sol 1056

Find the Moon

chapter 6.

Duo settled into the backseat of the car, somewhat heartened by the fact that these military guys hadn't roughed him up even half as much as OZ would have by that point. The ride was quiet, with the Major muttering things to the woman driving, while the man at Duo's side kept his gun out. Duo was torn between sighing in disgust, and rolling his eyes. The gun's safety had been on the entire time. Somehow, it seemed to figure that Edward wouldn't have known the difference.

The car pulled up in front of another building, and Duo was hauled from the car. He stumbled on purpose, taking advantage of the momentary delay to look around and get his bearings. The two people in the front seat stayed in the car, and Duo watched out of the corner of his eye as the car pulled away from the curb and disappeared into the night.

There were men and women walking in and out of the building, even this late at night, and they were all dressed in black. Duo smiled to himself. It looked like they'd decide to hold him at the civilian police station, since the military headquarters was probably already nothing more than a pile of smoking rubble. Duo shifted, feeling the last two smoke bombs clink together, and ducked his head to keep from laughing outright as he was hauled past several police officers and into the building. He was brought to a halt in front of a desk, and his escort waited for them to be noticed. The woman looked up, a bored expression on her face.

"May I help you?" Her gaze flicked over Duo, and he gave her a cheeky smile. Her expression was severe, but he noticed one side of her mouth quirking like she was having a little trouble remaining stern. She cleared her throat and looked over his head. "I wasn't aware the military was in the habit of delivering juvenile delinquents."

"He's not...well, he is, but he's of special interest to the military. We need to keep him in one of your holding cells until we can transfer him to Central," the man said. The woman shrugged, and waved them off, in the direction of the hallway behind her desk. The man pushed Duo forward, twisting his arm a bit to send him towards the holding cells.

Central, Duo thought, recognizing the city's name. Selwyn had told Edward to head back to Central, and Edward's boss was named...Duo racked his brains for the right piece of information. Mustang. Something...Mustang. Duo pondered sitting tight in a locked cell, and letting these guys do all the work getting him to Central. He just as quickly squashed the notion. Sitting around and waiting wasn't quite his style. Not if he had anything to do with it, he added darkly. And it wasn't like anyone was going to show up and get him out, either. First, Edward and Alphonse were on their way to Central, and second, Heero wasn't even in this world. On the upside, that did reduce his chances of getting shot by any rescuer, so that was a plus.

Duo was shoved through the double doors and down a long hallway. He caught quick glimpses of the locks on the holding cells as they walked past, and he had to duck his head to hide a smirk. Actually, he decided, getting out of this place might end up downright boring, if the locks were that simple.

"Hey, boy!" The call came from somewhere nearby, and Duo was brought up short as the officer started at the sound. The shout came again, and Duo turned to see the man—one of the two from the Doctor's basement—heading down the row towards them. Hecht's face was lit up in recognition, but he frowned as he came closer, realizing Duo's hands were cuffed. At the last minute, the policeman's face was smoothed into blandness. "Oh, sorry. I thought you had my nephew, there."

"I doubt it," the officer replied. "We're using your facilities to house him overnight, before we can send him to Central."

"Yeah," Hecht replied, nodding thoughtfully. "Heard there was a big ruckus over at the Military Headquarters. Some kind of explosions."

"Vandalism," the man replied, and pointed to the empty cell at the end of the block. "Do you have keys?"

"Oh, sure, sure," Hecht said. He fished keys out of his pocket, and opened the door. Duo was shoved inside, and he turned immediately, planting his feet belligerently even as his fingers began working furiously on the cuffs. Hecht winked at him, then turned to the officer. "Say, how long is he going to be here? If you're going to come get him after nine in the morning, I'll put him on the list for breakfast."

"He won't need breakfast," the officer said curtly. "Just make sure he's left in there alone. We don't want anyone else endangered because they're left in the same cell with him. He may look helpless, but he's not." With that, the officer turned and stalked off, obviously having had enough of escorting a kid around.

Duo watched him go without much regret. Hecht remained where he was, though, a contemplative look on his face.

"Hey, kid," Hecht called, very softly. "You okay? You seem to turn up in the strangest places."

"Yeah," Duo replied, grinning. He brought one hand from behind his back, raising it behind his head to scratch an itch under his braid. "But it's okay. I'll be fine."

