Update 11-17-2011: I did some spot edits on this and changed a few minor details. It's not too dramatic of a change.
Summary: Have you ever just had one of those days? Edward wakes up on the wrong side of the bed, and things only go downhill as the morning progresses. When Mustang pushes Ed over the edge, can he mend his mistake?
Written for the 25 papa!Roy themes. Theme # 23: Teasing
This story is slightly AU, the only change really being that Mustang has known Hughes since childhood instead of just knowing him from the academy. So… it's not too dramatic.
Disclaimer: I do not own Fullmetal Alchemist, nor do I make any money off my fanfiction! I'm simply bored at times, and choose to fill the void by writing. :)
The alarm clock went off, loudly, startling Edward awake. Once he registered where the intrusive noise was coming from, however, he just reached over and smacked the clock repeatedly until it stopped beeping.
He grumbled sleepily as his hand retracted back under the covers.
Five more minutes… he thought.
He had already hit the snooze button about five times, and he knew that he should be up and getting dressed, but it just did not sound very desirable right now. Not now.
The twelve year old was physically and mentally drained. He and Alphonse had only just gotten back the previous evening from a long, arduous, and pointless mission. It wasn't even a lead on the stone! Stupid Mustang, who still insisted on keeping on the 'training wheels,' had sent him to investigate a small town, because there was evidence of some weird mad science bullshit that Ed really didn't give a damn about.
To Edward, it was just a stupid, inane journey to some backwashed, nothing town out in the mountains. The little settlement was overrun with mindless hillbillies, and there was no place to stay. Edward ended up having to bribe the owner of a small pub to let him and his brother stay in the back. They literally slept with a bunch of pigs. Edward claimed the top of a haystack, while Alphonse kept guard. It was dirty, uncomfortable, and it just plain sucked.
When they finally began to investigate an abandoned theater, where there was rumored to be an underground laboratory, they were ambushed by six giant men. Edward barely managed to take out two of them, before one of the bigger ones picked him up and chucked him into the orchestra pit, where he sustained a fair amount of damage to his automail leg. No… that was an understatement; he couldn't even move his leg anymore. He was left with his alchemy as his only defense, while Alphonse took up the rest of the fighting. The man, who threw him into the pit, managed to get in plenty more kicks and punches to Ed's already battered body, before Alphonse finally stepped in.
The fight didn't last much longer when Alphonse saw that man had hurt his brother. Edward had never seen Alphonse get so pissed off before. He couldn't help the gratitude he felt once the fight was over, and the six burly men lay in crumpled heaps upon the ground. Alphonse wasted no time in carrying his battered- and protesting- older brother to the local doctor. They called in backup to arrest the men at the theater, and to investigate the theater's lower chambers. It came as no surprise that there was, indeed, a laboratory under the building along with plenty of evidence that the men were performing some dangerous experiments. The mission was only a slight success; they had managed to get the suspects arrested, but Edward had gotten injured in the process.
Now he felt like his body had been sent through a wood chipper, spat out, run over by a truck, put in a washing machine, and then hung to dry. He was not in the mood to move. That giant of a man had kicked his ass… literally. He had the bruises to prove it. Not only did everything hurt; he had pretty much destroyed his automail leg. Now, he was going to have to visit Winry on top of everything else. She would, no doubt, beat him with the very wrench that he had bought for her.
Until that time came though, he was going to be stuck with this wooden crutch that the doctor gave to him. He absolutely hated it; the stupid thing was hard and left bruises under his armpit. He tried switching it to under his right arm but it kept putting pressure on the exposed gears and wiring, so he was forced to keep it under his flesh arm. He didn't need to piss Winry off even more, by messing up the gears in his arm. He felt so stupid with a crutch, but without it he wouldn't be able to get very far. His little stump of a leg hurt whenever he tried to walk on it too much, and Alphonse scolded him whenever he didn't use the crutch.
As if the situation couldn't get any worse, Mustang had ordered him to come into his office as soon as he was back in town. That would be this morning. Damn… all he wanted to do was sleep away his misfortunes. Mustang would definitely berate him for being so easily defeated, and for hurting himself in the process. For some reason, whenever Ed got hurt, Mustang would be especially hard on him. Ed wouldn't be surprised if Mustang put him under house arrest until he learned his lesson.
"Brother!" called a familiar, tinny voice. "You awake? You have to see the colonel in fifteen minutes, and you're going to be late!"
"Yes," Edward deadpanned. "I'm awake now!"
"Hurry up before you get in trouble again!" Alphonse called, from down the hall.
