Finding Worth

by Kellen

Rating: T, violence

Summary: A frustrating morning turns deadly when Colonel Mustang is confronted by Scar. Complete.

Author's Notes: Anime-verse, after episode 15.Takes place in East City during episodes 16-17, while the brothers Elric are away in Rizenbul. Slightly AU, perhaps (In other word: Timeline? What timeline?) The story was written because I wanted to see more of an encounter between Scar and Mustang, because I heart Mustang, and because the dratted bunny wouldn't leave me alone. This could be construed as slightly Mustang/Hawkeye. I didn't really have it in mind, but… eh… It happened anyway.

Special thanks to Kahva, for her awesome editorialness. You rock, m'dear!

Disclaimer: Fullmetal Alchemist and its characters are not my creation or intellectual property. Hiromu Arakawa is the creative genius behind them, and its licensing belongs to various companies that are not owned by me.

Getting to the office shouldn't have been this difficult. Sure, the sky threatened rain, but, really… even if Colonel Roy Mustang only found the rain annoying, the darkening sky was merely a foreboding of the hardships the colonel faced this morning. The small group of armed men who had a beef with the military only added a sense of ominous omen to the day. (They had also added a few bruises and some soreness, Mustang though with an uncharacteristic wince, but he wasn't about to admit to anyone that a group of street thugs had nearly gotten the better of him.) Being held up by the fight and the police had been irritating, yes, but not downright threatening. In point of fact, watching the thugs get their comeuppance at his hands and at the hands of the police had been stress-relieving, if not entertaining.

Of course, walking into the entrance of Eastern's HQ was an event that, most times, was an unheralded, everyday occurrence. Mustang had not forgotten that he'd hired the construction company to do a little repair work on that particular door; he'd come in and out everyday to see them working there, had spoken with them and, on a few occasions, threatened the foreman.

The threats were probably what caused this whole mess, Mustang mused tiredly, one hand pressed tightly against his right temple. He sat on the floor, trying to glare at the foreman, who held over his shoulder a long piece of wood stud, the end of which had just belted the colonel across the head. Glaring, of course, was more effective when the glarer's vision wasn't swimming. Mustang swore the foreman was laughing beneath the appropriately horrified and concerned look on his face.

The colonel stumbled to his feet, stalwartly (and stubbornly) refusing the hand extended for help. Without a word and trying his best to ignore the renewed twinge in his right knee – thanks to a lucky shot by a street thug – he walked slowly down the hall, heading for his office.

And when he got there, all he was going to do was close the door, lick his wounds, stare balefully at the rain, and then proceed to drink himself into a stupor.

Provided, of course, Hawkeye hadn't thrown out his liquor again.

He shoved the door to his offices open, leaning against the doorjamb to catch his breath; he'd forgotten how much a head wound can take out of a person. It wasn't until Jean Havoc looked up at the noise and all the color drained from his already pale face that Mustang finally took a moment to think about how he looked.

"Colonel?" The rest of Havoc's question was lost as he stared at the rumpled, swaying man.

Mustang grimaced. His uniform was torn and dirty (and probably bloody in places) and he could feel blood trickling down the side of his face. Considering he'd fallen in a muddy street earlier that morning, his face and hair was likely not a pretty sight. He took a step, intending to ignore Havoc. As he put weight on his right knee, though, it seized again and buckled. He caught himself on the wall, looked straight at Havoc and simply said "Chair."

Havoc scrambled into action and Mustang made a note to find a pretty date for the man for how quickly that chair came into being next to the doorway. Just as the colonel was lowering himself into the chair, sighing and gingerly probing the gash on his temple, Riza Hawkeye walked through the door.

Her red-brown eyes traveled over the scene, flickering across the colonel, then to Havoc – who hovered over Mustang, unsure of his next move – and back to the colonel. She reached behind her and closed the door without breaking her gaze on Mustang. "Sir?"

He waved a hand. "A series of unfortunate events," he said wearily. "Explained later."

"Of course, sir." She nodded. "Havoc, a towel or handkerchief, if you please."

