- mirage -
Hawkeye was buried in paperwork when Ed approached her desk and stopped politely just shy of it. He remained quiet, allowing her to finish her current task and this gesture of courtesy was appreciated. With a tired smile Hawkeye lifted her gaze to the short twelve year old and said, "Now Edward, please pay attention so I don't have to repeat this to you." She narrowed her eyes into a considering gaze. This would be his first exposure to daunting military forms. "These papers have an order. Fill them out in the order I give them to you, and make sure they're still in that order when you hand them in."
Filling the right side of Hawkeye's desks were small packets of stacked papers, each almost identical, and each meant for a different coworker. She placed her hand on the packet she had separated for Ed, and slid it toward him.
Ed reached for the forms with a casual, "Okay," but Hawkeye did not lift her hand. Edward was younger than every other soldier, and she was not convinced he could take these and hand them back fully completed as the military expected. Every year it was the same battle, chasing down those who kept forgetting their mandatory forms, or were embarrassed all the small lines, boxes, and questions, were confusing. The fact of the matter was: the forms were confusing. They were awful, poorly formatted, font covered military forms making reference to legal terms the common man was not familiar with.
Ed, who stood before Hawkeye's desk in his red coat and black outfit, looking too cheery to be employed by the military, appeared just as likely to accidentally sit his packet somewhere and forget about it, as he was to use the back for scrap paper. She couldn't tell if he was truly listening to her, or if he was taking her serious. The years of business politics, position abuse, and the general lack of faith in humanity had yet to dull the innocent glimmer to his eyes, and for a moment Hawkeye was left contemplating the fact she was handing over forms meant for a man in his twenties, to a boy who couldn't view a rated R movie without an adult. How could they possibly expect him to navigate his way through printed bureaucracy?
"These are complicated," Hawkeye said kindly. "So take your time."
"Yes." Ed gave her a bright smile.
Hawkeye was still not convinced. Her palm remained on the packet, anchoring it to her desk. "What order are you going to do them in?" she asked, fighting the hint of a smile. She had to be sure he was listening.
"The order you give them to me in," Ed answered, and she was relieved.
Every year Hawkeye received back most of what was required in packets her co-workers proudly said were in perfect order: Lies. Outrageous lies.
Sheets would sometimes be upside down, and stained with bits of food or grease, let alone in the right order. Every year she had to reorganize and hound her male coworkers who couldn't seem to complete these documents the way floor two wanted. If they were submitted incorrectly, the Intelligence Department sent them back with nice red letter warnings they were exceeding their timeframe. If things went further, they began calling the colonel and leaving him politely worded, but strongly toned messages about his department's paperwork. So as much as it seemed fitting to send them on with pieces missing and in congested arrangement, it only came back to bit them.
Hawkeye lifted her palm and Ed's white twenty page packet was revealed for the taking. He picked it up almost eagerly, as if curious and in some way hopeful the military was going to provide him with something interesting. Quickly Ed flipped inward a few pages, and Hawkeye felt the small smile she had been fighting break out.
Ed seemed to be grasping his directions, and this was a breath of fresh air. Although you could call the young alchemist many things, inconsistent was not one of them. Once he understood his directions, she very seldom needed to repeat them, and this suggested there was hope she would get everything back the way she needed.
Staring in at the fifth page, the beginning review of addresses you'd used for the last ten years, Ed asked, "How long do I have to complete them?"
Hawkeye's smile widened. This was another excellent question she never heard from her other male coworkers.
"You have until the end of the week, any time you want to hand them in is fine."
Ed was grasping military concepts quicker and quicker even with a limited few months under his belt. The boy was turning thirteen soon, and stood reading hungrily, as if there was a prize to be found, when Hawkeye returned to her work. Handing out packets for Intelligence was not the primary task of the day. For the time being, with all borders quiet, she was sneaking in a few hours to help a friend in the arsenal department crunch weapons numbers.
Ed read to page six and then muttered a small, "Um." Hawkeye lifted her pen from the small scribble of short hand math she was pumping out, and lifted her gaze. Ed looked a bit guilt ridden, and he turned his packet around and showed her page six. It was littered with lots of small black lettering, metric boxes, and drop downs meant for calculations. "I don't know anything about taxes and claims," Ed said.
