Joined: 26-June 06
From: I tend to bounce around...currently at school
Member No.: 37,798
Gender: Not Telling
Disclaimer: I don’t own Fullmetal Alchemist, obviously, so don’t sue me. I’m a poor college student busily incurring a great deal of debt, so it’d be like squeezing blood from a stone, really.
Chapter 2: The Shadow of Steel
The camp seethed with activity as personnel scrambled to load supplies onto waiting trucks. Messengers dashed back and forth, relaying orders and getting under everyone’s feet. Colonel Elric's squad returned to camp in the midst of their unit's AM withdrawal northward to join the rest of the South branch of the army at Fort Lone. The perimeter guards halted them at the checkpoint and sent them on. Outside the infirmary a few minutes later, they were intercepted by a harried-looking medic. He took in their assortment of cuts, slings and bruises, caught sight of the suit of armor...and then the scales on Waldenmeyer’s face. His eyes widened, and he started to move past the armor to the chimera when the steel body shifted to block his path.
The man paled when it spoke, recognizing the colonel’s voice as he requested that Brigadier General Havoc be informed that his team would be in the infirmary. The medic led them into the tent without a word. Before he left he informed them that it would take some time to be debriefed or even seen to until the chaos of packing up died down.
So they waited. After checking to make certain that Bell had already been stabilized and drugged in anticipation of his surgery and the train evac to Central, Connor unpacked some iodine and began tweezing ground-in shrapnel out of the more drastic cuts. The suit of armor lay the colonel’s body down on one of the empty beds, then assisted the second lieutenant mutely, bandaging the wounds and resetting Hart’s broken arm. It didn’t speak again, and its movements grew more and more stilted as time passed. Connor hoped it was a sign that the colonel would soon awaken.
Waldenmeyer and his men kept to a corner, all of them dozing except for major himself and the two other ranking officers. They sat hunched, staring at nothing, apparently lost in thought. The major only moved to wave Connor off when he offered to look them over. “We’re fine. Your people bore the brunt of it. See to yourselves.”
They all started when the armor finally shuddered and collapsed, the head rattling emptily into a corner. Connor stepped around Lane’s cot and checked the Colonel’s pulse, but there was no change. Walder peered inside the empty metal carapace and shivered. “Do you really think the Colonel lived like that for four years?”
Connor, who at thirty-seven was the oldest of the group, answered her. “I saw him and his brother in 1912. Everybody knew a suit of armor followed the Fullmetal Alchemist around, but the higher-ups were the only ones who knew the whole story, and only a few of them. And the Fullmetal himself didn’t exactly invite questions on the subject. I had heard he had a hell of a temper for a little cuss.”
Walder looked thoughtfully toward the bed the colonel occupied. “Connor, aren’t you older than Colonel Elric? I mean, our Colonel Elric?”
“By seven years, yeah.”
Walder could see that everyone else was doing the math as well. “But for the Fullmetal to be in service in 1912…”
Conner half-smiled at the realization dawning in the other faces around the room. “He couldn’t have been more than fourteen. And our fearless leader was all of thirteen at the time.”
“I wondered how he made Colonel so young.” Hart was looking at the unconscious man as well. Sleeping, the colonel’s face was barely lined, and gray had yet to touch his bronze hair. It was a gentle face, true to the Colonel’s nature, but deceptive in that his experience hardly showed . . . unless his eyes were open. Then someone might catch a glimpse at the truth behind the rumor that surrounded the Elrics. The Colonel’s eyes were older than they had any right to be. They peeled the myth away, and let one wonder if every whispered horror of his and his brother’s legend was true . . .
Daniels’s expression almost awed. “Did you see the way he went back for Bell?”
Klaus frowned from where she stood against the wall, arms folded. “It was foolish. He should have sent one of us back.”
“It was brave!” Daniels insisted.
Klaus’s dark gaze bored into him, then flicked to Connor. “You explain,” she directed.
The field medic sighed out a “Yes, ma’am”, but pierced the rookie with a look as direct as the lieutenant’s. “It was brave. But the lieutenant is right. It was also really stupid.”
“But--” Daniels checked his tongue as Connor raised a hand.
“Look, kid. I’ve been around a while, and I’ve been passed through a lot of officers who were incompetent, wouldn’t tolerate the fact that I spoke up when I thought they were wrong, who were cruel to their men or cowards. The Colonel’s none of that, and I’m glad of it. I hope you’re retired before you realize how lucky you were to get him right off the cadet lists. The man would die for any of us, and that’s the truth.”
He leaned in then, staring the corporal in the eye. “But that’s exactly what the danger is. The Colonel would do that, not expecting that we’d do the same, that if he gets hurt we have to help. Lose one of us, and the rest will probably get out of it alive, but lose him—" Connor made a slicing motion across his throat. “Command throws us all at things knowing what he can do. I wouldn’t have given a used hanky for our chances in that bunker this morning if he’d gone down any earlier. And that’s the other thing,” he added, his dark eyes no longer on the rookie but on the still form occupying the furthest cot. “He can’t stand us dying on him, any more than he can stand to kill.” Connor said it softly, but read looks of realization and agreement in the faces of the senior officers. Daniels frowned. “How is he supposed to stand it? What do you mean?”
Connor looked away to the colonel, then back at the senior officers. “You all remember when Redman and Stockbridge got killed.” It wasn’t a question. There was no doubting they remembered the men that Daniels and Tocker had joined the unit to replace, in body if not spirit.
“What happened?” Daniels asked. He and Tocker were looking around at the suddenly grim faces.
“Ambush. Not the Colonel’s fault; some joker of a major general screwed us over by marching us straight into a line of Drachmar subversives hiding in a bog. The colonel put a wall between us and them, but Stocks and Klev were down before we even knew they were there.”
Lane smiled bitterly into the silence. “I always told Stocky I’d outrank him one day. Never occurred to me his punching out would prove me right.”
“And you all remember what happened with the Colonel after they died.” Connor continued.
Lane laughed, the shadow over his face lifting somewhat. “You punched him.”
Daniels and Tocker gaped. “You punched him?”
Connor narrowed his eyes at the snickering sergeant. “I’m trying to make a point to the rookie, you dumbass. I punched the colonel to snap him out of the week-long spell when he barely ate and only talked when he had to.”
Daniels and Tocker’s eyes widened. They weren’t the only ones.
“He stopped eating over that?” Hart asked, aghast.
“I never knew that.” Walder looked just as taken aback.
“I knew.” The lieutenant said softly. “All the orders, all the planning was as sharp as before. I think he was desperate to keep us all safe after that. But outside of duty he stayed away from everyone, including us. The Brigadier General tried talking to him, but it didn’t help.”
“Even punching him didn’t bring him out of it.” Connor remembered, the barest hint of a smile playing on his face. “So I got desperate and called his brother.”
“His brother?” Tocker spluttered at him. “The Fullmetal Alchemist. You just called him up out of the blue.” Even Klaus was looking at him in surprise, and perhaps approval.
Connor grinned, the response of his audience letting him warm into the story. “Pretty much. I got his number from some pencil pusher I know at Central. The number went to the lab closest to where he was on the southern border, so it took him two days to get back to me. At first I thought he was the dead opposite of the Colonel. Rude cuss. I didn’t even tell him my name before he cut me off to ask what the hell I wanted. But he went quiet when I said it was about the Colonel.” Connor knew Elric had thought he had called to report his brother’s injury or death, which was usually what calls from anonymous servicemen meant. The relief had been strong in the alchemist’s voice when he thanked him and hung up.
“He was on the Drachmar border by two in the morning, three days later. Must’ve driven like a bat out of hell to get there.” Connor laughed, recalling it. “He wasn’t what I expected at all.”
“What do you mean?” Tocker had leaned forward, intent on Connor’s tale.
The second lieutenant grinned. “Well, you know how all those dime novels describe him. You know, all flawlessly heroic, cleft chin, dashing smile, long golden hair, eyes that make women swoon--” Connor batted his own at Walder and ducked the bed pillow she threw at him. “All that crap. Plus, his voice was deeper than the Colonel’s, so I thought he’d be the taller of the two.” The others looked askance at him when he started laughing before he explained precisely why the story was so hilarious. “So here I am, it’s two fifteen in the morning and I’m waiting up to see the “human weapon” out of Amestrian dime-store legend, who called an hour before to tell Havoc that they have to keep this on the down-low, because no one’s realized yet that he’s gone AWOL in order to get up there. Best conversation I ever had the pleasure of overhearing. You should have heard the Brigadier General swear when he got off the phone. But then he looks at me--” Here Connor mimed the Brigadier General’s long jaw, set in a grim line. “—and he goes, ‘You heard the little cuss. Make sure nobody sees him when you escort him to Colonel Elric.’”
“I can’t believe the higher-ups would tie themselves in so many knots for this guy, even if he is a war hero.” Hart shook his head as the rest laughed.
Connor smirked by way of reply. “It gets better. So I’m waiting outside to escort this guy and someone in civvies walks up and asks where the hell Havoc is. Doesn’t add the rank or the sir, which should have told me something right then, but it’s two in the morning, remember, and I’ve been up since four the day before. So my brain sees the clothes and thinks ‘this fucking civilian is trying to push past me’, so I unsling my rifle and tell him to state his fucking business and who the f*!@ he is.”
Walder’s expression was somewhere between laughter and horror. “You didn’t.”
“I sure did. Next thing I know there’s a flash, my rifle muzzle suddenly looks like a bowtie, and this guy who barely comes up to my chin--” Connor held out his hand to indicate the man’s height—“has yanked me down so I’m face to face with these mean, bloodshot, yellow eyes. Then the guy snarls right in my face, ‘I’m Edward fucking Elric, and my fucking business is none of yours.’” Connor laughed just as heartily as everyone else despite the joke being at his expense. Even Waldenmeyer’s men joined in. He wiped his eyes and kept going, raising his voice over the roar of laughter, catcalls and cheering. “He says that and I finally figure out it’s the same voice I heard over the phone three days ago. Only then do I realize I’ve nearly assaulted the Fullmetal Alchemist, legend in the flesh and steel.”
