Pairing: Pre-slash Roy and Ed
Prompt Set: 100.4 (table HERE)
Prompt: 097 – Mess
Word Count: 3487
Summary: Ed's new assignment proves just how far he is from being politically correct.
Warnings: UST, language
Notes: This takes place at the *very* beginning of the universe Wandering Kind and Static take place in. Which means that this is an AU where Al was revived and Ed still has his automail. Also, yay for stress relief! This is all for today, however, as I should really be studying right now… ^^; Unbeta'd, same as usual.
ETA: There is now a masterlist for this universe, detailing the order of the fics within it. It can be found HERE.
Seventeen was a dangerous age. Not for Ed, obviously, the boy—young man, Roy corrected—seemed completely and willfully ignorant to any sort of danger. Rather, it was dangerous for Roy. Seventeen was the age when a person began transitioning from okay to look at, off-limits to touch to have at it! while still not being quite of the proper age.
Off-limits was definitely the best way of looking at the situation, but Roy's well-prided self-control was having none of that. It was the sort of battle he'd never expected to have with himself.
Heaving a deep sigh, Roy flipped open the file he'd received straight from the Fuhrer himself, read through the first few lines, and smirked. Perhaps, he was in need of a distraction.
"Havoc," Roy called, "I have a job for you."
There was something about spring that drove Ed absolutely up the wall. Maybe it was the ridiculous amount of allergens polluting the air, or maybe it was the way that every living creature in plain sight seemed to be running headfirst toward copulation, but whatever the issue, Ed was ready for the seasons to shift like he'd been ready for Al to get his body back.
"Here's the book you requested," the librarian said, handing the thick volume to Ed. He nodded his thanks and was quick to disappear back into the study room, away from the thicket of alchemists taking up the entire lobby of the first branch's library.
Ed hated when all the State Alchemists gathered in Central. Those bastards always sat in his chair! For three years, three fucking years, he'd sat in the exact same spot. Every time all those pompous twats showed up for some gathering or other, one of them would, without fail, sit in his chair. If Ed was even a fraction less tolerant than he was, he might have alchemized whatever poor bastard was unfortunate enough to have put his ass in a chair where it didn’t belong into something—probably another chair, one that Ed would have stuck in his living room and piled books on or maybe let Al put the cat's litter box on.
"That's a dangerous look you've got on your face, boss."
Ed's head snapped up, all thoughts of vengeance and litter boxes fading at the sight of Lieutenant Havoc lounging against the door to the study room.
"You're not allowed to be in here," Ed pointed out. "Alchemists only!"
Havoc snorted. "I got express permission from the General to come hunt you down. Says he needs to talk to you about the—whatsit, the thing going on with all the alchemists." He waved a hand at the group just outside the study room. Ed scowled.
"I don't want anything to do with any of them," he said stubbornly, fully willing to hibernate in the library until they all went back to whatever corner of the earth they came from.
"Sorry, boss," Havoc said.
Ed spared a moment to imagine alchemizing Mustang into his new favorite chair before following Havoc to the car.
Havoc lit up immediately outside the library doors. "So what is going on, anyway?"
"I don't actually know," Ed admitted, climbing into the passenger's side seat. "It's all been kept pretty quiet. I think there's something going down with the shift in administration."
"The new Fuhrer was never one hundred percent for the alchemy program," Havoc mused.
The drive between the library and Central headquarters usually took five minutes at most, but with the horde of alchemists flooding into town came family members and subordinates and commanding officers, enough people that the streets were cluttered. It took fifteen minutes and two near pedestrian-related accidents to get to the base.
Havoc let Ed off at the street entrance, advising him to just go. "The motor pool's gonna be hell to deal with," the lieutenant groused. "Just get outta here."
Ed wasn't about to argue with him.
When Mustang received the promotion to general, he'd also received a new office, a bigger one. His old office was right in the center of everything, easy to find and easy to get into. Apparently, becoming a general meant that, while the office was bigger, it was also meant to be at the very far left end of the base, with three different offices and secretaries between its entrance and the main corridor.
Ed hated the new office.
"Fullmetal," Mustang said the moment Ed walked in, "how good of you to show your face." The bastard hadn't even looked up, and Ed wondered just how the hell he managed that, anyway
"I've been busy," Ed bit out. "What do you want?"
"Is that any way to speak to your superior, Major?"
Asshole, asshole, asshole. "Depends on what kind of superior," Ed replied snidely.
Mustang smirked, that typical smug I am so wonderful look that he always had on his face whenever Ed bothered to look. "I see. In that case, I have your new assignment."
