Title: Slow Burn
Author: Jordanna Morgan
Archive Rights: Please request the author's consent.
Characters: Ed and Al.
Summary: Sometimes a slower technique yields faster results.
Disclaimer: They belong to Hiromu Arakawa. I'm just playing with them.
Notes: Written for the prompt "Fast or Slow" at Fan Flashworks.
"Get back here, you brats! I won't let anyone get in the way of resurrecting my Una!"
As Alphonse Elric clattered along at a full run, shielding his brother Edward from the bullets that tinged off his own armored back, all he could think of was that there had to be a better way to handle these situations.
Not that this assignment seemed bound to end so badly from the start. When a recently-widowed State Alchemist named Ivor was flagged for making purchases of certain chemicals in certain specific amounts, it wasn't hard to guess what forbidden act he had in mind. Since Colonel Mustang knew the man personally and wanted to go easy on a fellow Ishbal veteran, he sent the Elrics to pick Ivor up from his small private island on a lake. It was Mustang's hope that the pair who knew the terrible consequences of human transmutation would be able to reason with him.
Except that there was no reasoning with a man as crazed with grief as Ivor was. When the Elrics confronted him with their suspicion of his plans, he pulled out a gun… and things went downhill from there.
In hindsight, Al realized he probably should have just stepped forward and snatched the gun away from Ivor. However, he hesitated out of fear of hurting the poor fool. By the time he'd recollected his resolve, Ed was running out the door, shouting for Al to follow and cover him. The armored boy emerged from the house to see Ed fleeing towards the dock—and the moored rowboat that was the only means of escape from the island.
Trying to retreat didn't make much sense that Al could see. Ed would only be more of a sitting duck in that small open boat, and if they left now, Ivor would rush to enact his scheme before reinforcements could return to stop him. Besides, it certainly wasn't as if the brothers couldn't take on a single armed man, if they did it properly. All they needed to do was disappear into the island's wooded hinterlands and come up with a quick plan to ambush Ivor.
…But no, for some reason, Ed was dashing straight toward the boat; and even more odd, three strides ahead of Al, the ordinarily nimble teenager appeared to trip on the weathered boards of the dock. He stumbled, falling briefly onto his hands and knees, before he pushed himself up and kept running.
As they reached the end of the dock, another bullet whizzed past Al's shoulder—and the rope with which the boat was tied suddenly fell slack into the water, severed by the shot. Helplessly watching the boat drift away, Al recalled the minor detail from Mustang's briefing that Ivor was also an expert marksman.
Hands raised, Ed boldly stepped out from behind Al's shielding form, and faced the deranged alchemist.
"Brother—!" Al began to protest, only to be silenced by a curt gesture of Ed's automail hand. Meanwhile, Ivor slowly advanced on the pair, making an ugly face.
"I'm sorry about this," he muttered, wild-eyed and leveling his gun. "I never wanted to hurt anyone, but I can't let you stop me… from…"
Ivor's words trailed off, interrupted by cracking sounds from the wooden boards under his feet. Baffled, he looked down—just in time to see a perfectly circular black scorch mark burn its way to the surface of the wood.
The once-wooden circle suddenly crumbled into charcoal beneath him, and with a yell, he plunged down into the water below.
Grinning smugly, Ed strode forward and squatted at the edge of the newly formed hole in the dock, to look down upon the splashing and sputtering older alchemist. "Oops. Did I do that?"
"You triggered the transmutation when you pretended to trip," Al realized, shaking his head in wry amazement. "But you slowed down the alchemic reaction, so Ivor wouldn't see it burning through the wood until he was on top of it."
"I figured letting him think he'd cornered us would be quicker than a round of hide-and-seek in the woods." Ed straightened from his crouch, still smirking. "Guess we'd better fish him out of there and tie him up, so he doesn't hurt himself or anyone else."
Al stepped forward, intending to help Ed haul Ivor out of the water; but then he paused as an unsettling thought occurred to him.
"Uh, but Brother? …How are we gonna get off this island now that the boat is floating away?"
2017 Jordanna Morgan