andrea weiling

This Stretch of Time

And if you ask me, I'd only reply, "Too long." Too long ago since I leaned against the doorframe of a sturdy house where people I'd killed had once laughed and played. Vaguely, I could remember it was raining so hard, but still I could not be unfrozen from the post I held. The scene itself has become muddled—but the feeling remains, halting all the thoughts in my mind, and somehow I was tenser than I'd ever been in battle. That too was the first time I saw Fullmetal, lying there almost scowling, and I inwardly smiled because here was one who was cautious, here was one who I could see myself as before Ishbar, thinking I knew the world and the answer to all mysteries, thinking my clever little gloves and my smart uniform made me God.

Nothing sentimental binding us, except for three years of working together. And even that wasn't true; I'd never been on a field mission with him, never truly seen the way he works—all I know of him is from his reports, pages alternately typed and haphazardly scribbled on the train ride back. Through this, one would think I know him well, given my constant observing of him—but there is too much he does not put in the report, too much that he hides within himself. He protects himself and his brother from me though there's not much to fear; I would not expose him, for fear I would look bad for sheltering a criminal under my wing for three years knowingly, and he has done nothing out of line except for the first year, when he found out about Tucker's second chimera. He was young then, but when I grabbed his hand and echoed back his own words, he understood. But ever since then, there has been a fear of me that I cannot explain, and he is not willing to face.

Not physically. He dueled me, after all. It was not a gap in ability.

It was a gap mentally. He knew, as well as I did, that I had a way of talking that people would listen to. I knew how to use people, how to achieve the result that I wanted in the most painless way possible. If ever faced with a difficulty, I could immediately think up an alternative path to my goal, or if my goals had changed, think up a new plan. Somehow, in setting my goals, that distant dream of mine had always been logically set in sight, like an alchemy theory not yet tested. I'd been a little more idealistic back before Ishbar, but now I was more practical than ever. I could have felt sorry for myself for the rest of my life—some people are like that, and they can never get past their self-pity—but somehow "not acting" hadn't ever been in my repertoire either. People, even if they didn't quite realize it, could sense that; Ed was more than an ordinary person, of course he could sense what kept me apart. I knew it too.

He doesn't like to be used, but I know how to use him to the best of my ability, so he doesn't complain (at least, seriously). He doesn't like to be toyed with—but the military is not a toy, and after his discovery of Tucker's second human chimera, he realized that too. I have seen him grow, grow into what he is now—a boy still, short and stocky, but no longer innocent. There is a ferocity residing in his eyes, a competition with his own mind, daring him to new heights; I have no doubts it has been there since he was a child. He guards fiercely all he deems good in the world, because he has seen evil. That optimism in itself is a childish belief. Still, he clutches it so fiercely I cannot help but smile. Here is someone as determined as I am. And truth to be told I, and all of my partners in crime, needed that immaturity to remind us just what we were sticking our necks out for.

Some say there is no difference at all between the Edward Elric now and the one of three years past—but there is. He is not much taller, but he has grown a little. His shoulders have filled out a bit, and he walks with more confidence. Another memory: his voice, high-pitched and nervous over the telephone, a childish flurry of words pouring into my ear. Certainly, he has grown since then—he knows what he is doing now, he has done it for three years and is used to it. He recognizes the place he holds: a dog of the military but infamously rebellious in his methods. The niche he holds in my office—a child equal with adults—he stands firmly in now, even if he will leave again sometime in the future. Whatever he does, he will be sure of it. Gray is a certainty for him, and never an insurmountable wall like it is for some people. There is only practicality for him. Even his dreams are practical; he seeks the Philosopher's Stone to assuage his own guilt, and therefore restore his dignity and that of his brother. Like me in many other ways as well, he understands what it is to feed both body and spirit.

The future is harder to understand. It would be wonderful if it stayed this way forever, him providing a revitalizing argument every two weeks or so he comes back to base (if the case is easy), jostling my staff out of their lazy habits with his odd mix of wisdom spouting from a child's body. However, I have always seen him as more than just entertainment; his abilities are worth more than that. There is still room to grow, more potential to fill up—he has not reached his limit yet. He will not be a child forever—being his taskmaster, I know one day there will be a circumstance where he must kill someone—but he will forever be seeking knowledge. There was a little while where it seemed he had given up on the Philosopher's Stone—not true, because he will search forever for it, it is the one thing that he cannot forget for the rest of his life.

And I, I hope I will always be there. He must stay in the military for me to remain here, anchored in his life, right here where I can use him to the best of his ability. If I try, I can remember to the train station, where he glared at me with a spirit I'd come to appreciate over the years as something I'd shed willingly on my way to the top. There is a roughness to him, something that screams out bold—no soft curves, no relaxed pose. In life, we match—my calmness to his impatience—but only because we are opposites outside and the same inside. In a few years, if he is still alive, perhaps I will try—try to see if I can settle him down into something more manageable—even if I would only be molding him into an image of myself. That would not be right, I suppose, and it wouldn't be enjoyable even if I could do it; it goes contrary to his spirit.

There is pride too, I think, in three years. And there will be more feats to come that I will read only in his reports and never see with my own eyes, but they will be remarkable anyway. He has learned new things, never losing what transcendence he had over reality that he sees everyday. That is something to be proud of, even though I am not parent or relative or even guardian of any sort (as he has outgrown all of them, even if his brother has not). And even if he leaves tomorrow, he will be a constant, my constant, in the back of my mind, reminding me of what I'm fighting to protect.