A/N: Just a pointless one-shot on my part that took a lot more time than it should have.
Random Note: I'd say 'sweatdropped' has become an unofficial verb, wouldn't you?
Random Note II: 'Hespa City' does not actually exist anywhere in the FMA world or our own. I got the name 'Hespa' from a standardized test that's going to take place in my school next week. It was not used for any particular reason, except… I needed to name the city.
Random Note III: Expect some anachronisms.
Fury cringed as he heard an all too familiar stompstompstompstomp coming down the hall. The uneven footstep pattern could only belong to one person, and the fact that they were stomping footsteps meant only one thing.
The Fullmetal Alchemist was still in a bad mood.
It was a rather ridiculous situation that caused this particular trait of Ed's attitude to shine through for nearly a week now. The visiting Major General couldn't have known that the famed Fullmetal Alchemist was actually quite young, not to mention vertically challenged. The poor man had passed by Ed at least five times, the last of which he came up behind him and asked, "Excuse me, little girl, do you know where I can find the Fullmetal Alchemist?"
It took three people and much reminding that physically harming a superior officer was a felony to restrain him.
Naturally, Ed hadn't been too happy about the comment. He'd taken to storming around Headquarters. He and his brother were currently caught in a rut in their research, and thus there was nothing to get him out of everyone's hair. Simply walking through the corridors had become extremely dangerous: you never knew when he was going to show up.
And as of that moment Fury was caught in just such an extremely dangerous position. Vaguely he wondered if he had time to dodge through the nearest door. Or perhaps he should just stand very, very still, and the teen would go right past without even noticing him.
He was shaking too much for the second plan to really work out.
Quite suddenly he was grabbed from behind. Fearing the worst, he cried out (hoping that some one would come rescue him before he fell prey to a certain blond's wrath), but it was silenced quickly when a hand clamped over his mouth. He was pulled backward a few feet, and then through an open door. Only when it was securely shut in front of him was he released. He squared his shoulders and turned around, not sure what to expect.
Havoc was hunched over, gasping for breath. Beyond the door he could make out the sound of angry footsteps passing and eventually disappearing into the distance.
"That," Havoc said once he found his voice, "was close."
"Thank you," Fury nearly sobbed.
Enough was enough; they would complain to the colonel about it. If he couldn't come up with a solution then they were seriously screwed.
Roy was only vaguely surprised to find several of his subordinates gathered around his desk in the semblance of an angry mob.
"—You've got to put a stop to this—"
"—I can't even go to the bathroom without looking over my shoulder—!"
"—It's been a week—"
"—I feel unsafe in my workplace—!"
The colonel sighed. Of course they would thrust the tedious task of taming the Fullmetal Alchemist on him. It wasn't his fault the boy's reputation put up such an untrue image of him, or that his temper went unmatched.
But it wouldn't do for his subordinates to be so unhappy. Not to mention the constant screaming and sounds of destruction that had been plaguing the place lately were really starting to give him a headache.
"All right," he said calmly, silencing everyone. "I'll send him on some mission or another. Maybe it'll give him some time to calm down."
The group cheered and filed out, assured that order would return shortly. The moment they had all left Roy slouched back in his chair, wracking his brains for some sort of bogus quest he could send the Elric brothers on.
"Fullmetal has got to learn to control his temper…" he sighed to himself. "I'm sure he'd be less stressed if he wasn't always working so hard. I wonder… do those two ever take a vacation?"
A small grin began to play on his lips.
Ed scowled; glaring at the very words on the page of the book he had immersed himself in that morning. Even a musty, two-inch volume of alchemic equations (his favorite type of book) wasn't enough to cheer him up.
"Brother—?" Al asked tentatively, stepping into their room.
"Mm," was all Ed replied. He wasn't much in the mood for conversation.
"Brother, Colonel Mustang wants to see you. He says he has a mission he wants to—"
Ed slammed his book shut.
"Damn him," he muttered, tossing the book onto his bed where it landed easily amongst many others. Al sweatdropped inwardly.
"So… think you'll be going any time soon?"
