Title: Keep Moving Forward
Author: Jordanna Morgan
Archive Rights: Please request the author's consent.
Characters: Edward, Noa, Alphonse.
Setting: First anime. Set more than three decades into the future of my Tiesverse.
Summary: And they all lived happily ever after…
Disclaimer: They belong to Hiromu Arakawa. I'm just playing with them.
Notes: A glimpse into the future of the Tiesverse. I have never felt the desire to write a fully plotted story about the characters in this timeframe (and very much less any sort of "next generation" spinoff), but I do have a certain vision of how their lives progressed over the years. This fic is a small snapshot of that. It is written for the prompt "futurefic" at Genprompt Bingo.
"Ten minutes until the ceremony, sir," Lieutenant Colonel Aron Mustang noted dutifully, stepping into the inner office of the new commander of the State Alchemy Corps.
Pausing his battle against the twisted lanyard on his jacket, General Edward Elric scowled and glanced sideways from the mirror of the adjoining washroom. "Great. If I'm not down by then, it'll probably be because I've managed to hang myself on this thing… Aron, you can tell your dad that if I'd remembered how uncomfortable these uniforms are, I wouldn't have agreed to take over his job."
Aron chuckled knowingly. "Well, you did only agree to it on a temporary basis."
"Kid, my being a State Alchemist at all was supposed to be on a 'temporary basis'—just until I achieved my own goals." Ed smiled crookedly, but a trace of thoughtfulness crept into the expression. "Even back then, I think Roy had me pegged better than I did."
"It wouldn't surprise me." Aron's own smile was warm as he strode to the threshold of the washroom and reached for Ed's lapel, neatly tugging the braided cord into place. "But I'll let you in on a little secret, sir. Dad never entirely got the hang of these things, either."
Ed raised an eyebrow. "You're kidding me."
"Seriously. Who do you think has been the one straightening his uniform for him all these years?"
That suggestion alone was enough. Ed let out a laugh, shaking his head. "Your mother is really something else, Aron."
"Yeah, that she is…" Aron grinned and shrugged. "Will you be needing anything else before the ceremony, sir?"
"Nope, don't think so. You might as well go on down and start herding those kids into line. I'll be there in a few more minutes."
The faint smirk that hid behind Aron's crisp salute was entirely his father's. Ed smiled privately as the young man turned and left. There was a great deal of Roy Mustang in Aron—but even more of his mother Riza. Nothing less than a share of her cool precision would have driven him to try correcting Ed's hopeless lack of military poise.
With another shake of his head, Edward cast the mirror one more appraising glance. He had to admit that he didn't look half bad. In spite of the scars that lay beneath the stiff blue fabric, his physique had weathered the years well, thanks to the lifetime of physical conditioning he still maintained. Rather than be aged prematurely by the stresses of his youth, his face still looked much younger than it had any right to. He no longer wore his golden hair in a braid, but in a leonine shoulder-length mane that showed off the gray at his temples to good effect. With the addition of the uniform he had always loathed and avoided—except for extremely important, official occasions such as this—he managed to cut a far more dignified and authoritative figure than anyone might once (or even still) have expected of him.
Of course, he would have been even more impressive with a few more inches of height…
"You look almost too good," a soft voice purred from the other side of the office, sending a familiar warm tingle down Ed's spine.
Forsaking the black Hunter clothes she still favored, Noa was in full dress uniform herself—and lounging like an empress against the stiff white sofa cushions, she looked both more comfortable and more commanding than Ed could ever hope to. As he turned to her, she rose to approach him, smiling almost mischievously. His beloved gypsy had changed even less over time than he had, still so beautiful and strong.
He met his wife and partner halfway, with a sweet, lingering kiss.
"Aron has you spoiled, you know." Taking half a step back from Ed, Noa cast a critical eye over his uniform, and proceeded to tweak and tug it in a few adjustments of her own. "I still can't believe Roy agreed to the condition of making him your personal aide."
"I guess he just wanted me to say yes that badly." Ed smirked. "The poor kid grew up with the Mustangs for parents. It's time he learns how to live a little."
"Oh, he's definitely going to do that—if he can survive it."
Ed gave his wife a look of mock astonishment. "Darling, are you suggesting that I'm going to run anything other than a completely traditional, conventional, by-the-book administration?"
Her eyes sparkled as she leaned in to rest her forehead against his. "Heaven forbid."
They kissed again, and Ed made a contented noise in his throat, lightly nuzzling Noa's cheek. Then his eyes wandered down to the visible inch of automail wrist between his right glove and jacket sleeve, and his mouth quirked in a thoughtful half-frown.
