Characters: Ed, Winston Churchill, and Al
general historical fluff and brotherly love.
Pairing: Ed and Noa mentioned
WARNIGS: MOVIE and END of SERIES Spoilers...
Summery: Ed learns he needs to grow up...
Edward Elric sighed, looking into his coffee cup and staring at the swirling fluid. It had been a difficult day at the university, and his meeting with the university board had been difficult. Edward Elric had no desire to partake in politics, and unfortunately, university life was loaded with them. Today he was facing the worst of it and he was sure his opinions would deny him any future in the university.
He sat in the kitchen, cup of tea in hand, and new paper in the other. Noa was out with the Doyles, and as far as he knew, Alphonse was studying in the library down the street. Edward Elric needed peace, that was for certain, and today, being one of those days, just was hitting him with one inconvenience after another.
He undid his bow tie, dropping the constraining thing on the kitchen table, and settled back against his chair, where he had tossed his tweed jacket.
It was a quaint room, with white paneled and yellow walls. A nickel and enamel gas range with a built in elevated oven and matching storage cabinets sat under two shelves stacked with plates and pans. Several fine pots and pans hung over the stove, with various spatulas, forks, and carving knives. A sink and cabinets were adjacent to the stove, and next to them was a brand new General Electric icebox, a wedding present from Thomas Edison, last year.
The washing machine was tucked away in the back of the walk in pantry, giving the small room more space.
The floor was linoleum, and a box filled with empty milk bottles sat next to the door, ready to be put out for the milkman to deliver the next shipment the following morning.
Edward debated turning on the electric lights overhead, but opted for the gas lights. The bill last month was horrendous, and he disliked the way the electric lamps sometimes buzzed or flickered. Both of which gave him a headache. It was hard enough to read with his spectacles sliding down his nose all of the time.
He liked their little two-story house on the corner of High Street and Queens Lane. It was a Victorian brick building; painted light tan, with narrow windows framed with white panes and a brick front stoop. Very pleasant, and he'd inherited it after his father’s death in Munich, along with a surprisingly large number of Swiss bank accounts and stocks and bonds.
None of which he’d be capable of accessing until he was 21. It hadn’t been until recently that Mr. Churchill, a close friend of his father, saw Edward fit enough to take on the accounts, and insisted on heaping a number of financial advisors on the boy. Apparently Edward’s father had informed the British politician and author of Edward’s inability to moderate his spending and was determined from the grave to give the boy some financial sense.
With a heavy sigh, he flipped open his newspaper and started to scan the want ads.
He squinted, and pulled his glasses from his breast pocket and was about to put them on, when a knock on the door forced him to pause. Frowning, Edward stood, wondering who on earth could be calling on him at dinner hour. After all, they had no scheduled deliveries nor did he expect Alphonse and Noa home anytime soon.
Not caring to remove his glasses, the young man made his way into the hall, and crossed to the foyer. It was a simple hall, with a high ceiling, and stairway leading to the bedrooms above. The hall itself sported a mirror; with an end table. On it was a vase Noa had filled with flowers. And beside the door was a coat rack where Edward’s academic gown and several heavy winter coats and a derby hat hung. Several pictures hung on the red and gold paisley wallpaper, just above the mahogany wood panels.
All in all it was serviceable hall, and Noa had decorated it well.
Through the stained glass of the dark wood door, Edward could make out the stout outline of a gentleman. He paused, feeling his gut tighten. As if his day hadn’t been bad enough. It was about to take a turn for the worse.
It always did when Winston Churchill made a visit.
Clearing his throat, Edward opened the door. He would have to be polite, the man was a friend of his father's. “Mr. Churchill.” Edward started stiffly.
“Good evening, Edward, I trust you and your family are well.” The dark haired man’s round, but stern features formed a smile as he stepped into the hall and handed Edward his heavy cassimere topcoat and fedora hat.
Behind him, Alphonse trotted up the steps, holding his tweed cap on his head. The boy looked flushed with his red cheeks and sparkling gold eyes. He looked like he ran his way home from the university library. Likely because he saw Mr. Churchill and knew Edward and he would be meeting. “I see you’ve arrived before me, Mr. Churchill!” He said cheerfully. He stepped in after Edward, unbuttoning his short-waisted khaki jacket and hung it up on the coat rack. Like many of the youth of the day, Al had taken to wearing just longer than knee length jodhpurs or riding breeches, suspenders and a white shirt, with disposable collar and cuffs. His bow tie was crooked, but the boy was so excited he failed to notice it. Rather, he turned to Edward, almost bursting with enthusiasm. “I’ll put on some tea! And warm up some supper. You will be staying for supper, won’t you Mr. Churchill?”
