Story Title: Otherwise
Setting/Time-frame: Original anime. Begins just after the mess with Nina and Barry the Chopper, when Ed is thirteen. Ends at the end of the anime.
Rating/Warnings: T, for swearing.
Summary: Ed needs to vent his anger without it looking like he's venting, per se, and Havoc's just the sort of person to let him do it. Through a series of lessons both in and out of the firing range, Havoc learns a thing or two about the Fullmetal Alchemist. Friendship fic.
Disclaimer: I do not own Fullmetal Alchemist in any way, shape, or form, nor do I profit off of this work.
A note on guns: I'm not really sure if an indoor military shooting range is too advanced for the time period in which FMA is set, but let's pretend, shall we? Also, while do I have a bare minimum of knowledge about guns, I know little about shooting ranges or period guns (though I do know which end of a gun should not be pointed at me), so please don't flame me for being clueless. On the other hand, feel free to correct me or let me know if I've said something wrong, or if you just feel like showing off your knowledge of the any of above subjects. (Hey, I like to learn, and a free lesson would be welcomed.)
If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired. Otherwise, don't put it there.
Havoc was drenched by the time he walked ten paces. The rain plastered his hair to his forehead and instantly extinguished his cigarette. Really, he could have just waited for the bus to come in half an hour, but the firing range was only a few minutes' walk from Headquarters, and he didn't particularly feel like sitting around.
He'd been bound to his chair all day, and it had been a long one. Worse, tomorrow would be a grand ceremony for some of the newly-promoted officers, and it would include scheduled activities such as standing in place for hours, marching in formation, and other wonderful, formal events that Havoc so dearly looked forward to. And while he usually didn't mind having Lieutenant Hawkeye as a superior officer, right now it meant that the entire day had been spent cramming in two days of paperwork at once to ensure that the entire office was on schedule.
Throwing his useless cigarette to the ground, he rubbed the back of his head in irritation. The stupid autumn storm just topped it all, he thought to himself as he hurried on. A streak of bad luck, then.
The military's shooting range came into view as he turned a corner. The indoor range was a large building, with enough lights blazing from the windows that it looked like a safe haven from the dark evening rain. He could practically smell the gunpowder already, and it was comforting and familiar thing.
A dark shape shifted slightly against the side of the building as he approached. Pausing to stare, he noticed that the light from a window above just barely skimmed something golden. He suddenly had the sinking feeling that he knew what the shape was.
"Boss?" he called out uncertainly.
It was. Havoc drew closer. The Fullmetal Alchemist sat on a wooden crate just below the window, half hidden by stacks of barrels and boxes, his knees pulled close to his chest and hands wrapped around them. His face was buried in his arms, possibly to shield himself from the pouring rain, though the window awning had done a decent job of keeping the area dry. Light from the window shone on a part of his hair. He didn't move when Havoc spoke, and the lieutenant thought he must be asleep.
"Boss?" He asked again with a sigh, reaching down to shake the kid's shoulder.
"Go away," a muffled voice said, and Havoc's hand stopped in mid-air.
Havoc paused. "Hey. What's going on? Why are you—?"
"It's nothing," Edward said, head still buried in his arms. "Go away."
A streak of bad luck, indeed. Havoc was, in his own opinion, perhaps the worst-equipped person to deal with emotional people, especially when these people were moody, prepubescent thirteen-year-olds. After a moment's debate, though, Havoc decided that it would probably be mean to just leave the kid there alone, and he resigned himself to fumbling through some sort of cheer-up speech.
What was worse, this probably had something to do with the young alchemist's most recent traumas. He, Havoc, hadn't known much about what had happened to Nina Tucker, except that it had fallen to him to order Edward to continue Tucker's research, which Ed had childishly taken exception to. Nor had Havoc been present later when Hughes rescued Edward from Barry the Chopper. Both of the Elric brothers had been a mess afterward, and Havoc got the feeling that Edward wouldn't want to talk about that. Not with someone he barely knew.
How the hell am I supposed to…?
Oh. Also, Edward had for some reason chosen to huddle against the side of a building in the middle of a rainstorm instead of staying in his dorm with his brother, which meant that whatever this was, it was something even Alphonse couldn't handle. And the problem had just fallen into Havoc's lap. Things were looking better and better. Havoc figured his own chances of getting the story out of Ed were about the same as the chances of him getting a date when Mustang was in the same room.
He realized with a jolt that he'd been staring, and that the alchemist had raised his head enough to glare at Havoc through narrowed golden eyes.
"You know, Edward," he said, thinking quickly as the alchemist buried his head in his arms once more, "whenever I'm having trouble, it helps me to come out and shoot a few rounds. Takes my mind off things."
"Go away, Havoc," Ed says, and though it was muffled by his arms, Havoc could hear the embarrassment in his voice.
"Look, Boss, I'm not gonna ask you any questions. I just know it sucks having too much to worry about at once. It might help you to take a breather and do something different."
There was no response except the tightening of Ed's fists. A few drops of water trickled from Havoc's face and dripped onto Ed's arms; though Ed was mostly dry from the awning, Havoc was still getting drenched.
The second lieutenant sighed, deciding that there really wasn't anything he could do. Were all alchemists this stubborn, or just the ones he knew? "Alright," he said finally, "I'll leave you alone. But I'll be in the range if you change your mind."
He drew his jacket closer as he abandoned Ed to his thoughts, though he had the feeling the alchemist would probably stay in his.
When Ed ended up in his lane an hour later—God only knew why—Havoc recovered quickly from his surprise. The golden-haired alchemist approached him with his arms folded, grimacing as though daring Havoc to say something.
Havoc wisely decided to keep to his "ask no questions" statement, beckoning the kid over and tossing him a pair of spare ear protectors and an eye shield. The alchemist took the gear gingerly but left it off, following the lieutenant's movements with a blank face. Havoc began to explain without preamble.
"Alright, then, Boss. Before we get a gun into your hands, we'll have to talk about gun safety. Seems obvious, but you have to keep a gun pointed in a safe direction no matter what, so that if it were to go off no one would be hurt. Here, that's downrange." He gestured to his own handgun before noticing that Ed was glaring.
"I know that. You don't have to treat me like a kid," he grumbled tersely.
"I'm not,Boss," Havoc retorted patiently. "We have to tell everybody this. There are tons people who don't realize you shouldn't sweep the muzzle over anyone else, even for a second. Just a couple days ago, a recruit accidentally shot the bench behind him."
Ed looked slightly mollified. "You're making that up."
"I'm not. You'd be surprised to find out how many people have no sense when it comes to guns. Safety is nothing to ignore." He exhaled slowly, wondering if Ed was going to be this touchy the whole time. "Next: you always keep your finger off the trigger until you're ready to shoot. Until you've identified your threat…"
The rest of the lesson went more smoothly. Havoc walked the alchemist through the basics, demonstrating how to load the gun and the proper hand positions. The lieutenant began to feel more and more comfortable—guns, after all, were his element, no matter the student—and even Ed loosened up, interjecting here or there with questions that gradually became less defensive.
When it was finally time for Ed to try it out, the alchemist had lost all signs of indifference and carefully took the gun from Havoc. He even tolerated another reminder on where to place his hands, and a bit of backseat shooting.
