Beregond is in for a couple of nasty surprises
"Havoc, ready to go? The trial starts in an hour."
"Yeah, don't worry. Just making sure the papers were done properly before we make any copies of them. Are the military police outside?"
"They're already waiting."
"Were they notified that this Guyton guy is dangerous?"
"Okay, then we're all set." But, before Havoc had risen and put on his overcoat, the phone rang. Sighing at this last minute inconvenience, he picked up the receiver. "Havoc."
"Sir, this is Jackson from Military Police at the gates. There's a civilian here who wishes to enter Headquarters, claiming that he knows you."
Havoc frowned. "Did he give you a name?"
"A Mr. Beregond, sir," answered the guard.
That certainly surprised Havoc. "Alone?"
That surprised Havoc even further. Something must be wrong. "Okay, you can let him through," he said, hoping that Jackson wouldn't remember that little technicality that could...
"Sir, you realise that someone from State Military, preferably you, has to come down here and escort him for as long as he's within the Headquarters' premises?"
Damn, he remembered.
"Yeah, I do. I'll see if I can send somebody in my place."
"Very well, sir."
Havoc nodded absentmindedly and hanged up.
"What was that about?" asked Breda.
"Beregond is here."
"You mean the foreign guy?"
"Yeah. And obviously he wants to talk to me." Jean sighed. "He really couldn't have picked any worse time." Suddenly, an idea was formed in his mind. "Is Hawkeye here?"
"I think so," answered Breda. "Why?"
"She'll have to do a big favour for me." And with that, Havoc grabbed his overcoat and rushed out.
Beregond paced up and down as he still waited to see if he would finally be able to talk to Havoc. He couldn't understand why things were taking so long. Then again, he wasn't acquainted with the military procedures of this world.
He quickly turned, not expecting to hear a woman's voice in this place, calling him. At the next moment he felt like his blood ran cold in his veins; his heart stopped beating; and his mind went blank.
"I'm sorry to have startled you," the woman said kindly, yet with a strength that could only belong to a soldier. "I'm Lieutenant Riza Hawkeye. Lieutenant Havoc has asked me to accompany you inside Headquarters, since he has some pressing matters at present and he can’t see you just yet."
Riza Hawkeye? Beregond kicked himself mentally to snap out of his stunned state of mind. "Thank you," he said, hoping that his voice didn't sound as weak as he felt it did. "And I'm sorry for any inconvenience I might have caused. I could come some other time."
Riza smiled. "To come here alone must mean the matter is important. Do the Elric Brothers know you're here?"
Beregond blinked in confusion.
"I've heard of your case, sir," Riza explained.
"Oh." Beregond locked his gaze on her brown eyes, keeping his hands stubbornly on his sides and clenched into fists. He smiled, too, doing his best to keep his emotions in check. "I've left them a note. They know where to find me."
"Then there's no point in staying here," Riza noted. "Follow me, please."
As she showed him the way, Beregond followed obediently yet hesitantly. His gaze locked on the lieutenant's form and all he could do was keep repeating to himself that this was impossible.
He was walking with her.
He was walking with his wife.
He was walking with his wife, who had died.
He bit his lower lip, making sure he wouldn't be noticed.
This must be a dream. It had to be.
On the other hand, those eyes; that hair (Why did it have to be tied back in such an unflattering manner?); that beloved face and graceful form; her voice; but, above all, that smile - Valar! That smile that made his heart beat faster with joy as he felt like the most blessed of men, for it was meant only for him... Those were all the same.
Yet they didn't belong to Almiel anymore.
What kind of cruel jest is this?
And that wasn't the worst thing. For though his mind tried to reason with him to keep himself objective, his soul was assaulted with feelings and memories that he had buried so long ago that, to be confronted with them again simultaneously, so suddenly, and with such force, was actually hurting and nauseating him. Before he could help it, his legs buckled, and he would have certainly fallen if a pair of hands didn't hold him at the last moment.
"Mr. Beregond, are you all right?" Riza asked, concerned. "You're as pale as a sheet!"
"I-I'm fine." Could he lie more pitifully? Beregond doubted it. "I just... need to sit somewhere."
Riza reacted at once. She led Beregond underneath a tree nearby, making sure that he rested comfortably against its trunk and he was in the shade, and told him to stay there till she fetched some water. Beregond tried to tell her not to go, but it was of no use. She was gone in seconds. All the man could do was watch her go, a bitter smile forming on his lips.
You are so much like her. Even in kindness.
Sighing, he closed his eyes and used all his will power to shun such wrong feelings that got the better of him. He only lifted his head when Riza returned with a glass of water and offered it to him.
"Thank you." He shook his head. "And I'm sorry. I've already put you into too much trouble."
Riza smiled again kindly (causing another pang in the man's heart). "No trouble. Are you feeling any better, Mr. Beregond?"