"You'll be..." Hecht's eyes went wide, and his gaze fell from Duo's raised arm, to the other arm, where cuffs were still dangling from Duo's wrist. Hecht chuckled softly. "Yeah...I guess you will. Where you gonna go, kid? The military has this city covered, especially with the town going a little crazy after finding out about the Lieutenant Colonel's plans to set us up for another war."

"I need to go to Central," Duo told him, pitching his voice low. He tugged the cuffs off his other wrist, and handed them through the bars to Hecht. Duo flexed his hands, and rubbed at the scrapes from the cuffs, even though he'd dislocated his thumbs to work free. Another quick hand-wring, and his thumbs popped back into joint. Duo glanced at Hecht, waiting.

"There's a three-thirty train, in about fifteen minutes," Hecht said. "I don't know if you can make it."

"Got any ideas for getting there fast?" Duo glanced casually up and down the hallway. There were double doors at the near end by his cell, and another set at the far end. Two police officers were standing at the far end of the hallway by the doors, chatting. Probably the guards, Duo thought.

"It's on my way home, and my shift was over a few minutes ago," Hecht admitted with a wry grin. "But I saw you, and wondered why you were here without the National Alchemist."

"They sent him home, and I need to catch up with him," Duo said. He pulled his braid around, fishing in the hair for his lock picks. "Where's your car?"

"In the back." Hecht pocketed the cuffs, just as the two guards turned away to speak with another police officer. He lowered his voice, looking off down the hallway as though just pausing for thought before heading off. "When you go out the back door, look to the left. There's a low line of bushes, and I'll be at the end, parked next to them, with the engine running." He grinned. "Don't know why I'm doing this, but you're not a normal kid, are you...I could've sworn you couldn't speak a word of our language when I first saw you."

"No, I couldn't," came the confession. Duo poked the lock pick into his side of the lock, and fiddled with it. It clicked, and Duo grinned. "Go on...and thank you."

"Wait for three minutes," the policeman said. "I'll distract them up front."

"Use these," Duo said, holding out the bottles. "Light this bit, and throw. Smoke."

Hecht palmed the bottles from Duo, and stared at them for a second, then laughed, long and low. "Y'know, I never did like the military. And I sure as hell don't like it when they try to do my job for me. And I sure as hell don't like it when they risk my family, or come up with a scheme that could get my sons killed, just because some bastard wants a promotion. I don't know what you are, but I don't see any reason to make you a dog of the military against your will. No one deserves that fate." Hecht tucked the bottles into his pocket and strolled off, whistling.

Duo watched him go, and stayed by the door, holding it shut as he waited. He'd counted to a hundred and twenty under his breath when the first shouts came. Another ninety heartbeats passed, and more shouts came from somewhere outside the building. It wasn't until those second shouts echoed through that the two policemen by the front doors took off. Duo grinned, opening the cell door. A quick glance around, and he bolted for the back door. It was locked, but a few twiddles from the lock pick, and the door swung open. Down another hallway, and Duo ducked behind a plant stand as more police officers went running past. Almost laughing out loud at the simplicity, Duo headed towards a door that looked suitably thick to be an outside door. Kicking it open, he found himself in the back parking lot.

There, along the bushes, at the end, was a car. Its running lights were on. Duo slunk down behind the bushes, running almost on hands and knees, hunkered down until he got to the car. Opening the door just a little, he slipped inside. It wasn't until he pulled the door shut that the driver sat up with a start.

"That you, boy?" Hecht asked the question, barely moving his mouth.

"Yeah," Duo whispered.

"There's a blanket. Pull it over you, and stay down. The front street is swarming with police and military."

Hecht pulled the car away from its parking space, and Duo listened as the car slowed down, rolling to a stop. The blanket muffled the sounds, but from what Duo could tell, Hecht was asking about injuries to his coworkers. A few more friendly words were exchanged, and Hecht shouted a good night as he pulled away. Several minutes passed, the car speeding up and slowing down as it turned corners and came to stops at intersections.

"All right, boy," Hecht said. "We're at the train station. I think you have about five minutes before the next train. You going to be able to make it from here?"

"Yeah," Duo said, slipping from the car. He paused, long enough to flash a grin over his face. "Thank you, again. I can't repay you—"

"Just don't let the bastards use you for their purposes, boy," Hecht whispered.

"I won't," Duo replied, and was off, running across the side lawn leading up to the train station. I won't, he promised, in this world or any other.