"Don't forget to line up the sights," Havoc cautioned again, watching as the alchemist's face grew determined and serious. Ed closed one eye and paused for a few seconds, moving his arm and the gun to find a comfortable position before firing once and hitting the target much too far to the left. Havoc was impressed that he had hit it so closely at all, though he didn't say so.
Edward was staring straight at the target. The recoil had obviously jolted him a little, even in spite of Havoc's warnings, but his stance was still steady. The alchemist looked faintly surprised.
"Remember you don't have to reload the handguns, so you're good for another few rounds."
The alchemist wordlessly nodded, paused, and shot again, this time hitting a sliver closer. "Not bad," Havoc said, and though Edward didn't look his way, he gave a rare smile. "Feels pretty good, doesn't it?"
Ed didn't answer right away, taking a second to aim again. "Yeah. I can see why you come out here."
They were silent for a while, as Ed took his time shooting off the remaining rounds, careful to line up the sights and to make sure his hands and arms were positioned correctly. His aim hadn't improved by much, but Havoc could almost see the wheels turning in the alchemist's head. As he fired his last shot, he lowered the gun, being careful to keep it pointing downrange, and looked at Havoc.
"Hey, Havoc," he said quietly. "Would you mind if I…?"
Havoc grinned. "If you can load the magazine like I showed you, you can keep going." The alchemist shot him a grateful look, cautiously removing the magazine and inserting a new one, tugging on it to make sure it was in place. He took aim slowly and deliberately, and Havoc settled comfortably onto his chair with the feeling that they might be there a while.
The lanes began to clear out around nine-thirty, not that they'd been particularly busy in the first place. After careful surveillance just to be sure that the alchemist wasn't going to accidentally shoot himself, Havoc had set himself up in the lane next to Ed's with another of his guns, and for the majority of the evening the only sound had been the thrum of gunshots. The silence had settled into a strange sort of comfort punctuated every now and then by questions from Edward or advice from Havoc.
The lieutenant was relieved—if a little surprised—that Ed had warmed up to it so easily. Though the lesson probably hadn't solved Ed's problem, at the very least it might have helped somehow.
The Fullmetal Alchemist had reverted back to the kid Havoc was used to, one who grimaced good-naturedly when Havoc teased him about his bad aim and instantly retorted that Havoc was just being a show-off.
"You're thinking too much," Havoc said after watching Ed stare at the target through the sights for a few moments. "Just shoot."
"Can't help it," Ed said, though he fired anyway. The shot was too low. "I'm a scientist. It's what I do. Besides," he said, lowering his gun and looking at Havoc, "isn't it better to aim carefully?"
"Of course. Just not that carefully. You're second-guessing yourself too much. Sometimes when you make too many calculations and adjustments and then readjustments, it almost becomes harder than if you just aim and take your chances."
Ed nodded thoughtfully and raised his gun without a word. After a short glance through the sights, he let loose a single shot.
Sometime before ten, Ed shot his first bull's-eye. Havoc watched as Ed let out a whoop of joy, raising both of his arms in triumph. Gun included. The lieutenant raised a single eyebrow at him, and the alchemist immediately lowered his hands. "Sorry," he said sheepishly.
"Now you see why we need those safety lessons," Havoc said, though his lips quirked upwards a bit to show he was just teasing.
Havoc raised his gun again. "Nice shot, by the way," he said, as an afterthought. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Ed open his mouth to speak, but Havoc fired three shots in a row, all bull's-eyes.
He pretended not to see Ed stick his tongue out.
At ten-twenty, Havoc stopped Ed to clean out the handguns for the day. He demonstrated the proper cleaning procedures and which part of the gun worked in which ways, and Ed paid attention with no small degree of interest. By ten-thirty—closing time—they were waving goodbye to Range Master Kennick, who to Havoc's relief had said nothing about the young alchemist's presence. As they stepped out into the night, cool air wafted around them, clearing the scent of gunpowder away.
"I'll walk you home," Havoc said.
"I'm fine. And it's only a five-minute walk," Ed replied with a roll of his eyes, though he didn't look particularly displeased.
"I meant I have to walk you home, Boss," Havoc laughed. "My place is just past Headquarters, and the dorms are on the way."
They started toward the dorms, listening to the crickets chirping and smelling the leftover scent of rain. Fumbling around in his pocket for a cigarette, Havoc dimly wondered whether Alphonse would be worried about his brother.
"Thanks, by the way," Ed said, carefully not looking at the lieutenant.
Havoc straightened. "No problem." He lit his cigarette, inhaling deeply and letting the smoke furrow around him in comforting rolls. There was silence for a few moments as he began to deliberate internally. Settling on one option with a sigh, he began, "Boss? I know I said no questions about…earlier, but is there anything we should be worrying about?"
There was a pause. "Nah," Ed said, throwing his head back to look up at the sky. The moon was nothing but a soft white glow behind the clouds. "I'm fine." The lieutenant doubted this, but he kept his silence. There was no point in pushing his luck.
They arrived at the dorms a few minutes later, and Ed's eyes immediately fixed themselves on an upstairs window, one of the few with lights still shining inside. The kid opened his mouth once and then closed it, as though trying to decide what to say. Finally, he settled on, "Is there any chance that I could do this again sometime? Maybe when you go to the range again?"
Havoc was momentarily taken aback, but he nodded, watching Ed glance toward the window and back. "Come by anytime. I'm almost always there in the evenings."
"Thanks, Havoc," the alchemist said before heading off without another word, no doubt reciting in his mind whatever he was going to say to his little brother. He shot an unreadable look over his shoulder at the lieutenant before he disappeared.
Havoc discreetly brushed sweat from his brow, acutely aware of his own discomfort, and gloomily wished that everyone else had to suffer as well, notably the missing Fullmetal Alchemist. Misery loved company, after all, and there were few things in the world that could make Havoc miserable like standing in the hot sun for hours to listen to the Fuhrer ramble about something that was no doubt meant to be inspiring. Havoc was as loyal to the military as the next officer, but it wouldn't hurt if the state decided to be a little less flashy every now and then.
How'd the boss get out of this one, anyway? Havoc wondered. Officially, at least, Mustang had deemed Ed too young for many of the military's functions, but as Havoc was daydreaming he preferred to think it was because no one, even the legendary Flame Alchemist, could ever manage to wrangle Ed into a military uniform.
Many crisp salutes, polite bursts of applause, and thank-you speeches later, the ceremony finally ended with a dramatic march and flourish. Havoc finally checked out for the day in the office, saluting his commanding officer and waving the others off when he was invited to go for out drinks tonight. Though spending time with his buddies wouldn't normally have been so bad, Havoc was in the mood for more activity this evening.
He reached the range a little before sundown; it was much more crowded today than it had been the day before. Havoc got a lane to one side today, donning his protective gear and getting off his first few shots in what seemed like record time.
It wasn't been long at all before Havoc realized that Ed had arrived. The alchemist was pressed against the observation window, lazily watching Havoc and the other officers. Havoc, who had half-expected this, gestured for him to come inside and met him at the door with protective gear.
"You could have knocked or something," he said without introduction as he rummaged around for his magazines.
