Unapproved Project

A FMA Fanfic

By Jaelle

Disclaimer: None of them are mine. Except one. And I don't want him.

Spoilers: None.

I kind of imagine this being set after the brothers have been working for Roy for about two or three years (he’s ranked at Colonel), and it’s set rather nebulously in the anime version of the story. Mostly of the action is being seen from Roy's POV, which is why Ed is usually referred to as Fullmetal. And yes, Roy fluctuates from being Colonel Roy Mustang to being addressed as Mustang-taisa. I like it that way. It sounds better.

Colonel Roy Mustang raised his eyebrow at the man bristling with indignation in his office.

"Please let me see if I have this correctly," he said calmly. "You are here from the Academy of Alchemy to demand an accounting from Edward Elric, THE Edward Elric, the Fullmetal Alchemist, regarding his research."

"That is quite correct," the old man, who had identified himself as Matthew Gilwarden, said stiffly.

Roy steepled his fingers. "Might I remind you that as a State Licensed Alchemist under the employ of the military, Elric-san has no obligation whatsoever to hand over the results of ANY projects he might be developing to you. In fact, I believe it is treasonous for him to do so without the permission of his commanding officer."

"Edward Elric is an Alchemist in the development stages of a Alchemic project," Gilwarden argued. "He is using the resources of the National Academy to advance his research, and yet we have received no reports on its development. Nor have we received any updates from the military, not even a comment of top-secret. No matter WHO he is, an Alchemist must answer to someone!"

"He does," Roy pointed out, "He answers to me. I trust you are not going to call MY credentials into question?"

Gilwarden backtracked, "Colonel, despite the reputations that both you and Elric hold, you must still answer to a higher authority than your own. We cannot blindly trust in the good hearts of men, who are weak and can easily succumb to temptation."

"Are we still talking about Edward Elric?" Roy asked with a slight smile. "You're certain you're not confusing him with someone else?"

Gilwarden glared and Roy suppressed a sigh. This interview had been going on for over an hour now and no progress had been made on either side. Gilwarden simply would not be dissuaded. He seemed convinced that Fullmetal was either developing something immoral or illegal, or scamming the Academy. Mentally Roy ran through his list of likely suspects for inflicting this little inquisition on them. Was it one of his enemies? Or one of Fullmetal's? Goodness knew they both had plenty of them.

The problem, Roy acknowledged, was that what Fullmetal was working on, an attempt to successfully achieve human transmutation, actually WAS considered immoral. Certainly his original disastrous attempt to bring back the dead had been. And he'd paid for it in blood and bone, as had his little brother. Roy knew that both boys admitted the fault as their own, and were willing to accept the results as a rightful punishment for their arrogance. However, neither of them was willing to let it go at that, and there was no way that anyone could dissuade them from seeking a cure for their problem. Nor did he see why they SHOULD be dissuaded, if only for Alphonse's sake.

The problem of course was that noone else could KNOW about it. And certainly not THIS stuck-up idiot with a chip on his shoulder.

Roy stared at him over his steepled fingers and considered the situation. If only the Elric's were off on a mission right now, then he could have put the man off for a month and come up a cover story for them. Unfortunately, they were right here on base, and had been for weeks, as almost everyone knew. Which meant that this was definitely an attempt to undermine or incriminate either himself or Fullmetal (or both). SOMEONE had been having ideas and making suggestions, and when Roy found out who they were, they were going to regret it. Deeply.

However, he first had to defuse THIS little time bomb.

"Colonel," Gilwarden said wearily. "May I reiterate my original statement. I am here to speak with and, if necessary, question Edward Elric regarding his current line of research. You have no justifiable reason to refuse me, if you had you would have used it already. I demand that you cease these attempts to frustrate me, and through me, the National Academy, and take me to see Elric immediately."

Roy hated it when other people were right. "Very well then," he said, rising to his feet. "If you'll follow me."

Wandering through the corridors Roy pondered his options. He could always claim not to be able to FIND Fullmetal...


For such a small boy he had a very LARGE pair of lungs, Roy thought angrily. Heading in the direction of the yelling, Roy turned a corner to see Alphonse holding his brother back while one of the women from the secretary pool escaped off down the corridor.

"Ah, Fullmetal, there you are," Roy said calmly, as Al released his brother and they both turned to face him. "This is Matthew Gilwarden, from the Academy of Alchemists."

Alphonse bowed formally to the man. "It's nice to meet you."

Fullmetal cast a disinterested look at Gilwarden, "Oh yeah, and what do YOU want?"

