To Walk a Common Road

Edward Elric knew how to deal with evil. He simply beat the crap out of it wherever he happened to find it.

Edward Elric knew how to deal with obstacles and dead ends. He busted through, went around or found a different path.

Edward Elric knew how to deal with just about everything.

Except bullies.

As a child he'd always been considered a tough kid while Al had been the quiet, sensitive one. Both of these labels had tended to get Edward in trouble. Older kids wanted to bully him to see just how tough he really was while trying to take advantage of Al simply because they thought they could. Obviously, in such a case, Edward would always jump in to try and protect his brother.

Unfortunately, this had all taken place before his training with Izumi so neither boy knew all that much about fighting.

This meant Ed tended to get beat up a lot.

Usually he just told his mother or a teacher and they would take care of it. Of course once he and Al had left school it had become a moot point and Ed had eventually forgotten all about it.

That was until a new unit had transferred to Central. None of them were State Alchemists but they worked in the same building and, for some reason, Edward became the scapegoat for all that was apparently wrong in their lives. Ed had been "given" the rank of Major when he joined while they had had to work for their ranks, which were all lower than his; he was a prodigy and things just came easy for him unlike them, he got special treatment because he was an Alchemist, a kid, a hero, the list of reasons they didn't like him went on and on.

For the most part Ed simply tried to deal with it. After all, he didn't have anyone to go to anymore. There was only Al and it wasn't the job of a younger brother to protect the elder, at least not in Ed's mind. Besides, the group left Al alone and never tormented Ed when Al was there. It was for this reason that Ed usually tried to talk Al into going with him when he went to Central to turn in a report. It didn't always work though, Al had no reason to go and would much rather be off finding another stray cat to hide in his armor while Ed was gone.

Later, when Ed would come back and Al would comment about a bruise or scrape Ed would simply say he'd fallen or not been paying attention to where he was going. When Ed seemed quiet or depressed he would say he'd was just tired. When Ed seemed afraid of going to headquarters, and started avoiding it at all costs, he just claimed he didn't like wasting time there when they could be in the library or out searching for the stone.

Truth be told the bullying shot him back to elementary school. It made him feel small, young and helpless, all traits he loathed feeling. He couldn't just beat them all up, it would be assault on a fellow officer and it would be the word of multiple people against his. Ed had no doubt who would be believed. He hated it though. He was the FullFreakingMetal Alchemist for heaven's sake, why in the world should he be scared of something so stupid?

Why couldn't he seem to do anything about it?

Thankfully, Alphonse was neither stupid nor unobservant and began to see the change in his brother over the next several months. He saw that Ed had lost his confidence, seemed to question everything he did, even more than usual; stopped talking to anyone and his typical loathing of Central seemed to have changed to fear. Unbeknownst to Edward, it wasn't just Al that noticed it. Just about everyone connected with the boys did and they were all concerned but Edward was too busy trying to pretend he was fine, and believing no one else cared, to notice the their concern.

Finally, one day, Edward went to the dorms badly bruised. One of the bullies had tripped him on the stairs and sent him down an entire flight. Alphonse knew his brother wasn't THAT clumsy and had had enough. He sat Ed down on the bed and demanded he tell him what was going on. For a long while Edward refused to say anything. Alphonse was in a suit of armor, though, and didn't need food, water, rest, or the bathroom for that matter. He could easily outlast Edward and they both knew it.

So finally Ed confessed to what had been happening. Al was furious of course and wanted to immediately go pound the offending party into the ground. Ed told him not to, he thought Al would just get blamed for an unprovoked attack and nobody would believe them if they tried to tell the truth. At this Al gave him a strange look, a feat for a suit of armor, and then surprised him with an ultimatum.

Edward had twenty-four hours to go tell Mustang what was happening or Alphonse would do it for him.

Ed argued of course. He would rather do ANYTHING but go tell THAT man what was happening, not to mention the fact that the Colonel would probably just laugh at him, but Al was insistent. Ed had to tell the Colonel or he would.

So in the end Ed had no choice. He dragged himself to the Colonel's office and, for once in his life, he knocked on the door instead of kicking it open. Then he stood in the man's office, shoulders slumped and head down and simply began talking. He never looked up one single time, nor did he hear a single noise from the desk as he talked. For all he knew the Colonel wasn't even IN the office.

Once he finished Ed continued to stand in one spot and stare at the floor. A moment later a shadow fell across him and a hand landed on his shoulder.

"Why didn't you tell me this sooner?"
Ed simply shrugged.

There was silence for a moment and then suddenly Mustang knelt down to look Edward in the eyes.

"I'll take care of this Edward."

Ed nodded and then silently left.

The next day Ed received a call from Mustang ordering him to eat lunch in the cafeteria that day. Ed didn't understand the orders and certainly didn't want to follow them but he really had no choice. When he got there one of the first things he saw were the bullies sitting at a table in the corner. The sneering looks they sent him immediately robbed him of what little appetite he had and it was with shaking hands, for which he hated himself, that he walked to an empty table by himself and sat down.

He'd only been there for a few moments when a shadow fell over him. Edward kept his head down in the hopes the bullies would leave him alone but to his surprise it was Alphonse that sat down next to him. Before he could comment another shadow fell on his other side and Mustang sat down with a tray on that side. Another shadow and this time it was Hawkeye, followed by Havoc, Breda, Falman and Fuery. More shadows and now it was Hughes, Armstrong of all people, and Sheska, along with Ross and Brosh. Each of them carried their lunches and each made a point to speak to him before sitting down. They also made it a point to send death glares at a particular table in the corner before starting their lunches. Said individuals at that table began to look decidedly pale by the time everyone had taken their seats alongside Ed. Blankly, Edward could only stare at everyone as they all began talking to one another but at the same time, somehow, included him.

He was still staring blankly when Mustang leaned over and said, "When are you going to figure out that you're not facing the world alone? Next time tell someone, understand?"

Edward nodded and then quickly looked back down at his plate. This time, however, it was not to hide his fear. It was too hide the sudden tears which, he convinced himself, were brought on by the dusty conditions of many of the tables.

After that day the bullies found they weren't exactly welcome and it was not just from the group that had sat at the table. Word trickled down that they'd been harassing the FullMetal Alchemist, a kid for one thing and, while he could be obnoxious, one of the hardest working, most trustworthy, honest kids around.

After a while the bullies transferred out.

Sometime after that Ed found he no longer felt afraid when he went to Central Headquarters.

And sometime after that Ed found he actually started looking forward to it.