Disclaimer: I do not own Fullmetal Alchemist.
This is a wee idea I've had floating around for a while. I love Havoc and wanted to give him a little air time with Ed. Can't recall it ever being mentioned that Havoc served in Ishbal so taking the artistic license here and assuming he did so (he is from the East after all!)
No beta and wrote it quite late last night, so yeap, please be forgiving :) Yeo!
Ed took a deep breath and pushed open the solid mahogany of the council room door. Expecting to see the unimpressed stare of the Colonel as well as the tried, vapid expressions of his put-upon staff, Ed was shocked to see a totally empty room.
The early evening sunlight cut across the abandoned room, picking out a thousand bright particles and dulling the edges of the robust, antique furniture to fuzzy white lines. With his eyes fixed on the strangely vacant room, Ed fished for his pocket watch. He sniffed once and glanced at it: 6pm. He knew he was late but was he so late that Mustang had wound things up and sent everyone on their merry way home? That couldn't be right...
He stepped further into the room, keen eyes looking for some sign of recent activity: a discarded pen, an open window, the smell of smoke... The smell of smoke? Ed sniffed again and mouthed a silent 'blegh' at the dry, bitter odour. The smoke had probably been hanging in the air since the meeting: most definitely Havoc sneaking a quick cigarette after the Colonel made his exit.
"Huh," Ed shrugged, supposing that he really had missed the meeting. What could be so important that it was over in an hour?
"Hallo?" A dry voice enquired.
Ed nearly hit the roof when he heard the furtive, nervous call. There was something inherently terrifying about thinking you were alone in a room, only to find out that you weren't: whoever the intruder might be.
Ed's panic didn't last for long though as he spotted a thin column of smoke drifting up from behind the large desk at the back of the room.
"Havoc..." Ed grumbled, and slouched his way across the floor. He rounded the desk and saw an all-too-innocent looking Havoc sat comfortably against the drawers, feet stretched in front of him to rest on the floor length glass of the huge windows.
The soldier managed a lazy wave. "Oh, hey Ed."
Ed, scuffed his heel and looked down on the Lieutenant with something close to disdain. "Hey-" He said without much fervour. "What are you doing here? I thought you guys had finished up?"
Havoc shook his head and took a deep drag on his cigarette. The tip burnt bright red and fizzled sharply. "Nope – doesn't start for another half hour. You're early, Boss."
"What!" Ed shouted. He still had the note in his pocket from the Colonel. He took it out and read it silently, oblivious of Havoc's amused eyes on him. '5pm – General Council Room. Even you should be able to manage that... Ps be sure to wear your red cloak ha ha.'
Havoc took another long drag, his eyes cast downward out the window. He exhaled through a wide smile but there was a strange aspect to his expression in general.
"But – the Colonel – he said-" Ed stuttered, anger starting to gnaw at him.
"Yeah – he had to bump it back because of a security alert earlier this afternoon."
"Security alert?" Ed asked, sure that he would have heard something about a security alert at headquarters.
"Some idiot left an unattended briefcase in the premier lounge at Haymarket Station. Everyone's finding it hard to make it across town, including the Colonel apparently."
Ed folded his arms and rested all his weight on one leg, unconvinced by the Lieutenant's explanation. "What was he doing across town anyway?"
"He said he was going 'fishing', so who the hell knows. It's best not to think too hard about it, Boss, you'll give yourself a nosebleed."
The two of them fell into an awkward silence: Havoc's eyes drifting to look downward out the window again and Ed trying to contain his ire at the Colonel's flippant rescheduling. The young alchemist couldn't believe the man's brass. To goad Ed about his time keeping when Mustang himself indulged in enigmatic pursuits half way across the city – what an asshole.
"Hey Ed -" Havoc prompted.
"What?" Ed mumbled, still fuming at having to rush all the way from the library just to come to a poxy meeting that wasn't even taking place.
"You got somewhere to be?"
Ed curled his lip. "Yeah...here... an hour ago supposedly."
Havoc budged over a little as he spoke. "You think you could take a seat in that case? You're making me a little uncomfortable there."
Ed's mouth fell open in indignation before he realised how odd he must have appeared standing over Havoc with a dark scowl on his face. Well, standing over Havoc as much as he was ever able to stand over anyone...
"Sure..." He said quietly and sat down awkwardly beside the blond Lieutenant.
