Ed slams open the double doors of the military hospital, oblivious to the stares he attracts. Stares are something he’s used to so a few extra don’t mean a thing. All he’s concerned with right now is finding the bastard Colonel and getting a better idea of what’s going on. He’d like to wrap his hands around his throat for putting Al in danger, but considering Al says he saved him he probably can’t justify actually doing it.
He fists his automail hand and scuffs his boots along the polished tile floor. Hospital or not the damn bastard has to be smug and satisfied about taking down a homunculus on his own after sending Ed all the way to Xerxes. That alone is enough for him to want to put a fist in his face.
He still can’t believe the bastard managed to pull one over on him so completely, but he shouldn’t be surprised. Acting like a cold, calculating jackass is what Mustang’s good at after all. He should’ve known not to take things at face value even with a smoldering “body” in front of him. Mustang’s much too manipulative to be so obvious. Stupid bastard. He had to do everything his way, and now he ends up in the hospital like an idiot who’s obviously not as invincible as he likes to pretend to be.
Ed storms up to the nurses’ desk and crosses his arms impatiently. Several people are waiting in front of him and he doesn’t have time for this. They’re all old and slow and annoying. Could they talk any slower? He doesn’t care if one misplaced their grandson or some harried looking lady just got here after work looking for her daughter. Whatever, they just need to move! He and Al need to figure out how to get his body out of the Gate before it’s too late. They need to figure out why the homunculi see them as sacrifices. They need to know what’s going on and all this waiting around isn’t getting them anywhere. Mustang has to know something, and while he’s here maybe Ed can try and make him as miserable as the hot sun and desert made him. That would be equivalent exchange after all.
Finally the last person in front of him moves away with a slip of paper in hand and Ed steps forward to the desk that’s annoyingly taller than it needs to be. He takes a breath to rein in his already frayed temper. There’s no point in taking his annoyance out on the nurse. Though if he did, it would most definitely be the bastard’s fault. He forces a smile as he addresses the brunette nurse whose demeanor indicates she’s all business. “I’m looking for Colonel Mustang. I was told I could find him here.”
The nurse looks him over then turns to consult a stack of charts. She picks one up, studies it, and after a moment looks back to Ed with a bored expression. “I’m sorry, sir, but only those with the proper credentials are allowed to see the Colonel.”
Ed’s patience reaches its limit and he rolls his eyes. Is she kidding? He pulls out his silver pocket watch and dangles it in front of her face. “Is this good enough? I’m a State Alchemist. Now, could you please tell me where the bas—where Colonel Mustang’s room is?”
The nurse looks unfazed as she answers him. “I know who you are, Major Elric, but unless you have a reason to see the Colonel, I can’t let you go to his room.”
Ed blinks and his mouth opens in surprise. Is she serious? What the hell is going on that has them trying this hard to protect his ass?
“You’ve got to be kidding me.”
Ed spins around and surveys the waiting area filled with the usual faded pink chairs and couches found in all the military hospitals. He scowls and barely resists kicking the floor. He could just go looking for the bastard, it’s not like he isn’t familiar with the hospital from all the times he’s been admitted. Mustang’s probably in the north wing where all the higher ranked military are kept. But now that he’s made his intentions known this lady probably won’t let him roam the halls. Why the hell did he decide asking at the front desk was a good idea? He sighs and considers his options. He could try going outside and transmuting a door. If he picked an area that’s vacant no one would probably—
Wait. Is that who he thinks it is? Ed grins and takes a few steps away from the desk to cut off the man quickly coming from the north wing.
“Hey, Falman. I need your help.” Ed grabs Falman by the arm and drags him toward the desk. He can tell he caught him off guard because he hasn’t even found the words to protest. Ed reaches the desk and waves to get the woman’s attention again. “Hey, you can ask him. He’ll tell you it’s ok to let me go find Mustang.” Ed looks expectantly to Falman who’s standing board straight and looking at him in confusion.
“I’m sorry, sir. I don’t have that authority.”
Ed lets out an exasperated sigh and looks down the nearest hall. It’s not too crowded. Maybe he can transmute his way in there from the outside, if the MPs or someone else don’t spot him first and try and stop him.