Duo stayed in the shadows, waiting anxiously for the train. He wasn't willing to step out and see if Edward and Alphonse were there, and risk being seen himself, so he kept to the far end of the platform. When the train whistle sounded from across the distance, Duo tensed, his mind going into overdrive as he began considering the different ways to sneak on a train. He'd snuck onto shuttles, and ships, and one colony cruiser in his lifetime, but a train was going to be a new experience. As the train neared the station, Duo could only shake his head and grin at his luck.

It's not just any train, he thought. It's got a damn steam engine.

Which meant the undercarriage would probably be exposed, if he recalled G's ramblings about the developments of transportation. The old man had liked to go on about where he'd gotten some of his ideas for Deathscythe, and they seemed to come from the oddest places. Unfortunately, Duo wasn't sure about much more than the fact that steam was produced from some kind of combustion, and it drove the wheels. That was pretty rudimentary, since all moving vehicles operated under the same premise: an engine, of some sort, either pushed or pulled the vehicle. Duo groaned as the train pulled into the station. The undercarriage was completely exposed.

It's going to be a long, cold, ride, he thought. And if this isn't the right train, I'm gonna shoot someone. Possibly myself.

He perked up when he heard the conductor yelling that the train was bound for Central, with some number of stops between that Duo didn't catch. He was too busy darting out behind the conductor and slipping under the last section of the train. Tucking his braid down the back of his coat, Duo buttoned up the coat and weaseled up under the train's belly. He kept going until he was on his back, his chest pressed up to the wooden undercarriage and his cheek flat against the wood. Duo wriggled experimentally, making sure there were no moving parts nearby, and that he wouldn't slip accidentally.

Now, he thought, I just need to stay awake...and not freeze to death.

By the third stop, Duo had taken to chanting weapons statistics at the top of his lungs to keep himself awake. During the first stop, he'd managed to rearrange himself so his coat collar was pulled up over his head, but it left his ankles and feet exposed. There was no comfortable way to curl up, not with four bands of steel running behind his body, making his hips sink while his back was curved from the bar across the base of his spine. At least he'd managed to find ways to grab a hold of two more bars with his arms, locking his hands together in case his shoulders slipped off the first bar. Duo kept his face pressed to the wood; listening to the conductor announce the station's name followed by Central as the final destination.

Once the train started going again, Duo went back to shouting. This time, it was a listing of his kill rate of mobile dolls, broken down by types, compared to Wing and Heavyarms. He was pleased to discover he was in the lead.

Two more stops came and went, and Duo couldn't feel his legs from his knees down. He gritted his teeth, his throat sore, and tried desperately not to think of hot coffee, warm baths, and big fluffy blankets. It didn't help that he was certain he was coated in grime, between the soot from the engine and the dirt from the train tracks underneath. At least his braid was tucked up inside his coat, he thought. One less thing to wash, even if the rest of him would need to be dipped in bleach and wrung out thoroughly.

Warm bleach, preferably, he told himself.

When the train pulled into Central, the sun was just beginning to rise, and Duo had to claw his way out from under the train. He fell to the tracks with a solid thump, and lay there for a second, trying to get his breath. His legs were completely numb, and he rolled around on the tracks between the wheels, hoping he had enough time to get from under the train before it moved again. Dragging himself by his elbows, he struggled to clench and unclench his hands, cursing the lack of feeling. His face was numb as well, which he didn't realize until his elbows gave out and he went face-first into the train bed's gravel.

Dully he forced himself back up again, and thanked whatever powers that existed in this world that no one seemed to notice a dark shape crawling out from under the last train car. He rested for a split second once he was out from under the train, then hoisted himself up onto the platform. He twisted as he moved, until he was perched on the edge. Duo smacked his hands against the concrete and winced as the feeling started to return.

Maybe I should've let the military bring me to Central, he thought, bleakly. I feel even worse than if Oz had worked me over.

"Hey, kid," someone yelled. "You can't sit there!"

Duo looked up to see a conductor heading towards him, and he grinned, hoping he looked suitably young. The conductor waved his arms as he approached, obviously angry.

"Go on! Get out of here!"

"Yeah, yeah," Duo muttered, clambering unsteadily to his feet. He swayed, but didn't fall, if only through sheer willpower. "Military headquarters," he croaked, as the conductor came closer. "Where..."

"Like they'd have anything to do with a street rat like you," the conductor muttered. "Get out of my station. I won't have any pickpockets around. This place isn't for the likes of you."