“He only came up to your chin?” Daniels looked torn between laughter and incredulousness, as though trying to decide whether Connor and the others were having a joke at his expense.
“Swear to God, may I be drowned in the cafeteria tapioca if I lie.” Connor assured him, chortling. “He didn’t look real heroic, either. He looked more like a guy that had driven for three days straight. Walder, you’ll have to tell me whether bloodshot eyes make you swoon, ‘cause they don’t do much for me.” He ducked another flying object and continued. “So I led him to the Colonel, they talked, and the Fullmetal left before dawn.”
“You didn’t hear what he said?” Tocker asked, disappointed. Connor could tell the rookie wanted to redeem the hero whose image had been soiled by his portrayal of a foul-mouthed midget.
Connor gave him a direct look. “I did. They didn’t dismiss me, so I stuck around. Elric told the Colonel…exactly what he needed to hear.” His tone was final, stating clearly that he had said all he meant to. Daniel and Tocker's faces fell like five year olds who had just had their candy snatched away. Seeing their disappointment, Connor added, “I will say this. There was enough in what he said to tell me that anyone who says he was responsible for Lior doesn’t know shit from steak at the Alabaster.” He knew that would brighten Tocker up at least. Any time a debate turned to Lior (which it never did if Colonel Elric was present), Tocker always jumped to the Elrics’ defense.
“How do you know?” Hart questioned. He was one of the skeptics who maintained that the Lior disaster might have been caused by a state alchemist, though there was no proving it unless and until the military gave them up.
“Because, and I want you to understand what I’m saying, the older Elric is exactly like our fearless leader at heart. He just hides it better. The Colonel couldn’t have managed killing our own people at Lior. Hell, you’ve seen him, he never even kills foreign soldiers.” Connor watched as Hart’s skeptical look softened into thoughtfulness. “Him and his brother, judging from what I heard then and what I’ve heard around, take every risky task they’re handed to keep other people out of harm’s way.”
“Whatever they said could have just been for your benefit.” Hart shrugged defensively with the shoulder that wasn’t bandaged as everyone looked at him. “I’m just saying.”
Connor snorted. “Then it was the best spun, most eloquent piece of bullshit I’ve ever heard, and the Elric brothers could put any film star to shame.”
The tread of boots snapped the group out of their debate, and a man’s voice filtered through the canvas divider. “Your patient’s through here, doctor.” A hand pulled the canvas aside, and a woman in a blue medic’s coat walked through.
Connor had to look twice to get his brain to register past the uniform and her insignia of a major. The woman was beautiful. Not in a classic way; the eyes were slightly too tilted, her straight nose a bit long, her skin a dusky olive. But her eyes were cinnamon-brown and warm with laughter, her lips were full, and her nose balanced a well-boned face positively crammed with character. This one’s a spitfire, Connor thought as his eyes made the customary dance to her hands, checking for a wedding band. Wonder if she’s lonely… His speculation broke off as he caught a gold glint on her hand. Seeing the ring, he sighed mentally, tipping some faceless man a rueful salute. Hope the bastard knows how lucky he is. He wondered idly if he knew the bastard in question; that ring looked familiar…
His attention was so focused on the woman that it took a moment to realize Brigadier General Havoc had been the one to escort her into the tent. Everyone able to do so shot to their feet and saluted. Lane saluted from his cot, a jaunty, lady-killer smile already in place. “General Havoc sir, thank you for sending the most beautiful nurse in the service. I’ll be sure to name one of our children after you.” The brigadier general blinked at him. Connor put a hand over his face. Lane, you ass…He had just managed to place the ring that matched the medic’s.
The brigadier general looked from Lane to the woman, fighting to keep a straight face and failing miserably. The medic lifted one cool, dark brow at the sergeant’s winning smile. When she spoke, her voice was rich with amusement and an Eastern accent. “I don’t have a say in this?”
“Nope.” Lane looked as dashing as Connor supposed was possible on a military cot with a bandage around your head. The second lieutenant caught Klaus and Walder rolling their eyes in unison. They knew. Lane was about to be shot down in the flaming wreckage of his ego, and he would never see it coming.
“What about my husband?” One lovely hand displayed the band, braided with three shades of gold.
“A husband that doesn’t follow wherever you choose to go clearly has no concept of how he couldn’t possibly deserve you.” Lane returned gallantly.
The brigadier general choked, unlit cigarette flying out of his mouth. Lane pointedly ignored him.
The woman only smiled. “Perhaps. But before you explain why you are so much worthier, I have to see my patient.” She padded to the bed where Colonel Elric lay. His head was turned toward them, so that they could see his face had relaxed enough to have fallen into true sleep. She laid light fingers on his wrist, checking his pulse, then pulled back the dressing on his forehead and frowned. “How did he get this?” she addressed the room.
Klaus spoke up. “Ma’am, a chunk of flying ice made that cut.”
The medic’s fingers probed the colonel’s head gently. “I thought it had to have been masonry. It fractured his skull for him. I need new bandages, please.”
Connor nearly tripped over Lane as the other man charged to bring a handful to her. Connor rolled his eyes at the sergeant’s muttered “I saw her first” and laid his share of the bandages on the tray. “How could you tell his skull was fractured just by touching it?” he asked. The woman gave him a brilliant smile. “Because I am an alchemist as well.” A needle flashed, pricking one long finger. When the blood welled, she drew a tangled circle around the wound. She laid two fingers on it and smiled as it flared with green-gold light.
When the glow died, the cut was still there, but it was no longer so deep or broad, and blood no longer welled from it. “You didn’t seal the cut so that oxygen is allowed kill the bacteria?” Connor inquired.
She looked at him interestedly. “That’s right. Are you a medic?”
“Field medic assigned to Colonel Elric. I would have dressed that wound sooner, but in my defense, the only way to sew up the colonel is if he lets you. Big stoic.” Connor added with affectionate disgust. He pointedly ignored Lane’s elbow jabbing him the ribs.
The lovely brown eyes had already turned back to the colonel. She sat lightly on the edge of his bed, then reached out and ran gentle fingers through his hair, leaning over so that they were nearly nose to nose, her own long tresses falling over her shoulder in a dark, rippling curtain. Out of the corner of his eye, Connor could see Lane’s face contorting in all manner of interesting expressions.
“Mmmm.” Eyes still closed, the colonel sighed and turned his face into her hand.
“Good morning, love,” she whispered, though not soft enough that Lane and Connor couldn’t hear her clearly. Connor thought he saw a dark eye flick wickedly in Lane’s direction.
Al’s eyes flickered open to a face that was beautiful in its familiarity as well as its form. “Hey there,” he said softly. Oblivious to his audience, he pushed himself to his elbows, and warm lips leaned down to meet him.
Connor had been watching Lane when the colonel got kissed, so he knew the exact moment comprehension brought its hammer down on the man’s skull. He hadn’t known the sergeant could blush like that, and his groan of embarrassment made both the colonel and the doctor turn. When she did, the gold name tag that had been concealed by a lapel became visible, emblazoned with the letters “A. Elric.” The colonel’s left hand rested on the medic’s shoulder, allowing a good view of a ring that was a larger duplicate of the one she had flashed. Lane threw an arm across his eyes, grimacing melodramatically. “I humbly request that someone shoot me. Klaus, Connor, I know you love me. Kill me.”
Connor grinned cheerfully and raised his hand. “Colonel Elric sir, I volunteer to put the sergeant out of our misery.”
Once Al was updated on the situation, Havoc filed everyone out, saying that he would request Al’s report after the main group rejoined General Raven. Once the room was empty, Al’s eyes went back to Arelana. A grin blazed to life in his face as he swept his wife into his arms and spun. “I didn’t know you were coming!” he crowed, artlessly happy.
Lana waited until he had set her down and kissed her soundly to reply. “Didn’t you get my letter?”
Her husband grinned sheepishly. “I didn’t have time before the raid. I like to read them when no one’s around.”
“Dope.” Lana smiled up at him and rapped the back of her hand against his arm.
Al caught the hand and brought it to his lips. “So, why are you here?” he asked, smiling against her fingers.
Lana gave him a regretful look that warned whatever she said next was sure to break the mood. “Well, officially, my unit is here to help evacuate the wounded from the border. Unofficially…” She leaned over and whispered into his ear. “There was a message an hour ago that they wanted me, specifically, because there was the possibility of chimera.” His wife leaned back and frowned thoughtfully. “Though how they think I could be more expert than you or your brother is beyond me.”
Al’s playful mood was indeed smothered as his thoughts turned to the Aerugan alchemist and his “progeny”. Lana looked at him concernedly as his face folded. “What happened? You didn’t find any, did you?”
“We did. We brought him…back….” Lana watched her husband’s bronze eyes widen in alarm. “Oh, no. I can’t believe I forgot about him!” His face twisted as he cast around for his boots and cloak, berating himself under his breath. He jammed it all on and rushed for the door, snagging his wife’s hand as he passed. “Come on!”
They found his team in the middle of debriefing two tents away. Normally respectful of protocol, Al bulled into the tent in a manner that reminded Lana strongly of her brother-in-law. “Lane! What happened to the boy?”
Startled, the sergeant who had been hitting on her in the infirmary leapt to his feet. “Sir! The medical staff took him off my hands when we arrived. They may have put him with the other children.”
Al didn’t take the time to reply. He whirled them both around and plunged back out of the tent.
Despite the glow of predawn, visibility was terrible as they ran through the haze of mud and rain. It was Arelana who spotted the small figures being loaded into two medical vans. Al skidded to a halt in front of one man in a white field-surgeon’s uniform and flashed his watch, a blur of silver in the uncertain light. “I’m Alphonse Elric. This is Arelana Elric, the Healing Alchemist. Where are these children are being taken?”