“However….” Ed looks up to see Falman’s turned his attention to the nurse who’s obviously tired of this discussion. “Regulation 9-47c states that in a situation like this a soldier under the direct command of the person in question may have an audience with his superior officer if he recently returned from a mission of great importance." Falman turns his head to Ed again and his face betrays no emotion, though Ed swears there’s a trace of amusement in his eyes. “I believe you just returned from one such mission, Major?”
Ed’s eyes widen with realization and a broad grin spreads across his face. Who knew Falman had something like this in him? He turns back toward the nurse and rests his forearm up on the desk, leaning forward a bit. “Yeah, that’s right. That regulation 47 or whatever.” He nods and grins even more. “So, I need to tell Mustang about my important mission. Now what room’s he in?”
The nurse looks less than pleased, but Falman doesn’t waver under her stare and apparently he knows what he’s talking about because she’s consulting the chart again. “If you had mentioned the regulation in the first place, this wouldn’t have been an issue.” She gives Ed a pointed look and he can tell she knows exactly what’s going on, but she doesn’t argue. “You can find him in the north hall, room 8.” She looks over a note on the chart and then adds, “Lieutenant Havoc is in the east hall, room 33.”
Ed blinks and stares at her for a moment. Second Lieutenant Havoc is here? Why didn’t Al mention he was in the hospital as well? Ed looks to Falman who as usual gives away nothing. It seems he’ll be needing even more information from the bastard than he thought. He looks back to the nurse and mutters his thanks. He could try asking Falman about more of the details, but what’s the point when he can go find out for himself? He turns to stride down the north hall and for the first time since he heard Mustang was in the hospital he actually starts to feel a little concerned.
He shakes his head and scowls. He doesn’t need to be worried about Mustang, or his men. Of all the people he knows, no one should be able to take care of themselves more than Mustang. Al said the battle was “intense,” but that was probably just the Colonel showing off his flashy flame alchemy. He could make anything look spectacular. So…why doesn’t he believe that? Maybe because he fought Greed and saw firsthand how unkillable those homunculi monsters tend to be? But they have weaknesses. He saw it himself, though he wasn’t able to exploit them as much as Mustang obviously did.
Ed grumbles to himself as he rounds a corner in the nearly empty hallway. The only people he’s seen so far in this wing are military guards and doctors. The hushed quiet down the long corridor is kinda creepy and very different than the usual bustle he’s accustomed to in hospitals. Apparently it really is hard to gain access to these rooms. He should remember to thank Falman sometime. He’s scuffing his boots along the spotless floor again when he spots Hawkeye at the end of the hall. He notices the room she’s standing in front of is near a stairwell and he wouldn’t be surprised if that was deliberate. She’s always been nothing if not cautious.
He tries to wipe some of the aggravation off his face as he approaches her because he knows how protective she can be. There’s no way she’ll let him see the bastard if she thinks he’s going to throttle him. Once he gets closer he’s surprised to see exhaustion plain on her face. Has she not gotten any sleep lately? Surely others could watch the Colonel’s room. But her weary stance belies the possibility as does the coffee cup clutched in her hand like a shield.
“Lieutenant,” he says respectfully as that tiny seed of worry begins to blossom once more. It’s only Mustang. The man’s as invincible as they come, so he shouldn’t be worried, right?
“Edward. It’s nice to see you’re back in town.” She shifts slightly on her feet, but ever the consummate soldier that’s the only indication of her discomfort. Regardless, it’s easy to see she hasn’t rested probably since Mustang was admitted. They really must be worried. But what about Havoc? Surely someone has him under guard as well?
“Haven’t been for long.” He glances at the door behind her then back at Hawkeye. “Can I go in?” he smirks lightly and tries to lighten the mood a bit. “I promise I’ll be nice.”
Hawkeye’s mouth thins and Ed instantly regrets his attempt at humor. “He’s sleeping right now, Edward. But you can go in….” She gives him a pointed look before moving to the side of the door. “As long as you don’t wake him.”
Well that’s not going to help speed things along. He scowls but nods anyway. Hopefully the bastard won’t sleep too long. “Alright. I won’t.” he moves forward, his hand on the door to push it open, but then pauses and speaks softly. “What about Lieutenant Havoc?” He shouldn’t be concerning himself. Mustang will take care of all his subordinates.
