had gone.

“Are they... You know...” Ed started, then trailed off as Breda began shaking his head.

“Not a chance,” Breda said. “Havoc isn’t smooth enough to get someone like her; besides, Hawkeye isn’t into smokers, so he’s outta luck.”

“Are you sure, ‘cause they kinda—”

“You can never be sure, but if they were, would you really want to know?” Breda asked seriously.

Ed smirked. “Well... maybe.”

Breda laughed and shook his head. “You have a dirty mind.” Then he turned serious again. “Think about it. Those two are your friends, but they’re also under your command. If you knew about their fraternization, what would you do?”

Ed frowned. “What do you mean?”

As Breda started to talk, the door opened and two soldiers came into the common room, laughing and joking. They eyed Ed and Breda, most likely wondering who they were—neither Ed nor Breda were in uniform—and why they were there.

“How’s it goin’?” one of the soldiers said in a friendly tone.

“Good,” Breda answered back. “We were here bringing Sergeant Fuery back from the hospital. We’re just on our way out.”

“Kain’s back?” the other one asked in surprise. “He remembered anything yet?”

Breda paused for a moment before saying, “Not really. His memory for recent events is a little shoddy too, so you’ll have to be patient with him.” He looked at Ed and nodded toward the door.

After they were out of the dorm, Ed said, “What did you mean by what you said before?”

“What?” Breda asked, his eyebrows knitting together in confusion, then he remembered and the tension was gone from his face. “Oh, right. Well, think about it. Havoc and Hawkeye are your friends, but they’re also your subordinates. It’s your job, no... your responsibility to step in if you know somethin’s going on with them, but what will you do? Hawkeye has rank over Havoc, not much, but it’s there.”

At that, Ed couldn’t help but let out a snort of laughter. “You’re saying I should be worried about Hawkeye abusing her power to get into Havoc’s pants?”

Breda laughed and shook his head. “No, but it’s the idea of it. We should go somewhere. You hungry?” he added.

“Not really,” Ed answered truthfully.

“Okay, let’s just walk instead. I don’t really want to be standing around here talkin’ about this.”

As they started away from the dorm, Ed said, “Okay, so go on.”

“There are also other concerns. Both of them are trustworthy subordinates, but if they’re in a relationship, technically you’re not supposed to have them working together. So what do you do? If you acknowledge the issue, that means you might lose one of them.”

“But if I ignore it...” Ed mused.

“If you ignore it, just be sure you can lie real good if you’re ever questioned about it by your superiors,” Breda said seriously. “But I don’t really think I’d want to know if something was going on between them. As a soldier, I’m supposed to be loyal to the military, and reporting anything... untoward... is part of being a loyal soldier.”

There was a moment of awkward silence and Ed looked down at the sidewalk. He kicked a rock and watched it clatter noisily down the pavement until it reached the grass, then disappeared. They were talking about Havoc and Hawkeye, but Ed had a feeling Breda meant more than what he was actually saying.

“Good thing we’ll never have to worry about that, eh?” Breda said, suddenly jovial and amused. “Can you see those two together? Havoc is a great guy and a good soldier, but like I’ve said before, he needs to tone it down with the ladies ‘cause he comes on too strong. Hawkeye’s tough. She’s classy, and a wonderful woman, but she’s one tough broad. I don’t really think Havoc has what it takes to win her over.”

Ed nodded silently as he thought about what Breda had said. If knowing about a relationship between Hawkeye and Havoc would put a burden on Breda, how much more of a burden was knowing about his and Roy’s relationship? And not just Breda, but the rest of Roy’s crew as well. The thought made him feel so selfish.

When he and Roy had first started living together and sleeping together, it had all seemed so simple. It was as if he had been living with Roy in their own little bubble. He hadn’t realized that such a thing would affect anyone else. All he’d thought about was himself and how everything was affecting him. It had been that same selfishness that had caused the problems with Al. He’d wanted Al all to himself, hadn’t wanted to share, and he’d been selfish and jealous when his brother wanted to experience life on his own terms.

Ed stopped and looked up at the sky. The day was perfect, one with bright blue skies and fluffy white clouds. It showed nothing of the turmoil Ed felt inside. Ed had always thought he was so mature, but life was doing a good job of showing him that he still had a long way to go.

