Eh, the end does kind of cut off suddenly but that\'s where it ends. o_oa I kind of wanted to do a quiet mood piece to go with Sakki\'s picture (guess which one!), even if I\'m not sure how it ended up.


Library Rules

Very few alchemists believed in God, but all of them believed in books. The Libary at Central was their Holy of Holies, guarded by the librarians, in the role of awful priests and oracles.

It also meant that there was an unwritten but absolute law that as soon as you stepped into the Library, you were under a truce enforced by the librarians and the fear of being expelled. You never started a fight, and you never acted on any professional grudge or jealousy more intense than the occasional neccessary and restrained battle between two people who wanted the same book.

Al had once compared it to a water hole on the savannas, where hunter and hunted drank side by side and then went back to the plains and tried to kill each other, or at least one tried to kill and the other tried not to be killed, and Niisan knew what he meant, anyway.

Ed did know what he meant. The Library was a place where the most bitter of rivals spoke civilly to each other, even if when they met outside the Library, the supply department clutched their heads in pain and rebuilt the Square. Again. Ed stopped just inside the doors and breathed in the distinct scent of old books—paper and ink and old leather.

The head librarian passed by and gave him a remote smile, as from a high priestess to a lowly yet faithful worshipper. "Elric-san," she said, politely.

"Good afternoon," he replied to her back. Ed was a favorite of the librarians—something he only abused if he had to. He went to the reference desk, his steps muted by the carpet.

"Well, if it isn't an Edward!" said the libarian. "My goodness, you've grown!"

Ed preened. "Had to get my auto-mail adjusted," he said, modestly.

"So what brings you here?" She grinned at him. "Gonna give up the alchemy thing and work here?"

"Nah," said Ed. "I like the 'alchemy thing'."

"Waste of a good librarian," she grumbled. She sighed wistfully. "You ever change your mind, you know where to come. So? You need anything? I hadn't even heard that you were back yet."

The libarians always knew all the gossip first. Nobody was quite sure why, but they did. "Just got back," said Ed. "I'm trying to find my superior officer so I can report in. Lt Hawkeye said he might be here."

"Hmm," said the librarian. "He came in about an hour ago, but I haven't seen him since. Want me to find him?"

"No thanks," said Ed. "I know where he usually goes to ground."

The librarian's eyebrow shot up.

"Paperwork," explained Ed. "The lieutenant can't follow him in here."

She sniggered.

"Thanks," said Ed.

"Stop by later, you hear?"

Ed lifted his hand and kept walking.

The stacks were quiet, almost sleepy. There were a few people browsing or seated at desks and tables, working or staring into space or holding low-voiced discussions. They looked up briefly as Ed passed, and went back to their work.

Everybody had their pet spot in the library—sometimes two people chose the same one, which led to frosty or disappointed looks when someone else was there or an unspoken agreement about when each had occupancy. Ed's particular spot was in a little alcove with a window and a two-person table, which he never shared with anybody. (Major Armstrong had once suggested, looking deeply touched, that Edward-kun was unconsciously saving it for the day that his little brother could enter the library, as well. Ed had done a passable job of trying to drop-kick him.)

The Colonel's spot was on the same floor, surrounded by shelves and at a table just big enough for four people to squeeze in, if they had to, or for two people to spread out. Not accidentally, the chairs were the best ones in the library, besides the armchairs in the front rooms. Nobody ever took those unless they had to, because by another unspoken rule you paid for the comfort of the chairs by allowing yourself to be interrupted by anybody.

Ed followed the lines of the stacks to where Colonel Mustang usually hid, stopping sometimes to run his hand over a book or look more closely at a title that caught his eye. He turned the last corner and saw the Colonel in his usual spot.

The Colonel wasn't studying. The Colonel was snoring faintly, his head pillowed on his notes.

Ed shook his head. Trust the Colonel. Maybe he could blackmail him with it, although knowing Lt Hawkeye, she not only knew that the Colonel used his 'research' time mostly for sleep but probably condoned it. He sat on the table and brushed his left hand over the Colonel's forehead.

"Hey," he said.

The Colonel shifted and then looked up, blearily. He squinted a little—the Colonel really needed reading glasses, but he would have eaten them before he wore them. "Oh," he said. "Fullmetal. You're back."

"Yeah," said Ed. "I'm back."