Duo shrugged and barely managed to turn around, following the streams of people on the off-chance they were all heading for an exit. He stumbled a little, but caught himself, keeping his head down and his hands in his pockets. He wasn't sure entirely what the conductor had said, but the tone of voice was one he recognized enough from his childhood. He figured it was probably the same thing on any world: you're a kid who's up to no good, stealing and panhandling. Get out of here, before I call the cops.

Whatever, Duo thought, and raised one numb hand to wipe at his face. He couldn't see a sign of Alphonse or Edward anywhere, and sighed. A six-foot tall suit of armor shouldn't be that hard to find, even in the early morning crowd of commuters. Someone bumped into him, and he nearly fell, but caught himself against the wall. He pushed forward, leaning against the wall for balance, and after several minutes made it to the doors. Taking a careful step away from the wall, Duo threw himself into the press of bodies and let them carry him along.

A few seconds later he was out the doors, with two new wallets in his pockets. He wasn't sure what the money was like here, but he'd seen the money Alphonse had used to pay for their pastries. Paper, and some metal coins. Duo hoped the wallets were full, and tottered away from the doors quickly. With his fingers still mostly numb, he was sure his technique had to be clumsy, and his shoulders tensed, waiting for someone to start yelling. When no one did, he looked around for something that looked like a taxi.

They better have taxis, he thought. What kind of civilized world wouldn't have taxis?

There were several cars that looked like Hecht's, parked along the curb. They had signs on their roofs, and Duo grabbed the first one, crossing his fingers that his guess was right. He had to scrabble with his hands to get the back door open, and threw himself into the back seat.

"Military headquarters," he said, and coughed. The driver turned around, giving him a bored look, rapidly replaced by a wide-eyed stare. Duo grinned wryly, figuring he wasn't the cleanest passenger the driver had ever had. Duo coughed again to clear his throat, and dug out the wad of money from the first wallet. "Please. Military headquarters. Go fast."

"Ah, sure, kid," the driver said, then paused. "You didn't steal this, did you?"

Great, Duo thought, figuring out the word by context. How do I get around that one? Thinking fast, he put on a sorrowful face. "It's all I have left," he explained. The driver stared at the money, then Duo, and took it, nodding.

"Okay, direct to Military Headquarters...which one?"

"Which one?" Duo blinked. "Alchemists," he finally said, his voice hoarse. "National Alchemists. Mustang."

"Don't know the name, but I know the Alchemists' headquarters. Other side of town, in the North Annex," the driver replied. He pulled away from the curb, and Duo looked back over his shoulder to see two people by the train station doors, shouting and waving their arms. Duo slunk down in the seat, and basked in the warmth of the taxi's heater system.

Fifteen minutes later, the taxi pulled up in front of a large building. Duo's shoulders slumped at the wide-open space between the gates and the front of the building. It was a long way to cross, with no cover, and his instincts went on full alert. He distantly realized the driver was holding out change, and he shook his head.

"Keep it," Duo said, and carefully got out of the taxi. Shutting the door behind him, he took a wobbly step forward, getting his balance. Every step sent pins and needles up his legs as feeling returned, but his feet were still mostly numb. Walking through the gate, Duo let his shoulders relax into a slouch, and tucked his hands in his pockets, ducking his chin beneath the coat's collar.

Nonchalant, he told himself. Walk like you belong here. Yeah, he added, if you can walk at all. It'll be kinda obvious if you fall on your face.

It took two hundred and seventeen paces—Duo counted every single one—to get to the bottom steps. He took a deep breath and forced his knees to bend, staggering up the steps only by keeping the forward momentum. At the top, two people in blue military uniforms were leaving, and Duo slipped past them as though he belonged there. Neither seemed to notice, and he sighed as he entered the building.

The main lobby was massive, with a huge set of stairs going up one side. There was a guard desk in the middle, and Duo squared his shoulders. Making his way to the desk, he did his best to lean it against it surreptitiously. What he really wanted to was to sit down, and not get up again. Preferably to sit down in a hot bath, and not get up again until he was sure his only destination was a big, comfortable bed. Hell, he'd settled for Deathscythe's cockpit, as long as it was someplace safe and warm.

"Civilians aren't allowed past this point without escort," the guard said. "Are you here to see someone? Do you have an appointment?"