Well, shit. "And what's that?"
"As you're well aware," Mustang began, and Ed rolled his eyes, thinking and here he goes… "all State Alchemists have been required to come to Central. Do you know why that is, Fullmetal?"
"No, sir, I have no idea," Ed said. He dropped down into one of the chairs sitting in front of Mustang's desk and took to staring at the ceiling and twiddling his thumbs.
"The new Fuhrer," Mustang slammed a palm down on his desk to recapture Ed's attention, "has decided to impose stricter regulations on the alchemy program. The first of those being a mentor program."
Ed stared. "Mentor program?"
"And he's decided that, in order to get the alchemists on his side, there needs to be a… test run. I'm sure you understand."
Oh, hell no, he was not saying what Ed thought he was, was he? Mustang was smirking even wider, and Ed, despairingly, realized that yes, Mustang was saying exactly what Ed thought he was. "You have to be kidding," Ed said. "No, no way."
"I am completely serious," Mustang insisted. "There's only been a single recruit since you were added, and he's—well, he's older than you, of course, but that isn't saying much—" Ed glared. "The point is, you have the sort of reputation needed to get positive attention on the new program."
"And how are you figuring that?" Ed demanded. "According to you, I'm a fucking wrecking ball!"
"You are," Mustang agreed. "Fortunately, you're a wrecking ball that the people can't seem to get enough of. Here," he slid a file across the desk, "is your mentee. You'll be meeting with him tomorrow afternoon."
Ed picked up the file, opened it, scanned the page, and put it back down. "Oh god," he said.
Mustang raised a brow at him. "Is there a problem?"
"He's old! He's really, really old!" Ed opened the folder again. "He's—do you really expect this guy to listen a single thing I say?'
"Exac—wait." Ed blinked. "No?"
"Tomorrow afternoon, Edward," Mustang said. "Be certain that you're on time."
Ed stood, still blinking rapidly. "But—no? No, why?"
"Good afternoon, Edward," Mustang said, a bit louder, and Ed, nonplussed, turned and left the office.
"With all due respect, sir," Hawkeye began, "I'm not entirely certain Edward was the perfect choice."
Mustang, feeling entirely too pleased with himself, just smiled at her. "I'm well aware of that, Lieutenant."
She pursed her lips in a show of disapproval. "I suppose this is one of those things I don't want to know about."
"Very likely," Mustang agreed.
The picture in the file was one of a man named Elliot Westin, an alchemist specializing in tracking and hunting alchemy—and one who had taken the state alchemy exam a grand total of thirty-three times. He was closing in on seventy-five years old, and something told Ed that Elliot Westin was not going to take kindly to having a teenager boss him around.
"Brother," Al said after listening to Ed rant for the better part of an hour, "I think you're missing the point."
"I don't think I am," Ed sulked, restlessly stirring the soup Gracia had given them the night before.
"If you're supposed to be a mentor, I don't think that gives you license to tell the guy what to do," Al pointed out. "I think you're just supposed to—make him feel comfortable. Or something."
"There's nothing comfortable about being a state alchemist," Ed said flatly. "Especially not if he has to work for Mustang."
"Hell if I know," Ed said. "Not if he's lucky, that's all I'm saying."
Stupid Mustang and his stupid assignments and his stupid face. Ed should have resigned as a state alchemist the moment Al got his body back, but he couldn't bring himself to. Now look where he was, preparing to play tour guide to some senile old man.
Mustang, Ed vowed, was going to pay—one way or another.
Senile was the perfect word to describe Elliot Westin. Ed hadn't been sitting at the table for five minutes, and the man had already introduced himself three different times.
"Ask for more napkins," Elliot insisted. "Damn waitresses never leave enough."
"Uh," said Ed, eloquent as ever. Funny thing was, they didn't even have a waitress. It was a waiter. And the napkin dispenser was on the damn table, thanks ever so much. Ed reached across the table, tapped his automail index finger against the dispenser, and then pulled out a wad of napkins and dropped them in front of Elliot.
"Good lad," Elliot said, and began folding all of them. He even had a little pill bottle. Ed watched with something akin to horror as the old man folded a veritable rainbow of pills into the corner of one napkin, then set it between his coffee and his water, looking very satisfied. "Can't forget my pills," he explained, patting the napkin.
"Uh," Ed said again. He cleared his throat. "So, uh, welcome to," fuck, what was he supposed to be saying, "the State Alchemy program."
Elliot spared him a glance. "What?"
"The State Alchemy program," Ed said, a bit louder. "Er, I'm the Fullmetal Alchemist. Uh. What's your title?" Did he sound as asinine as he thought he did? Probably. Ed winced.
