Taking Responsibility

Havoc got to work late, and so missed the first part of the excitement. When he got there, the East Wing was already cluttered with splinters and plaster dust, the main doors were already scattered all over the lobby, and Breda, Fury and Farman were already clustered on on the third floor, watching out the windows.

"What's going on?" Havoc said, draping his coat over his arm and fishing for his cigarettes. A distant boom shook the building, and Farman winced.

"Ooh, good shot," Breda murmured. Fury grinned sheepishly, and turned to Havoc.

"It's the Colonel," he said. "He and Elric-san are having a—er—something of a dispute."

Havoc groaned, and struck a match. "Again?" he said, as he lit the end of his cigarette. "Geez, it's like watching kids courting on a playground. You could bring down a city with the sexual tension between the Colonel and Fullmetal. Why can't they just fuck already and get it over with?"

Fury coughed. "Apparently, that's the problem," he said.

Havoc frowned. "What do you mean?"

"It's not Edward-kun who's after the Colonel this time," Farman explained. "It's Alphonse. It seems last night, the Colonel finally managed to break the ice with Ed, so to speak. And Alphonse-kun has taken it on himself to, hmm, defend his brother's honor."

"Oh," Enlightenment dawned on Havoc, and he grinned. "You'd think the Colonel would have plenty of experience in dealing with irate brothers by now," he added as an afterthought.

Farman nodded. "He does," he said. "However, most of the angry brothers aren't six and a half foot invincible suits of armor who practice combat alchemy for a living."

"Ah." Poor Colonel, thought Havoc briefly, but the surge of sympathy was quickly quelled when he called to mind Roy Mustang's endless romantic conquests, and the way the entire secretarial pool had eyes only for him. Instead, he just shook his head with disgust. "What a mess," he said.

Breda grimaced in agreement. "That's why we're up here," he said.

"Speaking of which, where's Lieutenant Hawkeye?" Havoc said, glancing around.

"She went down to stop the madness a little while ago," Fury answered. "She'll make certain that Alphonse-kun doesn't really kill Mustang. I hope, anyway," he said nervously.

As though summoned by their mention of her, however, Hawkeye's distinctively light, quick footsteps soon sounded in the hallway. The booming sounds from below seemed to be coming in their direction, as well. Havoc and Breda exchanged nervous glances.

"Hawkeye-kun!" Mustang's panicked voice floated down the corridor, chasing after his subordinate. Or maybe he was being chased, as the sounds of destruction were also following on. "Surely you aren't going to abandon me now!"

Lieutenant Hawkeyecame around the corner, looking over her shoulder as she did so. "I certainly am," she replied coolly. "Alphonse-kun has some very good points, I think. If you didn't want this, you should have known better than to seduce Edward-kun."

"I didn't seduce him!" Roy appeared in the corridor, looking wild, winded, and hunted. His uniform was in disarray, scuffed and grungy, and there was white plaster dust in his hair. "Or at least, he was perfectly willing to be seduced. Surely you believe me!"

"If you'll pardon me saying so," Hawkeye said firmly, "you've made your own bed, sir, now lie in it."

"But Lieutenant—" Roy protested. "It's not my fault!" he said desperately.

Another boom rocked the corridor, this one even closer than the last, and Roy made a peculiar yelping sound as he bolted for the other end. The other officers, wisely, flattened themselves into doorways or niches to get out of the way as Al appeared in the hallway, stalking Mustang like a large predator. "Not your fault?" he repeated ominously, his furious voice reverberating through the building. "How exactly is it not your fault? You seduced my brother, you bastard!"

Roy was down on his knees at the far end of the corridor, finishing up a hasty array. He slammed a hand down on it, and the tiled floor leapt up with a crackle, creating a wall between him and the younger alchemist. "He was a freely consenting participant!" Roy yelled.

"FREELY CONSENTING?" Al didn't even stop to draw an array; he simply smashed one armored fist through the still-forming wall, shattering the alchemical reaction before it could solidify. The soldiers could only watch in awe as Al stalked down the shattered hallway towards the officer. "How could he possibly be freely consenting? You're sixteen years older than him! You're his commanding officer! You hold the power of life and death over him, and he knows that perfectly well! What makes you think that he has freedom to consent or refuse?"

"It's not like that," Mustang said desperately, looking around for an escape. "I would never force—"

Al lunged at him, and Mustang barely managed to twist aside in time. Lacking any other escape route, he spotted the only open window in the hallway, and made a dive for it. He was athletic, he was desperate, and he was small enough to fit; the blue tails of his uniform disappeared out the window just before Al's gloved hand could close on him.

"Oh, no you don't," Al snarled. He snatched up Roy's fallen chalk and sketched an array on the wall in seconds. The wall flashed, shook, and a large portion of it vanished, leaving the hallway open to the courtyard. Al took off with a bound after the fleeing Mustang.

"But—this is the third floor," Fury said weakly.

"Come on!" Havoc lead the mad dash for the new hole in the wall, in order to get a good view. They were in time to see Roy whirl to face his pursuer, gloved hand raised for a snap. Fire bloomed and exploded in front of him, but Al didn't feel the heat, nor was he rocked by the force of the explosions. He advanced relentlessly.

