Fic: Half Lives, Chapter 15: Dancing On The Knife’s Edge
Rating: PG 13 this chapter … for now…::grins::
Pairing: Roy/Ed, references to past Roy/Hughes and the ending of Ed and Winry’s marriage. Guest appearances by Ling Yao, Riza Hawkeye, Pinako, Olivier Armstrong
Genre: Hurt/Comfort, Yaoi romance. References to domestic violence Shameless romance this chapter!
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 1: http://community.livejournal.com/fma_yaoi/1952285.html#cutid1
CHAPTER SUMMARY: Alphonse is surprised when Fuhrer Mustang takes him into his confidence—trusting him with a state secret that will change Amestris forever—or destroy the fragile peace he has fought so hard to create. Winry turns to Al for sympathy—and nothing could have prepared her for his answer. Meanwhile, Roy has unlocked a secret door to the Gilded Age of Amestris in preparation of Ed’s birthday…and the guest of honor will also be the dessert.
***HALF LIVES has now reached OVER SEVEN THOUSAND HITS on FF.Net—thank you so very much, everybody! Feedback gratefully appreciated!!****As always, for rueme for her amazing artwork
HALF LIVES Chapter 15: DANCING ON THE KNIFE’S EDGE
By The Binary Alchemist 2010
“Come in, Alphonse.”
His Excellency, Fuhrer President Roy Mustang, hastily shoved his reading glasses in the drawer before inviting the young alchemist into his private office, a gesture that never failed to privately amuse Colonel Hawkeye whenever she caught him at it. If his mind had been focused on a less-absorbing task he would have recalled that the younger Elric had seen Roy hours ago wiping away a face-full of his older brother’s bodily fluids and Ed’s hysterically funny attempts to assure Al that ‘this isn’t what it looks like” had put Alphonse in very real peril of peeing on himself in a fit of uncontrolled laughter. That itself should have broken the ice between Alphonse and Roy forever—but vanity was simply one of those Mustangian traits to be dealt with if one considered Roy a close friend…and at long last, Alphonse did. It hurt Al to see his brother in pain, however Ed feigned detachment from the landslide that had hit the Elric family and threatened to bury them. But in the midst of the dust and rubble of it all Brother had found someone who genuinely made him happy. As much as the breakdown tugged at Al’s heart, seeing Roy and Ed together gave Al hope that at least one person would walk away from that ill-fated union with someone to keep them warm and give them the love they could not find in a marriage that seemed to be assumed as predestined—to everybody but Ed.
Roy was elbow deep in paperwork, and to Al’s surprise he did not appear to have a gun pointed at his head to make him study it attentively. There were notes scribbled over most of the pages and the coffee cup rings that stained several pages showed that Roy had been so intent in those pages that he’d hadn’t attempted to skive off and get someone like Falman to plough through the fine print so he could skate by with just reading his subordinate’s summation. His hair was rumpled, his sleeves were shoved up above his elbows and he was still gnawing pensively on the end of his fountain pen cap, still jammed carelessly between his teeth.
“Sir, if you’ll spit out the top of your pen I’ll get you both something more substantial for your tea,” Hawkeye commented dryly as she excused herself.
Roy shrugged, capped his pen and gestured for Alphonse to take a seat. “Let’s get down to it,” Roy cut to the chase. “Do you trust those three lunatics from Stoltovgrad? “
Al considered for a moment. Then he beamed. “I do,” he answered with a decisive nod. Maxim Petrovsky, Alexi ‘Andrei’ Andreivitch, and Pyotir Gagarin were as passionate about science as he and Edward has always been about alchemy. Al had already made up his mind to accept their generous invitation to spend the summer living and studying together at Stoltovgrad and fervently hoped Edward would be free to join them, as well as Dr. Chen. “And Chen-san, sir—I’ve known him for some time now. He and Mei-Chan have taught me so much. I know he’s older but he fits right in, and—“
Roy chuckled and lifted a hand to cut him off. “Alphonse, I’ve already discussed Kenichi Chen with Ling. Ling says he’s one of the brightest and most progressive minds in the Empire. True?”
“True. And he’s a good man—on top of everything else. And the Drachmans like him too.”
Roy nodded as if his mind was firmly made up. “Right. Then, since Ling has no need of the Xerxes to return home, I’m suggesting we invite the Drachmans and Dr. Chen to join us on a little peace mission to Aerugo. Do you think they’d be interested? Ed and I would be traveling by train as dignitaries, but—“
“Oh, but…couldn’t…I mean,” Al was stammering.
Well,” Al ventured, “don’t you think Ed might want to fly too? I mean,” he added hastily, “I know you’ve asked him to be your envoy—but I bet it would mean so much to him.”
Roy had flown some reconnaissance missions during the war. He wasn’t afraid of heights but he wasn’t enthralled by them either. And it wasn’t exactly risk free. But…
“Ed would love it,” Roy conceded. “Can she hold a crew if six safely?”
Al nodded enthusiastically. “We originally tested with fifteen, so if you’d like to come too…?”
Roy shuddered. “Not on your life. You talk to the Drachmans. I’ll talk to Ling. And you can have the pleasure of inviting your brother along for the ride.”