“Lieutenant Breda’s watching over him.” She pauses and did he hear a hitch in her breathing? “We’re still waiting for him to wake up.”
Ed snaps his head to the side to look at her and he doesn’t miss the flash of concern in her eyes before she hides it away. She’s scared. Havoc’s apparently not out of the woods and if Breda’s guarding him they must be worried about his safety too. He and Al guessed the military had to be involved with the homunculi, but they’re acting like this is much bigger than they realized. He just assumed with Al and Hawkeye being okay that they all would be….
“I’m sorry, I-I’ll just….” His words fail him and he finally just ends up shaking his head as he opens the door and pushes inside. He didn’t miss the sympathetic look she sent him and he doesn’t need it. She obviously has better places for her concern, not to mention…this is all his fault. If he and Al hadn’t brought them into this, General Hughes would still be alive and Havoc and Mustang wouldn’t be in the hospital. How many more people are they going to hurt because of their recklessness?
Ed steps into the room and stops short the instant he sees him. He hears the door softly snick shut behind him and he has to force himself to take a breath. He knew Mustang was injured. Al told him he’d sealed some wound on his side by burning it so he expected bandages over his torso, but those are covered by his light blue hospital shirt. His right hand’s also bandaged, but none of those wounds are what stopped him in his tracks. He looks pale, his dark hair a sharp contrast to his lighter than usual skin. He’s thinner than Ed remembered too and that’s not something that would’ve resulted from the fight under the Third Laboratory. What has Mustang been doing to himself? And why does he care?
Damn bastard. He never should’ve gotten involved in this. None of them should’ve. He moves further into the room as quietly as he can and inwardly curses his heavy metal limbs. Stealth has never been his strong suit. Ed makes his way to the wooden chair at the foot of the bed and fists his hands once he sits down. The faint worry he’s felt ever since stepping into the hospital multiples by the minute and it makes him sick. This is the last person he wants to be worried about, but he doesn’t want to be responsible for his injuries either. If only they hadn’t gotten General Hughes involved. If only this idiot hadn’t sent him away maybe none of this would’ve even hap—
“If all you’re going to do is sit there and brood, you don’t need to be here, Fullmetal.”
Ed jerks his head up to find the bastard’s eyes open and staring straight at him. Whatever weakness he might’ve thought he’d seen when he was sleeping is gone and the idiot’s even trying to push himself into more of a sitting position. “Shouldn’t you be taking it easy?” he hisses and glances at the door. The last thing he needs is Hawkeye storming in here and accusing him of upsetting the bastard.
“I’m surprised you’re here.” The mocking tone in his voice has Ed gritting his teeth to hold his tongue. “It’s not like you to willingly step foot into a hospital.” Mustang smirks that arrogant fucking smirk of his and Ed can barely contain himself. “You usually have to be carried in.”
“Bastard,” he finally spits out. The look of satisfaction on Mustang’s face nearly has him going with his earlier idea of ramming his fist into his face, but somehow he maintains control. “I just got back from being kidnapped to the East and thought I’d come by and see if you’d actually learned anything besides how to blow yourself up.”
“Just got back, hmm?” Mustang arches an eyebrow and irritatingly ignores the whole damn point which makes Ed seethe with rage. “So, I suppose that explains the tardiness of your report.”
“My….” He thinks about the ruse he used to get in here and there’s no way the bastard could know about it. There’s no way. He narrows his eyes and glares at him. He’s just giving him shit to give him shit. “That’s beside the point. Why didn’t you tell me what you were planning?” He jumps out of his chair and to his feet, clenching his fists again. “I’m not just some stupid, hot headed kid! I could’ve helped!”
“I’m sorry, Fullmetal, I don’t usually make a habit of running my actions through my subordinates.” Ed fumes but before he can say anything else Mustang continues in an annoyingly superior tone. “Actually, the way you’re acting right now proves my point.” He gives him a pointed look and Ed snarls as he drops back down into the chair. Silence stretches out between them and Ed fidgets, knowing the bastard’s doing it on purpose.
“Is that so?” he finally grits out between clenched teeth.