"Please, just Beregond will suffice; that's my name," Beregond said, trying to keep himself from cringing. He didn't like being called mister, and he certainly didn't want Riza to call him like that. "And yes, I'm much better."
"Very well... Beregond. Shall we proceed to the main building? I've told Lieutenant Havoc that he would meet us there when he finishes with his assignment."
"Okay." Riza offered her hand, but Beregond gently refused and stood on his own. "By the way," he said, locking his gaze at her curiously, "You never asked me what I want of him."
Riza raised an eyebrow. "Your business is with him, so it's not in my place to ask." She looked at him thoughtfully. "Unless, of course, you wish to tell me."
"Well," Beregond pondered on it for a bit, "Yes, I do." He couldn't help it. Trusting Riza came so naturally because of her resemblance to Almiel that he felt he could tell her everything.
"Then, I'd very much like to hear about it," said Riza, her smile broadening slightly. "Let's go."
Riza poured some tea on Beregond's cup and sat down on the chair behind her desk again, thoughtful.
"Beregond, you realise, of course, that what you have in mind isn't as easy as you might believe," she said.
"I do," the man replied, tracing absentmindedly the rim of his cup with his fingers. "But I don't wish to be a burden to Edward and Alphonse anymore."
Riza nodded her understanding. "Still, I feel I should ask why you wish to become a soldier. There are several jobs from which you can choose, even with the qualifications you have now."
"Yet it's the only one that I can be really good at."
"How can you be so certain?" she asked in genuine curiosity.
"I've been one before."
Riza's eyes widened slightly at the answer. "Really? Where did you serve?" she asked.
Seeing that he was now treading on dangerous ground, Beregond thought fast. "I'm afraid I haven't been able to remember that part yet." True, he hated lying; but he still preferred that to be considered a lunatic if he said anything about Gondor or Minas Tirith.
Riza simply nodded again, accepting the answer. After all, Havoc had told her of the possibility that Beregond was suffering from memory loss. "In this case, things might prove easier for you. You won't have to take all the exams and, if you do well, you might be able to start your military career at a higher rank than the standard one."
"Exams?" Beregond didn't really understand.
Riza opened her mouth to elaborate further, but she never had the chance. Commotion was heard outside at that moment, startling both her and Beregond. Her hand resting instinctively on her gun, Riza walked at the door and looked outside, catching sight of Fuery. He was worried, that much was clear.
"Fuery, what's going on?"
"Guyton's escaped and he's somewhere in the building," Fuery answered, breathing heavily.
"How did that happen?" Riza asked, astonished.
"I don't know exactly. All I can say is that everyone's been notified to be on the lookout for him and watch their backs. He's injured the military police who was guarding him and he's now armed."
Riza nodded. "I'm coming with you; I have to find the Colonel." She turned to Beregond, who watched on in an attempt to grasp what was happening. "Beregond, lock the door behind me and stay here. Don't open to anyone who doesn't identify himself as someone you know. Is that understood?"
Deciding that it was best to do what Riza asked of him - even though it was against his character to let a woman face danger, no matter how good a fighter she might be - Beregond nodded his understanding. After all, whether he liked it or not, he was a civilian and he wasn't supposed to interfere with affairs of the military.
"Good." She checked both her guns to make sure they were loaded, and she quickly followed Fuery. The moment she was out, Beregond closed the door and was about to lock it when, suddenly, the loud sound of glass breaking made him turn around. To his dismay, he saw a man regaining his footing after crashing through the window and threateningly pointing his gun at him, the nasty scratches on his face and arms hardly deterring him.
"Sorry for dropping in, mate," he said mockingly, lunging at Beregond and grabbing him from behind in a cat-like manner, still keeping him at gunpoint. "But look at it from the bright side; you've just become my ticket out of here."
Beregond clenched his jaw. He had already been shot once, and he certainly didn't wish to be shot again. So he didn't put up any fight, accepting his defeat - for the present.
Guyton grinned. "So you've got brains. Good!" He pressed his gun harder on Beregond’s temple. "Now move."
Ed and Al were getting from one surprise to another today. When Al entered the kitchen, he found a note signed by Beregond, saying that he had gone to see Havoc. Ed, in his turn, groaned his indignation at this, as he realised that Beregond proved too much of a challenge to keep an eye on. And, because he didn't want Roy to realise it as well, he quickly dressed and went with Al to Headquarters.
That's how they came to their next surprise; for they certainly didn't expect the soldiers in such a hyperactive state, guns in hand, and Roy barking orders at everyone.
"What's going on?" Ed asked the person closest to him, who turned out to be Hughes.
"Guyton escaped," Maes said. Ed was surprised - yet again - to see that the Lieutenant Colonel was angry. "I don't know how he got it, but he used a small piece of wire to pick his handcuffs. Then it was only a matter of asking to go to the bathroom and, after seeing his chance, he surprised the men, incapacitated them and got out through the window."
