(Author’s note: I don’t know what I’m going to write yet, so if this post surprises you it probably surprised me too.)
“No, no,” Katara spat out, then realized how rude she was being and demurred. “I mean, I want you to tell him about Lieutenant Colonel Hughes.”
The Colonel looked away, out the window to his back garden. “You mean Brigadier General Hughes,” he corrected her.
Katara turned her head away from the Colonel. Maybe this had been a mistake. Zuko found himself unsure of what to do and just stared straight ahead, hands on his knees. He shifted his eyes from the girl to the military officer and back, not knowing who would be easier to speak to and not knowing what might upset this strange man into whose fortress he had just entered.
But then the man gave another sigh and turned back to Zuko. “I suppose I should formally introduce myself. I’m Colonel– I’m sorry, I’m retired Colonel Roy Mustang.” A cynical snicker crawled up half of his mouth. “It still feels strange to say that. And you are?”
“Zuko Erzi-Ozai, uh, high school student.” The boy stiffly offered his hand to Mustang, who gave it a quick but firm shake.
“Well, then. I suppose our friend here wants me to explain some things.” Katara winced slightly at Mustang’s mention of her, but didn’t turn in his direction. The Colonel sighed again. “Maes Hughes was a colleague of mine in the military. We knew each other almost from the beginning, and we worked together on several projects.” Mustang looked back to the window, but kept talking. “He was researching something of interest to the both of us and got into some trouble he couldn’t get out of. The investigation into his murder is still ongoing. I think that is what you wanted me to tell him, Katara?”
The girl could barely push the “Yes sir” that she replied with past her lips.
“I’m sorry to hear that,” Zuko said slowly. “Is that why you retired?”
Mustang crossed his arms and leaned onto his thighs. “I retired because the military no longer holds the promise for me that it once did. That’s all you need to know.”
Zuko nodded slightly. “I understand. Katara?” He put his hand on the girl’s shoulder. She looked at him with reddened eyes and an expression that said she had made a mistake.
“I think we should go,” she said quietly. “Thank you for your time, Colonel.”
Mustang didn’t move as Katara showed herself and her friend out the front door.
“I’m sorry,” she said once the door was closed behind them. “I don’t know what I was expecting, but that’s not how I wanted that to go.”
“What were you trying to do?”
“I thought- I don’t know, you reminded me of him somehow, and I thought maybe if you started talking to him, maybe he’d see that too, and maybe he’d talk more, and maybe it might help him.”
“Well, I don’t think he likes me in any case,” Zuko replied.
“No, he’s not upset with you, he’s just mad at me. I can deal with that. Anyway, I have to get home. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
The girl scampered off, leaving the boy to meander back to his own house. She sure was a strange one.
(Author’s note: I’ve come up with my own personal definition of “writer’s block.” It’s when what you want to have happen is not the same thing as what your characters want to do. This post had a *lot* of writer’s block. The characters won.)