Roy gritted his teeth and wished that just once the annoying brat would TRY to be helpful and polite. Gilwarden was ALREADY prejudiced against him. He didn't need to be provoked any further! Roy could almost FEEL the rage pouring off the man.

"Edward Elric, I am a representative of the Academy of Alchemists," Gilwarden said coldly. "This is a preliminary investigation into your research, to discover whether you are worthy to continue to hold an Alchemist's licence."

Fullmetal rolled his eyes. "Since when has the Academy cared about quality control?" He asked snidely.

"Fullmetal has just returned from a mission involving an Alchemist who was transmuting animals into horrific monsters to terrify a local village," Roy said quickly, hoping to undo some of the damage. "I believe he's still feeling a little cynical about the event. Not unusual, especially in such YOUNG boy."

He noted Fullmetal stiffen as his barb hit home, and returned the unfriendly glare with one of his own. *Behave!*

"The Academy has very high standards," Gilwarden was suffused with fury. "No-one is above the law Elric-san. I DEMAND that you show me the results of your work."

Roy prepared to begin soothing the man's ruffled feelings as soon as Fullmetal denied having developed anything at all. *Mistakes happen, miscommunications, naturally nothing in development, busy, missions, training, the laziness of youth... is the boy having sex yet? An implied affair might work, and it would serve him right for his behaviour...*

"Oh all RIGHT," Fullmetal said irritably. "If you're going to be like THAT about it."

Roy managed not to choke and sent Fullmetal a fulminating look, which the boy missed entirely as he was turning away and heading off down the corridor. Alphonse and Gilwarden followed quickly on his heels and Roy was forced to catch up.

What was this? he wondered. *Don't tell me he actually intends to SHOW Gilwarden what he's working on? He's not THAT crazy.*

Eventually they reached a small lab, which Roy remembered had been unused for some months now. Or at least, that was what he had THOUGHT. Fullmetal produced a key for the door and Roy made a mental note to discuss things like "permission" and "keeping your superiors informed" with the boy the next chance he got.

"I still don't see why I have to show you this," Fullmetal complained, reluctantly unlocking the door to the lab.

"Don't worry about it nii-san," Alphonse chimed in. "Let's just show Gilwarden-san what we're working on, and then everybody can go back to what they were doing."

Roy began to seriously worry at this point. They couldn't BOTH be suggesting...?

The door opened and the group tromped in to the lab. Roy couldn't help it, his jaw dropped open. Fortunately Fullmetal was too busy glaring at Gilwarden, who was completely flabberghasted, to notice his commanding officer's amazement. Roy quickly got a hold of himself, just in time to notice Alphonse looking away. It was astonishing how a suit of armour could radiate suppressed amusement like that.

The laboratory was filled with plants in various stages of bloom. Most of them were vegetables, but there were a few flowers as well. Roses, chrysanthemums, daffodils, Roy noted, trying to comprehend what he was seeing. A nearby desk was covered with sheets of paper and books, and a large chart was affixed to the far wall. It appeared to be a measurement of something, but from this distance Roy couldn't tell what of. Whatever it was, it appeared to be climbing steadily.

"Oh DAMN!" Fullmetal cursed.

Startled, Roy and Gilwarden turned to where Fullmetal was angrily watching a tomato plant wither and turn to dust. Fullmetal reached over behind the plant and yanked out a time measure, "Al! Clock this one in at four hours and seventeen minutes."

Alphonse obediently picked up a pencil and a clipboard, noted the time on it, and then moved over to the chart and neatly made a mark on it. "That's twenty-two minutes longer than last time nii-san."

Fullmetal did not seem pleased by this and absently kicked the floor, "I was hoping it would make it to five hours!"

"The vines do seem harder to energise," Alphonse said placatingly. "Perhaps if we narrowed it to root vegetables again."

"What's the point in that?" Fullmetal yelled. "Subsistence level food..."

"Excuse me," Roy interupted the burgeoning argument. "Perhaps you would like to present your experiment more fully to Mr Gilwarden here." *And fill me in while you're at it.*

Fullmetal scowled. "What does it look like?" he demanded. "We're trying to transmute weeds into vegetable plants in a productive and fully-fertile state."

Roy and Gilwarden choked.

"But, but that's IMPOSSIBLE!" Gilwarden protested. "Noone's EVER managed to transmute non-related flora into productive food-bearing plants! And when ordinary ones are transmuted they're NEVER fertile! Something in the transmutation process prevents it."

"We KNOW that," Fullmetal said scathingly. "That's why we're trying to FIX it!"

"What has been your best result so far?" Roy demanded.