Hawkeye reached forward, and beckoned for Ed to hand the packet back to her. Alchemist packets were different from that of soldiers, and although page six looked familiar, she wanted to be sure before she offered any instruction.
Ed skirted Hawkeye's desk and handed her his packet. She visually scanned it, but everything looked familiar. "I am sure we can find someone to help you with it Ed," Hawkeye said, reading down the fine print. Ed gave an uncertain nod that looked full of obligation to respond to her. Hawkeye glanced at this, and she could tell he was not reassured by the lackluster tone she used. She wasn't exactly sure from where or when she could manage this for him, and her voice said so.
Ed took a nervous step away from Mustang's looming office door, and Hawkeye immediately felt sympathy for the boy. In the military generals and colonels who did not like something were prone to yelling, and that included officer's not handing in their paperwork. Do you think the military has nothing to do than wipe your ass and do these forms for you soldier! Get your shit and hand it in! It was clear Ed was already thinking about what he might say if he fell into the delinquent pile and Mustang wanted to know why.
"You know what I'll do Ed?" Hawkeye asked, lifting her tone to one of optimism. She didn't want him to worry; she wanted him to feel there was help out there. It was impossible for him to complete tax forms on his own, completely ignorant to the Amestris system, and it was almost criminally unfair to penalize him.
Ed raised his eyebrows hopefully, and Hawkeye said, "I'll find a rep over in Finance to sit down with you, and explain what it means. I have a friend over in that department. Don't worry about completing your finance documents until I make the appointment, okay?" Someone had to look after the boy.
Ed's troubled look gave way to naive excitement as easily as the sun peeking out from a cloud. "I won't be late in handing them back, right?" he asked, sounding confident this wouldn't be the case.
Hawkeye extended the papers. "No," she said.
Then, ever so quickly, it happened.
Ed took a step forward to retrieve the packet back from Hawkeye and stumbled just the slightest bit. His outstretched hand went forward, past the packet he was aiming for, and directly into Hawkeye's chest.
Hawkeye felt the meager weight of Ed's momentum sink into her right breast where his palm hit, and they both froze.
Ed looked horrified when his left hand sunk into the puff of uniform missing from all male soldiers. In the half a second where they both realized what happened, and Ed's eyes became three times their size, Hawkeye reminded herself of a very important fact: Edward was just a little boy. He was too young to want boobs, and young enough to be scared silly over what he'd just done.
"Ed," Hawkeye said softly, knowing the concern he would have over his accident. Ed squeaked out a small sound, staring at his hand and the intimate part of uniform he was fisting. "It's okay." Hawkeye reassured gently. It looked like every muscle in Ed's body had gone wire hard, and his eyes were glued to her chest in shock. Kindly, Hawkeye reached to Ed's wrist to move his hand. "It's fine Ed, we-" Hawkeye stopped when Ed's fingers squeezed. Suddenly, after that moment of stone hard panic, Ed's entire fist closed in for a soft, but purposeful grope. "Ed!" Hawkeye yanked Ed's hand off and shot up from her chair.
"I-I-I-I-I-I..." Ed was stuttering. With his wrist still locked in Hawkeye's grasp, Ed looked mortified with his situation. He stepped back like a guilty child when she doubled in height. "It was-was-was," a hot blush was spreading to Ed's ears, "-was-was an accident." Ed choked, covering his own mouth with the sound of his voice. He was croaking out his words three octaves higher than usual.
"Was it?" Hawkeye asked angrily. She narrowed her gaze accusingly, and Ed gasped a small sound of protest and began nodding in a frantic head whipping motion.
Before the squeeze it was a harmless mistake, after the squeeze, Hawkeye couldn't tell if it was all planned. Ed was very smart. Even if it was an accident, she couldn't be sure Ed didn't have the courage not to take advantage of the situation.
"Hawkeye." Ed squeaked, before quickly clearing his throat. "It was an accident, just an accident." If there was one thing she wasn't going to tolerate, it was this small boy who grew to maturity in their office viewing her as a sexual icon instead of the soldier she'd worked to become. Ed gave a tug on his arm, and exhaled another sound of worry when Hawkeye kept her grip tight. "It was an accident! I swear!"
