evening_bat: Bat in flight, silhouetted against the moon. (Default)
[personal profile] evening_bat
Title: As If It Were Impossible
Author: [personal profile] evening_bat
Pairing: Gen
Rating: PG-ish
Word Count: ~ 3100
Warnings: mention of Ishval and violent imagery
Summary: It had seemed like a great idea at the time. Roy really should have expected things to go awry.
Notes: Pre-series, no particular canon.

Thanks to [livejournal.com profile] seryan for looking this over while I was writing it! Remaining issues are entirely my fault.

Thanks also to [livejournal.com profile] akainagi for helping me remember how much I love this series! (And not so coincidentally, reminding me that I had projects-in-progress that I could finish up.)

As If It Were Impossible

"Believe and act as if it were impossible to fail." ~ Charles Kettering

"Right, Hughes. Thanks for the warning," Roy said into the phone, rubbing at the bridge of his nose.

"Not a problem," Hughes replied blithely. "I figured you'd appreciate some advance notice. Just wish I'd heard about it earlier. You won't have much time to scheme anything."

"Don't worry, it'll be fine," Roy assured his friend. "I'll make sure to get them out of the way before anything happens."

"Of course you will," Hughes agreed complacently, and Roy scowled at how easily Hughes read him, even over the phone.

"And I should go get started on that," Roy announced. "Right now."

"What? But I haven't had a chance to tell you about Alicia's success in the kitchen!" Hughes protested. "Gracia taught her how to make cookies this weekend and I tell you Roy, you've never tasted anything so sweet!"

"Sorry, Maes. Got to go," Roy interrupted loudly. "Haven't got much time to waste!" He quickly hung up the phone, cutting off the faint sounds of Hughes' babbling.

The best excuses were the ones that were true, Roy mused as he rested his chin thoughtfully in the palm of one hand. Hughes had given them as much warning as he could -- and thank God for that -- but Roy didn't have much time to act. Shaking his head, he rose from his desk with a faint sigh and walked out into the main office.

Oh good, he thought as he opened the door, the Elrics were already here. That was one less problem with which to contend. Roy allowed himself a moment to take stock of the surprisingly quiet goings-on outside his office. Ed was leaning against Havoc's desk, chatting amiably with Roy's staff. Al was crouched down, happily petting Black Hayate. It was almost a shame to interrupt such a pleasant scene but the military waited for no man. Or boy, as the case may be.

"Ah, Fullmetal," Roy greeted him with a smirk. "You're here. Excellent."

Ed had glanced up at the sound of his title but his customary scowl quickly faded into suspicion.

"Yeah?" he acknowledged cautiously. "What do you want?"

"There's something I want you to look into," he began smoothly.

"What?" Ed squawked indignantly. "But I just got back from an assignment!"

"How convenient that I have a new one for you, then," Roy told him, falling naturally into the pleased superiority that served him so well in his dealings with Ed. "There are worrisome rumours coming out of Terring. Some trouble with a local militia. It's close enough that you can get started today - Havoc will drive you out."

There was an angry flush already suffusing Ed's cheeks and he glared hotly at Roy.

"We were supposed to be getting leave. You said we'd have some time off. You know we've got research to do," Ed said through gritted teeth, half a breath away from a childish accusation of You promised!

Much as he'd normally enjoy teasing Ed into a fit of temper, now was not the time and Roy let his expression ice over with disdain.

"I am your commander, Fullmetal," he said coldly. "Since it seems to have slipped your mind - again - let me remind you: you are in the military. Your job is to do as you are told. And I am telling you to go investigate the rumours in Terring."

Ed stared at him, speechless with outrage. There was an unusually betrayed edge to his glare and Roy felt a twinge of regret. He wasn't usually this heavy-handed with Ed. Besides, the protest was nothing less than the truth. Roy had as good as promised Ed a break between assignments and Fullmetal had certainly earned it. Even Al was managing to give him a wounded stare, inflexibility of the armour notwithstanding.

Roy simply raised an eyebrow in pointed inquiry.

"Fine, then," Ed spat, whirling around and stomping out of the office.