Bringing his gaze down from the sky and to Breda—who had stopped as well and was now watching him silently—Ed shook his head. He may have been in his own little bubble, he may not have known better, but Roy should have. Roy would know that his actions would have an impact on his subordinates, on himself, on them as a couple. So, the question was, why had he done it? Why, considering all the risks, had he allowed himself to get involved with Ed?

“If Havoc and Hawkeye ever did get together,” Ed started slowly. “What would you do?”

Breda stared back at him with a somber expression, then walked over to Ed and said in a quiet tone, “I’m more loyal to my friends and to Roy Mustang, than I am to the military and the fuhrer. You understand?”

“Yeah...” Ed said, suddenly with a lump in his throat.

“Good. Always remember, don’t ever doubt it, and tell no one.” When Ed nodded, Breda stepped away and patted his stomach. “I’m starving. Think I’ll go grab some chow. Ya sure you don’t want to come?”

Ed nodded again. “Yeah. I’m sure.”

“Alright, see you tomorrow then,” Breda said, raising a hand in farewell and turning to go.

“Lieutenant Breda,” Ed said. Breda turned, and Ed took a deep breath. He wanted to apologize for all the trouble he’d caused, for being an immature asshole at times, but at the last moment he settled on, “Thanks...” Breda’s lips quirked up into a smile and he gave a small nod before turning and walking away.

0-0-0-0


Pinako leaned against the doorframe and quietly watched Winry work. After Alphonse and Russell had left, Winry had gone off by herself for a while, but by noon she had returned to the house, changed out of her wedding dress, and had announced that if Alphonse thought she was going to mope around while waiting for his return, then he was wrong. She’d immediately started to work and that had been the end of Winry’s tears; or, at least, the tears Pinako saw.

She had a feeling that there were tears when she wasn’t looking, maybe at night when Winry was all alone, but whenever Pinako tried to talk about it, Winry would stoically claim that she was fine, and that Alphonse had better come back soon if he knew what was good for him. So, Pinako let it be. After all, Alphonse had only been gone a few days. She would give it time and if Winry wanted to talk, she would be there for her.

In the past few days, Winry had been working a lot. She’d thrown herself into her work, working late into the night and starting far earlier than usual. Last night Winry hadn’t slept at all. If she kept this pace up for too long, Pinako was worried that Winry’s health would suffer, but she was also afraid that if she intervened, Winry would be without something to vent her emotions on and might break down. Pinako hoped that this would only be temporary, but she could understand the need to do something to not think about being alone, and about having your loved ones in danger.

Puffing on her pipe, Pinako said, “It’s almost lunch time. What do you want?” Winry tightened a screw, then set the screwdriver down and turned to look at Pinako. “And you better not say you’re not hungry. I know you didn’t eat breakfast.”

Winry gave her a sheepish look. Pinako might be willing to let the extra work slip by for a while, but she refused to let Winry skip more than one meal a day. It wasn’t healthy, and with the extra work Winry needed to eat.

“I guess th—” Winry began, but was cut off when they heard the front door crash open. Pinako turned and started hurrying to the living room. She could hear Winry right behind her and the girl bumped into her when Pinako stopped dead when she saw who was in her house.

“Get out!” Pinako snapped angrily.

“We’re here on official business,” Archer said calmly. “Please have a seat.”

“You will not tell me what to do in my own home!” Pinako shot back.

“Yes, I will,” Archer said blandly. “And you will obey. Unless you’d like to spend some time in a cell?” He glanced behind her. “And your... sweet... granddaughter as well?” Pinako clenched her teeth together as she glared at him, then glanced at the man beside him—Kimblee—then at the four soldiers standing next to the door.

“Very well...” she growled. Looking back at Winry, Pinako gave a small shake of the head when Winry looked down at her. This could turn ugly very fast, and she didn’t want that. She was an old woman, and she’d lived her life, but Winry still had years ahead of her... good years that would come after this pathetic war had ended.

When they were seated, Archer settled himself into another chair, crossed his legs, and folded his arms over his chest. “I hear that congratulations are in order,” Archer said, looking at Winry. “You’re now an Elric, isn’t that right?” Instead of answering, Winry glared hatefully at him. “Where is your husband right now, Mrs. Elric?” He waited, but when Winry again refused to speak, Archer added, “Because, I know he’s not here. All of Rizembool knows he’s not here.”

