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carla
hey everyone! sorry if you saw the topic and couldn't see the fic... this thing wouldn't let me post for some reason blink.gif but anyway this is a new fic i'm writing, my first one in this fandom smile.gif this fic has been going for a couple of weeks over at ff.net and has gotten a fairly good response... i figured i'd post it here to see how it's... received biggrin.gif i'd really love to get some comments and constructive criticism on this.

Moving Forward

author: carla, aka cali-chan
rating: PG-13, because of some swearing... Can't be helped, since there will be people calling Ed "short" once in a while. Rating might go up to R, though, depending on my mood when writing later chapters.
genre: AU, romance, a bit drama, really cheap humor ^^;;;
canon: manga ONLY!
pairings: EdxWin, RoyxAi. Hughes will definitely be gushing about his wife a lot...
summary: AU, chaptered, high-school themed, but not your usual sweet-valley high school fanfic. Edward Elric has to become the best track runner there is, for his mother, for his brother, and for everyone else in his life. But will triumph come at a high cost?

Chapter 1: Not nearly enough

Winry Rockbell sighed, loosening her uniform's tie as she looked down at the track. Then she pulled her earrings out of her pocket, carefully putting them on, trying not to look down at the track. "He's trying too hard. Again."

The boy that was sitting beside her looked up from the stopwatch he had in his hand. "That's Brother for you," he said, smiling a little.

Winry frowned at Alphonse. "Yeah. Pigheaded shrimp," she muttered. "It's getting late, and if he goes on he's gonna hurt himself!"

Al chuckled. "Winry-chan, we do this every night, I can't believe you still complain about it..."

"Well, if he's being stubborn, I can be, too," the girl replied. Just a second after she finished the sentence, the boy that was running down at the track crossed the finish line. Al stopped the watch and they picked their things up to go and meet him. "Do you need help?" Winry asked him, noticing that it was taking some time for him to get up.

"No, I'm good, thank you," he answered her, finally putting his backpack on. He took a breath and stood up, making sure to put most of the weight on his walking crutch. Winry stepped up to grab him by the arm, even if he had told her not to. Together, they made it down the stands, and to the runner.

He gasped for breath and passed a hand through his bangs, that were sticking to his forehead because of the sweat. "So?" he asked them as soon as they were within hearing range.

"Mm-mm. Leg up, I need to check it before we say anything," Winry interrupted him, in a bossy tone.

He rolled his eyes but complied, muttering something about health freaks and their never knowing when not to butt in other people's business. He looked up at his little brother, though, as Winry examined his knee. "How was it, then?"

"One second less than your record, Brother," the young caramel-colored boy explained to him. "And still a good three seconds below my best."

"Stop twitching so much, Ed," Winry warned him, as Al handed him a towel to dry off. He swore under his breath. He'd been practicing like crazy and he wasn't getting any better...

"Exhaustion never helped anyone get better," Winry chastised him, finally giving his leg a positive diagnosis. "Well, there is a bit of swelling, but it doesn't seem like it's going to bruise today."

"It's not gonna break everytime I walk, you know," Edward snapped at her, with a frown.

"Yeah, but you weren't exactly walking! You have to give it a rest or you won't be able to run again!" she exclaimed, knowing full well that it was a sensitive topic for the two brothers, but wanting both of them to know the consequences of their actions. "You aren't made of metal, Ed. One of these days, your leg's simply going to give out."

Like mine, Al thought, and he knew his brother was thinking the same thing. But that only spurred him on. Winry had said so herself, his older brother was just too stubborn. "No, it won't, not until I surpass Al's record. I have to keep on practicing. In fact, I'm gonna go again--"

"No, you're not, Edward Elric!" Winry pulled him by the sleeve of his t-shirt before he could run off to the start line again. "Granny called me a while ago. She said she's had dinner ready since an hour ago, and if we don't go back home right now, we'll have to go by without eating."

"Ah, Brother--"

"And of course you cannot do that, you need to eat, after all you're growing boys!" an amused voice boomed from behind them. The three turned to see their Student Advisor walking towards them. "Or at least Al is..."

The ticking Edward Elric time bomb suddenly exploded. "WHO ARE YOU CALLING SO SMALL THAT HE NEEDS TO BE SEEN WITH A MICROSCOPE!" he yelled at the older man, not minding that he was a member of the school staff and therefore was supposed to be respected.

"Mr. Hughes!" Winry smiled at him, still holding a fuming Ed by the sleeve. "How are you?"

"I'm doing good, thank you," he smiled back at her. "Elysia's been asking about you, you know," he continued, his eyes going all googly as they did whenever he spoke about his family.

"I'll try to visit her this weekend," Winry replied, sweatdropping.

"Good, good. Winry, those piercings..." he went back to his normal, tranquil expression.

She sweatdropped even more. What a drastic change of topic! "It's after school hours, sir. I'm allowed to wear whatever I want at this hour."

"Yes, you're right. Now, about Elysia..." he whipped what seemed like a ton of pictures from his pocket (How did that huge pile fit in there?, Al wondered), and shoved them in the faces of the three teenagers. "Have I told you how much she has grown recently?" The googly-eyed face was back with a vengeance.

Now Al was sweatdropping, too. "That's great, Mr. Hughes... and... what are you doing still here, it's late?" he managed to let out, trying not to be asphixiated by the avalanche of photographic paper. And how can he be so obsessed with his family if he's a workaholic?, he wondered further.

Ed twitched, face full of papercuts. "Was there a point to this conversation?" he roared, now itching to go home, for some reason.

Mr. Hughes went back to normal again, not without taking back all the pictures and putting them back in his pants' pocket (Was it like the same principle of a black hole?, Al continued his wonderings). "Ah, yes. I came to tell you, Edward, that I recently talked to a friend of mine from back in college. He's a sports talent scout. He specializes in track running and other such sports. He's working on putting together this county's track team for the World All-Sports Championship. I told him about you and he seemed interested in coming to Leizenburg to see you perform."

All three teens gasped. "Wow. The World All-Sports Championship! Brother, this could be it!" Al wanted to jump in joy. But he couldn't for obvious reasons.

Ed took a look at his brother's walking stick, and then looked back at the Student Counselor. "When would he come?"

Mr. Hughes laughed out loud. "Oh, I don't know. He didn't give me a date. And of course, you never know with Roy Mustang... he just pops out of nowhere at the most unexpected times..."

Edward frowned and both Al and Winry looked at him, confused. "Thanks, Mr. Hughes. It was very nice of you to do this." Hughes smiled at him and put a hand on his shoulder. "It was nothing, Edward. You are a brilliant runner, after all." He smiled at all three of them then, eyes shining. "I have to go now, my family is waiting for me. I'll see you all on Monday!" And with a wave, he turned and left towards the parking garage. The three teenagers turned towards their home as well, as they did every day.

When they were about halfway there, the silence got a little too heavy. "So what are you thinking, Brother?" Al asked his brother, wanting him to express a reaction to the news.

"Yeah, Ed, I thought you'd be happy about it," their blond-haired best friend added, wondering why Ed kept frowning. He was going to be discovered! Why wasn't he all excited about it?

"A brilliant runner..." Ed muttered, head bent down so his bangs covered his eyes. "No... not nearly. My record isn't going to get me anywhere near the Championship. I have to do better."

