Havoc and Beregond leave for Central, whereas Ed and Al try to recover from their experience in Lab 5.
When Havoc woke up, he didn't realise where he was at first. Soon, however, the memories of the previous night registered within his mind. He was in Alphonse's room. He was surprised to find out that the suit of armour actually had one of his own; nevertheless, it was where he finally settled to sleep after spending most of the night talking to Beregond.
Speaking of which... where was the Gondorian?
The clanking sound of pots hitting together quickly gave Havoc a good hint, as well as the smell of something cooking.
Hmm... toast. Feeling his mouth watering and his stomach urging him in gurgling sounds to stop procrastinating already, Jean got up, straightened his trousers to the best of his ability with his hands, since he had slept with them on; and then headed for the kitchen.
Truly enough, that's where Beregond was too, humming softly to himself and cutting several slices of bread on the counter. A small casserole filled with boiling eggs was already on the burner, whereas on another burner was a frying pan with sizzling bacons in it. As for the Gondorian, he was already fully dressed. He was even wearing an apron to avoid any mishaps at the cost of his clothes.
That made Havoc chuckle slightly."Didn't have you for the housewife type," he said.
Beregond turned at the sound of the voice, a grin adorning his features. "It goes with being a single parent for more than ten years," he said, "Although I have to admit that Alphonse is much better at it than I."
Havoc smiled, seeing Beregond at such agood mood. And yet, there was one small stain in that picture-like cheeriness the Gondorian was depicting.
Beregond's face was slightly pale, quite the contrary to what one would expect after a night's rest.
Unless, of course, there had been no rest.
"Didn't you sleep last night?" Jean asked, mildly surprised.
"Didn't feel like it," answered Beregond, as though there was nothing wrong with that kind of answer. He turned again to his task of cutting the loaf of bread. "So... what would you like to have first? Juice? Tea?"
Havoc thought about it for a bit."Juice," he finally said. "Is it in the refrigerator?"
"Yes," the Gondorian answered. "Help yourself. I'm in the middle of making these sandwiches."
Jean nodded and went for the orange juice. "Ah, good, you have a glass out already," he said.
"Actually, that's Edward's," Beregond said. "He prefers to keep it there for easy access."
Havoc looked at the glass, then at the refrigerator; and, lastly, at the cupboard, which was on the level of his head.
"I think I can tell why," he said, grinning.
"Yes, well... you didn't hear /that/from me," was all that Beregond said, a tinge of red finally colouring his cheeks; then started placing slices of ham and cheese between the slices of bread. Yet, as he kept at his task, his expression became more thoughtful.
"What?" Havoc asked, gulping down a big draught of the juice.
Beregond shook his head. "Nothing. I'm just being ridiculous."
Havoc raised an eyebrow in curiosity."In what way?"
Beregond didn't speak for a while, focused on wrapping the sandwiches in cellophane. When he answered, it was with a slightly dismayed huff. "Getting worried. The last I heard of them, they were not okay, Havoc. What if...?" He paused, unsure how to continue. "...What if something else has happened in the meantime?"
Havoc didn't speak for some moments.
"See, there is a reason I said I'm being ridiculous," Beregond muttered. He picked up the basket near him so to put the sandwiches inside.
But Jean just clasped Beregond's back encouragingly. "You're not. But you don't have a reason to worry either. It's just that you are finally going to see them after more than a month and you're getting so worked up about it you let your imagination run away with you. Relax. Everything will be fine."
Beregond faced Jean for a couple of moments and a small smile appeared on his lips once more. "I think you're right. /Hannon le./" (Thank you.)
Jean scratched the back of his head in an embarrassed manner, sporting a goofy grin. "Thanks... I think."
Beregond just chuckled kind-heartedly.
It was at that moment that the smell of something burning reached both their nostrils - and their eyes widened in realisation.
Beregond instantly rushed to the stove with a kitchen towel, whereas Havoc grabbed a pitcher from nearby and started filling it with water from the kitchen tap. The fire was put out quite easily; nevertheless, both men still kept coughing, smothered by the remaining smoke that surrounded them.