The medic saluted but left his hand in place to shield his glasses from the rain. “Sir, I was instructed by Brigadier General Havoc to take them to the Army Hospital at Central. He insisted that we be among the first out.” The man added pointedly
“I’m sorry, but this won’t take a minute,” Al replied, preoccupied with searching the ragged knot of children for a pair of golden eyes. Puzzled at lapse of activity, the huddle of children in the truck peered out the rear doors. Then one of them spotted the figure in the tattered gray cloak and crowed in a piping voice, “It’s the man with the lightning! The Light Man, look! Look, you guys! He came back!” The horde leapt past the startled medics and barreled into an equally startled Al. They cheered and laughed, dancing with their hands in held up to the rain, reaching for his cloak, his hands, anything they could touch. Al looked around helplessly from where he stood, knee-deep in a veritable sea of humanity. Lana caught his expression and laughed, but her eyes were bright with pride.
“He isn’t here?” she asked when she caught his eye, meaning the chimera.
Alphonse was still peering around frantically. “I can’t see him. Hey guys--” Al addressed his following. “Did you see a boy with ...um." Al trailed off. "He looks a little…different from you.” he finished lamely.
The children thought it over, murmuring amongst themselves. Then a girl’s voice piped from somewhere in the morass. “Mr. Al! I saw a boy in a blanket. I think he had gold eyes. A man took him away.”
Al felt his heart plunge as though the ground had fallen out from under him. “Is that you, Kaila? Which way did they go?”
“Over there.” She pointed down the row of trucks awaiting their load of men or equipment. “Want me to show you?”
“Yes, please. We have to hurry.” Al turned to the medics and stabbed a finger at the one in glasses. “You’re coming with us. You--” he said grimly, pointing to the other. “You will watch these children in the meantime. This truck doesn’t move until I get back, are we clear?” “But--”
Any protest the man might have made died when he caught the look on Al’s face. “Yes sir.” ------------------------------------------------
Alphonse came around one armored van and nearly walked into the muzzle of a rifle.
Kaila looked up when he stopped, freezing when she saw the gun.
Like Al, Arelana started but recovered quickly, her eyes narrowing. “Pointing a gun at superior officer can earn you five years in prison.” She said it coolly, her level gaze never leaving the man’s face. “Pointing it at my husband can get you killed.” He quiet voice was low and loaded with deadly promise. “Lower the rifle, captain, and explain yourself.”
“No need.” A man stepped from behind the truck. He stopped two feet away from Alphonse and addressed the taller man’s collarbone. “I am Acting Colonel Reeves. I apologize for Captain Welk. He was instructed to guard the cargo.”
Alphonse's gaze dismissed the captain and his now-lowered rifle and addressed the man Reeves in a clipped voice. “Your cargo is what, and headed where?”
The officer smiled thinly. “That would be top secret information.”
Al’s eyes narrowed. “Not secret from me. I’m Colonel Alphonse Elric. My team brought the chimera in. I want to know where you’re taking it.”
The man’s face didn’t move, but Al felt that behind his eyes the thin smile had grown a little wider. “I know of no chimera. Sir.”
Al’s mouth twisted. “Who’s your superior?”
“I answer to General Grumman. Sir.” The honorific was lagged deliberately as the man attempted to antagonize him. “Perhaps you’ve heard of him.”
Al kept the concern from his face at hearing the man drop the name of that particular general. What does Internal Affairs want with a chimera...?
“Internal Affairs has no jurisdiction over a human chimera,” he informed Reeves, merely to see the formalities out of the way. Al wasn’t about to let the truck leave with its living cargo still aboard, and the only one who didn’t know it was the pompous little man in front of him. Keeping a tight rein on his temper, Al addressed Reeves once more in his most patient tone. “I request as a State Alchemist that you release him into my custody.”
The acting colonel finally abandoned his pretense of ignorance. He turned a cold eye up at Al, obviously trying to cow the taller man. He looked away when he just as obviously failed to do so. “Our orders come from the Major General. You have no authority to countermand them.” He recited the words to Al’s chest as though he had learned them by rote. “Get out of our way.” Behind him, several rifles cocked.
Al sighed resignedly and clapped his hands, then pinned Reeves with a look. “I suggest that your men not shoot. I just changed the composition of the air you’re standing in to pure oxygen. Any friction could cause a flame that would incinerate you in seconds. That includes a spark of static electricity...so if I were you, Acting Colonel, I wouldn’t move.”
At his words, the entire detachment froze. The acting colonel eyes widened before he attepmpted a weak glare. “You’re lying. You wouldn’t dare.”
Al smiled grimly, all tooth and no cheer. “Just remember, I warned you.” He walked away from the sputtering man.
“You can’t do this,” The acting colonel spat viciously. He craned his neck to follow Al’s retreating back, but otherwise made no move to follow. His men were being very careful to remain absolutely still. “There will be repercussions, I promise you.”
“There always are,” Al’s voice returned from inside the truck. There was a flash of blue light from the interior, a squealing cry, and he emerged again with a small, blanket-swathed form braced against his shoulder. As his feet met ground again Lana’s slim hand touched his shoulder, lending more than physical support. The look he turned on her was heavy with memory.
“There always are,” he repeated softly. Then, louder—“Let’s go.”
There we go! Chapter 2 up by popular request. *snicker* And by popular I mean three people (You know who you are). Thanks for the support! Chapter 3 coming soon to a forum near you...
Joined: 26-June 06
From: I tend to bounce around...currently at school
Member No.: 37,798
Gender: Not Telling
Sat Nov 18
Hi all. Chapter 3, as promised I've taken a long time to post this here. Gomen. I hate html, so I kept putting it off, and putting it off, and putting it off....
Chapter 3: Small Price
Edward Elric cracked one eye as he heard the creak of the bedroom door--and flinched at the bright morning sun filtering through the window.
“Winry?” he muttered. The warm weight under his left arm shifted slightly, murmuring. Having reaffirmed all was right with the world, Ed heaved a sigh, closed both eyes tightly and burrowed further into his wife’s hair.
He had almost managed to nod off again when he heard a soft pattering noise. It sounded strangely like small feet creeping stealthily across the bedroom floor, despite the fact that small feet had no business in his bedroom so early in the day.
Fortunately, he had enough experience with the phenomenon that he didn’t start when a small hand patted at his face. Ed merely closed his eyes tighter and prayed that the early morning apparition would take the hint and make itself scarce for another ten minutes…
Now little fingers were trying to pry his eyes open. “Dad?” a small voice whispered. Of course she’s whispering, Ed thought ruefully. She learned early on that Daddy’s the one who’ll put up with this kind of nonsense. Not to mention that NOTHING short of an earthquake, a flood, and an act of God wrapped up together had better wake her mother before seven in the morning.
The hands were getting more insistent, tugging at his hair and shoulder.
“Tri-shaaa,” Edward moaned pitifully into the back of Winry’s neck. “It’s too early for this.” His daughter didn’t acknowledge the simple truth of his statement. In fact, she seemed to take her father’s semi-coherent groan as encouragement. Trisha hooked both hands around his arm, braced her feet against the bed frame and heaved at her recalcitrant father, trying to roll him over.
“You said…urg!...that we…unh!...were going on the train!…meh! Today!”
“I said today, Tri, not at the crack of dawn.” Ed, refusing to be moved, was still speaking to the back of his wife’s head.
“Wha…?” The movement from Edward being shaken by the nine-year-old had finally woken Winry.
“Your daughter’s trying to haul me out of bed,” Ed growled in her ear. “Despite the fact that I slaved for three weeks at Central just so I could get back to this bed. At the hands of General Bastard, no less.”
“My daughter? Are you downplaying your responsibility in this just a little bit?” Winry shot back sleepily. “Are the other two mine, too? Or are you trading her for them?”
“Anything that wakes me up this early is completely your fault.”
“Uh-huh. How come?”
“Dunno. Wasn’t it in the wedding vows somewhere…?”
“Mom-my.” Trisha was appealing to the higher power now. “Make Dad get up.”
“Win-ryyyy.” Ed locked both arms around his wife, using her as an anchor against the small body throwing itself backward against his weight. “Make your daughter get out of my room.”
Winry chuckled and gently pried at her husband arms. Edward, sensing a reprieve, relaxed his grip…and was caught completely by surprise when his wife gave him a sudden hard shove toward the edge of the bed. His daughter gave an especially hard yank on his arm at the same time, and their combined efforts achieved what Trisha alone could not. With a squawk, Edward flailed and fell sprawling onto the floor.
“Ow…” Ed looked up into two pairs of eyes, one an anxious gold, the other a pitiless sky blue.
“You heard your daughter, alchemy freak. Go get dressed.”
He growled in response and stood up, rubbing at his bruised backside.
“You okay, Daddy?”
“Peachy.” Winry was already snoring. Ed toyed with the idea of grabbing the blankets and yanking his wife off the bed…but only for a moment. Winry’s wrench wasn’t anywhere to be seen, but that didn’t mean it wouldn’t be introduced to his head within thirty seconds of his wife hitting the floor.
“Go get dressed, Tri. I guess we’ll take the early train.”
An hour later they arrived at the station, just barely in time.
Most of that hour had been spent prying four-year-old Alfons Nikola and a pouting, stubborn William off their father’s legs so he could actually move out of the door. Both the four- and the seven-year-old were resentful at Trisha’s being allowed to go on a trip with their father when they had to stay home. To top it off, the fuss woke up Al’s six-year-old twins, who were staying with their aunt and uncle while their parents were out in the field. With a teary wail of “Please don’t go too, Uncle Ed!” they added their weight to the assault.
Winry hadn’t been any help at all. When the four younger children heard the door open downstairs (Edward had no idea how; he always tried to sneak out of the house without a fuss, but the kids had ears like bats) they all came barreling down and commenced pleading and whimpering to come along. And there was Winry, standing at the kitchen door, giggling and snapping pictures while Ed alternated between prying children from his boots and shaking his fist at his wife.
Trisha, on the other hand, had attempted to help by prying Niko off. That is, she tried to, but her little brother only whimpered and released one hand to snag her braid in his strong little fist. At this point Ed’s patience, never extensive at 7:30 in the morning, wore thin and he started out the door, dragging the entire mass of squirming, squalling humanity with him.