"I'm sure you will, Brother," Al assured him, not wanting him to feel anymore pressure. It was enough that he was pushing himself so hard because of the promise he'd made to him after the accident. He wanted Ed to do this because he wanted to, not because he felt obligated to.

Winry kept her comments to herself. She would support him in whatever he wanted to do. She just hoped he didn't hurt himself in his attempts.
carla
yay i finally made it work biggrin.gif haha, i was getting worried the board hated me for some reason... rolleyes.gif
Squirrel of Doom
Made what work? SQUIRREL INVESTIGATE WHAT EVER IS WORKING!!!!!!!!!!
carla
lol. i meant that the forum finally agreed with me and let me post this. i'd been trying for the longest time and it kept freezing on me laugh.gif

oh, i love your sig! gotta love squirrels smile.gif
Squirrel of Doom
Thanks! They are my squirrel special forces.*gives squirrel a peanut*I command an army of squirrels and your story is wonderful.
carla
thanks, i'm glad you liked it! and that would be a handy thing to have, an army of squirrels... smile.gif
carla
ok, here you have the second chapter... hope you like it (if anyone's reading this tongue.gif lol)

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Chapter 2: Not without looking back

"...And that's why you should join the military!" Second Liutenant Jean Havoc exclaimed, as a conclusion to his short speech. "Not only will you be a national hero, but we will also give you an introductory DVD and a wristwatch when you sign in!"

Ed snorted, leaning back in his chair and looking up to the ceiling. "National hero, oh yeah," he muttered under his breath, sarcastically. "That's why HE'S in a secondary school in the middle of nowhere giving teenagers a lame recruiting speech." Some of the students around him sniggered too.

"Edward, be quiet," Winry, who was sitting beside him, whispered. She had been paying attention to the speech and he kept making rude comments about the Second Liutenant.

As it was their last year of schooling, they'd been subject to at least seven of these "So what are you going to do with your life when you get out of here?" speeches. And it was only the end of April. The kids were growing a bit tired of them. They thought the speeches were a bit of a joke.

"And sure you'll be risking your life, but who cares, you've got a free wristwatch!" Ed continued on, as if he hadn't heard her.

Winry fumed. "E-do!" she glared at him, a threat in her tone. Oh, how she wished she could just pick up her biology book and clobber him with it.

"Is there a question in the back?" the voice of the Second Liutenant interrupted the argument. Both teens snapped their attention back to the front of the classroom, Ed with a somewhat shocked look and Winry with a deep blush.

Second Liutenant Havoc looked at both of them, and then smiled at Winry. "Anything you want to know, pretty lady?"

Winry smiled back at him, still blushing. "No, Second Liutenant. You've told me everything I needed to know, thank you."

Havoc nodded at her and again looked around the room. "Well, I'm glad. It's been a pleasure to come and talk to you and I hope to see some of you in our ranks next year!"

When the soldier's attention was away from them, Ed turned to Winry with his best "WTF!" expression. "...The hell--! You were flirting with that guy!" he roared at her, pointing with his finger.

Winry giggled a little. "Well, maybe. He's cute."

Ed couldn't believe his ears. "He's like FORTY!" He flailed his arms around. The people surrounding them only took it as another of their "lovers' quarrels," so they didn't think much of the argument.

Winry rolled her eyes. "He's NOT forty..."

She was interrupted by the sound of the bell ringing. Their teacher asked them to give a round of applause for Second Liutenant Havoc before declaring the class over.

"So, are you going to help me study for our Biology test?" Ed asked her. He wanted to get a good grade since it was their first test of the schoolyear, but sadly he was quite hopeless in the subject. Granny Pinako berated him time and time again for his Bio grades, wishing he could be half as good in it as he was in Chemistry, or in Physical Education. But alas, his grades were still rather low. Winry, on the other hand, being the daughter of two doctors and wishing to become one herself, had read and understood the Biology books they had back at home since even before she was out of primary school. So Ed was always pleading at her to help him.

Winry put her backpack on. "Yeah, we can go over the material tonight. I already have it summarized so it won't take too long, I guess." She hoped they finished before dark. Her Granny had been increasingly anxious lately about the two of them, or even her and Al being alone in a room after dark. Winry didn't see her point; the three of them had been living under the same roof since they were 11, after all...

"Is it ok if we stop somewhere in the way, though?" he asked her, as they left the classroom to look for Al. "I want to go see Mom."

Winry gasped. Usually Ed and Al would go visit their mother's grave once a month, the third Saturday. Just the two of them; it was something very private and she never liked to interfere in their family moments. The whole of the track team had to run this past Saturday, though, to update their records, so Ed couldn't go to the cemetery and Al didn't want to go without him. And as her Granny had strictly forbidden Ed from staying after school to practice, of course he was going to make the best possible use of his free time.

"Um... If you want, I can walk home by myself, it's okay..." she left the phrase open-ended, waiting to see how he'd reply. She really didn't want to intrude.

He just looked ahead as they neared the door to Al's classroom. "...No. It's okay, you can come. We won't be there long, anyway."

Soon Al joined them, chatting happily about the great grade he'd gotten on a test he'd been studing for a week for. They told him of the change in plans, and he agreed. He'd been feeling a little guilty about not going to visit their mother the past Saturday. So they stopped to buy flowers and then made their way to the cemetery.

They finally reached the site. Ed stared fixedly at the name in the tombstone: Trisha Elric. Al put the flowers down over the grave and very carefully knelt down, already starting to babble about everything that had happened to them in the past month. Winry respectfully stayed a few steps behind them. But Ed kept quiet, standing beside the grave, looking at the name in the tombstone.

Coming to visit their mother always brought back memories of the day she died... and the day of the accident.

Their mother had been sick for a long time, but they had never known, as they were just kids. They had never seen the signs... never suspected... Until that day she went into the kitchen to make breakfast and they found her ten minutes later, sprawled on the floor.

They had rushed her to the hospital. She had been under intensive care for the most part of a week. The boys, scared as they were, kept their hopes up. The doctors had told them that the probabilities of her getting better were high.

But when your reason for living has left you waiting for so long, it is very hard to hold on.

They had been there that day. She held both of their little hands, and looked into their watery eyes. "My boys... I love you so much. I'm sorry I have to go..."

"Mom, don't talk like that! You're gonna be ok!" Al had cried, burying his face into their joined hands.

She had smiled at him. At them both. "Promise me you'll both be the very best runners you can be... I know how much you love it... Your father would've been proud... He loved it so much, too."

"Don't talk about him now, Mom. Just try to feel better. You don't have to talk, you have to rest..." Ed had tried to reason with her, still hoping that if she stopped exerting her strenght, she could fight against the illness.

"Ed... please take care of Al. You'll need each other now..." She closed her eyes and took a breath. Her last. "I love you..."

The burial ceremony had been within the next couple of days. Alphonse had cried for hours that day. Edward didn't cry; yet he took his mother's death the hardest. After their father left them, he had become by default the man of the house, and yet he could do nothing to save their mother. He didn't even see it coming. But he would not let her down; he would make sure her final wishes were fullfilled, no matter what the cost.

A couple of weeks after the burial, they had already moved into Pinako Rockbell's house. Their house had been sold by the State, and was already demolished. Ed liked to sit by the window and look at the land where it had stood. Al would cry himself to sleep at the same time.

