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Letters · from · Mars


Fic: Checkmate [Fullmetal Alchemist]

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Title: Checkmate
Fandom: Fullmetal Alchemist
Pairing: Roy/Ed
Rating: PG13
A/N: I am a terrible chess player. Specific moves are mentioned as a narative device, and probably don't make much sense.



The first game was quick and dirty, a series of attacks and counters, flustered scurries of pieces across the varnished board. Ed lost, but there was triumph in his eyes as he knocked his king carelessly to rest. “Next time, Mustang,” he said, and Roy immediately began to formulate a plan of attack.

The second game was longer by two hours and fierce. Ed played white and appeared hell bent on bringing everything he had to bear in the first five moves. His strategy, Roy thought, was frenetic at best. He treated pawns like guerilla fighters and sent half his strongest pieces barreling up the king’s side, completely disregarding the centre of the board, which Roy rather comfortably controlled. He sacrificed his queen to save a knight, and Roy saw check in six moves, checkmate in eight, maybe nine.

Two moves later, Ed’s bishop came slicing up from the queen’s side, punching right through an opening that shouldn’t have been an opening. He’d narrowed the field of play, forced Roy to move to the centre and one side, to box in his own king. Knight to king’s bishop three.

Ed smirked. “Checkmate.”

Son of a bitch.

The third game started on a Thursday afternoon. Twenty moves in, they’d fought to a standstill. In light of Ed’s early train the next morning and the teetering towers of paperwork that had developed on Roy’s desk, a temporary truce was reached. Back to camp, bury the dead, the battle resumes at dawn.

Ed’s move. Roy stared at the board. Seven moves here, twelve there, all guesses, no guarantees. His defenses were solid, high and barbed wired, but Ed had a way of walking through walls.

A note came from somewhere on the East border, short, uninformative, and offering greetings to everyone in the office with the exception of Roy, who was referred to only indirectly and with colourful phrasing. The postscript read: Pawn to queen’s knight four.

Ed was nothing if not unpredictable.

The move was unconventional and unexpected, and Roy worried at it like a hangnail. It felt like a diversion, intended to draw his mind from other quarters of the board. The king’s side rook could be a problem, and Ed’s queen remained suspiciously tentative since he had shown a penchant for bringing her out early. On the other hand, he wouldn’t put it past Ed to lead pawns into a key attack. Otherwise, the move made no sense. Ed had to know he wouldn’t fall for such a transparent ploy.

Right?

The day before the brothers were due to return, he decided to treat the upstart pawn, now grown in his mind to titanic proportions, as a threat and moved to counter with a feeling of some satisfaction.

Ed surveyed the board while Roy leafed through his report.

“Was it absolutely necessary to implode the entire warehouse?”

“Yup.” Ed’s answers were brisk, almost cheerful, though not without the edge of soul-deep irritation he seemed to reserve solely for his commanding officer.

“And you beat up the factory foreman why?”

“He tried to beat me up first.” Ed’s eyes never left the pieces. “Are we done?”

Roy sighed. “Never. But, yes, Fullmetal, you’re dismissed.”

He shuffled a knight toward the centre of the board. “See you later, colonel,” he said and strolled out the door, whistling.

In the battle lines that formed and swayed on the checkered plane, Roy saw the fluid motions of combat as though he and Edward were slowly navigating a fight with fists and feet and bodies rather than a game with wooden pieces. In the angle of the white knight and pawn, he saw Ed’s arm raised, poised for a punch or a feint. The rook swung round, a heavy boot coming in for a fast kick. His own front lines moved, arched back at the last moment.

If he watched long enough, his muscles began to ache. He could feel the blows as if they had actually fallen, could hear his own heavy breaths and Ed’s, could see the strands of hair that were not shining sweat-slicked across Ed’s face. They danced and fought, attacked and retreated, and Roy could taste the heat on his lips.

Hand-to-hand combat was personal. Thrilling, of course, but messy. War was horror. Alchemical sparring, entertainment. But chess, he had come to discover, was intimate.

He kept the board set up through the intervening years, through the bitter cold and the long nights with no dawn. In the cast of slanting lamplight, he could see Ed’s fingerprints like flickers of shadow on the white pieces. Captured players stood alongside the board in rows like headstones. Sometimes, he was certain he could see names on them, familiar faces in the ranks. Sacrifices, he thought bitterly, and tried to think of something else.

Ed’s move. Roy had made his last years ago.

In the pitch of battle, his mind was far from chess. Amidst the flying ships and armoured adversaries, he thought in leveled space and strategy, not in carved figurines. And the sight of Edward, taller, stronger, and lifetimes older, brought to mind anything but games.
And then he was gone. Again. Leaving nothing behind, no offering other than a final move called casually over his shoulder as he walked away.

Queen to king’s bishop six.

Roy mulled it over for two weeks before he had a chance to return to the north station to retrieve his things. Check, maybe, but easily escaped. Another feint? The spearhead of a larger campaign? It wasn’t endgame, of that much he was sure. Right? Or…

The rook. He’d forgotten about the rook.

He lifted the white queen with fingertips held steady by a will he had forgotten he possessed, and set her tenderly in place with a soft click that sent echoes bouncing across his spine. He dropped his hand and looked at the board.

Son of a bitch.




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[User Picture]
On March 6th, 2008 03:58 am (UTC), nogah commented:
Yeah, that's all I have to say
wow.

[User Picture]
On March 6th, 2008 04:13 am (UTC), shadowenangel replied:
Re: Yeah, that's all I have to say
^_^
glad you liked it.
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[User Picture]
On April 21st, 2008 01:30 am (UTC), leviticus_lied commented:
May I read this for amplificathon?
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On July 5th, 2008 05:30 pm (UTC), peppermintwords replied:
Hi! I just listened to your audio recording, it was really great. Your voice sounds so clear, what software did you use?
[User Picture]
On July 5th, 2008 10:57 pm (UTC), leviticus_lied replied:
I generally use Audacity, easy and free to download with the added lameware for converting the file to MP3 format. It's easy to edit it, too, just highlight the section and hit the tool with the scissors - and recording over it with another sound isn't hard, either. (I had to experiment with it until I was comfortable during the amplificathon challenge, and still don't consider myself proficient.)

Sorry, hope that ramble was what you were asking.

Thanks for letting me record your work! Glad you liked it.
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On July 8th, 2008 10:43 am (UTC), peppermintwords replied:
Oh, no, I'm not the author, but I did like the recording.
I've tried using Audacity but I have to turn up the volume of my speakers in order to hear myself :(. I wish my voice sounded as clear as yours.
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On July 8th, 2008 02:50 pm (UTC), leviticus_lied replied:
Blah, haha, sorry, my mistake.

There's a feature in Audacity that lets you adjust the input level. Basically, it makes your microphone louder, so that you can hear yourself. There's a picture of a microphone (the audio input) where you can set the... sensitivity, I suppose... of the mic, on a scale of 1 to 10. It's on the upper right hand corner of my window, I don't know if it's the same for you.
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