Havoc reached into his pocket, pulling out a wadded up, rather dingy kerchief. Mustang eyed it with revulsion while Hawkeye crossed her arms and glared. "A clean one, Lieutenant."

Havoc blinked, cigarette dangling dangerously, before a drawn-out "oh" escaped his lips. He crossed the room, and rifled through a filing cabinet before pulling out a small first aid kit and tossing it to Hawkeye. She caught it deftly and as she opened it, spoke. "Havoc, see to it that the morning routine gets started."

Roy tried not to groan. Here he was bleeding and covered in mud, and his ever-loyal Hawkeye was still going to get him stacks of paperwork to muddle through. He blinked, regarding his fingers. Couldn't those thugs at least break a few fingers? No fingers, no signing. Hawkeye frowned. "Just because you managed to hit yourself on the head, sir, doesn't mean the work stops."

He met the frown with one of his own. "I'll have you know, Lieutenant, that I didn't hit myself on the head."

"Then what happened, chief?" Havoc cut in as he gathered a few files to run and exchange for all-new work.

Mustang crossed his arms. "Nothing you need to know about." He paused. "By the way, avoid the south entrance. The foreman down there's in a mood."

Havoc choked back a laugh; he'd been present a few times when the colonel had threatened the foreman. Before the blond man could reply though – and scathingly so, Mustang was sure – Hawkeye waved him out the door. "Major Armstrong reported," she said as Havoc slipped past her and out the door. She shut it behind him without taking her eyes off the first aid kit. "Your head's still bleeding," she commented as she pulled out a square of clean cloth and pushed it unmercifully against the gash. "Hold that there," she said. She rocked back her heels after he raised his hand and looked him over critically. "Anything else?"

Several rather lewd remarks swirled in his head, but this was Hawkeye. She didn't deserve it (even if Mustang was rather annoyed with the "walk in wounded and dive straight into work" attitude) and she'd wound him further if he even looked like he was trying to insinuate anything other than the completely innocent. And of course with her there looking at him like he was a complete fool for getting hurt on the way to work, he wasn't about to catalog any other aches and pains. "I'm fine." The words came out more gruffly than he intended and he suppressed a wince. "You said Armstrong reported?"

"The Elrics are on their way. Alphonse had to ride in a livestock car."

Mustang snorted. It wasn't that he was overly amused by the younger Elric's method of travel. It was the way Hawkeye said it: that peculiar mixture of disbelief, dry amusement, and sympathy made her voice lilt just so, and he found it amusing that she could pack so much into a singularly dry tone. She raised an eyebrow. "Poor kid," he commented. "Ed threw a fit, I'm sure."

Amusement lit her eyes. "That's what the major said." There was a moment of silence in which she again turned to the first aid kit and he gingerly peeled the now sticky square of cloth away from his temple. "Has the bleeding stopped?"

"Slowed, at least," he answered with a frown.

"What exactly did happen, sir?" she asked as she handed him a fresh square of cloth. "I forgot to tell Havoc to bring some water. Do you have that liquor in your desk, sir?"

He blinked at her. "My brandy is to be used to get me drunk, not to disinfect me."

Hawkeye fought a triumphant smile. Mustang nearly groaned again.

"Lieutenant, don't throw out my brandy."

"Of course not, sir." Somehow she managed to look affronted.

Mustang glared at her. She'd find a way, now that he'd admitted it was there. It'd go missing somehow, sooner rather than later. Knowing that he'd just been plowed over by his adjunct – again – he changed the subject. "Havoc's smart enough, despite his appearance. He'll bring water."

She sighed. He echoed it. Then he resignedly told her what had transpired that morning.

And was grateful when she didn't laugh at his misfortune.

Mid-day was approaching and while Mustang had sat at his desk with every intention of doing a bit of work, at least, to repay Hawkeye's diligence – if not gentleness – in bandaging his head, and in not mentioning the slight limp he'd developed. Black Hayate, the puppy Hawkeye had adopted only a few days ago, curled up at his feet. Every so often, the puppy would twitch and woof quietly, and Mustang had watched him for a bit, jealous of the pup's quiet morning.

