Fic HALF LIVES, Chapter 18: (Frank) Archer On Target—PART 1
Rating: PG13 to NC17 for yaoi sex and references to domestic violence and spouse abuse.
Pairing: Roy/Ed, Al’s unrequited love for Winry, references to past Roy/Hughes—hints of Havoc/Hawkeye??—and Ed and Winry’s impending divorce.
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…
FM Alchemist Links
SUMMARY : Frank Archer—gossip columnist for Radio Central, has broadcast Winry’s face-saving falsehoods about reconciling with Ed nationwide—and there’s nothing Roy can do to keep Ed from finding out and going ballistic. But Winry’s been manipulated on purpose— is Archer’s real target Fuhrer Mustang….? (AN: this is a 2 part chapter due to it being just over the length limit for posting…)
**HALF LIVES HAS HAD OVER TEN THOUSAND HITS ON FF.NET AS OF 9/1!! Thank you so much—and feedback is greatly appreciated!!*** Visit the Story Archive at http://www.fanfiction.net/~binarytales
A/N Always for rueme , with gratitude for her amazing art
HALF LIVES, Chapter 18: (FRANK) ARCHER ON TARGET
By the Binary Alchemist, 2010
PAR T 1 of 2
In the control room at Radio Capital the program director gave a thumbs-up to the engineer, who struck three melodic chimes to announce the noon hour. A red light flashed in the sound booth and a familiar bouncy theme song filled the shops and parlors and offices of Central and all its regional affiliate stations throughout Amestris.
“It’s…. Midday Amestris, with your hosts Donnel Samuelson and Elinor Buchannan. Brought to you by Central Meat—where every Wednesday is Pork Day—be sure to check our circular in the Central Times for our specials this week. And by Gracia’s Crafty Craft Emporium, on the Square in downtown Central, where this weekend we’ll have a two-for-one sale spectacular on knitting supplies. And now—here’s Donnel and Elinor!”
Roy grimaced. Midday Amestris, he had determined, was probably the number one cause of adult onset diabetes in the country. Saccharine, scripted and nauseatingly cheerful. He’d heard it for the first time after an epic night of drinking alone and for an awful moment had thought he was hallucinating. The theme alone made him grit his teeth—not to mention having to endure hearing Gracia’s daily “Crafty People” segment that came on each day at 1pm, where some old geezer would drone on to Gracia and Elycia about his collection of old cigar bands or Gracia would detail clever uses for earwax or some such rubbish. It was nice that she’d taken the money from her widow’s pension and opened what Knox referred to as The Goddamned Doily Shop, but hearing her voice—and worse, hearing Elycia prattling on the air—served only as a keen reminder of the man he had lost.
Roy never tuned it in. That was Sheska’s doing. Roy’s office staff adored Midday, and as it aired at noon and since he generally had lunch in his office, there was no escaping it—not unless he was willing to put up with the sulking and pleading of an office of pretty girls who melted at Donnel’s warm baritone. It was Sebastian that suggested that he allow the girls to tune in. “It might be informative to listen to the show, Sir,” the butler had suggested. “Those are the voices of the common people, and while it may be more than a little tedious for His Excellency’s ears he might find out what is being discussed in the shops and homes around the country. Especially,” he added with emphasis, “the Archer On Target segment.”
Archer On Target?? “That gossip monger? You’re insane,” Roy grumbled. “He sickens me. All he does is bait the hook, throw it out and hope some idiot bites down hard. Thinks he can take down the mighty from their pedestals. How the bloody hell,” he slapped his desk top for emphasis, “ did an idiot like Frank Archer end up with his nose up the country’s backside, I ask you?”
Sebastian smiled. “A story got leaked about Fuhrer President Grumman’s habit of being a bit too…familiar…with young women on his staff. It was suppressed, needless to say, but it might have blown out of proportion. And in view of the current political climate—if I may make so bold—it could be instructive to…soldier through…the broadcast, simply to be aware in the event that Mr. Archer turns his arrows in His Excellency’s direction.”