At that, Winry’s eye’s widened slightly in shock, but Pinako didn’t feel any surprise at all. Most likely, the mayor had told his wife what had happened. And, in turn, she had told her friends, who had told their friends, who had told their friends. Rizembool was large in size, but comparatively small in population, and unless you were really good at guarding your own business, it became everyone else’s business.

Archer gave a flat smile. “We recently found the bodies of some soldiers—very dead soldiers. I can imagine whoever killed them would have wanted to get away before they were found out.” Winry was trembling slightly now, though with anger or fear, Pinako didn’t know. Archer leaned forward in the chair and fixed his gaze on Winry’s. “You wouldn’t happen to know why Alphonse left in such a hurry... would you?” Winry opened her mouth to speak, but Pinako overrode her in an attempt to stop Winry from saying anything foolish.

“Perhaps you should keep better track of your men,” Pinako said evenly. “There are many people in Rizembool who are not happy with the military here.”

“And Alphonse Elric was one of those?” Archer asked.

“Do I look like a mind reader? If you want to know, ask him,” Pinako said. Winry opened her mouth again, and Pinako said, “Winry, keep quiet.”

“Oh, no, by all means, please do speak your mind,” Archer said with a smile, and Pinako glared at him.

“You’re just looking for someone to blame,” Winry finally said forcefully. Pinako could almost physically feel the rage and pain coming from her granddaughter.

“Now, why would I want to do that when I have a perfectly good suspect already?” Archer drawled easily.

“You’ve had it out for Al since you came here! For all I know, you set this whole thing up just to get him!” Winry’s eyes were shining with unshed tears, and Pinako shook her head. Winry was too distraught and emotional for this right now and the more she spoke, the more likely she’d end up as putty in Archer’s hands. She worried for Al’s safety too, but this was no time to get emotional.

“Winry,” Pinako said, putting a hand on the girl’s leg in an effort to silence her without causing a reaction from Archer.

But Winry ignored her and continued, “How do we know you didn’t murder those solders yourself just to blame it on Al!”

“Soldiers are valuable resources,” Archer explained. “I don’t have so many as to want to kill them needlessly.”

“What are the lives of five regular soldiers in comparison with a skilled alchemist?” Winry asked bitterly, and one tear finally escaped her eye and trickled slowly down her cheek. “People like you don’t value life. You use it up carelessly to get what you want.”

A wide grin spread on Archer’s face and he sat back in his chair looking pleased. There was also a knowing smirk on Kimblee’s face, but he kept quiet. “I... don’t recall saying that there were five soldiers,” Archer said smoothly. “But you’re absolutely right. There were five. How did you know that, Mrs. Elric?” The color drained from Winry’s face, and Pinako felt her heart sink in fear. When neither of them spoke, Archer snapped his fingers and motioned for one of the soldiers. The soldier stepped forward and saluted sharply. “Put a warrant out for the arrest of Alphonse Elric.”

“No!” Winry cried desperately. Pinako could see the devastation in her face, and her own heart was sinking with fear for Alphonse, but there was nothing she could do. She wanted to; wanted to stop what was happening, both for Winry’s sake and for Al’s, but there was nothing. “He didn’t do it!” Winry’s body was beginning to tremble and she balled her hands into fists.

“Didn’t he?” Archer asked, standing up and looking down at her. A triumphant smirk spread across his face. “Prove it.”

Winry stood as well and they were suddenly nose to nose. “Prove that he did!” she snapped back.

“After having a quick and unplanned wedding, he immediately leaves the area when he knows residents are supposed to remain in their respective towns unless they have clearance from the military. Leaving in and of itself is a violation of martial law. Even if he isn’t guilty of murder, which I have no doubt in my mind that he is, he is guilty of treason.”

“That’s ridiculous,” Pinako said incredulously.

Archer just stared at her for a moment with a controlled expression, then glanced at the solider. “Alphonse Elric is wanted for the murder of military personnel and treason. He is a highly dangerous alchemist and should be approached with great caution. Use whatever force is necessary to stop him.” The soldier wrote quickly on a notepad, then saluted sharply.

“You can’t!” Winry shouted with quivering voice. Her face was still pale, but her nose and eyes were red now, and her cheeks were wet from her tears.

Stepping forward, Archer whispered, “If I can’t have him, no one will have him. Do you understand? I will not allow The People’s Government to acquire such a powerful tool—a tool that should be mine.”

Without warning, Winry punched him hard in the face. “You bastard!” she screamed in rage. She lashed out again and again in fury as Archer worked to defend himself.

