“Your radio’s fixed, Lieutenant Colonel,” Sergeant Kain Fuery announced as Roy received it gratefully. “The station indicator pointer was just misaligned, so it’s moving now.”
“Impeccable work, Sergeant,” Roy said, holding the device briefly in appreciation before setting it down. He never did get around to fixing the radio since his skills in it were limited, so it was really fortunate that he and Riza found the Sergeant during their intra-headquarter exercises.
Fuery had been quite a sight to see then — his careful and thoughtful leadership over his subordinates was a rarity in Eastern command. Usually, it was draconian and boring, even with all the fanfares of politicking — so more often than not, superior officers were quite harsh towards anyone lower, newer, or popular. While it was not an exclusive experience to the military, humiliation in public rather than diplomatic enforcement of a punishment was the norm.
It’s a rather twisted display of power, Roy thought with a frown, even if I scheme as much as they do.
Before he could dwell on it further, the movement of the First Lieutenant Riza Hawkeye beside him caught his attention as she eyed the entrance of his office. He followed her gaze towards the door.
“We have Ensign Jean Havoc and Warrant Officer Vato Falman now, sir,” she said as two new faces entered the room.
The two soldiers saluted him, so he returned the greeting with a swift nod to ease their formal introduction.
Ensign Jean Havoc. Warrant Officer Vato Falman. From General Grumman’s dossier of East City’s recent recruits in the last three years, these two soldiers have shown remarkable capabilities in combat and intelligence, respectively.
He was already familiar with Havoc since he met him when he once happened to visit Riza practising at the ranges. That time, the First Lieutenant easily won against the Ensign, who was one of the few who managed to score accurate marks lower than her in the drills. As expected, of course. The First Lieutenant didn’t survive Ishval with him for nothing, after all. However, what Havoc lacked in experience, he made up for in martial ingenuity and amiability.
The unit’s forming quite nicely, he thought with a smirk as the two sat after the salute.
He turned his gaze towards the older soldier sitting beside Havoc — Vato Falman. It really was a pity that he has remained in a low rank just because the Daisato ensured that Amestris was offence-oriented. More so here in Eastern command, even if it was supposed to be otherwise, especially with their border clashes with Aerugo — a battlefront that should rely more on defensive maneuvers if diplomatic relations with them were to be re-established.
So really, his terrible combat record should be overlooked, seeing as Falman was a walking encyclopedia of knowledge — a skill highly useful for reconnaissance activities, especially if Amestris was so intent on keeping its information network stronger than other countries. Moreover, there wouldn't be any paper trail at all, should things turn awry. Seriously, the fact that his memory was so sharp was dangerous — information is power, after all.
Conversely, Roy continued to ponder, it is still a vital skill in peacetime as our awareness of a foreign state’s activities will enable us to have a favourable balance of power when negotiating with Claudio Rico, the crown prince of Aerugo.
“Lieutenant Colonel?” a gentle voice asked over his thoughts. His eyes were suddenly caught in Riza’s brown eyes, the intensity of its colour in the morning light startling him a little.
He cleared his throat. “Yes?”
“We are just missing one person from the list you finalised,” the First Lieutenant answered patiently, handing him a clipped document.
“Ah,” Roy murmured, furrowing his brows as he silently went over the list while the other soldiers chatted.
“What made you accept the Lieutenant Colonel’s invitation, officer?” Fuery asked Falman with a grin.
Falman scratched his head, smiling nervously. “Well to be fair, I joined because there might be a chance for promotion — slim as that may be — but I’ve heard about the Hero of Ishval and the Eye of the Hawk from the last war, so I thought it’d be great to be with them. Even if only my memory is what serves their purpose.”
“My memory’s rather shite, so you can help me, too,” Havoc joked, patting him on the back. “If you’re up for it, join me in the training room or the ranges. It’d be fun!”
Falman laughed uneasily. “Thank you, sir. Please let me think it over first, though?”
