Ed nearly choked on his sandwich as the voice rang cheerfully across the cafeteria. He coughed, swallowed, and began to turn just as Hughes landed on the bench next to Ed, and his arm on Ed's shoulder. "Lieutenant Colonel?" he asked, surprised.
Hughes grinned at him. "Glad I caught you on the base," he said cheerfully. "It would be a shame if you were traveling for your birthday!"
"My birthday?" Ed's eyes widened. "You remembered it!"
"Of course!" Hughes' grin widened. "How could I possibly forget such an important day, when it's the exact same date as the birthday of my precious Alicia—"
"That's why I thought you'd forget," Ed muttered.
"Anyway!" The hand over Ed's shoulders tightened as Hughes leaned in close. "You'll be spending your birthday with me this year, won't you Ed?"
"Uh," Ed stuttered, unobtrusively trying to get his arm free of Hughes' grip before his flesh shoulder went as numb as his metal one. "Well—"
"It'll be such fun!" Hughes enthused. "I have a proper party planned for my little princess this year! We'll go out and spend the day at the zoo with all her friends, and then come back and spend the rest of the night playing dress-up!"
Ed cringed at the mental image; he knew far too well the fate of any teenage boy locked in a room with a dozen small girls in the mood for dress-up. "Uh, Lieutenant Colonel—"
"She picked out all the decorations herself!" Hughes whipped out a picture and stuck it under Ed's nose; his eyes crossed at the welter of pink and white assaulting his eyes. "Isn't it wonderful? Don't you adore her taste? Just wait until you see the real thing in a few days!"
"Uh," Ed said for a third time, redoubling his effort to get out of Hughes' grip. "It's very kind of you to offer, Lieutenant Colonel, but as to that I think—er—I have other obligations—"
"And so he does!" A rumbling voice, and a huge hand descended on Ed's other shoulder, nearly knocking the wind out of him. He twisted around and looked... and up... into the huge, sparkling countenance of Major Armstrong. "For his sixteenth birthday, this most important occasion of coming of age, Edward Elric shall of course be spending the day in my company!"
"He will?" The grin on Hughes face winked out. "Is this true, Edward? You're choosing Major Armstrong's company over that of my precious Alicia?"
"No, I didn't agree to that!" Edward exclaimed, anticipating the appearance of a knife. "As a matter of fact—"
"He hasn't agreed yet, but he shall!" Armstrong boomed joyfully. "Birthday is a time to be spent with family! And what better family to spend time with than the grand Armstrong clan, whose lineage in Central goes back for generations upon generations—"
"A time for family is right!" Standing from the bench, Hughes turned to face his co-worker from Intelligence. "A true family is one with a young child in the home! How could anyone possibly want to be anywhere for a celebration besides with my precious Alicia? Look! Just look at these pictures!"
"Behold the majesty of the Armstrong legacy!"
"COOKING already, I tell you, what a genius—"
Ed took the opportunity, while both men were distracted trying to out-sparkle the other, to slide off the bench and crawl rapidly away under the table.
He burst into Mustang's office a few minutes later, ignoring Hawkeye's restraining hand. "Colonel! Please, PLEASE give me an assignment that will take me out of Central for my birthday!"