"I was alright watching," the alchemist said. "Besides," he added sheepishly, "I almost forgot you could hear with these on." He gestured to the protective earmuffs.
"Yeah," Havoc said as he lay down a handgun and ammunition in the lane next to his "They've got some sort of special cushion…or something."
Ed rolled his eyes. "They only amplify low decibel sounds, but they dull sounds with higher decibels, like gunshots."
"That's what I said, boss." Havoc grinned as Ed donned the gear and carefully set up the handgun. For a few minutes, Havoc watched him again—just to be sure he wasn't about to blow off his own fingers or anything—and was unsurprised to find that Ed was pretty competent already, even for someone who had only been at it for a little while. Maybe it's a scientist thing, Havoc mused as he returned to his own practice.
A few shots later, he was interrupted again. "Hey, Havoc?"
"Didn't Mustang tell you I wasn't supposed to use a gun or anything?"
"No. Why? That what he told you?"
"Never said anything about it to me. I never asked."
"Alright. Let's keep it that way, then."
Ed got off another few shots before he asked, "Why are you teaching me, anyway? Aren't you supposed to run everything by him first?" He hesitated. "Not that I'm complaining."
The lieutenant paused, for all intents appearing as though he were lining up the sights. He was a little thrown by the question. "It's the kind of thing that might come in handy someday, I guess," he said, getting off another bull's-eye. "You might be a kid, but you are in the military now. And I've never seen any harm in kids learning to shoot. I was raised around guns my whole life." He stopped to load another magazine into the gun, watching as Ed aimed deliberately, taking at least a bit less time to analyze everything than he had the day before.
"Do you think he'd be pissed if he found out you were teaching me?"
Ed smirked. "Perfect."
Havoc laughed. "Not because it's against the rules though, but just because he hates being kept out of the loop. He's not a huge fan of secrets," Havoc said wryly, "especially ones he's not privy to."
"Well, what Colonel Bastard doesn't know won't hurt him."
"What's your family like, anyway?" Ed asked one day out of the blue. It was four weeks later, and he sat in Havoc's chair, which squeaked noisily as he spun in lazy circles with his head tilted back. Havoc and Breda were both busy fingering through papers in a filing cabinet in the search for a rather elusive document on field mission funding.
The golden-haired alchemist had come in to report to his superior, who, along with Hawkeye, had been delayed in a meeting of some sort. Normally, the remaining officers would have slacked off under the total lack of supervision, but Hawkeye had given them all The Look, and none of them were willing to take chances. Ed could have left, but he had decided to stay, probably out of boredom and, as he put it, "to annoy Havoc until something interesting happens."
Alphonse, apparently, was out grocery shopping or something equally mundane. Much more likely (in Havoc's opinion), he had become so fed up with his brother that he had sent the older alchemist here so the military, instead of Al, would have to deal with him.
"Why do you ask?"
"Curious." Havoc shot him a suspicious glance, and Ed grinned cheekily before laughing. "No, really. I'm curious. You said you grew up around guns, so I was wondering what kind of people they are." He spun the chair again, and its squeak was just as obnoxious as it had been the first time. Havoc saw Fuery wince out of the corner of his eye.
"Stop with the chair, Boss," Havoc warned for the twentieth time.
Ed obeyed. "You have to entertain me, because I'm bored out of my mind."
How was it possible that someone with the brains of the Fullmetal Alchemist could be so obnoxious when he wanted to? Havoc sometimes had to remind himself that the kid was just thirteen, but today he had no trouble believing it.
The lieutenant sighed, removing the cigarette from his mouth and blowing out smoke. "My dad loved hunting, that's why I grew up around guns." He said shortly before swearing, replacing the cigarette, and tearing open the next drawer to rifle through papers furiously.
Ed stared at him thoughtfully. "Wow. That story sucked. You're not very good at this."
"I don't exactly have time to be telling stories now." He slammed another drawer shut to punctuate his sentence.
"It doesn't have to be long, Havoc," Ed chirped. "Just longer than a sentence."
"Have you gotten more annoying since yesterday? Is that possible?"
"I make it my mission to become more annoying."
"You're doing a fantastic job."
Fuery and Falman were holding a quiet conversation in the back, and their murmurs drifted about the room. The only other noise came from the dull sound of birds and traffic outside. Ed began to spin his chair again.
Breda glared at Havoc, who sighed again and paused in his search for the document. "Boss, would you stop?"
Ed did not stop.
"Look. I have a good family. Three brothers. Two older, one younger. My dad hunted and taught all of us everything he knew about guns. I'm the only one who ended up in the military, and I got moved here. They live in West City."
The alchemist had stopped spinning the chair. "Better. Even though it was still short. You're usually a better storyteller, Havoc." He paused. "Do you keep in touch?"
"Yep. I see them for birthdays, holidays…you know." Havoc glanced at Ed. "Boss, Mustang will probably take a while. I'm sure you can go."
"Sounds like you're trying to get rid of me."
"What makes you say that?"
Ed leaned back in the chair and grew silent. Havoc watched him for a few minutes in annoyance, but Ed did not move. The lieutenant decided that it might be possible to leave him alone for a bit, and he yanked open another drawer.
"I'm bored," Ed said to no one in particular. The office in general ignored him, and the room became blissfully quiet again for a few more minutes, permeated by the tune of shifting papers and opening cabinets.
"These papers are from last year!" Breda shouted suddenly. Havoc and Ed both looked up, startled. "I've been sorting through them for almost two hours, and they're all from last year!" He dropped the box on the floor and glared as though all his problems were its fault.
"Why do you even havethem in here, then? You don't need them, do you?" Ed said offhandedly.
"No." Breda said with a growl.
"I mean, do they have any use, or can you throw them away?"
"They should have been thrown out last year! I wasted an entire two hours looking through them." He kicked the box with a growl and sat bodily on his chair.
"You should burn them or something," Ed said, seeming interested all of a sudden. "Isn't that what Mustang does whenever he's irritated?"
Breda looked at Ed as though seeing him for the first time. "I should," he said. To Havoc's surprise, he then seized the box of papers and threw open the window. After an almost unnoticeable hesitation, he dumped the entire contents of the container outside.
As luck would have it, Mustang and Hawkeye had chosen that particular moment to return from the meeting. Breda froze in the window, glancing warily at Hawkeye before looking down at the box. He hurriedly pulled it inside and closed the window. "Uh—this isn't—"
Hawkeye cocked her gun, and Ed quietly backed toward the door.
See you at the range, he mouthed to Havoc, grinning as he slipped out of the room without giving his oral report.
What a sneak, Havoc thought, amused in spite of himself.
Somewhere over the next few months, Havoc learned to tell what mood Ed was in by how much he spoke to the lieutenant. Most notably, an anxious or angry Ed had flawless concentration, deliberately massacred his target, and spoke very little.
It was only after shooting for a while that Ed broke the silence, and the kid wasn't too bad to hang around with then. Havoc was surprised at how easily he could swap stories with the kid (who seemed to have been on more field missions in a few short months than Havoc had seen in the past year), and Ed listened to Havoc's whining about the problems of the day with much more patience than the lieutenant had ever thought he could muster.
