This chapter is rated: PG-15 for words and a thorough lack of coherency.
Pairings: Roy/Ed. slight Ed/Winry, some Riza Hawkeye
Notes: Follows first anime arc, another analysis of RoyEd. Written for peridottears, my Toma in an ocean of Johnny's. 2/4. Thanks to all the lovely people who reviewed the first part! Here's a longer one to make up for the last. Also, I have no idea why there's a Havoc in here, and no Fury/Breda/Falman &co. to settle the plotholes. Sorry about that, it's just my innate fail, eheh.
Summary: A heart is nothing but four chambers and a rhythm.
previously: 1; anatomically
~Automail is the reason we're famous~
part two: philosophically
The stick of chalk squeaks against rough emery.
Appreciate, associate, applicate, it squeals, as the fumbled pens of its audience take it all down—analyze, assimilate, agglomerate.
In the next seat, Maes Hughes lets out an (unnecessarily) loud yawn. Riza Hawkeye's glare extends over three rows of lecture tables. Roy Mustang clears his throat, and Jean Havoc jumps in his chair, wipes the drool off the cover of his –empty– academic folder.
Squeak, squeak. Abbreviate, annotate!
Hughes yawns again, this time taking a little longer before he relaxes his arms and dangles them over Roy's shoulder—it's just to piss them all off. Havoc starts jingling the loose change in his pocket; he's trying to differentiate between the coppers and the dollars through tactile sensory. Hawkeye's exasperated sigh tells Roy that she is giving all three of them the finger. He squirms a little under the weight of Hughes' arm, tries to tell Havoc to knock it off through sign language (who is he kidding? Roy's sign language is shitty at best and rich in nothing but sexual connotations, but it's not like Havoc understands any of it, either way).
Hughes is smirking. It's a little creepy.
Havoc has eight dollars and twenty-four cents today.
A little wind slips through the cracks of the lecture room's solitary window, and all of them suddenly remember that it's still summertime.
Does anyone have any questions? their instructor asks. Questions? Does anyone have any questions? (When is this class over? They all want to scream, but none of them do because they can all appreciate the effects of arbitrary grade reports sent home on express trains, very well and no thanks to you, Professor.)
Outside, someone is practicing forward-march-right-dress on the infantry drums. The beats are rhythmic; it vibrates through the air on a frequency that reminds Roy of the ticker tape in a radio cassette. Somebody is clicking the pause button and resetting it every few seconds. Reset, play. Reset, play. Reset, play. (Sometimes he wants to reset and play his life out all over again. Sometimes he feels like he's living on borrowed time.)
The bell rings.
He looks out the window, sees the blue skies and despairs.
Roy's imagination abandoned him at an age that was probably beyond thresholds of other children. He had still been the brazen-faced, sticky-fingered child, to be sure (no better than the rest of them), but maybe too familiar with quadratic equations and integral formulas to mix with toy automobiles and airplanes. Roy's playmates could easily imagine themselves swinging from tree branches with baboons in a tropical jungle, but he just couldn't do it, entirely, because the idiots were clearly takings turns shrieking at each other on a set of battered monkey-bars (wasn't it obvious to everyone?).
But even more than that, he was a logical thinker. Mustang Jr. played the laws of imaginative theory to the very last note, turning the age-old arguments against themselves. He remembers trying to explain it to his grandmother, once. Because –according to the fundamentals of imagination– nothing in life is real unless if you really want it to be, Roy didn't want to see -or believe- in anything that he didn't want see or believe.
The day when five-and-a-half-year-old Roy Mustang informed his shocked parents that yes, I do aspire to become a business lawyer! was the day his imagination decided to leave him for better children. This was just too much to handle on a single human boy; maybe it would have more luck if it had gone to a parallel universe, one where you can't become an arsonist with a flick of the thumb. (It was the last straw. And the young boy, in turn, graduated into adulthood.)
Later on, when he thinks about it a few more times, he decides that this is really ironic. Roy's an alchemist, now, and he's supposed to be used to seeing and believing in every sort of messed-up thing that flies out of this world. Oh, how he would have wanted to become a lawyer! An old-fashioned lawyer, in a place where there wouldn't exist chimeras to feed and homunculi to kill. He'd always believed himself to be very good at arguing his point (or coming up with excuses; there wasn't much of a difference in his mind).
Roy doesn't officially meet Alphonse Elric until they are attacked by a dog three blocks from the Central Building, down the warehouse lane (the company car breaks down, he has to walk in his uniform, all those stupid excuses they invent to make the civilians jealous).