One of those days, though, near midnight, Edward had turned to his little brother with a determined expression on his face. "Get dressed, Al. We're going out."

"At this hour, Brother?" Al had wondered, but did as he was told anyway. He had always looked up to his brother. He was reckless like that, but if he said no, he was sure Brother would go anyway. And he couldn't let him go alone. "Where are we going?"

"To the track," Ed replied, lacing his trainers.

"What for?"

"Because Mom wanted us to be the best," he explained, his tone strong, as he walked to the door of their room. "And we will be. So we need to practice. And we can't lose time like this."

So they had sneaked out successfully and started made their way towards their school. They hadn't made it, though.

Edward could still remember the bright headlights as they came towards them...

They had been rushed to the hospital, too. Granny Pinako and Winry had heard the commotion and went out to investigate.

In the end, after surgery and much pain, they were left in pieces again. Ed had broken his left tibia, dislocated that same knee, and fractured his right arm; he hadn't been hit as hard, though. It would take some time, but he would heal. He would have to be careful with what he did with his appendages from now on, though. Al, on the other hand, had taken the heavy burnt of the hit. He sustained various injuries, but the graves of them was his right leg... it was so crushed, they'd almost had to amputate it. They'd managed to heal it enough, putting together the bone with four screws and complete immobilization. He'd only been able to move in a wheelchair for months. Later on, after an incredibly difficult season of therapy, he managed to walk again. But he'd have to use a walking stick for the rest of his life. And his running carreer was over.

Edward blamed himself. Al was the better of the two of them... and now he wouldn't be able to run again. All because he hadn't thought before acting.

Alphonse never blamed him, though. He was just happy to be alive.

When Ed saw the bright smile in his brother's face the first day he'd been able to walk again, he'd vowed to himself, yet again, that he'd be the best. For his mother, and now for his brother. No matter what the cost.

"...We should be going now, Mom. It's late and we have to study," Al finished, wiping away the silent tears that fell down his cheeks. Ed finally looked up from the tombstone, and taking his hand out of his pockets, walked towards Al to help him stand up. They turned to leave, noticing that Winry was wiping her tears, too. She smiled at them and moved to hold Al's left hand. He smiled gratefully at her. She didn't say anything, but they knew she was there for them.

They made it to their house, silent but for the sound of their footsteps. When they entered, Al went to his room to drop off his things, leaving Winry and Ed alone. Ed turned to her with a goofy smile.

"So, you're still going to help me with Biology, right? We can start after we eat something, I'm starving..."

He turned to go up the stairs to his room, but a sound from her stopped him mid-step. "Ed?"

He turned to see her. She was looking at him with the saddest expression on her face. A tear ran down her cheek. And she moved forward, wrapping her arms around his waist, burying her head in his neck.

He tensed up; didn't hug her back, just stood there. She understood. It was just the way he was. She knew it was hard... her own parents had died even before Trisha did, it had been years... but the pain never went away. She just hoped he would let himself be comforted. He didn't always have to be the strong one.

"Yeah... we'll study after we eat," she murmured against his neck. The feeling of her lips against his skin made him shiver, but he said nothing. She slowly disentangled herself from him and walked around him, up the stairs.

He saw her leave. Then closed the door behind him.

Unbeknownst to any of them, they were being watched from outside. "How sure can we be that he'll concentrate on running?" the man wondered aloud.

Second Liutenant Havoc sighed. "Was it necessary to follow them even to the graveyard, Sir?"

The same dark-haired man that had spoken before turned to Havoc. "Before even checking out his track record, I have to know his personality. Many potential medallists have failed in their projects because of personal issues, or because they are mutinous and cannot take orders. I will not risk it again." That definitely shut Havoc up.

He turned to the blond-haired woman that was standing beside him. "Make a note of this, Miss Hawkeye. We will have to keep an eye out on his issues about his mother. But have his address listed. Perhaps we will pay him a visit if we have an open slot."

"Yes, Sir," the woman replied, already jotting everything down into a Palm Pilot. "If you don't mind me asking, Mr. Mustang... do you really think this boy has potential?"

Roy Mutang frowned. "Hughes insists he's a good runner... Of course Hughes has no idea what a good runner is. But either way, it wouldn't hurt to check him out. Hopefully it won't be another waste of time."

Miss Hawkeye nodded at his reply, jotting even more notes into the hand-held computer. Second Liutenant Havoc just frowned and pulled a cigarette out of his pocket, lighting it and bringing it to his mouth.
I LOVE Edward
PLease tell me there more chapters p;ease
ChibiOtakuElric
great story and awsome siggy!!!
carla
@ I LOVE Edward-- there IS more, don't worry. i'll probably post the next chapter this weekend. and oh! you're using my icon! awwww, that makes me feel all fuzzy inside tongue.gif

@ ChibiOtakuElric-- i'm glad you liked both of them smile.gif
I LOVE Edward
cool thanks
QUOTE(ChibiOtakuElric @ Sep 2 2005, 07:00 PM)
great story and awsome siggy!!!
[snapback]271123[/snapback]

elalquimistafilosofal
awasome story....i like read it
Squirrel of Doom
Awesome story dude, awesome story.
Sakura-FOREVER
please wright more soon please
carla
thanks, everyone! i'm glad you liked last chapter smile.gif here you have ch. 3, then...

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Chapter 3: Not until you're 30

"I still don't get why you have to come to the school. It's a Saturday," Ed grumbled, as they made their way towards said building, one sunny May weekend. He still wasn't comfortable with their change of schedule, as now the track team was practicing all day during Saturdays. The change happened because many of the senior students complained that practicing during he week left them no time to study (and boy did they need to!). Ed wasn't happy with it, but he had to admit there was a bright side-- now he could practice more. Pinako-baasan had forbidden him from staying after school to practice anymore. But since Saturday wasn't a schoolday...

"Oh, he'll be here," Winry replied, rolling her eyes.

"But it's a Saturday," Ed reminded her for the eighth time. "He doesn't have to work on Saturdays."

Now Al joined in the eye-rolling, too. "He'll BE here," both Al and Winry snapped back at him. Ed raised his hands in the universal surrender sign.

"Besides, anyone would think you don't want me to be here, Edo-kun," Winry shook her head at him.

Ed glared at her. "Of course I don't! You're always so loud, it's distracting. And then you're always nagging at me not to overexert my knee and shit..."

He was rudely interrupted when Winry's fist collided with his thick head. She glared daggers directly at his eyes. "When I get a boyfriend and ditch you, you'll miss me, Edward Elric."

Ed snorted, gently nursing the newest bump on his head. "As if that would happen! What guy would like an un-cute, tomboyish, health and machine freak..."

Al tried to stop her from pouncing on his older brother, but he'd much rather not end up a paraplegic, too. So he just sweatdropped and kept himself out of the conversation.

When they finally got to the school, they took their separate ways. The boys headed towards the track while Winry entered the building, looking for the Counselor's office. As she walked down the correct hallway, she heard voices talking.

"Roy, I assure you that he has a lot of potential. He IS the son of Hohenheim Elric, after all. He could be the next best thing."

Winry's ears perked up when she heard the name. They were talking about Edward! Carefully, she moved closer to the door to try and hear more.