"I figured, yes, and no," Duo answered, his throat tightening. His brain shuttled through the questions, sorting them and translating without too much conscious effort, which was fine by him. He couldn't seem to get his voice above a whisper. "Mustang."

"Lieutenant Colonel Mustang?" The guard looked skeptical. "You have an appointment?"

"No," Duo retorted, starting to feel cross. "Just get him. It's about Fullmetal."

"Fullmetal?" The guard looked surprised, then frowned. After a second, he nodded, and picked up the phone, dialing rapidly. "Second Lieutenant Hawkeye, there's someone at the—" he paused, startled. "No, ma'am. It's some kid...who says he's here about Fullmetal. Yeah. A kid. About...five-feet, I guess, dressed in black..." The guard's voice dropped to a whisper and he hunched his shoulders as though to keep Duo from overhearing. "And he's filthy. I mean...just covered in dirt. I see. I'll tell him."

Duo rolled his eyes. His braid wasn't that bad, even if his face probably was darker than it'd ever been, even after two months on Earth. He scrubbed at his face with his coat sleeve, a bit self-consciously. Maybe it was a bad idea to come find Mustang, since he'd lost Edward and Alphonse, but he couldn't think of a better idea, and it sounded like he was about to be turned away. He had to come up with something to get the man's attention.

"Chimera," Duo said suddenly. "Tell him, it's about chimeras."

"What?" The guard frowned, then spoke into the phone. "Sorry, ma'am. He says it's about chimeras...oh. Oh. Yes ma'am." The guard's agreement sounded forced out of him. "I'll let him know."

The man hung up, and gave Duo an irritated look.

"Warrant Officer Havoc will be down to escort you," he said. "You can wait over there."

"Yeah, sure," Duo muttered, taking a deep breath before he pushed away from the desk, heading for the low benches along the wall. The guard had pointed to a spot by the door, but Duo wasn't interested in standing around, and he didn't give a damn if the guard was worried he'd muck up the upholstery. He collapsed into the nearest seat, and suddenly wondered whether now he wouldn't be able to get back up. Yawning, he leaned his elbows on his knees, and tried to stay awake.

Footfalls snapped him out of a light doze, and he blinked, looking up at a tall man who was bending down to peer at him. Duo blinked again, and yawned. Pushing off from the sofa with his hands, he was pleased to find most of the feeling had returned to his fingers, and his legs were almost completely back in operating order. He stared up at the man, who had an unlit cigarette hanging from between his lips, and was giving Duo a bemused look. The man's blond hair stood up in a shock, falling lightly over his brow, but his blue uniform was buttoned up and neatly pressed. It made Duo feel even grungier.

"Mustang," Duo managed to croak. "Fullmetal."

"Sure thing, kid," the man said. "I'm Warrant Officer Havoc." At Duo's puzzled look, the man grinned, revealing even, white teeth. "Call me Havoc. Probably easier. You look exhausted. Hell, you look like you got dragged here by wild horses."

"Got here by train," Duo muttered, not sure what Havoc had said, but figuring he could guess. When Havoc jerked his head towards the hallway, Duo staggered forward. Havoc caught him under the elbow, and Duo took a deep breath before pulling away. "I'm okay," he said, coughing a few times. "Need to see Mustang."

"Right," Havoc said, in a dubious voice. "Follow me, then."

It was a long walk down a hallway, then down another one, and up a flight of stairs. Duo kept his hand on the railing, and didn't care whether Havoc had chosen the long way to avoid being seen with a filthy street kid. At the top of the stairs, Havoc led him down another hallway, and then to an imposing wooden door. Havoc rapped quickly with his knuckles.

"Come in," a voice called. It sounded irritable, and Duo took a steadying breath as Havoc opened the door and saluted sharply.

"Lieutenant Colonel Mustang," Havoc said. "I've brought..." He stopped, and turned to Duo. "What's your name, anyway?"

"Duo Maxwell," Duo said.

He smiled faintly, too tired to manage more than that, and turned to blink at the people standing a few feet away. The man's back was to the window, and the early morning sun was in Duo's eyes. He could make out a woman standing next to the man, and she was holding something that appeared to be a stack of files. She turned, and Duo could see her blonde hair was pinned up, making a little flip of a tail at the back of her head, but her eyes were kind, if assessing. She took the file from the man's hands, and put it on top of her stack, stepping back.