The mutt shoots out of nowhere, skidding muddy stripes and dumpster flies. Hackles rise, teeth bare. Fullmetal jumps back with a surprised curse, and Roy is in too much of a rush to get to work so he decides to get rid of the dog on the spot, brings out a pistol from his coat pocket. (But this is when Alphonse Elric appears. The giant bit of Middle-Aged armor runs in front of Roy before he can unlatch the safety—CRASH. In his haste, Alphonse had forgotten to secure the helmet attached to his metal body, and now there he is for the rest of the world and Roy to see, the little brother, Sir Alphonse from The Knights of the Round Table.)
The first time, it scares the shit out of him. Roy doesn't believe in alchemy, just like he doesn't believe in ferric alloys for automail just like he doesn't believe that hollow suits of armor are supposed to talk; he doesn't have an imagination, he doesn't believe doesn't believe doesn't believe but dammit, it's still there.
The voice from the metal armor starts shrieking. Roy wants to ask himself why he's still standing here and not running away, but Ed does the dirty work for him.
"Al, put the dog down."
"I said, put it down," Fullmetal orders his sibling, sounding to all intents and purposes like a stern parent (Roy gives the boy some credit for trying).
"Stupid brother! You don't understand anything!" The metal suit of armor wails, and then Alphonse Elric is bounding off into the night, clanging and rattling and looking very anachronistic, indeed.
"There goes your excuse to terrorize the city," he says smartly (and he's secretly relieved, but no one needs to know).
"Oh, just shut up," Ed growls, "Al! Come back!"
The Rockbell girl calls him over his personal phone line (reserved-for-ladies-only-how-the-hell-d
"Oh, and one last thing, Colonel?" Winry sounds like she's eating crackers on grapes or something else irritating over the line, and it grates against Roy's ears, "When you manhandle him, be sure not to break the foundation screws on Ed's leg, okay? I spent four hours welding them all in, and I don't want some flame alchemist ruining it all for me."
"Who says I'll be manhandling him?" Roy asks, taking note of Old Rockbell's astounding influence on Young Rockbell's use of speech.
"My grandmother warned me. She told me that you looked like the type."
"The type? I don't understand," he says, even though he can already guess what kind of mutinous thoughts Old Rockbell would plant against him.
"The type to mess around with Ed. Play stupid grown-up pranks on him because he's a kid."
"I didn't ever think of—"
"Touch the screws and you will die."
When he hangs up the receiver, Roy realizes that he is witnessing incredible injustice.
Roy had grown to like his friends in the military.
Havoc had been always there with him—they'd known each other since the battle school days, after all. Havoc enjoys smearing coffee circles and fountain pen thumbprints on his mission reports. Havoc likes Marlboro Lights that cost eight dollars and twenty-four cents and pretty girls who work in civilian boutiques. Havoc finds everything happy when his love life is happy and Havoc can wreak real havoc when he's dumped.
Riza Hawkeye, too, the only female to have graduated in their class that year. Riza enjoys feeding dogs and telling him to get back to work. Riza likes gunshot waterfalls, inner peace and finding half-price chicken drumsticks at the meat market. Riza is a beautiful girl, the only one who doesn't bat an eyelash when he tries to make a pass at her.
Maes Hughes is the last one to complete the list. Hughes enjoys his family life and passing around photo albums like holy bibles. Hughes likes birthday cakes and crying because you're happy and the springtime of life. Maes Hughes is the best, just the best. Best friend, best lieutenant, best diplomat, best tolerant for Roy's chronic schizophrenia. Maes is just Maes and he won't change for the world and even if he did, Roy would still respect him for it.
Havoc, Hawkeye, Hughes. He never wanted them to become constants, but it happened anyway and now it feels like he'd never want anything else in the world.
(Fullmetal's different, because everyone treats him like their kid brother. He enjoys taking advantage of his height even though he hates it, and showing off his overtly-adult muscles in front of Roy's girlfriends. Fullmetal likes shiny objects like stars and pocket watches and the little bits of candy in jelly pudding; he studies alchemic philosophy like a fiend, he likes to gaze at the clouds when he thinks no one's watching him, and he also flashes the prettiest smile Roy has seen in years and years. Ed isn't the constant because he doesn't fit any where in Roy's life, because he really doesn't have to.)
Roy shares the building with an elderly couple whose sons and daughters have all moved far away, a homosexual college student who works at a cake shop, and a middle-aged woman sunk deep within the clutches of commercial capitalism and late-night radio broadcasts. The place looks very old and worn on the outside and every two weeks one or two of the girls he brings home asks him to move away with them, but he never agrees because he has grown attached to it, this life that doesn't reset but keeps ticking forward on borrowed time.
