Eye of the Beholder

It was not Roy's fault that the package just so HAPPENED to be open when it arrived from Resembool. The postal service could be blamed for that.

It was also not Roy's fault that the contents of the box, a photo album, just so HAPPENED to fall out on the table and land wide open.

It WAS, however, completely Roy's fault that he decided to sit down and look through it.

"What are you doing, Sir?"

Roy glanced up in guilt and immediately slammed the book shut.

"Nothing, Lieutenant."

Hawkeye frowned and stepped forward to the desk.

"Is that a photo album, Sir?"
"Yes it is," came the terse reply, "Apparently the Rockbell girl sent it from her home. She came across it while cleaning and thought the boys would like it since it had quite a few pictures of them and their mother in it."

Riza raised an eyebrow, "So why are you looking at it then?"

Of course that led to Roy's entire explanation as to how everything had accidentally happened, none of which Riza seemed to believe.

Really, it was quite insulting. Roy WAS her commanding officer after all, he should automatically be believed about anything he said or did.

Oddly enough, however, instead of taking the album away Riza decided that she too wanted to look at it. This of course led to the eventual addition of Havoc, Breda, Falman and Fuery who all wanted to see it as well. Most of them didn't believe Ed had ever BEEN an actual child so the idea of there existing actual proof was of great interest to them.

And this of course led to them all being present when they came to THE picture.

The others had already commented on how strange it was that there were so few pictures of Ed after the age of two or so. Very few seemed to exist and most of the ones that did were grainy and usually had him hiding behind his brother, his mother or both.

Then they came to THE picture.

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For several long minutes after turning the page to THE picture the group simply sat in stunned silence. Finally, Roy, who WAS the commanding officer, after all; spoke up.

"Oh."

It was truly the understatement of his life.

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Edward Elric was NOT in a good mood. It had started back when that BASTARD had sent him off on a wild goose chase KNOWING it was a wild goose chase in the first place! Then the train had been hijacked, leading to him having to save it; THEN the tracks had been damaged, leading to him having to fix them; THEN he'd been thrown out of ANOTHER hotel, on account of being a State Alchemist; and THEN IT HAD TURNED OUT TO BE A WILD GOOSE CHASE!!!!!!

Across from him, Alphonse was squeezed into a corner trying desperately to appear small and avoid the rays of death currently emanating from his brother.

Not an easy task for a seven foot tall suit of armor.

The train rolled into the station and, once stopped, Ed jumped up immediately. He was very ready to go pound an unsuspecting Colonel into the dirt at that very moment.

Fortunately Al was there, as always, and easily held Ed back by the arm as he retrieved his brother's suitcase. After that they got off the train and Al forced them to WALK all the way to Headquarters to try and, hopefully, cool Edward down.

Like THAT had ever worked.

Once at Headquarters, Ed stomped through the hall to the Colonel's office and threw open the door to the outer office with a bang.

And immediately stopped.

Everyone was staring at him.

Not so unusual considering his normal mode of entry but it was the WAY in which they were staring at him.

"What?"

"Nothing" came the quick, nearly simultaneous response.

Ed frowned and marched forward to the Colonel's office. As he did so he noticed everyone was continuing to stare----wait a minute, were they CHECKING HIM OUT????????

Whirling to face them all he shouted, "WHAT IS YOUR PROBLEM??"

This garnered him another round of "Nothing!" and then everyone suddenly seemed very interested in their desks again.

Ed reached the door he wanted and was about to kick it in when suddenly every male in the office was gathered around him.

"Wait a minute Sir!"

"Yes, let me get that for you Sir!"
"You shouldn't have to do that for yourself Sir!"

Nearly falling over themselves, the group proceeded to knock on the door and then open it for him. Now staring at THEM blankly, Ed glanced back at Al to see him looking back with a totally confused expression.

Again, not an easy feat for a suit of armor.

Once inside, Ed prepared to launch into one of his standard rants during which his aim was to call his Superior Officer a Bastard at LEAST twenty times, a new record, but, before he could do so, something stopped him.

It was the look on the man's face. The same look worn by every single person currently clustered around the doorframe STARING at him. What the---even HAWKEYE was there?

"WHAT IS GOING ON?!?!"

"Why nothing at all FullMetal" Mustang responded "Did you have a good trip?"

What, no short jokes? No snide comments about the money he'd spent, buildings he'd destroyed or general headache he'd undoubtedly cause Mustang when he saw the amount of paperwork he'd have to fill out?

"I guess."

It was a rather lame response but, as thrown off balance as he was at the moment, Ed couldn't think of anything else to say.

Still frowning, he walked forward and handed over his report.

"Here."

"Thank you FullMetal" came the response "I'm sure it's fine."

He was sure it was WHAT? And why the HECK did he keep using his title every two seconds?

