Well, this was inspired in a haze of sinus-induced sleep-sickness. A single scene that is in the following story played so strongly in my head while I laid in this half-sleep, that I literally jumped out of bed and started typing it out furiously. From 15 words yelled in my dream, this thing has expanded into what will be a three parter. I'm not really sure where this came from, or how it came to be, but I'm rather shocked and proud of it, and hopefully you kind readers will think well of it.
I present the first part.
Title: The Rise and Fall and Rise Again of Roy Mustang, State AlchemistPart 1: The Rise
Pairing: *sweats* as if I haven't made this story long enough! It's long enough!...so no. Pairing free.
His parents had been goldsmiths. The shop had been in the family for so long that their name no longer matched the one over the door. A small establishment, well known to those who would require a goldsmith, or jewelry for a loved one, but otherwise off of any radar. Often times in his youth, the other children didn't know whether or not to tease him for his parents' profession like other children could be teased, until they decided that him living above a shop full of gold was rather exciting.
His father was good with numbers and acquiring the metals, whether in raw form or in heirlooms picked out of pawn shops. He had a sharp eye for quality. His mother was good with chemistry--needed for processes like gilding and the like--and with working those chemicals and metals into something else. She had a mind for temperature and timing, for shaping and manipulating, a master at her craft.
He was six the first time his mother allowed him to watch. He had to sit very carefully on a stool, and try not to fidget, but she let him watch anyway. He would later learn how incredibly dull a wedding ring order was, but watching his mother melt down the gold that first time was like watching magic.
His mother had a habit of explaining herself as she worked when she had her son as audience. "This is a Bunsen burner. When I was little like you--"
"I'm not little!"
She would always just smile and continue. "When I was your age, my father would have to melt the metals on our wood stove. It would make mother so mad, but that was because she was always afraid Uncle John or myself would get our hands on the pot and burn ourselves. We weren't allowed to watch father working, we weren't even allowed in the kitchen when he was melting gold. Mother thought it too dangerous."
"Did you ever?"
"Did I ever what?"
"You know the scars on my arm?" He nodded. His mother, although beautiful, was the picture of modesty, never baring her arms in public, hands always daintily gloved. But while at home, doing housework, she would take off her dainty gloves and roll her sleeves up. He would stare, entranced, at the shiny, lumpy skin that covered her wrist to her elbow. "When I was learning the trade, I didn't set a mold right, and it split as I was pouring the silver into it."
"Burns are part of the trade. Accidents can happen no matter how careful one is." And she turned a serious eye to him. "That is why we are always careful, right?"
"Right!" he chirped in the solemn way of children, that swears I will never, but soon forgets.
His mother had prepared the model before, and it laid on the table behind her. She turned her back to him for a moment, to close the mold and position the funnel.
She had left the Bunsen burner on, the tripod holding the melting pot over the steady, bright flame. Roy would learn later that the flame color depended on whether the coal gas mixed with oxygen before or after combustion. This his mother taught him when he was old enough to understand.
Right now it burned that bright yellow flame. It was a steady flame, but he liked it when it was large and wild, jumping, flickering. Mother was busy with her back turned, and though he was at an age where he knew it wasn't a good thing to do, he still thought he could do it. He leaned over the table, reaching for the value to close it completely, like he had watched his mother do. The heat from the melting pot above the burner was intense, making his hand feel like it did when he stood too close to the fireplace on a cold day. But it didn't HURT, so he reached for the value, put a knee up on his stool and stretched over the table...
"Roy!" she cried. "Don't touch that!"
Before he even had a chance to pull his hand away, she had grabbed the melting pot with her gloved hand and had whisked it away. Roy had never heard such a shrill tone to his mother's voice before.
"Roy, you mustn't play with that," she warned him, voice still high and tight. "You could have burned yourself."
Later in life, Roy would realize that she had meant he could have knocked the tripod over, spilling the melted gold onto his hand. But for years, he thought she was only talking about the flame.
Roy Mustang learned what he could in school but he learned about chemicals and ratios and equivalency in that back work room with his parents: chemistry, the first step of the alchemist. When he showed a greater proficiency and interest in chemistry than in goldsmithing, it was his father that suggested sending him to the Amestris Military Academy. It was the best education for a boy back then, and best of all, the state funded most of the tuition. Many a great thinker, inventor, scientist, and leader had come out of the Military Academy, and the ties formed in a student's time there could only lead him upward.
The basics were taught for military use: Geometry for angles. Physics for trajectories, and engineering. Chemistry for explosives. But alchemy was to satisfy the scientific quest for understanding and control. While he wasn't completely interested with theorems, he was fascinated with its' application. It was an exciting field, one that seemed ripe with possibility, and glory. Everyone with an interest in alchemy tried to discover that one great hypothesis that no one had yet thought of, and that would make them famous in the scientific world.
It was a holiday break at home that gave him the idea. He found his mother, grumbling over a melting pot she had sitting within the glowing coals of the fireplace.
"Gas tank ran out--I usually time it better!" she explained, offering a smile. "Looks like I'll have to do it like our family did before all this Progress."
He read what he could get his hands on, and was surprised that there had been so little success with the alchemic creation of fire. When the solution finally hit him, he was certain it wouldn't work: it was so simple, some one had to have tried it before. But he explained the idea to his Professor, who was like-wise floored by it's simplicity.