Despite the man's somewhat wayward congeniality, Ed couldn't help but be curious about the peculiar smile shaping his lips. It was like someone had told him the funniest joke in the world then ordered him not to pass it on.
"What are you looking at down there anywa-" Ed cut himself short.
When he followed Havoc's eyes down towards the space below the window, he saw exactly what put a smile on the smoker's face: the municipal outdoor pool, and it was ladies' night.
"Havoc-" Ed whined while Havoc made a smug 'hnnn' noise through his giant smile.
"This is the best damn room in the whole building, Ed. I couldn't believe my luck when the Chief said our meeting was in here and then postponed it. Success." He broke the word 'success' into two neat, satisfied syllables: suck-sess.
"It makes you go blind, you know?" Ed asked, trying to sound more savvy than he felt.
Havoc's cigarette flew out of his mouth as he choked in shock at the teenager's reproach. He knew, of course, exactly what the 'it' was that could make you go blind, but to hear the warning come from Ed was surprising to say the least. "Where in the hell did you learn that kid?"
Havoc's dramatic response made Ed feel like he had been caught out; like he had tried to sound grown up but had only managed to get himself mixed up. Little did he know that he was closer to the truth than he could have imagined; if he hadn't walked in when he did, Havoc may not have been in such a presentable state as he was now.
He shrugged to hide his embarrassment, sharing how he had learnt the phrase by way of distraction. "Pinako said it to me once when she caught me at Winry's bedroom door."
Havoc howled and at first, Ed thought it was with laughter at his remembered predicament, but when he saw the Lieutenant slap frantically at his left shin, he recalled the lit cigarette that went sailing out of the soldier's mouth.
"Shit!" Havoc squealed, hissing through his teeth.
Ed looked wholly unimpressed. "Real cool, Lieutenant."
Havoc found the offending stub hidden inside the precise hole it managed to burn through his uniform trousers. He picked out the remnants of the cigarette and crushed it against the brass fittings of the huge desk behind him. Rolling up his trouser leg, he inspected the damage. It was a tidy red mark surrounded by blond hairs that had been burnt into wispy zig-zags.
"Oh-" He groaned, then licked his thumb and rubbed at it.
Ed wasn't looking at the burn however, he was looking at the black markings running the length of the Lieutenant's calf. The design was intricate to the extent that it could have been mistaken for a picture. Ed knew better though - it was a script: Ishballan.
"Havoc?" Ed asked, suddenly shy. Maybe the tattoo was reserved for the eyes of only a special few and the alchemist hated the thought that he might be prying.
Havoc didn't look up but continued to thumb at the burn mark. "Mmm?"
Ed looked down at the metal fingers of his right hand. "Uh -" A thousand words rushed to him at once and he didn't know where to begin. He was only asking about a tattoo, which in itself didn't matter so much; but Ishballan script on an Amestrian soldier was a different matter. "What's your tattoo... of?" He finished stupidly.
Havoc blinked up at him a few times, then tilted his calf to study the inkwork as if he had just found out it was there. He cocked his head and pursed his lips in thought before answering.
"You probably don't want to know kid." He said.
Ed blushed a little, feeling silly for having asked when his better judgement told him not to. He cursed his curiosity. Havoc noticed the teenager's discomfort and cast him a wry smile.
"Come on, Fullmetal – I'm not being coy about it, it's just... uh... a little dark. Not the kind of thing you want to hear on a sunny evening. Sad, you know?"
Ed nodded solemnly, not failing to notice the shadow of something very gentle, yet very sad wash across the usually jovial soldier's features. He thought about what that look meant, where he recognised it from, and realised with a kind of fondness that it was the same look Al used to have when there was something on his chest but he felt he couldn't share it.
"Do you have any older brothers?" Ed asked, his golden eyes trained on Havoc.
Havoc looked at him suspiciously before answering in a drawl. "Yeah, just one."
Ed smiled and nodded knowingly. "You know, it's a pretty interesting tattoo and I have some time to kill so..."
The alchemist let his sentence drift off and float amongst the shining particles of dust above them. Havoc set his calculating blue eyes on the boy before laughing and pulling another cigarette from his pack.
"You have a way to go yet, but you and the Colonel sure have methods of getting people to talk, huh? You have no idea how alike you two are some-"
Ed's face turned sour. "I have an idea where you could stick that cig-"
"Okay, okay!" Havoc said, hands held aloft with his cigarette in one and his lighter in the other. He lit up deftly and took a deep drag, filling his lungs with smoke. "It comes from Ishbal, yeah?"
