Gran felt the set back like a physical blow, and it made him angry. Very, very angry. As much as he loathed Mustang, in situations like this, he wish he had a bit of the bastard's slickness, because then he might have had a chance to change the Fuhrer's mind. As it was he knew this battle was all but lost.
"You promised I could have the boys," said he said, unable to keep the gruff edge out of his voice.
The Fuhrer just tweaked his lips and sipped his coffee. "They aren't ripe yet," he said calmly. "They stay with Mustang for now." The Fuhrer looked up and met him with that one cold eye. "When they are older and have shed their ideals a bit, I will transfer Fullmetal to you."
Gran felt himself shaking. He'd worked on getting these boys under him for YEARS. Long before their failed transmutation attempt, he'd had them under observation. They were brilliant, powerful alchemists. Hell, they were practically pedigreed.
He'd had his doubts when the Fuhrer had suggested he keep tabs on them, but he'd been convinced fairly early on. Hell, he'd petitioned to pick the children up before the sun set on their mother's funeral. The Fuhrer had told him no. Sit back. Watch them. Wait for them to ripen.
The Fuhrer always used that word. Ripe. Like fruit to be devoured.
"The younger one. Alphonse. Allow me to have him at least."
"He isn't officially in the Military."
"Kidnapping would not be difficult. Or even unprecedented. I could put his mind to work now on other projects, and when he's lost a bit of his naivety, then he could make the stone for you."
"In his current state, it's not clear he could make the stone without his brother." The Fuhrer's smile slipped. "He stays with Fullmetal, as his motivation."
"You should have let me pick them up earlier, before they did this thing to themselves."
"Ah, but you see then they wouldn't have had such wonderful motivation to make the stone. It was really for the best. You will just have to trust me on this Gran. I haven't forgotten my promise, or your hard work." There was just an edge to his voice. "By the way, how IS Tucker adjusting to his new life?"
"He's doing his job."
Tucker. The Fuhrer was still mad at how he'd mishandled Tucker, and wasn't willing to trust him with the Elrics now. Damn it, he'd all but handed that alchemist a blueprint of what he wanted done. He'd pushed the man past his natural squeamishness; he'd removed the Elric's prying eyes from his residence. It should have been EASY to collect a prostitute or a homeless man and do the deed. That he should pick the one person he truly cared about to make the chimera. Made. No. Fucking. Sense. Who could have possibly predicted that?
But perhaps even that was for the best. Now that Gran was free to use harsher tactics instead of all that coddling, the "Sewing Life" Alchemist was more productive than ever. But the Fuhrer already knew this. The Fuhrer knew damn near everything.
"Ah, then." That smile was back. "You are dismissed." End of discussion.
Gran left the Fuhrers office, fuming. People in the halls wisely gave him a wide birth. He wished he had an excuse to hurt Mustang, who he KNEW was behind this. Poisoning the Fuhrer in his sly backhanded way. Mustang should not have the Elrics. He'd done less than nothing to deserve them. It wasn't fair. It wasn't equivalent.
Gran knew his anger was out of control and he was likely to do something foolish. It would be wise to go back to the lab, where he could vent on some doomed prisoner, but he didn't make it that far. He was passing between the dorms and the mess hall when the worst possible person stepped out of a door and into his path.
"Fullmetal," Gran said, more to say his name than to get the kids attention.
The tiny blonde boy turned around and looked up at him. "Yeah? What?"
What a ...
... insolent brat.
The kid cocked his head expectantly for a moment, then turned away. Gran caught his shoulder. "Where are you headed to?"
"My dorm room."
"I'll talk to you on the way," said Gran.
They headed towards the dorms. "What do you want to talk to me about, General?"
"Tell me, have you considered requesting transfer?"
The kid stopped and looked again at him with those (beautiful) large golden eyes. "To your command?"
His expression clearly said, "Are you insane?" but his lips said a more tactful, "No. I'm happy where I am."
"You know I run a laboratory. Your mind would be put to far better use there than it is on these dangerous missions Mustang sends you out on. Your brother will be quite welcome, too."
"I'm not going to make chimeras for you."
"Why not?" said Gran, a little harshly.