"Let's see..." Alphonse consulted the chart. "So far the longest lasting experiment were the carrots we did three months ago. They stabilised fully-grown after seven hours, and achieved the first stages of fertility at approximately eleven hours. In hour twelve they died after seeding. Fortunately we were able to collect some of the seeds, but we're still running tests on them." The armoured helm turned to regard Roy slightly reproachfully. "In our spare time that is."

Roy wasn't sure he could take many more shocks like this. They weren't spending all their time trying to find the Philosopher's Stone or a cure? They had OTHER Alchemical projects?! SUCCESSFUL projects??!! That they had managed to keep HIDDEN FROM HIM??!!!

"What? It's not a big deal," Fullmetal seemed to be torn between pride and embarassment. "It's just something to keep busy with when we're not working on... a mission. It's... a hobby. You know, for fun."

Gilwarden was spluttering and looked like he was about to have a heart attack. Roy thought he might follow him if Fullmetal continued to act like their experiments weren't a massive breakthrough in the science of Alchemy. Both men knew, and the Elric's probably did too, that the previous best time for stabilising a transmuted food-producing plant was one hour and fifty-seven minutes. And NOONE had ever managed to make them fertile. The Elric Brothers hadn't just broken the record... they'd shattered it into little pieces, stomped all over it, and then headed off into the sunset, all without telling anyone.

"Why... why didn't you SAY anything about this?" Gilwarden finally managed to ask.

Fullmetal stared at him as though he was stupid. "Because it's not finished yet." He explained slowly and carefully. "What good's a vegetable plant that only lasts a couple of hours? We wanted to wait until we actually had something USEFUL to report."

Roy tried to decide whether it would be easier to just collapse right now, or strangle Fullmetal before he said anything else.

"Did YOU know about this?" Gilwarden turned on Roy. "You ARE his commanding officer, after all!"

Having to face his own words coming back to haunt him, Roy lied like a champion. "Naturally I was aware of Fullmetal's experiments," he said casually. "But I haven't had time to read his latest reports on their development."

"We haven't WRITTEN any... OW!"

"Sorry nii-san," Alphonse did not sound particularly apologetic. "We're a little bit behind on our reports Gilwarden-san, Mustang-taisa. We can show you our working notes if you like."

Fullmetal growled and rubbed his head where Al's elbow had smacked into him. "Al's the one you want to talk to if you're interested in reports," he said. "He does most of the practical stuff while I'm at the library."

"But we both work on the theory and the experiments, nii-san," Al rejected the implication that the bulk of the credit for this project was due to him. "And you came up with the original idea. This is something we BOTH did."

The two brothers shared a fond smile.

Gilwarden had gone back to gibbering, "Not filed any reports lately? Priceless work... irreplaceble... children... spare time... HOBBY!!!"

Fullmetal shot the man a puzzled look. Alphonse radiated innocence. Roy resisted the urge to bang their heads together.

"Colonel Mustang!" Gilwarden snapped to his full height, which while unimpressive was still taller than Edward. "I must INSIST that this project be turned over to the Academy, to be assigned to a research team under someone who can devote their full efforts towards developing these breakthroughs into a useful commodity."

Fullmetal, predictably, exploded.

Roy listened with half an ear to their argument and swiftly debated the key points with himself as they came up. On the one hand, it would spike the guns of whoever was behind this little plot quite nicely, it would also mean the National Academy would owe him a favour, while enhancing Fullmetal's (and by extension his own) reputation.

On the other hand, Fullmetal would resent having his "toy" taken away from him, and would more than likely sulk or plot revenge, which was acceptable. Also Roy would owe HIM a favour, which was not. Alphonse also might resent having his project taken away, which Roy was beginning to see as a much bigger problem (and HOW had he underestimated the younger brother all this time? Distracted by Fullmetal no doubt). Furthermore, what would they do "in their spare time" if THIS project was taken away from them. He shuddered to think. Also, it WAS their project, which they had clearly developed amazingly in only a short while.

But wasn't it more important to ensure that this work WAS developed further, regardless of who did it? The benefits to humankind would be enormous, and neither boy had the time to dedicate to it the way it needed. It needed funding, assistants, space, more experimentation and focused attention. He couldn't spare the brothers from their work, they were too good a pair of troubleshooters to be allowed to spend all their time researching. SOMEONE had to take this project to the next level. The boys were young, they'd have time for research and development LATER in their lives.

Roy spotted Alphonse staring at him, and told himself that it was impossible for a six foot tall suit of armour to give him puppy dog eyes.

It was giving him puppy dog eyes. Damn it.

"If you would both be quiet a moment please," he suggested in a moderate tone. Gilwarden and Fullmetal both shut up and glared at him, daring him to divert their anger.