Havoc nodded as Fuery replied, “If it’s all right with you, I might need your help with some codes since I already have translations. I just need more context for the report. So, it’d still be fun, all in all.”
“Oh, for which country?”
“Creta,” Fuery answered. “Western Command asked for some help — well, to be perfectly clear, it was a good friend of mine who’s posted there that needs it.”
Falman’s brows furrowed in concentration. “I recall reading something about their alchemy and old history — so not much on their current affairs — so hopefully it still helps.”
"Every nuance is important, so don't worry," Fuery replied as the Lieutenant Colonel called for Havoc.
“Ensign,” Roy asked, “do you know the whereabouts of your fellow Ensign, Heymans Breda?”
“He’s the only one missing here,” Riza remarked with an arched brow. “He was supposed to be on duty today, according to last week’s roster, if I recall.”
“W-well,” Havoc stammered a bit, having the superior officers’ gazes trained on him made him feel intimidated even if he knew the both of them already.
“Well?” Roy repeated impatiently, rubbing his temples. He still has a military council to attend after, so this was really the only spare time he had. “Where is he?”
“He applied for a sick leave today,” Havoc explained wearily, lighting his cigarette anew. “Well, he requested it two days ago, that is.”
“Why does it sound like there’s more to it than that?” Fuery wondered as he handed Falman a notebook.
“Actually,” Roy agreed. “Is there something else?”
Havoc exhaled slowly before speaking. “Second Lieutenant Ava Haig.”
Roy arched a brow. The Butcher of the East? He heard that Haig had a lover or a paramour, but usually those were just rumours to downplay her martial abilities from what he can tell. This may prove to be otherwise, though. “What about her?”
Havoc scratched his head sheepishly. “She dumped him. They’ve been together — secretly, might I add — since when we were all in the academy, even if she graduated much earlier. As expected, Breda’s quiet about it, but… well. He’ll be back tomorrow, though.”
Riza arched a brow when Roy nodded sagely, his chin resting on top of his hands. “A most valid reason, I understand.”
Falman looked up from the notebook he was reading. “Will we have another meeting after he returns, then?”
“Yes,” Roy nodded. “I might visit him, though. Give him some whiskey as a welcome gift.”
“What? He gets a whiskey?” Havoc exclaimed as Falman and Fuery cringed in embarrassment.
Roy gave him a sceptical glance. “He is facing quite the ordeal, Ensign. Surely you understand.”
“But I haven’t got any?”
“Would bullets from the First Lieutenant’s firearms suffice?” Roy threatened pleasantly, walking towards the door. "Lead is a valuable resource, after all."
“I-I would have to decline, sir,” Havoc answered with a laugh.
“Pity,” Roy clucked his tongue as he faced them. “Anyway, the First Lieutenant will brief you all for the meantime. I will be heading to the military council.”
They all saluted him before he departed.
Now what to do about Breda, Roy wondered as the meeting began with a roll call before it was wasted on unnecessary filibustering over who gets to lead which battalion for the drills with Briggs. As usual. He looked down on his journal, keeping the appearance of reading his notes when the truth was otherwise — he was mentally going over Breda’s military record.
The dossier recorded his top proficiencies being investigation and foreign relations, but he also has significant combat experience — which makes him a well-balanced soldier. On top of that, he also graduated valedictorian in the academy, which spoke of his overall calibre. He wouldn’t be surprised if Breda would be promoted shortly, really.
I need someone who can balance Falman’s lack of experience in recon ops, after all, he thought with a smirk.
It should make for an interesting visit, then.
In the darkness of his room, Breda sipped his coffee quietly, mulling over the events that led to Ava dumping him a few days ago. It’s not like it wasn’t a possibility, given regulations, but was that all there is to it? All those years, gradually opening up to her and caring for each other. All of it was thrown away — because according to her, they weren’t “right for each other in the long run.”