It was not until after they had finished their coffee and sandwiches that Roy shoved a pile of blueprints across the table—along with a draft of a thirty page proposal. “Your brother hasn’t seen this yet. I’m going to trust your discretion, Alphonse. Now,” he rose, tugging down his sleeves and buttoning the cuffs, “I want you to spend this evening privately going over this material. Make notes as needed. And this is not for the eyes of your ‘comrades’ or even the Emperor. You are the one who needs to see this information.”
Al looked surprised and a little alarmed. “Me? But—“
“You. What becomes of this-“ he gestured to the piles of notes and blueprints, “will depend largely on your honest opinion. I mean it, Al.” He leaned in close, one hand on the younger man’s shoulder. “If it’s rubbish, tell me. Don’t spare my feelings. If it’s utter crap or if it seems flawed but viable at least in part—I want to hear it. We,” his voice dropped down very low, “ are dancing on the knife’s edge in Amestris. I cannot afford even one false step, not now. And I trust you to tell me the truth.”
“Roy,” Al asked after a long silence, “why me? Why not Brother?”
Roy adjusted the angle of his cap and nodded. “You’ll see. Goodnight.”
Al glanced up, worried. “Wait! You know Brother went out to tie one on—“
“—and my Aunt Chris is sobering him up as we speak. She was going to bring him home, but—“ he offered a wicked smile, “—I thought we might spend a bit of…quality time. Perhaps go dancing…”
“Ed??” Al looked horrified. “Ed wouldn’t dance if you held a gun to his head! He—“
“Excuse me, Sir.” Riza Hawkeye knocked once before entering. “Alphonse, there’s a phone call for you.”
Al grinned. “Probably Maxim. He wanted us to play cards tonight. Tell him I’m –“
Alphonse sighed heavily. “For Brother?”
For several long and very tense seconds, nobody moved a muscle. At last, Roy softly cleared his throat. “Take it in here. I’m going to Edward.” The eyes that met Al’s were expressionless but the temperature of the room had just dropped several degrees. Roy nodded once and marched smartly out the door, closing it just a little to firmly behind him.
Three words. Spoken low, so quietly he could barely hear them himself. But those slightly mis-matched arms, one still not quite so strong or sleekly muscled as the other, tightened around him as a voice hoarse with raw emotion answered back, I believe you.
That was all that needed to be said.
Edward Elric was an empty house on the day Roy first met him, dragging the maimed child from his wheelchair, shouting What have you done?? What did you do?? The eyes flicked away from his furious gaze, the doors slamming shut, windows shuttered, and whatever spark of animation remained in the boy had retreated, huddled in the basement of his own mind, waiting for the tall, angry stranger in the blue uniform to strike him down—to crush him for his sins…perhaps a small part of him welcomed that punishment. Surely it was more than he deserved.
Roy had seen hatred in those eyes—hating him for forcing Ed to face the horror of Nina Tucker’s death. Hating Roy for incinerating what Ed had believed was Maria Ross. Those eyes had passed a harsh judgment on Roy’s soul the day he tried to kill Envy.
But he had also seen comradeship and approval…and as the years had passed there was playful antagonism, respect and friendship. And, most recently, he watched the wary, wounded man open up to him, body and spirit, in a way that thrilled him as much as the way Ed leaned into his touch so willingly. We had to grow up, had to come a long, long way together to get to this moment. I didn’t expect this. I didn’t even know I wanted this…and now this infuriating man has crossed the lines that Maes didn’t dare—
I told him I loved him and he believes me.
Then Roy whispered five more words that conquered Edward Elric forever:
“Tall looks good on you.”
“Here.” A glass of neat brandy was pressed into Alphonse’s shaking hand. “You look like you need it.” The cognac eyes were steady but there was a hint of something that sounded like empathy in her quite tone.
He threw it back, straight-armed. She was not surprised. He did not ask for another. “Alphonse, if you need to talk…it will go no further.”
He hesitated. Then he shook his head. “I…I appreciate it, Colonel. I’ll be fine. I’ll just…go read this stuff Roy gave me.” She nodded and retreated silently, leaving the bottle behind in case he needed.
Which he did—but he chose to stay sober. Getting drunk would have made those worms of jealousy start crawling around in the back of his mind—the What Ifs and If Onlys that made him turn his face into the wind and walk farther and farther away from Resembool every turn of the seasons.
What was it he had read in some ancient Ishballan text? It is an abomination to cast covetous eyes upon the wife of your brother or your mother or your uncle or your close friend. Do not shame your house with your lusts and desires.
She cried. He knew she would. What was Ed thinking—what was wrong with her—why would he choose to go to a man’s bed when she—
Winry, please—don’t do this—
---she still wanted him back---was she not enough of a woman? Was she ugly? Wasn’t she the mother of his children—okay, yes maybe he hadn’t been consulted about her getting pregnant, but still---
I don’t want to get in the middle—
--was he like that all along and he just was afraid to tell her? Had Al noticed anything that indicated that Edward was—
--of this—please, Winry…please. This is killing me—
--it was Roy Mustang, wasn’t it? Had he been chasing after Ed since Ed was a child? Was that it? Did he take advantage of Edward being angry about their little argument---
And that was when Alphonse lost his temper. “Why did you slap my brother across the face with the welding gloves that day he took me to the train station?”