“You’re too kind, Alphonse. Of course, but don’t you have servants to help with meals?“
“No, no we have no servants,” Edward snapped, hanging up Mr. Churchill’s coat and hat. It was all spiraling out of Edward’s control. Edward had hoped for a short, quick, get-to-the-point discussion with the politician, but with Al there it would become the dreaded social affair, that would inevitably lead to an evening of lectures and floods of Mr. Churchill’s stubbornly undeniable advice.
“No servants?” Mr. Churchill glanced at Edward, disapproval in his gaze. “Why Edward, you have more than enough money to pay for hired help, and it is the only proper way for a young man of your stature and limited time.”
“I like privacy.” Edward said, breathing deeply.
“Your poor wife,” Winston Churchill shook his head. “She must be overwhelmed.”
“Noa does fine.” It was the same as always. The short, brief comments and criticism of their life style; it was Mr. Churchill’s way when he visited. And Edward, as always, was obliged to answer in short, irritable, defensive comments, hoping the man would get the clue he wasn’t changing his lifestyle, regardless of what society thought.
The two men glared at each other, and Edward swore he could hear Churchill’s brain whirling with tactical approaches to debating his point. He was after all a politician and a man of principle.
“Noa made a roast last night.” Alphonse said, interrupting. “Brother, I think Mr. Churchill would like to sit down, why don’t you take him to the study…”
“I was having tea in the kitchen.” Edward said, eyeing his brother. Al looked back to him large eyes imploring him to use his manners and treat their family friend as a respected guest. “Oh very well. You must excuse me, Mr. Churchill. I had a difficult day at the university.”
The portly man waved a hand. “No offense taken, Edward. I understand the frustration of bureaucracy. Do you mind something stronger than tea, Alphonse? A brandy? For brother Edward and myself. I suspect he shall need it after our little talk…” he eyed Edward. “Or perhaps even before… just to relax some.”
Edward snorted. “The parlor is this way.” Edward informed, dismissing the older man’s words and stalking down the hall.
“Have I ever given you bad advice, Edward?” Winston Churchill sat on the sofa, elbows on his knees, a short glass of brandy in his hand. His sharp gaze was on Edward, who sat across from in his low backed, matching chair.
The parlor had high ceilings, which made Churchill’s voice carry so it could be heard all the way down the hall: possibly, into the kitchen, where Alphonse was undoubtedly eavesdropping.
It was a pleasant room, with yellow broad-striped wallpaper, a large white framed mirror built into the wall, and white paneling and trim. Bookshelves were filled the wall across from the large paned window and hot water heater. Hanging on the walls were photos of Edward and Noa’s wedding, and a rather informal portrait of the brothers, standing side by side, dressed in vests and slacks.
A wooden phonograph sat in the corner, with records stacked on a wire rack. There was also a large wooden radio set under the mirror, with chairs clustered around it for evening listening.
“I don’t like your advice,” Edward said honestly, twirling his brandy and looking at the liquid. “It never suits me.”
“That is because you are impractical, Edward.” Churchill said firmly. “When you first came to England, you hadn’t a penny to your name… What did you want to do? Pillage your father’s accounts and spend it doing what? Running all over Europe, getting into all sorts of trouble…”
Edward sighed. Yes, yes, he came back to get his money, which Churchill flatly denied. Legally Ed couldn’t touch it until he was twenty-one… “You told me to get a reputation, make a man of myself, rather than run amuck.”
“Now look at you! An Oxford graduate, a professor, and you and your wife have quite a nice social circle. Though the circumstances behind it are unusual, you have managed to influence some very interesting individuals.” It was odd hearing that from Churchill -- the man who usually boasted about his failure at school and strongly encouraged the military to build one's character.
“Indeed." Edward heaved a breath, remembering how his life had suddenly spiraled out of his control when he finally settled down. Suddenly he was at the beck and call of socialites and the intellectual politics of the university. Which brought him back to today and his meeting with the board. “Bloody hell, if it wasn’t for you, I’d be carefree, with no goddamn responsibility, and be my own man… No job, no marriage, no social standing…”
Churchill straightened, brow lifting. “Penniless, and wondering where your next meal was. Dragging a young waif and lady across the country living the life of a hobo or gypsy. You father put strict restrictions on your inheritance, Edward. You complain about it now, but I assure you, Alphonse doesn’t regret it. Nor does your wife.”