But that’s the problem with dating in secret — you were still supposed to be strangers to each other. Acquaintances at most, but strictly devoid of any attachment other than the service that they entered. However, Breda wondered if she was secretly ashamed of him — him being mix-raced and all, despite his accomplishments in the academy and military.
She did, Breda thought sadly, use to be acquainted with some of the cadets who justified Executive Order 3066.
It can't be that surely? Five years. They were together for five years, so it's surely not the sole reason. It would be an unfair thing to think of her, as well, but it really caught him off guard. He thought things were going quite well, especially since they had just celebrated her promotion.
Or perhaps she was parlaying for a higher role in Eastern command? Breda wondered, heaving a sigh. Did she think I was in the way?
However, even that was suspect, since she knew he’d support her, so — never mind. It’s getting tiresome already.
“Ensign Heymans Breda?” a voice called out, knocking on the door.
Breda hurried to the door, grateful for the disruption. Much to his surprise, that was.
The Hero of Ishval was standing in front of him when he opened the door.
Breda’s eyes widened before he greeted him with a salute — something the Lieutenant Colonel Roy Mustang waved off as he gestured to a bottle of whiskey.
“Yo,” the Lieutenant Colonel said amicably. “I heard from Havoc you got dumped — that’s why you were missing in the meeting today. Care for a bit of chat?”
He just sighed before letting his superior in. “I can mix that with my coffee. Tastes better if you ask me.”
The Lieutenant Colonel laughed as they each settled on a chair. “An interesting blend.”
Breda nodded, handing him another cup, as he arched a brow at him. “So what’s the Hero of Ishval doing on my doorstep?”
“Hero?” Roy asked with a derisive tone. “Perhaps, you mean mass murderer?”
Breda didn’t know what to say at first, but it seemed like the Lieutenant Colonel was testing him. He sipped his coffee then, savouring the way the alcohol sweetened the bitter taste of his brew — if only to counter his affront remark with a delayed reaction. Usually, such an offensive display was better met with indifference, but the man in front of him wasn’t just any other soldier or officer. The Lieutenant Colonel knew the gravity of his words and actions, so using this as an opening for their discussion was just a matter of sizing up him up.
Very well, then. He can appreciate the Lieutenant Colonel’s nerve and candor — Breda wouldn’t have accepted his invitation if he proved to be otherwise, really.
“Surely,” Breda answered, casting him a determined look, “that was part of the ‘beautiful future’ we all envisaged as cadets, sir?”
Roy smirked as he laid his chin on top of his hands. “Your insight is as astounding as the dossier says. Good. Now, if it’s all right to ask, what happened between you and the Butcher of the East?”
Breda drank his cup until there was none left. “Some shit about being unbalanced. I don’t want to dwell on it further, sir, if it’s all right.”
Roy nodded understandingly before drinking his fill. “What made you enlist for the military, though? This is just me asking out of curiosity, unlike before. You could easily enter the parliament or another institution with your capabilities. So, what brought you here?”
“For ‘honour’,” Breda began, crossing his arms, “…is what I like to say. But really, it’s because any other profession would be boring. Sure, there are rules to follow and whatnot — but there’s a lot of allowance for innovation, and the funds are secure since it’s the government. However, it’s a more pragmatic way to go around as well. At least in this regime, that is. This would be more difficult under the leadership in Creta or Drachma, but it’s altogether impossible in Aerugo.”
“But the parliament, though?” Breda continued with a snort. “Their ingenuity is tied to the military, anyway, so it’s not boring, but then it gets shitty real quick. So, no. I’m not saying that the service is perfect, but right now, it’s something really useful to me.”
Roy could not help his laughter before he eyed the Ensign more seriously. “Your knowledge is quite severe in these affairs — so much that I can’t help think how much it’s tied to the discrimination you surely are facing as an Amestrian-Ishvalan citizen.”
“Why is such an existence a crime in society? Though don’t you face it too, having roots from Xing and all?” Breda rebutted, a little irritated that the Lieutenant Colonel hit the mark so quickly.
