Fic: “Paint The Sky With Stars” Chapter 6
Rated: PG 13-soft R for subject matter
Pairing: Roy/Ed in more than one life…some het content
Synopsis: Edward Elric passed through the Gate to Earth in the 1920's. Now, lonely and as ageless as his father, he dedicates himself to training Al's daughter--a young woman he knows to be his mother reborn. And Trisha will stop at nothing to reunite Edward with his lost Colonel--even if she has to chase him down between the worlds...
Roy. Ed. Two souls. Three lives. Colonel Mustang’s ghost reveals to Teddy Elric how the bond between them began long before Amestris, when Roy was the esteemed Master of Fire in Xing nearly 500 years ago.
Chapter 5: http://community.livejournal.com/fm_alchemist/6675760.html#cutid1
A/N Feedback GREATLY appreciated!
Paint the Sky With Stars, Chapter 6
By The Binary Alchemist
(“Give Me Strength” by Eric Clapton, 1974)
So—what the hell did YOU do for fun when you were seventeen and a half?
Drink beer? Get high? Hang out, go to the beach, get laid, flip burgers?
Or did you go on some kind of insane vision quest with a mad genius uncle you were more than a little in love with—not that anything would ever come of it—in hopes that one day you might know enough of some quasi-mythical alchemic mumbo-jumbo horseshit to keep something really horrible from happening if some lunatic from the other side of reality decided to bust down the door between the worlds and start slaughtering humanity wholesale?
I could have been at the L. A. Coliseum worshipping Eric Clapton—I had played 461 Ocean Boulevard over and over until the grooves were about to wear flat—and it was one of those songs Eric penned while going through the hell of heroin withdrawal that kept racing through my head as I lay in my own hell in the heart of Ayer’s Rock:
Dear Lord, give me strength to carry on.
Dear Lord, give me strength to carry on.
My home may be out on the highway,
Lord, I've done so much wrong
But please, give me strength to carry on.
Edward would never have offered a prayer to any deity. After three days in the heat and three nights alone with all the worms of madness and guilt and fear and insecurity eating away at my brain, I would have prayed to a goddamn Hostess Twinkie if I thought it could give me some goddamn answers about why the hell I was doing this—and how in the hell you could just turn off your emotions so you won’t make a flaming asshole out of yourself over someone you flat out can’t have. Ever.
I mean, think about it—if Coorah Yindi didn’t pull her weird blue light talking-without-moving-the-lips thing, I wouldn’t have been able to stop myself from…
And if I was really honest, I had to admit I was more pissed off than ashamed, although finding out that my Dad was on to me (even though Edward was apparently clueless) make me so sick I puked up everything but my shoelaces.
So. Do the right thing. Slam the breaks on the carbonated hormones. Quit cold turkey. Spend three nights and four days naked and sweating and covered with painted swirls of clay, screaming and freaking and ready to kill for a large order of fries….
Yeah. Pretty goddamn typical day in the life of a seventeen-and-a-half year old from San Francisco, California.
By the third day my mood had swung from high dudgeon to lowest apathy. And like some Dickensian tale, three Ghosts had come calling—the first of which was the Beautiful Young Soldier In Blue. The Colonel. Ed’s Colonel. If I hadn’t felt so listless I would have been interested in him. Anybody with a pulse would be interested. He was gorgeous. As it was I barely glanced at him, and when he told me he had something important to show me it was a real effort to say, “yeah, what the fuck,” and follow.
It’s a damn good thing I did. Because what he had to show me had everything to do with my feelings for Edward---and his…
As I said, it should have been China.
It was a country on the other side of the Gateway. A country called Xing—and at fifteen I had been handed over as chattel to a powerful Xingian alchemist called the Master of Fire—given away by a reasonably kindly father who just didn’t have enough rice to feed so many daughters. I wasn’t the eldest or the prettiest or the one with the best prospects. But I was practical, useful and had enough character that I’d scarcely be quashed if my new master didn’t pay much attention to me. Father knew the Master might be cold and impersonal but he would hardly let me starve.
