Ed learns of the events that happened earlier in the morning, whereas Maes figures out something important
"What happened here?" he asked, raising an eyebrow. "Did a bomb go off or something?"
"You could say that," answered Maes grimly. "Havoc and Alphonse were just telling me all about it."
"Sit down and we'll tell you too, Chief," was all that Havoc said and, as soon as Ed pulled up a chair, he and Alphonse took up again the thread of their tale.
"It was a lucky thing that the Colonel came when he did," Al concluded once they recounted the morning's incident. "They were ready to take him away!"
"Was it really luck, I wonder?" said Ed thoughtfully.
"It wasn't," answered Maes. "Roy had expected Connors would have Fawcette pull a stunt like that. But I bet he didn't expect it so soon."
"Still, I'm glad the Colonel managed to gain us some more time," said Havoc. "Did you have any luck in catching the real culprit, Edward?"
"No," answered Ed, shaking his head. "All clues we've found so far have led us into a dead end."
"But I don't understand," said then Al. "If the real murderer has found out that somebody else is accused of the murders he has committed, shouldn't he have become more daring?"
"Not really," said Maes. "It's a more logical course of action to wait till the innocent one is convicted, so when he strikes again, it will be more difficult to make the connection between the previous murders and the next ones."
Havoc's hands played with his pack of cigarettes in his frustration. "Damn it. I really wanted to see the look on Fawcette's face when we came up with the real murderer. That would have been an unpleasant surprise for him."
"We can't give up now!" exclaimed Al. "There must be something more we can do."
"Not for the present," said Maes. "But Roy won't let any opportunity go to waste, count on it."
"Yeah, that's easy to notice," noted Ed. He turned to Hughes and Havoc. "How come Mustang is so interested in solving this case? I've rarely seen him so energetic before."
Havoc smirked. "He's always energetic. It's just that not all that many people happen to witness it."
"And he has some other reasons as well," said Maes. "He doesn't want history to repeat itself."
That certainly caught Ed and Al's attention.
"Repeat itself how?" asked Ed.
Havoc grabbed a cigarette and lit it, apparently deciding that nicotine was necessary and the nurses would have to put up with it. "Should I tell them or you, Sir?"
Maes pondered on it a bit. "I will. Just make sure nobody overhears through that door."
"Right." And with that, Havoc stood by the door.
"Well," started Maes, "everyone knows that Roy and Connors don't care for each other that much. What not all that many people know is that their enmity goes back to the Ishbal Massacre. When Roy was still major and Connors was colonel.
"They didn't exactly hit it off when they were placed in the same division, yet at least they respected each other. After all, they were young and eager, neither of them had seen war before; they had more things to share than to be separated from. That is, until it circulated among the soldiers that there was a group of Ishbalans, called the Defiance, who took down military men one by one, using the dead of night as their camouflage. It's said that they were so silent, that you could be talking to your comrade and, at the next moment you looked at him, the said comrade could've vanished into thin air.
"That, of course, was something that the military couldn't allow. They gave strict orders to the soldiers to always stay in large groups whenever patrolling and, should they see anyone suspicious, apprehend him and ask questions.
"One night, and while Roy and Connors' group were patrolling, Roy noticed something in the shadows. He quickly lunged forward, believing it was one of the wanted Ishbalans, only to discover that it was just a boy, not more than ten years old. He was a carrier, taking ammunition to Ishbalans that had hidden nearby.
"Since the ammunition was confiscated and the boy kept under custody, Roy believed that he had done his duty well. But then he heard news that Connors claimed the boy was part of the Defiance group, and had even managed to get a confession out of him after some hours of interrogation. Roy went to the cell the boy was being held, and he was horrified to see that the boy had been beaten and both his arms were broken - as part of the 'interrogation'."
"They forced the boy to make a confession that wasn't true?!" asked Ed, shocked.
Maes nodded. "That's what Roy said when he made an appeal for the case to be examined further. A court-martial was held soon enough, and both Connors and Roy gave their testimonies. Unfortunately the boy himself was so frightened that no one could make any sense out of his crying and screaming."
"But the boy was found innocent, right?" Al asked then hopefully.
Maes shook his head. "Just when it seemed that the court-martial would acquit the boy because of doubt, someone testified that the suspect did indeed confess, and that his wounds were self-inflicted in his attempt to escape."
Ed bit his lower lip, while Alphonse let out a slight gasp.
"Who would lie like this?" asked Ed, his voice low and angry.
Maes shrugged. "Anyone ambitious enough for a promotion; someone who would then have the honour to take up the position of lieutenant colonel instead of Roy, becoming in this way Connors' right-hand man."
"Fawcette," Al breathed out before helping himself.
"And what happened to the boy?" asked Ed, though he already suspected the answer.
"They executed him the next day," said Maes with a sigh. "Disgusted, Roy made an appeal to be transferred to a different division and has been bearing a grudge on Connors and Fawcette since."
Ed sighed as well. And for once ever since he'd been under the service of that man, Ed approved of Roy's actions and could feel something that could almost be labelled as sympathy.
