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14 July 2010 @ 09:09 pm
Fic: HALF LIVES, Chapter 3: No Easy Answers  

Fic: Half Lives, Chapter 3: There Are No Villains—Only Victims

Author:binaryalchemist 

Rating: PG13 to NC17 for yaoi sex and references to domestic violence and spouse abuse.

Pairing: Roy/Ed, references to past Roy/Hughes. There is a het relationship refered to—but it has gone badly. Very badly.

Genre: Hurt/Comfort, Yaoi romance.

WARNING: This is yaoi. If you aren’t comfortable, don’t read. Wank will be ignored.

Spoilers: Years have passed since the Father’s Fall (chapter 108)  Things in Resembool have not gone well and Ed has the scars to prove it, seeking healing and refuge in his work at Central Command…but Roy Mustang has never been one to calmly stand by and see his friends hurt…

SUMMARY : Winry awakes to be confronted with the aftermath of her outburst. Roy recalls a chilling confession from Alphonse—and Ed discovers that friendship doesn’t require logic or explanation—it’s as simple as a hand clasp in the dark

A/N Again, for rueme  , with gratitude for her amazing artALSO--the title has been changed after it was suggested by a reader that I was possibly excusing violence by suggesting that the agressor is a victim too, condoning the violence.  I have changed the title and made a small edit that clarifies this, hopefully.

 

Half Lives, Chapter 3: No Easy Answers

By The Binary Alchemist, 2010

 

            “You left a mess on the kitchen table. Clean it up before the kids get up.”

            She was wound tight and slamming the cabinet doors after snatching out her coffee cup. She noticed his was in the sink. She had also noticed that his valise—the one he never unpacked anymore—was gone from the hall closet. Again.

            After that fight last night, she scowled, he’d better have gotten the hell out of here.

            It had been about sex—the lack thereof, specifically.  She complained. He ignored her. She cried, he became preoccupied with the kids or something. She threatened finding satisfaction elsewhere. “Don’t pass ‘em off as mine,” he answered coolly.

            Then she played her ace in the hole, so to speak. She threatened to make an automail dildo. Something that would give her satisfaction when Ed couldn’t—or wouldn’t—be bothered.

            The son of a bitch didn’t even glance up from his notes. “Patent it, will you? Probably make a fortune.”

            She sat up all night and all the next afternoon crafting it. It was a masterpiece. It whirred. It squirmed. It purred. And it was bigger than Ed’s.

            She barged into his study and held it up for his inspection. One golden eyebrow lifted. The smile was ironic—infuriating. “Have fun,” he said cheerfully. “Maybe I can get some goddam work done now without you nagging the hell out of me.”

            The polished steel toy caught him right upside the temple. It wriggled and purred and squirmed in her hand as she stomped off and slammed the bedroom door behind her. The lock clicked. She crawled under the covers with her new invention and was so gratified with the results she never heard him stagger down the steps. Never heard him angrily insist to Pinako he did not need an xray. Didn’t hear him slip into the nursery to tenderly kiss his son and daughter goodbye before heading out into the cold.

            “You left a mess on the kitchen table. Clean it up before the kids get up.”

            A pile of golden hair, rusty with crusted blood. A suture pack, used. Wads of bloody gauze. A vial of Lidocaine and a 27-gage syringe and an alcohol pad, soaked red.

            His blood. Her mess.

            She sat down rather quickly. Eventually, she found her voice. “Where—“

            Pinako cut her off. “Does it matter? After this?.  Clean it up. Maes doesn’t need to see this.”

            Tears slipped down her cheek as she swept the mess into the waste basket. “It wasn’t supposed to be like this,” she whispered angrily to the bloody gauze, the strands of hair, the suture needle that had pierced his skin. Upstairs she could hear the contented gurgle of little Nina. Probably getting her toes tickled by her adoring older brother, who was now giggling too. Soon he’d toddle down the stairs, rubbing his eyes. He’d notice the vacant chair at the breakfast table and say, “Da? Where Da?”

            And she couldn’t have told him, even if she knew…

 

 

            In the old days—not that long ago, really—Roy would have shouted. Ed would have shouted back. They would have hurled insults at one another. Roy would have tried to pull rank. Ed would have given him the finger and stomped off, Alphonse stammering out some sort of apology for his brother’s rudeness before bowing and chasing off behind him.  That was typical of his relationship with the Fullmetal Alchemist.

            Only the Fullmetal Alchemist didn’t exist anymore.

            The man who replaced Fullmetal was tall, almost a fraction taller than the Fuhrer. He hadn’t quite filled out from his growth spurt. For much of his life, half of what he ate, half of his rest—half of his life had been sustaining his brother’s physical body inside the Gate. His right arm was still less muscular but Ed had dispensed with the gloves, although his gait still creaked and clanked a bit. He had asked Truth nothing for himself. Al and Mei had given him back his arm against his will. Since he had not asked, his leg was gone for good. After all, he had joked, he now had a lifetime service agreement with his mechanic.