It's so lonely, here; that's what he thinks sometimes.
In the small room, he feels like a giant. His private life is hidden in this unstoppable, impenetrable universe. The fireplace is a black hole, the chairs and the table and the bed celestial bodies. The previous occupants of this apartment had carved a square in the roof and fitted it with glass. On clear nights, Roy can see stars.
It's so lonely, here.
(He can't help but wonder. If it gets quiet enough, will he be able to hear his heartbeat?)
"I was only trying to help!"
"I don't need your help!"
"Is that it? Remind me again, Ed, who's the one who comes back to me with his tail between his legs every time he smashes up his automail?"
"Stop being such a bitch, Winry."
He enters the room when Winry punches Ed in the face, incredible strength for a girl with that frame. "I hope you rot in hell, Edward Elric!" (Young Rockbell is really dangerous, Roy thinks.)
"You heard us," the blond boy spits out when she leaves, one hand staunching his bleeding lips, the other curled in a fist. "Fucker."
"Refrain from uttering profanity in front of your commanding officers. We're all soldiers here, but you're still a kid." Roy replies curtly.
"I'm not a kid!"
They all treat you like one, anyway, he thinks, and then feels guilty because does it too, and probably more than anyone else.
A pause. Ed's stomach growls.
Roy stops before the smirk can form on his face. "The cafeteria's on hiatus for renovations, isn't it? We can go to a diner, if you'd like."
"I'm not a kid," Ed repeats, this time more dangerously, "I can eat by myself."
"How," he snorts, "by digging through the staff room? Burglarizing Armstrong's secret supply of protein bars? How did you plan it out, Fullmetal? You spent your last pocket change buying your girlfriend automail parts, just so she'd ignore you for the next five years. Alphonse eloped with the campaign manager of with an Animal Protection agency. Hawkeye caught you with a self-help book yesterday. You've made some pretty smart moves this week, haven't you?"
"She's not my girlfriend," Fullmetal mumbles, quiet for a change.
"Call her what you want," he says indifferently (and what is this he's feeling? It can't be relief, could it?)
Ed scowls, flares red in the face.
"…i-it's your treat, then."
"I don't think you're in a position to treat anyone."
"W-We'll look for Al later, too, okay?"
When he was young, he would set up little rules for himself, write them all down in a notebook and then develop punishments for breaking them.
They were innocent when he'd just started out. He can only go to bed after he's finished the homework he's procrastinated over, never before he finishes or never several hours after he finishes because homework drains, and doing stuff after it only serves to rack up a sleep debt. He would pay attention in class only if Riza Hawkeye pays attention, because she is certainly the best measure for practicality—if there ever was such a thing. He would not be stingy about money, but he would never buy a birthday gift for someone he didn't know (where wasn't the logic in that, any way?).
Later on, when he grew a little older, the rules all start to revolve around his sex life. He would never sleep with the same girl over two times, unless if she was extremely attractive (three times), or if she was someone he knew very well (in that case, he would only fuck if she wanted him to fuck, never if he wanted it)—the punishment for that would be a month away from bars and clubs and movie-theatre-dates. He would not take more than three different girls to the same place for a date, but he could take the same girl to the same place as many times as she wanted, or as was necessary before it gets boring (of course, he could take all of them home, but this was an issue about gossip, more than anything else). He would never try to steal any of Havoc's girlfriends on purpose ("I wonder how long this one will last," Hughes tells him all the time, and Roy ignores him because he doesn't want to argue about it).
He wouldn't kiss anyone with a Y-chromosome, because he had no sexual desire for males. There was no question about it; he wasn't homophobic or anything—there was just no reason for it, and for him it's always been about reason.
He wouldn't seduce anyone who is legally not allowed to like him back. (He's made a few exceptions in the past, but he doesn't want a female harem from a high school, because that's just really scary.)
And he wouldn't fall in any kind of love, because he doesn't have a heart and it's stopped beating, for so long that he can't really even remember when it began. (It doesn't stop him from wondering if he can reset-play his heartbeat, as well. Sometimes, he thinks he's turned half-homunculus.)
"Thanks for the meal," Ed says after he cleans out all the money in Roy's wallet. Ten sparkling plates are stacked before him, twenty minutes ago still crammed with ten portions of corned beef, mashed potatoes and thick chicken gravy. (Whoever told him you couldn't eat three times your weight has obviously never met Fullmetal on the other side of a diner table.)
It's kind of nice watching you eat, he kind of wants to say, but that sounds beyond creepy, even to his own ears, and so he just grunts and passes the boy a paper napkin. There's gravy smudging the corner of his lips.
