Written for: demoerin, for fma_ladyfest
Beta'ed by: tobu_ishi
Fandom: Fullmetal Alchemist
Characters/Pairings: Mrs. Bradley, Mrs. Bradley/King Bradley as important backdrop
Summary: Mrs. Bradley takes to the airwaves of Radio Central to discuss her life, her work, and her marriage to a King.
Notes: Since Mrs. Bradley has no canonical first name, I consulted a list of German queens and arbitrarily decided on Emma for her. Written for fma_ladyfest an age ago.
“We are live in two minutes, people, let's get the studio clear!”
That was Max, the station manager. Emma Bradley could see him, standing behind the glass separating the studio from the control room. A pair of headphones were attached to the sides of his head, which only made his head look even more round than it already did.
Emma had another look around the studio, which was bustling with activity. Everywhere she looked, people were running about, adjusting microphones, fixing last-minute technical problems, and otherwise getting the studio ready for the live broadcast. They would have cleared out in about a minute, with a swiftness and discipline that even her husband would admire, and wish his men possessed.. It was not her first time in studio, but it never failed to fascinate her.
“Do you need any water, Mrs. Bradley?” Lieutenant Hawkeye asked from behind her, and Emma turned to smile up at her.
“No thank you, Lieutenant, I'm fine. I appreciate your asking, though,” she added.
Hawkeye nodded and gave a tight smile in return. “Just doing my job, ma'am.”
Max spoke again, interrupting any further conversation: “Thirty seconds! Everybody out!”
And just like that, the remaining staff finished their work and filed out of the studio, leaving only Mrs. Bradley, the Lieutenant, and Mitch, the host. He was a genial man, broad of frame and with an ever-present grin on his lips. He was not a particularly handsome man, but that suited his position; What mattered was his voice, and it was something else.
“We shouldn't be going too far off the prepared questions today,” he assured her. “If you get stuck for words we can cover, so just relax and say what comes naturally.”
“Thank you, Mitchell, but I have done this before, you know,” she responded in an amused but good-natured tone. “No need to hold back for my sake, I promise you.”
“Ten seconds!” Max called out, putting an end to any verbal response from Mitch. He simply nodded instead, folded his hands, and waited, watching Max counting down the last five seconds with his fingers.
As soon as the green ON AIR light came on, he sat up and began speaking into the microphone, like the professional he was:
“Good evening, ladies and gentlemen! It's six o'clock, and you're listening to Radio Central. I'm your host, Mitch Landings, and we've got a heck of a show for you tonight. We'll be looking into some of the rumors that have been swirling around the burning down of the first branch of the Central library earlier this year. Although the official investigation concluded that the fire was caused by faulty wiring in the building's electrical lights, that hasn't quelled suggestions that arson or sabotage may have been involved. We'll hear from a local investigator on that subject later tonight. And in half an hour, we'll be shining a spotlight on the culture of our neighbours to the east, with the help of Professor Chelmy of the Eastern University school of International Relations!”
He leaned in a little closer to the microphone, smile widening still further.
“Before any of that, though, we have a very special guest for our first interview of the night. Mrs. Emma Bradley, the lovely wife of our beloved Fuhrer, has graciously agreed to bless our humble studio with her presence once again. Good evening, Mrs. Bradley, and welcome to the program.”
“Good evening, Mitchell,” she responded warmly. The gentlemen in the control booth began gesturing for her to move closer to the microphone, which she did, leaning forward. Max gave a thumb's up.
“We appreciate you taking time out of your – no-doubt busy – schedule to join us here tonight,” Mitch said.
“Oh, I'm afraid my schedule is not nearly so interesting,” she said, dismissing that with a wave of her hand. “Being the Fuhrer's wife is not quite as demanding a job as being the Fuhrer is.”
Mitch nodded, and then carried on. “Still, it does keep you occupied. All sorts of events and dinners to attend, for example...like the Armstrong family's annual gala last week. How was that?”
“Lovely as always,” Emma answered. “General Armstrong wasn't able to attend, unfortunately - I always do love chatting with her. And we had to leave early, because Selim was tired. Even so, the Armstrong gala can be relied on to be enjoyable, and this year was no exception.”
Mitch caught sight of Max gesturing to speed it up, and so he did. “I think I could chat with you all night, Mrs. Bradley, but our time is limited, so I'll have to just get to the questions, if you don't mind.”
“That's quite all right.”
“Alright, then, first up is a question that I'm sure you are sick to death of answering, but I'm going to ask it anyway just for the public record. What's it like, being married to the Fuhrer?”
Emma Bradley had a warm, friendly laugh, one that matched her smile, and she used it in a very gentle manner. “I never can seem to get away from that one. And since I've never been married to anyone else, I'm not sure I'm qualified to judge how different it might be from that.”
He chuckled in response. “I'm sure you can give us an educated guess.”
“Well, I'll try. He is a very private person, even with me. Part of that is because of his position, of course – there's a lot, especially about his job, that he simply can't tell me. But even back when we first met, I've always been able to tell he was holding himself back a little.”
“And that doesn't bother you?”
