The boy with the prosthetic limbs and the boy with the mop of shaggy black hair sat side by side in the chairs of the principal's office, listening nervously to the amplified ticking of the clock. Eventually, the first boy began to fidget, tapping his fingers on the side of the chair, while the second merely pretended to act uninterested. But although the two children were handling their anxiety differently, the same feeling possessed both of them.
After an impossibly long silence, the door to the room creaked open, causing both boys to flinch slightly. A severe looking man with a very angular face and an eye patch across his left eye walked into the room. None of the students knew why Principal Bradley wore the patch, and it added to his air of mystery. At the moment, however, the mystery of Bradley's eye patch was the last thing on the boys' mind.
"So," the head of the school said, in a tone that suggested something graver was coming. He sat at his desk and turned on his computer, busily clicking through the student files. The boys turned their heads simultaneously to make eye contact for the first time since the incident that had landed them there, only to look away instantly in pure contempt.
"Edward Elric." The boy's metal hand stopped clicking on the wood of the chair he was sitting in, and he looked up at the principal's desk with unconcealed dread. "A model student in every way but one: you're notorious for losing your temper. You've gotten into more fights than any other student on campus. Am I right?"
Edward said nothing.
Bradley smirked slightly and went on. "Roy Mustang. Also a very bright student, but with one recurring problem. Care to tell me what?" When Roy was silent, the principal continued. "You've been kicked out of the science lab more times than any other student in this school's history. According to your teachers, you've had a slight… obsession….with setting the building on fire. Quite the pyromaniac, aren't you?"
Roy pushed his hair out of his face, not making eye contact with Bradley. "Yes, sir."
Bradley laughed. "How brazen of you to admit it, Mustang. But this is something that needs to come to a stop. Did they check you for matches at the front gate like I told them to?"
"Yes, sir," the boy said, looking straight at the principal for the first time. "And they found none."
Narrowing his eyes, Bradley considered challenging his student's precarious wording of his response, but with a sigh decided he had more important matters to attend to – although Roy would definitely be kept under his watchful eye in the future. "And what do you two troublesome students have in common? You've hated each other for years. It's the first day of the school year, and already you two have gotten into a fight on the campus –again. Care to explain yourselves?"
Edward opened his mouth angrily to speak, while Roy raised his hand calmly.
"Yes, Mustang?" Bradley acknowledged him. Edward leaned backwards hastily, his red face due to anger rather than embarrassment.
"It couldn't be helped, sir." Roy spoke calculatedly, with the mixture of humility and confidence that had helped him weasel out of trouble with teachers countless times in the past. "True, my taunts of Elric were uncalled for, but the fact that he chose to interpret them as provocations to physical violence was his own choice. Our tussle was merely my response of self-defense to his attack. I apologize for the trouble this has caused, sir."
Edward stood up, unable to contain himself any longer. "Just once I'd like to see Mustang treat me with more respect than a piece of gum stuck to the bottom of his shoe!" he shouted, making his point far less eloquently than Roy.
There was a prolonged silence, then Bradley spoke. "Mustang?"
Roy blinked. "Yes, sir?"
Horrified, Edward slammed his fist into the chair. "You can't be serious! How come he gets off easy and I – and I –"
"Physical violence is your problem, not his, Edward Elric," the principal explained. "But – Mustang – the next incident I hear of a fire in the science building…no amount of charming talk will get you out of that. Understood?"
"Yes – yes sir." Roy faltered slightly. "Thank you, sir." Before leaving the room, he shot a completely disdainful glance in Edward's direction from an angle where the principal couldn't see. This isn't over, Elric, the look seemed to say, and Edward returned the message with an equally scathing expression. Smugly, Roy smiled at the acceptance of the challenge, and left the room.
Edward turned his attention back to Bradley. "…Sir?"
Bradley smiled. "Ah, yes. This is the point of the discussion where I decide the severity of your punishment."