"An accident where you copped-a-feel?" Hawkeye asked angrily, pulling Ed's wrist up and walking around him. Ed was forced to follow and stumbled along awkwardly.
"I didn't cop anything! I don't know what that means!" Ed cried, before realizing they were heading toward that one very tall and intimidating door: The colonel's office. "Hawkeye!" Ed dug his heels into the ground to stop them. "We don't have to tell him!" His physical protest was nothing in comparison to her strength. "Please! I am sorry!"
Hawkeye entered Mustang's office unannounced without the slightest difficulty. Behind her, Ed skidded along on his heels, looking as petrified as if this ring leader was going to leave him with the tired, and very impatient, bear.
Mustang was in the middle of a phone call with his eyes closed looking furious. On sight of the man's angry pencil tapping, and scowling expression, Ed increased his fight. He pulled harder on his arm, grabbed Hawkeye's hand with his other, and used real strength to try and pull free. He didn't want anyone to know what had happened, least of all Mustang who would surely tease him, but Hawkeye looked too scary to cross. She wore the sharp frown Ed associated with times of true Hawkeye irritation. It came infrequently when everyone arrived late, or Havoc kept making side comments, or the colonel kept pushing things into the Out Box which really weren't completed. It had never before been directed at him!
Ed didn't want to be the source of this pinched brow, and certainly didn't want to be brought to Mustang over a subject capable of making Hawkeye, usually very nice Hawkeye, this mad! The last thing he wanted when he considered Mustang's irate critical expression, was to be brought any closer to him! Ed envisioned Mustang hanging up the phone and swallowing him whole without the slightest effort. This entire situation seemed to be moving too fast in a bad direction.
"Sir!" Hawkeye said loudly, stopping in front of Mustang's desk. Mustang opened his eyes and took one look at her, and one look at Ed, and pointed to the door telling them to leave. "I need to speak to you."
"This isn't necessary," Ed whispered, tugging on his hand. Hawkeye glanced at this action and felt a pang of compassion with Ed's desperate expression. He was simply begging to be free, and looked like he'd turn and run from them the second she let his arm go. "Please," Ed whispered quickly, darting eyes at Mustang: the man who had taken to yelling if Ed asked too many questions, or resisted what little directions he was given. "I didn't mean it Hawkeye." Ed pleaded. Hawkeye felt her anger dissolving and her resolve crumbling back toward uncertainty just when Mustang slammed the phone down.
"What the hell is it you two want? I am busy," Mustang said, sounding less than impressed with their arrival. "Today has not been the best of days," Ed choked. He was doomed.
"Sir, you need to speak to Edward about sexual harassment and its severity in the work place," Hawkeye said, dropping Ed's wrist. Ed went catatonic, staring ahead at Mustang as if he'd just been born before the man's desk. The word sexual was repeating in his mind. Sex, sexual..sex. It was the first time he'd heard a woman say it so specifically. So unabashed! He felt his blush run back to his ears, and everything felt hot. Hawkeye just said this word in the middle of the room! Loudly! To Mustang! About him!
Mustang turned to Ed with new interest, and Ed felt the impact of Mustang's eyes as powerfully as a cannon ball to his gut. Immediately he cleared his throat, and tried to fight away the blush that was cooking his face like the sun. It was impossible, and he knew he looked frazzled and embarrassed. Mustang watched Ed avert his eyes to the floor and begin tugging at the side of his coat uncomfortably. This was certainly interesting.
Hawkeye didn't elaborate any further and Mustang was silent. By all means the topic did not match Ed's short, skinny, young self.
"You can tell him why Ed," Hawkeye said, giving Mustang a heated glance before leaving. She shut the door politely behind her and Mustang began the thoughtful rock of the perplexed in his office chair. His mind could not even guess as to where this was going to go. Anything of a sexual nature just seemed to be jumping the gun with Fullmetal. The boy hadn't expressed the slightest interest in females. Like any other twelve year old he was obsessed with his own self interests, and that was alchemy.
Ed watched Hawkeye go with wide eyes before turning cautiously back to Mustang. The man picked up his pen and began clicking it absently with Ed's blush roasting his cheeks to the fullest extent possible.
