Fic: Half Lives, Chapter 9: “Those Who Push The River”
Rating: PG 13 this chapter
Pairing: Roy/Ed, references to past Roy/Hughes. One-sided Riza/Roy and the ending of Ed and Winry’s marriage.
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…
CHAPTER SUMMARY: Havoc and Breda have packed Ed’s belongings, shipping them on to Central—to distract her, Colonel Riza Hawkeye takes Winry for a walk by the river—and tells her the truth about Roy, Maes Hughes—and how she and Roy resolved an impasse of the heart without destroying their friendship. Meanwhile, Roy reflects on his last meeting with Maes—just before Truth stole his sight in the Gateway…Chapter 1: http://community.livejournal.com/fma_yaoi/1952285.html#cutid1
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Half Lives, Chapter 9: Those Who Push The River
By The Binary Alchemist 2010
“Jeeze…he really doesn’t have a lot of crap to pack, does he?”
“Guess not.” Breda mopped his forehead and drove the last nail in. Three small crates of books, notes and laboratory whatnot. Four spare legs in individual storage cases, neatly packed into a fourth crate. Some clothing—not much. A little box of mementos of Alphonse and a few other friends they had acquired along the way. A briefcase containing his State Alchemist paperwork, decommission forms, and the Medal of Honor Fuhrer Grumman had awarded him for service to his country. Several leather map cases. And a small folder of photographs, including some taken of Maes and Nina a week ago. No need for a truck. It was barely enough to fill the car Ed was leaving behind.
The wedding pictures were not in evidence. “What about this?” A family portrait taken on the front porch of the Rockbell house. “I’ve seen that picture of Ed’s mom and dad with Ed and Al when they were little. Doesn’t it look a little…I dunno…”
“…weird that Winry’s all decked out like Ed’s mom, right down to the clothes and hair? Especially since she doesn’t run around like that? I know….” Breda shook his head. That was one for the….well…he didn’t want to say psychologists, but certainly anyone who knew anything about classical literature would know about Oedipal complexes and such—there was something unnerving about that picture. But still…
“Wrap it up and label it and put it with the other stuff. That way he can decide when—or if—he wants to see it anytime soon.”
Riza had taken Winry for a walk down to the river. She hadn’t wanted Winry there to hear Havoc and Breda loading Ed’s meager belongings into the car or to see them drive down to the station. Better this way, she reasoned.
Winry looked…numb. Her brief conversation with Ed had touched several nerves—but he had made some points she hadn’t considered before. She wasn’t quite ready to mull them over—the pain was too raw—but his remarks about how she could have killed Alphonse after the Lab 5 incident if he hadn’t been in armor really disturbed her. I would rather see them fostered with a loving family a million miles away from me than to have Maes piss you off some day when he’s a hard-headed teenager and you hit him the way you hit me and Al.
She glanced at Colonel—no, Riza. Her friend. Someone who cared enough about her to shake up her world and tell her what she couldn’t hear from Granny—and what Ed was unable to tell her until yesterday: get your shit together and grow up. Ed had said the same thing about himself. We don’t want our kids to grow up and think we’re assholes.
But ever since that night in Central when she noticed…his shoulders were getting broad…he was getting attractive…she decided she loved him as something other than a brother…and he was not responding to her as she was responding to him—not in the way she had hoped. Everything was Al this, Al that, get the stone, beat the homunculi, get Al’s body back—that was all he ever thought about. He cared about her. And he always showed up when he needed a favor or a repair. But it was pretty obvious in the two years before Al left for good that no matter how many hints and whatnot—Ed was not going to chase after her. But once Al had left…he was lonely and vulnerable…and when she saw her chance at the train station…she hadn’t hesitated.
“….and…that’s pretty much how it happened. He laughed at me…then he ruffled my hair…and finally said, okay…call it equivalent exchange—half my life for half of yours. And I hugged him….and he didn’t even kiss me, Riza!” She had plucked a winter crocus and begun the he loves me, he loves me not without realizing it. She ripped the flower to pieces and threw it into the swirling waters below.