Roy was not overly fond of Sebastian, but the butler had a knack for keeping his fingers on the pulse of the world around him—including the world behind closed doors at the capital. And so every weekday afternoon at 12:30 he would feign interest in a pile of paperwork and listen carefully, scribbling down anything that might be of potential impact….
No surprise that the lead story was all about Alphonse the Aeronaut and the flight of the Xerxes in the skies above Central. There was a biography of Alphonse—one carefully crafted by Roy’s spin doctors and public relations team—and in honor of the Emperor the cooking segment was devoted to Suk Muk Dik or Pee Man Cok--or whatever the hell Roy thought they called it. All he knew was it contained dog meat—and Roy would cheerfully prefer to eat a pile of pencil shavings before even considering digging in to a steaming plate of canine cuisine, however popular it was back East. Gracia’s segment was on the game Xingese Jump rope—tiàopíjīn, to be accurate—with Elycia chanting out the jumping rhymes.
Roy yawned, stretched and called for fresh coffee. He was tired from the exuberant lovemaking of the night before, and Elycia’s rhythmic sing-song caused him to drift into a pleasant reverie….mmmm….hot buttered Elric on Velvet…showering at the Palace afterwards and the luxury of sleeping spooned tightly together, his knees tucked under Ed’s , their fingers laced together and the sweet scent of freshly washed hair and warm skin….that slow, lingering kiss before he rose to dress…that strange-almost-painful feeling in his chest when he stole one last look at his lover before he left. It almost felt like his heart was being stretched from the inside to hold all this new emotion…
“….And thank you, Elycia! Wow, kids say the darndest things, don’t they, Donnel?”
“They certainly do, Elinor! And speaking of cute kids—in our next segment Frank Archer will take us live to Resembool in the East Region for a rare look into the lives of the Elric Brothers we’ve been talking about all morning!”
“That’s right, Donnel! Today’s ‘Archer On Target’ brings us to the famous Rockbell Automail Studio where Dr. Pinako Rockbell will talk about Alphonse growing up, and we’ll learn more about the retirement of Edward Elric from his glamorous life as a State Alchemist from his lovely wife Winry—and we’ll get to meet the newest Elric genius, little Maes Urey Elric, who is Edward’s son—“
Roy froze. “Turn it up,” he called through the open door.
He listened in horror. The staff was oohing and cooing about how cute little Maes was—“Nina FARTED….She did!”---and how like Edward he was—“She SHIT, too!” Roy barked for them to pipe down but it was useless.
“—I didn’t know she was pregnant!”
“She’s not! She said she and Ed were moving to Rush Valley—“
“—I thought he was staying in Central—“
“—you mean they didn’t even invite her to Ed’s birthday?”
“—maybe he didn’t want her. Lots of fish in the sea, and now that he’s gotten so tall he’s really—“
There was a curse and a loud crash in the Fuhrer’s office. Five leggy and attractive young stenographers jammed the door in a mad rush to see what had happened. The Fuhrer’s favorite coffee mug was in pieces on the black marble hearth and there was a brown stain on the hand-loomed carpet.
“Dropped my cup,” said His Excellency calmly from the other side of the room. “Carry on, ladies.”
“So what do we do, Chief?” The mess was gone. The smashed bits of mug—which had once belonged to Hughes—were disposed of and a fresh cup steamed fragrantly on the Fuhrer’s desk. He ignored it.
Riza Hawkeye peered out the window. “Coming around for mooring in, Sir.” She looked worried. “How do you want to handle this?”
Roy ruffled his hair in frustration. Then he folded his hands decisively over the notes he’d made on Archer’s broadcast. More children…move to Rush Valley…retirement…FRANK ARCHER. That name was circled and underlined boldly.
“Cordon off the landing area. Send uniformed officers and MP’s. Tell them it is a safety precaution. Nobody within 100 meters who isn’t authorized. Colonel Hawkeye, meet him when he lands. Major—“ Roy scrawled a quick note, signed it, and then folded it. “—get this to Lieutenant Fuery.”