"You're the Fullmetal Alchemist?" Elliot looked bewildered. "I thought you worked here!"
This wasn't going to work.
"..and then he kept asking me for more napkins! I even put the god damn dispenser in front of him, and—Mustang!" Ed barked. "Are you even listening?"
He was livid, obviously so. Ed's hands were clenched at his sides, swinging every so often as he paced back and forth in front of Roy's desk, face flushed with some mix of humiliation and fury, his braid whipping around behind him. No, Roy wasn't listening. He was just taking in the sight.
Clearing his throat, "I never said it would be easy, Ed."
"You never said it would be impossible, either!" Ed accused.
"Sit down," Roy said. "Watching you pace is exhausting."
Ed sat down, making even that simple movement appear loaded with energy. ”What do I do?" he asked at last, and Roy knew he had to be at his wit's end to be asking for any help from the man he routinely called bastard.
"A demonstration?" Roy suggested. "Perhaps if he saw you in action—and you saw him—the two of you would be more companionable."
"Nothing," Ed swore, "will ever make me feel companionable with that old shit."
"With age comes wisdom," Roy said, and Ed looked dead at Roy's face and said, "And wrinkles, too?"
That little shit.
Brushing off an uncharacteristic wave of self-consciousness, Roy sighed. "There's no reason to be difficult."
"Me? How am I the one being difficult?" Ed demanded.
Roy would have answered, really he would have, but Roy's eyes got stuck on a sliver of skin peeking out where Ed's collar gaped, the fabric parted enough that the very edge of his port was visible. Would it have been forward to insist Ed button his collar?
Feeling a sudden wave of heat, Roy pulled at his own collar. The room was getting warm, that was all.
"Well?" Ed stared, impatient. "You're being more useless than normal today, Mustang."
Off limits, Roy reminded himself, and fixed a scowl onto his face. "I believe I've given you my suggestion," Roy said haughtily. "Whether you chose to follow it is, as you know, entirely up to you, Fullmetal. The man is your mentee."
Ed let out a frustrated noise. "What the hell!"
"I'm expecting your report in by the end of the week," Roy said. "That's Saturday—five days. I suggest you figure something out, because you'll be presenting your observations on the program to the Fuhrer and the entire college of State Alchemists on Sunday."
"No," Ed said, a look of horror overtaking his features.
"Oh, yes," Roy confirmed.
Ed dropped his face into his hands. "Shit."
My sentiments exactly, Roy thought.
Ed could deal with pressure. Hell, Ed was great with pressure and deadlines and all that stupid shit, but five days to put together an educated report about some big-wig's proposed program? He was going to look like an idiot, he was.
And Elliot Westin was not helping.
"Look," Ed said for the third time, "all you need to do is—is give me a demonstration! See? Like this," he clapped his hands and knelt down, pressing his palms to the ground, which sprang up into a little sculpture of a dragon. Grinning, he looked back up, only to see Elliot already toddering off toward the duck pond at the other end of the park.
Groaning, Ed got to his feet and jogged after him. "Can you just listen?" he demanded.
Elliot shrugged, adjusting his glasses. "Can you?"
"What?" Ed stared. "What are you on about? We're on a deadline!"
"I do love duck ponds," Elliot said.
Ed rubbed his eyes and resisted the urge to shriek obscenities.
"Four days, now, Edward," Roy said the moment his subordinate kicked the door closed behind him. "And judging from the look on your face, you're still in the same rut?"
"Fuck," was all Ed had to offer. "This guy is—he's not even—augh!"
"Expertly put," Roy snorted. "I take it he's not interested in the least?"
"I'm not sure he actually knows who I am," Ed grumbled. "Mostly he just ignores me."
"I do hope you're keeping notes."
"Why? So you can laugh at my suffering?" Ed huffed. "Yeah, I'm keeping your damn notes."
"Excellent." Roy smiled, never a pleasant sight for Ed. "Tomorrow is a new day, Ed. I suggest you keep trying."
"God, I hate you."
The next day went much the same as the day before it—as well as the next day after that, and after that. By the time Friday rolled around, Ed was no better off than he'd been the first day he and Elliot met.
It was endlessly frustrating.
"Why won't you just cooperate?" Ed finally demanded, sticking his finger in the old man's face. They were in the park again, and a woman standing nearby with her young children covered her mouth, giving Ed a scandalized look.
People, Ed decided, sucked.
"Why won't you?" Elliot replied.
"I have nothing to cooperate with!" Ed 's voice went louder. "You're just a stubborn old fart!"
