Ever – Chapter Four

Ed gets a closer look at Roy’s job. Drama, I-3

Character(s): Edward Elric, Roy Mustang

Ed rapped briskly on the door of the General’s office as he entered. “So, what’s up for today?” he asked, perching on the arm of the couch.

“Keeping tabs on everyone’s research,” the General responded without looking up. “Particularly the civilian Alchemists like yourself. I’ll start on serving Alchemists tomorrow.” He gathered up a folder and stood, gesturing Ed to come along. “The reason I’m bringing you with me is so that you can observe,” he continued.

Fair enough, Ed thought. “What am I looking for?”

The General’s faint smile roused his wariness. “The keys.”

Ed could really do without all the cryptic word-games, but they seemed to be one of the General’s favorite past-times. The man had bad hobbies. “The keys to what?” he asked with strained patience.

“At each place we visit there will be one individual at the center of the efforts there. Not always the one who controls them, but the center nevertheless. Sometimes it’s the Alchemist. Sometimes a family member. Sometimes their military sponsor. Sometimes someone else entirely. See if you can tell who it is.”

Ed grunted an acknowledgement. He had to admit, when the General finally did break down and explain he did it very well.

“Apart from that, try to be unobtrusive.” He paused to eye Ed up and down before continuing, “Well, as unobtrusive as possible.”

“It isn’t my fault I’m well known,” Ed pointed out a bit acidly, “you’re the one who sent me off on so many high-profile assignments.”

The General gave him a tolerant look. The only way he could have been any more obvious was if he had patted Ed on the head. Ed seethed.

“Not your fault, perhaps, but certainly your own doing, Fullmetal.”

Puzzling out the distinction occupied Ed all the way to the waiting car.

Ed spent the day observing, as directed. Among other things, he observed that most civilian State Alchemists deserved their bad reputation. He had never met so many money-grubbing, recognition-obsessed, amoral flakes in such a short span of time before.

His assigned observation did go reasonably well, however.

He spotted immediately that the man researching metal fusions was working to the direction of his research assistant, who was not himself an alchemist. He correctly guessed that the woman dealing with genetic alterations that might breed true actually answered to no one but herself, and also that the way to handle her would be to play on her pride.

He even got the one he thought must have been a trick question, a suspicion more or less confirmed by the General’s gleaming smile when he admitted that he was, himself, the key for the very old man who researched nothing but how to refine the shapes of alchemical arrays.

“He disliked the former head of Research quite a bit,” was the General’s comment.

Considering how Ed had felt about Gran, he found it hard to blame the man, or be surprised by his enthusiasm for the new officer in charge.

Ed was running about eighty percent accurate, by his calculations, when they arrived at one workshop to find another officer present. The General nodded to the dark man sorting nervously through a stack of papers and returned the officer’s salute.

“Worthing-san, Marsh-shousa, I trust you are both well?”

Ed hung back as pleasentries were exchanged and generalities discussed, trying to pin down the sneaking feeling that he knew this Marsh person from somewhere. Judging from the covert glances Marsh kept giving him, the feeling was mutual.

A passing reference to Gran made it click. Almost five years ago, outside Tucker’s house, Gran had been taking the Alchemist away to some anonymous fate and Ed had argued. One of Gran’s soldiers had restrained him, long enough for the gallant Brigadier General to slug Ed. A rather nondescript soldier—medium complexion, brown hair, brown eyes, square face.

It was him.

And, by the way Worthing kept glancing at Marsh before he answered any question put by Mustang-shousho, Ed would bet Marsh was the key here.

The day just got better and better, he thought, disgusted.

Finally, Marsh looked at Ed directly and essayed a probe. “A new assistant, Mustang-shousho?”

A sudden, evil thought flashed into Ed’s mind. He put on his brightest expression and stepped quickly forward before the General could answer. “Oh, it’s so fascinating to see the range of expertise and research that State Alchemists encompass, Marsh-shousa! It really makes me feel the honor of being part of such an august body.”

The General coughed behind him.

“But, really, Shousa, I’m sure yours must be the hardest job of all,” Ed burbled on, “making sure the results are delivered effectively.” Ed let an edge creep into his voice on that last bit, though he kept his bright expression innocent.

Marsh blinked.

Satisfied, Ed let the General shepherd him out the door, only looking back at the last to offer Marsh a one-sided smile.

“What,” the General wanted to know once they were back in the car, “was that about?”

“Marsh and I have met before.” Ed rubbed a hand over his stomach reminiscently. “He’s the key here, isn’t he?”

The General nodded, still giving Ed a narrow look.

“He was one of Gran’s goons when I first came to Central. Was he put to work with Worthing by Gran, before he was killed?”

The General leaned back and crossed his arms, nodding again.

“Worthing’s the one who took over work on chimera, isn’t he?” Ed sniffed. “No wonder he’s nervous, I bet he’s getting few results if any.”

“I did say you had a talent for this,” the General remarked. “Now answer my question.”

Oh well, it was worth a try, Ed thought resignedly.

“He was the one who held me while Gran punched me,” Ed stated baldly. “I wanted to wind him up.”

The General looked at him for a thoughtful moment before his mouth twitched.

“You want him to wonder and worry whether the now-well-connected Fullmetal Alchemist remembers and holds a grudge.”


“I’m beginning to think that what you need to work on is less your technique and more your self-control,” the General sighed.

Ed made a non-commital sound as they pulled up to the next destination.

By the time they finally returned to headquarters Ed could barely put one foot in front of the other.

“How often do you do this?” he asked thinly, leaning on the wall while the General unlocked his office.

“Once a month.”

“And again for the serving Alchemists?” Ed resisted an urge to beat his head against the wall.

“You needn’t come along tomorrow,” the General told him, decoding the silent protest. “It would be just as well for that side not to see you with me too often.”

Ed heaved a sigh of relief, and watched, disbelieving, as the General went straight to his desk and started sorting out yet more work. He had an urge to tap on the man to make sure he wasn’t some sort of golem or simulacrum.

And then he saw the General sway just a bit, and put a quick hand out to support himself.


Ed looked around, startled, to see Hawkeye standing at the door beside him.

“Yes?” The General looked his normal self again as he turned, but now that Ed was looking for it he could see the tightness around Mustang’s eyes and suspect that he left his hands on the desk because they might not be completely steady.

He did all the talking today, Ed reflected, uneasy, plus a post mortem of every interview in the car afterward.

Hawkeye handed over a sheaf of paper. “His Excellency wishes to speak with you, Sir.”

“Of course.” The General took the papers and walked quite steadily out of the office he’d just returned to.

Hawkeye and Ed both watched him go, Hawkeye with concern plain in her face. Ed didn’t know what his own face might say, but Hawkeye patted his shoulder as she turned to go.

“It will be all right, Edward-kun. You can trust him to allow for having had a long day.”

As Ed left headquarters the General’s words came back to him.

…more your self-control.”

It wasn’t a game Mustang was playing, for all he called it that, not if he drove himself like this to succeed in it. Ed knew the face of life and death, and he’d seen it today in that momentary loss and retrieval of control.

Not a game.

Edward flushed a bit, and hunched into his coat as he stalked home.