Al clambered hastily to his feet, making the usual round of apologies and polite farewells as he followed his brother. Roy didn't think he imagined the faint stiffness in Al's manner as he addressed him but that was to be expected.

When the door closed behind the brothers, the others in the room turned as one to fasten their eyes on Roy. They were all fond of the Elrics, never mind the difficulty of Ed's temper, and no one liked seeing the boy deliberately hurt.

"General Sterling is on his way to East HQ as we speak," Roy said by way of explanation for his actions, voice carefully uninflected. "A surprise inspection tour. I'm told he was especially looking forward to conversing with the Fullmetal Alchemist."

There was a moment of appalled silence. They'd all heard of Sterling.

"Sterling and the boss in the same room?" Havoc shook his head. "There's no way that'd end well. Guess I'd better get down to the motor pool, then," he announced, pushing his chair away from the desk.

There was a brief shuffle of paper as Havoc happily redistributed his share of the work, cheerfulness not the least bit dented by the irritable glares of his coworkers as he sailed out of the office.

"General Sterling's adherence to protocol is well known," Falman observed as Havoc departed.

Breda snorted under his breath. "He's a stickler for the rules, you mean," he muttered. "I'll just bet he's looking forward to talking to the Fullmetal Alchemist."

"Such a shame that Fullmetal couldn't be here to meet him," Roy agreed solemnly. "But one can't be too careful about signs of civil unrest."

Not the most inspired of reasons, to be sure, with the constant stream of whispers of militia action and rebel movements from the small towns scattered in the areas surrounding Central. Fortunately, they often sounded credibly threatening and Roy would have no trouble justifying why he'd sent Ed out to ascertain the truth.

Hawkeye's quelling look silenced them all. "You all have more important things to do than gossiping about absent colleagues," she said firmly.

That was true enough, Roy thought as he headed back to his desk. A day or two wasn't much but it would be plenty of time to patch together a solid cover story for Ed's absence. Fuery was already retuning his radio, notepad at the ready. From the snatches Roy caught of Breda and Falman's quiet conversation, Breda was cobbling together another one of the falsified reports he was so good at. Hawkeye supervised everyone as calmly as always, approval apparent as she overlooked their failure to get any of their assigned work done.

Roy smiled to himself as he set his pen to his own stack of papers. Fiercely independent as he was, Ed had never realized how much support he had in Roy's office. Presuming he and his staff were able to manage the situation as effectively as Roy hoped, Ed would go a while longer without knowing.

* * * * *

When the phone rang nearly a week later, Roy's desk was swimming in paperwork. A general's visit was a surefire way to generate even more useless forms than usual to be completed in triplicate. Sterling, not pleased to have missed his chance at the Fullmetal Alchemist, had demanded copies of Ed's reports -- and Roy's reports on Ed's reports -- on top of the usual documentation, adding to Roy's typical workload. Hawkeye had gathered the papers as efficiently as ever but even her direst looks didn't make them any more entertaining to fill out. Roy was in the process of attempting to locate three difference references in the sea of paper drifting across his desk when the phone shrilled for attention. He scooped up the handset and wedged it between his shoulder and his ear as he tugged carefully at a mostly-buried file.

"Mustang," he said automatically. Right, that was the file successfully retrieved. Now where the hell was his letter opener?

"Hey, Colonel Bastard."

No need to wonder who that was, Roy thought with a wry grin. "Good afternoon, Fullmetal. So nice to hear from you."

"Yeah, yeah," Ed grumbled. "We took care of your militia problem."

You what? Roy nearly blurted. Those rumours about the militias hadn't been true. They never were. "Have you now?" he stalled.

Ed snorted in his ear. "Yeah, we did. It was a pain in the ass, too," he complained.

"Militia forces tend not to be concerned with the convenience of soldiers," Roy chided in his best superior tone, trusting Ed's quick temper to blind him to any signs that he'd caught Roy off-guard.

Ed had been assigned to Roy's command for years. Events like this really ought to have lost their power to surprise Roy by now, he reflected as he half-listened to the familiar sound of Ed's ranting. Still, common sense and logical expectations were no match for the sheer chaos that dogged Ed's footsteps. Roy had honestly thought he was sending the Elrics out to chase baseless rumours. How did the boy do it?

