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Fullmetal Alchemist » After » Ever – Chapter Seven

Ever – Chapter Seven

Ed’s lessons turn to manipulation. Drama, Humor, I-3

Roy sipped his cooling coffee, reaching absently for the next report on his desk.

Most of his thoughts this morning were taken up with Edward.

He had half expected Edward not to return after Morland’s execution, but he had. And, while he had often seemed troubled or hesitant about the machinations and politics that Roy showed him and dissected with him, he had insisted that he wanted to know everything. So Roy had taken him to meetings and reviews, given him reports to read, told him what people weren’t saying or talked around until Edward started to see it for himself.

Initially Edward’s hesitance to use what he saw had concerned Roy, but as time went on and Edward threw himself into his “studies”, he had started to swing the other way. For the most part Roy was not terribly alarmed; he had seen Edward spar with his brother, and knew that he could enjoy the form of something whose full expression he used only rarely and with care. Still. It would be good to be sure.

Roy paused, with his cup halfway to his mouth, as a sentence in the report he was scanning sprang out at him.

Hm. Not, of course, that anyone would be foolish enough to…

A slow smile crept over Roy’s face. He reached for a sheet of paper and an envelope, the latter of which he addressed to Edward Elric, Fullmetal Alchemist.

Roy was, very deliberately, seated on the corner of Hawkeye’s desk when Edward came storming into the office, presumably having just failed to find Roy in his own office. An audience would be helpful for today’s exercise.

“What is this?” Edward demanded, brandishing a letter.

“It appears to be a letter, Fullmetal. Have your reading skills deserted you?” Roy inquired solicitously.

His staff, taking warning from the opening salvo, edged back.

Edward bared his teeth. Roy could almost see the howl of Quit trying to piss me off! trying to beat through them, but Edward never, ever asked Roy to go any easier on him. Today was no exception, and Roy mentally saluted the woman who had taught the Elric brothers alchemy. If nothing else, she had left Edward with an appreciation of how a hard training regimen could benefit him if he applied himself.

“You want me,” Edward growled, “to go chasing after her?” he waved the letter.

“Do you wish to debate the orders of your commander, Fullmetal?” Roy asked coolly.

This was the easy part. Edward knew a challenge when he saw one, no matter the context. Roy watched the first reflex straightening of his spine, saw his eyes widen as he took in the actual wording of Roy’s challenge, saw them narrow and watched Edward’s mouth curve up in a scimitar smile.

“It’s a waste of resources,” Edward declared.

Roy nodded approval for a good opening position.

“It’s obviously possible to capture her with less than my abilities, since it’s been done once already. Surely you don’t want me to be tied up with something trivial when a more serious matter comes up.”

Roy liked that when; far stronger than if.

“It’s been done before, to be sure,” he returned, “but not anywhere near as efficiently. A genuinely thoughtful distribution of resources arrives at you as the best solution.”

“Besides,” he added, examining his nails, “the note she left in her cell mentioned you by name.”

Edward, mouth open for the next volley, made a small erk! and looked at Roy wide-eyed. She didn’t really? his expression asked.

Roy shrugged and smirked faintly: I’m not telling.

Edward gave him a dirty look before collecting himself. “If she’s expecting me, it isn’t very good tactics to send me after her. All her preparations will be geared toward me. A different pursuer would throw her off enough to have a substantial advantage.”

“Are you saying you need an advantage to capture one woman whose alchemy is allegedly no match for yours?” Roy asked in an insulting drawl.

Edward ignored the tone admirably. Of course, confidence in his power was never one of his weak points.

“I thought you were concerned with efficiency,” he shot back, “but maybe you’re just interested in a showy stunt that will look good on your record.”