The Master of Fire was cold. Not unkind—just detached. He ate little, cared nothing for the state of his clothing, his dojo or the emotional well being of his disciples. He had vowed zaai tong, which literally means ‘withdraw to study’—in other words, he eschewed the pleasures of the flesh, even for the sake of begetting. It was, in his words, a ‘distraction’, so he didn’t bother with such things. Oh, he was neat and clean about his person. His hair was combed and he didn’t smell and his breath was inoffensive. And thanks to me his robes were neat and his smalls were laundered and his shoes mended. He took little notice of his meals, eating distractedly with his elegant nose stuck in a scroll or ancient text. If he had let me, I would have scrubbed his ink-stained fingers with slices of citrus and salt until they were clean again but at least his nails were neatly pared.
In other words, he was presentable—which is about all you can hope for in a scholar.
His people skills, however, left a hell of a lot to be desired.
It was a good thing that he was oblivious to so much. What he did deign to notice he complained about. He had a dry, sarcastic way with a cutting remark that made you want to brain him.
That first night, I mended a tear in his sleeve, made a hot broth with our meager provisions and laid out his bedroll by the fire.
“The stitches are uneven.”
“Fix it yourself next time,” I shot back.
“This is cold,” he gestured to his broth.
“It wasn’t when I dished it up. Not my fault if you didn’t eat it when it was hot.”
“You should not touch a renunciant’s bedding.”
“By that logic, I shouldn’t touch your sleeve or make your dinner—and I don’t see you stripping naked or going hungry.”
One year later, he was still complaining. The dojo was spotless. He was healthy from my cooking. His new garments were free of mends. His disciples were well fed and had become my new family.
I slept on the floor at the foot of his bed because it irritated him so much. “I do not have need of you in the night. Go sleep someplace else.”
“A soul so pure and perfect is at dire risk of being abducted by envious demons,” I deadpanned. “If I am present, they will take my unworthy soul in your stead.”
“In truth, the only demon I have to struggle with is you, Soshi. This rice is too soggy.”
“If you don’t wish to eat it, you can wear it.”
One day he informed me that from this day forward, he would have no unlettered members of his household, dropping a children’s calligraphy scroll right in the middle of the vegetables I was chopping. He gestured for an apprentice to take my place at the cutting board. “I cannot bear the discourse of the ignorant. Wash your hands and come with me.”
Six weeks later he presented me with a small bundle of mewling white fur, spotted here and there with black and orange. “I have found the purring of cats to be useful in the promoting of sleep. Lack of sleep is undoubtedly the cause of your foul disposition. Also, I detected mouse droppings in the pantry—“
“Since when has Your Elegance ever stuck his nose—“
“—hopefully, she will be more vigilant in chasing mice than you and your broom.”
My robes were replaced with new ones so I would not ‘shame the dojo in the marketplace’ by looking poor and shabby. A rainbow of spring flowers began to peek among my garden herbs for no other reason than the Master assumed ‘they must have some virtue other than useless beauty’. Sacks of rice and strings of coins were sent to my hungry family ‘in hopes that they will not attempt to burden some other poor Alcahestry master with others of your ill-tempered brood.”
I never had a brother. I didn’t dare ask if he was an only child. But slowly…almost imperceptively, we grew to care for one another as if a tie of past life blood had drawn us together. There was no act of kindness between us that wasn’t heralded with a hailstorm of sarcasm and complaint, yet kindness—even grudging respect—was an unspoken truth between Master and servant.
And in the second year of my servitude he gave me a husband.
And that was where my current troubles began…
Every child in Xing heard the stories of Xerxes from the village story-tellers.
They did not sleep well afterwards.
A vast and powerful nation. The shimmering spires of its grand cities. The fertile fields and the beasts who tilled them. The beautiful people—hair of gold, eyes of topaz—gone. Gone in a single night. And it had happened just years before my birth.
It was said that every living soul in the country was struck down during an eclipse and that none of that race had survived. This was not true. An alchemist of Xerxes and his pregnant wife were in our capital the day of the eclipse. They had been warned by omens that foretold of a terrible calamity that would plunge their world in a darkness ‘greater than the shadow over the Sun.’ Fearing for his unborn child, the alchemist had fled across the desert in hopes of sparing their lives.
As the moon swallowed the sun and the noonday light became darkness, the alchemist Hermes Secundas and his wife Hellas fell dead in the marketplace near the Emperor’s palace. The woman was taken to one of the Pharmacists of Alcahestry who cut the living child from the dead mother’s womb and kept the child alive. They gave him the name of his father’s line in the Xerxian custom, recording the name of Hermes Trismegistus, ‘thrice great of the line of Hermes’ on the palace scroll of scholars.