Edward glared. “You have no idea how they feel.”
“Every time I see young Alphonse, he thanks me, Edward. He’s very proud of you and what you are doing…”
Yes, it all came down to Al. He knew the boy was happy and that was why he put up with it all. Edward sighed, downing his drink. A part of him longed for the freedom of his youth. To wander and explore, to not worry about who is insulted because the next day he’d be on a train to another destination. “So, what advice do you wish to impart? Let me see the last time, you told me to get married, what did you say? Ah yes, you didn’t care what kind of life I lived in private, but publicly I needed to be as presentable as possible, and two young men, living with a lady was just scandalous….”
“Quite so, and it has worked out well.” Churchill came to a stand, and studied the wedding picture on the wall. “A handsome couple you make too.”
He had never seen himself as married, but his close friendship with Noa made the relationship work rather well, and they shared an understanding and deep respect between each other. It could have been worse, Edward supposed. He could have been told to marry a woman who would be unable to accept his devotion to Alphonse. In the end, he was very pleased with the arrangement as was Noa. He just would never let Mr. Churchill know it. “So tell me… Why are you here?”
“I had a call from the university.” The man placed his hands behind his back and paced around the room. “They tell me, you were rather colorful concerning the budget cuts to your research this year. Straightforward young men make them nervous.”
Edward snorted. He stood, placing his glass on the tea table next to Churchill’s. Churchill was one to talk -- he was an avid conservative, and he and Edward often clashed on principles. “They are concerned because I have scoffed at the suggestion of using electromagnetism in cancer research.” He waved an annoyed hand. “I don’t care if the gentleman is the son of the headmaster, to make such a suggestion is preposterous. Why, the research and treatments of the late 1880s produced no reliable results. I don’t understand why on earth I have to humor the man because he is unfortunately someone’s offspring. So they cut my research budget.”
The two men's gazes met, and Edward noted a hint of sympathy in Churchill’s gaze. “They would take you seriously if you presented yourself Edward. Position and Blood does unfortunately play into the scheme of things.” He patted Edward’s shoulder. “Nonetheless, if you play their game and take yourself seriously, you can make them play by your rules, not some idiot son of the dean.”
Edward snorted. “And how do I do that? I suppose I could embarrass the fellow with the proper scientific information, but I’d certainly lose my job.”
“Not if you work on your position in society.” Churchill instructed. “Get yourself a bloody staff of servants, start to socialize with people who are willing to fund your work, and make your name known. Like your father did. Make yourself known enough, and no one will give a damn about how eccentric you are. Money talks, Edward, and you have quite a bit of it now. Use it to better your position.”
“You’re telling me to become a bloody politician.” Edward sighed. His day had just gotten worse. He slumped his shoulders and sighed. How could he argue with a man who spent his life pulling on other people’s strings to get what he wanted? “I’m a professor.”
“Indeed, and professors are politicians, especially in university politics.” Churchill beamed waving a hand. “Now, I can help of course. My wife knows several people who can arrange a proper staff, and she can assist you in finding a tutor for learning the proper social behavior for a young man as yourself. I on the other hand can offer some advice in the political arena! If not, there is always the service, Edward.”
“Politics.” Edward repeated. “Mr. Churchill, my idea of politics is fisticuffs.”
“Hmm... as I recall I did quiet well in fencing and did dreadfully in school, but I lived, Edward. All in due time.” The gentlemen told him. “Now, don’t worry about your job at the university. This is just a trifling set back. You are a smart lad, and they don’t want to let you go. After all, men like your friend Sir Arthur would be very displeased. No, what you need to worry about is finding more financial backing with the crown... ”
“Brother.” They sat in the kitchen, Alphonse placing a teacup down in front of him. The boy’s eyes were filled with worry. In the background, Edward could hear the phonograph playing the low sultry tones of “Rhapsody in Blue”. It was relaxing, and helped to settle his worries some.
“Dinner went well, and I do think it was the first time you and Mr. Churchill had a discussion that didn’t disturb the neighbors. Why are you so upset?”
Alphonse was referring to the time Edward and Mr. Churchill discussed the length of Edward’s hair. The blond inhaled, he had six drinks and it still hadn’t eased the idea that he, Edward Elric had to start kissing up to the upper crust. It was inevitable, yes; he knew it was when he took his job. But now, the grim reality had bitten him squarely on the buttocks. “Why me?” He said, sighing heavily and lifting the teacup up to his lips. “Alphonse, do you really like living here?”
