Disclaimer: I do not own.
Second Lieutenant Jean Havoc blew out a dispirited breath. It was Thursday, a day which the blond lieutenant had come to dislike severely over the last month. Chiefly because someone higher up the food-chain had come up with the brilliant idea of making it mandatory for officers with the rank of Colonel and above to have their immediate aides with them at the weekly meeting. Which happened to be on Thursday.
Of course, for the rest of the office this meant a reason to celebrate as it meant that not only was the Colonel gone for hour, but Hawkeye was also. Thus it was actually within the realm of possibility for them to briefly skive off doing their (i.e. the Colonel's) paperwork. Jean however, was not so lucky. Being the next most senior member of Team Mustang meant that he was left in charge.
Which meant that he, Havoc, was now responsible, and that if the requisite amount of paperwork wasn't done by the time Mustang and Hawkeye returned, then he was the one who had to face Lieutenant Hawkeye's I-Left-You-In-Charge-Where-Is-The-Paperwork? Glare of Doom and come up with an explanation which the first lieutenant found satisfactory.
Havoc sighed again and wondered if maybe he should consider a transfer to the south. Not that he wasn't 100 per cent behind the Colonel's Save-Amestris-From-Dictatorship plan, and not that the South H.Q. hadn't also implemented the Thursday Meeting Rule, but it did have almost year round sunshine and way more beautiful girls (and more to the point, no girlfriend-stealing-colonels).
It was right in the middle of a particularly good daydream about sun and southern girls that the phone on the Colonel's desk rang, almost startling the living daylights out of the blond lieutenant and sending him scrambling across the room.
"Er, hello," he managed to say, still slightly out of breath from the scramble and surprise.
"Central Academy Secretary speaking. We need to speak to Colonel Roy Mustang immediately," snapped a cracked matronly voice, "about his boy's atrocious behaviour."
"Uh, you do?" Havoc stammered, the voice causing him to experience a brief but terrifying flashback to his own schooldays. "I mean, of course you do. Well, um, the Colonel's actually . . . just here right now," Havoc finished with relief as the office door opened and Mustang strode back in, followed closely by Hawkeye. "Telephone for you Sir," he said quickly, handing the receiver to his superior and escaping back to the safety of his desk.
"Hello, Colonel Mustang speaking," the dark-haired man said calmly into the phone. "What is this about?"
There was a pause, as Mustang listened to the person on the other end and his forehead started to crease in confusion.
"I'm sorry," the Colonel said blankly, "he did what?"
Havoc watched as the Colonel listened for a moment and then replied, "Yes of course. I completely understand. I'll speak to him." Then he put the phone handle down briefly and pinched the bridge of his nose.
"Edward," Mustang said when he put the phone back to his ear, "what have you been doing?"
There was silence for a moment, which Havoc presumed meant that Ed was answering the Colonel. As Mustang began drumming his fingers slowly against his desk, the second lieutenant gave a quick look around the office and noticed that the rest of its occupants had also begun to pay close attention to their leader. Even Lt. Hawkeye was shooting surreptitious concerned glances in her superior's direction.
"I see," Mustang said slowly. "Well, for a start, you can un-transmute them." There was another brief pause. "That was an order, young man, not a suggestion."
Mustang fell silent again as Ed answered him, and then wiped a hand over his forehead in relief. "Good," he told the boy, apparently pleased with Ed's reply. "You and I are going to have a long talk when I get home. Now for God's sake get back to your class and try not to cause any more trouble."
As he put down the phone receiver, the Colonel looked up and caught his staff's curious glance. He sighed and favoured them with a brief exasperated look. "Since it appears that my staff are incapable of working unless informed of all the latest gossip," he drawled sarcastically, "you may as well know that Ed fought with some General Fuller's son and transmuted his shoelaces together."
"Ooh," Fuery piped up worriedly, "he won't get suspended or anything, will he?"
The Colonel shook his head. "Fuery, it's a military academy. If they suspended everyone who was caught fighting, they'd have no students left."
When Roy finally did get home that evening, Ed was waiting by the door. He refused to look Roy in the eye, instead taking a deep interest in the pattern of the hall carpet.
"You," Roy said, taking hold of the boy's shoulder and steering him towards the small room that Roy used as a study, "an explanation if you please?"
Ed said nothing, now opting to examine the study carpet intently.
"Edward? Do you want to explain exactly why it was necessary for your teachers to call on me and interrupt my work day? And did you know that the boy you fought with is the son of one of my direct superiors. Do you think General Fuller will be happy with me when he hears that his son was attacked by mine- my ward," Roy finished a little awkwardly.
