Once More…Dear Friends – Four

Roy stirs things up and gets a new job. Drama, I-3

Character(s): Lisa Hawkeye, Roy Mustang
Pairing(s): Lisa/Roy

Roy lurked by the wall, watching the reception get into swing. The long, windowed hall was bright with lamps and starting to echo with the rise and fall of voices commenting on Professor Gauss’ presentation. It was worth comment, Roy thought. Gauss was not known as a good teacher, but he did have the gift of framing his conclusions clearly and completely, and any lecture of his was worth attending.

Of course, Hughes had failed to mention that this presentation would be about the ethics of civilians doing alchemical research for the military. Roy would have to think of a suitable way to thank him for that little surprise.

The small cluster around Gauss moved toward the buffet table, looking like it would cross into the Chancellor’s sphere where he leaned against a wall of his own. Time to move.

Roy couldn’t help a faint smile when Gauss stiffened at the sight of him; fortunately a bit of smugness would only start things off on the right note. He nodded cordially as he picked up a glass of wine. “Professor Gauss. An excellent presentation, as usual.”

“Mustang!” Gauss nostrils pinched. “I hardly expected you to attend. Surely you can’t have any interest in the subject of alchemical ethics.”

“On the contrary Professor,” Roy returned coolly. “I’ve had a great deal of interest in it for a long time.”

Gauss’ mouth worked like he wanted to spit. “You! What interest could someone like you, who willingly uses your abilities as an officer of the military, claim to have?”

“Because I was an officer, Professor.” Roy let his voice drop, relaxed for once and let some of the passion he rarely allowed in public view to show. “Only those who are willing to give themselves wholly to the service of their country and abide by the restrictions of an officer’s training and discipline have any place practicing alchemy for the military. Only those who can make no pretense to themselves or others that they have not chosen to kill with their power.” Roy lifted his chin and stood straight, offering no apology for his own choice.

Gauss eyed him with suspicion, but also, perhaps, a hint of grudging respect for that honesty. “That wasn’t what your precious military did, though.”

Roy’s mouth quirked. “No. One of the drawbacks of being an officer, I admit, was the requirement that I obey my superiors. Even when I thought their policy was wrong. All I could do under those circumstances was shield those under my own command. And seek enough seniority to affect policy myself.” He shrugged.

Gauss examined him for a long moment. “If I hear right, you won’t be affecting much of anything now, will you?” he asked at last, conversationally. Roy stiffened.

“If we are fortunate,” he answered, slightly stifled, “our new government will make it less necessary.”

“I suppose we can always hope,” Gauss snorted.

They exchanged wary nods and Roy took his drink and retreated to a window. He leaned his head against the cool glass and took a slow breath. Speaking, however vaguely, of the events that led to his discharge had spilled a box of memories that he tried to keep closed these days. Bright, clear, cutting moments recalled themselves: his own flame spreading like a live thing over the stones of Ishvar; excusing himself to run and empty his stomach when he met Tucker’s first chimera; the Elric brothers and their search, and Hawkeye’s voice telling him of Edward’s sacrifice and what it had accomplished.

Silently, he apologized to those memories for stopping. Another breath, and he straightened. He was moving again, now.

Hawkeye was sitting at the kitchen table, wrapped in her robe, one leg tucked up under her, when Roy got home. She had the big teapot steaming in front of her, and one of Roy’s teacups was set out at his place. “How did it go?” she asked, nodding toward it.

Roy poured out a cup for himself and wrapped his hands around its warmth with a sigh. “Just the way I expected it to. The Chancellor definitely noticed.” His mouth twisted. “The entire room noticed, I imagine. Now we’ll see if it was enough.”

She took a sip from her cup, eyes steady on him over the rim. “Will you really be satisfied with this?” Roy blinked at her and she snorted softly. “Just because I didn’t particularly enjoy being a soldier doesn’t mean I didn’t notice that you did.”

The thing that gave him hope, no matter how puzzling Lisa was to him, was that she so obviously cared. That probably wasn’t what he should be thinking about right now, though, and Roy made himself consider her question. “If I understand the position correctly, yes. I think it will be quite satisfying,” he answered, softly.

She nodded briskly. “Good.” She set her tea down with a clink. “Then all we can do now is wait. In the meantime, you can help me prune the apple tree. It looks like it will put out a lot of fruit, this year. If we want any at all next year we should trim it back, according to Renata. “

The new topic was welcome, even if their next door neighbor, Renata, wasn’t his very favorite source of advice. Roy wrapped prosaic home-concerns around him like a blanket against the cold of uncertainty. “Do we have heavy enough shears for that?” he asked dubiously, tallying up their accumulated yard implements. There weren’t many, so far.

“No,” Hawkeye said calmly, “but we do have two spare shovels and an alchemist, which should amount to the same thing. Maybe you can even get a new name out of it—the Household Alchemist.”

And then she giggled, probably at his expression.

Four days later Roy ran a slightly paranoid hand through his hair, as he followed a Chancellery Guard, to make absolutely sure there were no apple leaves or twigs still stuck in it. He was fairly sure his appearance wasn’t why his guide was giving him dubious looks, but it didn’t hurt to be sure.