"Well, this payback game has worked to this guy's advantage," he finally noted, pointing at the always-quiet patient.
Maes nodded. "Yes, it has. But it's true that Roy, and any one of us, can only do that much. If we are to get any closer to the truth, the guy must start understanding our language and even start using it."
Alphonse quickly stopped himself from saying anything else, but it was too late. He had got his brother and the two soldiers' attention.
"Is something wrong, Al?" asked Ed, concerned.
Al fidgeted, showing to all how a suit of armour could actually be nervous. "C-could be nothing," he faltered lamely. "It's just a silly thing..."
"Al, I'm your older brother," Ed reminded him. "I'll decide if something is silly or not, okay? So what is it?"
Al mumbled something.
"Alphonse, we didn't quite catch that," noted Maes.
In the end, the suit of armour broke down and let it out. "I think... I /think/..." he emphasized the word, "he became angry when Fawcette called him an...." he lowered his voice as he cast a brief glance at the patient, "ape. He squeezed my hand and I saw him gnashing his teeth."
Maes looked at Al incredulously; then at the patient, who was now apparently sleeping, because his eyes were closed. Suddenly, he let out a snort of laughter.
That certainly made Al bow his head in shame.
"What's so funny?" asked Edward defensively on behalf of his brother.
"No, Al's got nothing to do with it," Hughes quickly answered amid his laughing fits as he tried to compose himself. "I just..." another series of laughter, "I never thought we'd have another Edward Elric in this room!"
"Oh, joy," Havoc said then in mock-grimness, "As if things weren't bad enough with just the original one and his height complex."
"I have no height complex, thank you very much!" cried Ed, his face red. "I just don't like being called--" he immediately stopped himself, before saying the taboo word.
"Short, Chief?" Havoc completed for him, grinning.
"Now you're dead!" Edward declared, his teeth seeming like fangs in his anger as he lunged at Havoc.
Having a good survival instinct, Havoc did the wisest thing under the circumstances. He rushed out of the room and ran as fast as his legs would carry him. Young Edward, however, wasn't someone to be deterred that easily. He hurried out as well, crying to Havoc to get back that instant.
Such was Maes and Al's surprise at that that they could do nothing but watch embarrassingly as lieutenant and young alchemist vanished from view, the cries of surprised nurses and exclamations of indignant doctors the only sign to them that the chase continued on as strongly as ever. They both heaved a sigh.
"Let's hope Ed won't hurt Havoc too much."
"But, in all seriousness, what you said is very interesting, Al," said Maes thoughtfully.
"Really?" asked Al, certainly surprised.
Maes leant close to the suit of armour. "It means that our 'friend' doesn't suffer from any mental breakdown at all." He grinned when he witnessed Al almost jump and look at the sleeping form.
"Does that mean he can understand us?" Al asked again.
"No. My guess is that he doesn't know what to do. He's surrounded by people he doesn't know; an environment that seems hostile in his eyes; and he has no means of communication. In other words, he's trapped and just goes along with the ride."
"So, what should we do?" Al wanted to help, that much was clear.
Maes just shrugged. "Talk to him and as much as possible at that. The fact that he immediately recognised the word 'ape', even though he heard it only once, shows that he catches on pretty fast. Just as well, for he'll have to depend on his brains a lot if he's to learn. Who knows, he might soon understand enough that he will wish to reach out; sooner than we might expect."
"I hope so," said Al.
It was then that Ed came back, looking pleased with himself, followed by a black-eyed Havoc; and, as soon as matters were explained to them also, the conversation drifted to other, lighter matters.
I do not know how many days it has been since I was brought here. The only means that I can measure time is through the change of guards, and it is certainly not enough. Yet I am by no means idle. I keep listening to everything that everyone says, whether it is addressed to me or not, in the hopes of grasping the meaning of the words. The Armour is quite helpful, since he speaks to me about all kinds of things, and even reads to me from time to time.
As the days pass by, I am finally able to register the fact that I can understand a few phrases. First the greetings, then expressions of thanks, then expressions of praise. Soon enough, the few words become much more, and I begin to have a firm grasp of comprehending the language I am taught. And now I can even place names on the people watching me, as I am finally able to distinguish the difference between a name and a word.
There is Havoc, the fair-haired soldier; Hughes, one of my two tutors; Mustang, or else known as the Colonel; Alphonse, the armour with the child's voice; and Edward, the child with the grimness of an adult.
All of them as different from the other as night from day.
And two of them far too different than I could have possibly imagined.
I have been observing Edward and Alphonse the longest, and the more I learn about them, the more puzzled I become. What is the burden that weighs on Edward's shoulders so heavily? His look is always so haunted, sad and full of regret, even though he tries hard to hide it behind a mask of stubbornness and determination. I cannot help but feel for him. No child should be as aged as he is, not someone who seems almost as old as my son. What comforts me is that Alphonse seems like the sunlight to him, offering him warmth and solace with his presence alone.