"And you," Elliot said, leaning forward and speaking with a clarity of mind that Ed hadn't heard from him before, "are just a stubborn little shit!"
Wait, what? Ed stared, frozen, one finger still pointing right in the old man's face.
Elliot took off his glasses, polishing them with his shirt. "No patience, you and your lot."
"Me and my lot?" Ed gaped. What the hell was going on?
"All the alchemists," Elliot informed him, sounding more and more like a crotchety old man. "You think everything is," he waved a hand, frustrated, "big and showy and now. You're supposed to be, what, my mentor?"
Ed nodded mutely.
"How the hell're you supposed to teach me anything," the old man demanded, "when all you do is whine and talk at me?"
Ed's mouth opened and closed, fish-like. His finger dropped, his hand flopping by his side.
"You wrote me off, kid," Elliot said, "so why shouldn't I do the same?" He turned to walk off, then stopped. Turning back to Ed, he pulled his kerchief from his pocket, dropped it on the ground, and, just as Ed caught a glimpse of a stitched circle, stepped on it.
The ground beneath Ed opened up into a circle, and he fell, barely having the time to scrabble at the edges.
Stuck at the bottom of a ten-foot deep hole in the middle of Central Park, Ed stared up at the old man, who stared right back down at him and said, "There's your damn demonstration!" and walked off.
Ed stared up, ass still on the ground, as a vine poked through one of the earthy walls and began jabbing him the side of the head, annoying and insistent.
"Well, now I feel like an ass," he muttered, and got to his feet.
Sunday rolled around with nary a glance of his rowdy subordinate. Roy was getting nervous. He knew Ed was still in Central. He'd sent Havoc to make sure of it. But, glancing down at his watch, Ed's presentation was supposed to begin in five minutes, as soon as the Fuhrer winded down his tedious speech on his progressive new idea for the alchemy program.
God, he hoped Ed got there soon. The trouble was that, regardless of when Ed arrived, Roy had no idea what he'd say.
When an aide came up to whisper in the Fuhrer's ear, the older man breaking into a grin, Roy let out a relieved breath.
"And now, to provide a more practical view of the program, Major Elric, the Fullmetal Alchemist." He gestured to the side, and Ed walked onto the stage, scowling. The audience woke up enough to break into a quiet, polite applause.
Roy shifted in his seat.
"Uh, hi," Ed said into the loud speaker, taking a step back when it squeaked loudly. "Er. So."
He stared into the audience. Several hundred people stared back.
Roy could read the look on Ed's face, the why me?, and suddenly felt his stomach drop.
"The program is a mentor program," Ed said, obviously scrambling for something to say. "And, well, you know, it was a good idea… in theory."
The Fuhrer, standing just behind and to the side of Ed, began to frown.
"In reality, though, it, well, it pretty much blows."
"'Cause, think about it," Ed said. "I don't know any of you assho—er, people. And you don't really know me. And most of the time, we don't wanna know each other. We just wanna do our jobs and that's pretty much that. My mentee was an alchemist specializing in earth alchemy, with an emphasis in hunting and tracking. And mostly, we didn't really—well, we weren't compatible." Ed looked chagrined. "At all. I mean, why stick us together? Outside of our specialties, we had nothin' in common, nothin' to tie us together, and we pretty much just hated each other."
Now the Fuhrer was really frowning. Roy did his best not to outright show how smug he was feeling.
"So, uh, in conclusion, given the exclusive nature of the program," Ed was finally getting comfortable on the stage, it seemed, "I'd have to say this is a pretty bad idea. We'd need a board of people specifically to match mentors and mentees, and who the hell wants to do that? Not to mention how wide a variety of people there are. The chances of finding compatible mentor-mentee pairs for every new recruit is slim to none." He paused. "I'm leaning toward 'none', just so you know."
Ed stopped talking, and the entire audience remained silent—the Fuhrer included.
Roy, sitting in the middle of the front row, couldn't have been more thrilled.
"Wasn't there an easier way to do that, sir?" Hawkeye finally asked, two weeks later. "Edward hasn't shown his face since."
"The Fuhrer wanted proof that the program wouldn't work before trashing the idea," Roy shrugged. "Ed's always been good for redirecting military policy, whether he knew it or not."
Hawkeye's disapproving expression spoke her thoughts on that matter well enough, though whether she was directing it at him or Ed, Roy hadn't a clue.
Really, though, it was too bad Ed had felt the need to ditch town and run straight for Resembool after the presentation. Roy had so been hoping to take him out to dinner that night.
For celebration only, of course.