The alarm went off again and Edward smacked it hard enough to leave a crack.
He groaned before forcing his body up into a sitting position. It was a painful experience, and he felt his spine pop in several places. He stretched out the rest of his body and felt some more unpleasant pops from his knee and his hips. He was a mess, to say the least. His entire body was littered in cuts and bruises, and everything just hurt.
Edward took his sweet-ass time getting dressed, trying to ignore the dull aches in his muscles. He put on his usual black pants, jacket, and red coat before stepping into his boots. He limped, unsteadily, across the room and into his bathroom. Half-lidded and sluggish, he brushed his teeth and ran a comb through his hair. He splashed some water on his face before glancing at clock.
He stumbled out of the bathroom, hands busy behind his head as they bound his hair up in a ponytail. He hobbled into the hallway and nearly bumped into Alphonse, who was holding…
"You shouldn't be stumbling around like that!" Alphonse scolded, shoving the wooden crutch under Ed's arm, "You'll just hurt yourself even more!"
"I don't need this stupid thing all the time!" Edward retorted, shaking the crutch in the air.
"If you keep up with the attitude, you'll only do more damage and Winry—"
"Okay! Okay, I get it! Jeeze!" Edward replaced the crutch under his arm and tottered down the hall, grumbling all the while. "I'll see you later, Al."
"Call me if you need any help getting home!" Alphonse called, sounding reminiscent of a doting mother. Edward merely grunted in response before wrenching the door open and stepping out of the small apartment.
Fall leaves painted the grounds of Central in brilliant shades of red and gold. The brightness of them contrasted magnificently under the murky skies, and all the buildings were dark silhouettes against a backdrop of grey, black, orange, gold, and red. The frigid air clashed with the warmness of the autumn hues, making Edward draw his red coat tighter around his body.
Edward trudged along through the leaves, trying to rid all thoughts of today from his mind. Exactly one year before, he and Alphonse burned their house to the ground. With each step, he felt the heavy burden of the silver watch that lay just inside his pocket. The crutch was already beginning to irritate the tender flesh under his arm, and he just wanted to chuck it aside and limp the rest of the way to the colonel's office. Who cared if it would hurt like nothing else?
Alphonse would, Edward thought glumly. It was rather annoying how since Ed had hurt his leg, Alphonse had taken on some kind of a 'mommy' role. He had been forcing Edward to eat more, move around less, and go to bed by nine-thirty. It was obnoxious, but Edward didn't fight it much; Alphonse cared a lot about him, and Ed knew he'd do the same for Alphonse.
Edward hobbled his way down the block toward the bus stop, passing quaint little houses all the way. Their gleaming, white porches were decorated with fat, orange pumpkins and other fall fruits. The autumn leaves sprinkled their usually tightly manicured lawns. Very few of the residences had bothered to rake the leaves, not that it would have made much of a difference; the trees hadn't lost all of their leaves yet, and the winds carried them through the air. A few even hit Edward in the face as he tottered down the sidewalk.
After walking for about three blocks, he finally sat down on a little wooden bench under a large maple tree. He swept the leaves off and searched for any unwanted bugs before he sat down, then he let the crutch fall to the ground beside him with a clang. He stretched out his legs and wrapped his coat tighter around his body. While he waited, he took out his pocket watch and lazily flicked it open and shut. Open. Shut. Open. Shut.
Finally, the hum of the bus's engine reached Ed's ears. He grabbed his crutch and stood up as the bus slowed to a stop in front of him. The doors creaked open revealing a frumpy, plump bus driver. She had frizzy, chestnut hair that stuck out in all directions from under her cap. Edward clambered up the steps and flashed his pocket watch, which got him free transportation. She smiled warmly at him, before turning to face toward the back of the crowded bus.
"Excuse me," she said to the group who occupied the whole front, "could someone please clear one of the handicapped seats for this kid?"
"Oh, of course!" one gentleman said as he rose from one of the front seats. Next to the seat, Edward could see the blue placard with the white, stick-figure man in a wheelchair. "You can take this seat, son."
Too stunned and enraged to make any response, Edward simply turned on his heel and limped off the bus. The bus's occupants stared in confusion, wondering what they had said to ruffle the boy's feathers.
Edward grumbled lowly, to himself, as he humbugged his way through the cheery neighborhoods, which glittered in all the season's red and gold radiance. The beauty, of this time of the year, did nothing to lift his mood. He didn't get why people enjoyed the autumn; everything died in the fall. All those pretty leaves: dead!
