I don't own FMA

very mild past spoilers

Theme 30 - Conversation

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Roy didn't take the compartment reserved for military officers on his way back to Eastern, but sat in one of the regular cars with a bench along each side of the train. He would have gone crazy with his thoughts had he sat alone.

He kept himself busy by making small talk with various people around him on the train. For the most part of the ride he spoke with a man about his age—leaving home to go work as an alchemist in one of the bigger cities in the east. Roy almost envied him, being able to do what he wanted with his alchemy, but his own dream to make the country a better place to live put a stop to the tentacles of that emotion trying to wrap around him. Roy wished him the best of luck when they parted.

Now only three hours from his destination, he asked the older man to his left to wake him up when the call for Eastern H.Q. came. The man nodded, and turned his attention back to his book as Roy drifted off into a semblance of sleep, half-awake half-dreaming.

The old man next to him turned into his former teacher—scouring through some of his alchemy notes, making corrections, and then looking over at Roy to make sure he was doing his work.

He looked down at his hands, holding a book, but the words on the page were constantly changing.

Someone on his right let out a sigh—Riza, reading one of her novels again. When his teacher was once again lost in his book Roy nudged her, earning himself a glare—he'd obviously interrupted a heart wrenching moment in her latest bodice ripper. He smirked, whispering a comment about the quality of smut that made her blush. She elbowed him, narrowed her eyes even more, if that was possible, and jerked her head towards her father, warning him that the older man wouldn't approve of their interaction.

Unfortunately, her father had noticed something was amiss and turned to Roy. The tongue-lashing started, but oddly all Roy could hear was his name repeated, and then the shaking started. Suddenly his eyes snapped open and her father wasn't the one shaking his shoulder, but a man with an age-lined face and graying hair.

"We're at Eastern now, the man said, removing his hand from Roy's shoulder.

Roy blinked a few times before he remembered the past two days. "Oh, thank you," he told the man, retrieving his small piece luggage from beneath the bench and standing. He was barely out onto the platform before the train attendants announced the last call for people boarding.

He watched the train pull away as the remnants from his dream flittered from his mental grasp.

His first stop was his dorm room. He needed to go talk to Grumman, but he didn't need to have his suitcase for that. It was times liked these he was glad state alchemists didn't have roommates. He threw the suitcase on his bed and chucked his coat on top of it, glad for the warmth of the day.

Minutes later he was sitting alone in front of a bespectacled older man with a chess board on the desk between them, the man, General Grumman, had only looked at him when he entered, but gave no signs of initiating conversation since he'd closed the door and taken a seat. The man wrung his hand and turned the chess board around, the white pieces on Roy's side.

Roy may not have been an avid chess player, but he knew it well enough to know white went first. "Where is she?" he asked.

The man smiled, looking up from the game to the young man across from him.

"Roy Mustang, I presume. Play a game of chess with me, I'll tell you as we go," Grumman negotiated.

"No strings?" Roy asked, keeping himself alert for any traps.

"None. Just make your first move, and I'll start talking."

Roy looked over the pieces, and moved the pawn in the left corner forward.

"She's been enrolled in the academy," Grumman supplied, moving his pawn from the opposite corner.

"Why, when?" Roy asked.

"She wanted to, and less than a month ago," he answered.

Roy lost his attention for the game after that announcement, all the moves he made done without any logic behind them. He hung on the man's words about Riza's whereabouts.

"She's got quite a nice shot, you know. Not to mention, her reasoning for joining is admirable," Grumman offered.

"Yes, she's got great aim. She's been using a gun since before I knew her. Why did she join?" he asked, eager for the answer.

"To protect someone," he stated, moving his queen across the board. "You've lost your queen, Flame Alchemist. Check."

Roy looked down at the game, and made a feeble attempt to move his king out of harms way. "Who?"

"She wouldn't tell me. All she said was, 'Someone whose dreams are important to her'," he answered. Roy was silent, contemplating her answer. He looked up at the man, cursing the glasses that only reflected the light shining through the window. He wanted to see the man's eyes.

Two moves later. "Checkmate," Grumman announced.

"Didn't she need guardian permission?" Roy asked.

"Taken care of." Grumman replied, keeping the truth from Roy. He needed a way to test the young man in the future. "You're horrible at chess, you'll need to strategize better if you want to become more than a major," he informed Roy, picking up the black pieces and putting them back in place.

"How?" Roy inquired, following suit and setting the white pieces in place.

"Play chess more often. Maybe you play better offensive" Grumman explained with a smirk. He turned the board around

"No, how was it taken care of?" Roy growled.

"Oh, that," Grumman laughed. "Your move. The military has its ways when they find a talented individual."

Roy moved the same pawn as he had in the last game. "Can I have her unit number, so I can write her?" he asked, hating to ask this man for anything.

"She can't get mail for at least another month, you should know that, but win this game, and I'll have Krantz deliver it to her personally. Don't become too predictable," Grumman cautioned.

"You know Krantz?" Roy asked, baffled.

"Yes, he used to work under me when I was a Colonel, until he got hurt and decided to take the job of mail clerk. One of my best," Grumman explained, taking one of Roy's knights with his rook. "He's good with codes," Grumman laughed.

"Tell me about it," Roy huffed, capturing the rook with a bishop.

"I see you've grown serious about the game, she must be important," Grumman concluded.

Roy didn't answer, but watched the man's hand hover between one of his knight and remaining rook. "You shouldn't let opponents know which pieces you value the most so easily," Grumman advised, using a knight to exterminate a pawn getting too close to his side of the board.

"Neither should you." Roy smirked, capturing the man's last rook.

"Touché," Grumman laughed. "You're a quick study, but you haven't learned my secrets yet." He moved his queen forward, to a spot clear of enemies.

Roy hesitated, none of his pieces could reach her, but she could reach them.

Seven moves later.

"Checkmate," Grumman announced. "I have a meeting, but you're welcome to come back tomorrow," Grumman offered, flipping the board over and fitting each piece into its carved out place.

Roy nodded, and helped him put the last few pawns away. "Same time?" he asked.

"Yes, and maybe we'll up the stakes a bit," Grumman said, watching the young man leave his office. He picked up the paper that he had put under the chess board. "He seems promising," he muttered to himself, grabbing a pen and filling out the transfer request form. It would be interesting to have the Flame Alchemist working for him.

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A.N.-There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that the next chapter will be the conclusion for this arc. There will be a bit of a time jump, but if I ever get inspiration to write something that occurs between the time this one takes place and the time Battlefield takes place I'll post it and let you know it belongs with this set. Word count-1,340. It's late, and I've looked over this more than a couple times for typos, I hope I didn't miss much. Thanks for reading!

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