"I'll tell you one thing. Nobody's going to keep me behind a desk." He glanced up at Noa, with a sudden smile of pleased inspiration. "Hey, I've got an idea. Once we get this whole dog-and-pony show out of the way, let's personally handle that case down south—those reports of wild alligator-chimeras. Leading by example, you know? …And it'd give me a chance to see if this new 'high-tech polymer' automail is really as good as Winry claims it is."
Noa let out a soft snort of laughter. "Three days on the job, and you're already looking for a vacation."
"A vacation would be you and me and a week in Aqroya. Tracking down chimeras in a swamp is field work—and that's still better than what they've had me doing these three days. I don't mind making the big decisions, but this forms-in-triplicate, requisitioning-paperclips desk-job stuff… Sorry. Not happening. That's what Aron is for."
"…And the truth comes out."
"Hey, there's no way I'm wasting the chance to finally boss a Mustang around. Besides, he and his dad would probably both kick my rear if I tried to go easy on him—and his mom would do even worse."
"I'm sorry, who exactly is bossing who?"
Wrinkling his nose at Noa in fond exasperation, Ed made a dismissive wave of his automail hand, and started for the door.
Down the hallway, Ed knocked at the door of his brother's office. Alphonse Elric was now the State Alchemy Corps' head of chimera research and rehabilitation; a natural outgrowth of both his love of animals, and his years of work at Central University with his father-in-law, who had been one of the greatest authorities on the subject. Although he kept busy in the lab, he still found time to join Ed and Noa in his share of field work—usually in his armored form.
When he called for Ed and Noa to come in, they found him at his desk, playing with his latest favorite pet among the chimeras confiscated from illegal researchers. An alchemist with an especially perverse creativity had managed to combine three animals: cat, bat, and lizard. Even Ed had to admit that the result was rather cute, with its jet-black scales, furry cheek-ruffs, and leathery wings. The affectionate little creature stood on its hind legs on the desk, nuzzling at Al's hands to beg for morsels of meat from a chicken sandwich.
"Is this really what you get paid to do?" Ed asked without preamble.
Chuckling, Al rose and dropped the remaining bits of chicken on his plate for the chimera to feast on. The younger Elric had traded his lab coat for a uniform, as well. Privately, Ed was sure Alphonse had always looked better in it than he did, too.
"Time for the ceremony?" Al asked, taking out a handkerchief to wipe his hands.
"No, we just came to ask you out to lunch—since you seem determined to feed yours to animals," Ed retorted. "This is why you're still scrawny after all these years!"
Noa rolled her eyes. "They're waiting for us downstairs."
With a good-natured shrug, Al tucked away the handkerchief and stepped forward. "Let's get it over with. I need to leave a little early today. Lucy and I are going to have dinner with Marta."
"That sounds lovely," Noa said warmly. "How is Marta doing?"
"She's wonderful. Everyone loves her at the University, and she's doing some impressive work. But then…" Al grinned somberly. "I guess her interest in chimera health and welfare goes deeper than following in my footsteps. If it wasn't for the research her grandfather and I were able to do there, neither she or Lucy would have made it through her birth."
Ed smiled as he led the way into the elevator at the end of the hall. "I don't think it's really about chimeras. Marta just loves to help people—and she gets that from you and Lucy."
"Yeah…" Al cleared his throat as he leaned against the elevator's back wall, suddenly looking rather uncomfortable. "Speaking of Marta, there was something she wanted me to ask you about. You know how much she looks up to you, Brother. And—well…" He squirmed. "She'd kind of like to know what you'd think about her going on a date with Aron."
Dead silence fell. Ed blinked at his brother, trying to decide whether he had truly heard what Al just said.
Noa bit her lip. "Al, did you seriously just pick now to bring this up?"
"Let me get this straight," Edward said slowly, before Al could reply. "You're saying my niece wants to go out with Roy Mustang's son."
Alphonse shrugged—just a bit defensively. "Well, they have known each other all their lives, you know. They've been friends since they were kids, but now that they're older… things have changed a little. They've gotten settled into their own lives, and it's made them start to see each other in a new way. So, as I understand it, they'd just like to see if there's anything… more to their relationship."
Ed closed his eyes, rubbing the bridge of his nose with his automail fingers. "Al, you do realize I just promoted Aron to my personal aide three days ago. Do you know how it'll look if he's suddenly out on the town with my niece too?"
"I see what you mean now about running a 'traditional, conventional, by-the-book administration'," Noa said archly.