Ed shrugged, and stood up, brushing past his brother and heading towards the door. "I don't see why not, orders are orders. It's not like I've got anything better to do…" He proceeded to storm out. Al took a moment to pity anyone caught in his path.
The next day Ed and Al found themselves on a train headed toward Hespa City. Neither of them knew much about it except that it was at the shore. Ed's mood had not improved yet, especially since the nature of his mission had been left completely ambiguous.
"When you reach Hespa City," Mustang had said seriously, "locate a man who goes by the name of 'Joe'. He'll have your instructions for you."
Ed had asked, "Why can't you just tell me them now?" The colonel had quickly muttered something about it being top secret, and for his own good, and he really needed to get some paperwork done so Ed should excuse himself.
"Brother, I think I see the ocean!" Al said cheerfully. Ed turned his frowning gaze towards the window. Sure enough, in the distance a wide expanse of water twinkled in the afternoon sun. It was a pretty sight, and even in his current disposition Ed couldn't help but smile a little.
"I just hope this task isn't too ridiculous," Ed said, leaning back. It was the most conversational thing he'd said in days, something Al noticed.
Brother always gets so worked up over everything… he thought. They lapsed into silence once more and the train brought them closer and closer to their destination.
"This is ridiculous!" Ed cried, staring around him in disbelief. Both he and Al were being jostled and shoved around by the surging crowds of people, and that was just standing still at the train station. The part of the streets that were currently visible didn't look any better.
"Mission," Ed seethed. "This is a damned tourist trap!"
Sure enough almost everyone in the crowd sported bathing suits, wide-brimmed hats, inflatable beach toys, shorts, or those obnoxiously bright shirts with huge flowers printed all over them. Even in the shade of the station the heat was reaching toward unbearable, and certainly the masses of people (and thus the body heat they were producing) wasn't helping.
"I can't breathe!" Ed decided after a while, looking flushed.
"How are we supposed to find this 'Joe' person in this mess?" Al wondered.
They silently agreed it would be best to escape the train station if that was at all possible. Generally the crowds were headed towards the exits anyway, so by simply going along with the current, maybe…
Forty-five minutes later they found themselves stepping onto a sandy, cobble-stone road. Ed gasped for air.
"I can't believe this! What on Earth are all these people doing here? What's so great about—"
Al nudged him. "Brother, look."
"Huh?" Ed looked up, and his eyes widened. It was a wide road, littered with one or two story, colorful buildings on either side. It was teeming with people, although every once and a while a car or carriage would turn the corner. The street was two blocks long before it crisscrossed with another at the end. There a set of stairs led directly to the beach which was littered with hundreds of colorful umbrellas and equally colorful people.
But the most spectacular thing to look at, and clearly what Al was indicating, was the ocean. Their view of it from the train was nothing compared to this. It was a perfect, crystalline turquoise and seemed to stretch on forever. The sun caused each wave to sparkle and shine.
"Al…" he began slowly. "Tell me why we've never been here before again?"
"I don't know," Al replied, equally enthralled. They set out down the street.
It wasn't long before Ed shed both of his coats and began to drag his feet.
"What I wouldn't give for some shorts. And maybe some sandals," he moaned. "And I hate to say it, but we should really be looking for this 'Joe' person."
"Yes," Al agreed. "And maybe we'll have some free time after that to—"
"Mustang already bought us tickets for the trip back," Ed said darkly. "He'll probably make us leave as soon as whatever this mission is is done with. I bet he knew how beautiful this place was and just sent me here to taunt me."
"I'm sure that's not it, Brother," Al chided, but he also was feeling disappointed.
And so began the search for Joe. They inquired to nearly every person they passed, ran into at least three people named Joe who had no idea what they were talking about, and finally after an hour decided enough was enough.
"This is ridiculous!" Ed found himself saying again. They'd combed a large portion of city already and had had no luck with their search whatsoever. Presently they found themselves on the street branching out from the train station, which they had come to regard as a sort of home base. "How does he expect us to find one person out of thousands with only a first name to guide us?"