What was more, the alchemist was much funnier than Havoc had known before, though this was probably unintentional on Ed's part. Ed was incredibly sensitive about his height and his youth, and reacted instantly to any comment that the lieutenant posed. Oddly enough, at some point, Ed started taking the comments more lightly. Havoc didn't understand this at first, but after observing Ed and Al in the office one day, he realized that Ed did the same with his brother, allowing Al to tease him a little more than the blonde alchemist would allow others. The lieutenant wasn't exactly sure what to make of that.
One Sunday evening, after Ed had finally cooled off enough to begin teasing Havoc about a bet the lieutenant had lost against Breda, Havoc voiced the question that had been floating around in his mind for a while.
"Where's Al whenever you come here?" He had lowered his gun to watch the alchemist aim. "You guys are usually inseparable."
Ed didn't answer right away. He took his time aiming and hit a little closer to the center than usual. "He stays in the dorms." Havoc didn't respond. He had the feeling that Ed would add more if he let him, and he wasn't disappointed. "It's just that I'm always…tense before I come here. I'd rather him stay away, so I'm not always taking it out on him and getting mad at him for things that aren't his fault."
Havoc didn't know what to say to that, so he turned back to his own target instead.
Havoc packed his bag very carefully and headed for the door, ignoring the expression Edward was giving him. It was as close to puppy dog eyes as the alchemist ever got, a wide, golden-eyed look with a little frown.
"C'mon, Boss," Havoc scowled as Ed trailed behind him. "I already told you I can't."
"Yeah, but that was before I told you that Al and I ship out for Monmort tomorrow and we won't be back for a couple weeks."
"It doesn't matter. I'm not backing out."
"She's just some girl, and besides, you go on dates all the time and never get anywhere. Let's just go to the range—you know Range Master Kennick won't let me in by myself."
Havoc rubbed a hand over his face to recover from that first sentence. "Boss, you know you're usually supposed to flatter people, not insult them, when you're asking a favor, right?"
"So I'm supposed to lie and say you're really some suave ladies' man or something? Trust me, I'm doing the favor. No one needs you to be any more like Mustang. We only need one skirt chaser around here," Ed sniffed.
"Yeah, you'd know all about it, Boss," Havoc said sarcastically. He supposed he shouldn't really have expected Ed to understand the importance of this chance, of one girl—a cute redheaded undersecretary—that Mustang had not yet managed to snatch away. "I'm gonna take the chance while I can," he said firmly as the pair of them stepped outside into the cool evening air.
"Ugh. Suit yourself," Ed said, rolling his eyes. "Maybe you'll luck out and find someone nice. Like Mrs. Hughes," he added, smiling fondly. "She's a saint for putting up with Hughes. You just need someone who can do that for you."
"Advice from a thirteen-year-old," Havoc laughed. "Just what I need."
"Alright, I'll take my advice and leave. You go right ahead and do…whatever it is you do."
"I will, thanks." He turned to leave, pulling his jacket closer against the cold, when something made him turn around. "Hey, Boss," he called, and Ed looked over his shoulder at him. "Take care."
"Yeah." Ed raised a hand to wave. "See you at the range."
The blonde alchemist was notably absent for nearly two months afterward. Havoc had not been given details of the field mission, and there was no telling when he would return. He wasn't quite willing to admit how much he missed the kid's sporadic visits.
Ed returned on a bright midwinter afternoon. Havoc walked to the range again after a long day's work, and was surprised to find him sitting on the steps to the building, apparently waiting for him. The alchemist rose as Havoc approached.
"Hoped you'd be here," Ed said shortly. He was the worse for wear, Havoc thought as he looked him up and down. There was a cut on his left cheek that led down to his jaw, and his neck was bruised heavily—were those handprints? It looked as though someone had tried to strangle him.
"Holy shit, Boss," Havoc croaked. "What the hell happened?"
"Long story," Ed answered tersely. "Don't want to talk about it." He paused for a moment before adding, "Don't worry. You should see the other guys."
"The other guys?" Havoc asked before he could stop himself.
"Yeah. Wasn't a big deal." Ed made an obvious step toward the range as though willing Havoc to follow him. The lieutenant did, after a moment's hesitation. "I can take care of myself, you know," the alchemist added.
"I know, it's just…" Havoc paused.
"What?" Ed pinned him with a glare. Funny how he looked like Hawkeye sometimes when he did that.
Well. Maybe Havoc didn't want to get into this one. "It's just that you're so small," he teased instead.
"Who are you calling so short he couldn't move a grain of rice?" The alchemist shouted, though he punched Havoc on the shoulder good-naturedly. Havoc pretended to rub his shoulder in pain, but at least this time Ed had thought to punch with his flesh arm.
"Hawkeye says my aim might get better if I imagine that the target is a real person."
"Shit, boss, what'd you tell her for?" Havoc grumbled, already imagining the multitude of ways she could punish him for not going through the proper legal channels for gun training without making it obvious that she was doing so.
"I didn't. She brought it up."
"'Course she did," Havoc said with a sigh. The woman was uncanny. There were some days when he felt lucky she was on their side. Most of the time.
"You're just as scared of her as Mustang is, aren't you?" Ed snickered. They had temporarily moved from handguns to rifles two days prior, and it was still taking Ed a while to get used to the motions of cleaning the gun. He was being rough with the cleaning rod, but he slowed his movements when he caught Havoc's raised eyebrows.
"Not scared, boss," he clarified. "Wary."
Ed snorted and said something that sounded suspiciously like, "Call it whatever you want."
Havoc wordlessly handed him the oil, watching closely to see that Ed remembered the steps correctly. "Don't forget to grease trigger."
"Got it," he said, using a small paintbrush to reach the tighter places. The sun was shining just enough to keep the winter chill at bay, and the pair of them had taken advantage of the unusual warmth to sit outside at a table just behind the indoor range. Havoc worked on his cigarette as his young friend cleaned, alternating between keeping an eye on Ed's progress and watching a few officers practice with moving targets in the tall grass farther off.
"Do you?" Ed asked.
"Pretend your target is a real person."
Havoc's gaze drifted lazily back to the alchemist. "No," he said finally.
When he didn't respond, Ed stopped cleaning the gun to stare back at him questioningly. "Why not?"
Havoc hummed, stringing his thoughts together. "I'm not saying there's anything wrong with that. There are paper targets with outlines of bodies on them—you've seen them," he said. Ed nodded, doubtless having noted that Havoc, like a handful of other officers, preferred plain, circular targets instead. "I don't dwell on the idea of shooting people," he continued, tapping the cigarette butt away, "and I don't want to automatically shoot at someone's vital points when I'm in the field. We're taught to shoot defensively. 'Shoot to stop, not to kill.' It's easier to think like that if I'm choosing where to aim by myself."
The alchemist nodded thoughtfully and went back to the rifle. "So…" he began after a minute, "so what about when you do have to kill someone? When that's the only way to stop them?"
"Then I have to kill them."
"That's it," Havoc agreed. The alchemist was frowning. "Sometimes we have to, Ed," Havoc said gently, unsure himself whether or not that "we" included Ed or just the military in general. "Sometimes we have to because there's no other choice. Sometimes they might hurt someone otherwise, or it's them or us…" he trailed off, feeling like he was much more familiar with this subject than he was willing to admit.