"Maes!" Roy's voice sounded then. If the Colonel was surprised to see Edward and Alphonse there, he didn't show it, for his next words were: "Go with Fullmetal and check the offices on the upper floor. He can't go from ledge to ledge forever!"
Just then, Havoc appeared, out of breath; he had clearly been running.
"Sir," he said to Roy, saluting slightly. "Guyton's moved away from the ledges."
"Where's he then?" asked Mustang.
Havoc hesitated for a moment. "He broke into Lieutenant Hawkeye's office, Sir."
If anyone looked at the Colonel closely now, he'd notice a slight clenching of his jaw. "Do you know if anyone was in there at the time?" he asked in an even-tempered manner.
Everyone now looked at Roy, waiting to see what his next command would be. As for Roy, he simply turned to Maes.
"Hughes, I'm going with Fullmetal and Havoc through corridor 2A. You take Breda and Falman through corridor 2C."
"You're thinking of surrounding him," noted Maes.
"Yes. We have to operate on the assumption that Hawkeye's a hostage," Roy said; then gave out his command. "Let's move!"
Everyone obeyed, yet Havoc felt he had to say something else, too. "Sir?"
"Not now, Havoc," was all that Roy said as he still walked.
"Sir, it can't wait." In the end, Havoc decided to just say it. "If Lieutenant Hawkeye was in the room, there's a good chance Beregond was with her."
Ed and Al froze. "What?!"
Roy stopped as well, but he didn't say anything. He just remained still for a moment; then nodded slightly. "Understood. Now, let's proceed."
They carried on, Roy slowly putting on his spark gloves; Ed, prepared to clap his hands and fight; Al, clenching his hands into fists; and Jean, toting his gun. As they turned and got closer to Hawkeye's office, they came across Fuery and Hawkeye herself. Surprisingly - or, perhaps, not so surprisingly - neither of them was moving, and they held their guns tightly, ready to fire. And to Ed and Al's concern, Beregond wasn't in sight.
"Fuery, Hawkeye, step back," Roy commanded calmly.
Fuery and Hawkeye did just that, their steps slow and careful; they still aimed their guns at whatever it was in the room. As they retreated, Guyton came out of the door, holding Beregond in a headlock and at gunpoint.
"Good doggies. Just do what your master says and all will be well," said Guyton contemptuously. "Otherwise, he," he tightened his grip on Beregond, "gets it."
"Let him go!" Al shouted, getting ready to lunge. "Now!"
"Al, no!" cried Ed, grabbing his brother's arm to stop him.
"Fullmetal, if you can't control your brother, I suggest you get him out of here!" said Roy edgily.
Al turned to his brother. "Ed, we can't..." The plea was soft.
"I know," Edward said. "But we can't risk it either. I'm sorry.
Alphonse bowed his head mournfully, but he didn't protest any further.
At that moment, Maes and his team appeared, their own guns drawn. Roy allowed himself a small smile.
"Mr. Guyton, it's in your best interest if you surrender now. You're completely surrounded, with no chance of escape."
"Ah, but I don't plan to escape... Colonel, isn't it?" Guyton said, looking at Mustang’s rank. "I plan on walking out of here. After all, you don't want this poor bastard's blood on your conscience, or your record, do you?"
"You underestimate a soldier's aim, Mr. Guyton."
"And you, Colonel, underestimate the human body. Even if I'm shot on the head, it takes almost thirty seconds for the brain to die. Trust me, it's enough time for a finger to twitch and pull the trigger."
Mustang bit his lower lip and lowered his hand from the snapping position it was in.
"Colonel...?" Ed started. Was he really going to give up so easily? This was unlike the Flame Alchemist!
It was then that he noticed it. Fuery was looking at Roy; then directing his eyes at Beregond.
What's he doing? He looked at Beregond's direction, too, and saw that the man was tapping his thigh as his hand rested against it. Could the man be nervous? He locked his gaze on Beregond's face. The expression reflected there was calm, even - dared he say it? - confident.
Wait a minute... If Ed didn't know any better, he'd say that there was a pattern in that tapping. His gaze drifted on Hughes, who apparently had noticed it too and was now nodding at Ed.
"Name your demands, Guyton," Roy said then, as if all of a sudden.
"No! You can't do that!" Al cried to Mustang. "He might still kill Beregond anyway!"
"Will somebody make him shut up?" shouted Guyton, aiming his gun at Al this time. It was only for a brief moment, but apparently it was all the time Beregond needed. In an instant, both his hands had reached for the hand Guyton used to hold his gun. One violent twist later and the gun fell harmlessly on the floor, whereas the moment he felt Guyton tightening his grip on his neck, Beregond snapped his head back to manage a forceful hit on the man's jaw. Before Guyton had time to react, Beregond had torn himself free, jumping at a safe distance before bringing himself into a defensive position, ready to fight again if necessary.
