Damn but Ed hates this place, with its stupid shitty weather and its stupid shitty prosthetics that can't hold a candle to Winry’s automail, its constant wars and mercenary society when all he wants is a week without something exploding. Not to mention whatever ridiculous power system they use here that isn’t anything remotely like alchemy but manages to bring up pangs of familiarity every time Ed seems people do ridiculous things with it.
With a quiet grumble to himself, he hefts his groceries a little more firmly over his shoulder, trying not to smack anyone else, and turns towards the apartment he’s renting. The people here need shit fixed the same way anyone else does, and Ed’s managed to make something of a living. Teacher would drop-kick him in the face for using alchemy on most of it, but it gives Ed enough time to scour the library. The sharp-eyed librarian won't let him into several of the sections—something about A-rank jutsus being restricted to civilians—and whatever Ed wants to say about the shinobi, they’re even better at sneaking than he is. No luck on that front so far, and nothing he’s found mentions crossing dimensions.
Ed is frustrated and his limbs hurt and he’s carrying thirty pounds of food because Al would give him a Look if he didn’t at least try to keep himself fed, so he can be excused for not seeing the asshole meandering down the street until he slams face-first into his uniform vest. There is, however, abso-fucking-lutely no excuse for the way the man lowers his book, blinks at Ed for a brief moment, and then says easily, “Ah, sorry, didn’t see you there.”
It’s been a long day. Ed’s gotten better at controlling his temper over the years, but something things are a bridge too fucking far. A vein in his temple throbs, and he steps forward with a snarl, stabbing a finger into the unnecessarily oversized idiot’s chest. “WHO THE FUCK ARE YOU CALLING TOO SHORT TO SEE WITH A MICROSOPE, HUH? I'm perfectly normal-sized, you gigantic moron, so step the fuck off!”
There's a long, long moment of silence. The silver-haired man stares at him, something kindling in his eyes, and as the haze of rage lifts slightly Ed realizes with a plummeting sensation that he recognizes it all too well. It’s the same one Colonel Bastard wore the first time Ed blew up at him about one of his shitty height jokes.
A shiver of foreboding slides down Ed’s spine, but he can't retreat now.
“Maa,” the man drawls, all breezy bullshit and mock-innocence in his visible eye. He flips his book shut, eye crinkling in a friendly smile, and adds, “I apologized, you know? No need to be short with me.”
Oh fuck. Ed’s traded one smug asshole of a bastard for another, and this is one facet of equivalent exchange he definitely could have done without.
“Look, buddy,” he grits out, and pretends he isn’t testing the weight of the sack over his shoulder. He could probably brain someone with it, given enough effort. And Ed’s never been scared of a bit of hard work. “You're just asking to get your face pounded in, here. Back off, or I'm going to—”
That’s definitely delight growing in the man’s face. “Ah, it’s so admirable when people don’t let certain vertical challenges get in the way of their—”
Fuck it, he’s dead. Ed swings his grocery bag like a club, sees the man dodge with almost insulting ease, and sweeps underneath it with a kick to take the bastard out at the knees. He hops over it, dodges the punch Ed throws at his ribs, and flips over a second kick with a truly unnecessary flourish and flip.
“You’ve had training,” the man says, beaming, and he flips his book open again.
Ed eyes the distance between them, wonders if it’s too low to try and take him on his blind side, and decides that Teacher would never forgive him if he didn’t at least make an attempt. “You could say that. None of the twisty shit you guys do, but I get by.”
The man makes a noise of feigned surprise. “Oh? For someone with your reach, that’s impressive.”
Ed pictures pounding his face into the pavement and tries to set him on fire with his mind.
“I,” he manages when he can unlock his jaw, “have a perfectly decent reach, you bastard.”
Another flicker of amusement that he looks down at his book to cover, and Ed moves.
As fast as if he were fighting Teacher, he throws himself forward, feels the man dodge by a hair’s breadth before he plants one hand on the ground, pivots, and kicks out hard. It’s the left leg, so he can't feel the impact as more than a jolt, but he can hear the wheeze of air leaving the asshole’s lungs before he flickers out of the way. Ed lunges again, lets the flare of his coat cover his movement, and punches up in a haymaker—
There's a puff of smoke, a pop, and the bastard reappears on the other side of the street, nose buried in his lurid orange book, an unmistakable smile on his masked face.
“Sorry to cut this meeting short,” he says blithely, ignoring Ed’s wordless sound of rage, “but my cute little students have been waiting for two hours already. How impolite of you to hold me up further.”
Maybe he has a good reason for being that late, but since he’s absolutely an asshole, Ed rather doubts it. “You should stop worrying about them and worry more about how I'm going to kick your ass,” he growls, shoving his sleeve up. Only the left one, because the right arm is too good a surprise to waste. “You and your stupid tallness and your stupid fucking face—”
“I’ll have you know my face is very popular,” the man says mildly. “There's a bounty on it and everything. Ah, but you might have missed it—they usually put the Bingo Book on the top shelf, and the library only has so many ladders.”
“Die!” Ed roars, and launches himself headfirst at the man, who vanishes in a swirl of leaves. A faint giggle drifts back from the end of the street, and Ed abandons his groceries to their sad, squashed fate in the street and bolts after the bastard, fully prepared to chase him across the entire village if that’s what it takes to finally pound his face in.