"I wouldn't expect genetics to come into play, Maes, if the kid hasn't seen his father since he was six."

"Yes, but I'm telling you, he's really good. Look, I have to go out in a little while but they'll be practicing until late. Perhaps after I come back we can spare a minute and go down to the track to take a look."

There was silence for a couple of heartbeats. Then, "Perhaps. I'm not making any promises."

Winry figured he would've said more, but then the door started to open. Startled, she took a few steps back. Out came a blond, serious-looking woman, and she closed the door behind her. It was only when she'd made sure that it was properly locked, that she noticed Winry standing there. "Oh, hello. Are you waiting to talk to Mr. Hughes?" the woman asked her.

Winry stuttered a bit, still embarassed at being almost caught eavesdropping. "Uh, yes. Yes, but I can wait, don't worry."

The woman nodded at her. "Very well. It should not take too long."

The blond woman stood against the wall of Mr. Hughes' office, seemingly contemplative. She looked at Winry sometimes. It seemed the girl was finding the dirt specs on her Mary Janes very interesting. Finally, Winry spoke again: "Excuse me, Miss... is that... inside... Is that Roy Mustang, the track runners talent scout?"

The woman blinked at her, obviously not expecting the question. "Why... yes, he is. I'm his personal assistant, Liza Hawkeye. May I ask why you inquire about him?"

Winry flushed, a little embarassed, yet again. "Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to be nosy. It's just... that's my best friend he's talking about. Edward Elric?"

Miss Hawkeye's eyes flashed with recognition. Of course, the girl had been with the Elric brothers that day in the cemetery. "Yes. Mr. Hughes' protege. We've heard nothing but praise about him."

"Oh, and he deserves all of it!" Winry assured her, excitedly. "He's a great runner! Is Mr. Mustang going to give him a chance?"

Miss Hawkeye smiled at her excitement. "I don't know that yet. But I can tell you that he is very curious about him, even if he doesn't act like he is."

Winry clasped her hands in front of her, almost pleadingly. "Oh, you don't know how important running is for Ed. If he gets picked for the county's team it would be the greatest thing for him! I bet he'd even make the national team! He really wants to be the best, and he really puts his all into practice."

"If he really is as good as everyone says," Miss Hawkeye replied carefully, "I'm sure Mr. Mustang will recognize his talent."

Winry brought a hand up to her cheek and sighed. "I hope so." Miss Hawkeye smiled at her again. It was obvious that the girl cared very much about Mr. Elric's future.

Before they could say anything else, the door to Mr. Hughes' office opened again and they could hear the Advisor's voice. "You only say that, Roy you dog, because people don't recognize you in this godforsaken town and your ego is crushed!"

"Hah! More like I'm terribly bored," Mr. Mustang replied, moving half his body across the treshold. "There's nothing to do in this 'godforsaken town' as you called it, and I've been to enough governmental meetings to last a lifetime."

"It's because your name can't get you a date around here!" Mr. Hughes laughed and Mr. Mustang looked a bit peeved. So saying nothing but "I'll see you later," he walked out of the office and, barely sparing a glance for Winry, for he recognized her, turned to leave.

"Let's go, Miss Hawkeye."

"Yes, Sir." The woman smiled at Winry one last time, and started walking two steps behind her boss. Winry, keeping her eyes on their backs as they left, let out a hopeful sigh. Ed's future was in their hands. She hoped this visit would have a positive outcome.

She knocked on Mr. Hughes' door. She waited to receive the permission to enter, and then peeked in. As expected, she found Mr. Hughes talking on the phone. What she didn't expect was to see little Elysia sitting on the floor, doodling on a sheet of paper with her bright-colored crayons. The girl's eyes lit up when she saw Winry at the door. "Winry-nee!" she exclaimed, and got up to go hug her. Winry hugged her back. Elysia pulled her inside to show her all the drawings she had finished in her daddy's office that day.

Mr. Hughes finally got off the phone (after much cooing and kissy sounds, Winry noticed. It must've been his wife he was talking to), and turned to look at the two girls. "Hello, Winry. Nice to see you could make it. So, are we ready to go?"

Winry looked up at him in surprise. "Aren't you going somewhere? I thought that's why I was going to babysit Elysia..."

"Well, not technically. I was going to stay here for a while, since Gracia is visiting her parents this weekend-- and isn't she the most amazing person ever for it?-- and take care of Elysia myself, but since she's missed you so much these last few weeks I thought maybe we could go out and have some fun. What do you say?" He said all of this very fast and since his face was alternating between the serious and the googly-eyed expressions, she wasn't sure that she'd understood half of it. So she nodded her head rather dumbly. "Great! So what did you have planned?"

"Uh... I was going to take her to the mall?"

Elysia expressed her agreement at Winry's plans and her father smiled at them both. "That's a great idea. The mall it is, then!"

They got there without much trouble. There was only one mall in town, Leizenburg being so small and all. Their first stop was the ice cream parlor, as per Elysia's request. Mr. Hughes, being the ever-doting father he was, didn't mind one bit that they hadn't had lunch and proceded to buy chocolate ice cream for his beloved daughter and her babysitter. Winry figured Mrs. Hughes would be pretty ticked if she found out her husband was feeding junk food to their daughter, but thought no more of it.

Over the ice cream, they discussed the evening's plans. Winry had wanted to come to the mall because she had to buy a present for Al, whose birthday was coming up soon, and she wanted Elysia to help her pick it out. The gift was from both her and Ed anyway; if she bought it herself he'd probably just grumble about her making a lousy choice-- but if she told him Elysia had chosen it, he wouldn't be such a jerk as to complain about it. Mr. Hughes agreed with her reasoning.

"Is the gift for the one that's your boyfriend, Winry-nee?" Elysia asked her, completely out of the blue.

Winry turned as red as a tomato. She knew the question had been innocent, but she just wanted the ground to swallow her whole. Of course she'd be so unlucky that Elysia had to ask such a thing in front of her father, the Student Advisor... oh, she was so embarrassed...

"He- Ed's not my boyfriend!!" she screeched, covering her heated face with her hands. "And no, Elysia-chan. It's not Ed's birthday, it's Al's. Ed has the same birthday as you, remember?"

The little girl nodded. She did know Ed and Al, but she'd met them when she was very little and hadn't seen them much these last couple of years. So of course she got a little confused between them from time to time. She did know all about them from hearing Winry speak of them, of course, so she had come to her own conclusions in the best way that an almost-five-years-old can. "So you mean it's for the tall one?"

Winry nodded, trying her best to forget about the boyfriend comment. Mr. Hughes' laughed at his daughter's description of the two Elric boys. His laughter was short-lived, though, for then his daughter turned to him with an angelic glint in her eyes. "Papa, can I have a boyfriend?"

His expression changed so suddenly that Winry had to wonder if it hurt. First he seemed to choke on his own breathing; then he frowned heavily. A second later he cleared his throat and then he smiled down at his daughter. Winry could've sworn she saw a dangerous glint in his eyes; but no, it must've been the sunlight reflecting on his glasses. Yeah.

"Not until you're 30, sweetie."

Though... maybe Elysia should stay away from boys for a while, for her father's sanity. And they should probably keep Mr. Hughes' away from firearms, too...