"Maybe we should--?" Beregond tried to say, but he started coughing again.
"Good idea," replied Havoc, his voice strained.
They both moved out of the room, trying to catch their breath. Beregond opened a window to let the breeze disperse the smoke, and five minutes later things returned, more or less, back to normal.
"So..." Havoc said then, looking at Beregond quite innocently, "You were saying you were worried about Ed and Al?"
"Oh, shut up," was all that Beregond said with a glare.
And yet, at the next moment, they both started laughing so hard that they could hardly keep themselves from rolling on the floor. It was only after they started calming down a bit that Havoc remembered himself and checked his watch.
"Hmm... I'd better go find a phone-booth and ask Mustang for that leave," he said. He grabbed his shirt and donned it on his way out. "I don't think he'll mind, so I'll be back in a couple of hours with my stuff and we'll leave for the train station from here."
The moment he heard Beregond's "Okay!", he let the door shut behind him. He let out another series of chuckles as the memory of the kitchen incident tickled his insides.
He took a couple of steps...
... and then a sudden thought wedged forcefully in his mind.
The bacon and the eggs were getting cooked and yet the stove...
It wasn't turned off, was it? It couldn't be.
Impossible, Havoc concluded. Chuckling to himself and dismissing such thoughts as absurd, he walked on.
Little did he know that, meanwhile, inside the house, Beregond was staring at the stove with a very apprehensive and confused look; for there was something that troubled the Gondorian more than he cared to admit.
Though he had meant to, he had /never/turned the stove on.
Beregond tried to remember, he really did; but he couldn't come up with a definite answer.
Sighing and seeing there was nothing he could do about it, he merely dismissed matters and focused on cleaning the mess before packing.
Ed groaned when he opened his eyes and saw the bright sunlight. His head was hurting, his body was getting acquainted with the feeling of having been trampled by oliphaunts, and his side throbbed in protest in spite of the bandages that covered it.
Wait a minute... bandages?
Ed managed to push himself into aseating position and checked himself, then at his surroundings.
What the hell happened? He was in Lab 5, wasn't he?
It was then that the door creaked opened and Sergeant Bloch and Lieutenant Ross came in. They seemed relieved for some reason.
"Major Elric. You've finally woken up,"Bloch said, smiling
"Where am I?" Ed asked.
"Central Hospital," Ross answered. "You can recover in peace and quiet here after what happened within the lab."
"The lab?" Ed said. He tried to lean forward, but his body failed him miserably. Even so, he persisted. "There's no time for me to be hospitalised. I was close into finding out the truth..."
He was struggling so hard to get off his bed, that he didn't notice the brief glance that both sergeant and lieutenant exchanged. So he was stunned to hear the heavy thud of boots as both soldiers stood in attention.
"Fullmetal Alchemist, Sir!"
"Please, excuse us what we will do next!"
"What?" Ed asked.
And then it hit him.
Ed was so taken aback at the slap Ross gave him that he just stared at her in shock.
But Ross was far from finished. Her eyes reflected the anger she was filled with as she proceeded to give Ed quite the lecture.
"We told you so many times not to act on your own, but then you two did it anyway! Even when we told you to wait at the inn patiently, because it was dangerous! And on top of ignoring our advice, you almost died!"
Ed breathed in sharply. He did what?!
It was then that he finally recalled everything. He and Al being threatened by those... things into creating the philosopher's stone... then the Red Water...
He had almost died!
"First, recognise the fact that you're still children!" Ross continued on. "Next, don't try to do everything by yourselves! Please, trust the people around you! Can't you put a little more faith on us adults?"
Ed had nothing to say to that. He just lowered his head in shame, recognising the fact that what Ross said was true.
And that complaint was all too familiar somehow.
Ask for my help when problems present themselves and I will give it more than willingly. I'm not useless; Iknow you understand that. Please, don't treat me like one.