They hung on grimly all the way to the road, the twins attached to his arms and William clinging like a burr to his left leg, forcing Ed to swing the limb in a wide circle to avoid beaning the boy against his knee. Niko brought up the rear, content to be dragged along on his behind by his father’s coat tails. Still firmly attached to his fist was a pleading, scolding Trisha, walking bent almost in half so that her little brother wouldn’t snatch her bald. Rounding out the impromptu Elric family circus was their audience. The inhabitants of Riesembul, being mostly small farmers, usually rose before dawn. Therefore most of the neighbors were awake to see Edward Elric, Fullmetal Alchemist and hometown hero, trudge by them with his own and his brother’s progeny in tow.
Some of the women, (particularly Nelly, who had a large brood of her own) gave Ed commiserating looks as he passed.
Everyone else paid their respects by laughing themselves sick at the sight of him.
Eventually the three cups of coffee Ed had downed kicked in and granted him access to his sleep-numbed brain.
“If the whole lot of you don’t let go and go home RIGHT NOW, I am going to alchemize ALL of your desserts into BROCCOLI for as long as you LIVE.” The menace in his voice promised that it would not be for long. Within a few minutes, the only sign of the boys were four dust trails on the horizon. It was amazing, Ed marveled, how children complied with one’s wishes when properly motivated.
They made good time after that, but he still had to sprint the last mile with Trisha on his back and a suitcase under each arm. He dashed up to the ticket booth, gasped out “Two tickets”, picked them up with his teeth and sprinted for the train. The conductor, used to Ed’s headlong dashes for the eight o’ clock to Central, obligingly punched the tickets without removing them from his mouth.
Ed skidded to a halt at the closest alcove, puffing, and leaned back so Trisha could slide off onto the seat. He heaved the suitcases onto the overhead rack, then flopped down next his daughter.
“Rehhhh.” Edward sighed and sagged back, closing his eyes.
“Either you’re getting too big, or I’m getting too old for this.”
“You’re not old, Dad!” Trisha stated indignantly.
Ed chuckled and put his arm around her. “Thanks, Tri.”
His daughter leaned into his side, and Edward tenderly brushed her fine, richly golden hair out of her face. His eyelids were already at half-mast, and he was hoping to nod off once the train started moving.
With one last cry of the whistle and the squeal of metal against metal, the train lurched forward. Not anticipating the sharp movement, Trisha flew out of her seat, but was stopped in time by her father’s reflexive grab for her hood. He chuckled quietly as he pulled her back onto the bench.
His daughter’s coat was the same that he had worn and Al had worn in his turn during their adventures all those years ago. True, Al hadn’t been able to wear it long (much to Ed’s chagrin, his brother had managed to outgrow it much faster than he himself had), but it had been kept safe and lovingly repaired, a tangible piece of their travels in both worlds. It had been Trisha’s favorite thing to sleep with until she’d been barely big enough to wear it (Winry had finally gotten tired of the way it dragged on the floor, and asked Arelana to hem it), and after that had worn it as often as she could.
From the time she could talk, Trisha was forever demanding stories about her father’s and uncle’s adventures. And she was always so infernally easy to talk to, Ed thought wryly, taking it all in with those big, knowing eyes. Ed reflected that he’d told his daughter things when she was five that Winry had had to pry at him for years to know.
It was unfair of him, he knew, born of the fact that Ed saw a lot of himself in his daughter. He knew their bond would be strong, even when she was grown. Her eyes were what gave it away. Gold as his own, wide-set and curious, they were eyes that always sought to understand, always asked why.
Strong eyes that look like they’re gazing off into the distance… He smiled quietly to himself.
Edward’s cloak, on the other hand, had been a present from Winry in the same year he and Al had finally returned home. Together.
The new cloak was a more sober red than the old one, made with tough, mid-weight cotton for the outer layer with soft black flannel lining the inside. It was a good weight, and suited Ed’s broad-shouldered, five-foot-six frame perfectly. The Flamel was emblazoned in black on the back and the left shoulder. Al had received one as well, its only differences being that the outer fabric was a deep gray (not to mention longer; Al had managed to top Ed in the end by a good six inches).
They were vast improvements over the old cloak. Winry showed them how both jackets had a high collar and a hood that could be attached or detached by stylized black steel catches, dragon-shaped, no wider than Ed’s thumb. The lining could be unbuttoned and discarded in warm weather. The last two inches of both hems were sown all the way around with tough-yet-supple black leather to discourage fraying. There were several large, well-concealed pockets both inside and out. The cloaks were tough enough to wear in all weather, but the fabric was of good enough quality that the brothers could (and did) wear them for military functions.
Ed and Al had been amazed by the craft and detail in them. It was as though Winry had committed every random complaint Ed had ever made about the cloak to memory and improved on them all.
“Is it alright?” Ed remembered Winry asking when the brothers had had time to look their gifts over. She had been half afraid of encroaching on something sacred where the cloak was concerned. Both brothers had looked at each other, grinned and looked back at Winry, declaring in unison, “It’s perfect.”
Winry had been very relieved, and had gone on and on about how gray brought out Al’s eyes, and Ed never looked presentable in anything but red. That got a rise out of him, as she had thought it would. What Winry hadn’t known was that Ed had seen the sudden gleam of tears in her eyes, and had carried on to give her time to recover before Al noticed.
Later that night she told him that to her, the red coat had been a reassurance. When they had worn it, he and his brother had always come back home.
“I know it’s stupid. But I know you can’t leave the military, at least not yet, and I wanted something to remind me that you’ll always come back. I wanted something I could take as a sign of that…I guess I’m not making any sense…” She had laughed a little, not looking at him.
Ed had taken her chin in his hand, lifted her eyes so that the starlight over Riesembul picked out her tears, shining like seed diamonds in her gold lashes. “You do. I’m not going anywhere, Winry.
He had held her, rocked her, his own eyes brimming.
“Not ever again.”
He swore then that he would wear that damn coat everywhere.
Trisha abruptly shifted against him, bringing him out of his half-doze.
“What’s this?” When Trisha shifted her head, something hard had moved inside of her father’s coat. She patted the spot, and the something gave a muffled clunk against the shoulder plate of his automail.
“Pictures? Can I see?”
Ed shrugged carelessly. He groped inside his cloak pocket and brought out a scratched and dented steel case, which he passed to Trisha. The case had done time as a military-issue canteen before Edward alchemized it to suit its new purpose. His daughter pried at it with her finger nails until the lid gave a “pop!” and went skittering into a corner of the compartment. She lifted out the first one, and Ed leaned in for a look as well.
The first picture was of Winry, holding a very new, very wide-eyed baby. Ed didn’t have to look at the date on the back to know which infant this had been. Only one of their children had opened her eyes and actually stared around avidly when she was born.
“That’s you and your mom. The doctor was very impressed that you could focus on things when you were so new. Most babies can’t.”
Trisha grinned and hauled out the next one. “I know who this is!” she crowed. Ed grinned too. The picture in question was one of him sprawled across the sofa, limbs dangling off the side, snoring with a book over his eyes and his mouth wide open. Sprawled belly-down and boneless across his father’s chest was a two-year-old Niko, his mouth open just as wide as Ed’s.
The next picture was the only one of both Elric brothers together with all the kids save Niko. Ed remembered the day very clearly. It had been in the aftermath of the Great Bug Zapper Incident (as Al had termed it), when it was decided that all the Elric children were going to receive alchemy lessons twice in a week that either their father or their uncle was home. When school was on break, lessons were stepped up to every day at least one brother was around.
The short version of the Incident was that Ed had caught five-year-old Trisha doing alchemy outside in the dirt while four-year-old William looked on. That in itself wasn’t so bad, despite the fact that Ed strongly discouraged his brood from using alchemy when he or Al wasn’t around to supervise (Trisha especially was guilty of this; it was one of the few instances where Ed profoundly wished his daughter weren’t so like him).
No, the bad part was that they had been using one of their father’s arrays to blow up ants.
That was the only time Edward had ever taken a hand to his children. Once he realized what his son and daughter were so intent on, he’d collared both of them with his automail hand, laid them across his knee, and whacked them each once, hard, with the flesh and blood hand.
It was over almost before the kids had registered what had happened.
They certainly didn’t have time to cry. Their father set them immediately in the dirt and explained to them that the pain in their backsides wasn’t a trillionth of what the ants had felt. Edward proceeded to tell them in graphic detail just how that array broke organic matter apart, shredding molecules into their component elements. He had made it to keep the drains from clogging in the kitchen sink.
By the time he’d finished his explanation, both children were pale and round-eyed. Will had started to cry. Trisha was dry-eyed but shaking, staring at the ground, eyes refusing to stray anywhere near the array.
“Trisha, look!” Edward commanded, then lay his automail hand across the array. His daughter only had time to emit a strangled yelp before the array went off. Then Edward lifted his steel hand out of the cloud of vapor, blackened but intact.
Now he yelled. “What if William had put his hand in the array? What if you had? Do you know what that would do to me and your mother? How you’d feel if one of your cousins or your friends stepped on this by mistake?”
Trisha couldn’t pull her eyes away from her father’s smoking prosthetic hand. William was bawling in earnest now, and suddenly Trisha’s face crumpled and she was crying too, hugging her brother and sobbing “I didn’t mean to! I didn’t mean to!” over and over.
Edward closed his eyes, hurting at what he’d done, and that doing it had been necessary. He had gathered his sobbing children into his arms and held them silently while they cried themselves out. They clung to him like drowning men, Will clutching at his shirt and Trisha wrapped around his neck, apologizing over and over.
Will, as four-year-olds are wont to do, finished crying and immediately fell asleep. Ed held his son against his shoulder while the last of Trisha’s hiccupping, wrenching sobs petered out. Then he explained in a quiet voice that the role of an alchemist, the role of a good alchemist, was to help the world around them, and to respect life in whatever form they found it. “And it’s not just you that you have to be responsible for. You’re the eldest, Trisha. You’re going to have to be responsible before Will is. You have to look out for him too, when your mom and I aren’t there. All right?”
Ed had felt a quiet burst of pride when his daughter nodded solemnly, her face determined. “I will.”
Two days later Alphonse had come home. Edward related what had happened and both brothers agreed that it was high time their kids had some instruction besides the idle alchemy lesson when one brother or the other was actually home.
