I never imagined I'd see Fullmetal like this.
He's all wire and bone, every extra ounce of fat culled off his body. Perhaps slightly taller. It's hard to tell. His hair is chopped short, brushing the back of his neck. Is that the scar of a weal over his shoulder, peeking out from under his wool-gray shirt? Arms chained to his sides, his skin tanned darkly from the sun, his gait shuffling, shortened by his cuffs.
Most alarming of all are his eyes. Confusion, yes, but his interest is muted. Every line in his face—and there are more than there should be!—shows resignation.
His eyes settle on me and widen with shock, and his skin goes pale, and I feel sick. He had no hope. He had given up.
What have I done to this child?
It was a mistake to get drunk, I think drunkenly, but it doesn't take much and usually it's so much easier this way. Not so today.
"It should have been me," I moan. "I could have protected him."
"No way, sir," Breda says. It's not fair how he can stay sober for so long. "With all due respect, of course."
"Should've gotten him out sooner," I tell my scotch. "Should've ... done something."
"It's in the past," Breda says, slapping me on the back, and I press a hand over my mouth to keep from vomiting. He's obviously realized I could give a shit if he calls me 'sir' or 'Fuhrer', and I must be drunk because I never swear, even in my head. "You can set it right now, okay? You're on the right track. Giving yourself a hangover isn't gonna help."
"The hangover can no longer be helped," I say in a low, dark voice. "Equivalent trade ... foolish. This isn't equivalent," I mutter.
"... Hey, I thought we were supposed to be celebrating the Boss' release," Havoc protests weakly, and Farman nods, but Breda snorts and I feel him grab my arm.
"Havoc, help me with our illustrious Fuhrer," he grunts. "Before he poisons himself."
I mostly remember being walked to my couch. The hangover in the morning isn't worth it.
The hangover is gone. The clarity of thought feels razor-sharp in comparison, as if I could cut wounds with a word. So I use one: "General," I say.
Riza looks up at me from over her report. "Sir?"
"Are the reports on the matter of Fullmetal's trial gathered?"
"We are still searching for some witnesses, but—"
"Double the manpower on those cases," I reply suddenly. "The rest can wait. I have a responsibility to fulfill." It's been too long, and I see thin, tanned shoulders and wiry muscles against gray wool and white scars.
"Yes, sir," says Riza.
I daresay there is a note of approval in her voice, but failure is a bitter pill to swallow. At least no one forced it down my throat except myself; the poison I've given Fullmetal—no, Edward—is something that can never be leeched from the body in full.