Roy smiled—a very good return. His staff was now flat to the walls, with the exception of Hawkeye who was attempting to do her paperwork, only an occasional twitch giving away her irritation. And, since they were well into the insult stage…

“If I’m concerned with efficiency, perhaps I shouldn’t be sending you after all. She has managed to enchant every man she encounters into witlessness.” Roy paused, artfully. “Ah, but I wouldn’t be sending a man, would I? I’d be sending a little boy.”

Ed had clearly been expecting this at some point, and only scored a desk clenching his right hand rather than exploding. It would do for now.

“You’d send someone you really consider a child after a wanted criminal?” he spat back. “Bravo, Mustang-shousho, I’m sure that’s just the sort of thing sure to find favor with Dai-Soutou Bradley. Are you so sure you want to be associated with what a child might do in a dangerous situation?”

Edward had been angling for something gratifyingly subtle, there, a threat to turn the slander around and make a perfectly deliberate fiasco appear to be his commander’s fault for sending an inexperienced agent. But what he hit on the way was a far richer target. Roy knew his eyes flickered, and knew Edward saw it.

Their eyes locked, and he saw memories come together into speculation. Speculation hardened into a weapon, an accusation. You would be that willing to have a child’s death on your hands? Edward took in a breath…

Caught it.

Conflict showed in his tense mouth and narrowed eyes. One breath. Two.

Roy raised a hand. “Enough.”

Edward relaxed, shaking himself, and slumped back against the file cabinets behind him.

“You saw it,” Roy stated. “Could you have used it?”

“I… it would depend,” Edward said haltingly. “This… this wasn’t important enough to use something like that.”

And now Roy relaxed, too. He knew the exhilaration of fencing like this could betray people into going further than was wise, or than they intended. But Edward had stopped himself.

“Excellent.” He laid a hand on Edward’s shoulder. “This is a form of combat like any other. Never doubt that it can be deadly, Fullmetal.”

“Yeah.” Edward swiped a hand through his hair, and looked up at Roy, eyes suddenly dancing. “So, is Psiren really on the loose again?”

“I’m afraid so, actually.”

Edward’s eyes widened. “She didn’t really leave a note…?”

“Oh, yes,” Roy said, serenely. “But, for several of the reasons mentioned, one of the female State Alchemists is being dispatched to recover her.”

Edward sagged against the cabinets muttering. The only words Roy could pick out were “…heart attack…”. He patted Edward’s shoulder and stepped back before his student started to consider the merits of physical retaliation. There were far too many flammables in the room for Roy to deal with that as expeditiously as he normally might.

A stack of folders nearly hit him in the chest.

“These will require your signature, Shousho,” Hawkeye informed him rather darkly.

In other words, Stop making trouble and be useful! Roy grinned.

“Of course, Shousa.” As he strolled out he heard Hawkeye speaking to Edward.

“You look like you could use a drink.”

“I’m underage, Shousa,” Edward pointed out, with a hint of longing in his voice all the same.

“You look like you could use one anyway,” Hawkeye said, and more quietly, “I know I could.”

Roy barely managed to make it back to his office before he burst out laughing.


Last Modified: May 15, 12
Posted: Feb 08, 04
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  1. arete

    *giggle* Huh… *giggle* Let’s try this… *giggle* …again… *laugh* Okay, I’m better now. *snort* Ed and Roy, fighting! And the only calm in the middle of the storm is Hawkeye… And Ed stops himself from saying… Sad thing is, I got involved with a friendship dispute that I shouldn’t have a couple days ago, and I know how hard it is to stop yourself from going too far and saying something, that while it might be true, is far beyond what the situation requires. I didn’tgo too far, but the intelligence and strength to not say it… Ed rocks my world. And Hawkeye offering the drink… *giggle*

    1. branchandroot Post author

      Yeah. It’s like any other kind of sparring–when you see the opening it’s hard not to just take it. But one of the things Roy’s been working on, after all, is for Ed to control his temper. And Ed is a genius, right?

      *pets Ed*

      I had to make it up to Hawkeye somehow… She puts up with so much.