Mustang might have been the one who usually got the most flack for his part in the war, but they had all seen their fair share of horrible orders, had all been sent into situations where they shot driven by fear for their lives and the lives of their companions, had killed people they wish they hadn't had to, even kids no older than Ed.
At the look on Havoc's face, Ed wisely changed the subject.
Words were falling from the mouth of Edward Elric that Havoc hadn't even known he knew. Curses like a sailor, he thought dimly.
"Don't you dare, Havoc," Edward was shouting fiercely as he twirled the cloth around Havoc's leg with nimble fingers. "If you even think about passing out, I'll—" here he mentioned a few painful things that could be done to sensitive parts of the body, and Havoc winced.
"'m fine, Boss."
"How are you fine!?" Ed asked, sounding more panicked than angry now.
There was probably a fair amount of blood at this point. Also, Havoc's head was almost certainly bruised, if the throbbing was any indication.
"Havoc?" Ed shook him suddenly. "Don't—open your eyes. Say something."
Havoc obeyed, blinking to clear his vision. Ed stared at him worriedly, and Havoc gave a faint chuckle. "So much for a simple stakeout, huh Boss?" He hadn't been entirely sure what Mustang was thinking by pairing Havoc with the Elric brothers on this one, but he realized that Ed might not have taken anyone else as a bodyguard quite so calmly. All they were meant to do was to keep an eye on a possible rogue state alchemist, figure out what he was up to, if possible, and report back with no harm done. Well, what the alchemist was up to was in fact the creation of various alchemical bombs, and they'd only figured it out because the side of the building exploded when alchemist made his exit.
"It was," Ed growled. "We did all the hard work." That part was true. Al was currently restraining the rogue a few feet away, watching them with those quiet, observant eyes. All Havoc had to offer were bruises from being thrown into the wall and a deep cut in his leg from the shrapnel.
"Brother, do you think it's an artery?" Al said quietly.
"I don't know, it might be Al," Ed murmured, pressing more firmly on the makeshift bandages. Havoc winced, peering down at his leg. He wasn't sure whether there was so much red because of the blood or because the bandages were a piece of Ed's coat. "It'll be fine though, as long as that bastard gets here soon."
"Maybe I can try the payphone again to tell them to use the west side of the building. There's too much rubble over here."
"I don't know if it'll help if they've already left…"
Havoc faded out, dimly aware of further conversation but unable to make out what was said. After some stretch of time, when he felt he couldn't stay awake any longer, the noise of sirens jolted him enough for him to open his eyes again.
Hands helped him up, and there was the rumble of Mustang's voice from his side. "…looking the worse for wear." He made out.
"We'll get him…" was that Hughes? They'd really sent everyone out here, hadn't they?
And then he was inside the van. The voices faded in and out, but one demanded to be heard.
"Promise you'll be okay?" Ed was leaning over him, and someone was muttering something from behind. Ed probably knew Havoc couldn't say that for certain. Or maybe he didn't. He was fourteen now, sure, but he was still just a kid.
Havoc knew what you were supposed to say to that anyway, and he managed to force the words out of his mouth. "'Course I will."
"Can't believe that's all," Ed muttered, staring at Havoc's bandaged leg. "After all that, you really got off clean."
"Hey, I can't even use my leg for a while," Havoc protested.
"Sure, but I thought you were dying or something."
"Sorry to disappoint. If it's any consolation, I'm here doing paperwork, and it feels almost the same as dying."
Edward just scowled in response. It was late afternoon and the sun was just beginning to glow golden through the office window. Havoc wasn't sure why Ed was here at all when it looked like that outside. Not that he minded: the others had eventually trailed home, but Havoc was catching up from a week unconscious at the hospital.
"Do you get tired of these?" Ed asked, playing with the crutches. He put them under his arms, wobbled, and caught himself.
"They're too tall for you, Boss," Havoc said absently as he skimmed through another expense report. He pretended not to hear Ed grumble something nasty under his breath as he adjusted the height. "They're a bit annoying, though. Take some getting used to."
It was true. The crutches were odd extensions of his arms that sometimes made him feel as awkward as a newborn bird. He glanced toward the aisle, where Ed was trying to see how far he could jump with the crutches. The alchemist was much better at this than Havoc had been when he'd first gotten them. It might have been because Ed was a scientist or a child prodigy or whatever they were calling him these days, but a flash of metal from under his sleeve reminded Havoc that Ed had every reason to be used to using foreign tools in his daily life.
Havoc paused, then added carefully, "But I guess you'd know about that."
Ed looked up slowly, realizing what Havoc's questioning gaze meant. "Yeah, well, automail's different," he said bluntly. "If I don't think about it too much, I can forget that it's not a part of me, and it even comes in handy sometimes. And besides, Winry makes the best stuff, so I can do almost anything I could do with my normal arm and leg. It's just sometimes when I can't that I remember."
Havoc hmmed. "Doesn't it hurt sometimes?"
"Sometimes," he admitted. "Because my body is still growing around the ports. And when it gets too hot or cold, or…well, it depends. But I can deal with that. It's Al who's got it the worst. That's why we're doing all this in the first place."
Havoc wasn't sure that Al would agree with that statement, but he let it slide. "Getting any closer?"
"Not since last time you asked," Ed said shortly.
Time to move on. "Anyway, speaking of Al, I haven't seen either of you I woke up."
"Mustang had us helping with some of the cleanup," Ed explained, setting the crutches against the side of the desk. "That guy had a shit ton of alchemical traps, arrays set to go off if you touched them, stuff like that. Barely had half a second free, and I wouldn't have wasted it to come see you sleeping." He sniffed airily, though the corners of his mouth twitched upwards.
"I dunno," Havoc said with a smirk, setting his papers down. "Breda told me you came to visit while I was out. Couple times."
Ed made a face. "What a snitch. Anyway, guess I just wanted to make sure you were still breathing and all. When they took you in, you looked like you were gonna kick the bucket at any time."
"Nah. Just nicked a major artery, no big deal. Barely flinched."
The alchemist looked amused. "You're full of shit, Havoc."
By the time autumn returned to Central, Havoc found that they regularly had to move the targets back to a distance of twenty-five yards in order to challenge the blonde alchemist.
"Not bad," Havoc said, impressed, though he tempered it with: "It only took you two years to get this far."
"Shut up, Havoc," Ed grinned, though he looked pleased. Considering that he was rarely in Central for target practice, it was something of an accomplishment.
"Maybe you should start taking it with you, boss." Havoc said gently as Ed held out the unloaded handgun at the end of one of their sessions.
The alchemist shook his head firmly. "No. I'd never use it."
"You say that now. But one day, you might need it."
"Even the chief uses his gun sometimes…" Havoc trailed off as he realized that it was a bad argument, because—
"Mustang's useless if his gloves are wet," Ed snorted.
"You know what I mean, boss," Havoc sighed, exasperated. He hadn't moved to take the gun, and Ed hadn't moved to drop his arm. "What if you're ever put in a situation where you can't use alchemy?"
Ed's face slowly darkened, and Havoc remembered that he had been in just such a situation three years ago with Barry the Chopper, and who knew how many times afterward. Ed wasn't exactly chatty about his missions, even with Havoc, and there was no telling what else had happened during his absences.