Her companion sighed quietly and gazed out across the river, saying nothing. Winry threw up her hands in disgust. “Why am I even telling you all this? You don’t know what it’s like, getting the person you want and then losing him!”
Cognac eyes met hers. “Winry…this goes no further. I need your word on this.”
Riza wrapped her arms around herself as if she were suddenly very cold under her heavy wool coat. “I know because I’ve been there. Because I gave my soul to someone—lived and would have died for him—almost killed him when he was half out of his mind with rage and grief over…someone he lost and wanted to avenge.” She drew a deep breath. “I did the same thing you did. I waited for years. In time, I grew tired of waiting. And before he left for Ishbal again, once he’d gotten his sight back…I told him how I felt.”
Winry had always wondered…and now she asked. “Roy Mustang?”
Riza nodded. “I told him how I felt. And he told me about Maes Hughes.”
The younger woman looked puzzled. “What about Mr. Hughes?” Riza said nothing. “I don’t understand. What has Mr. Hughes got to do with—“
“They were lovers. Before Gracia. Before Elycia. Roy let…he let Hughes go. It….it hurt him. He did it because it was the right thing—because it was what Hughes wanted.”
Winry was speechless. “He—he—but….he loved his wife! He loved her!” she protested.
“He did.” Riza nodded. “And a part of him still loved Roy. A few times they came..close…afterwards. Roy wouldn’t let it happen. Even if he wanted that more than anything. Roy Mustang refused to dishonor Maes’ choice or his family. When Hughes was killed, a part of Roy died too. It was terrible to see. It hurt me to watch him. He’d come to work pale and thin. I had to force him to eat. Had to caution him about drinking too much. He’d sit alone in the dark and drink and cry and even thought about taking his own life. He wasn’t thinking straight. He said I didn’t understand. After that…all he could think about was bringing Bradley down and finding Hughes’ killer.”
She couldn’t believe it. Roy Mustang…and Maes Hughes?
Riza continued. “When he went after Envy…he went out of his mind. It…it was as if he’d lost all his humanity. He became a killing machine—a monster. And when I held my gun to his head, do you know what he said to me, Winry? Go ahead and shoot. And,” her voice dropped to a whisper, “the only thing that stopped him was when I told him I’d turn the gun on myself afterwards. That if I killed him I’d kill myself. That got to him. But he was crying for Maes in the tunnel, screaming and cursing at me and at Ed for stopping him from avenging the man he loved with the whole of his being—a man he gave up for the sake of that man’s happiness. So please….do not tell me I don’t understand. Not after what I’ve seen. Because I’ve felt what you felt and I did what you did. I broke down before he left for the Ishballan camps with Dr. Marcoh and Miles and Scar. I told him how long I’d been in love with him—that he must have known, how it was tearing me apart…that more than anything, I wanted him to feel my love—and love me in return.” She glanced away sharply, uncomfortable with such candor. “Do you know what he said to me, Winry?”
The cognac eyes glistened. “He told me he knew. He’d always known. And that it would have been a simple thing to give me what I wanted. But—“ she looked proud, “he said ‘you are too important a person in my life to risk over something so trivial as desire.’ He knew that if we crossed that line we’d never have that same level of trust and understanding again. And that trust was something he told me he did not intend to live without. ‘I saw how you fell to pieces at Lab 5. In that moment, Riza was gone. You lost yourself. I do not ever, ever intend to see you lose yourself again—and if I take you to bed that will happen…and it will not change my nature or ease my loss of losing Maes. Are you truly willing to throw away the trust between us?’”
The whistle of the 4pm non-stop to Central echoed over the hills. The mountains surrounding them were hazy blue with wood smoke rising from the valley below. The wind was picking up, scattering skeletal leaves and swirling them around the two women who sat pondering their choices on the banks as the light began to slant and fade. “The Isbhalans have a saying,” Riza said at last. “ ‘Those who push the river will be swept out to sea. Those who trust the river’s flow are carried safe to the shore.’ There’s truth in that, I think.”
