"Fullmetal Alchemist" © Hiromu Arakawa and Square-Enix


Clap, Snap


A clap, crackling, and blue light.

"Again."

A low curse, a clap, crackling, and blue light.

"Again!"

This time, a rather dark growl that would've frightened the new cadets into proper order.

"Again! For crying out loud, are you planning to get yourself killed in the future? !"

"Damn it, Fullmetal, you know I'm not fully used to clapping transmutation yet!"

"That's why I'm teaching you how to get used to it, bastard!" Ed fought the urge to pull his hair, opting to recite the first half of the periodic table to calm down. "Gah, let's just take a break before you transmute something that'll kill both of us or take out half the parade grounds. Like last time."

Roy mutely agreed as he sat on a short block of transmuted earth, gratefully accepting one of the glasses of water Riza had placed on one of the stumps he had created earlier. Around them, more stumps/walls of varying heights stuck out of the grounds like some bizarre forest competing with the nearby trees, garnering more than several stares from soldiers that "just happened to pass by". Sharp glares from the trio sent the soldiers back to whatever they were originally doing.

"Geeze, I didn't had this much trouble transmuting after I got my automail," the teenager - young man, really - muttered, downing his water in one gulp and refilling from the pitcher.

"My main focus of studies were on gasses, not solids," the colonel shot back, using the condensation to cool his stinging hands after clapping so many times. "Plus, it's difficult on breaking the habit of rubbing my fingers."

Ed sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose. He had to wonder if this was how Izumi felt when she had taken him and Al on as her apprentices years ago. He had to admit, since they didn't had any set habits back then regarding alchemy, it probably was a lot easier for he and his little brother to grasp the mechanics of transmuting solids. Mustang, on the other hand, was accustomed to manipulating the gasses that were tied with flames so it would be understandable for him to be having some trouble manipulating solid materials. While his wall that blocked Father's fire counterattack was normal enough that any regular alchemist - certified or in-training - could easily create, it seemed that at least he hadn't forgotten the basics and it was rather decent during a pressing situation. Ed wasn't sure whether he should be laughing or despairing at his current status as the teacher and Mustang as his student in clap-transmutation. He supposed that if Izumi heard about it, she'd be taking great pleasure at his misfortune.

"I believe that the colonel has improved on his fire manipulation," Riza commented, sipping from her own glass.

A raised eyebrow from the former State Alchemist as he snagged a sandwich from the lunch cart. Of course, it made sense for the Flame Alchemist to first attempt something that he was familiar with.

"Although the chefs have requested that he cease testing it out on the current stove ware and try it on the discarded ones or at the trash incinerators," she continued, ignoring the sputtering from her superior officer. "Accounting has cited that it's going to be difficult to continue writing the new kitchenware off as 'military practice expenses' if he continues."

Roy fought the idea to increase the amount of nitrogen in the air when Ed all but fell off his seat while laughing hysterically. It wasn't his fault that one of the cooks startled him, attracted by the clap and ruining his concentration which resulted in the cook requiring therapy and replacing several appliances.

x x x x x x x

"Alright, let's try this again from the top," Ed said after their lunch break.

The older man made an exasperated sound. "We've already been at this 'from the top', Fullmetal."

"Hey, I'm no longer a State Alchemist so you can't call me that anymore," the younger blonde snarked, before rubbing his chin thoughtfully.

Dark eyes glared at him. "What?"

"Can you create fire?"

"With my gloves, yes. A lighter in a pinch." The unspoken 'Who do you think I am, a complete idiot?' hung in the air.

Ed rolled his eyes. "Have you tried creating it WITHOUT your gloves? There's going to be cases where you won't have them, you've gotten them wet, and/or you don't have a lighter and you can't carve a circle. Heck, there's always the chance that one of your arm's disabled in whatever way and you can't clap." He had heard from Al and Hawkeye how his former commanding officer had completely burned Lust to her death with Havoc's lighter to create the necessary sparks and by carving his circle onto the back of his hand. Ed had to admit, it was rather ingenious to think of despite bleeding out. "While clapping our hands together fulfills the circle requisition, you can probably still make flames by connecting your second and/or third finger with your thumb and rubbing/snapping like you normally do, so as long you have your circle pictured firmly in your mind. Having an actual spark or flame would be a lot easier, but sometimes you have to make do. Probably means that you have to actually snap your fingers, although I'm not sure if you'll burn them off. It's no different than me envisioning what I want whenever I transmute..."

Roy blinked as Ed proceeded to begin collecting sticks and leaves, all the while muttering about the chemical makeup of anything that involved explosions. Somehow, several officers stationed under him back at East City had heard the tale of his surviving encounter with the female Homunculus (obviously the edited version) and had gifted him with a very heavy lighter that was etched with his transmutation circle during his recovery post-Promised Day (no doubt costing them a good amount of cenz - it was rather more durable than other lighters). A card with a cheeky "So you won't be as useless" had been included, which was promptly turned to ashes and resulting some admonishing words from the nurses and Riza alike on indoor fire safety. Even though he still carried his gloves, the Flame Alchemist kept the lighter with him, somewhat touched by his other subordinates. (It was quite satisfying seeing the many dropped jaws when he pulled it out one rainy day to use against a straggler who still supported the old regime, even though it took a few false starts and singed fingers.) And thinking about it now, the engraved circle was rather perfect - it wasn't that different from his own gloves, Kimblee with his circles tattooed in his palms or the inscribed gauntlets Major Armstrong and the late Grand used to perform their transmutations. Having seen his own circle so many times, it was proverbially burned into his own mind.

Truthfully, it wasn't all that different than controlling gasses - the concept was still the same, just a lot more tightly held together and involving a lot more elements. Yet Hawkeye's comment about the kitchenware hinted at the potential dangers if he didn't quickly master his clap-transmutation skills. Edward, Alphonse, and Izumi Curtis didn't have his extensive knowledge on flame alchemy, which was already dangerous in itself. Better to have singed hairs and complaints than a scorched wing or landing burned people at the hospitals by accident.

Taking in a cleansing breath, Mustang positioned himself in front of the sizable pile Ed had gathered and held out his hand like he always did, sans glove. Index and middle fingers connected with thumb, forming the connection. Mentally, he envisioned his circle - the triangles that allowed him to manipulate the elements that made up air, the curved lines that served as the energy conduit, and the salamander that symbolized his specialty.

Eyes narrowing, he snapped his fingers.

Ed and Riza had been partially expecting the large burst of heat they had seen during the Promised Day at the "snap". Instead, a flash of blue alchemical light preluded the focused stream of bright red and yellow that blossomed just from the edge of the Flame Alchemist's fingertips, dancing through the air almost like an bird with trailing feathers before encircling sticks and leaves. There was very little scorch marks on the ground, other than a small pile of ash.

Gold and ochre eyes stared at the gray remains for several moments before shifting their sights to a very smug and satisfied colonel.

"Bastard," Ed finally spoke, although he had a rather large grin.

The word carried a deep sense of pride and warmth that was reflected on Riza's face as well.


A/N: Post manga, so yes, some spoilerish details. GO READ IT.