"That is all!" concluded Ross. "Please forgive us for our violent actions and words unbefitting that of officers of lower rank!"
Ed blinked. "Wha...? No, I'm the one who's at fault," he admitted at once. "You reminded me something that my other escort had also scolded me about. Except not so forcefully," he said, rubbing his reddened cheek.
Both Ross and Bloch seemed to cringe at this. "And... the punishment for the slap?" she ventured to ask.
Ed blinked again. "I... won't do anything."
It was amazing to see how much air the two soldiers had been holding, only to release it so forcefully in relief.
This is ridiculous! "You don't have to be nervous!" Ed said. "I didn't get a State license because I wanted astatus in the military! And you don't have to talk so formally to a kid!"
"Really?!" Ross asked, brightening up.
"Well, the thing is that it was really annoying to have to talk to someone younger than me like that, you know!" Bloch said, laughing.
That's some fast adapting... Ed thought with a mental shake of his head.
It was then that he noticed something was missing. "Where's Al?"
"Outside," Bloch answered at once. "I hit him and I gave him the same sort of lecture. Thanks to that, my hand ended up like this." And with that, he raised his right hand, which was currently so bruised that it seemed like it was all blue.
That proved too much for Ed. Before he could help it, he started laughing hard in spite of his pain. "I should have warned you! He's pretty hard!" he said amid his laughing fits.
But then Ed remembered something very important. So important, in fact, that he immediately sobered.
"Sir?" Ross asked, not understanding the change of mood.
"I need to make a couple of phone calls," Ed said, cringing. "And one of them will involve handling a lot of screaming."
Oh yes... Winry was going to kill him.
Ed heard the line beeping once, twice... at the fourth one, he decided, he would hang up, considering himself lucky that he postponed Winry's wrath a little while longer.
"Right, what do you want?" Winry's voice sounded from the other end of the line.
So much for luck.
"Winry... it's me."
There was a small pause for a moment."Ed. That's a surprise," the girl finally said.
"Uh... yeah..." Ed said. "Actually... it's hard for me to say, but... could you come over for some maintenance work?"
"Yeah... you see, my arm broke, and there's a little reason why I can't travel to Resembool now. So could you come to Central?"
/Oh yes. First concern: the automail,/Ed thought grimly. "My fingers and wrist are moving, but the arm won't move upwards at all. It feels like my shoulder's gone out of whack."
"Yeah, I thought so. So it /was/broken."
"Just talking to myself," Winry answered. "Did you carry something heavy or swing your arm more than you had to?"
And here it comes. "I got into abig fight."
"AGAIN?! HOW MANY TIMES HAVE I TOLD YOU THAT IT WILL BREAK IF YOU USE IT LIKE A MANIAC?!"
Ed held the receiver as far away from him as possible with a wince. It was always the same story, but that didn't mean the young alchemist got used to it. So he simply waited for the storm to pass before anything else.
Except... there was silence now.
/Odd. She usually rants far longer./"Hello?" he said, venturing to bring the receiver back close to his ear. After all, the line could have gone dead.
"It can't be helped. Where in Central?"
"Huh?!" To say Ed was stunned, it would have been an understatement.
There was another huff. "I'm saying I'll come for the maintenance. Where are you exactly?"
Okay, this was too good to be true."Winry? For some reason, you're acting awfully nice."
"I'M ALWAYS NICE!"
That was better. "Okay, then I'll fill you in on the details when I call again. Yeah, later."
And with that, he hanged up, feeling somewhat relieved.
Until Sergeant Bloch said: "Calling your girlfriend?"
"WHAT GIRLFRIEND?!" Ed flailed, positively horrified.
"Stop! Your wound will re-open!" Bloch said.
But it was too late. At the next moment, Ed had collapsed on the floor with blood spurting anew from his side, murmuring something that resembled "I think I see my mother waving from the other side of a large river..." and then blacked out.
"She's just my automail mechanic," Ed grumbled, letting Bloch move him about in the wheelchair he was placed in after the small incident a few minutes ago.