"Fullmetal, you know well enough you have... other commitments which take up a great deal of your time," Roy pointed out, not missing the guilty look Fullmetal shot at his little brother. "And while Alphonse-kun is an excellent Alchemist, he too is often busy. Neither of you has the leisure to truly dedicate yourselves to this project in the way it deserves, no matter how much you may enjoy working on it."

"However," he added as Gilwarden swelled up like a toad. "Considering the astonishing strides they have already made in this area, it would likewise be foolish for Gilwarden-san to remove it entirely from the control of the people who formulated the theories AND made them work."

"Therefore I have a compromise to suggest."

Everyone was now watching and listening. Roy took a deep breath. "Full... Edward and Alphonse will hand their research notes and experiments over to the National Academy, who will assign a research team to further develop their work... UNDER the supervision of both Elric brothers. A project manager will be appointed to continue the work in their absence, but BOTH Fullmetal AND the Academy must approve them. The Elric's are to be provided with full access to any and all project notes, and likewise any further ideas THEY come up with are to be given over to the project. A fair sharing of information. How does that sound?"

Gilwarden and Fullmetal both looked as though they were both about to start yelling again, but then paused, thoughtful expressions crossing their faces. Roy mentally crossed his fingers as indecision fluttered over their faces. For a long moment, noone said anything. Roy cast a quick glance at Alphonse.

"It's alright with me as long as nii-san agrees!" He chimed in on cue.

"You're sure?" Fullmetal asked, almost in relief. "I don't want you to feel like it's being taken away from you."

"No," Alphonse assured his brother. "Mustang-taisa is right, we don't have the time to spend on this, and the work is too important to wait for us to be free nii-san."

"Okay then, I agree," Fullmetal said, glancing at Gilwarden, who huffed indignantly but eventually reluctantly agreed also.

"Excellent," Roy said. "I will make the arrangements to have the materials sent over to the Academy as soon as possible. Fullmetal and I can discuss the arrangements this evening..." he sent a meaningful glare at the boy. "In the meantime, perhaps Alphonse-kun would like to show you out."

As Alphonse led the man away, Roy turned to Ed, a nasty glint in his eye.

"Now, about all this 'spare time' of yours, Fullmetal..."


Author's Notes:
Or, What The Hell Was Jaelle Talking About?

As anyone with a science degree will be able to tell, I am not a scientist. Hell, I barely qualify as a LAYMAN. With that in mind, I'd originally just intended to gloss over the details of the experiment the brothers were doing and just let everyone else say how brilliant they are. Then Edward "Bigmouth" Elric insisted on talking about his work. So I was forced to make something up.

I based the concept of their experiment on both the real-world science of genetical modification, and the FMA-world alchemical experiments into chimeras. I figured that with all of their interest in life-transmutation it was logical that they would have, at one point or another, stumbled into the plant section of life sciences. Then it was simply a matter of finding something which would benefit the "common man", and be in keeping with the concept of "an alchemist works for the benefit of others". The real-world equivalent of trying to genetically engineer food with higher levels of protein, calcium and vitamins (such as "golden rice") appealed to me as an idea.

So I based the idea for their experiment on the "golden rice", the fact that a great deal of genetically-modified agricultural developments are now intentionally _designed_ to be infertile (thus forcing farmers to buy new seed every year, instead of allowing some plants to go to seed, collecting it and replanting it themselves), and the principle of "give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. Teach him to fish and you feed him for life". Hopefully that all came through okay. If not, and if in fact you feel I'm talking through my hat, well, that's my fault and I'm sorry.

The rest of the idea for this fic came from Branch's fantastic After Arc “Ever”, in which she makes comments about Edward's talent as an Alchemist and his joy in researching, and also has him do check-ups on other Alchemists with Roy. I picked that up and ran with it, and took along the concept that Ed was a perfectionist (dunno where I got that one from, possibly just my own opinion) who wouldn't bother mentioning "unimportant, private" stuff to other people until it was finished, and my belief that Al needs something to do with all his spare time dammit (seen in my previous fic - as well as the belief, shared with many fans, that he's a much sneakier guy than anyone suspects) and that Roy needs a good surprise now and again. It also grew out of my own experience as a researcher that, no matter how hard you focus on your goal, along the way you WILL find interesting little tangents to follow up on in your spare time, as a break from the grinding work of the main project. And sometimes these can wind up being much more interesting, or fun, than the original job. :-)

Oh, and just for the record, although I'm pro Ed/Roy normally, it just wasn't right for this fic. I thought about dropping a hint, but then Roy started mentally referring to them both as "boys" and then it all went out the window from there.

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