That remark earned a wince from Ed. The elevator bell dinged, and he stared at his wife thoughtfully for a moment before stepping out through the doors.
"…Okay. I get it," he sighed, turning to Al with hands spread. "The course of true love, and all that—and I'm sure this was probably brewing for a while before I gave Aron the job. And if they really were to figure out they belong together… Yeah, no, I'd never want to be standing in the way of that. So you can tell Marta… whatever she wants to do, as long as it makes her happy, I'm all for it." He paused. "But you might add that it wouldn't hurt if they tried to be discreet for a little while. Just until Aron's established himself in his position. And I'm saying that for his sake, because the last thing he needs is people thinking he only landed his job by dating the boss' niece. Alright?"
Alphonse smiled gladly; but it was Noa's subtle, approving smirk that confirmed Ed had given the correct response.
"I am definitely going down south to round up chimeras after this," Ed muttered, as he turned and strode away toward the exit.
Outside of Central Command, the afternoon sun shone down brightly on the parade grounds. A long dais had been set up there, facing rows of seats that were already filled with guests. Ed's heart gave a quiver as he saw the waiting crowd of spectators. Years of lectures against human transmutation had given him some practice in public speaking, but he still hated it. He knew actions were his real strength, rather than words.
Of course, now that Mustang and Füehrer Armstrong had put him in charge of the whole thing, he was going to show the State Alchemy Corps all the action it could handle soon enough… but like it or not, his next duty required a lighter touch. This day was to mark the commissioning ceremony for the year's new crop of State Alchemists.
Ed wasn't enamored with the idea of making such a big fuss about it—and that was just one more item on the list of things he was tempted to change.
It should have been simple and matter-of-fact; the way it had been for Ed all those years ago, after his triumph in the skills test, when Mustang casually tossed him a State Alchemist's silver pocketwatch as if it was an afterthought. Ed had appreciated such blunt straightforwardness… but times were different now. These new young pups were coddled more by the military than he had ever been. Some over-budgeted study had declared that the pomp of a ceremony boosted the initiates' morale, and bonded them as comrades in a way that was never possible in the old days, when only one or two candidates were chosen each year.
…And perhaps, after all, it was true. Ed couldn't guess how things might have been different if any other State Alchemists had been accepted at the same time he was. Perhaps that commonality would have made them valuable friends and allies in the struggles afterward—and perhaps it really would be that way for these twenty-three new officers.
At one side of the dais, Aron Mustang was busily herding them into line. Like any ordinary graduation ceremony, they would wait to be called on in turn, to receive their commander's congratulations and a pocketwatch of their own. Ed took a deep breath, letting his gaze roam over their anxious, excited faces.
"They're so young," he said thoughtfully.
At his side, Al chuckled. "Not as young as you were once, Brother."
"Not as young as either of us were." Ed grinned ruefully at his sibling. "But young enough."
The ceremony went off without a hitch. Edward recited a few well-scripted words about the service the new State Alchemists were doing for their country, and then he called up each one by name, to say Congratulations and place a silver pocketwatch in their trembling hands. By her own volunteering, Noa attended Ed, holding the polished wood cases from which he lifted the watches. Alphonse stood with the row of other high-ranking officers and dignitaries along the back of the dais, smiling… with amusement at Ed's expense, the older brother was sure.
After the formalities were dispensed with, the assorted generals and politicians on the platform were quick to circle around Ed, burning with curiosity—and no doubt more than a little nervousness—about the agenda of the State Alchemists' new commander. He listened to them with half an ear, and gave them glib non-answers. The truth was, even he wasn't sure of his exact plans yet—beyond a determination to break this branch of the military out of exactly the staid routine those men probably clung to.
There were going to be interesting times ahead, that much was certain.
Meanwhile, the new officers had been dismissed to meet with their proud family members in the audience. Ed permitted much of his attention to rest on them, with a feeling that was suspiciously like satisfaction. He might have been cynical about the ceremony, but looking into their faces as he awarded their watches, he discovered he had a good feeling. Young, talented, and dedicated, they would help create the innovative future he wanted for the State Alchemy Corps.
Eventually—at a point when Ed had almost completely tuned out an especially windy general—he heard Noa faintly catch her breath. He cast her a quick glance of concern, and then followed her wide-eyed gaze toward the young alchemists and their families.
He remembered at once the young woman Noa was looking towards. She was one of the last to cross the dais—and when their eyes briefly met as Ed congratulated her, he was forced to resist a double-take, because she possessed the red-hued eyes of an Ishbalan. However, her skin and her nearly-blonde hair were both lighter than was typical of that race. He surmised she was a child of mixed parentage; something once frowned upon years ago, when bitterness over the Ishbal Rebellion still ran high, but now the innocent offspring of two races once at odds had become much more accepted.
