Fic HALF LIVES, Chapter 19: A GENTLEMAN AND A SCHOLAR
Rating: This Chapter rated PG 13 for language and sexual references
Story arc rated from 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
Chapter 18 part 1: http://community.livejournal.com/fm_alchemist/7008437.html
SUMMARY : Marcoh and Colonel Miles from Ishbal. Dr. Chen from Xing. Professor Petrovsky from Drachma. Alphonse Elric from Amestris. Brilliant minds one and all—all gathering at the Presidential Palace at the request of Fuhrer Roy Mustang to discuss the mysterious proposal Roy will offer not just to Amestris but to the world—a project that could lead to the redemption of Edward Elric…
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A/N Always for rueme , with gratitude for her amazing art
HALF LIVES, Chapter 19: A Gentleman and A Scholar
By The Binary Alchemist 2010
A blonde woman hurried down the main street of Resembool village, daughter on one hip, son trailing behind, hand clasped tightly in hers. “Maes, come on,” she urged as he stared, wide-eyed , at a passing Ishballan. The older woman noted the pale Amestrian child with the wide golden eyes staring at her and offered him a friendly smile. The boy’s face lit up. “Pretty!” he crowed. “Mama, look! Pretty lady!”
“Maes! Come on!” And he was bustled on down the street to the depot where the last of her crates would be loaded on the six o’clock mail run.
The Ishballan’s crimson eyes followed after him. Only one man’s descendants bred golden hair and eyes—Van Hohenheim. Colonel Miles had spoken of his valor in the camps—how he had sacrificed himself to stop the horrors that nearly destroyed the country—a nation of tyrants that her own people had helped to save. And Mustang—a man whose name had been drenched in innocent blood—had risked his life to rebuild their homeland. He had come to them, humbled and soft spoken, pledging to restore the Ishballan homelands and make reparations for the sins of the Bradley regime. “I was hardly more than a boy, given terrible work to do. I make no excuses and sadly I cannot bring back the dead…but I can pledge myself to the service of the living and the generations to follow.”
And Mustang had been as good as his word. He and Marcoh and Miles rolled up their sleeves and labored side by side with Ishballas’ people. Five years ago, she thought, I could not walk down this street without frightening people or risking my safety. Today, Hohenheim’s blood called me a pretty lady and smiled at me. Precious God, may You be praised that I should live to see this day…
His Excellency had ordered Alphonse late last night to a private meeting first thing in the morning. They would convene in Staff Room 3 in the Presidential office suite. All he had been told was to bring his notes, ‘come hungry’ and specifically not to tell his brother.
Colonel Hawkeye sat at attention, scribbling in a notebook. Jean Havoc slouched comfortably opposite her, lipping an unlit cigarette and looking thoughtful. They both nodded when Alphonse slipped around the door, looking slightly guilty about meeting like this behind Ed’s back. “Morning’!” Havoc offered cheerfully, gesturing to a basket that smelled deliciously of rare mountain blueberries from the North. “Sebastian’s whipped up some scones and there’s a fresh urn of coffee behind you. Grab a cup and a plate and get started. We don’t wait on Mustang—not when Sebastian’s been manning the oven. I swear, Ramsay’s a damn good chef but Ol’ Sebby’s a….master baker…if there ever was one.” Chortling at his own attempt at humor, Havoc slathered butter over his split scone and then, to Al’s surprise, passed it across the table to Colonel Hawkeye. She didn’t look up from her notes but nodded her thanks.
Al spread out the pile of notes and blueprints Roy had entrusted him with over two weeks ago, Beside them he placed a sheaf of his own sketches and every idea, objection and constructive suggestion he could come up with. Doing all this research without sharing—it made him uncomfortable. But his friend—no, the leader of his nation—had asked this of him. There was no way Alphonse would refuse.
“Thank you for waiting. Havoc, if you’ve eaten all the blueberry scones you have done so at my extreme displeasure.”
Hawkeye glanced up. ‘There might be a few left. There are also cranberry orange and almond with chocolate shavings.” She nodded towards the urn. “There might be some coffee left…”
Roy scowled. “Damn well better be, or Sebastian is going to be grilling wieners at the sausage cart on the plaza.”