He checked his watch, as he turned a corner. He was already late, but it didn't matter; Mustang would chew him out anyways for getting hurt. All he wanted to do was sit on the couch and give his poor armpit a freaking break. Who was the genius that designed crutches, anyway? They're just awful! They hurt and they're embarrassing. He didn't even want to think of the look on his coworkers' faces when they would see him.
Shrugging off the unpleasant thoughts, Edward turned down another street. He didn't normally go this way, but he was late and he needed to take a shortcut. About halfway down the length of the street, he noticed a small school. He recognized it, but couldn't remember the name of it. It was a private middle school for rich kids, basically. Most of them were the children of military officials. He stood for a moment, staring blankly at the school. It was a small building made from white bricks and it had large, dark windows, cut so that they curved and pointed at the top. In front of the building was a simple set of monkey bars and a rusting merry-go-round. The perimeter of the lot was lined with a black, wrought iron fence.
Edward felt a bubble of cheerless laughter in his belly; he hadn't ever had many friends his age, save for Winry. He and Alphonse went to school in Risembool, for a while, but pretty much dropped it as soon as their mother died. Since then, he had been too focused on bringing her back, screwing up their lives, and trying to fix everything again. He wished he and Alphonse could be normal, go to school, and sit in desks instead of in the colonel's office. Sometimes he even wished they had never picked up on alchemy.
The sound of laughter filled his ears, and approached him from his right side. He turned to meet the sound, only to collide into… bodies? If only his leg didn't hurt so badly. He normally would have been able to react quicker, but the force of the impact caught him by surprise and he ended up falling hard on his bottom, his crutch hitting the concrete with a loud clang.
"Watch where you're going, jackass!" he growled, glaring up at the three boys, who towered above him. He could tell they were students from the school, because they were wearing uniforms with the school's coat of arms sitting proudly on their chests. Upon hearing Edward yell, the tallest of the three glared back down.
"What did you just say?" he seethed. Edward stood back up, hanging on to his crutch unsteadily.
"You heard me!" he retorted, "Watch where you're going!"
"You better watch the way you talk to people!" the tall boy barked in Edward's face, "Who do you think you are!"
He looked up at the three boys, and felt slightly intimidated. They were way taller than him, and they looked mean. It also didn't help any that he was injured and couldn't use his leg properly. He ignored the red flags, however. Maybe he shouldn't be picking fights right now, but these jerks asked for it! He could take them on! They couldn't have been much older than him, if at all.
"Hey guys," the taller boy said, turning to look at his goons, "I think the little runt wants a fight!"
"WHO-ARE-YOU-CALLING-A-RUNT?" Edward cried out, flailing his arms about and dropping his crutch in the process. He nearly fell over, but caught himself on the fence before he could hit the ground. The three boys laughed hard, pointing at him in disbelief.
"The hell was that?" said the fattest one, laughing and holding his belly.
"Hey, midget! How's the weather down there?" said the third boy, after recovering from his first fit of laughter.
"WHO-ARE-YOU-CALLING-SO-SHORT-THAT-HE-HAS-HIS-OWN-CLIMATE?" Edward shrieked, flailing his arms again. This time though, he managed to lose his balance and hit the ground. The three boys burst into a new fit of laughter and Edward couldn't help the blush of anger and humiliation that spread across his face. He sat up and rubbed the back of his head, only to see the tallest boy reaching down to pick up his pocket watch, which had fallen out of his pocket.
"Hey!" he yelled. "Don't touch that!"
"What," the tall boy asked innocently, "this?"
"Yes! Give it back!"
The boy continued to gaze, curiously, at the silver object before recognition lit up in his eyes. "Military, huh? What the hell are you doing with thi—Oh my god! You're the Fullmetal Alchemist?"
He gazed perplexedly down at Edward, who nodded and pushed himself back up to his feet. Just when Ed thought he was about to be shown some respect, the three boys burst into laughter once again.
"You can't be serious!" the tall boy cried out, doubling over from the hilarity of it all. "You? The Fullmetal?"
"Yes!" Edward cried, finally having heard enough. His face was bright red as he forced his voice to level out. "Give me my watch back, and I'll leave."
"Hmmm…" the tall boy looked thoughtful for a moment. "Nah, I don't think I want to yet! Joe! Catch!"
Edward reached high up in the air, but missed as his watch flew well out his reach and into the fat boy's hands.
"Catch it, Tommy!" he called out, as he chucked the device back in the air and into the third boy's hands.