"Alphonse!" Hawkeye's voice cracked out like a whip. "I don't care how angry you are, you can't kill the Colonel."

"I'M NOT GOING TO KILL HIM." This courtyard must have excellent acoustics; Al's voice was audible halfway across the building. "I'M JUST GOING TO MAKE HIM WISH HE WERE DEAD."

"Be reasonable, Alphonse-kun!" Roy said, still backing away, hands spread. "I would never—it's not like I hurt your brother!"

"He can't even get out of bed this morning, he's too sore," Al snarled. "And I saw those bite marks you gave him!"

"Edward was completely happy with what we were doing, or else he would have left!" Roy protested.

"Left? You tied him to the bed, you pervert!" Al roared. Hawkeye winced slightly, glancing around the courtyard to find that most of the population of Central HQ was gathered to watch the spectacle. It must be a slow day, she thought morbidly.

"He offered! He enjoyed it thoroughly!" Roy held up his gloved hands again, but hesitated. From the grim way Al was advancing on him, it was becoming apparent that nothing short of melting him down would stop him. And then, Ed would kill him. Instead, he dropped to the ground again, rapidly sketching out an array.

Al was faster. The younger alchemist was not, of course, as fast as his brother—nobody could match the speed of one who only had to clap his hands to transmute—but he'd spent three years drawing arrays in the middle of life-or-death situations, where Mustang could get away with just a snap of his fingers. The blue light crackled and spat, racing across the ground to disrupt Roy's array before he could activate it, knocking the chalk out of his hand. Sharp spikes of rock burst out of the ground, catching and tearing on Roy's uniform; before Roy could fight his way out of the reaction, the arrays on both of his gloves had been torn into uselessness.

"Why won't you listen to me, damn it?" Roy snapped, voice suffused with frustration and panic. "I did not take advantage of Edward! I merely suggested the possibility to him, which he accepted on his own, quite enthusiastically I might add—"

"My brother wouldn't have any idea what he was getting himself into." Al was advancing slowly, now, assured that his prey was cornered. "He's never had sex with anyone before—if you hadn't come on to him, put pressure on him—"

"Fullmetal was a virgin? Seriously?" Havoc muttered in disbelief.

"Was being the operative word," Breda snickered.

"You honestly think your brother couldn't stand up unwanted advances himself?" Patent disbelief edged Roy's tone. The half of Central population who hadn't been crossed by Roy Mustang, either in politics or in romance, was watching Al's upraised with with anticipatory sympathy; the half that had, with anticipatory delight.

"You!" Al lunged, and this time Roy wasn't fast enough; Al got a grip on his collar, and lifted him onto his toes. Though he might have been taller than Ed, Roy wasn't exactly towering, himself—certainly not the way Al loomed over him now. "You are a manipulative bastard, I know this! You must have tricked him into it some how—"

"Al!" A new voice broke into the tableau, causing both Al and Roy to freeze and cringe. "What the hell are you doing? Put the Colonel down, now."

Apparently Al's assertion that Ed was too sore to get out of bed was not quite true; he'd managed to get up, and dressed, and out to Central HQ. He had not, however, quite managed to hide the limp, and as he came out into the courtyard, the thronged spectators broke out into wild cheering and applause.

Ed looked up at the spectators in some bewilderment. The cheering almost made sense, if he was putting a stop to this craziness, but what was up with the wolf whistles?

"Niisan!" Al sounded guilty, but he didn't let go of Roy's collar. "You're, um, up."

"Yes, because I heard you were going to kill my boyfriend!" Ed glared fiercely at his brother. From Roy's point of view, Ed looked rather like a descending savior angel in red.

"But Niisan," and Al's stubbornness was kicking in, still holding the Colonel dangling off the ground. "He seduced you. He took advantage of you. He—"

"Al," Ed said in a dire tone. "I'm fifteen, dammit. I'm fifteen and I'm finally having sex. If you remove the source of that sex, I will be extremely unhappy. Got it?"


"No buts. Put him down. And later on, you and I are going to have a talk about you telling everyone in Central about what's going on in my sex life."

Al glowered, but his armored shoulders slumped. "Yes, Niisan," he said grumpily. With one last fierce, fire-eyed glare at the Colonel, he opened his grip, letting Roy stumble to his feet on the ground, turned, and stomped away to sulk.

The crowd gave a collective "aww," at the end of the excitement, although some of that might have been "boo," that Roy wasn't going to be beaten up after all, and started to drift away. Roy himself was standing, blinking rather dazedly at his surroundings, as Ed came up to him.

"I'm alive," he said in a bemused tone. "There is a God."

"You owe me big time for this," Ed hissed, jabbing an automail finger into Roy's chest. "Come on. You are buying me lunch, and then you owe me a backrub. Meanwhile, I'll be thinking of what you can do to really thank me properly."

"What, it isn't the other way around?" Roy attempted to regain his customary smirk, feeling for control of the situation. "After all, it was your failure to control your younger brother that's made a mess of the building. When the question comes up of who's going to do the repairs..."

Ed glared. "Do you want me to call Al back here?" he said through his teeth. "I can tell him about your stunt with the shower rod. You can try to explain that."

"Lunch," Roy agreed, quickly and meekly. But he smiled.