Ed settled himself more comfortably against the desk and folded his arms across his stomach. "Uh-huh."
The Lieutenant paused and his eyes focussed as if they spotted something far off in the distance in front of him. He shook his head. "You don't want to hear about this..."
Ed's golden eyes were sharp and clear as they shot to Havoc. "I really do."
Havoc rubbed at the back of his head, then with a sigh leant back against the desk. "I was in a really small unit, six of us in total. We were deployed a few months after the uprising began." He coughed. "We were charged with guarding the Berghan supply station and supporting its quartermaster. It was a tiny post and so everyone sort of mucked in with everything. I've shifted more bags of grain in my life than what's sensible – believe me.
"There was a sort of hamlet built up around a natural well a few miles east of us, and the kids from there used to swarm around our camp making a nuisance of themselves. When we had the time we'd lark about with them: carrying them on our shoulders, letting them look through our rifle sights, sometimes dressing them up in spare uniforms. When you think about it, we were pretty reckless, but they were just kids so..." He spread his hands in a 'who cares?' gesture; it was a habit of Havoc's that Ed had witnessed Mustang grumble at more than a few times.
"There was this one kid called Sadique who was a little crazy but, I mean, the best laugh. He would have us rolling on the floor. We didn't have a clue what he was saying and the only words of Amestrian he knew were 'hello' and 'fuck you blondie'." Havoc acted out the words with an Ishballan accent. "It was hilarious: of the six of us on detail, everyone was blond apart from one dark haired guy, Sergeant Brolly. So Sadique would shout it all the time: as a greeting, in thanks, as he was leaving. The kid was dynamite. I honestly think we would have cracked up so far from the action if it weren't for him.
"And the thing was, he was smart. Really, really smart! He started chipping in with the work, helping out where he could, you know? So eventually we started paying him. Why not? He was a good worker and got things done twice as fast as any of the rest of us. We paid him in all kinds: cash, local currency obviously, but also sweets, clothes, tins of food and soda – you name it, we gave it to him. Everyday he would walk away with his pockets dripping full of stuff."
Havoc turned to Ed, and was moved to see how captivated the alchemist was. No one could hold eye contact as powerfully as Edward Elric. Ed for his part was enthralled by this window into the Isbhal he had only ever heard about in dark whispers. This was the Isbhal where Hawkeye killed her first and where Mustang killed his many.
Havoc continued with some enthusiasm on seeing how engrossed Ed was.
"The military issued its soldiers with these rotten, hard boiled sweets that we were meant to chew instead of smoking. A couple of units had been caught out because their cigarette smoke was spotted by bandits, you see. These sweets were awful, Ed – like chewing on socks. So clearly, we'd fob them off on poor Sadique who would happily take them home. He probably sold them, so fair play to the little guy.
Havoc seemed to hit a wall then, and glanced down at the tattoo on his calf as if to centre himself before continuing. Ed could practically hear Sadique's laughter as he was swung about on Havoc's broad shoulders, and see the boy's smiling face as he walked backwards for a while before turning and trotting merrily towards to his home. He swallowed thickly.
"He came round just about every day. Sometimes alone, most times with a hoard of other children. Everyday we saw that kid." He took a breath and made a face at how much his cigarette had burnt down while he was talking. He flicked off the long tube of ash and took a drag, his cheeks sinking inwards with the effort.
"One night – must have been three in the morning – I heard this noise. I don't know if it went out of fashion after I grew up but Ed, did you ever tie a spoon to the rim of your bicycle when you were little so it made a noise when the spokes hit it? You know, a repetitive clanging noise, like a slow drilling?"
Ed nodded, his eyes not leaving Havoc's. The Lieutenant was the first to break the stare as he looked out the window again. This time though, rather than look downwards, his eyes were focussed high above him to where a thin cloud drifted through the clear blue sky.
"Well – the noise I heard was just like that. It was super eerie out there in the desert because it was usually so quiet; not even the sound of artillery fire made it as far as us. It took us all a few minutes to get our stuff together, and by the time we got outside the camp, the noise had disappeared. It was Brolly who noticed the horsemen: four guys riding off at speed away from the camp. We didn't know what to make of it at first but figured it would be best to check for explosive devices. I mean, the Ishballans weren't known for explosives but occasionally some decent technology would fall into their hands.