“Hardly necessary, Sir. I’ve just come from the kitchen.” Right on Roy’s heels came Sebastian, pushing a gleaming cart crowded with covered platters that he quickly spread out over the sideboard. Al’s nose twitched in appreciation at a whiff of ham biscuits, breakfast links and pitchers of fresh squeezed juice.
“Just how many people are coming to this meeting?” Al wanted to know.
Hawkeye answered without looking up from her notes. “The four of us, plus Dr. Chen, Colonel Miles, Maxim Petrovsky—and Dr. Tim Marcoh.”
Al sat up straight. Miles and Marcoh had come from Ishbal to Central for this meeting—but they still hadn’t told Brother? What in the world—
“Alphonse! It’s good to see you!” A misshapen face creased into a smile as Tim Marcoh clasped his shoulder with real affection.
“Indeed. It has been a long time. I’m pleased to observe that you have grown significantly since last we met, Alphonse Elric.” Miles no longer concealed his red eyes, and behind his military correctness there was an unmistakable warmth in his words. Returning to his people to serve as governmental liaison had given Miles new purpose, although he owned that he missed his comrades in the north.
Everybody heaped their plates and to Al’s surprise they paused in respectful silence as Miles murmured a brief prayer of thanksgiving over his own plate. “Is there anything else you need?” Sebastian enquired. “More…butter…Sir?”
For some reason, that harmless inquiry made Colonel Hawkeye flush, Major Havoc drop his ham biscuit and the Fuhrer himself nearly choked on a mouthful of coffee. “I have all the butter I need,” Mustang muttered, spots of high color burning in his cheeks.
“I’m certain that you do, Sir.” A smile and a bow and the butler disappeared with his silver cart. Al did a few mental calculations…thought of his brother…and he blushed too.
“Alphonse! Get on with it!” the President barked, waving his fork for emphasis. “Don’t keep our guests waiting. This idea of mine—will it fly?”
Every eye was fixed on him, their expressions baffled. Obviously not one of them had a clue why the Fuhrer had summoned them to Central. It was with real relief that he was able to nod with genuine enthusiasm. “Yes, Your Excellency. And it will be my honor to assist you.”
“Stop talking like a diplomat, Alphonse. And at ease. You’re not under my command. Be yourself.”
Roy nodded briskly. “Colonel Hawkeye? If you please?”
Each person at the table was presented with a portfolio stamped “PROJECT ALEXANDRIA: EYES ONLY”
“Gentlemen—Colonel Hawkeye. I am going to excuse myself for approximately one hour. During that time I wish you to enjoy your breakfast and study your copy of this proposal—and please direct your questions to Alphonse, who has consented to advise me on the viability of this project. And when I return,” he smirked, “you can tell me whether or not I am still in possession of my good sense.”
“What do YOU want?” Ed glared at Dr. Knox. He’d been called to the doctor’s office after undergoing a complete physical at Roy’s order. “Humor me,” his lover had told him. “Nobody’s had a good look at you since you left the refugee camp in Central after the Promised Day. Do it for my peace of mind.”
“That’s gonna cost you…hmmm….a backrub and a blowjob,” Ed estimated. A large feather pillow had caught him across the chest with a wallop. “And that’s gonna cost you more, bastard,” Ed whooped, snatching up his own pillow and swinging back. Soon the two men were dashing around the Presidential Bedroom, hurling mortal threats and pounding the hell out of each other until the air was white with feathers and they were laughing so hard they couldn’t breathe.
“C’mere, you brat,” Roy was panting as he caught Ed by the arm and yanked him close. He was sweaty and covered with fluff and his hair was plastered to his shoulders. “God, you’d look good on your knees right now,” Roy purred, “but you bear a discomforting resemblance to a goose…and I’d have to pluck you before I’d get to fuck you.” That had led to more horsing around, a shower and a drain clogged with wet feathers as they soaped and slid and stroked and shuddered and sighed contentedly
That had been two weeks ago. . Roy had dressed quickly this morning for a pre-breakfast meeting and Ed had been driven to the hospital to confront his scowling nemesis.