Despite his grimace, Ed gently waved the gun in Havoc's direction. "Doesn't matter. I still wouldn't…I just…" he trailed off.
"Ed, you're a better shot than any of the new recruits this year," Havoc tried again, hands on his hips, "and you've had less training."
"It's not about being good or bad with a gun," Ed countered immediately, "I know I could use it if I needed it. But I'm just never going to shoot one outside the range."
Ed deliberated for a few seconds. "Maybe it's like how you are, with the 'shoot to stop, not to kill.' I use alchemy for what I need to do, and I use it to try to stop people. I feel like if I was using a gun for something…I'd be aiming to kill."
Havoc exhaled slowly. "You know it'd make me feel better if you took it with you." Ed had recently returned from a mission in Liore, where, among other things, he had been captured and imprisoned by the locals. Havoc had only learned of this afterward, and Ed had reassured him that he'd been in control of the situation the entire time, but that hadn't lessened lieutenant's headache at all.
Ed nodded but said nothing. He still held the handgun out to Havoc.
"Alright," Havoc said finally. "Maybe you'll change your mind one day."
But he didn't ask again.
Havoc did not often see Edward in the range during the spring and summer months after the alchemist turned fifteen. But then, he wasn't really looking for him either.
After Hughes' funeral, the time seemed to slip away without notice, and he had to get used to the vague, unsettling tension that resided permanently in the pit of his stomach in those days. Nothing had been resolved, no culprit found, and maybe that was why it was so difficult to fall back into routine. It was as though all of Mustang's staff was half-frozen, waiting on edge until the moment when they might discover why their comrade had fallen.
There were strange whispers of odd goings-on from all directions at headquarters. Nothing solid enough to be taken as truth and to really be believed, but enough to make everyone anxious. Even Mustang walked around with stiff shoulders and a firm glare that was more heated than ever, and he had developed the alarming habit of jumping at odd times and reaching instinctively into the pocket where Havoc knew his white gloves lay. Havoc wasn't exactly high enough on the ladder to get the really juicy pieces of information, but even he could tell that something was coming, maybe soon. And he would bet a year's supply of ammo that he wouldn't like it when it did.
In the moments when Ed crossed Havoc's mind, it was nice to imagine that the kid was somewhere far away, safe from harm. Well, scratch that last, knowing Ed. But at least he was off where the intrigues of the politically-minded backstabbers of Central couldn't touch him.
Of course, the few times Havoc did get a glimpse of Ed, it was always trouble. Most notably, Ed had just been a blur of gold on an otherwise abysmally arid day transporting off-camp Ishballans by train. Havoc had only caught only a glimpse of his back as he leapt into the truck with Winry and his brother and two Ishballan kids; the only thing he'd left behind was a burst water pipe, a damaged train, and a handful of wet soldiers. It had been a mess to fix, and Havoc may have grumbled about being responsible for helping deal with it, but it had been nice to see the boss was alright for the first time in months.
It'd be great if the kid could just send a postcard like a normal human being, though.
The next time he saw Ed, he was the one running. They were out East to suppress another uprising and he and Breda had surprised the Elrics during one of their patrols. He'd forgotten how spectacular Ed's alchemy could be in a pinch, and being crushed by a monster of sand wasn't exactly how he wanted to be reminded.
At any rate, they managed to convince the brothers to follow them back to East Headquarters like they were meant to. Al followed gracefully as was his nature, but Ed grumbled all the way there, to Havoc's chagrin. The soldier grimaced every time Ed opened his mouth.
"Mustang and his stupid little spies…" Ed muttered again.
"We're just doing our job, boss," Havoc said, scowling. "The colonel's got us all patrolling. The area isn't safe."
"Yeah, and Mustang's been such a beacon of light lately," Ed retorted sarcastically. "I'm so glad he decided to look out for the people for once. First time ever, I bet."
Maybe it was because he'd been so tense lately, but Havoc couldn't take the smear to Mustang's name lightly, even though Ed occasionally tossed out similar insults. "Watch your tongue," he snapped heatedly. "Like it or not, you're a soldier too. You'd better start goddamn acting like one, and treating other officers with respect."
Ed gave him a hard look, one that Havoc was familiar with only because it crossed his face sometimes when he was shooting at a target.
"I don't have any respect to give a fucking soldier," he said, spitting the word out as though it were vile. Al protested, jabbing his brother with a sharp elbow, but it was done.
Havoc growled. "Then I don't have anything to say to you right now."
From then on, it was almost as though they were on opposite sides of a war, and maybe to Ed, they were.
Havoc wasn't going to take back what he said, nor was he going to apologize, but he hadn't meant to put so much bite into his words. But seriously, it was like Ed had no idea that Mustang was working to protect the Elrics, that keeping them close was his way of being sure they were safe.
Ed was really thick-headed sometimes, though. Most of the time, if Havoc was honest. So he shouldn't have been surprised that Ed took the whole thing personally or that he was enraged because Mustang and his staff appeared to be restraining him. But for some reason, it still hurt like hell that Ed ran to Archer of all people to circumvent Mustang's orders and get into Liore.
But the fear and guilt didn't begin to writhe in his chest until the moment the Fuhrer painted the Elrics as traitors.
"I believe we should give them a chance to explain their actions themselves, sir." Mustang argued calmly, lacing his tone with enough respect to appease the Fuhrer.
The sweat rolling from Havoc's forehead probably had as much to do with the burning desert sun as it did with his nerves, but Mustang's silver tongue worked as well as expected. "An official interrogation, Colonel Mustang?" The Fuhrer asked mildly. "Very well. But I should warn you that if you let those suspects get away from us, you'll doing the explaining to me. Go, ensure their success," he commanded. The last part was directed to Armstrong and a dozen other soldiers who stepped behind Mustang and his staff automatically.
Is this really happening? Havoc wondered dazedly, glancing surreptitiously over his shoulder at the men, who stood with firm, unyielding stances. Are we really organizing a manhunt for the Elrics?
"I've heard some very disturbing reports," the Fuhrer continued, using the same serene tone. "According to my information, the Elric brothers may be fighting alongside those who call themselves homunculi. Capture them, Mustang. If they won't come peacefully, then take them out by force. You're to consider them enemy combatants." The man turned and walked off as though oblivious to the turmoil he was leaving behind.
Enemy combatants. Havoc's mouth was dry, and he rubbed his sweaty palms on his pants. He caught Breda's gaze, and the redhead looked as sick as Havoc felt. "Colonel," Havoc said weakly.
"You heard what the man said," Mustang said at once. "I want a report on all sightings of the Elrics at the time of the incident." He walked a few paces away, hands curled into fists and head bowed in the way that Havoc understood to mean that he was thinking furiously.
Were they really going to do this? Were they really going to turn their friends in as traitors? That couldn't be what Mustang meant to do, could it? Not Mustang, whose dedication to becoming Fuhrer was almost as strong as his dedication to his subordinates. But the situation was the worst possible, and Havoc couldn't figure out what choice they had.
The others were muttering behind him.
"But Scar's to blame for this, not the Elrics," Breda was saying lowly, scowling. "And what about that rampage that Archer went on? If anyone should be under investigation, it's that creep."