“Well, I married him, didn't I?” she joked. “No, it doesn't. That's simply the way he is. Perhaps it would be better if he would open up a little more, but we understand one another without needing to resort to words. The most we miss out on are specific details, which are much less important.”
“That seems like an unusual relationship, if you don't mind my saying,” Mitch commented.
“I suppose it is,” Emma replied, “but I find myself quite satisfied with it.”
“I guess that that's what matters. And what about the more practical matters? Do you ever, for example, ever find yourself in danger because of who your husband is?”
“Well, that's what Lieutenant Hawkeye is here for,” Emma said, eliciting a round of chuckles between herself and Mitchell. Hawkeye, standing behind her, gave a tight smile.
“For those of you listening from home, we are also joined in studio tonight by one Lieutenant Riza Hawkeye, personal assistant to the Fuhrer and our guest's bodyguard for the evening. She was...rather insistent that she be allowed to be physically present in the studio during tonight's broadcast. She is currently standing directly behind Mrs. Bradley, which is a little irregular.”
“Oh Mitchell, don't be too hard on the poor girl,” Emma said. “She's only doing her job.” She gestured for Hawkeye to step closer. “Come over here, Lieutenant, say a few words.”
Momentarily taken aback, Riza regardless made her way over to stand beside Mrs. Bradley. She leaned in close to the microphone, and gave a quick-yet-polite “Good evening.”
This was completely off of the script, and in the booth the look on Max's face was pure dismay. However, Mitch had apparently decided to roll with this interruption rather than charge past it. “Since we have you here, Lieutenant, would you be willing to give us a few words on the Bradley family?” he said, leaning against the table as he did.
Something stirred behind Hawkeye's eyes. Her mouth opened, but she didn't say anything for a moment. From the look on her face, it seemed that she was trying very quickly to decide on something.
“Certainly,” she began, and then stopped, searching for words for a moment before hesitantly continuing. “Fuhrer Bradley, and his son Selim are both...”
She trailed off for a moment, her eyes flitting oddly to the dark corners of the room. Just when Mitch was about to jump in and prevent further dead air, she finished her sentence: “Targets for terrorist attack. There are always those who wish harm on our dear Fuhrer, or seek to get to him through his son. For whatever reason, there has yet to be an attack on Mrs. Bradley that we are aware of, but we don't take chances with the Fuhrer's family.”
“Thank you, Lieutenant,” Mitch said. “Unfortunately, we are just about out of time for tonight, but it's been great talking with you – both of you.”
“The pleasure is all mine,” Mrs. Bradley said.
“For the record,” Mitch said. “that was Mrs. Emma Bradley and Lieutenant Riza Hawkeye, the Fuhrer's wife and assistant respectively. We'll be right back with our next story in a few moments. In the meantime, enjoy this track by a local Jazz artist.”
The ON AIR light flicked off, and Mrs. Bradley slumped slightly in her chair, relaxing now that the pressure was off.
“I'm sorry for drifting off like that,” Hawkeye said. “I'm not a very good public speaker.”
“Don't worry about it, Lieutenant,” Mrs. Bradley said, standing up and patting her on the shoulder. “I shouldn't have put you on the spot like that.”
“Sorry to interrupt, ladies, but we do need you out of the studio as soon as possible,” Max's voice called in from the booth. “We've got other guests to speak to tonight.”
“Certainly,” Mrs. Bradley said, stepping towards the door. “I wouldn't want to impose. Come along, Lieutenant.”
“Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. As you all know, tonight, the one-year anniversary of the attempted coup that rocked our nation's political landscape. In the midst of all the fighting, many of our proud servicemen were killed, many more, both military and civilian, were wounded, and we were all subjected to an unauthorized alchemy experiment that nearly ended Amestris as we know it.”
Mitch looked exactly the same as when Mrs. Bradley had last seen him, but his expression was quite different. Gone was the genial smile; in its place was a serious line. Today was, after all, a day of mourning.
“Although we all had losses to mourn, none were greater than the death of Fuhrer Bradley and his son, Selim. They are survived by the Fuhrer's wife Emma, and as we mark this day across the nation, we thought it only proper to invite her to join us in studio tonight, since this studio is where she took refuge during that day's events. She graciously agreed. Good evening, Mrs. Bradley.”
“Good evening, Mitchell,” Emma replied, speaking for the first time. “Thank you for inviting me.”
“You suffered quite a loss that day, losing both your husband and your son. One year later, how are you holding up?”
Emma sighed. She had agreed to this interview, and certainly didn't begrudge him a harmless question like that. But it was hard to speak about.
“It's difficult,” she said simply. “Every day is difficult. I miss them both so much...I had been married to King for a very long time, and if there was one word that described him, it was reliable. Whenever I needed him, I could count on him being there, no matter how busy he was. I keep looking over my shoulder and expecting him to be there, and he never is.”
She clutched at her jacket while she looked for words to continue with. “And as for Selim, the house seems so quiet without him running around it. Even though, really, now that I'm not living in the Fuhrer's Mansion, it's actually much louder. He was so young, so full of life...I miss him. But you can't take back what's lost, the only thing you can do is try to carry on. So that's what I'm trying to do.”
