Do you know anything about falconry, Edward?...It's a fascinating study. You should look into it some time.
Edward Elric spent a good deal of his time in libraries, and when his research was going well he rather liked them. Libraries were quiet places where the information you were looking for held still and waited for you to come get it.
Of course, when research was not going well, that became a source of frustration.
Ed slammed another book shut.
"I don't care what they're called when they're two years old, I don't care how you have to feed a fledgling, and I certainly don't care how they mate!"
He had not intended to rise to Mustang's bait about the falconry. But the man had taken so consistently to calling him "hawk" during the increasingly disjointed interludes when That Author got hold of the storyline that Ed had finally broken down. The Colonel was obviously making some point and Ed wanted to know what it was.
So far he had found five books talking about nothing but passagers and seeling and jesses and casting, complete with line drawings, and he was about to give it up as a bad job. Or, possibly, a bad joke. If there was a point in all this, he wasn't seeing it.
After all, the Nothing Kinky rule was still in effect.
Ed eyed the remaining three book he had pulled off the shelves on his sweep through the library. One more try, and then he was going to go get some food.
"Eenie, meenie, miny, moe," he mumbled to himself. His finger stopped on the middle book, and he pulled it out and opened it with a sigh.
At least it was short.
Half an hour later Al found him, sitting in a pool of lamplight staring at the cover of a closed book as if it were some new transmutation circle and Ed wasn't sure what it would do.
"Nii-san? Dinner is almost gone at the canteen. Were you coming?"
Ed started at his brother's gentle reminder and called up a smile for him. "Yeah, I was just about to leave. Let me put these back."
Snatches of that last book echoed through Ed's mind as they crossed the courtyard.
This is not a hobby to be taken on lightly, nor is it one that can be put in a closet on a rainy day, or if the falconer doesn't feel well that day. For the most part, birds of prey are not capable of "affection" for their handler, and the best one can expect is tolerance and acceptance. Falconers speak of "serving" their bird, and that is very much the case, for this is a partnership in which the bird has the upper hand, and can choose at any time to dissolve the relationship and fly away.
How was he a hawk? A statement on the amount of work Ed's excursions made for the Colonel? That seemed too simple, though. Backhanded flattery? That would be more in Mustang's line. But he had to know Ed wouldn't actually leave. Not while he still needed the edge this position gave him in his search for a way to retrieve Al's and his bodies.
Another passage returned to him.
The falconer must do all of his training himself. Unless, of course, he happens to be so wealthy that like the nobility of old, he can employ a falconer to man "his" birds—though in that case, they will never be "his", for they will truly answer only to the hand that trained them.
Ed stopped dead in the middle of the court, staring up at the one office window still lit.
Ed's gaze didn't budge. "Al, I need to talk to Mustang-taisa about something. I'll be right along."
He turned to find Al looking down at him with an expression more knowing and more patient than a metal helmet should have been capable of.
"All right. Remember to eat something, OK?"
Ed patted Al's arm. "I will."
Roy Mustang liked to work late in the evenings. It was a good time to do paperwork, as he could have some assurance that no one would bring him any more for a little while. Only some sort of emergency generated paperwork this late.
Thus, when a knock sounded at his door, Roy expected it to be Hawkeye, or possibly a courier, with news of an uprising or a car accident that had killed some General.
Well, it's always possible, he thought wistfully.
Roy was understandably surprised when the door opened to show Edward leaning on the frame. "Edward-kun. Finished with your research project?"
The reminder that Roy always managed to know what Edward was doing barely got a half-hearted glare. Roy was intrigued.
"We're off-script right now, right?"
Roy sat back a bit. "Yes."
Edward started to say something, checked, and wandered a bit aimlessly around the couch. Roy was now absolutely fascinated. Edward stared blankly out the window for a moment before his mouth firmed. "Taisa. What is it you want to do?"
Roy had been expecting some form of this question for years. Edward was hardly blind, and he'd surely seen enough ulterior motives to recognize them. He regretted, for an instant, that he couldn't tell this brilliant young man everything... but no.
"I want to do the same thing every man wants to do, Edward-kun. I want to make the world something other than what it is."
Edward's eyes turned to him, sharp now, and for a moment Roy thought he might push for more. But Edward settled, straightening and turning back to the window. "All right, then. Tell me something else. Why now?"
Roy quirked an eyebrow.
Edward swung away from the window and stalked back through the room. "If it's been enough, for this long, just to watch me fly, if it's been enough that I strike something you approve of, whatever that is, and come back, why take me to bed now?"
Roy smiled slowly.
He rose to join Edward where he'd fetched up, by the bookshelf. Ed stood firm, looking up at him, focused, demanding.
"My golden hawk. Your soul is brighter than your eyes," Roy murmured on a breath of whimsy.
Edward's look evolved into a full-fledged glare, and he drew in a deep, incensed breath. "What the hell is that supposed to mean?!"
Roy laid his hands on Edward's shoulders. "Edward, listen to me."
Edward paused, narrow-eyed.
"One can be brilliant, one can have the purity of purpose that cuts like a sword edge, one can have power and genius and Fate's undivided attention and still be dark. But you are not. You are not."
Edward stood very still, emotions flashing through his eyes like colors in a kaleidoscope. Confusion, embarrassment, question, startlement. Roy didn't think he would ever tire of watching the clarity and depth of feelings as they showed in Edward's eyes. To anyone who knew him, he was utterly transparent. And that was why Roy couldn't say more. Edward you're too clear, too bright. If I fail, that's what will keep you alive. But only if you don't know. Forgive my silence and let me borrow your brightness a little longer.
Edward lifted a hand, hesitated, laid it lightly on Mustang's wrist.
Then he pulled away and turned his back. "You and your damn games. Can't you ever give a straight answer to anything?" he huffed.
"But Edward-kun," Roy murmured, "then the game would be over."
"And, after all, don't I fly you well?"
Edward's spine straightened with a snap. "I am going to dinner. Al will start worrying if I waste any more time here with you," he announced icily, and marched out the door.
When he was gone Roy spoke to the empty air.
"Good night, Edward."
Branch: Hey, I just do the general outline, you guys are the ones who fill it in.
Ed: *transfers glare to Roy*
Roy: What do you want, Edward-kun, a story or an essay?
Branch: Make yourselves useful, guys, quit arguing and do the credits.
Roy: *urbanely* To be sure. Dear readers, the passages about falconry were quoted from the afterwords of Mercedes Lackey's novels, Winds of Fate and Winds of Change respectively. We, the characters and author, tender all our gratitude and respect to her.
Branch and Ed, in unison: And quit making fun!
Roy: *faint smile*