The boy leaned forward, folding his arms on the table and studied his brother. “Yes, yes I do. For the first time in my life, I feel like I’m free to do what I want. But you are not happy?” He reached out, squeezing Edward’s hand.
“I am happy.” Edward said after a moments thought. “But being grown up is hard work. And I don’t like the work. Mr. Churchill says you are proud of me.” The tea was sweet and smooth. Al always made wonderful tea, and for some reason, it seemed to make things feel better.
“Very, brother. You are trying very hard to make things work. “ Alphonse brushed his bangs from his face, and looked across the room. “We are a part of the world, without worry about the world ending around us. I like worrying about the silly things, brother. They are not so horrid that I am scared I will not wake up the next day.” He paused, taking a sip of his tea, and smiling. “Is it not a different kind of worry, brother?”
Their sins, Dante, the war, it all seemed far away from him now, but Alphonse was right. Edward Elric was in a position to affect lives in a positive way, and in the end, if he failed, he would just have to find a new strategy. The former Alchemist started to relax. “We still have to find the bomb.” He said evenly. “But I suppose the route we are taking is effective.”
“It is. Our adversary would certainly seek out great minds that would assist him in producing such a thing. It only means well if it is gained by legitimate means. Wasn’t that what Mr. Lang implied when you last spoke to him?”
Edward nodded. “He did.” He looked away, feeling his frustration lift a little. Alphonse was right. He needed a reputation in the scientific world to be taken seriously if he were to find the Uranium bomb. Moreover, Alphonse, really wanted to live this mundane life, unmolested by the stresses of death and the sins of their past. Despite the foolishness, they had all that. It just would take him a little more work to secure it.
“And, we have an important ally in Mr. Churchill, brother, isn’t that what Colonel Mustang would do?” Alphonse picked up the newspaper and scanned it. “So I suppose in the end, we don’t entirely need to run around with the world on our shoulders. We’ve done our part, and in time, if we need an adventure, we’ll find one. On our terms.”
“You make things sound so damned simple.” Edward sighed. “So, what sort of adventure would you like to go on?”
“I would like to meet Louis Armstrong.” Alphonse said, folding the paper over. “And dance the blues in New Orleans some day. Or perhaps, go see Houdini in one of his daring escapes.”
“You have become bloody mundane. I suppose I should have suspected it, when you took me to that horrible Sheik movie…”
Alphonse went to respond when his face paled. He held the newspaper closer, features looking suddenly very lost. “Oh brother, this is terrible.”
“What do you mean?” Edward leaned over, pulling his spectacles on and staring at the paper. All sorts of things were terrible. Edward having to deal with politics on his job, the uranium bomb, having to get a servant staff and acting his age….
“Rudolf Valentino just died. “ Alphonse whispered with anguished emotion and wiping his eyes. “No more Sheik movies, it is absolutely horrible, brother. Very, very sad, he was so young.”
Edward snorted. “Sad indeed. He’s just done us a favor.” He settled back, watching his brother. At least he had some good news that day. He wouldn’t have to be dragged to those weepy, tacky romance films anymore. “I thought it was something important.”
Alphonse dropped the paper, his face forming a pout. Wordless he sipped at his tea, staring across at the paper. “But I liked his movies, Brother. I mean, he made people happy, didn’t he? So him dying is a sad thing.”
“Charlie Chaplin makes people happy.” Edward remarked flatly. He never got the reason why anyone liked Valentino films. Even Noa liked them. “I will mourn his death.”
Alphonse sighed, shaking his head. “Brother, you need to get a little romance in your life, than you’d understand.”
“Romance.” Edward Elric came to his feet, finished his tea and placed the cup in the sink. He was a married man, didn’t that count as romance? “Who needs Romance when I have you, Alphonse. You are romantic enough for the both of us!” He patted the boy on the head, and started his way out of the kitchen. Suddenly the red tape of the university and politics of the upper class didn’t seem so pointless. He paused, smiling at his brother and realized how good it was for Alphonse to mourn fools like Valentino. “You are a good boy, Alphonse.” He said, with a slight smile. “And I love you very much.”
Those dark gold eyes sparkled, and Alphonse Elric came to his feet and a smile returned to his innocent cherub face. They would move the world for each other. And somehow, they both found happiness, and that was what really mattered in the end.