For ages, the goal had been to produce a flame. All Roy wanted to do was produce the fuel, and then add the fire. An array that produced a seemingly never ending supply of fuel could keep that flame going for as long as it was needed. And all the fuel he could ever need was there for the taking, ever-present and all-important to life.
Three years later, his professor helped him to publish his array in a Alchemic journal, but his proudest moment was when he presented the array to his parents. He drew it on the table where the burner should have been, and demonstrated. The array concentrates air, he explained, and deconstructs it, leaving only oxygen. Simple modifications to the array can be added with chalk which then can change the oxygen concentration and there by increase or decrease the heat of the flame. As long as there is good ventilation, the flame will burn as long as the array is active. All you need is this array, and a box of matches.
His parents were very proud, regardless that it was the death blow to Roy taking up the family trade. His mother practiced activating it until she could make it work perfectly. And then, they painted the array into the table, making its' place in the family permanent.
The publication of his array caused some notice in the alchemic circles. He was 20, and graduating that year with honors. What few could understand later in his life was that, in his youth he had been a soldier before an alchemist. Roy, a cunning, quick student with a charming, smile and cool demeanor (things he seen his father use during business transaction), had a reputation as future officer material. And aside from what he had learned in his hometown, the military was all he knew. Upon graduation, he resolved himself for a career in the military.
It had been his Alchemy professor who had informed him that a man of his talent and promise should serve his country in the best way he could...
Had Roy ever considered trying for a State Alchemist title?
Roy had to admit, that in those days, he quite enjoyed being a military man. That is, while he wasn't working in the office, or slaving over alchemic texts. It was the uniform. All the pleasure that could be found in the military stemmed from the uniform. Women, respect, discounts from patriots...it was all his uniform's doing.
However, work was still work, and menial, boring, and time-consuming work at that. Roy at times felt like he only used his intellect at night, when he poured over alchemic writings, trying to prepare himself for the annual State Alchemist Examinations.
He wasn't worried about the exams per se: state exams had been a major part of his life since he was 13, written, oral and practical. He knew what they would be like. He knew what to expect. He knew what the army would be looking for: something different, something distinguishing.
Figuring out how to distinguish himself, now that was the tricky part. He couldn't expect that the flame array his mother was still using would be impressive enough. He would stare at his array, trying to think of some way to change it, expand it, make it one of a kind. This original was composed of the symbols of Air and Fire, Air to control and concentrate gases, and the smaller Fire symbol, not to produce the flame, but to target gases that were flammable. Simple.
His first thought was to introduce the Earth symbol: a basic symbol used allow the array to affect things outside of it's perimeters. A crucial symbol for construction. A symbol that allowed for reach, depending on the strength of the array. So he worked the earth symbol in, creating an hourglass shape of Air and Earth. But it wasn't enough. He tested the new array out, but it only created explosions instead of steady flames, the Earth symbol and the Air symbol making the flame leap from ground to sky, making them move by their own volition skyward. Outside of the concentrated mass of oxygen created so carefully by the array, the flames quickly billowed out of existence.
However, instead of frustrating him, the new movement of his flames intrigued him. Moving fire outside of the array, could it be done?
His reputation as a womanizer was born in these years, for all work and no play could drive any man insane, and with the exam only months away, he needed some sort of distraction, however brief. Dating ended up being the perfect release. Focusing on charming the lady in question and ensuring a perfect evening actually took his mind off of his alchemy, allowing him the mental breaks he needed before plunging back into solving the puzzle of moving fire.
It was on one such date that the revelation occurred. While dining, the nervous girl had been worrying her pearl bracelet, causing the clasp to snap, sending the pearls rolling. Roy had managed--with as much dignity as he could muster on his hands and knees--to find them all, but as he was securing them within a napkin, the thought struck.
Break the circle, and things break out of the circle. Here it had been pearls. For him, it could be flames.
The symbols for Earth and Air were extended past the first circle. Tests lead to the addition of a flame at the top of the array, it's flames coming out of the array to control direction. Further tests led to the addition of a salamander at the bottom, to further guide the flames, so then HE wouldn't be the one burned.
He was familiar with the practice of wearing an array, to forgo the constant need to draw it. The idea for gloves became a strange tribute to his mother, who--although fashion had changed with time--still worn her long sleeves and gloves in public, causing her to stand out.
Roy was a bachelor and in the army, but instead of sucking up his pride and learning how to sew himself, he depended on a very nice seamstress who had made her living off of proud army bachelors. She took the order without a second glance, and before the week was done Roy had his embroidered gloves.
They worked. And they worked better than he had ever hoped they would. Around his outstretched hand he could feel the array condensing and separating the air molecules, and with a single match, fire sprang forth, going only where he wanted it too.
He felt like he had discovered fire all over again.
The last puzzle piece, the final refinement, came two weeks before his exam. He had gone out to practice with his gloves once more, but a box of dud matches put a damper on his plans. Determined to never let that happen again, he racked his brain for a solution, something to produce the necessary spark to burn the air.
Another simple solution, of course--his life seemed full of simple solutions to his difficult questions. He would often muse after this night if all the solutions to his problems would be so confounding simply.
Gloves that could spark. His first pair were woefully primitive, the seamstress doing her best to sow slivers of flint into the thumb and third finger of the embroidered gloves. And yet, the first time he had slipped them on and snapped, the spark took to the oxygen and fire leapt forward from his hand.
When that first fireball shot forward from his fingertips and dissipated twenty feet away, Roy Mustang knew that he had succeeded.