It took her a moment to find the words. She failed. “You—you--?”
“I was in the doorway. You broke my heart that day, Winry.”
Her next words sounded very strange, as if she was straining them through a sieve of thought, woven from What Ifs and Should I’s and If Only’s. “It’s…not like you were in love with me, Al—“
“—and how the HELL would you know? You were chasing my brother so hard—it was like I never existed.”
There was a nervous chuckle. “Al—you’re—“
“—TEN MONTHS younger. Yeah. I know. And when he got all mature and broad shouldered, I was a goddamned hunk of metal.”
His eyes began to sting and he scrubbed at them fiercely. “Well…I’m not a hunk of tin anymore. I never was. And I love you and I love Brother and I’m not getting in the middle of this mess—and I’m so angry at the two of you for breaking up my home…my only home! Everything’s changed—and I’ve lost my family and my home all over again…and…and…don’t ask me to get in the middle of it. It’s hurting me…it’s hurting me. I’ll…talk later. I need some time to think. Good night.”
He splashed his face. Then he folded up his heart neatly and stowed it away as he had since the last time—the only time—she looked in his eyes with love, on the day they came home from the Gateway. At least he thought it was love at the time. He had wanted it to be love, had dreamed of that moment. She would run down the dirt road, arms outstretched and Alphonse would gather her close and tell her how he’d missed her—and he’d never, ever let her go.
He sighed. He put the cap firmly on the bottle and poured himself hot tea from the lovely silver and blue enamel samovar the Tsarina had presented to Roy. Wiping his eyes on his sleeve, he settled down behind the Fuhrer’s desk and began to read.
Presently, his eyes grew very wide indeed—and Winry was the last thing on his mind for the remainder of the evening…
Go behind the bar, Roy had whispered. There’s a little drawer with a crystal knob on it. Reach inside and pull out one of the keys.
It was ornate brass with an enameled silver fob on it bearing the number 5.
The lovers passed through the double doors at the rear behind the bandstand. It was like stepping into another world, a world just slightly older than they were.
Gilded Age. That’s what the history books called it. It breathed its last gasps just before the war with Ishbal began.
It never flourished in Resembool, not for long. Not when the war pounded down their doorsteps and the lovely city by the Rain River was burned to the ground for sin of providing wool for soldier’s uniforms. The town was a smoking ruin, its precious flocks shot for sport, their bodies carried off over the saddles of the invaders to feed the hungry soldiers—never mind the hungry children whose parents had lost their livelihood. It was raids like the burning of Resembool that finally drove Urey and Sara Rockbell to leave their quiet country practice to serve as doctors at the Ishballan front.
But elsewhere in Amestris there was a Gilded Age—of lace curtains and stained glass—of brass and polished silver. Where ornate design was born of the artisan’s hand, not the work of an alchemist. Beauty for the sake of beauty—to feed the soul and please the eyes.
The endless wars brought the Gilded Age to a close nearly everywhere…but there were yet still a few tiny pockets of opulent luxury where gold flickered in the light of beeswax candles and wine glinted in cut crystal. In the old restored house that held Chez Christmas, seven of these Gilded Age ‘courting parlors’ still existed. This had once been a house of pleasure, and while the jazz wailed and the dancers sweated in the ballroom-cum-nightspot, couples with sufficient money and influence might discreetly book one of the seven parlors for an evening of privacy and pleasure.
“Go on,” Roy whispered. “Open the door.”
With a flick of his fingers Roy lit the candelabra on the table and the mantelpiece..
Soon as his eyes adjusted to the dim light, Ed stared at the centerpiece of the entire parlor: a chaise longue of dark wine velvet, as wide as a single bed with one end curled up gracefully as if designed to support a person’s…
Ed’s face flushed hotly in the dark. If nothing else, his recent sexual education at Roy’s hands had made his imagination more vivid than it had ever been previously. Before he would have thought, “hey, half that couch is missing!” and would have tried to repair it with alchemy. Instead, all sorts of images of naked limbs and rigid cocks and shivering delights began to tumble together in his imagination.
Roy had slipped out, slipped back and locked the door behind him. “Aunt Chris told Al we’re together. This place is well defended. And the staff knows I wanted to share something special with you and we were not to be disturbed.”
Share? “Share what?”
Roy placed a small covered tray beside the couch. “You’ve had your dinner,” he teased softly as he guided Edward to the lush upholstery of the chaise. “I thought we’d have a little dessert.”
The linen cover was twitched aside. There was a chilled silver bowl of chocolate mouse. There was also a small bone china crock and a sliver spoon.
The front of the crock bore a single word in gilded letters; “BUTTER”
“So…what’s on the menu?” Ed wanted to know.
Roy offered him a slow, hot grin.
“You.” Somewhere a china clock sweetly chimed twelve strokes in the winter darkness.
Then Roy blew out the candles and began to feast…..
….TO BE CONTINUED……