Roy rolled his eyes, resting his cheek on top of his knuckles. “Ridiculous, that. I don’t really have time to spare for such pointless matters. There’s too much I have to do — which is why I have great need of your assistance. To improve the status quo, we need to be daring while appearing compliant — since it’s just as you said.”
“Therefore,” the Lieutenant Colonel continued more seriously, “if you must bury your sorrows, let today be the last of it. Tomorrow, we shall walk onward — onward to that ‘beautiful future’ we were forced to bury in this era of impunity. Even if there’s only a few of us, surely, we can still affect those around us, creating ripples of positive change.”
Breda hung his head low, the words striking a chord within him. The Lieutenant Colonel may deny the merits of his reputation as the Hero of Ishval, but it was clear, very clear, that he deserved the title.
“I’ll be there, sir,” Breda said, nodding as the Lieutenant Colonel stood, ready to depart.
“Very well,” Roy said with a grin, as he walked towards the door. “I’m sure you’ll fit in quite nicely.”
Breda only smirked in response.
The morning after, Breda was promptly introduced to the other members of the unit — well, that is to say, the ones he didn’t know, such as Sergeant Kain Fuery and Warrant Officer Vato Falman. Havoc patted him on the back when he greeted the unit back with a simple “Yo.”
“I think you’ll like Falman. He’s memorised every report on mixed-races since the foundation of Amestris. You’ll be able to get more information on your parents and heritage, so it’s pretty swell, no?” Havoc told him as they settled on the couch.
Breda eyed the Warrant Officer with a surprise. “His memory’s that good?”
Falman nodded sheepishly beside Fuery.
“Yes,” Riza affirmed as well, nodding, “that’s why he will be our conscience aside from me since he doesn’t forget anything.” Then she eyed the Lieutenant Colonel beside her, saying, “This is very good, sir.”
Roy laughed uneasily, scratching his head. “I’m glad you think so.”
Havoc let out a bark of laughter. “She got you there, haha!”
The Lieutenant Colonel waved it off determinedly despite the obvious flush on his cheeks. “It’s about time we discussed our regimen, though.”
Breda observed how quickly the easy-going atmosphere evaporated into a serious mood as the Lieutenant Colonel briefly explained the political situation in the military as well as its neighboring countries before tackling their respective roles.
I do wonder, Breda thought to himself, however did the Lieutenant Colonel become so resolute.
“Given the status quo, our movements should adapt to every friction here in HQ,” Roy said. “Thus, it follows that this should translate to the nature of our respective positions.”
“I’ll be doing the boring thing here at HQ — that is to say, dealing with all the political shenanigans given my rank — while you guys are out on the field,” the Lieutenant Colonel explained. “So, our unit will be divided thus: firstly, when it comes to this office, the First Lieutenant and I will manage it. But in our field operations, the First Lieutenant will be paired with Sergeant Fuery and Ensign Havoc.”
“The reason being that Havoc will act as our main offense while Hawkeye will handle the defense. Meanwhile, Fuery will be acting as their support. That is the second division. Hence, Ensign Breda and Warrant Officer Falman, we will have you care for our more covert operations given both of your skills in intelligence. This, therefore, is how we will operate when the situation calls for it, yes?”
“Yes, sir!” everyone affirmed.
The Lieutenant Colonel nodded as he leaned back on his chair. “There will just be the other agreement everyone must abide to.”
Fuery sat up. “What would that be, sir?”
“If caught, profess ignorance or die,” Roy answered, letting the statement sink in.
No one budged in the aftermath, making Roy smirk. “Good, everyone understands, then. Any questions?”
Falman was the first to raise one. “In the event that you and the First Lieutenant are out on the field, who will be in charge here?”
Breda smirked. The good officer truly has an eye for detail.