There was no time like the present, so that same day Edward and Alphonse had rounded up Trisha, Will, Louis and Rick and taken them off into the woods to practice.
The lesson had gone very well. All of the kids had a strong aptitude for alchemy, and Al and Ed kept things interesting. Then one of the twins had misdrawn their array and sent a glob of mud flying straight into Ed’s face.
There had been a hush while the guilty twin gaped, frozen stiff as his uncle clawed mud out of his nose and mouth. Al took one look at his brother and started laughing so hard that tears streamed down his face. His brother’s eyes smoldering at him through their layer of sludge only set off the giggling fit all over again. His fuming sibling retaliated by clapping his hands and dumping a wall of river water on him. Al, sputtering and shaking water out of his boots, slapped his hands together and shouted “You’re not getting away with that!” He caught his snickering brother in the ear with a particularly rank patch of muck.
“Al, you backstabbing little traitor!” Ed roared as he struck the ground with open hands. Mud erupted around Alphonse. But one flash of light later Al was safe behind a stone barricade. “Who’s little?” he caroled back gleefully. The mud fight—or rather, mud war—had begun.
Rick and Lou had backed their father up, while Trisha and Will joined the scrimmage on Ed’s side. The children soon mutinied against the adults, ambushing Ed and Al with alchemy-induced waves from the river. They managed to erect a barricade and scuttle behind it before either brother could retaliate.
The war soon degenerated into a squealing, yelping, mud-pitching free-for-all with the kids being sorely outmatched. Ed and Al didn’t need arrays to sling mud; the only way the kids could keep up was to throw it. Al was keeping them pinned down behind their wall by way of a small mud-lobbing cannon, and Ed was keeping them contained by shifting the ground around beneath them, making it impossible to draw an array.
Then one of the kids (Ed suspected Trisha) had the bright idea to transform their stone and mud wall into a monstrous, gaping mouth of sludge that lunged for the older Elrics. At the same time, Ed and Al constructed huge earthen hands that emerged out of the ground beneath the kids. With no one defending against either attack, everybody went flying into the river.
The trek home was slow going, both sets of cousins picking gobs of mud off their clothes and flinging them at each other. Ed and Al weren’t any better. The brothers sparred and wrestled cheerfully all the way, with the kids occasionally jumping in to make it a six-way melee.
When they finally got back they had missed lunch by two hours. Every one of them was so clotted with mud, sticks and leaves that the only way to identify anybody was by height and eye color. So Winry had grabbed the camera and Arelana had grabbed the hose.
Winry bullied them all into two lines, small Elrics in front and not-so-small in back. That was the image Edward kept in the case in his cloak pocket: him and Al, with their arms around the other’s shoulders and caked with enough mud that if someone tossed seed on them they would probably have sprouted, beaming at the camera with their four grinning, articulated globs of dirt.
Ed also remembered what had come after the picture.
Winry snapped two shots, then Arelana, who had snuck up behind them, unleashed the hose.
The two adult Elrics bore the brunt of the assault, yelling and cursing (mostly Ed), tripping over each other or the yelping horde, alternately trying to scatter or wrestle the hose or the camera away from their respective wives. Unfortunately for them, Lana’s aim was uncannily good. She kept them well away from herself and Winry.
Those pictures, Ed knew, were the ones Winry kept framed over her work bench. One shot, a close up of Ed, was her particular favorite. Blinded by water, he’d run into Al, who had just started to stand back up, and gone flying over his brother’s back…just in time to get shot in the face with the hose once again.
The picture caught Ed in his moment of flight, arms and legs outstretched on the air, his face totally obscured by the blast of water.
Hence the mischievous glint in his daughter's eye when she looked up at him.
“I like Mom’s picture better.”
Ed snorted. “Yeah, I just bet you do. You and your mother love seeing me make a fool of my…self…” He trailed off, suddenly aware of someone standing behind him. Who had, in fact, been standing behind him for some time.
Edward turned back toward the aisle and locked eyes with a woman attired in an expensive-looking, dark blue business suit. “Is this seat taken?” she asked. Ed’s eyes narrowed at her voice, which was a little too sweet and deferential to suit the canniness behind her eyes. But he shrugged and nodded at the empty bench. “Go ahead.”
Trisha, oblivious, had pulled out the next picture. “There’s Uncle Al and me! I’m so little.”
“You still are.”
“Am not! I’m taller than Louis and Rick and Will!”
“Shorter than me, though,” her father pointed out, tongue in cheek.
“Not for long! I’ll be taller than Uncle Al before I’m through!”
Edward leaned down and kissed his huffing daughter on the crown of her head. “I know you will. That’s why I’m teasing you now.”
“Hmph.” Trisha folded her arms and tried to glare, but her grin refused to be banished. Just then the serving cart rolled up, pushed by a jolly-looking, middle aged man, and stopped before their alcove. “Sweets? Treats? Something to tide over the little miss there, sir?”
“You hungry, Tri?”
“Dumplings and syrup!” The aroma from the cart had informed his daughter that her favorite treat was aboard.
“I suppose that’s a yes.” Grinning, he turned back to the man to order, only to see a look of recognition spreading across his face. Oh, great…Ed thought. “Mr. Elric? Are you Mr. Elric the Fullmetal Alchemist, sir?” Ed sighed and tried not to wince. Should’ve worn my cloak inside out. Bloody flamel’s too recognizable. “Yes.” Fortunately, the older man read the look on Ed’s face and acted accordingly. He leaned in and said very quietly “The conductors, the engineer and the firemen told us pullmen that any Elric gets complementary service.” He grinned, showing two gold teeth. “And I would’ve anyway sir. I was working this train when the Eastern Rebellion tried to kidnap that General. He straightened again and grinned, flashing a golden tooth. “Your money’s no good here, sir. And if that little lady belongs to you, she gets free eats, too.”
“Yeah! Dumplings an’ syrup!”
“Yeah, she’s mine.” No matter how many times he said that, Ed always felt like throwing out his chest and crowing. “Three sticks each, then.”
“Here you are. And here you are, sweetheart.”
“Thank you.” Edward nodded gratefully to the man.
“Thank you, sir. Couldn’t have you thinking trainmen have short memories, now could we?”
Chuckling, he trundled off down the aisle. Ed kept his eyes on his food, fighting the temptation to check if anyone was peering around their seat at him. “How’s the food, Tri?”
“Ahh, your hands are already sticky. Here, hold mine while I pick up the pictures. And don’t eat ‘em; I didn’t get breakfast, either.” Edward was bending down to pick up the photos that had fallen on the floor when the woman finally spoke.
“That’s a very nice set of pictures, Mr. Elric. Where were they taken? At your home?”
“Just out in the sticks.” Edward waved his one gloved hand casually toward the window and tried to look bored, but his jaw clenched. There was something about the way this woman talked that really bothered him…it reminded him too much of the coolly superior tone the Colonel had taken with him when he was younger, and made him bristle just as it had back then…
“Is this your brother? The so-called Soul Alchemist?” She was holding out a picture of Alphonse, laughing as the twins tried to wrestle him to the ground (Al had let them win). Edward had to force himself to take the picture slowly, not snatch it out of her soft white hand. So-called, huh?
“Yeah. That’s him.” Edward bit the words off, irritated. If Trisha hadn’t been with him, he would have ignored the woman until she returned the favor. But he didn’t want to look rude in front of his daughter.
“Since you already know my name, it’s only fair you tell me yours, Miss..?”
“Merel. Ms. Abigail Merel,” She offered it with a cool little smile. She seemed very aware that her questions irritated him. Sometimes Ed wished he were a little less transparent.
“A pleasure, I’m sure,” he mouthed the words tonelessly, but met her eyes as though he were trying to bore through them into her brain. What the hell does she WANT?
Suddenly he had a brilliant idea. “Trisha, you can have the rest. I want to get some sleep before we get off.”
“Don’t make yourself sick,” Edward added. He leaned back and closed his eyes. Ask your pointed little questions now, lady, he challenged smugly, but silently. But Ms. Merel had one more ace up her sleeve. After almost ten minutes had ticked past she spoke again, this time to the smaller, feminine version of the man resting next to her.
“So, your name is Trisha?” she asked too-sweetly. Edward nearly “woke up” to glare at her.
“Yeah,” Trisha replied. Ed smirked inwardly. Adults learned early that condescending to his daughter was a big mistake. Tri hated being treated as though she were stupid. And she the same degree of restraint when she was angry as Ed himself had at her age: precisely zero.
Ed resolved to sit back and watch the fun.
“And how old are you, sweetheart?”
“Twenty.” Edward was hard put not to laugh at that one.
“You’re quite a big girl, then,” the woman continued blithely, rolling right over the sarcasm. “Does your Daddy teach you alchemy?”
“Are you very good?”
“I’m better than everybody except Dad and Uncle Al.”
“Who else can do alchemy in your family?” The woman put a marked emphasis on can, as though she suspected that the little girl was puffing up her abilities at the expense of the non-alchemists in the family.
Trisha snorted. The lady had pricked her pride. “I’m better than William and Lou and Rick. Niko doesn’t count yet ‘cause he’s a baby. “But I’m the oldest,” she added. She wanted to be fair; Will was a whole year and a half younger, and Louis and Richard were half a year behind him.
“Are those your brothers?”
“Will and Niko are my brothers. Lou and Rick are my cousins.” Said as though any idiot could have figured it out. Ed could have whistled in gleeful admiration.
“Your brothers didn’t come with you?”
“’Course not. Will came last time, and Niko’s too little.” Spoken from a lofty nine years of age.
“So they’re back home in Rezenpool?
“Riesembul,” Trisha corrected. Her father winced mentally. She had just unwittingly confirmed what he hadn’t wanted the woman to know.
But Merel seemed to back off. “They must’ve been sad to be left behind.”
Ed felt Trisha shrug. “It’s Will’s turn to go next time.”
“Did you know your Daddy’s very famous?”
“’Course. He’s the best alchemist ever.” Again, Edward stopped himself from smiling by the skin of his teeth.
“Do you know what he’s famous for?”
“Dad and Uncle Al tell me stories.”
“But do you know what he’s most famous for?”