"Hey, shorty!" some one called over the noise of the crowd. Ed's eye twitched.
Oh dear, Al thought. "Brother, you're just hot and dehydrated. I'm sure they didn't mean you. There's no need to get upset—"
"WHO DID YOU SAY WAS SHORT?" his brother cried, and dashed towards the side of the road with an accuracy that suggested he had insult radar.
The one who had committed this heinous crime turned out to be a middle-aged man, his skin rough and stained a deep tan from spending days and days in the sun. He wore a muscle shirt that looked like it hadn't been washed in days and was chewing on an unlit cigar. He also happened to appear to be the proprietor of one of the many beach shops Ed and Al had passed.
"You Edward Elric?" he asked gruffly. Ed felt suddenly compelled to look up at the sign above the man's store. It was badly painted, and probably made out of old drift-wood.
'JOE'S KWALITY SOUVENEERS' it read.
Ed felt his jaw drop, forgetting to be angry.
"Yes, he's Edward Elric!" Al called, jogging up. The man raised an eyebrow at him but said nothing. He disappeared into his shop, emerging moments later with a battered envelope in his hands.
"This came for you. Over-night shipping, must be important." It was obvious he expected some sort of payment, but the brothers were too excited to notice.
"Finally!" Ed shouted, ripping the envelope open. Two train tickets fluttered to the ground. He opened the enclosed letter and read it hungrily.
You will obtain the following items and report back to Headquarters at the indicated time.
Colonel Roy Mustang
ONE Hespa City t-shirt for Second Lieutenant Breda
ONE 'Beach Bum' t-shirt for Sergeant Major Fury (the dog one, not the cat one)
TWO shot glasses from any crummy beach-town bar for Warrant Officer Farman
ONE embroidered, sea shell beach bag for First Lieutenant Hawkeye
ONE Hespa City Zippo lighter for Second Lieutenant Havoc
ONE pair of HespaCity swim shorts for Colonel Mustang (blue or red)
Ed's eye was twitching again.
"Please tell me… that he didn't send us all the way here… just to pick up a few crappy souvenirs."
He looked just about ready to tear the nearest person's head off. Joe decided it was a good time to duck back inside.
"I can't believe him! What a waste of time! We could have been—"
"Brother—" Al tried to cut in.
"And to think all the time we spent wandering around this damn city!"
"When I get back he's going to pay, you hear me? I'll wipe that stupid, smug grin right off his—"
"BROTHER LISTEN!" Al yelled, shaking Ed by the shoulders. Ed blinked and closed his mouth.
"These train tickets are dated for next week," he pointed out calmly. Ed took a moment to think this through.
"So you're saying we have to hang around in this crowded city, probably spending nights in that nice hotel we saw earlier and days lying around on the beach?"
"It seems that way…"
There was a pause.
"Some mission!" Ed cheered. Finally he was showing a real grin.
Al sat back in the sand, watching happily as his brother dove in and out of the waves. It was still fairly early in the season, so although the air was sweltering the water was cool and refreshing. Or so Ed had told him. It would be pretty much pointless and inconvenient for him to join in, especially considering the need to protect his blood seal from damage. It did please him to see Ed having a good time, though.
Finally he's relaxing, he thought. He always complains about the colonel being a bad man, but here he goes and sends us on vacation purely out of the kindness of his heart! We'll have to remember to get all those souvenirs before we leave…
"Excuse me," a young voice addressed him. Surprised, he looked up to see a girl about thirteen or fourteen years old smiling at him.
"Aren't you hot?" she asked casually, plopping herself down beside him. Al knew he would have blushed if he could have.
"Oh, er, no not really…" he said quickly.
The girl only shrugged. "Well, my brother ditched me…" she took a moment to drag her fingers through the sand boredly. Al couldn't help but wonder just what she thought she was doing, starting up a conversation with a complete stranger and… although, he reflected, sitting on the beach next to a pretty girl on a gorgeous day wasn't exactly the worst way one could be spending their time.
"Wanna make a sand castle?" she asked finally.
Al's unseen grin widened.