"Okay."

Ed stepped back to where Al was waiting. There was complete and utter dead silence in the room as Ed felt multiple pairs of eyes boring into him from all directions.

"Okay" he repeated "I'm going to leave now."

He spun around only to hear "Wait, FullMetal."

Ed cringed. Slowly he turned back to find Mustang standing in front of him holding a book in his hand.

"Here, this came from Resembool. It's a photo album."

"I can see that" Ed responded "Why is it open?"

Mustang shrugged, "You know the post office."

Ed's eyes narrowed in suspicion but he took the book and handed it over to Al who seemed happy to get it. Of course Al was pretty much happy about everything so no surprise there.

After that the two left though they had to contend with people RUNNING through the building to hold the door open for him each and every time AND he had to turn down four offers of a ride to the dorms.

As they walked along, Al idly looked through the album stopping every now and then at a picture he particularly liked or remembered.

They were about halfway back to the dorms when Ed realized his brother was no longer with him. Stopping, he turned and saw Al was about twenty feet back or so staring at the open photo album. Ed frowned and walked back.

"Al? What's wrong?"

Without a word, Al handed him the open book. Ed took it, looked at the page in question and went utterly, stock still.

Al had always known his brother was a genius and had even taken pride in the fact.

However, there were times it wasn't such a great thing as, after a moment, his brother launched into an impressive demonstration of his grasp of the Human language. He not only used every word in the book, he used every word in every OTHER book AND a handful of words that Al was pretty sure he made up on the spot just for the occasion.

Finally, after a LONG time, Ed calmed down.

Well, he stopped swearing at least.

"So" Al said slowly, "do you think they saw it?"

Ed's only response was the stare of death. Of COURSE they'd seen it, that was why they had been acting so oddly.

Al watched as his brother stared down at the ground.

"Um, Ed? Are you okay?"

Without warning, Ed whipped around and went stalking back toward Headquarters.

Oh crap, Al thought, this was going to be ugly.

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It was moments later when Ed unceremoniously threw open the door to Mustang's office and, without hesitating, proceeded to strip to his boxers. Then, as loudly as he could, the youth shouted, "I AM A BOY!!"

It was about two seconds after that that Ed realized the Fuhrer was in the room along with nearly every high ranking military commander currently stationed in Central.

Apparently it was a surprise inspection.

For a while there was absolute, stunned silence in the room. From somewhere it seemed that Ed felt a cool breeze wafting around his bare legs and torso. Finally, the Fuhrer spoke.

"Well, young man, I'm very happy for you. I must say, however, that I would have thought you'd have found that out quite some time ago. Are you sure you're feeling all right?"

Ed was never quite sure later what it was he said to the Fuhrer in response. He just remembered grabbing his clothes and running as fast as he'd ever run before all the way back to his dorms.

He didn't even think until he got back about the fact that he'd just run through the entire military complex in his boxers.

It was not one of Ed's best days.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Much, much later…

"Alphonse, it's been a while."

"Hi Colonel. Yeah, Ed took that really long mission and it took us two months to get it done and we had to travel all the way out to Briggs to do it. Then, when we got back, he decided to put in for vacation and head to Resembool."

"You didn't join him?"
"Oh, yeah, I'm going too. Winry wanted some things from the automail shop and I said I'd get them before leaving. Ed didn't want to wait, though, so he went back early."
"I see. Alphonse, I had a question if you don't mind."
"It was for Winry."

"Excuse me?"
"When we were kids our mom used to sew a lot of Winry's clothes for her since her mom had been killed in the war and all. Anyway, Ed was always so small and it just so happened that he and Winry were about the same size for a really long time. So one year Mom was going to make a dress for Winry for her birthday and…"

"And she used Ed as a model for it?"

"Yeah, since they were the same size and all and then she thought Ed looked so cute…"

"That she took a picture?"

"Yeah. I don't think Ed even remembered it existed."

"What about the fact that Ed never seemed to be in any pictures when he was younger or was always hiding behind someone? I thought perhaps there had been more but he had destroyed them."

"Brother had never liked having his picture taken. That's why in the only family picture we took Dad had to hold him up off the ground. Brother would have run off otherwise."

"Oh."

"Yeah."

"So how long do you think it'll be before FullMetal decides to show his face around here again?"

"A long time. A really long time."

"I see."
"Colonel?"
"What is it Alphonse?"

"Do you think anyone will ever let him live it down?"

"The photo or the exhibition?"

"Either."

"I doubt it Alphonse, I really do."

"I see. Well, I have to go. I'll see you later Colonel."
"All right, Alphonse. Make sure you let Edward know I expect to see him in my office when he gets back."

"I'm sure he'll love that Colonel."

"Well, I know I certainly will."

"Good-bye Colonel."

"Good-bye Alphonse."