Roy was now staring single-mindedly at a piece of paper, blinking a little as the print seemed to dance and blur. It wasn't that he really wanted to read the thing; he could sign off on it without knowing a thing about it, he was sure. It was probably some stupid report from some fool of a field agent who thought that reporting every little rabbit he saw cross his path would earn him points with command. Mustang just couldn't seem to find the signature line. Finally, he let the paper drift to the desk and wondered how much it would hurt his already pounding head to let it drop to the desk as well. "Black Hayate," he said, looking down at the puppy whose muzzle rested on his foot, "it's time for a break." Gingerly, he pulled his foot from under the dog's head, apologizing softly as the puppy whined and yawned. He stood up, pleased the room didn't tilt, but not so pleased with the pain in his knee, and strode as well as he was able – which wasn't very well at all – out of his office, throwing an "I'll be right back" to a displeased Hawkeye.

The sun was peeking through gray clouds as Mustang walked slowly down the narrow street. He'd left the main street, self-conscious in the crowds after a few people had started staring at the bandage on his temple and the mud still on his overcoat. He'd changed into a spare uniform he kept on-base and cleaned up as best he could, but he still felt dirty and unpresentable. There was a café, just a small hole-in-the-wall place at the end of this dirt street, and Mustang had frequented it whenever possible. The proprietors, an elderly couple, were good people, and better cooks. He pushed his hands deeper in his coat pockets and picked up his pace, his boots sloshing in the mud.

He caught sight of the entrance, and the old man outside doing his best to clean the muddy stoop. The small man caught sight of him and straightened, raising a hand in greeting. Roy inclined his head. The old man turned, and shouted something presumably to his wife inside the restaurant, and then looked back to Mustang, apparently waiting to escort his customer inside.

Mustang wasn't looking when the old man's face fell, but he heard the man shout. He tensed, hands seeking the pyrotex gloves in his pockets. The old man pointed just to Mustang's right. "Behind!"

Mustang tried to spin around and snap on his gloves. His knee buckled under the pressure and he stumbled. The back of his coat was roughly grabbed and he was thrown forward. He hit the ground hands first, fingers buried in the soft mud, and rolled. The back of his head knocked against a pile of abandoned building materials, and there was a loud crash and clattering as wood, trash, and the occasional dented pipe rained down on him.

He pulled himself to his hands and knees, shaking dark strands of hair out of his eyes. His gloved fingers squelched in the mess and he grimaced; no sparks were coming from that.

A sharp kick plowed into his abdomen, lifting him up and he rolled further into the alley. He fell into a crouch, shaking his head.

"I've come to deliver your judgment, Flame Alchemist."

Mustang's eyes widened and he slowly raised his head. "Scar," he ground out.

Scar made a non-committal noise and stepped over the debris Mustang had slammed into. His left hand clutched the right sleeve of his yellow jacket and raised it up, exposing the dark tattoos on his arm.

Even as dread rose in him, Mustang shifted slightly. He tried his level best to stomp down on emotions that roiled within him: shame, guilt, horror, anger… Scar certainly had his reasons, Mustang knew, but the man had made no distinction between the innocent and the guilty.

Mustang may have been one of the guilty, but determination and willfulness had become his driving force.

He crouched on the muddy ground, watching his adversary through narrowed eyes and quickly peeling the now useless gloves off his hands. He could ill afford any mistakes, and mud-covered gloves could lend themselves to fatal mistakes. One hand came to rest lightly against the ground; an alchemist was never without a weapon. As long as he could draw an array in the mud, he was a formidable fighter.

It was unfortunate really, that his opponent knew this all too well. Scar let loose an inarticulate cry and slammed his right hand into the ground. Mud flew as the ground cracked and shook. Sharp spikes of rock and debris flew from the ground. Mustang rolled to his left, arms protecting his face. He shoved off against the building behind him and lunged forward, crossing the alley in an instant, his left hand closing around an old pipe lying on the ground.

Scar frowned. "You can't escape this, Flame Alchemist," he stated as he held his right arm up. "Why do you continue in this fight you cannot win?"

Mustang stood, doing his level best to ignore the white-hot pain that shot through his knee. Even so, he flinched. His gaze never wavered from Scar's red eyes as he brought the pipe up across his chest.