"It is suspicious that they ran away, and if we don't find them, the colonel gets punished." Like Hawkeye, Falman was always a voice of reason, and he'd hit the nail on the head. They couldn't afford to do anything but find the Elrics could they? But then, they couldn't turn the boys in: who knew what might happen to them. Should they catch the Elrics or not?
As they trudged off, following orders on autopilot, Havoc realized that for the first time in a long time, he couldn't tell which target he was meant to be shooting at.
Breda and Falman were worthless as trackers. Breda had the attention span of a flea when he was outdoors wandering about, and he couldn't help but rattle on and on in boredom as they went. For his part, Falman had the outdoor skills of one born and bred in the city, and he'd never quite learned to step quietly. The pair of them made more noise walking through the forest together than a rhino might, and Havoc winced every time he heard their distant footsteps crunching or the murmur of their voices farther off.
Mustang must have known all of this, because he had been sure to pair Havoc and Fuery together. Fuery, being a naturally observant and composed sort of person, was well-suited to stealth missions: he was nearly silent when he needed to be and had the eyes of a hawk when he really focused. Havoc was as comfortable in the woods as he was in the city, and his hunting skills meant that he knew almost instinctively when something was disturbing the calm.
Which was why he wasn't at all surprised that he and Fuery had found Ed first.
Ed was hard to track; Havoc would give him that. Ed had lived near the woods of Risembool his whole life, though, so maybe Havoc shouldn't have been surprised. There were no sounds other than Breda's and Falman's to suggest that anything was out of place in the forest. There were no easy trails through the undergrowth to suggest a panicked run, and Ed must have stuck to stepping through the leaf litter rather than on the patches of dirt, which were wet with recent rain.
It was only when they were doubling back towards the river that Fuery tapped Havoc's elbow and pointed to the ground a few paces away. The earth sloped steeply uphill, and there were the faintest tracks where Ed's toes had pressed down more heavily to ease his ascent. They wordlessly followed.
Ed's back was to them as they approached. He was crouched low behind a tree, warily peeking out at where Falman and Breda were clambering over some rocks near the river. Leaves crunched under Fuery's boots as they walked, nearly inaudible for the rushing of the water, but Ed froze and whipped his head around.
Not before Havoc instinctively cocked and raised his handgun. Fuery went for the more diplomatic approach. "Hey, Ed, it's nice to see you again," he tried.
"We have to give the colonel his credit," Havoc added. "He told us you'd take this old shortcut to get back home."
Ed slowly rose to his feet, turning around to watch Havoc with hard, hurt eyes. Havoc winced at the picture he must have made and lowered the gun instantly. "Look, no hard feelings," he said, offering a weak grin.
The alchemist lowered his head. "I'm not going," Ed growled firmly. "I'm not a military dog anymore." Almost before anyone could react, he darted forward in a blur of motion, and Havoc automatically raised the gun again. Ed jammed his automail hand over the gun's muzzle.
"Go ahead and fire," Ed said, meeting Havoc's eyes again in a calm, certain gaze. "When that bullet ricochets off my hand, who do you think'll get hurt?"
"Ed, please, don't do this!" Fuery cried, but Havoc barely heard him over the sound of his own thoughts shouting, When the hell did things get like this? The irony of it all—hours at the gun range together adding up to Havoc drawing his arm to fire on his student? His friend?
"Go ahead, shoot," Ed said again, and Havoc realized that the alchemist was calm because he was in control. He knew without a doubt that Havoc wouldn't shoot him, even to save Mustang's job. And he was right.
Al didn't know this, though, and Havoc was ashamed to say that the surprise of the younger Elric's sudden appearance from beneath a pile of leaves screaming "Stop it!" was too much for him, and he fired on instinct alone.
A burning pain shot through his hand, and he heard Fuery cry out beside him. Havoc lowered himself to one knee, clutching the side of his palm that had been split open by the bullet. He was distantly aware of the Elric brothers still standing over them, frozen in something like horror, unable to look away.
"Havoc?" Al's voice was tiny.
"I'm really sorry," Ed said hollowly, determination crossing his face, "But I had to." He took off running in a blind dash towards the river. "Al, now!" he cried.
The younger Elric hesitated, adding his own soft apology to his brother's before he was gone as well. Havoc could make out Falman and Breda shouting in the distance, too far to make anything out clearly.
"That went well," Fuery muttered to himself.
The hospital was bare and lonely, and the nurse was polite but distant in the way of one who had already been snared by Mustang's advances. Havoc waited in boredom for the doctor to check his hand again and irritably wished for the thousandth time that his commanding officer hadn't confiscated his cigarettes.
He had been carted off after his injury, but he'd gotten the details from Breda yesterday. Ed was the most stubborn person Havoc knew, hands down, so Havoc wasn't at all surprised to hear of the ensuing battle between Ed and Mustang. He also wasn't surprised to hear that Ed had been cornered in the end.
"Wish I had a camera so you could've seen his face," Breda had laughed amiably. "Mustang yelled at them to find out why they ran away without asking for help first. Never seen him look so surprised."
The humor was quickly tempered by the revelations that had spilled from the mouths of the Elrics. Fuhrer King Bradley was a homunculus. The shock was instant as ice water, and as Breda had gone on to explain, tight knots somewhere deep inside of Havoc's stomach began to uncoil. That was actually a good reason for mistrust, a good reason to abandon the military as a whole. The political manipulations ran more deeply than Havoc could have imagined, and Ed had been more caught up in it than he'd known.
Havoc hadn't realized how tense he'd felt about the brothers' imagined betrayal of the military until now that he could relax.
The conversation had been cut off when Breda had been called away. Mustang had some sort of plan in the works, and from the way that Breda had looked at him out of the corner of his eye, Havoc had the feeling that he didn't want to find out what it was.
At any rate, he hadn't had much to do besides sit around and wait for orders, so he was almost thankful when the cute nurse popped in to let him know that he had a call at the front desk. Finally.
He stumbled off to take it; one of the receptionists handed a phone off wordlessly.
It wasn't Mustang who answered. "Havoc. Hey."
Havoc froze. "Boss?"
"Yeah, it's me." Ed sounded cautious. "Breda told me you were in the hospital. Look, Havoc…about the gunshot. I didn't mean for you to get hurt. It just—"
"I know. It's fine."
"Really. I'm sorry."
An apology. That was a first. "I know. It's fine," he repeated. "Just needed stitches on the edge of my palm. I'll probably have a nasty scar, but I'll be shooting like normal in no time."
Ed exhaled. "That's really good." He paused, and Havoc thought he could make out voices in the background. "And did Breda tell you about…?"
Havoc realized that he'd trailed off on purpose. Political intrigues weren't things you could talk about on a line like this. Too easy to tap. Hell, the Elrics were still technically on the run, and Ed might get caught just for having called in at all, but Havoc had the feeling that he wasn't planning on hanging around in one place for very long. "Yeah, I know. I get why you ran, boss. I'm not saying you were right, but I get why you did it."
The alchemist hummed in acceptance. A voice said something—was that Al?—and Ed must have covered the phone to respond. It sounded like he was shooing someone away.
"Where are you, anyway?" Havoc asked when he thought the exchange was finished.
"Risembool, for now. Did you know that Hughes was dead?" Blunt as always. Diplomacy would never be Ed's thing. Anyway, Havoc had the feeling Ed already knew the answer, and he sighed.
