Colonel Roy Mustang left the meeting, blinking hard several times. Not only was it difficult to stay awake and pretend to be perfectly alert as people droned on and on, he really wondered how the higher-ups ever got anything done when they just seemed to go to meetings all day. Maybe he still needed to adjust to the culture here in Central. Not that he wanted to become just like them in their corruption. It was a fine line, to work the system, without becoming part of it. In the East, when something needed to be done, you did it. You didn't need to jump through so many hoops. But perhaps that was just because Grumman was so different from the Generals here. He smiled to himself; that man had never been the least bit concerned what anyone thought of him.
Whereas here…well, he needed to learn to watch his back. Speaking of which, where was Hawkeye when he needed her? He had to get used to these new people in his office. It was disconcerting. He walked in, set them at ease, and returned to his desk. Ah, fortunately he hadn't left anything incriminating out. He got to work; the ability to think about one thing while doing something else served him well now. Before too long, the second lieutenant he'd sent out before the meeting returned. "Here are the files you requested, sir."
He thanked her and leafed through them. He wondered how Hawkeye had always been able to get her hands on the things he needed so promptly. It was good to have such tenacious, skilled help; it had spoiled him. He clenched a fist. He wasn't going to think about Hughes right now. He'd just get angry. He went back to reading the files, trying to concentrate on them for once. He had to get this meaningless busywork out of the way so….
There was a knock on the door, and he glanced up.
"Ah, Fullmetal, what a pleasant surprise. I heard you were back in town, but not haunting the library this time. I expected I'd have to track you down myself, but I see you've –"
He looked up, and stopped talking abruptly. He stopped thinking. He probably even forgot to breathe.
"What are you looking at?" the blond alchemist snarled.
Mustang clicked his jaw shut. "Sit down," he managed to get out. He could not help but…stare.
"Do I have something on my face?" the boy sulked. No, not a boy anymore…
"Your eyes," Mustang said, not trusting himself to say any more. He'd seen eyes like that before. Hell, he saw eyes like that whenever he looked in a mirror. Almost all the soldiers who came back from Ishbal had them. Killer's eyes. And now Edward Elric had them. "What…happened?"
"Kimbley," Ed said shortly, not going into details. "The State was making a big deal about keeping track of me, so I figured I'd come in and play their game for awhile."
"He's…not with me." Ed looked out the window, not meeting Mustang's eyes. So. The boy had managed to get his brother into hiding. Not bad. "Last I saw, he was chasing Scar. Who had Winry."
That…was an interesting development. "They are running out of hostages for you," the Colonel murmured quietly.
"That was the idea. Now I can thumb my nose at them whenever I want."
"What do you want from me?"
"Information, what else?"
"I'll tell you mine if you tell me yours."
"I just did. Xing's alchemy. It's different from ours. I need to know how."
"There's another of those things."
"Where? Up north? Or here?"
Mustang ignored the question, or seemed to. "So you want me to point you in the direction of someone who's studied the alchemy they use in Xing?"
Mustang sighed. "I don't know why you think I'd know anything."
"Because you're usually a step ahead of me, at least when it comes to things you can't learn in a library."
"Not anymore. I don't suppose you'll be staying in Central long?"
Ed shook his head.
"Then take care of yourself, kid."
Mustang stood up, and they shook hands.
Ed looked at him puzzled, then turned in the doorway. "Don't die on me, Colonel. I don't want to have to come back for a funeral, especially not yours."
"I won't, Edward. I still want that money back."
Once he left, Mustang sat down heavily and let his head hit the desk, files forgotten. He'd been at this too long. He was supposed to be protecting the Elrics, shielding them from that side of the military. Edward wasn't supposed to grow up to be a killer. He was supposed to…
What? Stay a kid forever? Somehow survive missions without harming himself or anyone else? How naïve did he have to be to think that this wouldn't happen? Still, he hadn't been ready for it. To see those golden eyes as hard as his, and Hughes', and Hawkeye's…it was too much. For a moment, he wished he'd killed Kimbley in Ishbal, when he'd had the chance. Dammit, the kid was only 16! He'd need a drink tonight. More than one. He looked at the clock. It was going to be a long day…but he'd have to remember to ask Armstrong about a homunculus in the North. Ed had told him that much. He should have asked more questions…
Ed walked out of Mustang's office confused. What had happened back there? He'd never seen that man speechless before, but shocked was the only way to describe the look on his face. Had he really changed that much? He knew if Al were around, he'd tell him to eat more, but he didn't look that bad. He supposed there must be something wrong with his eyes. Ever since…that…happened, he'd been avoiding mirrors. He shuffled his feet and hunched his shoulders, looking down. He'd known it would happen eventually. When you sign up to be a human weapon, that means…eventually, you're going to kill people. He was prepared for that, right? His teacher had taught them, if you have to kill animals to eat, that's okay, just part of the flow. But killing people was…different. Much different.
He unrolled the paper that Mustang had given him when they shook hands. It had only two things written on it:
So it looked like his next stop would be Havoc's hometown, out in the East.
Author's Note: In the anime, Ed kills Greed intentionally, and is involved in a few other unintentional deaths. He reflects on crossing that line. But in the manga, he has merely witnessed people being killed, never killed himself. I wondered what would happen if he were to cross that line. This story will be rendered AU by the next chapter, I'm sure.