"That's all?" Bloch said then, smiling."That's no fun, you know."
"I'm fine with being like that, thank you very much!" Ed grumbled some more.
"Don't have a girlfriend?"
"I don't want one!"
Bloch let out a loud, melodramatic sigh. "When I was your age..."
But Bloch never got the chance to tell Ed about his teen achievements, because at that moment they entered Ed's room.
Alphonse was indeed placed in the corner of the room; yet he didn't make any sign that he acknowledged the newcomers.
"Ah... Al?" Ed said again.
There was no answer. The suit of armour remained perfectly still.
Al's head jerked up and looked at Ed's direction. "Brother?"
"Yeah." Ed pushed himself out of the wheelchair and got on his bed. "Where did your mind drift off to?" he asked curiously once settled.
"I... uh..." Alphonse stopped mid-sentence.
"Well?" Ed insisted gently.
There was another moment of silence, and then Al finally spoke. "That person... he said he would kill Beregond. And now he has every reason to."
Ed sighed. "That's true. I meant to call Beregond to see if he noticed anything odd around him, but..." He threw the blankets away. "I'll go now."
"No, you don't have to!" Bloch said reassuringly. "I'll make that call, and you try to get some rest. You got enough excitement for one day."
Ed got ready to object, meaning to say that he wouldn't be sure unless he heard Beregond's voice himself; but he had to admit that Bloch was right. So he just nodded the "go ahead" and drew the blankets close to him again. Bloch saluted and walked out, leaving the brothers alone.
Alone in complete silence, something that made Ed nervous. Usually Al would get concerned about him, ask how he was feeling - even mother him. But now...
He must be really worried, Ed concluded. He gritted his teeth in dismay. That Envy guy was going down for frightening his little brother like that!
"Beregond will be fine," he told Al encouragingly. "He knows how to take care of himself."
"Okay, Brother," was all that Alphonse said; and then there was silence again.
It's no use. Alphonse was really down, and Ed was sure that being in that condition with no limbs had also something to do with it. So all Ed could do was hope that Winry would come soon and fix his arm, so that he could fix Al. Then it would just be a matter of starting their search for a way to return to normal through another path.
And this time, Beregond would accompany them. It would be for the best if it meant making sure Envy didn't fulfil his threat.
And with that last thought, Ed drifted to sleep - unaware that Alphonse's worry concerning the Gondorian was just /part/of his inner turmoil.
The conductors called to all passengers to get on board the train for Central, and then there was a long whistle that signified the engines were about to start. In a matter of moments, the train was off, carrying in it a very tense-looking Gondorian soldier and a serene lieutenant with a cigarette on his lips. They were both dressed casually, since their trip didn't involve any military business. Which probably gave them one more reason to toss aside any dignity there was left out the window, because no more than ten minutes had passed when Beregond rested his head against the window and hugged himself.
"Already?" Havoc said, raising an eyebrow. "You don't get dizzy so fast while in the car."
"Faster than a car," was all Beregond managed to say through teeth so clenched that the words were barely uttered properly.
Havoc shook his head and sigh. "Now that's partly psychological. You understand that, right? One trip won't kill you."
Beregond didn't say anything this time. But he apparently saw Havoc's point, because he closed his eyes and started taking deep breaths in an attempt to calm down. Havoc smiled to notice that the Gondorian was nearly succeeding, when they heard voices just a couple of seats away.
"Oh love... did you read this? There was another accident yesterday," the man said, his face almost buried in the newspaper.
"Really? What happened this time?"asked the woman, who was knitting stoically.
"Two trains collided. The drivers tried to come to a stop, but it was no good. The poor chaps didn't stand a chance. And things wouldn't have been so bad if it weren't for the engines blowing up, setting fire to the compartments. Most of the passengers were..."
Havoc didn't manage to hear what happened to the passengers, because then Beregond, left eye twitching and aface positively green, grabbed him by his collar.
"You get me off this death trap right now or I jump off the window!"