"Because it's unethical. It's disgusting. I don't even understand why you WANT chimeras in the first place." Fullmetal quickened his pace, a sideways attempt to turn his back on Gran and end the conversation. That wasn't going to happen. Gran just lengthened his stride.
"You wouldn't have to deal with chimeras, the fifth lab has other projects. And with the resources available under me, I'm sure your quest for the philosopher's stone will go much quicker."
Fullmetal stopped and turned around. "What do you know about the philosophers stone?"
Gran's mind worked... "I don't want to talk about this publicly."
"My dorm room is right here."
He followed Fullmetal into his room. The place was completely spartan, not a single picture or decoration or personal touch anywhere. How unlike Tucker and his soft, weak decadence. Under other circumstances Gran would have appreciated this, but now it just served to highlight what was out of his reach. He felt his resentment grow.
There was no sign of the brother. "Where is Alphonse?"
"Researching at the public library."
"It is ok, we don't need him."
"Ok. Talk." Fullmetal crossed his arms.
Gran bristled. His rank alone should have brought a humble respect. The brat ought to be afraid of him. Fullmetal had already experienced his fist. Hell he was big enough to snap the kid in half. But no, the kid just looked at him. Daring him with his eyes. Challenging him.
"Is that how you address someone who outranks you?" Gran's eyes narrowed.
"Talk, SIR," corrected Fullmetal, his eyes not backing down a bit.
Damn, this kid was asking, no begging to be taken down a peg or two.
"You will request a transfer under me, and then I will tell you what you need to know about the philosophers stone."
'You could have told me that in the hall." Fullmetal had no right to be so cocky, so cold, so adult. No twelve year old should have that level of self-assurance. It was unnatural.
"You don't deserve to know more... not until you've learned your place."
"My place... under you."
"I don't think so." There was cold finality in those eyes. Gran knew then that Fullmetal would never willingly put himself under Gran's command.
"Nina," said Fullmetal. "I could have saved her. You stopped me. You took me out of that house, and let that monster turn her into a... You KNEW he was going to do that."
"I did not."
There was no point in arguing this. Gran knew nothing he could say would change the kid's mind.
But Gran could have revenge. He might not be able to have the kid work for him, but he can hurt the kid. He can take out his frustrations on this kid, beat the crap out of him, render him frightened, and weak, and properly awed, the way a kid his age aught to be.
Gran smiled. "I can order you to do it." He turned around and locked the door behind him.
"No you can't. And what are you doing?"
"I can order you to do anything I want you to. Your rank is a Major. I'm a general."
"You can't order me to do this. We are done, sir, out of my room."
"What are you going to do? Are you going to hit me?"
"No... " Fullmetal's eyes widened.
"No you are just a tiny frightened brat."
Fullmetal's fist flew his way. He caught it in his hand. He then used his alchemy to turn his metal bracer into a fixed steel glove that encased both their hands. Fullmetal attempted to pull his hand away, but was unable. He yanked futilely a few times.
"What are you trying to get at?"
"Fighting with a superior officer. Throwing a punch at him." Gran smiled evilly. "Do you know the punishment for that?"
"You GOADED me..."
"I did nothing of the sort." Gran used his free hand to grab Fullmetal's collar and lift, choking the child. "Should I turn you in? Should I write you up?"
The kid fought to breathe. Gran released him. "Nuh... no." There were tears in the kid's eyes. Tears and hate. "Sir, let me go. Leave me alone."
"I'll let you go, but I want something in return."
"You to follow my orders... to the letter... for the next few minutes."
The boy's face was white, his mouth slack with surprise and horror. He looked ...
... vulnerable. Gran raised his free hand into a fist. "You really have no choice."
The boy's eyes pleaded, "Let me go."
Gran released his hand. "If you cause a scene, others will come, and they will see you fighting a General. You'll be thrown in prison. I'll make sure they give you a nice LONG sentence. And your brother can come and work for me while he waits for you to get out."
Ed's eyes narrowed. "Leave Al alone."
"Follow my orders."
"To the letter."
"Ok, already." The kid's face was screwed up. It was sweet. So sweet seeing that arrogant pup humbled.
"Abase yourself," ordered Gran.
"What?" Ed looked at him, confused.
"On the floor, kneel to me. Kiss my shoe."