Scar crouched, ready to spring. "May Ishvara have mercy on your soul." He leapt, right hand reaching for Mustang's forehead. Red light gathered around him.

Roy braced the pipe with his right forearm. "You first." He ducked, bringing the pipe over his head. Scar's forearm hit the pipe with bruising force. Alchemical charge rushed into the pipe, and it shattered, pieces of it embedding deep into Mustang's left hand and right forearm. He hissed as he spun to the side. Scar, off balance, pitched forward, caught himself on his left hand and regained his feet.

Mustang didn't waste time. He came out of his crouch, fist driving into the fleshy part of Scar's back. He intended to follow with a sweeping kick to knock the Ishvaran off his feet, but his knee buckled, leaving him to catch himself on bloodied hands and with a clear view of his own death coming down on him.

Scar had turned, and scowling, was reaching for Mustang with that accursed right hand. Again, red light glowed, and Mustang found himself almost mesmerized by the display. He'd gone into this fight suffering a confusing mix of sympathy, rage, and guilt: sympathy for the devil he was guilty of creating, he supposed and guilt over the men dead by Scar's unmerciful hand.

As Mustang's eyes widened, rage rushed through him, pushing aside lesser emotions. The state alchemists in Ishvar may hold the blame for destroying the man's home and people, but Scar himself was the only person to blame for the deaths of Roy's fellow soldiers. With a sudden clarity, and vindictiveness unmatched, Mustang lashed out with his good leg, his heel driving into Scar's right knee.

The Ishvaran howled in rage and pain as he pitched forward, landing gracelessly beside Roy. He caught himself on his left hand, single-mindedly reaching with his right toward his target. Roy rolled to his left as fast as he could manage. Instead of reaching for Mustang, though, as he thought Scar would do, Scar's hand plunged into the slick mud.

The earth around them exploded. Debris hit between Mustang's shoulder blades with bruising force, leaving his breathless and helpless as it shoved him into the air and forward. He hit the ground with his shoulder, unable to cry out as it gave. He rolled onto his back, right hand grasping his shoulder and gasping breathlessly. He rolled his head to the side, barely able to see Scar scrambling to his feet and testing the knee Mustang had kicked. The man grimaced as the knee threatened to buckle. Scar looked down, and caught the Flame Alchemist watching him.

"You're troublesome," he growled. He started toward the prone alchemist.

Mustang struggled to stand upright; he'd be damned if he died lying down. He was only about halfway to sitting when he decided that pride be damned. He could die sitting on the ground just as well as standing on it.

Scar advanced on him. "And so prideful."

Mustang, now sitting on his knees and right hand clutching at his shoulder, looked up at Scar through mud-spattered dark hair. "You are not telling me anything new," he spat. His left hand dangled, seemingly useless, against the soft mud. His fingers twitched.

"This fight is over, Flame Alchemist. It's time to face your judgment." Scar's hand was only inches from Roy's head.

Roy grit his teeth and leaned slightly forward, putting his left hand down on the array he'd quickly drawn. Scar's eyes widened as the mud began undulating around his feet. Tendrils of mud rose into the air, solidifying and wrapping themselves around the man's legs. Mustang looked up at him, the yellow light of his alchemy reflecting in his dark eyes. "Face your own," he said lowly.

Scar growled, his rage palpable as he slammed his right hand into the tendrils of mud. Mustang kept up the assault, knowing the moment he let up, he'd be a dead man. Already injured, though, and weary, he knew he wouldn't last longer than Scar. It was a delaying tactic, at best, and Mustang was backed into a corner: he couldn't devise a new strategy, since dropping this one would be his death.

Mustang's vision began to blur. He blinked, trying to keep his gaze even and clear upon Scar. He could see the Ishvaran start to smile grimly. Scar was winning, and they both knew it. Mustang's jaw clenched, but his breath grew short. His alchemy faltered, weakening.

He needed a definitive strike. He blinked up at Scar, seeing in the Ishvaran all the lives he'd seen wasted. Mustang brought both hands down on the array with a cry and the ground under Scar rose violently. The man was thrown backward, hitting the opposite wall with a deafening thud.