So they walked around the mall one, two, and three times trying to look for something to buy for Al. They'd thought of everything-- from clothes, to new sneakers, to CDs, even going as low as gift certificates. None of these Elysia accepted; she seemed to have very high standards when it came to gift-giving. It made Winry feel a little guilty because she was counting every cent. She only made so much money from babysitting and even though Ed had money, it was technically Al's money, too, so she didn't want to buy something too expensive if it was going to come out of Al's own pocket anyway.

Elysia had been rather enthusiastic about some things, too: there was a book with a very colorful cover she'd liked. She didn't much know what the book was about, but she could read the title and the whole package just attracted her attention. Winry passed a few pages while Mr. Hughes gushed on and on about what a smart daughter he had, learning to read even before starting school. Winry didn't think Al would be much interested in the book, though. It was a rather intense novel, full of action and dangerous plots. And while Al would never outright tell someone that he didn't like their gift, for he was much too polite for that, she thought intense reading was more of an Ed thing.

Another thing the little girl had liked was a new racing videogame they'd seen over at a toy store. Apparently she had seen its ad on tv and it stated the game was "all the rage." Winry thought it was a great idea; Al did like videogames a lot. However, after asking the sales clerk she found out the game didn't come out until two weeks later and the waiting list was so long that even if they signed up to buy one now, they probably wouldn't get it before Al's birthday.

Feeling rather down, they walked towards the parking lot. Elysia had grown tired of walking so much, and so her father was carrying her on his shoulders now. Winry felt a little dejected. She had stopped at a jewelry store to buy a new earring, for one of hers was broken ("Can I get my ears pierced like Winry-nee, Papa?"-- "Not until you're 30, honey."-- "How much time left do I have until I'm 30?"), but they just hadn't found anything for Al. She was beginning to think they'd have to (and she gulped at the word, for she knew Ed was going to kill her for it) make something for him. And Ed and her making something together was just a disaster waiting to happen.

"Papa! Look! Kitties and puppies!"

Winry broke out of her thoughts to look at what Elysia was pointing to. The little girl had an advantage in that she was sitting on her father's shoulders, yet Winry could see, barely, a bright-colored sign with the words "Animal Shelter." They rushed in and stayed there quite a while, looking at all the animals. Winry had almost forgotten about Al's gift, distracted as she was by a rather hyperactive Jack Russell Terrier, but was reminded of it when Elysia called out to her.

She turned to pay attention to the girl and found her kneeling in front of a cage. Winry asked her to stand up; she was going to get her pants dirty. The girl complied, of course, but instead of saying something, she just pointed towards the inside of the cage, rather wide-eyed. Winry turned to look, and gasped in surprise.

Inside was a little kitten, sitting in the middle of the cage and looking up at them with a rather curious expression. Its hair was somewhat longish, dark brown colored and seemed silky. The little animal didn't hold himself with a practiced poise; it was obvious it was not a purebred cat, after all this was an Animal Shelter, but at least it didn't seem malnourished or sick. It might've been a Burmese, or maybe a Chantilly. What drew Winry to it though, was its eyes: they were such a vibrant gold color.

Yes, the kitty would be right at home with the Elrics. Elysia had just found Al's perfect gift.

Feeling in much better spirits as they had all the arrangements done, they went back to the school, grateful for a day of fun and interesting twists of fate.
Sakura-FOREVER
Cute Cute And More Cute More More More
I want To See More WinXed WinXal Moments there in she has to have a crush on one of em
Squirrel of Doom
I WANNA A KITTIE! I WANNA A KITTIE! I WANNA KITTIE!Oh wait I already have 5.
carla
QUOTE(Squirrel of Doom @ Sep 6 2005, 12:44 PM)
I WANNA A KITTIE! I WANNA A KITTIE! I WANNA KITTIE!Oh wait I already have 5.
[right][snapback]275879[/snapback][/right]


blink.gif 5? wow, that's awesome. though i'm pretty sure 5 cats would kill me but... it's nice to have a lot of pets tongue.gif even if they ARE cats, i guess...
Sakura-FOREVER
QUOTE(Squirrel of Doom @ Sep 6 2005, 10:44 AM)
I WANNA A KITTIE! I WANNA A KITTIE! I WANNA KITTIE!Oh wait I already have 5.
[right][snapback]275879[/snapback][/right]

can u just update please
Sakura-FOREVER
PRETTY PLEASE UPDATE WITH ""NUDE EDWARD"" ON TOP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ^^ x3
carla
well, i'm not much of an edo kind of girl, but i wouldn't pass that up anyway tongue.gif i'll update soon. i'm sorry it's taken me so long, i've just been really busy with classes and everything. just hang in there for a little more and i'll give you the next chapter.
Sakura-FOREVER
QUOTE(carla @ Oct 1 2005, 08:25 PM) [snapback]295102[/snapback]

well, i'm not much of an edo kind of girl, but i wouldn't pass that up anyway tongue.gif i'll update soon. i'm sorry it's taken me so long, i've just been really busy with classes and everything. just hang in there for a little more and i'll give you the next chapter.



all try, but its hard
carla
as promised, here's chapter 4 smile.gif

----------

Chapter 4: Not against Envy

"...So listen up! This practice session is very important! The regional competition is coming up and we need to figure out which of you will be there to represent Leizenburgh Secondary School. So you all have to do your very best today!"

Edward sweatdropped. It wasn't that he didn't like their Coach, really; on the contrary, he was a very nice person. He only wished that he wouldn't be so... intense. Like maybe someday managing to direct practice without taking off his shirt? And what's with the sparkles?

"...But I'm sure you will all be great!" Coach Armstrong said as he paced back and forth in front of the team. Both Ed and Al (who was present at every practice even if he couldn't run; he was sort of an honorary member of the track team) backed away from him, a little nervous. "After all, I have thought you the secrets to running that have been passed down the Armstrong family line for generations!" All of a sudden this bright light erupted from behind him and... ah, yes, the sparkles, there they were. "Oh, I'm so proud of all of you boys!"

"Ac-hem!"

"Oh, and girl, of course," he added, recognizing the presence of the one female member of their team. Without any more warning he went into an emotional rampage and grabbed onto the first person he could find-- which turned out to be a skinny fourth year kid-- and sparkled some more. The rest of the team simply took one step back.

Soon enough, though, they were getting ready to race. Al sat next to his brother, watching him warm up. Ed was muttering stuff under his breath as he stretched. "Are you nervous, Brother?"

Ed rose sharply and looked at him. He scratched his head a bit. "Not really. I just think I could've practiced more. I've got to talk to Auntie Pinako about this no practicing deal..."

"Don't worry, Brother!" Al exclaimed, being his ever-positive self. "You have one of the best records. It's almost guaranteed that you'll make it to the regionals."

Ed's expression turned grumpy. "Yeah, well, that's not enough, Al. I can't very well win the regionals if half the team has a better record than mine!"

"That's it, Shrimp. Get used to the idea of being a loser," a voice said from behind them.

The reaction was instantaneous; vapor began coming out of Ed's ears and his hair stood on end. "WHO ARE YOU CALLING A SMALL EDIBLE CRUSTACEAN?!?!?!"

