Clap Your Hands

A FMA Fanfic

By Jaelle

Rating: G. Drama/Angst.
Ratings, Warnings: PG, Darkfic, divergent future from ep. 39.
Spoilers for some events up until ep. 39.
Written for the Scimitar Smile "Green Lion" winter contest. The topic was "Deconstruction".

Disclaimer: Not mine.

It was basic Alchemy, really, Ed thought. Barely any effort at all. Just clap your hands and hey presto! Clap and presto, clap and presto.

No thinking required.

It got a little repetitive after a while, and he began to feel like a toy monkey banging cymbals together. Or a young child, playing.

But he was not playing, and he was no child. This was important work he was doing, a fact that came back to him when Havoc asked him, very politely, if he would mind not humming the "if you're happy and you know it, clap your hands" song while he worked.

He hadn't even known he remembered that tune. It was Al's favourite walking song back when they were kids. He'd cheerfully sing it for ages, encouraging all and sundry to clap along. Ed had never liked it, especially after the time Winry changed the words to, "if you're short and you know it" and he'd clapped without even thinking about it.

Yes, that was the trick. Just clap without thinking about it. Because really, it didn't matter if he got it wrong, the results were more or less the same.

Mustang took him aside one evening to discuss the work.

"You're getting careless."

Ed had just shrugged casually. "Does it really matter?"

The normally calm Mustang had grabbed him by the shoulders and shaken him violently. "You have to pay attention, Fullmetal!"

Ed had wanted to reassure him, but he'd bitten his tongue during the shaking and was occupied in savouring the iron taste of blood in his mouth. It reminded him of Al.

The work continued apace. And he tried to pay attention, he really truly did, but it was so mind-numbing, and it went on and on and on. It was made easier when they put the little red pendant around his neck, but he still had to work around the clock in response to their endless demands, and the conditions under which he was expected to perform were frankly quite shocking. He was glad Al wasn't here to see it.

Still, he was young and strong, and didn't really need that much sleep, so he managed. The constant exercise of his powers was making his flesh hand hurt, though. One evening he took off his gloves and realised that there were bruises all over the palm. He'd stared at them for ages in fascination, until Mustang arrived and made him go to his quarters.

Later the Brigadier-General had shown up with a small container of soothing balm, which he'd gently spread all over Ed's palm. Ed had protested at first but had become fascinated by the long fingers that worked the cool cream into his skin.

They were gnarled and knotted, the fingernails worn down to the nub and the joints an angry, swollen red. Mustang had noticed him looking and his mouth had twisted.

"It's so easy," he'd said. "Just a snap."

"Just a clap," Ed had been amused by the rhyme.

Mustang had gripped his chin gently and tilted his head upwards. "Do you even know where you are?" He'd asked quietly.

Ed hadn't responded, but the next day... or was it the day after? Or maybe more, it was hard to keep the time straight any more, ever since his watch had broken. Anyway, sometime later he'd thought about Mustang's question and wondered if his commanding officer was cracking up. Of course he knew where he was. How could he forget Lior, with its grand cathedral and its large populace?

Very, very large populace. Honestly, it was hard to believe one city could house so many people. He had to wonder where they were all coming from. Hawkeye had said something about "rallying to the cause", but he hadn't really been paying attention at the time, because he'd been working. He should probably ask though, if he saw her again.

It was getting very difficult to keep his mind on the greater design of the work though. He kept being distracted by the details. He reminded himself over and over to keep the greater point of the exercise clearly in view. It was important. It was necessary. And it was just unfortunate that all of these... fiddly bits kept getting in the way. Everywhere he turned they were underfoot. And removing them was such a pain, but necessary. Necessary to the greater whole. So he removed them. Yes, removed, for the time being. It was important to think of it that way.

It was always removal. Because of course he wasn't really killing people. He wouldn't do that, no, never.

He wasn't killing them. He was just... deconstructing them, for now.

He'd put them all back together later.

If you're happy and you know it...

He clapped his hands.


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