            His face was sharper. Thinner. And over the past few years the fire had dulled in his eyes.

            Oh, his laugh was easy—often ironic. But as the years passed there was something hard to define, like a wall that he was hastily constructing between himself and his old friends…even Alphonse. “I don’t get it,” Alphonse had confided in a private talk at the Presidential Palace two years ago. “I’m not saying Ed’s becoming…I don’t know…antisocial. He just…doesn’t let himself get close anymore.”

            Roy had nodded. “Well…he is married now. Things change—or so I’ve been led to understand.”

            Alphonse shook his head. “It’s not—it’s not like that, Sir. We were…we were a team. You know. Before. Everything’s changed now.” He took a nervous sip of his coffee. “I don’t go home much anymore.. It doesn’t feel like—home.”

            Roy had glanced at Colonel Hawkeye. A brisk nod and she stepped quietly out of the room, closing the door behind her. “Nothing you tell me leaves this room, Alphonse. Talk to me.”

            Hesitantly, and then with rushing emotion, Alphonse broke his silence. “I know Winry loves Brother. And he does care about her. But sometimes….” He bowed his head. “They fight. They get on each other’s nerves. Oh, they don’t do it in front of the kids. But she just…she gets after him. I mean, she knew what he was like from the start, right? Things weren’t going to change. Getting married doesn’t flip some switch in the brain and make you somebody different. You just see more of who they really are. Sometimes that’s good….and sometimes its not. She gets on him about traveling. She gets on him about not being much use around the house—that he’s always got his nose in a book, that he tunes her out. I mean, he’s great with the kids—and he tries, Sir. He really does. But…he’s Ed, you know? And Ed really gets on her nerves. And sometimes—“

            Al went silent. Roy realized he was holding his breath. “Go on…”

            Al bowed his head. “I saw her slap him with her welding gloves. They were in the workshop. He was taking me to town, back to the station. I didn’t hear any yelling but when I walked through the door she just…she…she backhanded him with her gloves. And she told him to go on, go running off like he always does. ‘Not like you’re any use around here. You can’t even change a diaper right or fix anything without alchemy. Maybe if you could get it up for me once in a while—‘” Alphonse broke off and pushed his flushed face into his palm. His shoulders began to shake. “And….and he didn’t say a word. Not a word. He just turned around and walked away.”

            Roy’s mouth was suddenly dry. He swallowed a mouthful of cold coffee, then rose, stepping around the tea table to stand beside his friend. His arm rested across the younger man’s shoulder. “Go on,” he  urged gently. “Nobody else needs to know about this.”

            He passed Alphonse his handkerchief. He waited, fuming inwardly, outwardly quiet and reserved.

            At last Alphonse blew his nose, scrubbed at his eyes and continued. “We headed into town early. Ed said he wanted to do some shopping for the kids. I helped him pick out some toys for Maes and a little dress for Nina. He had them wrapped up and paid for them to be delivered to Rockbell’s Automail. While we were sitting in the coffee shop I could see this bruise starting to come out on his jaw. Ed didn’t say a word, just kept on chatting about Alkahestry and my research. When I went to the restroom, he must have gone to get a timetable. He was studying it when I got back. One he got me on the train…I …I looked out the window and he was at the ticket kiosk, pulling out his wallet.” His shoulders sagged. “I heard later he was gone for three months.”

            There was a prolonged silence. Then a hand squeezed Alphonse’ shoulder firmly.

“I had some suspicions things were not going well.”

            Al blinked up, flushed and worried. “Oh, Sir—you’re not going to---“

            Roy cut him of with an understanding nod. “No. I’m not going to interfere. Ed wouldn’t thank me and he’d know who told me. However,” he straightened up, adjusting the collar that had suddenly made his throat so tight, “If he needs me, I will be here. If he needs to talk, I will listen. If she needs help—I’ll find it for her. Discretely. Same for him.  Our first concern is the children. Do you think---“

            Al looked horrified. “No. Never. Granny’s there. If she thought Winry---but she won’t. It’s Ed she’s so frustrated with.”

            The Fuhrer looked thoughtful. “Interesting. She made him an arm. She built him a leg. Sounds like in all that time when she should have been focusing on her apprenticeship she was building an Edward Elric in her mind—a fantasy. Girls who discover their hormones do it all the time. So do men. She built a fantasy image of Edward and eventually got Ed to try to be that person…only it was a bad fit, it seems. But no matter how much she complains or cried—or uses force in her arguments—Ed is still Ed. That won’t change. If she can’t accept that….”