Al grabbed him by the back of his sweatshirt. "Calm down, Brother! He's just trying to rile you up so you lose concentration..." Ed quickly stopped thrashing around. It wasn't fair! Al always knew to hold on to him if he wanted to stop him; in that case Ed couldn't move for fear of making his brother lose his balance and hurt himself.

Ed glared at the insolent idiot that was standing in front of them with a smirk grazing his features. "Yeah well, he's getting his way, the bastard. Leggo, dammit!" he snapped back at his brother, trying to pry his sweatshirt from Al's grasp.

The newcomer's smirk only grew more and he ran a hand through his long, wispy hair. "You should listen to that poor, invalid brother of yours, Smurf," he said, his tone excessively innocent. "No sense in loosing your mind and ending up more humilliated than usual."

Edward felt the bile rise up in his throat. There was no one in this world Ed despised more than Envy Licht. The jerk had transferred into Leizenburgh Secondary some years ago; he was the adopted son of some very rich guy from Central City and he and his older sister had been sent to Leizenburgh because their father felt a more personal education was better for them. Leizenburgh Secondary wasn't a very big school, and so the attention was more personalized, or so the Principal had told them.

His sister, Lust, had graduated a couple of years back and it was a relief; the two of them had never wanted to move to Leizenburgh and they had always thought they were too good for such a small town. Since they were rich and used to a luxurious life, they had always thought themselves superior to the other residents, in all aspects. Lust was the most vain person Ed had ever met; luckily they'd only been in the same school for a couple of years. Envy, however, was in Ed's grade and he'd made it his personal mission to be the biggest bastard around. He didn't even study-- sometimes he didn't even show up to classes at all-- and it was his father's money that had landed him a spot in the track team in the first place. He could run, that's for sure, but he wasn't even interested in the beginning. When he saw in Edward someone who could potentially be better than him, that's when he became interested. He couldn't let a stupid country midget beat him. He was Envy Licht, after all.

Ed thought it was all bullshit. So what if he was rich? It was only because he'd been lucky-- Mr. Licht adopted anything that could move. Rumour was that he had adopted five kids in total, including Envy and Lust. And word of mouth was that some of them weren't even that great-- they'd heard about one with physical problems, or more like deformities, and there was another one that was allegedly mentally retarded. Which was all well and good, but what kind of father could that guy be? He'd just shipped two of his kids away to Leizenburgh without a day's notice. And who the hell would name their son Envy, anyways?

Through all these years, Ed had gotten into one too many messes because of Envy. He'd tried everything to get him to leave them alone, from beating him up to going to the Principal, but Envy was still there, thanks to his father's power. What did that guy do, anyways? Ed was sure he had to be something illegal. But anyway, as they couldn't get Envy off their backs, Al had resorted to just trying to get Ed and Winry to ignore him. He said Envy just craved attention, and their not giving it to him would drive him away. It hadn't worked, so far; the idiot kept pushing Ed's buttons and he could take anything that Envy said about him, but there was only one topic that to Ed meant crossing the line-- his brother's disability.

His face going red, Edward pried himself from his brother's grip and ran at full speed towards the stupid jerk. Envy kept smirking, not moving out of the way, until Ed finally grabbed him in a headlock and pushed him down. When he hit the floor he did look a bit surprised (so what if Ed was tiny; Envy was as thin as a rail so they were even-matched), but it didn't take long for the infuriating smirk to come back. "Come on, Shrimpy," he said, his voice husky because Ed had his hand on his throat. "Hit me. Do it. Get yourself kicked off the team."

Ed growled. "Stop messing with me and my brother, Licht," he pressed harder, sure he would at least leave a bruise on the bastard's neck. "When I'm done with you, you're going to be eating my dust."

Envy just smirked.

Ed just had the urge to punch the daylights out of him, when his brother intervened. Al rushed, as best as he could, to his brother's side. He dropped his walking cane to the floor and kneeled beside him; it hurt horribly, but he had to get Ed off of Envy before something extreme happened. He pulled his brother by the shoulders with all his might. "Brother, let go! It's not worth it!"

Fortunately for Al and his knees, Coach Armstrong had noticed the commotion and ran towards them. "What is this?! Edward, Envy, stop this right now!" He easily separated Ed and Envy. Then he carefully picked up Al, and carried him to the bleachers, where he laid him down to see what he could do about his injury. The whole of the team, who had been standing around them, followed him to see what was wrong with Al.

Ed stood up halfway, wincing a little; his right arm hurt. He put too much force in trying to bring Envy down and his bones weren't in top condition after the accident. He'd probably have to have that arm looked at, again. He pushed it to the back of his head, and tried to go to Al's side. He forgot that Envy was still there, however, and that he was going to take advantage of the fact that Ed couldn't move as fast. He didn't notice until he felt himself being brought to his feet by the pull on his braid. Envy smirked at him, once again, and then punched him in the face.

Ed fell to the floor, all his weight on his hurting arm. Envy took one last look at him and started walking down the track. He wasn't running away; he knew he wasn't going to get into trouble anyway, so why bother? But he did so want to beat Elric in the competition, that he wasn't going to hurt him anymore, not quite yet. After they raced, who knew.

Ed sat up, lifting his hand to his aching mouth. He wasn't bleeding, but the hit was going to bruise. Damn that Licht. One of these days, he was going to give him what he deserved. But now, he was more worried about Al.

He walked over to where his brother was, sitting in the bleachers, pale and with ragged breathing. Coach Armstrong had given him a couple of painkillers and water, and had put some healing ointment on Al's knee. He kept muttering to the other team members. "...This kind of behavior is just not acceptable! You're lucky it's a Saturday or those two would already be sitting outside the Principal's office! He will be informed of this as soon as possible. I can't be expected to choose a team for the regionals after this display of barbaric conduct!" He had been telling the Principal for years that it was not a good idea to have that Licht kid in the school, much less in the track team. There was something inherently wrong with him. Armstrong couldn't pinpoint where the nucleus of the problem laid, but anyone with eyes could see that Envy was a bad seed. "We will have to cancel practice."

The rest of the team groaned. "But Coach! It's imperative that we get the team formed today! We'll all the practice we can get, we can't afford to lose another week!" the only girl exclaimed, being something of a spokesperson for the group. Most of the others nodded. Edward was still seething inside, but even he agreed; they had to get this over and done with. Al was feeling somewhat better (or so he had told Ed when he'd asked if he was ok) and even though Ed's face and right arm still hurt, that wasn't going to stop him from running.

Reluctantly, Coach Armstrong agreed to continue the session, but only after Al assured him that he was fine enough to take care of the stopwatch. He called Envy back, not without giving him an earful, which he ignored anyway. Sadly there wasn't much Armstrong could do about Envy; the last time something like this he'd banned Envy from running in a competition with a school from a neighboring town, and all that came out of it was Envy being given a disciplinary mark in his record and Armstrong getting a reduction on his salary because he had "abused his power."

So they started racing, in turns of two. They raced three times each, so it took them quite some time to complete the roster, what with breaks and even some discussions between race and race.

"Licht!"

Ed saw Envy walk up to the start line and pull his long hair into a ponytail. With a dark expression, he patted his brother's shoulder and headed down there himself. He and Envy had the two best records of the whole team; they always raced against each other because of that. However, Coach Armstrong stopped him before he could come closer. "Go back to your brother, Edward. You're not racing against Envy today."