“Being the youngest National Alchemist ever. Everybody knows that.”
“Really? I heard it was because he’s the only National Alchemist to murder a city.”
“You’re a liar, lady.” Edward’s eyes snapped open to see his daughter standing, fists clenched and eyes ablaze.
“Trisha.” When Edward spoke, he got a hot stab of satisfaction out of seeing the woman twitch.
“We’re moving. Get your coat.” He handed his daughter her suitcase, shot the woman a hard look and moved out into the aisle, turning back for his daughter.
Trisha stood with her suitcase in one hand and her coat in the other. Edward was startled to realize she was trembling. He reached out a hand, his voice gentle.
“Trisha, honey. It’s all right. She doesn’t know anything about Al and me.”
His daughter wasn’t listening. She stared at the woman.
“You don’t know anything,” Trisha said quietly. “My dad never hurt anybody.”
Edward took her hand, and Trisha allowed herself to be led from the compartment.
Joined: 26-June 06
From: I tend to bounce around...currently at school
Member No.: 37,798
Gender: Not Telling
----------- The door gave a very satisfying crash as Ed threw it open and stormed through like a blond thunderhead, unerringly aimed for the vast desk against the window and its dark-haired occupant. Brigadier General Riza Mustang, working in a desk to the right, acknowledged his presence with a long-suffering sigh. But however exasperating Colonel Elric was, the general always had a smile for the young girl trailing in his wake. Riza caught Trisha’s eye and surreptitiously patted the front of her desk in mute permission. Trisha smiled and hopped up to sit on the edge. Riza’s orderly desk was the best seat in the house for the impending exhibition of verbal abuse.
“Mustang! What do you mean by giving me a week’s leave and then cutting it off four days later? You bastard! I’ve got better things to do then hang around here with you.” The you was spoken as though a tribe of incontinent baboons was infinitely preferable to the general's person.
Ed caught his daughter pulling a face at him, the same one her mother made when she informed him that he acted more like a kid himself than someone with kids of his own. He winked in return.
Mustang merely leaned back in his chair, wearing the expression of careless arrogance that he did so well. The eye patch added a piratical touch. Despite the comment he had made ages ago that Mustang's headwear didn't suit him, Ed could just see him swaggering up and down some captured frigate, complete with cutlass and evil chuckle, jabbing hapless victims off a plank.
“You should be grateful, Fullmetal. If I didn’t remember to pull you out of the sticks once in the while, I might forget why I pay you.”
“Like you could when you have me up here for months doing the work of three alchemists by myself and send Al to the ass-end of nowhere so I can’t even compare notes with him. “How the hell am I supposed to research what you tell me to research when I’m doing everybody else’s work, and when I have free time to do research you make me come running back up here?” This was bellowed at the top of his voice, which was enough to make pens rattle on the desk. Edward’s lung capacity was the envy of every drill sergeant in the Amestrian army. “You ever think of that, you incompetent, irritating, smug-faced, piece-of-shit excuse for a matchstick!”
Mustang pointedly studied his gloved hands, bringing two fingers and a thumb together in a vaguely menacing way. “Careful, Fullmetal. I’ve always been curious to see what you’d look like without eyebrows.”
Ed folded his arms and snorted, unimpressed. “Take your best shot. It’ll be worth it to see Winry beat your head in.”
“How like you to hide behind your wife, Fullmetal, knowing that I am a gentleman who would never stoop to upsetting a lady.”
“Who hides behind whose wife, General My-Wife-Actually-Does-All-the-Work-so-I-Can-Strut-Around-and-Not-Get-Shot-for-Incompetence, sir?”
Edward got a quiet chuckle from Riza for that one. He folded his arms and smirked, knowing he had scored a solid point.
Roy’s eye narrowed speculatively, causing Ed’s smirk to falter a bit. “As I was saying, it sounds to me as though I’ve been giving you too much paperwork, Fullmetal. Perhaps latrine duty would be better suited to a man of your…standing.”
Ed’s eyes narrowed. Had the bastard just made a shot about his height? “You make me shovel shit, you shit colonel, and it’ll just end up in your office.”
General Roy Mustang glanced up at Edward (the only time Ed got to look down on Mustang was when the older man was sitting and he himself was standing) and the younger man’s golden glare bore right back into his face.
They locked eyes like that for half a minute.
Then they both smirked.
“God, Edward. I must be slipping when an upstart like you can actually get the better of me.”
Ed snickered. “Getting slow, old man.”
“Only you could mistake age for maturity, Fullmetal. Who’s that with you?”
Ed grinned and stepped to the side, revealing the small, blonde, red-clad form seated behind him. “Trisha came along for the ride this time. Tri, say hi to General Shit.”
Trisha had met Roy Mustang for the first time when she was three. Ed had finally brought the toddler up to Central in the wake of a dispute with Breda and Havoc. Breda had voiced the opinion that a three-year-old couldn’t possibly do alchemy, Ed insisted that his daughter could, Havoc informed Edward companionably that he was full of shit, and things had escalated from there.
Neither Havoc nor Breda voiced their doubts about Trisha’s abilities after that (they still weren’t sure what Ed had turned their uniforms into, but the two men had smelled worse than skunks for weeks, and had no desire to repeat the experience), but Ed brought her along to prove it anyway.
Everyone immediately conceded to the beaming father that little Trisha was indeed unbearably cute (which she was, but no one would have dared to not say it after what happened to Havoc and Breda). Mustang had gone so far as to say it was lucky she took after her mother, but he was the only one who could insult Fullmetal without coming off worse for it. Ed set his daughter down and Trisha, fearless in the face of strangers, ran straight to Mustang and peered up at him intently. Roy looked disconcertedly down at the bright-eyed toddler who, despite what he’d said, looked exactly as Fullmetal did when faced with a particularly complex problem of alchemy. Or when he considered just how he would pull off some expressly forbidden stunt…
“Kol…kol-nel…” Trisha attempted, her face screwed up in babyish concentration.
Her normally dignified father was jumping up and down in pride and excitement, drawing incredulous looks and snickering from Falman, Breda and Havoc. “Look! Look, she knows you and she’s never even seen you before! MY LITTLE GIRL IS SO SMART!”
“Kol-nel,” Trisha repeated. “Kol-nel Shit.” Pleased with her accomplishment, Trisha toddled the rest of the way over to Mustang, hugged his leg, grinned up into his astonished face and burst into peals of laughter.
All eyes turned back to Edward, who was staring wide-eyed and slack jawed at his daughter.
“I…” He swallowed. Riza was giving him The Look… “I didn’t teach her that, I swear.”
They eventually worked out that there was a picture of Mustang and the Elric brothers back in Riesembul. This picture received a great deal of abuse at Ed’s hands, who, when summoned back to Central weeks before his leave was up (which he often was) or reassigned to complete or review someone else’s project (which often happened), was in the habit of pointing at it and bellowing “Damn you, Colonel Shit!”
He hadn’t realized that Trisha could see this picture from her perch in the high chair, where she was spooned her baby food while Ed tried frantically to finish whatever he was working on before he had to rush back to Central.
Edward babbled his confession hoping for clemency from Riza, who was giving her pistol a speculative look. “Please don’t tell Winry,” he begged unabashedly. “She’ll kill me.” He was fully aware that Riza and Winry enjoyed comparing notes on their children.
Mustang had raised one black eyebrow at Ed, then stooped and picked up the toddler who had attached herself to his leg. Unbeknownst to the general, Trisha loved to be held, had the tensile strenghth of elastic and could climb like a monkey. She immediately wrapped herself around his head.
Even Edward was impressed (though he would never, ever admit it) by how Mustang managed to maintain his dignity in the face of Trisha Esmé Elric, the human Velcro. Mustang’s voice was somewhat muffled by red corduroy, but still intelligible. “I see she takes after her father after all. God help you, Fullmetal.”
Mustang came around his desk and bowed with a flourish, offering his hand. He always played the consummate gentleman with Trisha. Trisha, as always, bypassed the hand and hugged him like she was trying to squeeze the breath out of him. She liked Mr. Roy, and even though her father complained about him and at him all the time, his stories made Roy a hero too. She privately thought they were a lot alike, though she was careful never to make that observation out loud.
Ed watched Mustang’s face soften and smiled at the wall. If he harnessed his daughter’s hugs as a weapon, he could doubtless rule the world.
“Trisha, it’s good to see you again. You’ve gotten really tall…” his eye slid lazily to Ed “…unlike your father, who never bothered to grow up.”
Ed didn’t screech, but a vein stood out strong in his forehead. He gave Mustang a carnivorous smile.
“Better watch it, old man. Assessments are coming up, and battle assessments are still optional.”
The general just smirked. “I’m not worried.”
“I can fix that.”
“Trisha, would you mind terribly if I turned your father into a torch?”
“I don’t, but Mom might kill you with her wrench.” Trisha grinned cheekily at her glowering father.
“It’s a pity Fullmetal, but I think I’d as soon avoid being beaten to death by your wife.”
Roy cut Edward’s snarl off as it began by turning to Riza. “It’s about time to break for lunch, isn’t it?”
His wife consulted her watch. “The Performance Review is due tomorrow morning, and the report from the Northern Intelligence branch needs to be--”
“I think we should break for lunch now,” Roy stated. Riza sighed stoically.
“Young lady,” the general addressed Trisha, holding out his arm. “How would you like to have lunch at my home? I’ll even invite your father, though he’s never done anything to earn the honor.” Roy threw Edward a careless look over his shoulder. Ed’s eyes narrowed, but he let it pass. He wasn’t one to jeopardize an invitation for free lunch.
“Dad, can we?” Trisha asked excitedly. She was practically swinging from Roy’s arm. “I want to see how Mr. Roy’s gloves work!”
Roy lifted a questioning eyebrow in Edward’s direction.
“I described how your gloves worked once. Trisha’s really keen to know what they’re made of.”
“I thought a prodigy like yourself would have figured that out, Fullmetal.”
Ed smirked, but didn’t rise to the bait. “Who’s to say I didn’t? But giving a nine-year-old the means to set things alight with a snap of her fingers didn’t seem like the smartest thing, somehow.”