“Put ‘em on!” A small leather case was slapped down in front of him. Ed pulled out a pair of golden spectacles with thin rectangular lenses. “You’re getting short-sighted,” he was informed. “Wrecked your eyes with all that reading. These will help.”
Ed opened his mouth to snap back. A sour look from Knox shut him up. He slid the glasses on and then turned his attention to the little card of various text sizes that Knox had thrust into his hands.
“Well?” the doctor snapped. “Read the damn thing.”
Ed paused. The he grinned. “Copyright 1919, Breslow Printers, Central City”
“Wiseass.” Knox snatched the card back. Ed’s sight was so well corrected he could read the tiny print at the bottom of the card. He nodded. “Have ‘em checked every year. Keep ‘em in a case so you don’t scratch ‘em. Now get the hell out of here.”
“Why’re we stopping here?” Ed demanded from the back seat as Denny Brosh pulled into Jos. A. Weatherington, Gentlemen’s Clothier, one of the finest shops in Central City.
From the front seat, Claude turned around. “You have an appointment before a Magistrate of the State next week, Sir. You must dress appropriately for your divorce hearing, as you did when your marriage occurred.”
Ed cringed. “Uh…yeah…” He had been late—in fact, he had run straight from the train station to the Magistrate’s office. Winry had been furious that he turned up late for the wedding in rumpled travel-worn clothing, his hair uncombed and in need of a shower. She’d given him hell in front of the Magistrate and the witnesses, so much so that the Magistrate stopped them and asked quite seriously if they truly wanted to go through with this. He had put it out of his mind as usual when she railed at him in the early days—but the very fact that his own wedding had slipped his mind should have been a hint that perhaps he wasn’t as sure as he thought he was that he really wanted to go through with this.
So—yes. He did want to look respectable this time, and allowed himself to be herded in and let Claude to the talking. “Simple elegance—nothing too outré. Mr. Elric is a scholar and a scientist. His clothing should be practical, clean lines---but of best quality. The dark suit is, of course, what is called for, yes, the more traditional cuts flatter his build. Single button waistcoat, yes. Sober stripes on the tie—that one will suit nicely.”
“You’re picking out my clothes like my mother,” Ed groused. “I’m over sixteen. I’m all grown up now.”
“Indeed, sir---however yours is the eye of the scientist. Mine,” Claude emphasized, “is of an artist. You will note that our Fuhrer never looks less than his best, even when relaxing in his private quarters away from the public eye. Simple clothing of best quality fabrics, tailored to fit properly. There is no reason that you may not do the same, since you are grown and as a scholar you will be traveling extensively. Your garments should wear well, pack well and serve you well, regardless whether you are exploring ancient ruins or dining with the Prince of the Dawn in Aerugo.”
A dark suit for the hearing, several pairs of trousers in dark solids, several reversible waistcoats, a half-dozen shirts, undershorts, socks and a few ties. And to the pile Ed stubbornly added a bright red dressing gown with a hood. “I’ll get Al to put the Flamel on it with alchemy…just for old time’s sake,” he grinned, pleased that it annoyed Claude. “And some leather pants—damned practical with automail sometimes,” he added.
A quick trip to the cobbler for custom shoes that would fit both flesh and automail and they headed back to the Palace. “Damn…and you say women actually like to shop for clothes?” He shook his head in disbelief.
Back at the palace, Claude held him captive in what had once been his bedroom, where behind locked doors he measured and pinned and a made the odd tuck and stitch. Ed bitched and growled, mollified only when Sebastian stepped in with a luncheon platter of cold roast beef on rye with cheddar cheese, mustard and horseradish sauce, accompanied by a frosty mug of excellent beer. It was hard, Sebastian had commiserated with Claude, to keep Master Edward out of the way while the Fuhrer conducted his private meeting with Master Alphonse. “Rather like baby-sitting a tornado—and a rather testy one at that,” Claude sighed.
