"Look here Mr Al-che-mist," It said, "every time you break, it's a doggy day for you and the more times you break the longer it's gonna get to fix yourself together!"

Edward dreaded the meeting with the colonel; he did not look forward to it at all. Why couldn't the airhead give him a few days?

Sure he didn't see the Colonel as much as his other co-workers but – heck! – couldn't he wait? Every time after a mission the mighty great Flame Alchemist, his superior officer, needed (or wanted) to see him immediately and then have a written report the next day!

Seriously! The guy couldn't wait to taunt and jibe at his height (well, the lack of it actually) and that would leave him in such in a wonderful mood; note the sarcasm.

He walked on, ignoring the other soldiers as he made his way towards the Colonel's office. The familiar wooden doors appeared and he didn't kick it down like he always did but he just shoved it open.

Well, the faster this was over the better; then he'd be able to go to the library to research and find a way to get his brother's body back.

However, he stopped short and looked around the empty outer office. Why was the office empty? It sure wasn't lunch break and the office was rarely left unmanned.

He opened the inner door and saw the colonel, facing the window and his back towards him. "Sir?" he asked, quietly as he sensed that it was clearly not the time to act like a brat.

"Fullmetal," the colonel said, his voice sounded devoid of emotion. Just what was going on?

"Um, sir? Did something happen?" Well, with everything the way it is, there was definitely something going on… Just how bad was it?

Mustang just sighed heavily before he turned around, a grim expression on his face.

Fear clenched his stomach and it made his palm sweaty. This was bad; really, really bad.

"I'll be straight to the point Fullmetal. I've called you to my office to inform you that Lt. Colonel Maes Hughes is hospitalised."

All train of thought derailed, leaving him cold and his throat clogged up. He had to clear his throat before he rasped out, "Is he…? Is he going to pull through?"

Mustang looked away for a moment before he looked back at him, eyes dark.

"The doctors state that the there is a small chance that he will make it."

Everything stopped and he felt so terribly cold but the thing was he wasn't shivering and it sure as hell wasn't winter and all the windows were closed. Why was he so cold?

But it wasn't fair! Lt. Colonel Hughes was a great mam! He was a loving husband to Gracia, an obsessive father and a great, intelligent worker! He really did not deserve that!

"How?" he had to know, he had to know why.

He had a sinking feeling, something bad was going to happen and it made something inside him shift and it twitched and twisted.

"He was researching something; something related to the Ishval massacre."

Brittle glass cracked and shattered.

X

Alphonse placed his brother's suitcase away and looked around the small apartment. It had three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a living room, a dining room, a kitchen and a storeroom.

His brother had deemed the dorms too small and had bought the place. It was a few streets away from Central HQ and it was in a convenient place. It was just a block away from a small grocery store and a smaller library.

The house was quiet – except for his clanking armour – since his brother had gone to HQ to meet with the Colonel. So he had the house all to himself… and it was kind of lonely.

If only they could keep a cat, then the place wouldn't be so quiet or empty. They were such adorable, sweet creatures that were incredible flexible and fluffy.

He went into the storeroom and flicked the lights on. Shelves filled with books lined all the walls, stacks of books pilled on the floor with a couple of boxes – also filled with books (and maybe some automail maintenance supplies) – scattered on the floor.

He arranged the boxes and books, clearing away the occasional spider web. His brother really hated those eight-legged 'beasts' (as he calls them). He would really freak if he found one.

How could the great Fullmetal Alchemist, the Hero of the People, who had fought for his life countless of times, be afraid of such a small thing?

The front doorknob jingled and clicked open. Alphonse perked up and walked out of the room, his centre brimming with joy. His big brother was back!

"Brother, welcome," his voice trailing off, "…home."

His brother was slumped against the door, his head bowed and his face covered by his blonde bangs.

"Brother? What did the colonel say?"

Ed pushed himself off the door and walked slowly, stopping beside the armour that contained his kin's soul.

"Hughes is in the hospital and he isn't doing too well."

Al's armour creaked. "H-how?"

Ed looked at him, his golden eyes dull and sad, and rasped, "He was investigating the Ishval massacre; he got hurt helping us."

Al was about to say something but Ed walked on, towards his room, next to the storeroom.

"Brother," Alphonse said, looking at him with soulful red eyes. He stopped, hand on the doorknob. "Wake me up for breakfast tomorrow. Night Al."

Then he disappeared into his room, leaving=g Al alone in the living room. His helmet creaked down, sadly.

'Oh Ed, it's not your fault… You shouldn't blame yourself, brother. You know what it will do to you…'

The next day…

Al stood outside his brother's room, worried. Ed had been in a bad state the other day and he wondered if his brother had let the news get to him (which would most likely be the case). After what seemed like a long time of hesitation he made a sound meant for a sigh and eased the door – cautiously – to a small opening. "Brother?" he called.

Small and cold, nothing but a table and an insignificant-looking bed in a corner with a small golden figure curled on top of the covers. Al paused and remained at where he stood, leather gloves gripping the doorknob.

"Oh Ed."

X

Roy sighed as he looked at the mountainous pile of paperwork on his desk. He was bored with sheets of paper and words of crap. Where did they get all this paper?

He picked up the phone receiver, dialled the number and waited. He knew that he should give Fullmetal some time to recover from the bad news but he needed the report as the higher ups were demanding it.

"Hello?"

"Alphonse," he greeted, "could you tell Fullmetal to bring in his report this afternoon?"

"Uh…" a trace or unease in his voice. How what could that mean?

"Ed can't, he's too busy at the moment," his voice soft and light.

"When is able to come to the office then?"

"I'm not too sure, sir."

He sighed. "Do you think you can come over and hand in his report instead?"

Alphonse was quiet for a moment and then he answered, "Sure, I'll deliver it to you at noon, Colonel, sir."

With that said he placed the shone back on its cradle and let out another sigh. He glared at the paperwork before grabbing one from the pile and started to work.

He had to be productive while he waited or else Hawkeye would pull the trigger on him which he would not enjoy that, at all.

It was five minutes to twelve when there was a knock on his wooden doors. Finally! A distraction!

"Come in. Door's unlocked."

The door opened and Alphonse stepped in, his armour clanking and creaking, and in his metal hands were a collection of papers.

"Uh… Here's the report, sir."

He set the papers on the edge of the desk and just stood there. Taking the papers, Roy breezed through it. He gave a sigh and looked at Fullmetal's younger brother.

"He really should stop with the remarks. It doesn't do anything good to the report and it causes more work since we have to edit it afterwards."

"He says it's to make sure that you're paying attention… sir," Al said, helmet tilted down and away from him to prevent meeting his gaze.

The doors opened and both man and armour shifted their gazes to that direction. It was 1st lt. Hawkeye, with yet another stack of papers, Black Hayate at her side.

"Sir, there are more for you to sign."

"Again?"

"Yes, sir," she said with a straight face.

"Where do they get all this paper?" Roy muttered, glaring at the new stack.

Black Hayate gave a sniff and walked towards the armoured soul, his black nose twitching. Suddenly his fur bristled and he gave a low, loud growl with his ears pressed flat against his head.

Roy blinked in surprise. What the heck? Why was he doing that? He usually liked Alphonse so why was he behaving in such a manner?

Then, from within the armour came a soft 'tink' against metal.

"Alphonse," the armour appeared to somehow shrink, "What do you have inside your armour?"

X