The boy's mouth dropped again.
"To the letter."
The hate in that face was perfect. The boy went down on his knees slowly, shaking with fury.
"Kiss it. Kiss both my shoes."
Fullmetal put his head to Grans boots. Gran couldn't tell if the kid actually kissed it or just bumped his face against it. It didn't matter. He'd done it. He'd humiliated the kid. He'd humbled him. It felt wonderful.
Gran wanted more. More shame. More hate. More weakness. He wanted something that would stick in this kids mind for a long, long time to come. And when the kid was at last under his command, Gran wanted him to remember this, and think GOOD and hard before doing anything to make him angry. He wanted the kid to know exactly how bad it could be for him to get on Gran's bad side.
The kid bumped his head to the other shoe, then jumped to his feet as if he were burned. His face was red with fury.
"I didn't say you could get up," said Gran, "But since you are, you can take off your clothes."
The kids whole body shuddered. "WHAT?"
"Not so loud... if you make a scene... you go to jail, and I'll take your brother."
They both stood still for a few seconds, facing each other down. Then the boy broke. He undid the latch on his jacket. His hands were barely controlled, the shaking was so strong. "Why are you doing this to me."
"To humiliate you. To punish you for your insolence."
Fullmetal hesitated at each article of clothing. Gran had to threaten to remove the clothes himself before the kid finished.
Oh. My. Gran felt the first stirrings of regret. He'd actually forgotten how young the boy was, but seeing him in this state, so small, so frail, so obviously immature, Gran felt a little shame in what he was doing.
"Are we done, you fucking pervert? Catch enough of an eyeful? Are you a child molester, too?"
"Someone's already touched you?"
"It's none of your business."
The anger welled up again. The kid was still challenging him. The kid who should be gibbering with fear, crying, begging him, was just standing there, naked as the day he was born, daring him to do his damnedest.
Well, if that's the way he wanted it.
(It's almost permission).
"Well, then you should know how to do this." He pushed the kid to his knees.
"Maybe that human transmutation took out some of your brain along with your limbs. Do I really need to repeat my threats?"
(He must want it on some level why else would he be goading me on?)
Fullmetal looked up at him with hate. Pure unadulterated hate. Yes. He didn't give a damn what the kid thought of him. He just wanted that hate. Just the hate. That's all.
(What am I doing?)
The anger abruptly faded, but he was committed to going on. It would have been strange to stop now. He pushed the kid's head down, so he couldn't see the eyes anymore.
(I'm out of control)
The kid did his part. And from the way he did it, it was clearly not a first for him. Tucker. Lazy, sloppy, decadent Tucker had already paved the way. This should have been a relief. But it wasn't.
(I'm a child molester).
He was glad that at this angle, he could only see the kid's hair, and the curve of his back. It was easy to pretend that Fullmetal was older than he actually was. As old as he acted. Pretend this was an adult. Pretend he wanted it, at least on some level. Pretend that Elric was responsible for this.
(I'm just like Tucker.)
With a groan, Gran told the kid to stop. He shoved himself away with disgust. Gran wasn't Tucker. He was never going to be Tucker. And he didn't need to molest children to get his way.
"Remember this," he told his (victim) future underling. "And think twice about disrespecting me."
He left the kid, still kneeling, head still bowed in the center of the room. He didn't want to know if the kid were crying or not. He just wanted to get the hell back to the lab and forget about this whole sordid business.
The Fuhrer knew about it. How the Fuhrer knew was beyond Gran, but he knew. Gran was sure the kid hadn't blabbed. Fullmetal had too much pride to admit that anyone could force him to do something so demeaning. And Gran himself hadn't whispered a word of it—in fact he was trying hard to forget it ever happened. Nonetheless, the Fuhrer knew.
"I'm sending Mustang on East. The Elrics will go with him."
"I don't see how this concerns me," said Gran.
The Fuhrer's eye seemed even icier. "I hope in the future that you will choose to express your anger with my decisions in more... constructive ways."
Gran swallowed. "Then you don't plan..."
"The time will come when I will put them under your command. But I expect that I will be able to TRUST you to behave yourself by then. Do a good job with Tucker, and you'll get your Elrics."
"When they are ripe."