“I am sure His Excellency will reward you with an extended holiday if you persevere. I am aware that you are not fond of Master Edward, but may I suggest that you give the young man a chance. If he and His Excellency intend to share a life together than you will not be able to avoid him in future. I have found him rough and often crude in his manner, but beneath it he is altogether worthy of my respect.”
“And he isn’t going away,” Claude sighed. “Ah well…then what can’t be avoided or killed in its sleep must be borne, I suppose…”
It was nearly three pm when Sebastian knocked on Edward’s door. “Master Edward? I have a message from His Excellency. He has requested that you join him for high tea in the Presidential Office this afternoon. Your brother will be there, along with a number of scientists of your acquaintance, including a Dr. Tim Marcoh who personally expressed his pleasure at seeing you once again.” Ed nodded and, after an uneasy glance at Claude, chose from the recently altered garments a pair of dark moss colored trousers, a matching waistcoat, a high collared white shirt, black sleeve garters and dark shoes. He combed his hair into a neat ponytail, checked under his fingernails for dirt. Then he slipped on his new eyeglasses and critiqued his reflection in the mirror.
The boy alchemist in black leather and flapping scarlet duster was nowhere to be seen. The stranger that stared coolly back at him was tall, elegant and neat—and the glasses gave him an air of maturity. He looked every inch a man of the academic world and would fit in easily with diplomats, explorers, alchemists and the lads down at the local beer hall. That he bore an uncanny resemblance to a youthful Hohenheim he wasn’t aware and would have been annoyed if he had been told. He nodded approvingly. “Not bad. Now,” he grinned, “if I can get through tea without saying ‘shit’….I’ll be fit for the court of that goddamned Prince of the Dawn…”
The guests talked and laughed in the conservatory. Edward was left alone with his tea and the Project Alexandria portfolio. Always a quick study, he burned through the pages, devouring every word. Alphonse sat nearby, ready to answer any of Ed’s questions.
Al had been nervously running his thumb over his fingernails, a habit he’d picked up once he had hands again. He’d listened to the committee’s response—but so much hinged on Ed’s response. His brother was utterly absorbed, tea untouched and even the strawberry tarts were going neglected. In fact, Alphonse considered waggishly, if Roy had entered the room stark naked just now his ego would be sadly bruised by Ed’s complete lack of interest in anything other than the document before him.
It didn’t take long.
Ed closed the portfolio. He laid it to one side. He got up without a word.
“Brother, please—just listen—“
“I said no.” He headed for the door. Al stepped in front of him.
“Then tell me why. You owe me that much.”
Edward yanked up his sleeve and held out an arm that would never be quite so strong as the other, or as deeply tanned. “This, goddamn it!” He shoved his hand into his brother’s face. “Shit, I can’t believe you would even consider….no. Not after all I’ve done, all the people that got hurt—the people that died—“
“—the nation that survived. Because you were strong enough, Ed. You could have had all the power you wanted—and you laid it down and walked away. Because you chose my life over…damn it, Ed—you could have taken the Father’s power and become a god yourself. You chose to give it all up, to save this world and to give me my body back. Who…” his voice was tight with emotion now, “who ELSE can Roy trust with this??”
“And I won’t do it alone. I can’t. No…it has to be you, Brother.” Al’s arms slid out and he pulled his brother close, terrified that if he let Edward out that door…if he let him walk away…that demon of purposelessness that had eaten at Ed’s soul since he’d surrendered his gift of alchemy would eventually drag Edward down into the darkness. He’s seen signs of it in the past few years—the apathy, the withdrawal and the constant running away. The impulsive agreement to marry Winry---all of it pointed to one thing and one thing only:
Edward Elric had nothing to do. His entire life had been focused on a single obsession: to restore their bodies and bring down Father. He’d accomplished this and given up his alchemical gift. He was now an ordinary man---and he had no mission to fulfill, no dragons to slay, no quest to pursue—not anything that couldn’t be resolved in weeks or months or perhaps a year or two.
He needed a reason—a damned compelling one—to keep on living.
And within the pages of Roy’s Project Alexandria Portfolio, that reason was waiting—if Ed had the courage to accept the mission….
…..TO BE CONTINUED……