“Dad said I could do it if I could figure it out for myself,” Trisha added, pouting.
Mustang and Riza lived in a two-story house in the old district of Central. The foundations were heavy granite, with warm tan and cream brickwork above it. It wasn’t the biggest house, nor the smallest, and one of the least pretentious. Its one outstanding feature was the huge, high-walled garden surrounding the house.
It was a beautiful August afternoon, so they set up a card table out back and had lunch in the sunshine. Mustang skinned out of his uniform jacket and gave Trisha a demonstration of his alchemic prowess in his shirtsleeves, culminating in a whirling procession of hundreds of tiny flares and sparks that split and ignited more of themselves, spinning through the air like demented fireflies. Even Ed, knowing the sheer concentration it took to feed and coordinate the tiny pockets of oxygen, clapped appreciatively as Mustang bowed. Trisha whooped and demanded to see the general’s gloves.
It was only after lunch, when Trisha was showing off her alchemy for Riza, that Roy revealed the real reason he had invited them over.
“Fullmetal, I have to know if you or your wife ever told anyone about how the Rockbells died.”
Ed’s head snapped up, eyes widening. “What?”
“You heard me. Did you?” Roy’s face was utterly expressionless, but his voice was colder than a glacier and twice as dangerous to cross.
“No.” Edward sat with his mouth open, trying to get his brain to catch. His surprise had thrown him enough that he hadn’t even thought to be angry at the accusation. “Nobody knows except me and Winry and Al. No one ever will.” Edward closed his mouth and leaned forward on the table, looking Roy dead in the eye. “I swear.”
Ed waited until the measuring look in Roy’s eye faded before he looked away, watching Trisha practice.
“General…Roy…Al and I would still be across the Gate if you hadn’t figured out what we were attempting to do. I haven’t forgotten, and neither has Winry.” Ed’s eyes lingered on his daughter chattering at Riza, laughing and happy. Ed thought about how much colder and poorer his life would have been without her, or William, or little Niko, and felt icy fingers wrap around his heart.
“I didn’t leave Winry alone. I was there when all three of my children were born. I was there when Al’s sons were born.” Ed spoke to the table, his eyes obscured by his bangs.
“I got to tell Elysia what her father did for me and Al. We got to come home.”
Ed’s lifted his chin and his eyes blazed as though he were angry. Which may well have accounted for part of what he felt at that moment. “All of that. It’s your fault, you shit colonel. I haven’t forgotten. And I refuse to remain in the debt of such a bastard.” He growled the last with a wry grimace that almost succeeded in not being a smile.
Roy sat back in his seat, relaxing out of his role of the cold-eyed, implacable general. The tiniest smirk flared to life and crept slowly across his face. Leave it to Fullmetal to make gratitude sound like a threat.
Edward frowned at him, eyes narrowing. “What is that? What is that look?” His eyes widened suddenly. “You bastard. Did you just put me through that shit for fun--?” He bit off the rest of his words as Roy held up his hands and shook his head mutely. “I apologize, Edward. I would not have done it if it hadn’t been necessary to verify you were not the source of the information leak.”
“What leak? What do you mean?” Ed hated manipulation in any form, and his tone warned that Mustang had best explain himself quickly.
Roy’s eye glanced at him, then flicked away to Riza, who was smiling at the mastiff-sized stone lion that Trisha had just alchemized. One of Black Hayate’s descendants sat at her heel. “A woman came to my office last week to interview me for a newspaper. She asked why the military covered up your responsibility for Lior.” Mustang paused as Ed grimaced. “When I told her that she had been misinformed, and it had been Scar, not you, who laid the array on Lior, she asked if covering for you had been the price of your silence about the murder of Rockbells.”
Edward’s breath hissed from between his clenched teeth. “What did you do?”
The tightness in Roy’s face faded, and his smile grew a little more sincere as he looked at his wife. “I didn’t do anything. Riza chased her off.” His eye flicked back at Ed, and now he looked concerned. “You had best keep your ears and eyes open. Whoever she was, she seemed out for blood.”
“Did she say what paper she was with?”
“She’s the main reporter for the Central Distributed’s so-called investigative column. A scandal writer named Merel. I didn’t find out until later.” Ed sucked in a breath, feeling a scalding surge of rage. “That’s who that was?”
He shook his head angrily. “God damn it. I wish I’d known that earlier. A woman named Abigail Merel came up to Trisha and I on the train.”
Roy resisted the urge to lean away from the patch of air that suddenly seemed to boil around younger man. His face had twisted into a malevolent mask, a fanged, fire-eyed avatar of wrath that Roy remembered with a certain amount of apprehension. The fourteen-year-old Fullmetal had certainly had moments of infamy, especially when it came to remarks on boy’s height. But Roy had discovered that a thirty-something Fullmetal who had fathered three children was a far more formidable animal.
The general had first witnessed this darker aspect of Ed’s personality when he had dared infringe on the unspoken, inalienable agreement that Ed would always be present for his children’s birthdays. Roy had failed to note the date and sent Edward off. The mayhem glinting behind the yellow eyes was dismissed as Edward’s usual attitude of willingness and cooperation.
When Edward returned to Central, things started exploding. When Roy touched his food with his fork, when he opened a filing cabinet, when he went to the men’s room (that incident had been by far the most mortifying), whatever he came in contact with would explode in his face.
Roy, not wanting to show weakness (and unable to catch Ed in the act) had endured this for three weeks before he finally snapped and threatened Colonel Elric with a court martial. Edward failed to show the slightest bit of repentance. In fact, when Roy threatened to toss him in the brig to teach him better respect, Ed had jumped up, stuck his face in his superior’s and bellowed at him semi-coherently for ten minutes straight. The majority of the tirade was a torrent of abuse against Roy, his ancestry and his personal habits. Yet from it Roy was able to glean that the trigger for his three weeks of hell at Fullmetal’s hands had been when Ed’s reassignment caused him to miss his youngest son’s birthday.
Neither man had apologized, but things ceased to spontaneously combust around Roy after that. Mustang, realizing that when it came to his progeny Colonel Elric was clearly unreasonable, uncompromising and utterly irrational, had his wife call Winry. He requested that Riza mark down the birthdays of all the Elric children and never fail to schedule Edward’s leave to coincide with those dates (he gave assigned the duty to Riza knowing that if she forgot, her pistol inspired far better behavior in the colonel than he, a general, ever had).
When this monstrous aspect appeared, it only could only mean some perceived slight had been dealt Ed through his children, and that an unfortunate someone was about to buy the heavy end of the hammer. Mustang hoped it wasn’t him; he had been the one to pay for damage inflicted by Colonel Elric the last time. He wasn’t sure his office budget could bear that sort of strain again.
“She told Trisha that I was best known as the State Alchemist who had murdered a city.” He half-hissed, half-growled the words.
It was Roy’s turn to look shocked. “In front of Trisha?” “To Trisha. I was trying to ignore her so she’d leave. But that b*tch started talking to my daughter and I didn’t have the sense to get out of there,” Ed rumbled, closing his fist so tightly against the table that his knuckles cracked. “Bad enough that I thought she had lost somebody at Lior. But to have it turn out to be one of those bloody rumor mongers…” Roy watched him impassively, making a mental note to smooth out the dents Fullmetal’s namesake was leaving in the table.
“Are you talking about that scandal writer?” Riza asked quietly, making Ed jump. He hadn’t heard her walking up behind him. She stepped around the table and laid an unobtrusive hand on Roy’s shoulder, who covered it with one of his own. Edward checked to make sure Trisha hadn’t followed Hawkeye, but his daughter was still out on the lawn playing with the Black Hayate look-alike and two puppies who had decided to join in the haphazard game of fetch-and-chase.
“Yeah. I was telling Roy that I’d had a run in with her on the train here this morning. She…” Ed trailed off. “It wouldn’t have mattered if Trisha hadn’t been with me. I’m supposed to protect her from crap like this.” Ed closed his eyes and put a hand over his eyes, getting a grip on himself. After a minute his temper had cooled enough for him to realize what his metal hand had done to the table. Ed winced and avoided Riza’s eyes when he caught sight of the damage. Hurriedly he slapped his hands together and reformed it. “Sorry.”
The sound of a door slamming inside the house made the adults turn. “That’ll be Maes,” Mustang said.
“Mom? Dad? Are you home?” A boy’s voice called from inside the house.
“Out here, Maes.”
Edward watched as a raven-headed boy, hair thoroughly mussed and already halfway out of his school uniform, emerged from the house. Riza’s chestnut eyes, sharp chin and serious demeanor were strong in his face. Yet the eleven-year-old, Ed noticed with a smirk, had clearly inherited his father’s swagger.
Maes squinted at the blond newcomer, then broke into a run. “Uncle Chibi!” Mustang smirked as Ed pretended to growl in protest his son’s pet name, but smiled all the same as the boy skidded to a halt. When Ed and Al returned from whatever lay on the other side of the Gate, Maes had been one year old, and his “Aunt” Winry had been a babysitter and willing admirer during the Elric brothers’ absence.
At first Edward was less than enthusiastic about Mustang-spawn being underfoot for an occasional weekend or the rare campaign that called for the General and Hawkeye but not Ed himself. He hadn’t been shy about saying so, either. Yet as the years had passed, Ed’s complaints became rarer and less vehement, seeming more and more like a show of reluctance than the genuine article. It wasn’t until Riza had gone to retrieve her son from the Elric household at Central and caught him breaking down complex principles of alchemy for an eager, dark-haired nine-year-old along with his own tawny-headed horde that Ed’s display of annoyance stopped entirely.
“Hey short stuff," Ed smirked back. "How’s school?”
“Dull. Thanks for those alchemy books you lent me. They got me through religious studies without dying from boredom.” Ed imagined that Roy’s eye-roll had looked much the same when the general had been his son’s age.
“You’ve been reading in class again?” Riza’s look could have made a rampaging bear stop in its tracks.
“No,” her son replied, too quickly. His father winced. Ed grinned. “So busted.”
But fortune intervened on Maes’s behalf.
