Ed groaned in defeat.

"Come on Sheska, I really need these documents..."

She gave him and Alphonse an apologetic smile,

"I'm sorry, Ed. But you have to be a Lieutenant Colonel at least to access classified files, and that's with a clearance from a Brigadier General."

"Shit..." Ed muttered,

"Brother," He heard Alphonse say, putting a armored hand on his shoulder, "We should just go."

Ed scowled, his frustration evident.

"Come on, Al." He said angrily stomping out of the East Area Alchemist Library.

He remained silent and sullen as they left, surprising Al. But Alphonse decided not to worry too much about his brother's sulking and let him recover on his own. They went back to the East Area Headquarters and upon entering it, Al immediately recognized the route they were taking as the one to Colonel Mustang's office.

Once they entered the office they were greeted by the other subordinates, but Ed's dismissive grunt, let on his to his irritation.

"Uh oh, Chief. What's up?" Havoc asked.

"Must be nap-time." Breda teased.

"Shut up!" Ed shouted, barging into Roy's office and slamming the door behind him. Al looked at the door a little confused. He hadn't even invited Al to come along. Maybe he should be concerned..

Mustang looked up at the petulant teenager glaring at him from his doorway. He sighed, he should of known he'd come back with no results. He really thought he wouldn't have had to step in, knowing how resourceful Ed was. The blonde adolescent stared at him, obviously assuming Mustang had sent him there to toy with him. He was pissed, that much was obvious...but he also seemed...

"Didn't go well, huh?" Roy asked.

"Just like you knew it wouldn't." Ed growled throwing a folder on his desk, "Here's that goddamn report, I'm going home."

"Fullmetal." Roy called to him, stopping him. Ed was faced toward the door, his back to the Colonel, but he knew Mustang, he was evaluating him...and he didn't like it. "I didn't send you there to mess with you..."

"Whatever." Ed said, merely looking at his boots, not caring anymore.

"What's going on with you?" Roy asked, "You seem more than angry...almost like you're depressed about something..."

Ed flailed around to face Mustang. He opened his mouth as if to initially argue, but then seemed to lose his ardor and closed his mouth slowly. He shook his head just a fraction,

"Its nothing..."

The blonde froze when he heard the Colonel's chair scrape across the wood floor as his superior officer came to stand. He instinctively began to back away when he heard Mustang approach him, and flinched when his hands rested on his shoulders.

"What is it, Ed?"

Ed blinked in shock, at The Colonel calling him by his first name. He shook off Mustang's hands. He didn't want Mustang to have the power to make him feel vulnerable...

"I-I just..." He cringed at how pathetic he sounded. He was the Fullmetal Alchemist for christ's sake!

He swallowed and tried again, "I feel trapped."

Roy's eyes widened. That was something he hadn't been expecting Ed to say. He saw the teen hide his face under the long blonde bangs he sported and Roy felt his heart break for him. Ed was normally wanting to pick a fight...but now...

….He couldn't even look at him...

"Trapped." Roy repeated, his tone suggesting his curiosity.

Ed gritted his teeth, thinking Roy to be making fun of him,

"Look, I know you wouldn't understand...but I cant stay a Major. I can't stay in the Amestrian State Military..."

"What happened?" Roy asked, seeing something wasn't being explained.

Ed shrugged,

"They wouldn't let me get the documents unless I was a Lieutenant...even still it would have to have a signature from the Brigadier General...but I can't promote now...I'd need a waiver or else wait 2 more years, and that's too long..."

"So, you want to be promoted...but why the urgency now?"

Ed shut his eyes, glad that Mustang couldn't see them under his bangs.

"...I just...have to."

"Edward...what aren't you telling me?" Roy asked softly.

Ed bit his lip. How could he explain the guilt he'd been feeling. Years' worth of trauma and misplaced self-hatred were finally taking its toll. He hated himself for being able to sleep, to eat, to touch, to smell, all the while when Al could experience none of it.

Most things he could accomplish, finding some strategic way to loophole a result that suited him. But promotion. There was no way to loophole it, without a waiver...and even though he was the Fullmetal Alchemist...he also had a serious reputation for causing trouble.

What possible officer would grant him the waiver?

"I just...I need to figure something out. I can't make Al keep waiting..."

Roy's heart shattered at the words of the teen,

"Alphonse would be devastated to hear you say that..."He said quietly, "You know he doesn't blame you..."

Ed didn't answer. Not ready to let go of repulsion for himself just yet.

Roy sighed and said,

"I of course would gladly sign the waiver, but you know it takes two other superior officers to sign off on it."

Ed nodded grimly. He knew all too well...if only he were like Mustang and-

Ed's eyes shot up at Roy in comprehension. Colonel Mustang! Of course, here in front of him was the epitome of promotion points. He was a Colonel at fucking 29 years old!

"How did you do it?!" Ed shouted suddenly.

Mustang blinked in surprise,

"Excuse me?"

"Get promoted so fast!" Ed shouted once again, "How'd you do it?! You have to know ways of getting promoted, right?!"

The Colonel's eyes widened. He took a step back and then looked away from Edward, trying to make his words sound casual.

"There's only three ways that I know of..." Ed watched in suspense, hanging on Roy's every word. "One, being money..."

"No good there." Ed commented.

"Right." Roy agreed. "The second, Family Connections..."

"Have none. Whats the third?"

Roy looked down ashamedly, glad his back was to the teen. His mouth forming a thin line. After a moment he sighed and said slowly,

"Sexual favors."

Ed's eyes widened,

"No way! People really do-" then understanding dawned on him, "Holy shit..."

Roy grimaced and looked away, a rueful smile coming to rest on his face,

"It's not something I'm proud of..."

Ed sighed and looked toward the floor, he wasn't cut out for any of these options. The only option available was favors and the idea was so ridiculous it made him want to laugh. Unless...

"So...you did sexual favors, to get promoted so quick?"

"Yes, Ed..." Roy said a little irritably. Not wanting to keep admitting his guilt. He went to his desk, not moving to rejoin his seat but looking at some papers. Ed stared at the uniformed back facing him,

"...so then...you could...teach me...?"

Roy's eyes widened and he spun to stare at the teen in horror. He was serious! He could see the fiery look he'd so admired when he saw him as a child.

"Fullmetal, no."

"Why?!" Ed shot back, "I can do it! I just need some help and some practice! I'm not that stupid!"

Roy shut his eyes painfully, he had no doubt Edward could do it. He had the body of a god at only 15 years old. But he didn't understand just what it would cost him to do this...

"That's not what I mean, Ed." Roy ground out.

"Please!" Ed pleaded, shocking Roy, "I need to do this! And if it isn't you teaching me then..."

He'd try doing it on his own...

Roy looked at him in a frozen panic. He'd just barely gotten to escape his dark ways...but to teach it to Ed...He remembered going through this himself, the same look in his eyes. He knew Ed was right, if he didn't help him...he'd have he learn the hard way, as Roy had...

Roy sighed,

"On one condition."

Ed glanced at him with a mixture of surprise and suspicion.

"What is it?"

Roy looked toward the floor, unable to believe he was agreeing to this...

"I choose who you go to...I don't want you approaching every officer that comes into your path..."

Ed stared at Mustang, as if unsure to believe his words at face-value. After a moment, he let out a slow breath and upon deliberation said,