“Yes. It is.” Mustang holds his gaze for another moment and it’s all Ed can do to stay in the chair and not strangle the bastard. “You and Armstrong give far too much away when you’re trying to hide something.” Ed’s eyes widen and he literally has to bite his tongue. How dare he compare him to that emotional, overblown, muscle-bound freak?! “Armstrong’s reaction had to be real. As for you…you weren’t supposed to be involved. That’s quite an annoying habit of yours.”
“Not involv—” Ed shakes his head angrily and he’s out of the chair again in an instant, pacing at the end of the bastard’s bed. “That’s shit, Mustang.” He whips his head around, pausing his movement to glare at him. “You’re the one who shouldn’t be involved. You’re the one who butted in. Al and I were doing just fine without you.”
“And I supposed ‘just fine’ includes ending up in a hospital down South?” Mustang’s voice takes that superior lilt to it again and Ed can’t contain himself. It’s too much.
“Look who’s talking, you pompous jackass!” Ed paces again and practically snarls at him. “So what about you? It’s not like you to be getting your hands dirty and lazing in a hospital bed when someone else could do it for you!”
Mustang gives him a withering look as he smoothes his fingers over the bandage on his right hand. “As much as I value your little tantrums, is this really the place for this?”
Ed bares his teeth in a grimace and shoots a look at the door. He’s surprised the Lieutenant hasn’t already come in and dragged him out by his hair. He meant to keep his cool. He really did, but somehow all logic goes out the window when it comes to this superior bastard. In all the years he’s been in the military and under Mustang’s command he still doesn’t understand how the bastard gets to him so much. “No,” he huffs out and stalks back to the chair. He drops down into it again and thinks about what started this whole thing in the first place. “Nice to see how much you actually trust me though.”
Mustang lets out a long, put upon sigh and looks at Ed with a weary expression. “I know you’re a special case, Fullmetal. In more ways than one. But I really do wish they had sent you to the military academy.” Mustang folds his hands in his lap as he continues to talk to him in a slow, even tone as if he were a child. “There are some things about being in the military you have no idea about. Like I told you before, you do not question a superior officer. Your job is to follow orders and if you’d attended the academy, this insolence would not be an issue right now.”
Ed blinks as the ensuing silence stretches out between them. He knows there were about six different insults in his little speech even if he can’t put his finger on every one. He stares back at him, his jaw working as he tries to find words and he finally lands on the one thing he and Al will never be able to forgive him for. “Is that why you didn’t bother telling us about General Hughes until it was too late for us to attend the funeral?”
There’s a glint of something in Mustang’s eyes and for a split second Ed’s sure he’s gone too far. But, no, the bastard deserves it for treating him like a damn child. Mustang’s eyes harden to a barely contained fury and Ed sits up straighter, holding his ground even as Mustang’s voice drips with rage.
“You narcissistic little twit. When are you going to realize the world does not—” Mustang stops, looks down, and takes a deliberate breath before pinning Ed with his hard stare again. “We had no way of knowing your precise location. Even if we did, by the time you returned to Central it would’ve been too late.” Mustang relaxes slightly, his usual arrogance taking over. “I would think you’d agree postponing General Hughes’ funeral on your behalf would have been an undue hardship on his wife and daughter.”
Ed glares back at him, not wanting to be the first to look away, but in the end it doesn’t matter. Mustang wasn’t even listening. Ed pushes out of the chair and snorts. “I don’t know why I bother.” Ed turns for the door and raises a hand in a sarcastic farewell. “I’m outta here.”
“And where do you think you’re going, Fullmetal?” Ed pauses with his hand on the doorknob to look back over his shoulder, deliberately rolling his eyes as he does. “You still haven’t given me your report about your trip East.”
For the second time in this ridiculous conversation Ed stares at him in disbelief. Is he serious? Lieutenant Breda and Major Armstrong came back ahead of him. Mustang has to know exactly what happened. He always does. He was the one who sent him out there in the first place! But he knows any argument at this point is only going to prolong the torture so he yanks his hand away from the knob then turns sharply to face Mustang. He crosses his arms and braces his feet apart in as much of an insubordinate stance as he can manage then stares up at the ceiling as he rattles off his “report.”
“As you know Armstrong took me out to Resembool where we met up with Breda. He dragged us out to the middle of nowhere where we had a lovely little meeting in the sweltering heat. I ran into some Ishvallans who attempted to take me hostage for all the sins of Amestris then we headed back to Resembool where I visited my family for a few days.” He turns his eyes to Mustang and scowls at the “all business” look on his face. “Is that a sufficient enough report for you, Colonel, sir?”