Ed was genuinely confused. Sure, he and Envy had never gotten along, but the rotation of the races had never been altered because of that. "But Coach--"

"No buts, Mr. Elric. Go back to the bleachers. I will call you when it's your turn."

Ed grumbled. He'd really wanted to race against Envy and see his dumbfounded face when he kicked his ass in the track. But it wouldn't be today. He grudgingly made his way back beside his brother, and another boy was called in to race against Envy.

They were just about ready to run when Ed heard his name being called. "Ed! Edoooo~!" Both brothers smiled when they noticed Winry waving at them as she skipped up to the bleachers. Mr. Hughes and Elysia tailed her, a few feet behind.

Envy let out a loud groan from below. "Shut her up, Elric! Just because you're doing her doesn't mean that we have to stand her annoying squeaks!"

Winry turned red, from anger or embarrasmment, no one knew. Ed stood up growling, and Al glared at the dark-haired truant. Mr. Hughes and Elysia seemed not to have heard. Envy seemed like he wanted to say something else, but Coach Armstrong quickly admonished him for his crude comment.

So they ran. The other boy was good, but Envy was excellent. Ed wanted to wipe that gloating expression from his face.

"Anyway, I wanted to tell you," Winry began as soon as they turned away from the race, "that I think that talent scout man is going to come today to see you race. I spoke with his assistant today and she was pretty sure they'd come." She beamed at Ed, hands clasping in front of her. "So you have to give it your all-- JUST WHAT HAPPENED TO YOU?!"

Edward winced at her shrilly tone; she had finally noticed the bruise on his face. She turned to Al and also saw that his knee was bandaged up and it seemed swollen. "You two are impossible! I leave you alone for a couple of hours and you immediately go and hurt yourselves! Stupid, that's what you are! Leg up, Al! I'll check that." She declared that Coach Armstrong had actually done a pretty good job with Al's leg, now all that was left was for him to let it rest; it probably wouldn't be a good idea for him to walk back home today. Then she tended to Ed's face with some alcohol she borrowed from the track team's first aid kit, and applied some of that pain-relief ointment, too. As for his right arm, she thought it was not necessarily something wrong with the bone, but that his muscles were too strained. After a light massage, Ed had to admit he was feeling much better.

It was getting dark when Ed was called to run. After being wished good luck by everyone, he went down to the track and got in position. The tried to leave his mind blank. Now was not the time to be thinking about Envy, or about talent scouts or about regionals. Right then it was only him and the track, and he'd be damned if he wasn't going to give one hundred and twenty percent of himself.

Winry and Al noticed the newcomers, though. Roy Mustang and his assistant had come up to the bleachers, and were currently greeting Mr. Hughes and Elysia. Winry elbowed Al and gave him a significant glance. The boy understood. He didn't hope that his older brother would do good, because he knew Ed would; but he hoped this man could see his brother's talent and give him a chance to shine.

Soon Ed and his running partner were given the go. They started to run, and the familiar feeling of the wind in his face and the stress in his limbs made Ed feel right at home. He'd never run so fast in his life, he didn't think. He didn't even notice when he crossed the finish line; his opponent was still a good ten meters behind him. His mind only broke out of the spell when one of his teammates came up to him with a bottle of water and a towel.

Winry and Al turned to the three adults standing behind them as soon as the stopwatch stopped counting. "Well? What did you think?" Al asked, excited. Ed had managed a great time! He'd beaten his own record. He was still behind Envy by a mere couple of tenths of a second, but overall he had improved greatly. He hoped it had been enough to impress Mr. Mustang.

Mustang kept silent for a few seconds while they all stared at him, expectantly. Then...

"He's a midget!"

...Everybody fell down in shock. Of all the things that could've come out of his mouth... Al sweatdropped. "Just don't say that to his face," he said, thick streams of tears falling down his face.

"But about his running, Roy," Mr. Hughes pleaded to him to be serious. Mr. Mustang's assistant seemed to be pretty annoyed, too, but she kept quiet.

"Let me see his time," Mr. Mustang asked Al, and he eagerly handed him the stopwatch. He took one look at the digital readout, arched a brow, and gave it back to Al silently. They all held their breaths waiting for his next comment.

"I have to go back to Central tomorrow. But I'll be back sometime next month."

With a wave to Mr. Hughes, who was smiling at him, and to Elysia, he climbed down the bleachers and walked to the parking lot. His assistant nodded at them all, and followed him.

Al and Winry looked at each other, wide eyes and wide smiles adorning their faces. If that meant what they thought it meant... They squealed, Winry jumping up and down and Al clapping his hands, as he couldn't jump. Ed still had to run twice more, but as soon as they got hold of him after the last race, they told him what had happened. He didn't take it with so much joy, though. He was glad Mr. Mustang had taken an interest in him (neither Winry nor Al were ever going to tell him about the midget comment, of course, so all Ed got was a good impression of the guy), but he was still feeling down because he hadn't managed to beat Envy.

He only gave the dark-haired teenager one last dark look as the three of them got into Mr. Hughes' car. He'd offered to give them a ride home that night.
Sakura-FOREVER
please please please make more more moer!!!


REALLY NICE AND MORE EDxWIN FLUF!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Winry The Alchemist
]OMFG I Love This FF Its Really Well writin
PLEASE UPDATE
carla
not really chapter 5 yet, just a small interlude to advance the plot-- and to avoid being killed by the bunch of royai fans that feel i'm ignoring their ship. lol. so here you go.

----------

Interlude I: Meeting Mr. President

"...Yes, I just got back two days ago and I'm a little busy, but I'm sure I can manage to spare some time for you... say, tonight around seven?"

Roy Mustang looked down when he heard growling beneath his desk. He curiosly peered, looking for the source of the sound, only half-listening to the giggling girl on the other side of the phone line. He found himself face to face with his assistant's little black and white puppy, who clearly wasn't very happy with him.

Roy extended his hand to pet the little dog, hoping to appease it so he could get some quiet. Hayate wasn't appeased, though, and immediately dodged Roy's hand and proceded to latch onto his pants.

"What the-- hey!" he glared at the dog, picked him up (it took him a while to get the thing to let go-- what a stubborn animal!) and put it on his lap. He was just about to glare at it when it decided to latch onto something else-- the telephone cord. "Dammit, leggo! What's your problem! It's like you're jealous or something-- no, not you Mathilde..."

He was still struggling with the puppy when someone cleared his/her throat. He looked up to see his assistant, holding some folders against her chest and looking down at him with a frown. "Sir, I don't think it's a good idea for you to schedule an outing tonight. Might I remind you that you have a meeting with the President of the ATFF this afternoon?"

Roy looked back at her, pointing at the dog, with his eyebrows arched high in a "can't you see the rabid BEAST that's currently sitting on my lap?" expression. It seemed that Hawkeye didn't see it, though, as she went on with her business without a second glance. She left the folders on his desk, making sure they were aligned properly. "The official records just arrived. Remember you have to read them and sign them before the meeting. And I know you wouldn't dream of playing hooky with something so important as this."