Mustang was silent as he stepped between the light and Duo, revealing he was only a little taller than the woman, with jet-black hair that fell down around his face and sleepy dark eyes. He was also wearing the dark blue uniform, but Duo noticed a few more bars and stripes on the man's shoulders, probably indicating his higher rank. Mustang didn't move closer, however, and one white-gloved hand was raised, as if he was ready to snap his fingers.

Another alchemist, Duo thought immediately. Edward had needed to clap his hands, but this man could just snap his fingers? Duo tensed, and his fingers itched to make sure his gun was closer to hand than at the back of his jeans under a buttoned coat.

"What do you know about Fullmetal?" The man's voice was low, and smooth, but with a hidden tension. "He's not yet returned from Duiren."

"This morning," Duo replied, unable to get more than a whisper. "On the train. Left city, military people..." He struggled for the word, and shrugged, waving his hands a little. "Military building. Chimeras. Boom."

There was a stifled laugh from behind Duo, and he gave the man in front of him a tired grin. The man seemed unamused, but one eyebrow twitched, just a little.

"Well, that does sound like Fullmetal," the man said. "I'm Lieutenant Colonel Mustang. What can I do for you, or are you only Fullmetal's advance guard, warning me of his imminent return?"

Duo wasn't sure what imminent meant, and the way the man said it, it sounded like it was something pretty disastrous. He shrugged, and decided to lay it all out. At this point, the worst he could get—being thrown into another cell—might be the best. At least then he might get to lay down for some uninterrupted sleep.

"No. I am not homunculus," Duo said, very carefully. He was startled at the response.

"Second Lieutenant Hawkeye, the door," Mustang snapped. "Warrant Officer Havoc, hallway. Mister Maxwell, sit down."

Duo vaguely recognized his name, and nodded, stumbling forward to fall onto one of the couches. There was a flurry of action around him, but Mustang remained where he was, silent for several minutes. When the man still didn't say anything, Duo leaned back and gave him a lazy grin. He was gritting his teeth underneath, fighting the urge to just fall over, but he'd be damned if he'd let this self-possessed man see even an iota of weakness if Duo had any say in the matter.

"I took train to get here," he told Mustang. His voice faded on the last word, more scratch than sound.

"You look like you were under it, instead of in it," Mustang observed.

"Yeah, I was." Duo chuckled, then coughed again. "This place is cold."

Mustang nodded to the woman, and Duo caught her response, an amused, private smile as she opened the door and spoke with the person outside. She closed the door, and the three waited. Duo wondered if this were the point when more police officers would come rushing in to drag him out. He ground his teeth, trying to suppress a yawn, and then the door was opening, the woman was walking towards him, and a cup of something dark was being put in his hands. Duo stared down at it, and sniffed it suspiciously. Glancing at Mustang's arched eyebrow, Duo sipped cautiously, then nearly dropped the cup in surprise.

"Coffee," Hawkeye explained.

"Coffee," Duo repeated, the word turning into a groan of pleasure as he drank more, feeling the hot liquid warm up places that he'd started to fear might be permanently frozen. "Yes...we have this, too. Oh..." He was about to finish the cup, then stopped, wondering if he should make it last as long as possible.

"There's plenty more," Hawkeye said, a gentle laugh hiding in her voice.

Duo grinned up at her, a wide and happy look, and finished off the drink. One glance at Mustang, though, told him he'd better get to the point. Duo sighed and rested the empty cup on his knee. "The military in the city wanted chimeras to attack people, and kill them. The military people wanted more military people to protect city people from the chimeras."

"I see," Mustang said, moving to lean against his desk. "So it was from the inside?"

Duo nodded. "The alchemist made chimeras for the military people. Next, he wanted to send the chimeras to the town without taking them."

"I'm not sure I understand."

"Words...sometimes they're hard." Duo rubbed his forehead. "This is not my world." He looked up to see Mustang's eyes widen, and he nearly smirked at getting the man to even marginally lose his cool. "The doctor wanted to...transpose...the chimeras. Have them kill the city people, and the military would say it was..." Duo couldn't remember the country's name, and he waved his hand vaguely, and coughed again. It still felt like someone had taken a scouring pad to his throat.

"Drachma's fault," Mustang finished for him.