“I’m not sure I know what that means,” Winry answered softly. The engineer in the valley below sounded his whistle and it sounded like cry of mourning. It could have come from her heart or Riza’s.
Riza smiled a little. “Whatever we feel, we can’t force another person to be who they aren’t. And we can’t let anyone make us into who we aren’t meant to be. Roy told me that the night he cried in my arms over Maes Hughes. And I understood that what I thought I wanted of him was born of hero worship—of depending on him when my father died, on so many, many things. But if I truly loved Roy Mustang, I had to accept him as he was—and that he would never be my lover---but the love he did feel for me was something worth keeping. And so I will keep watching his back…but I’ll also open my heart to other possibilities.” The smile deepened. “And so will you…”
Two kisses later, Edward Elric had achieved a status the whores in Madame Christmas’s establishment called “A.F.O.D.T.W.”—All Fucked Out—Dead To the World. “Edward?” Roy nuzzled his lover’s ear. “You still in there?”
Edward was definitely not still in there. And Roy lay there gazing down at that sleeping face much longer he would be hard as a rock again in no time flat and Ed would wake up and most likely want to clumsily try to fuck Roy to death. “You’ve read one book—now you know everything,” Roy chuckled fondly. “Not much one for finesse. Practice makes perfect, you know.”
He remembered that first time with Maes, back when they were still cadets. First time he’d seen that massive hunk of prime Amestrian beef pointed in his direction he’d nearly chickened out. Oh yes—he’d read that book. He had a pretty good idea what to expect. Problem was, the gentlemen in the illustration were not hung like livestock. He had closed his eyes and regretted with all his heart that at moments like this an atheist has nobody to pray to.
Maes surprised him—he was gentle. Patient. He took his time, waiting until Roy was literally on his knees begging for it—and even then there was no rush.
It could have been the end of their affair—worse, could have been a very embarrassing trip to the school’s infirmary. Instead it had been the most incredible night of sex of his life…
…until now. And somewhere on the other side of the Gateway his personal saint was probably laughing his balls off. See, Roy? What did I tell you when we said goodbye in the Gateway, moments before Truth took your sight? ‘Stop pushing the river, Roy. Stop living from the neck up. Let Life carry you where you need to be. Want to know what a hero is, buddy? A hero is a bronze statue covered with pigeon shit. Live, for god’s sake. You’ve turned your heart into a one-man cemetery and the tombstone has Maes Hughes carved all over it. You want me to be at peace? Fine—make peace with your self and if you find someone—anyone—who can knock down the walls and get under your skin and drive you crazy…be with him. That’s the best way to remember me. Take that love and pass it on. Okay?”
He slipped out of bed slowly and with great reluctance. Ed didn’t so much as twitch an eyelash. He fetched a warm wet cloth and a clean towel and gently bathed and dried him, then tidied up himself. The bed, he recognized, was going to be a problem. Too narrow for sleeping comfortably, and to his chagrin he noticed that one of the bed rails—the left one, had been snapped off the bed frame—probably by a frantically flailing automail foot. Shit. And we didn’t even hear it hit the floor. Crawling down on his knees, he located the crank that adjusted the height of Ed’s bed and lowered it to the same level as the fold out chair Roy had slept in nearly every night since Ed was admitted. He pushed the chair close so they were roughly level, laid down and tried to pull his lover close. They were the same height now, and asleep Edward was bonelessly relaxed and weighed approximately half a ton. Fuck it. Roy scooched and wriggled until he was lying uncomfortably in the crack between the bed and the chair. It jabbed him in the ribs and if the bed moved and he fell it would be embarrassing as hell and awkward to explain. On the other hand Ed was now burrowing his face into the curve of Roy’s neck and murmuring something like ‘you bastard…why’d you pull out…’ Roy smothered a laugh, kissed his lover very lightly on his bandage, right over the wound that could have killed him, and drifted off, a smile on his face and a mass of livid bruises blossoming all over his back and buttocks—some of which perfectly matched a set of automail toes…
…..TO BE CONTINUED….