"Yeah, boss. I knew. Mustang told us not to bring it up."
"Right," Ed growled. "And of course you didn't," he added bitterly. Havoc scowled and was about to respond before Ed interrupted with an angry noise. "No, I didn't mean…Let's not do that again," he said carefully.
The silence was awkward. Havoc was just getting around to wondering why he was still on the line when Ed spoke up again.
"You know," he began suddenly. "It sucks that I actually get why he did it now. Mustang, I mean. Why he didn't want us to know." His voice was almost thoughtful rather than upset. "If Hughes got killed, it was our fault for putting him in that situation—"
"That's not true."
"Maybe, maybe not. But Mustang knew we'd feel that way," Ed argued. "So he made sure that we didn't go for revenge, that we weren't distracted from what we meant to do, from finding the…well, you know what. Lot of good that did us," he added, his voice strained. "We didn't get anywhere, only made things worse, and now, with all of this…"
God, it was annoying talking over an unsecured line. What the hell was that supposed to mean? "Why are you talking like it's all over?" Havoc asked instead.
"I don't know," Ed responded. "Feels like it is."
"What, so you're giving up?"
"No," Ed said, sounding frustrated. "It's a dead end. We found out…we just can't use it, okay? There's nothing else." He was quiet for a moment, and Havoc was fumbling to find something to say when he continued. "It's like I've been pretending things are going to work out when I don't think they will."
"Boss," Havoc interjected, now worried, "if anyone can figure this out, you two can. You'll find something."
Ed was silent for a long time. "I know that," he said finally. "Most days, I know that for sure. But today, I can't believe it."
For some odd reason, alarm bells were going off in Havoc's head. He prided himself on being one of a handful of people that the young alchemist trusted with his secrets. It was true that the pair of them had grown close over the years spent competing and griping to each other at the firing range and watching each other's backs in the field. But Havoc had never gotten this much information from Ed all at once, not even when he was trying to pull it out.
"Why not, Ed?" He asked cautiously. "Why are you telling me this?"
There was a quiet noise on the line, and Havoc could practically see Ed shift the phone pensively in his hand. "I'm just not sure what's going to happen, that's all," he said quietly. "We're on the run, and there's so much that we need to do…" he sighed in frustration. "Anyway. I just wanted to say…thanks, I guess. For all of the lessons and stuff."
Havoc paused. "Don't make this sound like so much of a goodbye, boss," he ventured warily.
"I'm not," Ed protested with another sigh. "It's…just in case."
"In case of what? And besides, you never even used a damn gun anyway," Havoc complained.
He heard a snort on the other end. "The lessons weren't really about the guns, Havoc," Ed replied, and Havoc thought he could hear the grin over the phone. "Besides, they aren't my style."
"Yeah, I know," Havoc said softly. Then he added, "God forbid the great Fullmetal Alchemist stoop down to the level of us lower mortals to use our weapons…"
"It's not like that," Ed retorted, exasperated. "You know I don't like using them outside of the range. It was just a way of getting mad without blowing things up. Al never lets me live stuff like that down, and when you started letting me come practice…I mean, you listened, didn't you? So it helped."
"It goes both ways, boss," Havoc countered. "Why are you speaking in the past tense? You're not planning on doing anything stupid, are you?" He shook his head. "Wait, don't answer that. I didn't think it through."
Ed let out a small laugh. "No, you didn't." Havoc couldn't help but notice that Ed hadn't really answered, but the alchemist spoke up again before Havoc could call him out on it. "Get well soon, Havoc, okay? And take care of yourself."
"Yeah, boss," he said quietly. "You too."
"I'll see you…" Ed trailed off. At the range was the unspoken, habitual ending, but there was no telling what the next few weeks or even the next day might bring. The face of the country was changing, and the peaceful times they'd shared at the firing range felt like they couldn't be more distant. It might be ages before they met there again.
"Yeah," Havoc murmured. "I'll see you."
Havoc didn't. He was surprised when Ed disappeared. He wasn't sure why, because maybe he should have expected it. But the news still caught him off guard like a stray blow to the gut.
The discovery came right alongside the reports that the Fuhrer was dead. The military wasted no time cleaning itself up again, straining to make itself presentable to the nation once more in light of the treachery of its highest member. Mustang and all of his crew, of course, came out of the skirmish looking shiny and bright and heroic, and they were given all of the necessary promotions and pats on the head to appease the angered public. Any other time, Havoc would have been proud of a new rank, but the cost was too high for celebration.
And there was no telling how far the costs went. He would probably never get all of the details of what Ed and Al had gone through in those last few days running up to Ed's disappearance. Certainly not now, with the boss missing and Al quiet as the grave.
It was good to see Al in the flesh, though. Havoc had never seen a picture of the younger Elric, but he recognized the teenager instantly nonetheless. It must have been something in his face, or the way the sunlight turned his amber hair to gold if it hit just right. The boy had dealt with his brother's disappearance in the way that everyone expected, by throwing himself at library books like they'd fade away if he didn't read them quickly enough.
But after a while, people stopped expecting a miracle.
There was talk of a funeral. Ed was the People's Alchemist, after all, and as the months began to stretch on with no news at all, the military began to toy with the idea of holding some ceremony to allay some of the lingering resentment of the people. Mustang finally put his foot down on that one, though, and he held enough sway at this point that no one was willing to cross him.
Nonetheless, to most outsiders, the Fullmetal Alchemist was a fallen hero. Mustang and his staff didn't discuss the matter often, but Havoc knew that none of them really believed that.
Whether or not Ed would ever work his way back to them was one thing, but there was no question that he was alive somewhere in that magical world of alchemy that Havoc knew next to nothing about. Havoc was sure that Ed had made it out alive somehow, even if they never saw each other again.
Then again, if Havoc had learned anything at all, it was that the Fullmetal Alchemist had the habit of showing up where least expected.
A/N: Wow. This was meant to be a short and sweet little one-shot, and then it rolled into almost thirty pages. Once I got into it, I just couldn't stop! It was too much fun to let Havoc and Ed have their say, and to see what sorts of things they agreed on and where they butted heads. Havoc is a devoted soldier through and through, and Ed's hot-tempered arrogance makes it hard for him to deal with that sometimes, even in a friend.
I'm not sure if the title is clear, but the mention of Chekov's gun refers to my headcanon idea that Ed would hate to fire a gun, even if was forced to carry one on him. It marks a huge difference in their attitudes: for Havoc, guns are part of everyday life and can be used to save just as easily as to harm, but for Ed, using a gun out in the real world means intent to kill. Even with the way that their personalities clash a bit now and then, though, they really do make good friends. Also, the title seems to fit because you get to wonder if Ed's gonna use the gun. :-)
Before you tell me that Al should be ten and shouldn't have his memories, let me state that the ending of this story leads into my other story, Pure Alchemy, in which a few things have been changed, like the fact that Al is fourteen when he comes out of the Gate and retains his memories.
So, if you liked this story, you might enjoy its strange sort-of-sequel, Pure Alchemy. At some point once I finish it, I may post a follow up one-shot here that deals with what happens when Ed returns. But we'll see.
Thanks for reading! Please let me know what you thought!