Ed shuffled his feet slightly, but did not respond, still refusing to look Roy in the eye. Exasperated, Roy cupped the sulking boy's chin in one hand, forcing Ed to meet his eyes. "Well?" he demanded. "Do you have anything to say for yourself?"
"No," Ed ground out sulkily.
"Did the General Fuller's son say something you didn't like?" Roy tried. "If he provoked you-"
"Well, did he give you a nasty look? Act threateningly towards you in any way?"
Roy resisted the urge to grind his teeth. "Then can you please explain Edward, why you took it upon yourself to fling your book at his head, transmute his shoelaces together and," Roy paused to recall what else the Academy secretary had said, "punch him in the stomach?"
"He punched me too!" Ed protested, jerking his chin away.
"I believe that was after you struck him in the head with your book, wasn't it?"
"It was just a little tap," Ed said, pouting slightly. "He didn't have to be such a baby about it."
"No matter the weapon used, a blow to the head is still serious," Roy said firmly. "And I thought you respected books, Edward."
Now, Ed glared furiously. "I do. When they're useful. It was just the History of Amestris. It's not like I threw an alchemy book at him!"
Right, Roy sighed internally. Because mistreating an alchemy book is obviously a crime against nature, while the history of our nation is just unimportant minutiae that the teacher shouldn't have been bothering him with.
"Be that as it may, Ed, you still haven't explained to me why exactly you felt the need to attack your class-mate," he pointed out.
"Are you going to?"
This time, Roy sighed aloud. "In that case," he announced, "both you and Alphonse lose dessert privileges. Either until the end of this week, or until you tell me why you decided to attack someone unprovoked."
"Hey! Al didn't do anything!" Ed cried. "He wasn't even there. That's not fair!"
"Your actions have consequences Ed," Roy said sternly. "They affect other people besides you. You need to learn that."
Besides, he thought, if I let Al have dessert, he'll find some way of sneaking some of it back to you, completely invalidating the punishment. Sorry Al. I'll make it up to you.
"This had better not happen again, Edward," he warned the boy. "I expected much better from you."
Ed pulled a face at him.
"Enough," Roy snapped. "Just go to your room until dinner's ready. I'm sure you have some schoolwork that needs to be done."
After Ed had gone, slamming the door on his way out, Roy sat down and let out a growl of frustration. Don't you get it? he wanted to yell. You're a child. I am responsible for your actions. If my ability to raise you is called into question, my superiors will take both of you away. God knows what would happen to you then, he thought, trying desperately to ignore the horrible image of sterile labs and morally bankrupt researchers that the back of his mind insisted on showing him.
Much later that evening, after both Elrics had already been sent to bed, Roy was passing their bedroom door on the way to take care of a call of nature when the sound of hushed talking made him pause in mid-step. His curiosity warred with his respect for privacy for a minute before it won by underhandedly stating the Hughes had said sometimes there was no other option but to spy if you wanted to be a good parent.
Roy squashed the twinge of guilt that he felt at eavesdropping, then moved closer to the door and listened carefully.
"Ed, why did you beat up that guy?" he heard Al ask quietly.
There was a rustling sound, like someone shifting awkwardly on starched sheets.
"Because he deserved it," Ed said defiantly, his voice a little more muffled than Al's.
Probably hugging his pillow and facing the wall, Roy thought. It was, he'd noticed, Ed's favourite position when in a sulk.
"Yeah, but why?" Al asked insistently. Quietly, he added, "I really wanted dessert, Brother."
Ooh, Roy winced. Guilt tactics. Good one, Al.
He listened more intently and heard Ed sitting up, followed by the sound of the boy clearing his throat.
"Because. . ." Ed said hesitantly, and Roy held his breath, in case any noise should warn Ed that he was outside and end the moment of truth before it began. "Because Alan said that his Dad is a General and is way more important than Roy. So I threw my book at him and said that his Dad couldn't even do basic alchemy. So then he said that Roy's just a stupid jerk Colonel and his alchemy sucks," Ed confessed in a rush. "So I stuck his shoelaces together and punched him."
"But Brother," Al pointed out, "you call Roy a stupid jerk all the time."
"That's different," Ed said emphatically. "It's not like I mean it. And anyway, he's our stupid jerk, Al. Nobody else is allowed to call Roy names. Er, except maybe Mr Hughes and Miss Riza. Besides," Ed added, sounding affronted, "Roy's alchemy is awesome. Alan Fuller doesn't have a clue. And he smells."
On the other side of the door, Roy attempted to retrieve his jaw from the floor. This was what Ed hadn't wanted to tell him? That the boy had gotten into all this trouble for . . . what? Defending Roy's honour?
He shook his head in a mixture of amusement and amazement, unable to keep a smile from appearing on his face.