“Winry, stop!” Pinako shouted in horror. The situation was already bad and Winry was only making it worse. Archer grabbed her wrists and pulled back hard on them, making Winry scream in pain, then dragged her to the floor. She thrashed about, trying to kick him now, and he was shouting for the soldiers, who ran over and separated them.

“You could have helped me!” Archer snarled breathlessly to Kimblee, who was chuckling in amusement.

“I could have,” Kimblee said calmly.

Making a sound of disgust, Archer put his hand to his face where his cheek was already starting to swell. “I should arrest you,” Archer said menacingly to Winry. “Maybe word of your mistreatment would bring your husband running back.”

“If you arrest me, I’ll kill myself. Then Al will have no reason to come back,” Winry returned forcefully.

“You’re bluffing,” he said, still breathing heavily.

“Am I?” she asked, her voice filled with pain and anger. “Do you really want to take the chance?”

Archer breathed deeply through his nose, making his nostrils flare, as he considered her words, then without a word turned quickly and marched out of the house. The soldiers followed, but Kimblee stayed behind for a moment, staring at Winry. He smirked, tipped his hat to them, then turned and walked out of the house, closing the door behind him.

0-0-0-0


Ed held the phone to his ear as he listened to the civilian supply company clerk. The man was angry about something that had supposedly been promised him two weeks ago, but it didn’t sound like something Mustang would have approved and Ed couldn’t find any documentation about it at all. Apparently the supply sergeant at the warehouse had gotten tired of the guy and sent him Ed’s way when he wouldn’t back down.

Flopping a folder onto his already messy desk, Ed opened another one and flipped through it. This was a ridiculous waste of time, and he was already behind as it was. The door opening caught his attention and he saw Lieutenant Hawkeye walk through and smile at him. He tried to smile back, though he had a feeling it was more of a harassed ‘help me’ look than anything else. She gave him an ‘it’s all part of the job’ look of pity, then held up a folder with a sticky note on it that said, ‘You have a meeting with General Hakuro in five minutes.’

Ed just stared at it, not comprehending for a moment, then he said into the phone, “Look, talk to Mustang about it when he comes back.” When the man protested again, Ed snapped, “If you didn’t get it in writing, then it didn’t happen.” And with that, he slammed the receiver down and bounded out of his chair.

“What do you mean I have a meeting in five minutes?!” he exclaimed. “For what?!”

“Just like you have weekly staff meetings with us, Hakuro has weekly meetings with the high ranking officers under his direct command. That includes you.”

Ed tightened his ponytail and brushed down his uniform with his hands. “Why didn’t you tell me before?” he complained.

“I did.”

“You did?” He wracked his brain trying to remember when this could have been.

“Yes. I did.”

“When?” he asked suspiciously.

“Right after our meeting,” she said respectfully.

“But I didn’t go to a meeting last week,” Ed pointed out.

“The general canceled the meeting for last week,” Hawkeye returned, then smiled and handed him the folder. “You might need this.” Ed snatched it and rushed out of the office. He heard her call out to him what conference room it was in and he waved a hand in the air to show that he’d heard.

As he ran down the hall, people pressed themselves against the walls to avoid being run over. He pushed the button on the elevator, then dismissed it and used the stairs instead. When he got to the designated room, Ed opened the door, and saw a large, rectangular table filled with colonels and lieutenant colonels. Most were men; there was one woman. General Hakuro sat at the head of the table. As he entered, they all turned to look at him.

“Uh...” Ed said, breathing hard. “Sorry I’m late...”

“Elric, I don’t make allowances for tardiness,” Hakuro said coldly. “Please remain after this meeting has adjourned.”

‘Fuck you’ was at the forefront of Ed’s mind, but instead he nodded and found an empty chair near the back. He felt like a schoolboy being reprimanded by his teacher while the rest of the class laughed at him. It was a horrible feeling, but he was determined not to react.

“For those of you who haven’t heard, Edward Elric here has just been promoted to lieutenant colonel,” Hakuro said flatly. Ed pressed his lips together, trying not to glare. “Congratulations, Colonel Elric. We all know how much you deserved your promotion.”

Die. Just die... Ed thought angrily. The other officers in the room were giving him looks that bordered on hostility. If there had been any of these people who hadn’t hated him before, Ed doubted that was the case now.