Then he smiled. It was not a very nice smile. “Sheska!” he called crisply. “Get Brigadier General Armstrong on the line.” He turned to Hawkeye and Havoc. “It galls me to be beholden to that woman for any reason, but I’m willing to risk it. Get moving!”
“One more thing—“ Roy’s eyes narrowed. “Get the bandsmen out on the field before they land. Standard uniforms, no need to dress up. Get them inside the cordoned area, as close to the Xerxes as possible. Just the brass section—give me about four trumpets, a tuba, and a trombone—no, add the bass drum and cymbals too. Lots of cymbals. On the double now!”
“I said MOVE IT!”
Hawkeye and Havoc snapped to attention. Havoc was grinning widely now and even Hawkeye was smiling. “YES, SIR!”
“Girlfriend—WHAT HAVE YOU DONE???”
Winry jerked the phone away from her ear. She had never heard Mr. Garfiel screech like that before, not even when he accidentally burned a hole in his best silk kimono with a hot rivet. “Wha—what do you mean? Mr. Garfiel, I –“
“Precious child, letting your little boy swear like that on the radio. I tell you, the sooner you get little Maes and Nina away from Ed’s potty mouth the better. Why, I blushed for you, child.”
She was totally baffled. “Mr. Garfiel, are you at the hotel? I didn’t know you were in town.”
Now it was Garfiel’s turn to sound baffled. “What Resembool? I’m right here where I ought to be—where you ought to be—here in Rush Valley.”
“Then…how did you hear Maes on our local radio? It only carries through the Rain River Valley region.”
There was a moment of stunned silence. “Darling…you DO have radio, don’t you?”
“Well…Granny listens to the news at breakfast and at suppertime, but the rest of the day we’re so busy--
“Winry, Cherie, you’ve heard of Midday Amestris?”
“Well, yeah, but—“
“Don’t you know who Frank Archer is?”
“I—I mean, he’s the man who did the story on us for Rain Valley Radio, but I don’t see—“
There was a dramatic sigh of frustration on the other end of the line. “Sweetie, that man is a bigger bitch than I’ve ever been—and that’s saying something. He’s dreadful. Such a muckraker. If there isn’t a scandal, he’ll make one up. If there isn’t a war, he’ll start one. Granny wasn’t with you after Maes made that remark about Nina having to go poopie, right? That’s when he started making all those sly questions about your marriage—oh, he’s a slyboots if there ever was one!” Winry could almost hear him wringing his chubby hands. “You didn’t even realize it, did you? Precious, you lied like a Xingese rug! All that ca-ca about Ed going to Rush Valley with you and making more little Elrics. You do know he’s going to—“ He could hear her startled gasp. “Winry, he is going to find out—if he hasn’t heard it already. So if I were you, I’d face the music.”
He was right. She babbled. She panicked.
Oh, hell. She lied.
“I…I just didn’t want…to look…you know….bad. For the Godz people.” If she’d had a wrench in her hand she’d have been tempted to whack herself soundly for being such a fool. “I didn’t want to risk---“
“Poppet, you could parade through the streets of Rush Valley wearing nothing but one of those strap-on vibrating thingamajigs and the Godz would not give a damn. They want you for your genius, Winry. So you’ve made a fool of yourself for nothing. And Edward is going to get his panties in a major twist about this.”
“What do I do?”
“You think there’s any truth to it, Archer?”
The reporter flicked the ash off an expensive—and illegally imported—Cretan cigar. “You know, they’ve been calling him The Widow Hughes ever since the shooting. He’s known Fullmetal since he was—what, eleven years old? He finally hit puberty. Not as good looking as Aeronaut Al but he’s all right. Broads love the long hair and the drama. That head nurse told me Mustang got out of hand at the hospital. Slept by his bed every night. Threw a bedpan full of Ed’s shit at a bunch of her staff out in the smoking area. And she said that last night Ed Elric was in the hospital it sounded like two wild cats fucking and tearing the place apart. And Knox threw him out the next day.” He grinned and savored a mouthful of brandy. “Yeah, boys…I think we got the goods on the Flamer…so let’s turn up the heat, shall we?”
