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Rian was chewing on a straw, his chin on the dirty diner table. He was glaring cross-eyed at the straw, still chomping sullenly on its end. He was so absorbed in his ire that he almost missed the fact that someone had gotten into the booth opposite him.

Anthony Hargrove put his elbow on the table and his chin in his hand. "So," Anthony said. "What did the straw do to you this time?"

Rian grimaced and spat the straw out. "I don't want to talk about it."

"You never do," Anthony observed. "Top-secret State Alchemist bullshit, right?"

"Something like that." Rian sighed and sat up, putting his chin in both hands. He gave his adopted brother a once over, and then snorted. "Like the haircut."

Anthony touched his head gingerly. His once nearly shoulder-length brown hair had been trimmed into the standard military haircut once again. "I had to do that, stop laughing at me."

"I thought you were going to grow it out again." Rian grinned. "Or did a girl not like it long on you?"

Anthony set his hands on the table and looked down at them a moment. "I had to cut it because I got a full scholarship through the military academy," he said. "I'm not going to be a regular soldier, I'm going to be in law enforcement."

Rian blinked in surprise, and then grinned at Anthony. "That's great, Tony! I was worried you'd end up assigned to Central Command, you don't want that - everyone's a fucking freak over there."

"Yeah, instead I'll be working on policing all your freak asses," Anthony said sarcastically. He frowned. "Do you think mom will talk to me now?"

Their mother - Rian's adopted mother, his own had been killed when he was very young - hated the military. Rian knew the story well, even before he had set out on his own to become a State Alchemist, and knew the risk that she wouldn't speak to him again if he followed through with his plan.

It hadn't always been that way. Rian had been very small, still new to the family when his adopted mother's brother went off to war. He remembered standing behind Anthony, terrified that his new grandfather would turn on him next when he ranted and raved about their uncle deserting the family. It was Rian and Anthony who stood with their mother alone when they saw his uncle off at the train station.

It was only their mother who saw him return, in a coffin.

"I don't know," Rian said honestly, scratching a hand through his hair. "Have you talked to dad?"

"No," Anthony admitted with a sigh. "I'm afraid that Mom will answer the phone."

"You could always write," Rian pointed out. Anthony met his eyes and the brothers shared a small smile. It was strange for both of them to be gone so long without any contact with their family back home.

Rian couln't help but feel he was partially to blame for Anthony following him to Central City and eventually enlisting in the military. He knew it was Anthony's own choice, and he'd even fudged his own records to enlist young, but if Rian hadn't been so bent on his revenge they both would still be in Plainhill.

(And he would have never met the colonel.)

No point in looking back at the past, he couldn't change it now if he wanted to. "So," Anthony said pointedly. "Gonna come clean about what you're up to?"

"I don't know what you're talking about," Rian said, insulted.

"You, my idiot little brother, are seeing someone." Anthony reached across the table and flicked Rian's forehead, and he winced. "I recognize that lovelorn look on your face from when you had that crush on Nancy from the Miller's farm. So, fess up or I'll have my minions do a little digging on your activities."

Rian put a hand on his forehead, where Anthony had flicked him. "You don't have minions."

"I have people in my debt. Same thing."

Rian glared at Anthony through his bangs. "There is no 'she.'"

"Mmhm, sure."

"Tony, I'm serious."

"You just keep digging that hole, little brother. I'll find out everything soon enough."

They glared at each other, and Rian hopefully covered that trill of fear that ran through his belly at Anthony's words. He didn't WANT Anthony to find out. He didn't want anyone in his family to find out. It was bad enough that the family who adopted him hated this military so much that they would contemplate never speaking to him or his brother again. He didn't want to imagine the look on his mother's face when she found out that Rian was in a relationship with a military man - his own superior officer.

He couldn't risk them finding out about this. He couldn't risk Anthony finding out about this.

"Seriously, drop it," Rian said. "I'm not interested in a girl, there's just been a whole lot of shit lately, is all."

Anthony gave him that cocky grin that told him he didn't believe a word coming out of Rian's mouth. Rian groaned, loudly. "TONY, I swear-"

"If you don't tell me I'll find out on my own," Anthony said in a sing-song voice.