Raised by the brightest and wisest in halls of great learning, young Trismegistus grew to be a man of great wisdom—and great anger. Believing himself to be the last of his kind, he swore to master the alchemic and alkahestric arts and avenge the people of Xerxes—to find the hand that drew the array that destroyed his parents and their world…and burn it to ashes.
So deep was his rage and grief as he grew to adulthood that many feared to teach him, for all his keen intelligence. So it was that he left the Imperial City and set out alone on a bitter journey in search of a Master who would give him the training he believed he needed to settle the debt of honor and blood.
I expected Master to throw him bodily through the gates, this beautiful, golden young man with the bitter laugh and dust on his sandals. He had heard stories of the Wanderer and how the doors of every dojo had been shut to him since he had embraced his vendetta and abandoned the royal court of scholars.
He wasn’t driven away. I was instructed to settle him in his own quarters, to provide him with clothing fit to his rank, to feed him, wait upon his good will even as I did for my Master of Fire. “I will…walk with him awhile,” my master said thoughtfully. “I find such passionate devotion to a single quest…intriguing. I will observe him.”
I did not find him unpleasant. To be blunt, I could scarcely tear my eyes from him. I followed my orders to care for him as Master had bid me, but my heart betrayed my resolve, racing queerly in my breast when I was in his presence.
He was polite. Other than that, he took little notice of me, other than nodding when we passed in the halls or in acknowledgement of a teacup refilled or a scroll fetched. My cat claimed outrageous liberties with the Wanderer, pawing at his leg for attention, sprawling and rolling in the middle of the scrolls on his desk and crying for attention every time our guest had a spare hand that could be better employed rubbing a snowy belly or scratching a spotted ear. I secretly envied my pet. She could coax a smile from him. The only other being who could do that was our Master of Fire, and that was a puzzling matter to be sure.
Love between men is not unheard of. It is, however, not spoken of.
Master had sworn himself to celibacy. The Wanderer Hermes Trismegistus had sworn himself to revenge. And I had been sworn to servitude. A messy triangle of emotion, indeed. I yearned for one above and beyond my station. He yearned for the Master of Fire/ And the Master of Fire was so proud and arrogant that he would not relent, would not allow himself the joy and comfort of the Wanderer’s close companionship. Often and often I would wait upon them in the evening, sharing tea or arguing theory or occasionally playing at board games. Now and then they would drink together and I would later find them walking in my garden or watching the moon from the banks of the river, sitting so near to one another. I did not feel jealous. You can’t own the sky or a flame or the tides of the wind. I wanted my Master to be happy. Our guest’s presence made him inwardly happy, although he seemed as outwardly detached as ever—it was the empathy between my Master and myself that helped me to see this.
One night, I had risen to visit the necessary and was unable to sleep. I wandered by the coolness of the river in hopes that sleep might come on such a sweltering night.
I saw two shadows merge.
I turned away and swiftly returned to my pallet at the foot of my master’s empty bed, passing by the empty room where the Wanderer should have been sleeping.
In the morning I was summoned to my master’s study. He was applying his seal to a scroll and to the household register. “You are dismissed from service, Soshi. I have no need of a servant.” Before I could protest, he lifted a long finger and fixed me with his dark eyes. “However, it occurs to me that there is no Mistress of the Dojo to speak for me and oversee things in my absence. It is my decision that you will assume that office. And I have notated in my family record that any sons you may bear will become my inheritors. Now,” he rubbed his temples briskly, “this has wearied me beyond belief. Fetch my tea—and where is Master Hermes?”
I was now a woman of rank and respect, with servants to pour my tea and sweep the floors and chase the mice from the pantry. It was nice enough—and I was busier than ever attending the Master’s correspondence, caring for his library…and the very odd experience of supervising others to perform my old tasks. Oddest was having my own private quarters. “My pallet is clean and comfortable. I don’t need a new room.”
“Soshi, you will undoubtedly prefer to entertain your husband away from the gaze of others.” His dark eyes looked slightly troubled. “I am giving you in marriage to Hermes Trismegistus. I have observed that you do not find him disagreeable, and he has agreed to the match. I have made provisions for your sons to succeed me as masters here and I will provide dowries to your daughters so they may make fine matches when they come of age.”
So we went to the temple and were married before the gods.
And yes—it was bliss. For me.