"Have these handed to General Grumman's secretary," Roy said, handing several files to Riza. She took them with a small nod before saluting cordially and then exiting. At the next moment, Falman was walking through the door, and Roy could tell that his subordinate was very worried.
"What is the matter, Warrant Officer?Is there a fire?" he asked, raising an eyebrow.
"Worse," Falman answered. "It's Connors, Sir."
Roy now knew the news would be pretty bad. "What about him?"
"He's taken Professor Syndow into custody."
"What?!" Roy jumped up at once. "Did you find out why?"
"Damn it. If he starts asking things..." Roy quickly grabbed his overcoat and rushed out, dragging Falman with him.
If he ever heard the phone in his office ringing at that moment, he simply ignored it. Which was a mistake, since the young sergeant that called got very surprised - and slightly worried.
"All right, one more time, Beregond."
The Gondorian sighed in resignation and complied. "Nothing's going to happen in this train."
Havoc nodded in approval. "Why?"
"Because I wasn't offered life again so that I would become a train-wreck victim."
"And because the only way /you/ever lose a potential girlfriend is because of Mustang, not of accidents."Beregond lifted his fedora hat from over his eyes and eyed Havoc. "And /that/is quite the ridiculous argument, if I may add."
"It still worked, didn't it? You're calmed down."
"I am not," Beregond said stubbornly."But I'll do anything so to stop repeating that little citation of yours." He crossed his arms over his chest in a hugging motion and sighed. "Lying down did help though, I have to admit."
Indeed, Beregond was now lying down on the train seats, shutting his mind off from any sounds that reminded him where he was /exactly/.
"Good," Havoc said, letting out a small smile of relief. "Now I can finally enjoy this trip."
Beregond sighed. "I can't say I blame you. I'm quite the hopeless travelling companion."
"Yeah... that you are," Havoc agreed. At the next moment, he opened the basket and picked a couple of sandwiches. "But at least you know how to keep your fellow travellers' stomachs full.'" And with that, he started munching happily.
That is, until he realised something.
Beregond couldn't eat /anything/at his condition.
The Gondorian must have sensed what was going through Havoc's mind, because he smiled faintly.
"I wasn't planning on eating on the road. It would just make things worse."
Havoc blinked. "Then why did you make food for more than one?"
"It's the 25th tomorrow. Edward's birthday. So I figured a small celebration would be nice," Beregond replied."But first we'll find Hughes. I want to give Elysia's birthday present as well, since she was born on the same day."
Havoc couldn't help but feel curious now. "What did you get her?"
Beregond reached for his pocket and took out what looked like something round, and he handed it to Havoc. "Open it."
Havoc did. And suddenly, the music box- for that's what it was - started playing. Havoc listened to the music that now filled the compartment for many moments, taking it in. It wasn't a tune he knew, but he had to admit it was a beautiful one - even though there was a sad tinge to it that made his heart sink a bit.
"Where did you get this?" he finally asked, closing it and handing it back to its owner.
"I made it," Beregond said. "Through alchemy."
That intrigued Havoc to no end. "So... you made it play that music?"
The Gondorian nodded. "It's a song from home; one about the War of the Ring."
"The one you were caught in?"
"Yes. I can't translate it to you word for word, I'm afraid. All I can tell is that it talks about the rekindled hope in our hearts after defeating Sauron."
Havoc thought about this for many moments. After reaching his decision, he locked his gaze on the Gondorian.
"Will you tell me about the War? And about your own part in it?"
Beregond propped himself on his elbow, clearly surprised. "Do you really want me to tell you? It's a very long story, whereas my own part was very small."
"We have plenty of time. And I still want to know," Havoc said.
Beregond smiled. "All right. Then you will. " He lied down again, keeping his eyes on Havoc. "It began with the forging of the Great Rings of Power. Three the Elves kept; seven were given to the Dwarf-lords; and nine were gifted to the race of Men. And all of them wielded those rings, because within them was bound the strength and will to govern each race. But little did they know they were deceived, for another ring was made..."
Havoc listened on.