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The Path

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Sometimes, Edward Elric really didn't know what he was still doing in the military.

He didn't fit in there. He was never much one for following rules and regulations - the world-ending fights that he used to get in to with Mustang over wearing the uniform were the stuff of legend today. He chaffed at being on someone's leash. The only master Edward served was himself.

The dream seemed unattainable. Edward didn't have the skills, the reputation or even the patience to achieve what he'd set out to do. This was entirely different than his quest to restore his brother ... that had some sort of tangible goal, a finish line, even if it led to his death he followed that road without hesitation. This, though. This was the sort of fight he'd never bothered to prepare for. He had Mustang to fight these political battles for him.

Now he didn't.

Now it was just him.

The thought turned his stomach into ice. It was a grief so close to the surface it still caused him to choke. Almost three years and the wound was still fresh. He had seen the people around him heal, move on and keep moving forward. Why couldn't he?

He functioned. He did his job. He kept going, day after day. It was hard work, unraveling the complex tangle of plots and threads that Mustang had left behind and Edward threw himself into it body and soul. He was not a politician or a strategist. He was just Edward.

Just Edward, who had learned to sit through budget meetings with a minimum amount of fidgeting. Just Edward, who had figured out how to manipulate Colonel Neuhaus into losing his temper without being insubordinate. Just Edward, who had liaisons in the Intelligence department feeding him information about the movement of military officers suspected of collusion with a known terrorist group.

And yet, still the uncertainty.

There were rumors that he was going to be transferred to Central City soon. Edward was far too good at this for the top military brass's liking. Edward knew they thought that this was still Mustang's handiwork, that maybe Mustang had been grooming that volatile spitfire of a State Alchemist to be just as dangerous within the ranks of the military as he was out in the field. Those officers could never understand that this was all Edward's doing. Mustang had no intention of Edward reaching these heights.

Edward was thankful that he had been assigned to East City after the dissolution of Mustang's garrison. General Grumman had a soft spot for Mustang and saw Mustang's goals in Edward's actions. It was thanks to him that Edward was on the right track now.

There were still things that had to be done before he could accept a post in Central City. Once he had left the protection of General Grumman, he was on his own.

Edward knew what he was doing now. He'd always known. He was afraid of what the future might bring but he knew that so long as he walked this path, no matter how close that wound was to the surface, he could see Roy smiling.

And to him that was the only thing that mattered.

Lieutenant Colonel Edward Elric took a deep breath, tugged on the bottom of his jacket to straighten it, and then stepped through the door.