Ed finally wound down, fit of anger fading into a disgruntled huff. "So are you going to send someone to get us or should we start asking around for a ride?" he demanded.

"I'll send someone for you," Roy informed him magnanimously. He could afford to be generous. Ed had done well and Roy did owe him for the cancelled days of leave. Havoc hated paperwork every bit as much as Roy did so he wouldn't mind a chance to escape the office, even if it meant a few hours of driving.

"So kind of you," Ed replied sarcastically. "You'd better send some kind of transport for the militia guys, too. There was about thirty-five of them. They're buried in the field outside of town for now but I don't think you want to just leave them there."

"They're where?"

"In the field outside of town," Ed repeated impatiently. "Shit, that's Al - he's looking for me. Gotta go, Colonel. See you later." A sharp click and then there was nothing but the humming of the empty line.

Roy stared numbly at the phone, barely remembering to hang it up properly. He couldn't have understood that correctly. In none of Roy's carefully constructed plans did the idea of Ed killing over thirty men make any sense. Then again, he'd seen Ed fight. When the ground itself was a weapon... A sudden vivid image painted itself behind his eyes, a forest of upthrust stone spears and the damage they would do to human flesh. Roy swallowed hard and rubbed the back of his hand over his mouth; the smell of blood and the sound of breaking bones was far too easy to call to mind.

But this wasn't Ishval and Ed wasn't him. Roy took a deep breath and willed the nausea away as his brain ticked over and started working again. He must have misunderstood Ed's words -- this was Edward and his refusal to kill was renowned. He had enough faith in Ed, Roy decided, to believe in the boy's morality until he had a chance to assess the situation in person.

* * * * *

The ride to Terring was a silent one. Hawkeye and the others had been just as startled as Roy by the announcement that the Elrics had caught the nonexistent militia soldiers and Havoc had leaped at the chance to see it all firsthand. He must have caught some of Roy's mood when he met him down by the motor pool, however, since he restrained his evident curiosity. Busying himself with his ever-present cigarette instead, Havoc considerately left Roy to ponder in peace. Roy appreciated the gesture, even if it didn't make the trip any easier on his nerves.

Evening was falling by the time they reached their destination, headlights sweeping the rough roads as they turned onto the rural street that led to Terring. Deciding that propriety could wait, Roy had eschewed the back seat when they left Central and he was grateful for it now, leaning slightly forward as he strained to see through the gathering darkness. "In the field outside of town," Ed had said and Roy was alert for any sign of the brothers. He didn't have to look very hard. The houses of Terring were barely in sight when the car's headlights picked up the gleam of armour and a bright splash of red standing in a field of torn earth studded with dozens of pale blobs.

"What the hell?" Havoc choked out, voice strangled with barely suppressed laughter.

Roy didn't blame him. For once, he didn't bother to hide his own amusement.

Ed had told Roy that the men were buried in the field but it would have been more appropriate to say that they'd been planted. They looked like some bizarre crop of cabbages.

"I don't know," he admitted, as Havoc braked and the car settled to a stop. "But I'm looking forward to finding out. You go direct the convoy," he ordered as Havoc turned off the motor.

"Will do, Colonel," Havoc replied cheerfully, eyeing the heads poking out of the dirt. "This ought to be one hell of a story," he chortled to himself as he slid out of the car, slamming the door shut as he trotted off.

"Of that, I have no doubt," Roy murmured to himself as he opened the door.

"Oi! About time you showed up! I called in hours ago!" came a welcome shout as he stepped out of the vehicle.

He turned his head and spotted Ed sauntering over to the car, Al clanking along behind him.

"And it takes hours to get here, Fullmetal," Roy replied, employing the imperturbable tone that never failed to drive Ed mad. "Especially when one has to arrange a convoy on a moment's notice," he added with a careless wave at the trucks pulling up to a halt in the rough earth, men spilling out of them.

"Least you're good for something," Ed muttered under his breath, yelping when Al jabbed a metal finger into his back.

"Be nice, brother!" he hissed.

"Yeah, yeah," Ed grumbled, rubbing absently at the offended area. "Thanks for the backup," he added grudgingly.