The dubious looks escalated to a muffled protest when Roy was announced and the Chancellor waved for the Guard to stand outside the door. Ebert sighed.

“Do you want to kill me?” he asked Roy, bluntly.

Roy opened his mouth and closed it again. “No,” he managed, finally.

“There, see?” The Chancellor made a shooing motion at the Guard, and turned back into his office.

Roy firmly suppressed his amusement at the exasperated look the Guard directed at Ebert’s back and instead gave the man a sympathetic smile on his way in.

“Sit,” Ebert directed, taking a seat behind his desk and leaning back, rather wearily to Roy’s eye. “So, tell me, did you know I was going to be at Professor Gauss’ presentation?”

Clearly, Roy was heading for another superior who could spot him coming and going. This could be good or bad. “I was aware of your presence,” he offered.

The Chancellor gave him a wintry smile for that diplomatic prevarication. “You know how to speak the language. Good.” He leaned forward, elbows on his desk. “Parliament is right; we need a Minister of Defense. But, aside from the difficulty in finding someone qualified, the job is going to be bad enough that I don’t want to appoint anyone who doesn’t understand what they’re heading into and volunteer for it anyway. You have the knowledge for the job, and seem to have the ambition; that leaves us with disclosure. So listen.”

Blunt was definitely the order of the day. Roy composed himself to listen.

“Our neighboring countries are furious over our expansion into their territories, and the fact that there’s a new government doesn’t stop them from holding us responsible. What it has done, so far, is suggest enough civil unrest and disorder that they’ve taken the opportunity to counter-attack across our borders. I’m trying to make new treaties without giving away any of our land or emptying our treasury, but it’s damn slow going. Drachma, especially, wants both territorial concessions and reparations. So the person who’s put in charge of the military will have to convince them to hold firm at the borders without allowing any more ventures across them into our neighbors’ land. I’m told that’s incredibly stupid, tactically speaking; the Minister will have to enforce it anyway. He will also have to figure out how to keep some kind of stability among our recent conquests without starting any more outright civil wars, because we can’t afford more of those. Somehow, we’re going to have to wave the threat of military alchemists in our neighbors’ faces and at the same time give evidence of reforming our State-sponsored alchemical research to ensure that atrocities like those of the past fifty years don’t happen again. The Minister of Defense will be the one doing the lion’s share of this work, and he’s the one who will have to take the fall if any of it blows up.” Ebert sat back. “Still want the job?”

Roy had to take a moment to catch his breath, after that litany of disasters waiting to happen. The immediate thought that this was a life’s work and more was both terrifying and oddly comforting. “I didn’t imagine it would be an easy job,” he answered at last, quietly. “Yes, I do want it.”


Roy smiled crookedly back at the Chancellor’s narrow gaze. If blunt was Ebert’s style, Roy could give him blunt back. “I imagine you pulled my personnel file, Chancellor. It must note that my first deployment in the field was to Ishvar.”

Ebert tapped his fingers on one of the folders stacked about his desk and nodded.

“I gave myself to my country as a soldier, Chancellor,” Roy said, looking down at his folded hands. “I wasn’t unwilling. But what happened there was insanity. I wanted to keep it from happening again.” He looked up. “And now you’re offering me the leverage to see that it doesn’t. You have your volunteer, Sir, if I’m the one you want.”

“God help us both, Mustang, I think you probably are.” Ebert sighed, and then paused. “Did you really kill Bradley?” he asked in a tone of academic curiosity.

Roy couldn’t quite stifle a wince. He’d hoped this wouldn’t come up. He was entirely too likely to get himself, not only barred from office, but thrown in a mental hospital if he answered honestly. But Chancellor Ebert was the man in charge of the whole nation, now, and if anyone needed all the information straight, it was him.

He took a deep breath. “If I may tell the whole story from the start?” At Ebert’s nod he settled back and tried to order his thoughts. “Human transmutation is forbidden because of what it results in…”

Ebert listened to the whole explanation, of Homunculi, of the Red Stone, of the wars fought only to drive desperate research, with no expression. When Roy finished he was silent for a minute.

“That would sound far more unreasonable if I hadn’t spent the past couple months reading over the results of State Alchemists’ research and the specific orders Bradley sent to certain officers in charge of the worst incidents,” he said, at last. “As it is, I regret to say that I believe you. For everyone else’s consumption, I suggest you stick to the story that Bradley was killed by runaway monsters of research, not that he was one himself. It will make a good, acceptable reason to limit future research and oversee it more closely.”

Roy nodded, his respect for Ebert’s political abilities rising another notch. “Yes, Sir.”

Ebert heaved a long breath. “All right, Mustang. I’m going to appoint you. You’ll have to appear before Parliament, in case they have any questions while they debate your approval for the post. Be prepared.”

“Of course.”

They exchanged sharp smiles along with firm handshakes, in parting. This superior’s clear perception, Roy decided, was a good thing. What a pleasant change.