The dog finally stopped squirming and just sat there, with what Mustang swore would be a glare if it was human etched on its face. "I'll call you later, is that alright?" he told the girl on the other end of the line, curiously noticing that she sounded a little frantic. He ended the call and ran a hand over his face. The puppy seemed to be perfectly happy now that he'd put the phone down, but still he felt a headache coming, if only for the sheer amount of paperwork he just learned he had to do. And what's with the abuse? He usually got along just fine with Black Hayate. And Hawkeye frowned a lot but she'd been his assistant for such a long time that he could recognize when she was frowning because something was bothering her.

"Is everything ok?" he asked her, grabbing a pen from a drawer before digging into the pile of documents.

She ignored his question. "Come now, Buraha. You've played enough for today with Mr. Mustang." She nonchalantly picked up the dog, who was just ecstatic to be back in its master's arms again, and raised an eyebrow when she heard her boss sigh. "I wouldn't complain, sir. You'll be dealing with much more paperwork when you become President." And with that she left the room, feeling somewhat vindicated; the only date Mustang had scheduled for the following five hours was with a mountain of papers to sign.

--

They were all business as they entered the conference room.

President Bradley was already waiting for them. It seemed he had forgo the presence of his assistant; it was rare to see him by himself, he always seemed to have a lot of people around: assistant, secretaries, bodyguards... Truly a sign that he was a very important man.

He got up from the head of the table as he saw the two come in. He greeted them both with a smile, which Roy found incredibly ironic because the man obviously knew Roy wanted his job. But it wasn't the time or the place to think about overthrowing Bradley, so they both simply replied in kind and sat down, ready to get the show on the road.

"So I hear you have discovered our future medallist, Mustang."

"Well, I hope he will be, Sir," Roy replied with a nod.

"What can you tell me about him?"

Roy extended his hand towards Liza and she handed him the respective folder. He in turn handed it to President Bradley as he started to explain Edward's situation. "He's a boy, eighteen, was born and has lived all his life in Leizenburgh."

"Leizenburgh, hmm? It's been a while since we've had someone from there in the Championship. It's a rather small, forgotten town."

"Don't I know it!" Roy muttered under his breath, remembering how bored he'd been all through his stay in that town. "Well, this boy is an orphan. Mother died when he was 10, father left without a trace even before that. His only living relative is his younger brother, who is seventeen. Since their mother died, they've been living with those that used to be their next-door neighbors."

"Yes, yes. But is he really good?" Bradley hadn't looked at the documents yet. He valued Mustang's opinion when it came to scouting-- he had a very keen eye for talent. And that's why he'd climbed the ladder so fast in the ATFF.

Roy supported his elbows on the table. "Well, to be honest, Sir, he doesn't have the most brilliant numbers. He's not even the best in his school's team. But from what I've seen and heard, I believe he has the right attitude. He seems determined enough. Perhaps with the proper coaching and medical care we might get him to shine."

His last phrase surprised President Bradley, he knew. Medicine wasn't something that usually came up during these sessions. "Medical care? What do you mean?"

Roy's eyes narrowed, and he looked down at the table. He knew Bradley would have his doubts after he heard this. "He and his brother were involved in a car accident shortly after their mother died; his knee is still somewhat fragile from it. Miss Hawkeye?"

Liza promptly opened another folder in front of her. "Broken left tibia, dislocated left knee and fractured right arm, along with various other superficial lacerations and bruises," she recited the injuries Ed had sustained out loud.

Roy turned back to the President with a grim expression. "His brother now has to use a crutch to walk."

"He has problems in his knee and you still think he can compare to the other runners in the competitions?" the President asked with a frown. He tought Mustang had more sense than to recommend someone that would bring so many inconveniences to the organization.

"It is precisely because of that that I think so, Sir," Roy explained, his expression serious and contemplative. His mouth remained hidden behind his hands. "He and his brother have been running since they learned to walk. From what I hear, after what happened to his mother, and after the accident, his resolve to go as far as possible has only strenghtened. He wants to be big, for himself, and because his brother can't be." He let out a deep breath and leaned back in his chair, crossing his arms. "Wanting to be at the top because of others... that's an attitude I can relate to. I think he can do it."

The President stayed silent for a few minutes. He understood what Mustang meant with that, but he chose not to comment. Strength of character was something that they valued a lot among the ATFF ranks; an ATFF-sponsored athlete didn't just have to be good, but he also had to be strong enought to withstand the enormous pressure that came with the title. Perhaps Mustang had hit the nail with this one.

"I see. Well, I don't think there's any trouble with running his profile down with the Board. We may just have a winner." He finally opened the folder and started reading the file. Mustang nodded and Hawkeye continued jotting down notes.

After a while, though, the President started to frown and Roy grew anxious. "Is there anything wrong, Sir?" He was sure he'd read and signed all the papers and at the moment everything seemed to be in order. Hawkeye frowned too, as she had also gone over them (she always went over the papers when he was finished-- it wouldn't be the first time he'd only finished half of them so he could go out) and they all seemed to be correct.

President Bradley closed the folder and cleared his throat. "I'm afraid it's not going to happen, Mustang."

Roy rose from his seat, looking dumbfounded at the man. "What? Why? Sir--"

"I can't discuss it with you," the President cut him off, signaling with a hand. He stood up from his chair and piled up the folders, arranging them in the correct order. "It would be better if you just left it alone. There's no use in presenting Edward Elric to the Board, I can assure you he is only going to be rejected. Do not go on with this." And with those words, he walked out of the conference room, leaving two stunned people in his wake.

--

They were still sporting grim expressions when Roy's car pulled up to Liza's apartment complex.

She pulled all her papers together and brought the strap of her purse to her shoulder, before opening the door. "I'm sorry things didn't go your way, Sir," she told him as she stepped out of the car.

"That's okay, Hawkeye," he replied, thumbs caressing the steering wheel as he spoke, not looking at her, but up front. Like he was thinking of things beyond her going back to her place. "Have a good night. And remember to start packing; we're going back to Leizenburgh soon."

Years of working with him had conditioned her to take everything he threw at her without loosing her composure. This time, though, he managed to surprise her. "Sir...?" she asked him, eyes wide and curious.

"We're going to bring the Elric kid to Central. With the Federation's permission or not." He smirked, and turned to look at her stunned expression. "You're not backing out on me now, are you?"

He saw her expression change and it was like he could hear what she was thinking. Confusion, at first. Then she was a little offended by his comment. Finally she settled on being serious and determined, like she always was. "Of course not, Sir. You know I'm by your side no matter what. I'm just wondering if you've thought this through..."

"Oh, but of course," he assured her, leaning back on his chair, still smirking, like it had been the easiest decision he'd ever made in his life. "The Federation's hiding something, and it's something big, if Bradley was so adamant on this application not going to the Board of Directors. I want to find out what it is, and this Elric kid is going to be my ticket in. I noticed Bradley was positive up to the point he learned Elric's name. I'm sure you noticed, too."

She had. And yes, Liza could see his point. This could be the weak point of Bradley's regime that they'd been looking for; it could be Roy's big chance. "I understand, Sir. I shall pack."

He looked at her again, and this time he smiled, a real smile. "I'm glad you're backing me up. I'll see you tomorrow."

She nodded, feeling very relieved. Closing the door of the car behind her, she walked into the building. She could hear the sound of her little pet barking happily as she opened the door to her apartment to get a good night's rest.
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