"We started searching the perimeter, half of us going one way, the other half the opposite way. One of the guys from the other group screamed... or maybe it was all of them, I can't be sure. We ran to meet them and they were all shining their torches on this... lump. It was just like a small sack of grain or... I couldn't make it out at first. Didn't at all in fact – one of the guys had to say it out loud before I caught on. Just the name: Sadique. I didn't believe it at first, but then I started to make out parts of him: his hands, a bit of his hair, this stupid fucking bead bracelet I gave him the week before..."
Havoc sniffed and took a deep breath, holding it for what seemed like an eternity before releasing it again noisily. His eyes were dry but there was hurt there, that was certain.
"The insurgents must have heard rumours that one of the villagers was working with us. Whether by threatening the villagers for information or by other means, they sussed that it was Sadique. They beat him to death... beat him beyond recognition almost, and tied all the empty tins of food and soda we'd given him to his body. Then they dragged him back to us and left him there. That was the noise I heard: the tin cans rattling as they dragged him." Havoc played with the quick on his thumb as he finished speaking. "What that kid was doing with a bunch of empty cans is anyone's guess... he was a damn smart kid..."
Ed sat silently, horror and sympathy washing over him in equal turns. He looked at the intricate script of the tattoo.
"It's not just a word, is it? It's a name: Sadique." He said quietly, as if he didn't want to disturb the stone visage the Lieutenant now wore.
Havoc nodded, looked at the tattoo once more and pulled down his trouser leg, tucking it roughly into his boot. He snubbed out his cigarette and flicked the butt into the bin with all the precision one would expect from a trained gunman.
"Do me a favour, Ed?"
"Just... chill out from time to time, yeah? You're tough I know, but goofing around a little is good too."
Ed smiled. "Aye, aye." He said evenly, acquiescing and trying to sound as if he wasn't absolutely floored by what Havoc had just shared with him.
"And go easy on the Chief. We only thought we knew Ishbal... but Mustang... man." He shook his head. "The army advanced so quickly, they didn't have the resources to take prisoners of war. That many surplus people and nowhere to put them or nothing to feed them – there were only a couple of alchemists who could deal with those numbers, you know? Doesn't bear thinking about." Havoc smiled grimly and stood. "He's an asshole, right – but he's our asshole. If it weren't for the Colonel, I'd probably be at a bar somewhere still crying over a boy called Sadique. With Mustang, I can make sure there are no more 'Sadiques', if you get me?"
Ed took the hand that Havoc offered and stood as well. "I do, I do." He brushed his trousers legs free of the few soft bits of ash that had floated onto them. "Thanks for talking, Havoc."
"Hey-" Havoc slurred, as though they had been talking about nothing more important than a game of cards. Then his expression became earnest. "Thanks for listening, kiddo."
Both men looked up when the doorknob made a dull clink and Hawkeye stepped in smoothly, one arm full of papers.
"Meeting's been cancelled." She said sharply.
Ed threw his arms up. "What?" He moaned.
Havoc slapped him on the back and made his way towards the door, keen to get going before Hawkeye found something for him to do. She held up a hand to stop him in his tracks.
"The Colonel thought he'd asked me to cancel the meeting, which he hasn't, and has gone home for the evening." She thought better than to make a derisive comment about the stupidity of the act and opted for a thin kind of defence instead. "He's had a long day, longer than anyone else's – apparently."
"You seem to be going pretty easy on him, Hawkeye..." Havoc said, suspicion clear in his azure eyes.
"Not at all, I've rescheduled it for tomorrow morning at 7:30." She said smartly and turned on her heel. "See you then." She called back as she went, ignoring the groans rumbling out behind her.
Both Havoc and Ed stood without speaking for a few long moments. They could still hear Hawkeye's clipped pace as she disappeared down the corridor.
"What an asshole." Ed said, imagining the Colonel at home with his feet up.
Havoc looked like he was about to rebut Ed's comment but only sighed and smiled. "Yeap." He turned a questioning eye to the teenager. "Where are you staying these days, Boss?"
"By the Oxgangs, past the old infirmary?"
"Hey, no kidding? I'm in Juniper Green – just a little east of the infirmary. It's a pretty nice evening, fancy walking the way with me?"
Ed considered the offer while screwing up his face. "You're not going to use the 'kid brother' thing to lure girls over again, are you?"
Havoc laughed and held open the door for the diminutive alchemist. "Damn straight."
Ed didn't have to, but he ducked under the outstretched arm nonetheless. "Yeah, okay." He said lightly, "Why not?"
thanks for reading chaps!