As the meeting began, Hakuro had each of them give a report on their sections. Most of these reports took only minutes, but Ed started to feel panicked. He hadn’t prepared anything! Embarrassingly enough, Ed hadn’t a clue what was going on in his section. In desperation, he opened the folder Hawkeye had given him and on the top page was a neat and concise report for him with another sticky note that said, ‘Next week be sure to prepare your own report.’

Ed was going to bring that woman some flowers, or chocolates, or some gun cleaning stuff, or something! He’d only been doing Mustang’s job for a short time, but he wasn’t sure how he’d be able to survive without her. He quickly memorized the material and gave his report with no problems.

There were some superficial items of business, then Hakuro had them turn their attention to a large map on the wall where he began to inform them of the dealings in the east. Apparently there had recently been several small battles with factions of the People’s Army, many of which were won by the rebellion.

Having not kept up with the details of the war recently, Ed found this particularly interesting. He was also intrigued with the way the rebellion continued to grow in numbers. Surely they couldn’t think they could really win this. The People’s Army might win some battles; but, in the end, the military would stop messing around and send a sizable force to deal with them. At least, that’s what Ed would have done. He tapped a finger against his lips as he studied the map. Surely the military could have already dealt with this threat... why hadn’t they? It didn’t make sense...

“Isn’t that right, Colonel Elric?”

Ed blinked and looked at Hakuro. “Huh?”

“Paying attention is also a requirement for these meetings,” Hakuro said.

“I was paying attention,” Ed explained. “I was just wondering about something.”

Hakuro folded his arms and gave him a condescending look. “What?”

“Why hasn’t the military just sent out a large number of troops to deal with the People’s Army? Wouldn’t it make more sense than just engaging them in small skirmishes?” Some of the officers looked at each other, and there were a few whispers.

“Colonel Elric will be starting tactical classes tonight,” Hakuro announced. “I’m not sure it will do him much good since he is still having trouble grasping the concept of obeying orders without question.”

Ed felt his face heat with anger and embarrassment. Hakuro wasn’t really taking him seriously. He just wanted to humiliate him in front of everyone. Roy wouldn’t let this get the better of him, and Ed decided that he’d try to follow that example.

“I didn’t know this was about obeying orders,” Ed said as respectfully as he could manage.

“It’s always about obeying orders,” Hakuro said. “The fuhrer commands the military. He gives the orders. We don’t question those orders, we just do them. Understand?”

Not really... sounds like a load of shit to me, Ed thought, but instead said, “Yes, sir.”

Hakuro seemed pleased by the humility in his voice and nodded in satisfaction. Then he said, “If there are no other questions—intelligent questions—this meeting is over.” The other officers stood and began filing out of the conference room. Some were speaking to each other in low tones, and there were more than a few who glanced Ed’s way as they passed him.

“Fullmetal,” Hakuro said, catching Ed’s attention. Ed forced himself out of his chair and wandered over to where the general was sitting. “You were late to my meeting by two minutes.”

Not by my watch, Ed thought, but instead said, “Sorry.”

Hakuro’s eyebrows rose. “Sorry? Don’t you think you’re being a little too informal with me, Colonel?”

Ed moved his gaze away for a moment, trying to hide the fact that he felt this conversation was ridiculously idiotic. Looking back at Hakuro, Ed said, “I apologize for not being on time. It won’t happen again.” Probably, he added mentally.

“It had better not. Professionalism is important in the military.”

“Professionalism, as in making jokes at your junior officer’s expense?” Ed asked without thinking.

“You are a joke!” Hakuro snapped angrily. “I have no idea why the fuhrer advanced you. You weren’t even in the regular military before that! The very idea of you leading men into battle is absolutely ludicrous!”

Ed wanted to reply with something snarky, tell Hakuro to go to hell and that he was not a little boy, but he didn’t. It was an effort, but Ed closed his eyes and thought of Roy. Roy wouldn’t let himself be drawn into an argument like this with his commanding officer, would he? No. He’d back down and scheme behind the bastard’s back. The only thing was that Ed wasn’t Roy. He didn’t scheme. He faced everything head on. So, he wouldn’t scheme, but he would back down for now. Nothing would be gained by getting into a shouting match with Hakuro.

“Is that all, sir?” Ed asked, his voice respectful, but strained as well.

“It is. Get out of my face,” Hakuro said with disgust.

Pressing his lips together to avoid another outburst, Ed gave a bow, then turned and walked swiftly out of the room.
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