"Jake!" he shouted, before thrusting the watch in the tall boy's direction. Jake caught it with ease, and held it high in the air when Edward lunged at him to snatch it back. The three boys continued to toss the thing around while Edward hopped around, trying to grab it. The game finally ended only when Edward's bad leg gave out and he crumpled to the ground, scraping his cheek on the white concrete.
"What a fag!" Tommy jeered. "C'mon guys, let's ditch. This one's no fun."
"Yeah, I'm bored," said Jake, throwing the pocket watch down by Edward's head.
"You're pathetic, cripple!" Joe yelled over his shoulder as he followed the other two, laughing all the while.
What just happened?
Edward didn't move for a full minute. He just lay on his stomach, wondering what he had done wrong. How did he let those idiots take him down so easily? Edward groaned when he realized that he didn't even use his alchemy. Why not? It was his best defense without his martial arts available to him… he just wasn't thinking straight. He still wasn't thinking straight.
He forced his breathing to even out, and he propped himself up on his elbows. When he lifted his face from the ground, he saw a few spots of blood and his cheek stung. Then the shock hit him. How did he let that happen? He just let them walk away!
His whole body trembled with rage and mortification as he used the fence to pull himself up to his feet. He grabbed his crutch and looked around him, looking for those boys so he could give them a piece of the real Edward Elric. They were long gone, however, and Edward found no trace of them.
"Damn it!" Edward just wanted to curl up into a ball and die he was so embarrassed. Those boys would probably brag to the other kids about how they beat up the Fullmetal Alchemist. No one would believe them most likely, but just the idea of it was enough to make his blood boil.
He picked up his silver pocket watch off the ground to find that it had a new scuff on it from when Jake threw it on the sidewalk. He grit his teeth against the angry sob that threatened to leave him, as he flipped the watch open to check the time.
He was twenty minutes late already, and he was only half way to headquarters! He pushed the recent events to the back of his mind and focused on just getting to Mustang's office. The man was not going to be happy.
Edward didn't think it could be possible, but his mood decreased even more, as he made it to the inner city near headquarters. The streets were crowded and people kept bumping into him because—
"Oh, sorry, young man," said an older gentleman who patted Edward's head, chuckling to himself. "I didn't see you down there."
Edward's body shook as the man merrily sauntered off back into the crowd. People never bumped into him while he was with Alphonse. It was quite the opposite, actually; people tended to steer clear of them.
After what seemed like forever, he was standing outside of the front office. His armpit hurt like hell, and he was shivering from the coldness outside. Beyond the door, he could hear quite a bit of chatter going on. He stood for a moment, contemplating whether he really wanted to go in or not. Mustang would be mad enough about him being late, but if he didn't show up at all…
He bit his lip and pushed the door open. He limped his way into the room, as its occupants slowly took notice of him. Hawkeye looked stern, for a moment, before her features softened.
"Edward, what happened to you?" she asked softly, worry creasing her brow.
"Busted my automail," Edward replied monotonously, not looking her in the eye.
"I can see that," she said, "but you're cheek is bleeding too. Did you fall?"
"Need me to clean it up?" said Havoc from behind his desk. "I've got a first aid kit over here—"
"No!" Edward grunted, louder than he meant to. Ignoring the concerned looks on the adults' faces, he limped gracelessly into the colonel's office.
Mustang sat behind his desk, looking like he was doing paperwork but really not. Edward cleared his throat and slammed the door behind him, gaining Mustang's half attention. His onyx eyes darted to the wall clock before fixing themselves back on Edward. He looked quite irritated.
"Fullmetal, you are thirty minutes late," his deep voice rumbled throughout the quiet room.
Here comes the lecture, Edward thought, rolling his eyes. Mustang did not appreciate this gesture.
"You look at me when I speak to you, Fullmetal," he said calmly. "I've cut you quite a bit of slack and you cannot afford to be late again. Do I make myself clear?"
"Yeah, yeah," Edward grunted noncommittally.
"Yes…" Mustang pressed, waving his hand in a 'get on with it' gesture.
"Yes, sir," Edward grumbled, putting as much bite into the title as he could. Mustang eyes flared briefly before returning to their unreadable glare.
"All right, Fullmetal," Mustang said, sounding pissed. "According to the brief message you have already given me, your mission was a success?"
"Yes, sir," Edward responded, "we caught the guys running the lab under the theater. They were arrested shortly after we caught them."
"Hmmm…" Mustang looked thoughtful for a moment, "you mean, after your brother caught them. Because, from what you've already told me, you were injured pretty much as soon as the fight began."
