The mission was an obnoxious one, and Ed had several times entertained the notion that the Colonel had sent him on it only because his contract's end was coming up so soon and the Bastard wanted to keep him in his gloved clutches that much longer. Ed, who (contrary to popular belief) was good at these things, timed it just right so that his contract was up the day he got back into Central. Smug, he'd stayed just long enough to give his report and then had marched straight off to Resembool with Al lagging behind.
After two uneventful years helping Winry and Granny Pinako with the Automail shop, Ed found himself unbearably bored. Though Al was relatively content, he agreed to go visit Teacher with his brother, because Ed desperately needed someone to fight with. They'd stayed in Dublith for just over six months before Ed got bored again (and the bruises began to turn really funny colors) and they — meaning Ed — decided that a visit to Xing was in order.
Xing was busy and hot and exotic and had very good food and upon arrival they celebrated Ed's twenty—first birthday with a generous use of what Ed rudely called "chink—eyed strippers" and what haughtily referred to themselves as interpretive belly—dancers. Despite Ed's numerous and unnecessary slurs, it was obvious to all that he was thoroughly enjoying himself, and one of the dancers even allowed him to take her home with him. Al courteously stayed out all night.
They lived for two and a half years in Xing, during which Ed declared he "finally understood what that Bastard Colonel's fuss over miniskirts was about" and went through several "exotic beauties" and even once or twice an exotic man as well. But sometime around the seventh month of the third year, Ed claimed that the novelty had worn off and said he wanted to go visit Rose, since they were near.
Another year and a half was passed in Liore, staying in a small hotel down two blocks from Rose's. Ed and Rose got together quickly, and though it was nearly the most obvious thing in the world to him, Al — being the indulgent little brother that he was — followed Ed's lead and pretended it was a secret. After Ed broke up with Rose, for reasons he refused to give even to Al, he announced that there was absolutely nothing left in the desert that was of any interest and informed Al with a hot glare that they were leaving.
After one more agonizing year in Resembool, Ed finally admitted that he wanted to go back to Central — though he wouldn't go so far as to say he missed anybody, no matter how many subtle openings Al gave him to do so. Tired of traveling himself, Al bid his brother give their friends his best and saw him on his way.
So now, twenty—six years old as compared to his nineteen the last time the city had seen him, Ed marched into Central as if he had never left. After a brief yet torturous mental debate and a nervous phone call to Al, Ed re—enlisted as a state Alchemist. Righteously cocky young man that he was, he studied for only one week and still passed with flying colors just as vibrantly impressive as the first time. Presumptuously, Ed requested he be placed under Mustang's command (if only because he knew he'd still be an insubordinate brat, and Mustang was the only one who'd let him half get away with it) and was obliged. The bitter mumble that "pretty soon we'll all be under Mustang's command if this keeps up" as Ed entered Headquarters inexplicably brightened his day to a greater degree than he allowed himself to ponder. No way was he one of Mustang's loyal followers, he just wanted the opportunity to back—talk when he felt like it. Feeling good, Ed grinned leniently at his own denial; it didn't bother him too much today.
Ed stopped in a bathroom on his way to Mustang's (new) office and began changing into the new blues that had been given to him after the third stage of testing. Just for added shock, he told himself. Just to see the looks on their faces. Ed transmuted his old shirt into an off-white button down and left off the military jacket. After all, he reasoned. If he really dressed in uniform of his own free will, surely the universe would collapse. Grin wider than ever, Ed started toward Mustang's (bigger, better) office again.
He entered the outer office without knocking and pretended to ignore the wide—eyed, slack—mouthed looks he was getting. Ed set his armful of jacket—and—clothes down neatly on the conference table that Havoc, Breda, and Fuery were sitting around. He smirked at Falman, who had only just barely managed not to drop his coffee upon returning from the break room, as he made his way in the direction of the inner office where Mustang was undoubtedly hiding from the paperwork piling up in Hawkeye's in—tray.
Ed knocked on this door.
"Lieutenant Colonel, didn't I say I wanted no disturbances?" Mustang's voice demanded from the other side.
"I'm actually only a Major, General," Ed replied. "Bastard," he added when the door swung open to reveal the shocked and surprisingly hopeful face of his newly reinstated commanding officer.
"Edward," said Roy blankly.
"Sir." Ed smirked as Roy's eyes widened at the word. Then he stepped back a little so that Roy could behold his attire. "What do you think?" he asked, holding his arms out a little in a mock display of himself.
"You — you're..." Ed pulled his brand new State Alchemist's watch out of the deep pocket of the military pants he'd donned and showed it off.
"They gave me back my old title," he explained to the still gaping Roy. This seemed to reawaken Roy's cool mask and he easily slipped back into the professional.
"Well, then, Fullmetal," he said authoritatively. "I suppose you're under my command?"
"Of course," Ed agreed mildly, throwing up a lazy salute accompanied by rolling eyes. "Where else would I be?"