That was when Mustang heard the gunshots. Four of them rang out in quick succession. Scar became a blur in his vision as the Ishvaran leapt onto a fire escape and disappeared. Footsteps sloshed in the mud and as Mustang pitched forward, he saw military boots sliding as they ran toward him.

Firm and gentle hands caught his shoulders and he hissed. An apology was murmured, and arms were wrapped around his chest instead. "Colonel Mustang?"

He didn't answer; his shoulder was too intent on throbbing in sharp pain.

"Falman, help him sit up."

Even as Mustang gathered breath to protest, his back came to rest against a strong arm. What air he had gathered was wasted as he hissed again. He focused his gaze on the ground, trying and failing to push the pain away. The arm around his back shifted, slowly pushing him forward until he sat on his own, slouched and still staring at the ground. There was a hand still on his back, resting lightly against the bruises, ready to catch him if he fell.


He blinked. Hawkeye's voice was soothing and steady, a far cry from the growls and snarls that Scar had emitted. He realized he could see her knees in his field of vision; she had knelt in front of him. He swayed unsteadily, blinking away tendrils of blackness creeping into his vision. "Sir?" Her hand came to rest on his upper arm, just under the injured shoulder. He focused on her voice and touch; maybe if he shut out everything but her, he would stay awake. "Colonel Mustang!" Her voice was growing more insistent. He tried to be grateful for it. It was easier to focus on, since it seemed to send a knife's edge of pain into his skull. Her grip tightened on his arm, and he forced himself to look up. She was looking to the side, face set in hard lines. He turned his head, following her gaze, to find Havoc standing under the fire escape Scar had clambered up. "Havoc! Don't follow!" Her order was harsh.

Havoc looked back to her, his blue eyes wide. He crossed his arms and cocked his head. "And what exactly makes you think I'm that much of an idiot, First Lieutenant?" He walked toward them, kneeling next to Hawkeye and looking Mustang in the face. "You all right, Chief?"

Mustang opened his mouth, confident he had enough breath and perhaps enough presence of mind to actually say something, but Falman spoke first. "He hasn't said a word."

The colonel frowned. Sure, his vision was swimming, his knee felt as if it were caught between an anvil and a sledgehammer, his hands were covered in blood, and his head felt as if the ninea.m. train had run him over, but if his subordinates hadn't given him a moment to talk, then of course he hadn't said a word. Suddenly annoyed – at the situation, at the way the three officers around him stared in open pity and concern, and at himself – he snapped his head up, looked at Hawkeye as fiercely as he could manage and quite clearly stated, "I am not useless."

And then promptly passed out.

Three pairs of hands caught him. Hawkeye, Falman, and Havoc exchanged a glance as they lowered him onto the ground. Hawkeye cocked her head. Havoc managed a small laugh. "You should never have called him useless, Lieutenant. Now he has a complex."

She sighed. "Havoc, go make sure help is on the way."

Havoc sputtered. "But we already…"

Hawkeye pinned him with a sharp gaze. "Go make sure help is on the way," she said again.

The man gulped audibly as he spun away and ran out of the alley. Hawkeye turned to Falman. "Remind me," she said, "to thank the couple that runs that café for the phone call."

"Perhaps he should thank them personally?"

Hawkeye frowned, her hand resting on Mustang's uninjured shoulder. "I'll thank them."

The first thing Mustang noted when he woke up was not that he was awake, but that he was in pain. Dark eyes opened and then slid shut against the too-bright light. Then it occurred to him that he had no idea where he was, and a deep-seated panic controlled his motion as he tried to sit up and look around. A gentle hand stilled his movement, and he caught a glimpse of amber eyes and blue uniform as he lay back again. "You're in the base clinic," Hawkeye told him quietly.

He sighed. Tried to speak.

Hawkeye shushed him. "Get some rest. You'll be fine."

His eyes slid closed. Rest sounded like an excellent idea.

"And I never meant that you were useless, sir."

He fell asleep smiling.

The End

I hope you've enjoyed the ride.

Cheers, Kellen