"Yes," Edward grumbled, now wishing he had left that part out of the phone message he had left Mustang, while he was in the doctor's office.
"There shouldn't have been a fight, to begin with, either," Mustang scolded. "You should have been able to just go in there, quietly, and gather enough evidence to make arrests. But that may just be wishful thinking, on my part, because you're never quiet."
"It was an ambush!" Edward shouted. "Not my fault! You're the one who sent me on that stupid mission, anyways—"
"And it's your job to follow orders with as much care as possible!" Mustang yelled, standing up and slamming his fist down on his desk. "You could have easily avoided any confrontation, if only you had been more careful!"
"…" Edward looked down at his feet, unwilling to respond. Mustang was right; he could have been more careful. He could have at least kept his focus long enough to not get hurt while fighting.
"Consider yourself lucky that your mission didn't fail completely; I wouldn't be as lenient as I am right now," he paused, looking Edward up and down. "You're bleeding, by the way," he casually pointed out.
"I know," Edward muttered, still not looking Mustang in the eye.
"It looks fresh," Mustang said, his voice calming down to an even tone. "How did you do that?"
"I… someone bumped into me," he replied, still looking down, "knocked me over."
Mustang snorted slightly. "What," he stated in a mirthful tone, "did they not see you down there or something?"
That did it.
Instead of throwing a tantrum, like he normally would, Edward simply stood still, not daring to look up at Mustang. If he looked at the bastard's smug face right now, he'd probably attack him and get court-martialed. He balled his hands into tight, little fists, and his body began to shake as he bit back the urge to break down.
Mustang misread Edward's body language, not realizing how upset Edward actually was. This was his favorite pastime, whenever the boy came into the office. It was so easy to rile him up, and Mustang found it entertaining.
"Hey, Short Stuff," he said playfully, "can you look up here when I talk to you? Or is it too much of a strain to—"
He stopped whatever he was going to say, and stared in bewilderment, as little droplets of clear liquid fell to the ground at Edward's feet.
"Fullmetal?" Mustang asked.
Edward didn't respond, but continued to tremble and chew on his lip. Confused by this behavior, Mustang walked around from his desk and slowly made his way toward Edward.
"Hey, calm down. What's wrong?" Mustang asked, carefully approaching the child. He was just about to lay his hand on the boy's head, when Edward snapped it up and glared at Mustang. Mustang blinked in shock at Edward tear-filled eyes, which were glowing red around the bottom edges.
With out a word, Edward sniffed and turned around, limping out of the room and leaving a confused Mustang behind.
Was it something I said? Mustang thought to himself. He was at a complete loss for an explanation. He had called Edward short- and other variations of the word- plenty of times. He loved doing it, and he meant no harm by it. It simply made his day more interesting. This time was different though; he actually felt guilty. No. He felt like complete and utter crap.
"Yes, Lieutenant?" he met Riza's eyes, which were full of a furious, protective fire.
"What just happened?" she asked, her voice firm and accusing.
"I was just trying to figure that out, myself," he replied, thoughtfully rubbing his chin.
"Well, Edward just took off," she said, her voice still holding that accusing tone. "He looked upset. What did you do?"
"Well," Mustang hesitated; Hawkeye had never liked it when he made fun of Fullmetal's height. "I might have been a little hard on him…"
"That's not enough to upset him like that," Riza said. "He can take plenty of scolding. Now, what did you say to upset him?"
Mustang tilted his head, as if thinking about it. "I might have teased him about his height a little bit…"
Riza made an exasperated sound and placed a hand on her hip. "Colonel, you need to be careful with what you say."
"Well, he can usually take a lot of teasing too!" Mustang retorted, trying to remain innocent. "It's not like I haven't teased the midget before. He's never reacted like that."
"He seemed to be having a rough day," Riza said softly. "He didn't say much to any of us when he came in."
"Well, not much I can do," Mustang said, shrugging his shoulders. "It's not like he had a sign over his head, flashing: 'I'm having a bad day. Don't provoke me!' He'll get over it soon enough."
"Go after him!" Riza finally yelled, pointing out the door.
"No!" she said, pointing a stern finger at her commanding officer, as if he were a bad puppy. "You go after him, right now."
"I don't think it'd do anybody any good…" Mustang said defensively.
"Then what do you suggest you do about it?"
"I-I don't know…?"
"Let me help you decide…"
"You know what, Lieutenant," Mustang said with his hands in the air, "I think I'm going to go after Fullmetal."
"Good choice," said Riza, replacing her gun in its holster.
To be continued…