He sighed heavily. "She's not a child. She's a grown woman. Ed's within his rights to press charges against her. I don't care if it's woman against man or man against woman--there are no excuses for violence. Fantasies be dammned. I expected better from her,"

 

            Al nodded, comprehending. “Mei did the same thing with Ed, and then hated his guts for not being this guy she made up in her imagination. Then she did the same thing to me. At least now she’s over that. She’s getting to know the real me…and maybe someday….it could work. We’ll see. But it’s too late for Ed.”

            Roy’s face was impassive. “We’ll see, as you say. And Alphonse?”

            “Sir?”

            A hand was offered. The younger man looked baffled. “From now on….I’m just Roy.”

 

 

            His head hurt like a sonovabitch. His stomach churned some, burned some, like it always did the first days away. He should have been sitting by the river reading a story book to Maes, his small body curled up on his lap, chubby fingers twined in his father’s thick gold ponytail. He should be carrying Nina piggyback through the meadow, a single wildflower half crushed in her tiny hand to lay on Granny Trisha’s grave. There were letters to write, books to study, maps to pour over, theories to research.

            And a wife to…cope with.

            It hurt. They did what was expected. All it did was push them apart further and further. He got a wife.

            He missed his sister. His best friend other than Alphonse. In hindsight, Al would have been the wiser choice—he was a perfect balance for her, but she never noticed him.                  That was why Al left for Xing. To mend his heart until he could look on Winry again as a sister—not as someone he could have cherished with the whole of his heart.

            Now he was stuck in the hospital for a week under dire threat from Dr. Knox: “Getouttathatbed,” he growled, “and I’ll cuff ya to the rails. Goddamn kid, don’t know how to take care of yourself!” He protested that this was bullshit. “I didn’t hit my head that hard,” he barked back.

            Then Knox shoved the radiographs on the wall mounted light box, flipped the switch and scared Edward Elric to death. “You want a tube in your head, boy? Maybe brain damage from post concussion syndrome? Lie down. Shut up. Don’t give me any more shit. His Nibs will be along shortly.”

 

            No uniform. No secretaries trotting behind him with steno pads. Even Hawkeye stayed outside.  This was just…Mustang. A tired looking man who pulled a chair close and laid his hand on Ed’s shoulder, his expression a peculiar mixture of relief and a strange quiet calm that was completely unlike the bastard he’d known and squabbled with for years.

            “Ed. You’re going to be all right. Thank god.”

            Ed’s eyes widened. “Shit. I must really be fucked up.”

            “Why?”

            “You said the G-word.” He chuckled a little, stopping when his head began throbbing again. “Yeah. When can I get outta here? I figured…well…might as well get on to that business in Aerugo we talked about. Y’know…that trip to see Claudio. Nobody’s let anyone into those palace archives.”

            “You’re six weeks early, Ed.”

            Ed couldn’t meet his Fuhrer’s eyes. “Yeah. Well…y’know how it is…can’t stand to be sitting on my ass…”

            “And you’ll spend those six weeks here. In Central. At the Palace. Recuperating.”

            “What the fu—owwwwshitfuckgoddam!” Ed grabbed at his head.

            Roy’s next words were very soft. “Whatever happened, it hurt you worse than you realized at the time. I’m not going to pry. But soon as you get out, I’ve got your old quarters ready. You can do research without half-killing yourself. I’ll get Falman and Sheska to assist. Besides,” he added with a quiet smile. “Chess is the national game in Aerugo. You haven’t beaten me yet. Now’s your chance before you meet with Claudio.”

            Ed grimaced. The pain was getting worse. Meds must be wearing off. “Don’t ‘spose it will kill me.”

            Roy smiled. “Get some rest. I’ll be right here if you need me.”

            “What??” Blonde brows knitted together. “Lemme get this straight. His Exhalted Assholiness, Fuhrer Shitlips the First….is gonna be my nurse tonight?”

            “Your gown has no back and you toss in your sleep. Would you rather have Hawkeye see your bare ass or me?”

            Ed flushed right up to his hairline, yanked the covers up to his nose and mumbled about more morphine. Chuckling, Roy pushed the call button.

 

            When the pain woke Ed again around five o’clock, he became aware of a strong hand resting on his arm. Fuhrer Shitlips---no…Roy…was snoring gently in the chair beside his bed. Why the hell does he even give a shit? But somehow the comfort of that hand and that presence eased that awful gnawing in his guts—just a little—and he drifted back to sleep. The pain didn’t seem quite as bad as it had been before that hand felt him move—and it squeezed gently, as if to remind Ed of the promise. I’m here if you need me…

 

…..TO BE CONTINUED…..