Mustang folds his hands in his lap and Ed doesn’t know how, but he gets the feeling Mustang’s looking down at him even though he’s still sitting in bed. Stupid, smug bastard. He can already see the smirk forming on his lips.
“In part. But you neglected to mention your visitor in Resembool.” Mustang tilts his head and that smug smile makes its full presence known. “Who was that blond man standing over your mother’s grave anyway, Fullmetal?”
Rage burns through Ed, hot and wild, and he clenches his fists so tight his automail one creaks from the pressure. He tries to shoot daggers at Mustang with his eyes and in this moment he knows he’d actually hurt him if he could. The bastard always does this, testing him and spying on him all the fucking time. He has no right. Not this time and he spits out with as much venom as he can muster, “I hate you.”
“That’s really not the point, now is it?” Mustang’s smile fades and Ed recognizes the look of determination on his face. He won’t let this go. Ed knows he could storm out, but he has a sick feeling he’d never make it out of the hospital without being pulled back to face this particular torture.
“What’s it matter?” Ed shrugs angrily and crosses his arms again. “You probably already know anyway.” And that’s when he sees it. That little tick by Mustang’s eye. He’s trying to act like he has all the damn answers, but he doesn’t. And he probably couldn’t find them even if he wanted them. The very thought brings a slight smirk to his own lips.
“As much as you may like to believe it, I’m not all seeing and all knowing, Fullmetal.” Mustang pauses, obviously for emphasis but it only makes Ed roll his eyes. The bastard continues to stare at him and finally Ed sighs and relents.
“Fine. If you must know, while I was in Resembool, I did some…research and I was able to determine, that….” His arms fall to his sides and he looks down at the white floor tiles. He hates talking about this, but while he was in Xerxes Lieutenant Breda did fill him in on all the intelligence they’d collected. It’s only fair he does the same, even if he fucking hates it. “The thing we transmuted…it wasn’t Mom.”
Ed hears Mustang’s sharp intake of breath but he doesn’t lift his head. He doesn’t want to see sympathy or pity on his face. They don’t share things like that and he’s not about to start now. He scuffs the toe of his boot along the floor and shoves his hands in his pockets. “So? Can I go now?”
“What about the man?”
Ed squeezes his eyes shut for a moment then jerks his head back to toss his long bangs out of his face. “It was my worthless, bastard of a father, okay?” He finally directs his gaze back to Mustang who at least isn’t looking smug anymore. “Happy now?”
“I’m sorry, Edward.”
Ed looks away again and scowls. The warm flush of embarrassment, always accompanied by anger when it comes to his deadbeat father, flares through him. This needs to be over. Now. “Don’t. Just don’t.” He doesn’t sound like he’s mocking him, but it still doesn’t mean he wants to hear it from him. It’s weird coming from Mustang. He shrugs and tries to change the subject. There’s still things he needs to know, if he can get the bastard to tell him. “So, you find out anything else?”
Mustang doesn’t answer at first and Ed’s guts twist up inside. Please, don’t start with the pity shit. He’s never gotten that from Mustang and he doesn’t want it now. He looks back at him again and thankfully the unfamiliar soft look has left Mustang’s eyes and he can see he’s all business again. Good. Maybe they can finally get somewhere without killing each other.
“I was referred to as a sacrifice. Your brother informed me that both of you have heard the same thing before?”
Mustang shifts on the bed, his hand going briefly to his side and it reminds Ed exactly why he’s here and how he looked when he first came in. Now the homunculi want to “sacrifice” him as well? Ed shakes his head and takes a few steps closer. He needs to stop this. It’s bad enough he and Al are wrapped up in this shit, but they started it back in the Fifth Laboratory. He glances up to see the weariness Mustang’s trying to hide and it’s too much. He may be a bastard but he doesn’t want to be attending his funeral, or visiting his grave site next.
“It doesn’t matter.” Ed shakes his head slowly as he looks him in the eye again. “Like I told you before, you shouldn’t be involved in this. None of you should. Al and I can—”
“The hell you can.” Ed flinches back at the sudden look of malice in Mustang’s eyes. He sits up straight but Ed doesn’t miss his wince.
