“What the hell is this, you damn bastard?” Edward fumed, holding the object of his rage two inches from Mustang’s face.
The Colonel, who sat up with his legs crossed in his hospital bed, breathed an exasperated sigh and slumped his shoulders, glaring in Edward’s general direction. He clumsily batted Edward’s (now flesh and bone) right hand away. A fluttering sound told his that hand was clenching papers of some sort.
“You know I can’t see what you’re shoving in my face, Fullmetal.”
Edward grunted obstinately, though his ever-expressive eyes betrayed his feeling of guilt at making his commanding officer’s blindness a point. Not that aforementioned commanding officer could see those ever-expressive eyes, but again…
Edward gritted his teeth. Lieutenant. Colonel,” he said, over enunciating each syllable.
“Ah, ha,” Mustang nodded, understanding now the reason for his youngest subordinates annoyance. “Your promotion had nothing to do with me, though I can’t say that I particularly disagree with it. That came straight from the top.”
“Well I particularly disagree with it! What the hell good is a dumb ass promotion when I’m just going to turn right around and resign?”
“I was unaware you planned to resign.”
“Well I can’t exactly stay a state alchemist if I can’t even do alchemy anymore, now can I?”
Mustang blinked rapidly. He opened his moth to speak but no appropriate words made there way out. The Flame Alchemist, who had always considered himself a master of planning and strategy, had not considered this point. He now considered it briefly before cautiously suggesting, “I’m fairly certain it could be arranged for you to maintain your rank as a regular officer. Investigations is always looking for bright new talent and they are… well, a bit short handed at the moment.”
Edward took much longer to reply than Mustang had expected. Fullmetal was usually quick to the draw with a comeback for anything. Very few times had he seen (and there we go again damn it) the boy (and he was just a boy, Mustang constantly reminded himself) take such pause. This pause lingered and hung heavily in the air, weighing him down. What was Edward doing? Was he looking thoughtfully into some blank point is space? Was he glaring at him? Was he, perhaps, considering the offer to remain in the military?
Edward was in fact doing the former, rolling over in his mind everything that had happened in the past five years and everything that needed to happen in the immediate future. He needed to heel from both the physical wounds sustained on Promised Day and the emotional wounds sustained in the years prior. First and foremost he needed to take care of Al.
“I can’t stay in the military, Mustang,” Edward finally said with solemn finality. He sighed an utterly exhausted sight that breathed out the whole of the turmoil hr had experienced. “Al’s in bad shape right now. His body’s just skin and bones, he’s so weak. He-“ Ed’s voice broke and he swallowed audibly past the tightness in his throat. He selfishly admitted to himself that he was glad Mustang could not see the tears pooling in his eyes. “Al had a seizure as soon Major Armstrong brought us to the hospital. It shook him so bad it cracked two ribs and it might have even killed him if he hadn’t been sedated quickly. Now the damn sedatives won’t flush out of his system and he’ll probably be high for a week and I just…” A sob that he could not have held in if he wanted to pushed its way out of his chest and he no longer cared about the tears he knew that Mustang knew were freely flowing down his scratched up face. To hell with dignity. Dignity was just another word for pride and he was done dealing with that brat.
“I understand,” Mustang assured Edward as soon as he heard that the young man had settled down. “You only joined the military and became a state alchemist to find a way to get Al’s body back. You got what you wanted and now your work here is done.”
No sooner had he spoken that Mustang realized that those words may not have been received as he had intended; that he may have given Edward the impression that he thought him selfish for having used the military the way he had and for leaving the instant his brother was returned to his body.
“I didn’t mean that quite the way it sounded.”
” know what you meant. You’re right. I joined the army to get Al’s body back. But along the way, al and I both learned a lot. We grew up. We discovered that some things, things as complicated as saving the world from homunculi that have infiltrated the government and as simple as telling right from wrong, were just as important to us as restoring our bodies. More important, even. We searched for the Philosophers Stone for years on end. Then as soon as we figured out what it was, we promised each other we would never use something like that for ourselves. Then Al trapped himself with Pride the morning of Promised Day, knowing that it would make him miss the portal being opened and our best shot at getting what we always wanted. He wanted to fight for something greater. We both did. But now Al’s whole again. The homunculi are defeated. The country is in the hands of an honest man. Everything is set right. Well…” Edward stopped when he noticed the grave error of his last statement. “Almost everything, anyway. I’m sorry, Colonel. I wish there was a way for you to get your eyesight back.”
Mustang hummed and nodded. “Perhaps there is. I was the one who first suggested to you and Alphonse that there was a way for you to get your bodies back. But now that I have witnessed the price of that, I fear what I would lose in regaining my own vision. No.” He shook his head and closed his whitened eyes. “I accept this, though not without regrets.”
Silence fell again, allowing them both to absorb everything the other had said and giving them a chance to fully understand each other, perhaps for the first time.
It was Mustang who finally broke the silence. “A resignation on your part won’t be necessary. I’ll arrange your honorable discharge. With,” he added pointedly, “your new rank of Lieutenant Colonel.”
“Um, yeah, thanks,” was all Edward could manage in response.
“So what will you do now? After your brother recovers, that is?”
“Well, Truth told me to take him home, so that’s what I’m going to do. As soon as he’s well enough to travel, it’s back home to Risembool. To stay this time.
“I’m happy for you. I mean it when I say you and your brother are two of the finest men I have ever met. And your technically not even men yet, you’re teenaged boys for gods sake.”
Edward snorted and rolled his eyes. “Yeah, teenaged boys who totally saved your ass.”
Mustang laughed. Yes, Fullmetal, you totally saved my ass; the entire countries ass, in fact.”
“So that’s one collective ass, then?”
Mustang laughed again, more heartily this time. “Yes, a collective ass.” As soon as he stopped laughing, he spoke seriously again. “I have been your commanding officer for going on five years now. In that time I have watched you grow,” he paused to smirk, “though much more in character than in actual stature.”
“Calm down, Ed. You know I couldn’t resist one last short joke.” Mustang waited until he could hear that Edward was finished grumbling to continue. “As I was saying. It has been an honor and a pain in the ass in equal measure to have had you on my team and to have fought by your side in battle.” The Colonel sat up straight and proudly saluted the spectacular youth with whom he had experienced such wonderful and terrible times.
“Yeah, it’s been and honor and a pain in the ass for me too.” Then as an afterthought, but a very important afterthought, he added, “Sir.” Then for the first time in his military career, Edward Elric took on the posture of a proper soldier. “I feel the need to tell you I’m saluting, Colonel. Like straight up at attention and everything.”
“I can picture it in my mind. Mustang let down his hand and heard Edwards hand fall to his side in kind. “So I suppose this is where we say goodbye, then?”
“Yeah, I guess. Well,” Edward shifted awkwardly. He had always hated goodbyes. “Bye Colonel.”
Mustang listened to Edwards slightly uneven footsteps as he left the room and headed down the hallway out of the wing. He breathed in the silence of Edwards absence and smiled.
“Until we meet again, Edward Elric.”
They both knew that they would someday, in better times than these.
Seriously, expect more FMA stuff to pop us because I'm officially addicted to writing drabbles of it. There is one more finished I have to type out and there is one I wrote a month ago that has yet to be posted for want of a title.