It seemed that the precaution wasn't needed after all. The minute Guyton was down, he was handcuffed and escorted away by Breda and Falman. Sighing and feeling the tension of battle fleeing his system (and a painful lump forming on his head), Beregond rested his back against the wall for support.
"Beregond! Are you okay?" Al's hand gripped Beregond's, squeezing it in a worried manner.
"Yes, I'm all right, Alphonse," Beregond answered with a slight smile, squeezing the armour's hand back reassuringly. "Don't worry."
"That was some good thinking, Beregond!" Fuery said then, patting the man on the shoulder. "I didn't know you could use Morse code!"
"Thank Falman for giving me that book," Beregond said, his smile becoming a grin.
"So there was a pattern!" exclaimed Ed. "Hughes tried to tell me, but I couldn't understand what you were saying."
"He said: 'Make him point the gun elsewhere; I'll do the rest.'" Roy came up to the small group that had by now gathered around Beregond and nodded to the man. "Thank you for your help, Mr. Beregond."
Beregond nodded back, feeling a bit embarrassed to get thanks from the Colonel. "You're welcome, Sir."
"You mean... you never meant to agree to the terms, Colonel?" asked Al, dumbfounded.
"Of course not, Alphonse," answered Mustang. "I just had to create a slight commotion to make Guyton lose his nerve, and you were emotionally qualified for it. I apologise for my small deceit."
"Well, it couldn't be helped, I guess," said the suit of armour, rather discomfited perhaps that he allowed himself to be taken in so easily. Ed seemed ready to defend his brother, when, oddly enough, Beregond whispered something to Al. No one could hear what the man said but, whatever it was, it made Al nod his thanks.
Just then, another man's voice echoed throughout the corridor.
"Where's he? I'm gonna kill him!"
"Havoc, control yourself!"
Everyone turned to see Havoc heading at their direction, Hawkeye and Hughes trying to calm him down. Beregond swallowed hard, not expecting that kind of reaction; then crouched a bit, as though bracing himself for the smack on the head that he somehow knew he would receive.
"You, sir, are a liar!" Havoc said, pointing his finger at Beregond. "If I had known you weren't as defenceless as you appeared to be, I would never have shot you but run for life instead!" And with that, he laughed, loud and clear.
Beregond looked up, surprised. Realising that Havoc was only joking, he laughed as well and threw a mock punch on the lieutenant's arm.
Maes, however, was now looking at him seriously. "That brings us to the question I meant to ask. Where did you learn to fight like that?"
"I, uh..." Beregond hesitated. Telling about himself to one person alone, as though from friend to friend, was one thing; talking to a group, however, felt too much like boasting, and Beregond hated it. "I was a soldier," he finally said softly.
Everyone was certainly surprised at this. Everyone, that is, except for Lieutenant Hawkeye, who was now gently prodding Beregond with her calm expression to carry on; something that Beregond did, encouraged.
"And, actually, that was why I came here in the first place," he added. "I want to work."
Ed looked at Beregond, his curiosity clear on his face. "Why didn't you tell me or Al anything? We could have helped you out."
Beregond blushed. "I wanted to see if I could do it on my own. I also wanted it to be a surprise." He bowed his head. "I'm sorry, Edward."
Ed blinked, as he wasn't used to being apologised at. "No problem."
Just then, Roy, who had remained silent and lost in thought, spoke. "Work, huh?" He smirked."I think it can be arranged."
Mustang nodded. "Return here in a month or so. Meanwhile, study every book about the military you can lay your hands upon. Do you think you can do that?"
Beregond grinned. "Yes."
"Good. The people here will be able to help you, if you've got any questions concerning your exams. That'll be all." And Roy walked away, followed by Hughes, Hawkeye and Havoc. And, since the crisis was taken care of, the rest of the soldiers headed for their own posts also. The only ones that remained in the corridor now were Edward, Alphonse and Beregond.
"Will you two stay here?" the man asked then.
Ed thought about it. "Since we got here, we might as well do some stuff that need our attention."
Alphonse nodded in confirmation.
"Okay. I'll go to the library to see what books I can check out. I'll see you later," Beregond declared and, after waving the brothers goodbye, he was gone.
Edward watched the man go. As soon as Beregond was out of sight, he turned to Alphonse. "Al, can you answer me something?"
"What?" asked the armour, bemused.
"What did he whisper to you?"
Al's eyes flashed brilliantly at the memory. If he could, he would have even smiled proudly. "He thanked me for wishing to fight for him, and that he'd always keep that in his heart."
Ed smiled before he could help it, approving of Beregond's kind action.