“Well, you’re obviously not up to it.” Ed waves his hand in the direction of his injured left side and Mustang’s glare intensifies. “Don’t look at me that way. It’s your bastard ass that apparently needs more protecting than expected!”
Mustang’s voice drops about ten degrees and it’s all Ed can do not to flinch back. “Have you forgotten I’m the only one who’s successfully dealt with one of the subjects in question?”
“And we can see how well that worked out.” He snorts and is about to turn for the door again when Mustang suddenly leans forward and snatches his left wrist in a vice grip. Ed’s eyes widen. He didn’t think he could lean forward so much, much less move that fast. Mustang’s dark look locks on Ed and he doesn’t even try to pull away.
“The only reason I’m in this hospital bed is because I underestimated my opponent.” His hand tightens on Ed’s wrist as his voice grows even lower and more dangerous. “It won’t happen again.”
“Good.” Ed tugs at his wrist but Mustang doesn’t release it. He sighs and turns more toward him. Why can’t this be fucking over? Hasn’t Mustang already gotten what he wanted? “Good to hear. And thanks for taking one of them out. One less for me to deal with.”
“Damn it, Fullmetal, you’re not listening to me. This is bigger than you. This is bigger than all of us.” Ed gives him a bored look and rolls his eyes to look toward the door. If Mustang thinks one of his doom and gloom, bigger purpose speeches is gonna work on him now, then he’s stupid. He’s heard it all before. “You arrogant, little shit. Why do you think this is only about you? This all happened underneath a military installation. We’d be fighting this threat with or without you.”
“You don’t know that!” Ed finally yanks his arm away and Mustang scowls as he slowly leans back against the pillows behind him. “If it wasn’t for me and Al pursuing the damn Stone we wouldn’t have run into them at the Fifth Laboratory! If we hadn’t done that then maybe General Hughes—”
A knock at the door silences him and sends a chill through him. They shouldn’t be discussing this here. When Bradley met with him, Al, and Hughes, he told them not to discuss these things with anyone. Damn Mustang for making him lose his temper. He looks back to see the door opening and lets out the breath he was holding when Lieutenant Hawkeye pokes her head inside the room.
“Sir, you should be resting, not shouting for the rest of the floor to hear. And Edward….” Her eyes turn from the Colonel to him and Ed ducks his head at the reproachful look she sends him. “I thought I told you not to wake the Colonel.”
“I didn’t! The bastard did it on his own.” She frowns at his words and Ed winces and looks down. She has a way of looking at him that reminds him too much of the way his mother would look when she was disappointed in him. He shoves his hands in his pockets again and mumbles softer. “Sorry, Lieutenant.”
“See to it you don’t take much longer. The Colonel needs his rest.”
Ed turns his eyes up slightly to see her sending a glance Mustang’s direction. She nods in response to some silent cue from him and Ed shakes his head. Their stupid looks and blind devotion. They all act this way and Ed’s never understood it. Why do they blindly trust him so damn much?
“Edward, I think this does need to be the end of our conversation.”
He turns his head to see Mustang glancing around the room significantly and he gets it. They shouldn’t have said as much as they already have, especially being in Central. The last time he got into this discussion in a hospital someone ended up getting killed. He won’t let that happen again regardless of what the bastard says.
“Alright. You get your rest or whatever.” Ed shrugs and walks toward the door. He and Al need to figure out what the homunculi are trying to do and why they’ve added Mustang to their list of “sacrifices.” Maybe if they could get their hands on one….
Ed stops at the door and looks back, distracted. They need more information and he’s not going to find it standing around here talking. He needs to do something. “Yeah?”
“Let’s finish our talk tomorrow. I believe there’s a little more light I can shed on the problem.”
Ed’s eyes widen and he grits his teeth. He should’ve known the bastard was holding out on him. He lets out an irritated snort then nods. Apparently they’ll be staying in Central a little longer than he thought. “Fine. Fine, I’ll see you tomorrow.”
And with that he turns on his heel and storms out the door. He needs to talk to Al and figure some of this out. Maybe he can get back down underneath the lab and see if he can find something. One way or another, he’s not going to let anyone else get hurt because of him.