“That would have to be Ensign Havoc,” the Lieutenant Colonel replied, resting his cheek on top of his knuckles. “For everyone’s protection, he’ll be OIC when we aren’t here.”
Good, Breda thought, Havoc’s always been a good squad leader back in the academy.
“I’d have Breda equal with him, really,” Roy continued over his thoughts, “but I do not trust the wide rift that the last war left between Amestrians and Ishvalans. So, we’ll have to appease those around us with Havoc. For the meantime.”
“You understand why, right, Ensign Breda?” the Lieutenant Colonel asked him.
Breda nodded. “It’s not an issue, really. I can handle it. That aside, I do prefer investigating more, so I might not be seen as very sympathetic.”
Roy nodded as well. “Understand, though, that even if Havoc is OIC, the First Lieutenant answers directly to me since she’s my aide — aside from being your superior.”
“We dare not question the Eye of the Hawk, sir,” Havoc teased. “That, we can assure you.”
“As you should,” the Lieutenant Colonel answered, turning to the First Lieutenant for a report he had to review.
Breda could not help smirking. It was quite plain to see that the Lieutenant Colonel Mustang’s conscience towards First Lieutenant Hawkeye exceeded the service — if their interactions earlier meant anything. He gathered that while they were certainly professional towards each other, their banter was rather… comfortable. Loaded with a certain history.
Given that they both had experience in Ishval, though, it’s not that hard to fathom why that was. It's just that they reminded him a little of how things were like for him and Ava in the beginning.
“Regulations aside,” Breda whispered as he nudged Havoc, “are they involved?”
Havoc arched a brow at him, smirking. “You tell me. What does your gut tell you?”
Breda cast him a weary look. “Either my eyes are deceiving me, or they’re acting like me and Ava before.”
Falman shushed him when he heard his statement. “Let’s not break their agreement — unspoken it may be or not. Fuery told me about it yesterday as well.”
“Ah,” Breda whispered back, understanding the situation as Fuery nodded at him sagely. Slightly different than him and Ava, then.
He glanced at their superiors again — they were busy discussing the logistics of the upcoming drills with Briggs. He noticed how the stiff shoulders of the Lieutenant Colonel eased when the First Lieutenant leaned over him to explain that they would require more magazines for the new recruits.
Much more interesting to note, though, was the way they seemed entranced with each other when their eyes happened to meet — to the point where Breda felt embarrassed, seeing as they seemed to have forgotten that there were others present in the room.
“Painful for you to see, hmm?” Havoc asked, smirking as he handed him a cigarette.
Breda curled his nose at him, even as he accepted the item. “Sort of, but it’s not really their fault.”
“Want to bet, though? When they’d confess?”
Breda considered it, but that would be discourteous to the patience the Lieutenant Colonel showed him last night. That aside, he already had an inkling of when the two would admit it — that is to say, if you think about it, there was no way they’d ever profess it under the eyes of this regime.
So really, there was only one logical answer — which was when the Lieutenant Colonel would become Daisato.
Ahh, Breda realised, that’s why he’s this resolute. It all leads back to her.
The personal is also political, after all. Good grief, looking at them now, Lieutenant Colonel Roy Mustang sure knew how to balance it well.
“I think they’d confess once everything’s finished,” Fuery suddenly said, interrupting his thoughts.
Breda jolted, eyes widening at him. “I thought we’d all be hush-hush about it?”
Fuery gestured towards the two officers, making Havoc smirk.
“They won’t hear us at all,” Falman remarked as Roy and Riza continued to inch towards each other’s personal space as they silently reviewed the report.
“Damn,” Havoc and Breda said at the same time. It was plain to see how involved they were.
With each other, that is, Breda thought with a smirk.
He looked around him briefly then, strangely feeling more at peace with them than he's ever been with anyone, and let his lids fall. He thought it would still take a while for him to recover after Ava, but he could not help the genuine smile tugging at his lips — the first one he's had ever since these past few days.
Surely, with them around, things can only get better.