I don't own FMA or Freeman's Rule
Circumstances can force a generalized incompetent to become competent, at least in a specialized field.
Sitting slumped over in the uncomfortable wooden chair, the young man watched the muscles on his forearm tighten and relax while he clenched and unclenched his fist. Without looking into that beveled glass, he knew exactly where the talk being held in the office across from his was going.
The dean would explain, as politely as possible, while still being frank, that he was beyond help, and then his mother would get to her feet and defend him.
"What do you mean, no hope!" she hissed, staring down the balding man still seated behind his desk.
"Mrs. Havoc, we've tried everything: a slower paced class, tutor sessions, pairing him up with our brightest students, and, well, you know the whole list. Nothing has helped him. His grades are still far below average," he explained, his eyes following the young man's mother as she paced back and forth in front of his desk.
"He's not stupid," she barked.
"I didn't say that, ma'am. He's just not a scholar. I hear he's a good help on the farm. Farming is a good career," he prompted.
"Not a stable one," she snapped, and stopped her pacing. "My boy will become more than a simple farm hand, just you wait and see, Mr. Taybern," she swore.
Mr. Taybern buried his head in his hands and sighed as she closed the door of his office on her way out.
Jean was counting the tiles on the ceiling when he heard the door open, and quickly straightened in the chair.
"C'mon, you'll be home schooled for the rest of the year," she explained.
He nodded as he got to his feet and followed his mom down the hall. They walked in silence for a while, with him following less than a step behind her. When they got to the dirt road that led to a small cluster of farms she slowed down just enough so that he was walking even with her. "Don't slouch," she told him.
Jean straightened to his full height before she could reach behind him and poke him in the middle of his spine. "Does Dad need any help?" he asked as he removed his hand from his pants pocket to rub the back of his neck.
His mother stopped, and he copied her a step later. He wasn't prepared for the upset look on her face that he saw when he turned to face her. "Mom?" he asked, taking a half step towards her.
"Jean, there's nothing wrong with being a farmer, but you can do so much better," she said, her head tilted up so her eyes could meet his gaze.
"Yeah. Thanks, Ma," he said with a wide grin, and then continued along the dirt road.
The winter nights on the farm were usually quite, but Jean found his eyes snapping open to shouts coming from inside and outside the house. Before he'd even pulled the covers off himself his father's figure was silhouetted in the doorway of his room.
"C'mon boy, there're wolves. They already hit the Starkets' coop," his father announced.
Jean stuck his feet into unlaced boots at the foot of his bed, not bothering to pull the bottoms of his flannel pajama pants out of them as he tied the laces. He followed his dad out the back door at the end of the hallway and to the shed where his mother waited, holding out a jacket for him.
"George, do you really need him?" his mother whispered, while handing a rifle to his father.
"You're the one always sayin' not to underestimate him, Barb," he mumbled back.
"He could get hurt," she hissed.
"Sometimes, it takes pressure to learn how to handle a gun. He'll be fine," he reassured her.
Jean tried not to focus on the brief exchange while he checked the rifle with shaky hands.
"There're bullets in the right pockets," she said, her voice louder now, meant for him to hear.
The world came back as he noticed the weight of the pocket on his right side, and he heard the yelling again, words warped by the wind. A fire burned, flickering brightly on the edge of his neighbor's land to keep the wolves from the livestock. He looked from the pulsating fire to is father, and they ran, leaving his mother and sisters get their chickens to safety.
The shouting was getting closer and so was the sound of gunshots. Jean could barely make out the flare of the gunshots in the dark of the moonless night, but they were coming toward him and his father.
"To the left, boy," his father shouted.
Jean obeyed, and soon he heard snarling. He thought his eyes were playing tricks on him, but the dark shape that had seemed to fly past wheeled around.
"Get ready," his father whispered.
Jean tucked the butt of the rifle against his shoulder and trained his sightes one the shape hurtling in his direction. He couldn't make out the size of the wolf very well in the dark, but focused on the lung area. Everything his father had always taught him was coming back, but now he was able to understand it, and bring it all together. His finger was on the trigger, and he let out half a breath.
He didn't know if the yelp he heard was his or the wolf's, but he didn't have time to think about it, he had recovered from the recoil, was back in stance, and ready for the next shot.
"There're more," his father called, and Jean realized the lump in front of him was the wolf, it was down.
Jean let out the breath he was holding, and noticed three more people had joined them in the dark field with their backs to each other.
A shadow was barreling towards them from his side, and an instant later it crumpled to the ground, whining.
Jean dug into his pocket for bullets and reloaded with steady hands.
Jean sat at the table, still in his flannels and thick jacket, now lighter without the bullets.
"I thought you said the boy wasn't any good with a gun," Mr. Starket commented.
"Turns out he just needed to learn under different circumstances," his father replied with a gruff laugh.
Jean shrugged as he took a sip of the beer his father had set in front of him.
"You know, he should check out the military," Mr. Starket suggested.
"Maybe," Jean managed to get out through a yawn.
"Good job, boy," Mr. Starket congratulated with a clap on Jean's shoulder as he got up. "I should be headed back now. No doubt Mary's a bit frantic with the loss of half the coop."
"Let us know if you need some help," Jean's father said, following the man out the door.
"You should get some sleep," his mother said as she walked into the room from the kitchen.
Jean nodded in reply and watched his mom pour the remaining beer from his mug to the one his father was drinking from.
She followed him to his room and took the jacket from him.
"What do you think of the military?" he asked while unlacing his boots.
"I think it suits you," she answered, and then left him to his own thoughts.
A.N. - Written for a series of prompts from the book Murphy's Law and Other Reasons Things Go Gnorw! by Arthur Bloch. This series will be a collection of my responses to those prompts, and will use an array of characters, mainly the military characters.