The Road

Ed thinks over what he knows about Roy. Drama, I-3.

“…so, unrest, yeah, and plenty of it, but I don’t think Sur will be a real problem. Everyone was just nervous.” Ed shrugged and slouched down a bit further in his chair. “That’s all a lot of the problems are, even the riots.”

“Only to be expected,” Mustang noted, “though I wish I could convince more of my officers of that truth.” He shrugged against his glass backrest.

“Hawkeye-shousa would have fits if she saw you standing with your back to the window like that,” Ed observed. A corner of Mustang’s mouth curled up.

“Hawkeye-shousa knows the value of a gesture. She would only glare.” Ed raised his brows.

“A gesture?” Not that Mustang wasn’t past master of a certain flamboyant showmanship, but Ed wondered how something the Major would likely term reckless self-endangerment could be a gesture.

“Bradley’s office was buried in the middle of this building,” Mustang pointed out. “Mine faces out over the city. And by standing at these windows, and being seen here, I say that I trust the loyalty of the people around me. Soldiers and civilians both.”

“So that they’ll trust you back?” Ed hazarded, after a moment’s thought.

“I can hope. And for those who aren’t in line of sight, there’s you.”

Ed raised his brows. Mustang shrugged and turned to face the windows.

“The outlying areas have nothing but rumor and reputation to judge by. And your reputation is far… cleaner than mine. Your presence, in my name, is a pledge of good faith. Without that I would expect a good deal more panic.”

Every now and then Mustang told him, not only how he was using Ed now, but how he had used him before. Ed thought this might be one of those times; his commander had been doing it more often lately. So he thought about what he had done as the military’s rather rogue dog, and the reputation it had made for him. Thought about the things he had been able to do, and the things he had never had to deal with. He’d known for years about the latter. Maybe it was time to say so.

“My reputation is cleaner because I was protected,” he said, slowly. “You… didn’t have anyone to deal with the politics for you. Did you?”

He took Mustang’s silence for agreement. And then he tilted his head, curious.

“How did you keep them off me, anyway?” Mustang had never really told him. Of course, Ed had never asked; until a year or so ago it wouldn’t have occurred to him to ask. Mustang snorted.

“I told them the truth. You were young. It was only to be expected that you would act impulsively, without considering the long term consequences.”

Ed narrowed his eyes at Mustang’s back. “That doesn’t explain why they left me loose,” he pointed out.

“I told them I could control you,” Mustang said, flatly. “They were stupid enough to believe me.”

“Didn’t you?” Ed asked. Mustang laughed.

“You reminded me a good deal of those unstable Stones. They thought those could be controlled, too. But you don’t control something that intense. The best you can do is place it where you want something changed, and hope it does more damage to your opponent than it does to you.” He glanced back over his shoulder. “I, for one, am very pleased you’re no longer so driven, Elric-kun. Placing you properly was very wearing.”

Ed had enough to think about for now, so instead of rising to the bait he simply bowed and took his leave. As he strolled down the halls toward the front doors he thought.

Mustang might be surprised that anyone had believed he could control Ed. Ed wasn’t. The man practically radiated control. Of course, the flip side of that, and the most likely reason Mustang hadn’t believed he could, was Mustang’s own intensity. Mustang obviously, at least to Ed, knew first hand how… intractable it made a person. And, Ed had to admit, Mustang’s control was considerably less than perfect if you knew what to look for: the times when he baited dangerous people, the moments when he walked head-on into death and never seemed to notice. It was enough to convince anyone that man was an adrenaline addict, if they didn’t know that it was just his drive breaking loose for a moment.

As if he had any room to talk about addiction to thrill, Ed reflected wryly. He tried to stay honest with himself, and so he admitted that was one of the major reasons he had returned here. For all the times he had thought his and Al’s search might eat his soul, there were things he missed now that the search was over. He could do without the desperation, but there was a vital edge that it had called out. Uncontrollable, frequently, yes, but Ed had liked it. He rather suspected Mustang knew it. Surely he recognized it as the same thing behind his own little outbreaks of behavior that gave his staff heart attacks.

Those outbreaks were a lot less frequent, now that Mustang had, like Ed, achieved his goal.

Ed paused in the middle of the hall.

Or was that it?

Maybe, he thought, walking on, he was wrong. It was obvious to anyone that Mustang’s new job was, to make a colossal understatement, time consuming. And energy consuming. Had Mustang come to the end of his road, reached some kind of satisfaction, or was it just that his road was taking everything he had, now?

Everything Roy Mustang had was a very great deal.

Was that what Hughes kept hinting at, when he said how glad he was that Ed was back?

Ed was still mulling over that thought when he emerged into the falling evening to see his housemate waiting for him with a car.

“Maria-san,” Ed sighed, “I was coming straight to the house from here. You didn’t need to wait.”

“No trouble at all, Edward-san,” she told him blandly, getting in and patting the seat beside her. Since arguing with Maria’s protective instincts was an exercise in futility, right up there with trying to keep Hughes from gushing over his family, Ed climbed in.

He didn’t realize he was frowning at empty air until Maria touched his hand to get his attention.

“Hm? Sorry?”

“Was this a difficult assignment?” she asked, frowning a bit herself. Ed shook his head.

“No, actually it all went pretty easily.”

“Did Dai-Soutou Mustang say something, then?” she suggested shrewdly.

“He always has something to say,” Ed snorted. Maria eyed him for a moment.

“I see,” she said, and let him be for the rest of the ride.

Ed thought about the help he’d had on his own road. Much of which he had received whether he liked it or not. When the car stopped and they got out, he stood for a moment, looking up at the house he and Maria shared.

He was still getting a good deal of help, whether he liked it or not.

“Edward-san?”

“Maria-san,” he said quietly, looking down at his right hand, “what if we hadn’t succeeded? What if… things… hadn’t come out right?” He looked up when she took his shoulders.

“Then we would have helped you keep looking until it did,” she said, firmly.

Perhaps, Ed thought, turnabout was fair play. He straightened and nodded, and followed Maria up the stairs.

It was time to start keeping a closer eye on his commander.

End