"Yeah, them. Say it was them, and write for more military people. Something about..." Duo screwed up his face, trying to recall what he'd heard over the raging fire behind him and the screaming people in the streets. "You have to understand, when you're stationed to an outpost like this, the chances of promotion are next to nothing, unless you're in command of a large force that's going to see regular action. It's been ten years since we've had any skirmishes on the border." Duo made a face. "I think that's right. That's what I—" He looked up to see Mustang regarding him thoughtfully, while Hawkeye looked stunned.

"What about you?" Mustang's voice was perfectly calm. Duo was impressed, despite himself.

"When the doctor tried to transpose, I was in my own world, working on machines. There was a blue light, and then I woke up in the basement. The doctor hit me on the head and kept me. He thought I was homunculus. I'm not. I'm..." He struggled for the word, and finally shook his head. "Doctor let chimera loose to attack me, but it killed him. Then I killed chimera. Ed and Al found me." He yawned, unable to cover that time. "Sorry. I was awake all night."

"We'll find you a place to sleep. Before that, I've one more question. What was the damage?" Mustang noticed Duo's blank look, and frowned. "How much did Fullmetal destroy, this time?"

"Destroy?" Duo considered that, and shrugged. "Not much. I did most of it. Military building. Fire. Smoke. Boom. I killed..." Duo paused, reviewing the past thirty-six hours. "I killed six chimera. Edward killed seven chimera," he added, almost grumpy at the realization. Well, he told himself, at least I'm still in the lead in my own world.

He was startled when Mustang chuckled softly, shaking his head. The man nodded to Second Lieutenant Hawkeye, who opened the door and spoke softly to someone in the hallway. Havoc stepped through a minute later.

"All clear, sir," Havoc said.

"Good," Mustang replied. "If you don't mind the imposition, take this...young man down to the dorms, wash him up, and let him get some sleep. I expect Fullmetal will wander in here in about an hour or two."

"One more," Duo said, hesitant. "The military people burned the doctor's building. The...array was in the basement. And the military people took the books and papers Ed and Al had." He barely noticed Hawkeye taking the cup from his hands, too focused on Mustang. "Am I..." His throat closed, rebelling against even saying the words.

"You say Fullmetal had a chance to study the array, and figured it out?" Mustang gave him a steady look.

Duo nodded several times.

"An array is an array," Mustang said. "It can be done anywhere. And if Fullmetal saw it, he'll remember it."

"I want Ed to get me back home," Duo whispered.

Mustang was quiet for a minute. When he spoke, his voice was gentle. "What if he can't?"

"He will," Duo said, stubbornly. "I will go home...but first I need a nap."

"Of course," Mustang replied smoothly. "Thank you for coming to tell me all this, Mister Maxwell." He stepped back with a pointed look towards Havoc.

Duo looked from Mustang to Havoc, and the Warrant Officer gave him a big grin. "Come on, kid," Havoc said, opening the door. Duo turned, but at the last minute, Mustang called him back.

"Mister Maxwell," Mustang said, walking over. He looked down at Duo, his lips pursed, and then smirked. "You're even shorter than Fullmetal."

"So?" Duo shrugged. "I get any taller, I wouldn't be able to do half the things I do." He looked Mustang up and down, a smug smile pasted across his face. "I'd like to see you spend half the night under a train. You couldn't fit."

Mustang stepped back, two fingers tapping his forehead in a casual salute. "True, true," but his amusement seemed out of proportion to Duo, who just shrugged.

Havoc grinned and draped an arm over Duo's shoulder. "Right this way, Maxwell," Havoc said. Out in the hallway, Havoc pulled away, his face red as though he was struggling to keep from laughing. Duo glanced sideways at him, a little suspicious.

"Mustang seems..." Duo couldn't think of the words.

"He seems like a lot of things," Havoc said, sobering suddenly. "But he's a good leader."

"Does Edward..." The words weren't there, through the haze of exhaustion, and Duo floundered for a second. "Like? No..."

Havoc was silent, and gave Duo a measuring look. "Are you asking whether Fullmetal trusts Mustang?" At Duo's hesitant nod, Havoc looked dubious. "Hard to say. If it helps, the rest of us do, beyond all doubt. We'd follow him anywhere. Does that help?"

"Some," Duo replied. He wasn't sure why he'd wanted to know, but somehow he felt better, knowing that Edward had a man like that backing him up. It reminded him of G, and the odd push-pull relationship they had, with Duo always pulling away while G pushed him constantly. Duo grinned, then shook his head at Havoc's raised eyebrows. Some things just couldn't be explained, even with all the words in the world.