Mustang gestured to one of the two chairs facing his desk with his pen. "Sit down Ed." Ed immediately obeyed, and dropped into the closest chair like a stone. "Sexual harassment is a serious clause here in the military Ed." Mustang announced loudly. Ed gave a quick nod. "Do you remember it? During your certification?"
"Yes sir, I read it," Ed said softly.
"If you're in font of my desk taking up my time over sexual harassment complaints, I imagine it didn't sink in." Ed said nothing, and Mustang realized he didn't know how to proceed without understanding what had abandoned Ed before him. Trying to determine how appropriate it was to flat out ask with Ed so young, he decided to stay basic. "Why are you in here?" Mustang asked, dropping his tone of authority for a casual tone of humored curiosity. It brought familiar respite. Ed recognized this not as a, I-am-in-trouble-tone, but a, what-do-you-need, tone. This was Mustang's tone whenever Ed arrived unrequested with juvenile questions.
With the change Ed squirmed up to the edge of his seat licking his lips. A weight seemed to have toppled off him and was replaced with a sliver of hope he could get out of this. "Okay it's like—okay what happened was, first it, I was reaching..." Mustang held up a hand to stop the rambling and pushed his chair back from his desk.
"Come here Ed," Mustang said swiveling to the side. Ed looked shocked for just a minute, and then he quickly stood and skirted Mustang's desk into the no-man's-land that only Mustang seemed to operate. Ed's expression was tense with worry. "Now, don't tell me how it happened," Mustang asked kindly, keeping his voice soft and reassuring, "Just, what happened." He wasn't blind to the fact Ed seemed overly flustered with whatever might have happened, and he found it hard to believe it would actually be something sexual in nature.
In a rushed whisper, like that of a frantic confession, and while blushing madly, Ed said, "I—I grabbed her boob."
"Her breast." Mustang corrected flatly.
Ed nodded. "Yeah, accidentally. I was reaching for something else and then I accidentally hit it."
"You accidentally grabbed her breast?" Mustang raised a questioning eyebrow of skepticism, but Ed nodded. "That's all that happened?" Mustang was shocked, and felt a smile trying to break out.
"I swear I wasn't trying to. I wasn't aiming for it, or thinking about it." Ed insisted quickly.
"Hawkeye seems to think you were." Mustang was confused with the situation. If it was a simple slip of the hand, why was Hawkeye making such a fuss? She had a soft maternal spot for Ed she didn't deny. It wasn't like her to force Ed into a situation she knew he found dreadfully uncomfortable over a mistake.
"Well that's cause, and I didn't do it on purpose, but I...we didn't move and my hand was just there, and I started thinking, well it felt kind of like a water balloon, so I squeezed down," Ed said, tone confessing all.
Mustang couldn't help it, he broke into laughter and didn't make any attempt to hide it. A water balloon, rural people were too much.
Ed immediately became confused with Mustang's laughing and stood quietly as Mustang tried to keep it to a minimum before offering a small corrective cough. "All right Ed, listen to me." Mustang sat up and slapped a hand onto Ed's shoulder. Ed was listening intently, and Mustang was glad to see Ed's blush had significantly reduced since he'd brought Ed to his side of the desk and talked to him face to face. He didn't want this to be an office conversation. Ed seemed entirely senseless when it came to anything puberty oriented, and even though he would not openly admit it, he was a bit tickled to have this sponge in his command to take his tips and worldly female knowledge. "That's fine," Mustang said. "This was an accident, and we understand accidents happen. So, now that we've had this talk, it's fine." Mustang chuckled and gave Ed's shoulder a proud squeeze. Ed looked confused, but drastically relived this entire event was moving behind him. "But if I hear of anymore water balloon incidents in the office, I will have to take it more serious."
"You won't!" Ed's blush returned.
"Good. Not in the office, but go ahead out of office, understand?" Mustang said, unable to keep his soft laughter from peppering his words. Ed was nodding with an expression of utter confusion, but with enough sense to recognize encouragement even if he didn't know what it was for. "And off the clock. Not on the clock." Mustang added. Ed gave another nod. "Good," Mustang said happily. "Then get out of here, I have things to do." Mustang lifted his hand from Ed's shoulder and gave it a tossing gesture towards the door.