So it wasn't like a date, was it? Not even if he invites Fullmetal out to dinner four more times, and to different places? Not even if Fullmetal isn't even hungry? Not even if he hasn't bedded a girl in three weeks? (And he's not sure, not any more. All kinds of pathetic, he is, this Colonel Mustang.)
"Can we talk?"
He looks down, sees Young Rockbell's face. She's on her tip-toes, and wearing a tank top that's giving him an eyeful of her breasts. He looks away.
"I apologize. I'm busy."
(You liar, Hughes would say, you bastard liar Mustang. You're never busy. Now you're evading confrontation from a little girl. You have no shame, don't you?)
It happens by accident, of course. The family diners weren't supposed to be closed at eleven minutes past ten. They weren't supposed to be at the street corner where the sketchy prostitutes hang out. He wasn't supposed to drag Edward Elric into the nearest bar, order vodka and suddenly forget to remember the drinking laws. He wasn't supposed to let Ed take a sip. He wasn't supposed to drown out his fears. He wasn't supposed to pour out his entire life story, sprinkle parsley over the silver platter. He wasn't supposed to, wasn't prepared to, was never inclined to.
(But he did anyway.)
So the rest of it happens in fragment-time. The ticker tape runs and skips the parts that aren't important.
"I-It's just—you do look a lot like her, see wh'I'm talkinbout?" He suddenly droops forward, and Fullmetal droops forward too, scoops up his colonel in his arms and tells him it's the seventieth time Roy's said that.
His heart beats. (It's not supposed to beat.)
"Y-You really-a-lot look likeher," he finishes lamely.
"Seventy-one," the boy sighs.
Roy doesn't open his eyes.
"You're a really lame drunk."
"You didn't see anything. I need water."
There's a clink of a cup, liquid being poured. "Here you go, Colonel."
His mouth curls around the rim of the glass, downs the water with a grateful gulp, wipes moist lips against a pajama sleeve. He doesn't remember putting these one, not the striped ones. Did Ed undress him, and then…? The thought makes him feel oddly embarrassed, a little defenseless. "What time is it?"
"Five am. Go back to sleep."
"Shit, we have to be at the academy today."
"I called in bubonic plague for you. Don't move. You have a nasty hangover."
"Bubonic plague? Why would you—?"
"Didn't wanna say 'post-coital-ed'," comes the bored reply.
He starts at the words, feels panic and bile up his throat, and struggles to sit up in his bed. "Shit, did I really…"
"I was kidding," there's a laugh, and now Roy can really feel the boy smirk.
"Don't joke about this sort of thing," he says instead, and now he's really uncomfortable. What's wrong with him?
Ed's voice comes in a whisper.
"…wanted to thank you. F-For the meal."
You're too close,he thinks. Too close, Fullmetal. Too close and I'll…
He leans down, cups Ed's cheeks in his hands, and –just like that– Roy Mustang is breaking every single rule he has ever set up for himself. And it still feels like the right thing to do. Kiss at the end of the date—only, Ed was no girl.
(And maybe he's still drunk. Maybe Ed's drunk.
Maybe he doesn't care.)
The heart? The alchemic philosophy professor had preached while waving her arms dramatically in the air (she corrects herself every few seconds to make sure that this dramatic performance is seeping into the minds of her dear students). The heart –our most vital organ!– is what the Greek philosophers believed –no, they knew it!– to be the brain. Evaluating the heart based on these principles is a very good –no, an excellent!– study of motives and intrinsic behavior. The heart has its own sentimentalities, feelings, thoughts. That's the reason behind all those common sayings—I feel it in my heart. To have a heartache. What do you really feel in your heart? Nothing but rhythms! A few ventricles and several muscle contractions during a stroke, perhaps? As alchemists, however, you will –no, you must– learn to feel something else in your heart! An utmost –no, basic!– law of alchemic philosophy (the students frantically scribble down notes) dictates the channeling of power –energy!– through bloodstreams. There are several –no, many!– different veins and arteries that run through to body of an alchemist. Some of them contain only raw –pure!– alchemic energy, and others are homogenous mixtures of blood and alchemic energy. To harness your power, you must understand alchemic theory just as well and use it to your advantage! Those who won't will become useless when the weather turns damp (she shoots a haughty look in Roy's direction).
Just as well, he thinks. He won't waste his heart over his alchemy.
(No. Roy Mustang doesn't waste a thing.)
As always, thanks for reading. Reviews are lovelove. I was this close to inserting another Naruto reference. See if you can find the first one in there somewhere. ;)