Yet Noa had not reacted to the girl when she was only inches away, receiving her pocketwatch… and now Ed realized it wasn't she herself that his wife was looking at. Her gaze was fixed instead on the middle-aged woman who had enfolded the girl in a hug. Scarlet-eyed, exotic, and dark of complexion, she was distinctly a full-blooded Ishbalan, and just as obviously the mother. At her side was the girl's apparent father, tall and fair-skinned, with some blond hair still mixed into his gray. He wore a military uniform himself, and Ed could see the glint of a silver watch chain dangling from his pocket.
Even during the rebellion, of course, there had been cases of soldiers falling in love with those who were supposedly the enemy. And the father looked a little too young to have seen combat in Ishbal, which would mean the couple's romance came later—when there was still a stigma to it, but not the outright hostility of wartime. Either way, Ed could guess they had traveled a long, hard road… but now they had a daughter who was committed to serving all the people of Amestris, overcoming the years of prejudice and superstition between her parents' races.
In that first moment, looking at the family gave Ed a warm feeling, a reassurance that one more wound of the past was well on its way to healing. It was only a few seconds later, when his gaze shifted back to the mother, that he was twinged with a ghostly sense of déjà vu which was not quite his own. Had she only been younger, the graceful Ishbalan would be familiar…
His eyes widened, and he turned to Noa, quickly taking her hand to pull her aside—much to the indignation of the still-blathering general.
"That girl's mother," Ed breathed, in a low voice. "She's—?"
"Simza." A faint sheen of unspilled tears glistened in Noa's eyes. "My little cousin… Or her counterpart here, at least."
From Noa's memories, Ed could recall the sweet girl who was a member of Noa's native clan. The cousins loved each other very much. Before she was robbed of it by her years of existence as a dhampir, Noa had possessed a psychic gift, and Simza shared that trait—making their bond all the stronger. Simza was the last member of their family to have seen or spoken to Noa, on the fateful night when her first life was taken from her, and she was set on a path she never could have dreamed of.
Ed knew there was a correlation between the Ishbalans and the other world's Roma. In fact, they had known for years that Noa's counterpart was Ishbalan, and that she had died at the hands of Amestrian soldiers during the rebellion—a chilling mirror of Noa's own past. Yet somehow, Ed had never really considered whether any doubles of her relatives might still be alive. She never sought to pursue the subject, and that was probably just as well. Even if she found familiar faces here, they would not truly be her family; and if she learned that any of them had suffered tragedy, it would only raise painful questions that could never be answered, about her own people on the other side of the Gate.
At least this chance encounter was a promising sign for the fate of one person she had loved.
Pensively, Ed glanced back at the Ishbalan, the soldier, and their daughter. Then his gaze returned to Noa. "You alright?"
"…Yes." The tears fell then, but Noa smiled, bright and warm. "I don't think I could be any happier to see this. It gives me hope for the world I came from—and for ours."
With a smile of his own, Ed gripped Noa's shoulders and kissed her—paying absolutely no heed to the fact that several dignitaries still loomed nearby, watching with priggish disapproval.
Alphonse spared Ed from having to speak any further with those worthies. The moment the couple withdrew from their quick embrace, he was behind them, casually wrapping his arms around both of their shoulders—but that gesture was a discreet hug in itself. He may not have known exactly what had just passed, but he was certainly aware of it, and he wanted them to know he cared about it.
"I'm about to take off," he said, with an easy cheerfulness. "Listen, why don't you two join the girls and I for dinner?"
Ed raised his eyebrows. "I thought you wanted to spend this evening with Lucy and Marta."
"I want all of us to spend time together, Brother. We've been so busy lately… but now more than ever, I think it's time to be close. Besides, we have the big success of your first commissioning ceremony to celebrate." Al grinned deviously. "And this way, you can personally give Marta your blessing to date Aron."
As Noa laughed, Ed reacted with rolling eyes and a put-upon shake of his head. "I knew you had an ulterior motive…"
"You know he won't take no for an answer," Noa pointed out, her lips twitching.
With a chuckle, Ed gave in. "Okay already. We'll meet you in your office…" Then he paused as the smile slipped from his face, and he tugged uncomfortably at the stiff, gold-trimmed lapels of his jacket.
"But first things first—I'm not going anywhere until I get rid of this uniform."
© 2014 Jordanna Morgan