Roy was spared from answering when Havoc ambled back, having finished his conversation with the convoy leaders.

"Damn, boss!" Havoc exclaimed as he caught sight of Ed. "What did you do?"

"Nothing much," Ed shrugged. "Mud's just dirt and water," he explained.

Havoc considered the heads poking up out of the churned-up earth with a low whistle. "Nothing much? Not sure I wanna see you exert yourself then."

"For the likes of these guys?" Ed actually sounded a bit insulted. "We barely had to break a sweat!"

"When we found the group of them training with their rifles, we had to find a way to stop them in a hurry," Al put in. "Brother's idea worked like a charm!"

The image of the two boys facing down an armed and violent militia nearly made Roy break into a sweat. Al might be a suit of armour but Ed was all too vulnerable to gunfire, despite his bulletproof attitude. This could have ended much, much worse than it had. Danger to Ed aside, if it had been Roy or any other State Alchemist on the field, Roy had no doubt that the aspiring militia men would be suffering far worse than a few hours buried in mud. The image of broken bodies speared on spikes of earth flashed through his mind again and Roy spared a moment to be fiercely glad that Ed was a soldier in name only.

"We can put the field back the way we found it," Al was hastily reassuring them.

"Before you do that, what do you propose to do with your prisoners?" Roy inquired, raising an eyebrow at Ed.

"No problem. We can transmute them back out, now that we've got somewhere to put them," Ed replied offhandedly, ambling over to the nearest of the trapped men, Al at his heels.

Roy followed, too curious to remain aloof. Havoc fell in behind him as he trailed after the brothers. Without breaking stride, Roy gestured sharply at the men milling around the transport trucks, a team of them hurrying over in response to his summons. Once assured they were on their way, Roy turned his full attention to the Elrics again. The man they were approaching made a feeble attempt at defiance as they came close but the fear in his wide eyes gave him away.

Ed gave his captive an absent sneer as he looked over his shoulder at Roy. We ready? that expression wanted to know and Roy nodded, waving at him to go ahead.

Ed's smirk was positively fiendish as he dropped to one knee, ignoring the way the man in front of him tried to lean away. With a quick glance over at Al, Ed clapped his hands and pressed them to the ground, which immediately turned slick and loosened around the man's neck. Before he could take advantage of his new freedom, Al had plunged a hand into the muck and was hauling him out by the collar. The man kicked and flailed but Al's grip was implacable and he'd efficiently plucked the weapon out of his hand as he cleared the dirt. Within seconds, the prisoner was standing between two of the soldiers Roy had brought with him, handcuffed, miserable and thickly covered in mud.

"Not bad," Roy allowed, giving the Elrics an approving nod.

Ed shrugged but Roy caught the pleased curve of the smile he didn't quite hide.

"It was nothing, Colonel," Al added modestly.

Roy shook his head. Only for the Elrics would something like this be nothing out of the ordinary.

"So we'll just go and --" Ed started, jerking a thumb over his shoulder at the still-buried men behind him.

Roy nodded and waved them away. "The sooner you finish here, the sooner we can get back to civilization," he ordered, wondering if any of the city's restaurants would be open by the time they returned. He hadn't had time to eat before leaving and Ed always appreciated a good meal.

"So we only have to do this, what, thirty-four more times?" he heard Ed ask as they walked away.

"Thirty-eight," Al corrected.

"Thirty-eight? You mean there were thirty-nine of these idiots?" Ed's voice was incredulous.

Roy shook his head in resigned amusement. Some things never changed, Ed's dramatics apparently among them. And while he'd never admit it aloud, Roy preferred it that way. Watching the brothers routinely defy the impossible was entertaining as hell, despite the paperwork -- and never failed to remind Roy of why his own impossible task would always be worth pursuing. In the meantime, there was the enjoyment of Ed's creatively non-lethal solutions and the promise of a fine meal in better company waiting back at home.

Mountains had been moved by less than the antics of these brothers, Roy thought as he clasped his arms behind his back and strolled after the Elrics. Surely one little revolution would be easy in comparison.


Comments and feedback welcome! Thanks for reading.


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