There is a bond between them, unlike the one the other three men share; that much I can understand. I still recall the night that I saw Alphonse gently cover a sleeping Edward with an overcoat. I am not surprised at that gesture anymore, for I have been witness to Alphonse's kindness and compassion. Yet what has brought these two together and so close?
And when I finally come to realise what is the word 'brother' that Alphonse keeps calling Edward, I suddenly feel torn between understanding where this love they share comes from and confused as to what kind of curse was placed upon them to have such odd shapes. And does it have a connection with Edward's burden?
I am not certain if I will ever be destined to know. But I would like to.
I know I am dreaming; yet I do not care. I sleep on, images of my life passing before me. I see myself as a child again, playing with my brother; then everything dissolves into a smiling Faramir who tries to teach me how to shoot an arrow; to my wife's form, as I hold her tightly in my arms and she whispers her love to me; to Bergil, still an unburdened boy that I hold him in the air and he cries his joy.
Then other cries reach my ears, the cries of a hurt child. I snap my eyes open.
No. It is Edward. My gaze quickly drifts to the small form as he sleeps on the chair, and my heart wrenches to see him trembling, clearly in pain.
As my eyes become better accustomed to the semi-darkness of the room, I also manage to see Alphonse. He is at a loss and close to panicking.
"No... let me go..."
"Brother, please, wake up!"
Yet Edward does not. He is too far-gone in the land of dreams. "My fault... All my fault."
I bit my lower lip, trying to decide what I must do. I do not wish for the boy to suffer in such a way, yet I do not wish to frighten either of them if I try to address them.
But what if that boy were Bergil?
That thought has made me reach my decision. I rise slowly, feeling my limbs numb after staying in bed for so long, and I walk up to them.
Alphonse almost jumps with surprise and fright when he sees me next to him, yet he quickly composes himself and looks at me in, what I think it is, a questioning manner.
The cry of anguish makes Alphonse remember himself and starts shaking Edward's shoulders lightly.
"Brother..." His voice is tearful, and I cannot bear it in my heart. I clasp my hand on his arm.
"B-bed," I manage to stutter, surprised to hear the foreign language slip out of my lips in such an awkward manner. "Edward... on bed."
After many moments of apparent stunned silence, Alphonse nods his understanding. He picks up Edward.
Though the boy stirs at the movement, he doesn't wake up. He merely makes himself smaller against Alphonse's body, letting out another moan of pain.
Sighing sadly, Alphonse walks to the bed and places his brother down, covering him tenderly with the blanket.
It is still not enough though. Edward starts tossing in his sleep, begging his mother and Alphonse for forgiveness repeatedly.
If a suit of armour could cry, I think Alphonse would have done so at that instant.
And it is then that I decide that this will not do. As the boy still trembles, I do the only thing I know, still remembering the days I had to quieten my son from his own nightmares.
"Losto, chÃªn. Sedho, hodo. Drego um Ã´l," (Sleep, child. Hold still, rest. May the nightmare flee) I whisper close to him and, before realising it, I push back the sweat-drenched blond bangs away from his face.
In a matter of moments, whether by the words itself or the soothing touch, Edward's breathing becomes calmer and, after heaving one last deep sigh as though ridding himself of the last traces of the nightmare, he finally settles to a peaceful slumber.
I cannot help but smile. His face, as Edward still sleeps on, truly resembles a child's now - as it should be. Suddenly, Alphonse takes my hand in his own, looking at me with eyes that shine brilliantly.
Unsure of what to do next, yet wishing to indulge him, I merely squeeze his hand reassuringly.
Ed curled himself further, taking in the pleasant warmth that surrounded him. He didn't even bother to open his eyes, even though he was becoming alert once more. It was strange, but for some odd reason he felt safer than he ever did in a long time and he wanted to stay that way.
Ed sighed a bit, and stubbornly kept his eyes shut. "Not now, Al. I'm still sleeping."
Suddenly, Havoc's voice was heard out of nowhere. "And you can keep on sleeping if you want, Chief. But you've got to hear the news first."
Finally, Ed opened an eye and looked at Havoc, who was just a little away from him. "What news?"
"Mustang called about five minutes ago. The real culprit, a Thomas Guyton, was caught an hour ago when he attempted an attack on another woman. Unfortunately he came across her guard dog first and so she was able to call for help. The bastard didn't even bother to deny committing the previous murders when he was arrested."
Ed chuckled. "Guess he became careless in choosing his victims, huh?"
"Yeah," said Havoc, smiling. "But that's not all."
Ed now opened both eyes, intrigued; and he was stunned to see that there was another man standing next to Havoc and Al, his eyes now alert and brilliant with life. He got up and stared at him incredulously.
"Hello, Edward," said the man, his voice hesitant and thick with accent. He was clearly uncertain if he was using the correct words.
At a loss, all Ed found himself able to do was take the hand the man extended and shake it a bit in greeting.
"Glad to meet you, mr...?"
The man didn't understand the question. He looked confused at Alphonse, who was, in turn, happy to oblige.
"His name is Beregond."