Title: Life of the Party
Author: Jordanna Morgan
Archive Rights: Please request the author's consent.
Characters: Primarily Roy and Edward, with brief glimpses of Alphonse and Hughes.
Setting: First anime, but fairly general. Takes place while eleven-year-old Ed is studying for the State Alchemy Exam.
Summary: Mustang learns that getting what he wants from Ed isn't necessarily a good thing.
Disclaimer: They belong to Hiromu Arakawa. I'm just playing with them.
Notes: Just a bit of humorous fluff. Presented as a Fandom Stocking gift for Cornerofmadness.
On a late afternoon, Lieutenant Colonel Mustang found the Elric brothers in Shou Tucker's library, where they had practically been living for the last month as they studied for the State Alchemy Exam.
"Ah, there you are. Ed, I don't know how long you've been sleeping in those clothes - but if you refuse to wear anything else, then at least do something to straighten them up. I'm afraid I need to borrow you from your books for the evening."
Confronted by this peremptory announcement, a blond head slowly craned itself over the top of an enormous tome, and a pair of golden eyes stared back at Roy with flat, hard suspicion.
"Oh yeah? For what?"
"Well, nothing onerous enough for you to make that face at." Roy folded his arms. "It's just a little sendoff for a State Alchemist who's retiring from the service. Some highly influential officers will be there, and I happen to know a few of them are curious about the young prodigy I've taken under my wing. If you make a good impression, Ed, it might be beneficial for us both."
"And by that you mean mostly you." Ed's head disappeared behind the book again. "No thanks. I've got studying to do. Unlike you, I'd rather work for what I want than schmooze it out of a roomful of stuffed uniforms."
"I'm crushed, Edward," Roy replied sarcastically. "In any case, this isn't a request."
The boy did not look up from the pages before him. "Is that so? Then it's too bad you're not my superior officer yet. Since I'm still a civilian, all you can do is ask - and you've already got my answer to that."
Beside him, the suit of armor that was Alphonse Elric shifted noisily. "Uh, Brother..."
Roy waved a hand. "It's alright, Al. Ed does have a point. I'm not his superior yet. On the other hand, I am his sponsor for the State Alchemy Exam... which means I could make something unfortunate happen to his application."
There. Ed sat bolt upright and gaped at Roy, his eyes burning with indignation. "You wouldn't!"
"Just try me and see."
Edward was a bright boy. He knew when he was cornered. Roy watched in satisfaction as his shocked expression imploded into a bitter scowl, and he pushed aside the book, slowly dragging himself to his feet.
"Fine," he muttered, fists clenching. "I'll go to your stupid party."
"That's the spirit." With a patronizing smile, Roy patted Ed's left shoulder. "And remember, we're going to be among some important people - so I expect you to be on your best behavior. Be polite. Be intelligent. And at least try to be interesting."
At those words, a faint, crooked smile slowly made its way across Ed's lips. "Uh-huh..."
From the look in the boy's eyes, Roy suddenly knew this was a bad idea. He knew it beyond any shadow of a doubt. He was gripped with the sudden impulse to say Never mind and make a hasty retreat; but somehow, he managed to reason himself out of it. After all, he did have Ed on the spot, and it was true enough that coming across well to the officers at the party would also serve Ed's interests.
With those thoughts in mind, the Lieutenant Colonel put himself at ease... and thus, he really had only himself to blame later.
Roy Mustang, it must be said, was a very good alchemist indeed. Among many other achievements, he was considered to be historically almost unmatched in his mastery of the difficult art of fire alchemy, and to this date he was the youngest applicant ever to be awarded the title of State Alchemist.
However, even all this did not exactly give him the qualities of a prodigy.
Ordinarily, this was not a fact that troubled him. Far better to work your way up unexpectedly, he thought, than to be some wonder child with a constant lifelong pressure to succeed. Besides, he knew the terrible price the Elric brothers had paid for knowing too much, too soon. It was the price that came of crossing, even once, the fine line between genius and madness - and that was a line Roy was perfectly content never to have gotten so close to.
At least, he was until he made the mistake of taking a real prodigy to Colonel Kruse's retirement party.
Be polite. Be intelligent. Try to be interesting. That was all Roy had asked of Edward. Even so, he expected it would be an evening-long battle to make Ed live up to that simple request... but he had never imagined that instead, the boy would oblige him, fully and completely.
For politeness? Well, somehow - perhaps by consciously emulating his brother - Ed managed to transform his surly little self into the absolute image of good manners. He smiled, and bowed, and said just the right words in just the right tone. He was positively graceful.
As for intelligent and interesting...
This was largely a gathering of State Alchemists, after all. Very talented, very experienced ones at that; people who were older and more learned than Roy, good though he was. People he deeply wanted to impress in his own right.
But when his young prodigy started talking alchemic theory with these luminaries, expounding upon concepts so advanced that Roy was left mutely working his jaw as he tried to come up with some word more articulate than Uh...
This was not at all according to plan.
To be fair, some of the ranking alchemists at the party did get around to talking to Roy.
It was just that they talked to him about Ed.
"What a mind that kid has! I'd say your record as the youngest State Alchemist is about ready to be broken by a mile, Roy old boy."
"I don't know where you found him, Mustang, but this one's headed for the history books."
"You must be proud to be handling a genius like that! Any bets on how long it'll take before he's a general?"
...At which Roy would smile frozenly, and nod, and gulp a little more champagne.
Most of the guests had departed by eleven o'clock, but it was nearly midnight before Maes Hughes tracked down Roy. He accomplished this by following a rhythmic thumping sound to the Kruses' basement, where he found a more than slightly well-oiled Flame Alchemist knocking his head against the wall.
When they got upstairs, Ed was waiting by the front door. He smiled ingratiatingly as Maes steered the rather bleary-eyed Roy into the foyer.
"You're a rotten brat," Roy muttered, glaring at Ed between his fingers as he rubbed his aching skull.
Ed merely chuckled, and to Roy, the sound was almost sinister. "Geeze, Colonel, what do you want? I behaved exactly the way you wanted me to, and you're still not happy!"
"I told you to be intelligent and interesting - but not more so than me!"
At Roy's side, Maes choked hard on an abrupt laugh.
"Can I help it if I'm smarter than you?" Ed protested. His tone was full of plaintive, childlike innocence, but it was belied by the devilish glint in his eyes.
"...You better be, kid." Pushing off of Maes' discreet support, Roy shouldered open the front door, and preceded the two out onto the front steps. "Because I can guarantee you'll need every ounce of your wits later - when you start getting orders from me."
From the corner of his eye, Roy saw the first uncertain traces of worry creeping over Ed's face, and at last he felt a glimmer of satisfaction. Oh yes. The reckoning was coming.
While Ed remained a civilian, he could be just as much of a little monster as he pleased. But Roy had absolutely no doubt that soon, the young genius would pass that Exam... and once he did, the Lieutenant Colonel was going to make sure it all came back to him with a vengeance.
© 2011 Jordanna Morgan