Ed didn't need to hear this twice and flew for the exit. He was half way out of the main office before stopping dead. Hawkeye had his paperwork.
Hawkeye sat at her desk, smiling. She had been waiting for Mustang's meeting to end, and when Ed shot from the man's office like a bullet from a gun, she could have laughed. Ed b-lined for the door ram rod straight and then rigidly stopped dead in the office threshold. Hawkeye knew why. She had his packet, and all soldiers were supposed to get one today. It took a second for Ed to force himself to turn to her, and his troubled expression made her chuckle despite herself.
"What did he say?" Hawkeye asked. Ed was looking everywhere but at her, even as he came quickly to stand before her desk once again.
"I apologized about it," Ed said quietly. Ed extended a shaky hand for the report, and Hawkeye gave it to him but held her end tight. Ed had avoided the question. Ed gave a single tug on the packet and exhaled a sigh of surrender when she held tight. Cautiously he lifted his eyes to her and relaxed a bit when she smiled. "He said not in office, only outside of it."
Hawkeye nodded. "Good." She let the papers go and Ed took them quickly. "Still friends?"
Ed's face buckled for a moment, before he forced his worried expression away and recovered. "Yeah," he muttered. "Sorry about that." He resumed his confidence quickly. His eyes gained focus and he gave her a short smile. "Will you still call Finance?"
"Yes, I'll give you a call when I get in touch with them, okay?" Hawkeye asked. Ed nodded again, before inching a step back to depart. "Have a nice night Fullmetal." Ed disappeared with a short wave, and Hawkeye returned to the growing addition problem she was building.
She was just pulling the cost of standard 223 bullets when Mustang's words, which she'd accepted quickly when Ed reported them, suddenly hit home, and she stood and marched back to Mustang's office.
Mustang was waiting for her.
With his hands locked before his face grinning like a mad man, he nearly giggled when she finally arrived. Hawkeye understood, the moment she laid eyes on Mustang's ever-so-pleased self, she hadn't misinterpreted what Ed said.
"Sir," Hawkeye began, with a tone of exhaustion. Mustang broke a short quiet laugh. "Did you tell him it was okay out of the office?" Mustang broke out laughing a composed jovial chuckle, and tipped his forehead to rest on his linked hands. "Sir!" Hawkeye shut the door behind her and walked to his desk.
"He has no idea what I meant," Mustang said, waving at the air before his face as if to brush any accusations away. "He told me, I touched her boob." Mustang found this hysterical, and kept his ear to ear grin as he spoke.
"He said boob?" Hawkeye asked, with disappointment. Was that the word young boys new these days?
"Honestly Hawkeye, don't you think that was a bit much for a twelve year old who is probably on his way home to wash the boob-cooties off his hand?" Mustang asked, giving a final chuckle before dropping his gaze back to his desk and returning to work. Nearly stoic again he flipped through a few pages and lifted his pen.
Hawkeye considered this question. "At first yes, then he squeezed, and I thought to myself, where did he get an idea like that?" Mustang returned to laughter. The man had managed only a single penned sentence when he had to stop and lean his face into his hand. Suddenly the decision to bring Ed into this office for scolding did not seem wise, and Hawkeye couldn't help but shake a feeling of sabotage. "You're a bad influence," she said dryly, tone not the least bit harsh. "I can't believe I brought him in here to begin with." Mustang looked up and gave a soft teasing shrug as if to suggest his innocence.
"Yes well," he said, managing to keep his laughter in control. "In my defense, I did tell him to refer to them as breasts."
Hawkeye was not impressed.
Thank you so much for reading! (Happy early Thanksgiving everyone!) I hope you enjoyed it! That piece was a little old, but hopefully still a cute read.
Please try and leave a review if you can! (What was your favorite part? When do you think Ed will figure out Mustang's guidance? Lol)
I am continuing down my calendar! Upcoming work will always be listed on my profile, but I am again posting my activity until 2013. Woo!
11/30/12 – FMA: One shot: Hazing
12/14/12 – OHSHC: One shot: Smoking Is For Poor People
12/24/12 – FMA: One shot: Christmas
01/01/13 – FMA: Completed Multi-Chapter Story: The Silent Heart