She cracked a small smile. “It's not as if I don't have plenty to occupy my time. I never thought I'd be a new mother at my age.”
Mitch nodded. “It was certainly unexpected. I think I speak for all of us when I say that we were surprised to learn that you were pregnant with the late Fuhrer's child. Would you mind telling us a little about that?”
“Of course. King and I had long since given up on having children of our own. We'd been trying for years, but no success. That was, in fact, part of why we decided to adopt Selim.”
“The first Selim,” Mitch interjected for clarity.
Emma gave a quick laugh. “Yes, the first Selim. My goodness, that could get confusing, couldn't it? Perhaps I should have been more creative.”
“Selim is a fine name, don't worry,” Mitch said good-humoredly.
“Thank you. As I was saying, we'd given up on having our own children. I don't know if it was something wrong with me, or with him, but it simply wasn't working. But then, a few months after that day, I went to see my doctor, and...well, a miracle must have happened, because I was several months pregnant. I was given a new life to make up for the ones I had lost. That's how I think of it, at any rate.”
The cover story that Grumman's men had come up with rolled off her tongue smoothly, the result of hours of drilling and practice. It was one of the conditions of keeping Selim: she had to be sure that nobody ever knew where he had really come from, not even himself. She'd accepted it gladly. It was a very small price to pay for the life of her son.
“The military doctors took very good care of me, I should add. I'm very grateful to Fuhrer Grumman for his support; He's made sure that I'm well taken care of, quite beyond his obligations.”
Mitch nodded, and made an assenting noise so that the listeners could tell what his reaction was. “If you don't mind a change of topic, I was hoping to also discuss what you've been doing since. A few months after the incident, you created a new charitable foundation. Would you mind telling us some more about that?”
“Gladly,” Emma said. “In fact, I was hoping you would ask about it. It's called the Ishvalan Employment Opportunities Foundation, and it is more or less exactly what it sounds like. We work with local businesses to create and open up employment opportunities for Ishvalan families, and protect them from predatory employment practices.”
“But is something like that necessary? After all, one of Fuhrer Grumman's first acts in office was rescinding the orders that restricted Ishvalan freedoms.”
“Yes, and we applaud him for that, but that alone doesn't solve the problem,” Emma responded. These lines had not been rehearsed as such, but she had had to repeat them so often that she could speak them without even thinking about it. So many people simply didn't understand.
“Most businesses still won't hire Ishvalan workers,” she continued. “And of those that will, many pay them substandard wages and give them dangerous or unpleasant work. There is, in fact, an entire underground market for Ishvalan labor, paying them peanuts under the table to do jobs that no other Amestrians would be willing to. That no other Amestrian is desperate enough to do, because they can find another job that pays better. For an Ishvalan with a family to feed, they often have no other choice. The labor market is almost entirely closed outside of their own communities, and their communities are too impoverished to support them.”
To Mitchell's credit, he did not throw the 'nobody's forcing them to take those jobs' argument in her face. If Emma could only name one line of reasoning that she was sick to death of refuting, it would have to be that. Instead he made a subtle change of topic:
“If you'll excusing my saying so, ma'am, you seem like an odd champion for Ishvalan rights, considering that it was the Ishvalan criminal Scar who took your husband's life. What made you decide that this is what you had to do?”
That was a much more welcome question, one that Emma was only too happy to answer. “After that terrible day, I decided to visit some Ishvalan communities. I'm not sure why. I suppose I was trying to understand the man who had killed my husband. The conditions shocked me, but that's not all.”
She smiled wistfully at the memory. “Almost to a man, when they learned who I was and why I was there, they immediately apologized to me. They all hated my husband, and I can't say I blame them, and none of them were responsible for what happened. But one of their own had taken my husband from me, and they felt the need to apologize for that regardless. It was...moving. I knew that I had to do something to help them, and, well, here we are.”
“That's a fantastic story, and I wish you all the best,” Mitch said. “We are almost out of time, just enough left for one last question...as I'm sure you know, in the wake of Fuhrer Bradley's death, there's been a flood of books in the market about him, his life, his politics, his work, etcetera. It seems like everybody who ever knew him has decided to air their impressions. Everyone, that is, except for the woman who knew him best. Have you ever given thought to the idea?”
To that, Emma Bradley had no immediate response. She looked down at the table, considering what to say. Writing about him...there were so many things she could say, so many sides of him the public never knew about, for better and for worse.
“My husband...could not share everything with me,” she began, speaking slowly and choosing her words with care. “It wasn't in his nature. Some things he never spoke about to anybody, not even me. But there were other things that he did share with me, things that he never spoke of to anyone else. There was nobody else he would trust with them.”
She smiled broadly now, as she finished. “It would be a very poor return on that trust if I spilled them to the public in exchange for a royalty check, I think, but any biography I could write of him would be quite incomplete without them. I will pass.”
“Well said,” Mitchell replied. “I'm afraid that's all the time we have for the moment, Mrs. Bradley. As always, it's a pleasure and an honor.
“The pleasure is all mine,” Emma Bradley responded, and then went off the air.