 

 
 
 
Celia: damaskakeyami on July 15th, 2010 01:33 am (UTC)
"His Exhalted Assholiness, Fuhrer Shitlips the First"

*dies laughing*
The Binary Alchemistbinaryalchemist on July 15th, 2010 01:43 am (UTC)
I think Ed would cut his tongue out before he called Roy "Fuhrer Mustang", don't you??
Celiaakeyami on July 15th, 2010 02:31 am (UTC)
LOL of course, it's not possible
amethyst_konekoamethyst_koneko on July 15th, 2010 02:26 am (UTC)
I found a piece of fanart that you might get a kick out of! :) http://pics.livejournal.com/amethyst_koneko/pic/000a2571/g330 Not the most blissful of wedding shots is it? ^_^

What does "His Nibs" mean? "His Exhalted Assholiness, Fuhrer Shitlips the First" cracks me up but I have no idea what Knox is talking about with "His Nibs".

I really like Pinako's style! I can see her puffing away on her pipe with that glare in her eyes! "You left a mess on the kitchen table. Clean it up before the kids get up." ^_^ Way to throw Winry's shit right back in her face! \o/ Too bad she probably won't learn anything from it. When Pinako cut Winry off because she didn't want to hear any of her noise, I gave a little cheer! :D

It's awfully hard to think of Winry as some sort of victim here, esp since she's the one instigating all the fights and handing out all the beatings. Winry and victim are two words that just don't seem to belong together. She's pissed at how her life turned out and she's taking it out on Ed. Guess nobody ever told her to be careful what you wish for 'cause you just might get it.

Ed had the best lines in here! "Don’t pass ‘em off as mine", "Patent it, will you? Probably make a fortune", not to mention the aforementioned "His Exhalted Assholiness"! XDDD Roy had two good ones with, "From now on...I’m just Roy" and "I'm here if you need me" <3333 pure win! ^_^
The Binary Alchemistbinaryalchemist on July 15th, 2010 02:37 am (UTC)
"Her Nibs" or "His Nibs" is cockney slang for an important--or self important person. It's a term they use for the Queen, mostly affectionate...and it is a wry hint that Knox knows Roy's OTHER nickname: The Widow Hughes.

Pinkalo takes crap from no one, god love her.
I DETEST Winry. However...if I was going to be accurate about an abusive situation, I HAVE to get into the other person's head. She's fucked up, probably since she lost her folks. Instead of getting her shit together she's become passive agressive to forceful. You have no idea how hard it is not to write her the way I WANT to---but I'm being true to the story as this kind of thing unfolds.Two fucked up people do not make a whole ANYTHING. And notice Ed has his spirit back as soon as he is with Roy...
ღ annieazure15 on July 15th, 2010 03:47 pm (UTC)
I'm really glad that you're exploring Winry's side of things, especially since you mentioned in another comment that you don't really care for her. She suffered in her own way too, the teenager she had a crush on went away and became someone different, not the person she idolised after. I do like Winry as a character, I just don't think neither she nor Ed would work all that well in a romantic relationship together.

I also like that the kids are safe, Winry might have her frustrations with Ed and how Ed is, but I wouldn't ever see her raising a hand to innocents.

I like how you're exploring this, it's still really interesting.
The Binary Alchemist: USbinaryalchemist on July 17th, 2010 03:07 am (UTC)
The trick of writing, one of my teachers once said, is to be able to get inside the heads of characters you don't sympathize with or even like.
You're observation about her crush is perfect and spot-on. And not for one minute would she hurt those babies. Ever. She may not be the most mature mother material--and Ed is not mature enough to be the best of fathers--but they both love these kids and will find a way to do right by them--even it it means making sacrifices to place their needs above their differences. Thanks for hanging in with this!
snow_asheliasnow_ashelia on July 15th, 2010 05:02 pm (UTC)
Ah you've updated very fast! *happy* :D Uhm Okay.. the automail dildo thing is kind of creepy, just a little bit..I imagined her working on it XDD And since it's automail, it would be able to connect to nerves, and lol, real humans (...)?? XDDD

LMAO at "Exhalted Assholiness, Fuhrer Shitlips the First" XDD Who's the first one to come up with "shitlips"? Olivier? And why is Roy the First? XDD

However, seeing how he cares for Ed is just <3
I'm unsure how they'll work this out (I mean Ed and Winry) but I hope they'll come to an understanding in the end :/

You Gooo! ^-^


The Binary Alchemistbinaryalchemist on July 17th, 2010 03:18 am (UTC)
Actually--I imagine that "Demo Model" automail can be hooked to dry-cell batteries in Rush Valley---it was a real jab at Ed's discomfort over dealing with their...incompatiblites.

I came up with the phrase 'shitlips' in my novella "Fifty Trips Around The Sun"--at the time it was hurled at Hughes for accidentally Outing Roy over the college radio station when they were students together. It just seemed like a spiteful 'frenemy'-type endearment. Roy's the first person She's decided worthy of the title, I'm guessing. And Ed thinks it's hilarious.