“I can’t believe that Ed married such a gullible broad.”
“Nice tits, though,” Archer offered.
There was a pause and the sound of someone nervously clearing her throat. “Uhh…Your Excellency? Um…this is…ah…”
Roy sighed heavily. “For the love of god, Winry—just call me Roy.”
Roy glanced at the window. “He’ll be landing shortly. Should I have him call you at home?”
“Y-yes. Or…no. Um,” she stammered, “Tell him I hope he has a happy birthday.”
The silence of the other end of the phone was ominous. Finally Roy answered, “That would depend on whether or not he’s heard Archer on Target yet. And—“ he cut her off before she could take a breath, “—I’m going to great lengths to make sure I get him inside and out of the crowd before he finds out. But I’m afraid it is inevitable.”
“You heard it.”
“What…did you think.”
Pause. “I think…that Maes is a very precocious young man and I look forward to meeting him soon.” Another pause. “As for your plans for expanding your family and your new life in Rush Valley—that’s between you and Edward.”
“Are you in love with him?” She blurted out before she could stop herself.
“Yes.” Roy’s voice was very soft. “That’s why I step aside and let him think for himself.”
“All right, Brother. Now…that’s it…steady on the descent…good…mooring lines are down…and the ground crew is—wow, what’s with that brass band down there?”
An Amestrian military band was honking out a dreadful interpretation of the Xingese national anthem. “Holy crap, that’s awful,” Ed shook his head. “Sounds like somebody buttfuckin’ a flock of geese!” He leaned over the side. “HEY! Shut the fuck up down there!”
At the sight of Ed shaking his fist angrily over the side of the gondola they launched into an ear-splitting version of “Happy Birthday”, complete with crashing cymbals. “Geez, that sucks,” Ed complained. “Bet that’s Mustang’s idea of a joke. Lemme get this thing grounded and I’m gonna go straight into his office and kick his ass!”
Maxim stared at Dr. Chen. “This is respect for one’s superiors in Amestris?”
Alphonse shook his head, laughing. “No—they’ve known each other most of Ed’s life. If they weren’t close friends Ed would never say such things.”
Ed’s grin was wicked. “Right. I’d say worse. All right, everybody. Bend your knees and hang on…I’m bringin’ this sucker down and it’s gonna be….YES!!! Fuckin’ perfect!!”
There were people in the crowd shouting and waving, reporters flashing cameras but Colonel Hawkeye hustled them out of the cold and into the Palace before they could sign any of the proffered autograph books or answer any questions.
When Edward Elric was irritated, he snapped and griped.
When Edward Elric was angry, he yelled and cursed.
When Edward Elric was furious, he started throwing punches.
When Edward Elric was pushed to the limit…he got very, very quiet.
He rose and walked slowly to the window, fingers tightly curled around his coffee mug. His face was unreadable. He stared out at the Xerxes. Al wondered if Ed was wishing they had never returned to the ground..
At last he spoke, not turning to look at Roy or his brother. “Did she know this was going out on nation wide radio?”
“I don’t know. She may have thought it was for your area station. She sounded upset.”
“Yes. She should be.” His fingers touched the frosty glass. “Strange. I promised her that the only tears she would ever cry would be tears of joy. I never knew that promise would come at such a cost.” He bowed his head. “And I’ve paid enough.”
“Edward—I heard Maes. I heard your son on the radio.”
He didn’t turn around. “How did he sound?”
Roy smiled. “Like you. He said ‘shit’, ‘piss’ and ‘fart’ on the air within a five minute interview.”
There was a faint chuckle and Ed shook his head. “Must be genetic.”
“I look forward to finally meeting Maes and Nina and spending time with them,” Roy added gently. “I want to get to know them.”
“You’ll be a better influence on them than I will.”
Al looked pensive. “Brother—is there anything I can do--?”
Ed turned slowly. He glanced from Roy to Havoc, to Hawkeye and finally to his brother. “Yes. You can all leave me the hell alone.”
....TO BE CONTINUED IN CHAPTER 18, PT 2...