Trisha had been eager to practice an array of her father’s she had been trying out secret. It worked by pulling common elements together to react and propel a neutral object. Taking her chance to try it while the adults were occupied (and thinking it better to ask forgiveness than permission), Trisha had been using the array to make the ball fly upward. The aim wasn’t that accurate, but the ball went far. A little too far, as a matter of fact…
Uh oh… Trisha thought.
The only warning the adults had was a yelp of “Look out!” from the younger Elric and a descending whistle from above. Edward (whose reflexes had been honed by his adventures as well as a near decade of child-rearing) immediately flung himself away from the card table. Riza backed to a safe distance, but when Mustang tried to shove his chair backward its legs got caught on the grass and flipped him onto his back. He watched helplessly as the ball descended toward his face. It impacted with a thud three inches from his right ear and rebounded high into the air, bouncing merrily across the lawn until it rolled to a stop just short of the bay doors. Roy sighed in relief. He hadn’t wanted to explain that he’d lost the other eye to a nine-year-old with her father’s penchant for experimentation.
And then the dogs stampeded. The puppies, fortunately, were still fairly small, but the older dog leapt up, cleared the table…and landed squarely on Roy’s chest, knocking the wind out of him. Then he had an excellent upside-down view of three canine backsides as the dogs pelted across the yard without a backward look.
“Mr. Roy! Are you okay?” Trisha squealed, running up to them.
Mustang had rolled to his feet with as much dignity as a man who’d been trampled by seventy six pounds of dog could muster. Which wasn’t much. Salvaging his pride in the face of an eleven-year-old sniggering at him and the merciless laughter of Fullmetal was like assaulting a firestorm clad only in cotton balls. It was futile, it was painful, and you were going to look like an ass despite all your efforts. Even his normally stone-faced wife was attempting to stifle a giggle as she leaned over to help him to his feet.
“Nice shot, Trisha,” Ed snickered as his daughter ran up.
His daughter shot him a look as she went past, but schooled her face into something more apologetic as she came up to Mustang. “I’m really sorry,” she said.
Mustang shrugged, smiling faintly, but eyed her father opaquely the entire time. Ed noticed the stare and gave his superior a toothy smirk. That seemed to decide Mustang, who immediately spun on his heel and marched into the house.
Riza watched him go, wondering what her husband was up to. There’d been a glint in his eye that didn’t bode well for someone…She caught Edward’s attention with a glance; he was still snickering as Trisha insisted nearly getting brained and then stampeded was not funny.
“If I were you, I’d find out what he was doing before it bit me in the ass,” she informed him bluntly.
Ed looked up, concern flitting briefly across his face. “What is he doing?”
“I don’t know, but he’s on the phone with someone. And I just heard your name.”
Concern ignited into full-fledged alarm. Ed jumped up and sprinted into the house, his tied-back hair snapping out like a banner of war.
“What’re dad and Mr. Roy doing?” Trisha asked as she came up behind Riza. As she spoke there was a bellow from inside. Maes looked around expectantly as his mother sighed and Trisha started, recognizing the yell for her father’s.
Riza sighed again as another bellow echoed across the lawn. “I suspect we’ll find out shortly.”
Maes grinned. He knew you couldn’t pay for entertainment like his father and the Fullmetal Alchemist. His grin got wider as the yelling got more articulate.
“WHAT THE HELL DID YOU DO THAT FOR, YOU BASTARD?!”
“Honestly, Fullmetal, you think you would thank me for the chance to be fawned over by your fellow alchemists--”
“THAT’S EXACTLY WHY I DON’T GO! EVERYONE COMING UP AND GAWKING AT ME, YOU ASSHOLE!”
“If you’re thinking about calling and backing out, don’t bother. I called Winry first.”
Mustang suddenly emerged from the house, looking smug but walking fast.
A blonde streak shot through the doors, teeth bared, flesh and metal arms both outstretched for the general’s throat. Mustang abandoned his pretense at walking and broke into a sprint, moving impressively for a forty-year-old who was laughing his head off.
The chase ended as abruptly as it began. Riza, knowing it was only a matter of time before one of them resorted to alchemy and destroyed her yard, drew her pistol and pointed it at Ed. The younger man caught the flash of metal and reacted accordingly--he yelped and threw himself flat. However, he had been close enough to Mustang when he dropped that his steel hand caught Riza’s husband across the ankle. For the second time that day, the general went flying.
Riza thought her husband’s arc through the air was rather graceful, even if the way he planted himself face first in the ground spoiled the effect.
They both sprawled there, unmoving. Riza wondered if they were both too mortified at their behavior to get up. She doubted it, but there was always that possibility.
Eventually Roy spoke. “Well done, Fullmetal.” It was amazing how he could manage to be sarcastic even through a mouthful of dirt.
“Shut up, old man. You can thank Riza that something worse didn’t happen to you,” Ed growled back, still face down in the grass.
Riza sighed. “Roy, stop antagonizing Edward and explain why you want him at the Annual Convention of Alchemists. I’m going to clean up.” She and Trisha picked up the dishes. It only took a glance from his mother for Maes to grab the tablecloth and follow them inside.
Hearing Hawkeye’s footsteps retreat into the house, Ed sat up and brushed grass off his vest with short, irritated smacks. “You actually have a reason for this besides torturing me?”
“Ha.” Mustang smiled crookedly over his shoulder, rose to one knee and stood. “That is a bonus. “But the real reason is that this convention will have a special exhibition for youths exhibiting talent in alchemy. They were planning to showcase only those over ten, but I suspect that rule is being broken into small pieces as we speak.”
Ed gave him a thoughtful look. “So…?” He knew Roy wouldn’t have looked nearly so pleased with himself if this weren’t something more than showing off the kids’ skill in alchemy to dried-up, pompous old men.
“So I dropped a few hints to some of the more prominent professors of alchemy that this would be a prime opportunity to scout for talent. There’ll be some politicians there as well, so if you promise to be on your good behavior, perhaps I can convince them you aren’t the monster that Merel is making you out to be. Even if everyone knows otherwise.” His smirk grew a little wider as Ed glowered at him.
“So Colonel Elric, do I have your cooperation?”
Ed huffed, sighed, smirked wryly. “One day we should play poker instead of chess. Then I’d be sure to win.”
“It will never happen, Fullmetal. This general knows better than to pit himself against Elric luck.Or Elric slight-of-hand.” Roy shot back just as wryly. “Speaking of Elrics, I need to inform Alphonse about the convention. Unless you want to tell him?”
“Yeah, I will. He’s coming back from the Aerugan border tomorrow. Arelana too. That’s the only reason I let you drag me back up here.” Ed threw Roy a shark-eyed look.
Mustang merely sighed tolerantly, as though indulging a ferocious kitten. He added, “It’s formal wear only, so come prepared.”
“Ah, damn.” Ed raked his fingers through his hair, disgusted. “I hate dress uniforms.” “That’s reasonable. You lack the air of maturity needed to carry them off well.” It wasn’t true, but Roy simply couldn’t resist such a tempting target.
“WHO’S SO SHORT HE HAS TO RETAILOR UNIFORMS BECAUSE HE CAN’T WEAR NORMAL SIZES?!”
The quarrel might have started all over again if not for a timely save by Maes. “Dad! Mom says to tell you that if you can’t play nice with the other kids, she’ll have to shoot you both,” the teenager called out cheerfully from the door.
Mustang shrugged at his son and smirked at Ed, who gritted out a smile that was all tooth. “Please tell your mother that won’t be necessary. “As I was saying, it’s formal wear, but no uniforms. We shouldn’t look tied, visibly at least, to the military. Not with Hakuro there, and not with the sentiment some people have against alchemists employed by the military.”
Ed’s eyes narrowed thoughtfully. “In order to give the kids the best chance, without getting singled out by bias against me or you.”
Roy smiled faintly and nodded. “If that’s avoidable at all. It’s probably…a wasted effort.”
“Is Hakuro getting to be that big a problem?” Ed’s gaze was concerned, and for good reason. Hakuro was still one of the strongest of the old faction of the military, what had been the Fuhrer’s sycophants and strongest supporters. Even in the new congress, that faction still wielded a great deal of political power. General Hakuro in particular had made his animosity toward Mustang clear. It was due in large part to him that Mustang’s every promotion and commendation had been a struggle.
Mustang shrugged nonchalantly, not meeting Ed’s eyes. “It’s enough that he went out of his way to tell me that he’d be there.”
“Huh…” Ed frowned, considering, then grinned abruptly. “Wait a second. He’s trying to make you edgy at an alchemy exhibition? Is he an idiot? Why don’t you accidentally set his hair on fire, or better yet, let Maes do it.”
Hearing laughter, Riza peered through the kitchen window into the backyard. She smiled, snorted a little in amusement, then went back to scrubbing out pots.
“What’s happening out there, Mom?
“Nothing. I was just making sure the laughter wasn’t because one of them killed the other.” -------- End of Chapter 3. Hoped you liked it, Frauen und Herrn
Joined: 30-April 06
From: lets just say, you don't want to live here either
Member No.: 35,364
I used to think "And then the dogs stampeded" was THE classic line, but after re-reading it I love the semi-argument between Ed and Winry about whose fault Trisha is, Ed's threat to alchemize the desserts into broccoli, and the side story of the Mud War. (Have you ever read "The Button War"? Ths just reminded me)
Joined: 26-June 06
From: I tend to bounce around...currently at school
Member No.: 37,798
Gender: Not Telling
QUOTE(IttyBittyPretty @ Nov 19 2006, 02:59 PM) [snapback]475584[/snapback]
I used to think "And then the dogs stampeded" was THE classic line, but after re-reading it I love the semi-argument between Ed and Winry about whose fault Trisha is, Ed's threat to alchemize the desserts into broccoli, and the side story of the Mud War. (Have you ever read "The Button War"? Ths just reminded me)
Joined: 30-April 06
From: lets just say, you don't want to live here either
Member No.: 35,364
It's set in in this little French town in the late 19th and early 20th century about two groups of kids from different neighborhoods who have a huge fight about something - I can't remember, but it seemed silly. I think I first saw a film of it, then I found the book in the high school library (I was still a kid then). It's very funny.