My husband was never unkind to me. But following our wedding night he did not seek my bed. In fact, if I wanted to speak to him I had to seek him out in my master’s chambers. I then informed him that if I was to produce an heir for the dojo, it would require a little assistance from him. After that, he appeared dutifully in my bedchamber once a moon.
I cherished him. I poured over ancient Tantric texts to master the arts of pleasure so that this duty would be less onerous to him. One night he had completed his share of the agreement and was rising to leave when I held him down and persisted until he was helpless to resist the service of my mouth. His hands tangled helplessly in my hair as he arched and shuddered.
But it was not me he cried out for as he surrendered to ecstasy.
And that made all the difference.
Six months later, the moon tides in my womb had ceased to run their course. I informed Master before I informed my husband, whom I had seen little of late. There were rumors that he had moved into my master’s quarters and now slept in the little pallet I had lain on for so long. I confirmed this the morning I entered that chamber and found my golden one, my beautiful husband, sitting on the master’s bed, running an ivory comb through Master’s heavy dark hair.
That was it, then. I would bear a child for the dojo—and they would raise it together, banishing me, sending me away. I was little more than a brood mare—no, a brood mare would have been treated with greater consideration.
It was three days later when my husband found me on the road and fetched me home. Kneeling, he gently bathed my blistered feet and bandaged them with his own hands before settling me into bed and gathering me close in awkward tenderness.
“It is true, little Soshi. I love one who is not free to return my love, and I regret that I have not been a better husband. He says that I have been unkind, and I ask forgiveness. Though he will not say so to you, our master regards you as his little sister, and since he cannot break his vows he gave me the hand of the one he holds in highest regard. There was no thought to banish you, but to bind you closer. It is perhaps not the family you might have envisioned,” he smiled and softly touched my belly, “but it would be family nonetheless. You and I. Our son. And for Huo Ma Sheng. Together.” It was the first time I’d ever heard the Master of Fire’s name spoken aloud.
Huo Ma Sheng. The Wild Fire-Horse.
He would go into the desert for three days to purify himself, he told me. Upon his return, Ma Sheng and I would go to the temple and pledge ourselves as brother and sister before the gods. The ties of blood would be consecrated. We would live together, raising my children and perhaps—if we were fortunate—my master—no, my brother--would smile for me at last…
**All they found were his remains,** the Colonel finished soberly. **He’d gone to the ruins of Xerxes and something was waiting for him. At least,** he sighed **I had you to confide to in my grief. And the comfort of watching his son take my place as Master of Fire. But more important is how the ‘then and there’ affects the ‘here and now’, Trisha. Listen closely.
My apathy and fatigue had evaporated. I sat up and paid close attention.
**I had scorned the flesh—and was raised in a house of ill repute to teach me humility. I was hypocritical in my desire—and spent a great deal of time jumping in and out of bed with both men and women. I had no love for my country or the well being of my students—I became a leader of men and dedicated my life to their protection. And I loved the soul that would be reborn as Edward Elric but denied him out of my own pride and arrogance. We were born in Amestris and again, it was his age and his anger that delayed our acknowledgement of our feelings. This time---here and now—we may get it right. We may be able to love each other, although there is no guarantee it will be easy**
“Oh, but—I’ll find you,” I told him excitedly. “I’ve sworn—“
**NO MORE VOWS. Enough.** He seemed almost angry. **Stop searching for me. If we are meant to be together, it will happen. You need to focus on your own life and happiness. You are obsessed with Edward because of the love that went unanswered in Xing. Let it go. He paid the price for his neglect by losing you in Amestris.**
“What?? What do you mean, losing me in Amestris?”
Suddenly a tall bearded man appeared by his side, looking very tired and very sad.
**You were his mother, Trisha. Alphonse was the son you bore in Xing. It was Edward who suffered the most when you died—because his soul was paying the debt of his indifference to you as your husband. And I** he straightened his glasses as a tear slipped down his cheek **was the father who gave you away, never knowing what a treasure he had thrown away with both hands.**
“Who the hell are you??” I demanded.
**I’m Van Hohenheim of Light.**
“GRANDFATHER???” Okay, I was REALLY confused. "Hang on--you were there for the Fall of Xerxes. Soshi was born after that. So how in the hell could you have been my father? It's not like you could be two places at once, right?"
He smiled a little and rubbed his glasses. "Oh...is that so?"
…..TO BE CONTINUED…..