"I'll tell you when I'm ready," Rian muttered.

"So there IS a girl."

"If it makes you happy to think so-"

"What's she like? Is she our age, or is she older? Ooh, is it that girl who just started working for your command a few weeks ago, I heard she transferred in from the east-"

"Sheska?" Rian said, confused.

"Yeah," Anthony leered at him. "I knew you'd go after the older women."

Rian opened his mouth to retort and then shut it. "What the hell is THAT supposed to mean?"

"I get it, I get it, you don't want to show her off yet, afraid that I'll swoop in and steal her out from under you." Anthony sat back on the booth's bench seat. "Have you taken her to bed yet?"


"Come on, I gotta know if my little bro's still a virgin or not."

Rian was starting to flush red across his face. "NO YOU DO NOT NEED TO KNOW THAT!"

He had shouted the last bit, loud enough that patrons a few tables over glanced their way. Rian shrunk in his seat, his face burning, and then buried his face in his hands. "Why are you doing this to me, Tony?"

Anthony chortled. "It's what brothers DO." He grinned hugely at Rian. "Bitch."

"I am NOT- you are such a jerk," Rian stuttered.

"So, what are the chances of you hooking me up with that older blonde chick in your garrison?" Tony leaned in the booth. "Come on now, be serious."

"You have a death wish."

"Ah, come on. She's really hot."

"She is twice your age and she will use you as target practice. She will use ME as target practice. NO."

"You are no help at all," Anthony said, but he was grinning. He scratched his fingers through his short brown hair. "Are you mad?"

"At you?" Rian glared at Anthony a long moment. Then he relaxed his shoulders and laughed. Anthony laughed too, and they grinned at each other.

"So," Anthony said.

"So," Rian said back.

"What are you getting for lunch?"

Rian shut the door behind him and sighed deeply, leaning back against it. He had been checking over his shoulder the entire walk back, keeping an eye out for Anthony trailing him but his brother had seemed more interested in going back to the dorms and sleeping, he had come off of a night rotation. Besides, Rian was going in to work on Saturday, there wasn't anything suspicious about that, right?

The colonel looked up from his desk - or rather, from sitting on the floor in front of his desk. The chair that usually sat at his desk was currently disassembled on the floor, pieces scattered around him. Rian blinked at the mess. "What did you DO?"

Colonel Elric looked up, having not heard Rian come in his office. "Oh, hey, Rian."

Rian picked up a piece of the chair's structural base that had been clearly flung against the wall. "How did the chair anger you today?"

"Wasn't sitting right, I want to requisition a new one but Hawkeye won't let me." The colonel held up two screws of varying lengths. "I'm sure these were the same a minute ago."

"You tried to transmute it into something else, didn't you."

"I didn't try," Colonel Elric huffed, injured at the implication. "I liked my new chair, but I got complaints and had to transmute it back."

"Annnnd you borked the transmutation back," Rian finished for him. "You didn't just switch it out for Havoc's chair because...?"

The colonel stopped trying to fit the screw into a hole it clearly wasn't made for and looked up at Rian sheepishly. "I didn't think of that."

Rian started gathering parts into a pile. "This is why you keep me around."

"That, and a few other things." The colonel's tone made Rian's ears flush but he refused to look at the man, knowing exactly what sort of look he'd recieve in return.

"I say we just dump this crap in the incinerator and steal you a new chair from one of the meeting rooms," Rian muttered, trying to divert the colonel's attention back to the problem at hand.

"Everyone always get suspicious when I'm by the incinerator," he complained, sitting back against the desk. "It's complete unwarranted." Rian glanced up at him, and Edward eyed him thoughtfully. "Now you, on the other hand...."

Rian smiled as Colonel Elric - as Edward, he reminded himself, he was allowed to think of the man like that now - set about transmuting the pile of miscellaneous parts into something manageable for Rian to lug down to the incinerator.

It didn't matter what his family thought, he knew. It didn't matter what anyone else thought. All that really mattered was that he was happy here, with this. Edward looked up at him and gave Rian a puzzled look. "What?"

"Nothing," Rian said with a grin. "Nothing at all."