Fic HALF LIVES, Chapter 20: Snow And Blood And Ashes
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 : “Be Thou For The People” was the Alchemist’s credo. For the first time in Amestrian history, Roy Mustang intends to make good on the promise of those words—not just for his country but throughout the continent and across the seas. Roy’s visions of the future have sent Edward off and running again—but can he leave the other half of his heart behind? And not far away…someone is taking aim across the snowy grounds on two lovers plotting to change the future of their nation…
**HALF LIVES HAS HAD OVER FOURTEEN THOUSAND HITS ON FF.NET AS OF 9/20!! 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 20: Snow, Blood and Ashes
By The Binary Alchemist
Roy Mustang never appreciated the snows of Central City until he returned from the acrid stench of the field of battle. Desert dust and floating ash—ash from a burnt building…perhaps from the charred remains of a dead child…he would never know for sure. Dust and ash made the inside of his nose crack and bleed from the dryness. When he returned home there was a fine dusting of snow which sparkled on Aunt Chris’ dark hair as she met him at the station. While other families clung and kissed and wept, she grinned, flicked the end of her cigarette and said, “Damn, you look good in uniform. Always did like a man in uniform. Especially when it’s not shot full of holes.” And they both laughed, and then he bent down to kiss her cheek and they went out on the town together, arm in arm and she told him she was proud as hell and when he told her his plans to reach the top of military command she just nodded in approval and told him she’d stand by him and help any way that she could. He remembered the pride and support in her keen green eyes and the snow that feathered against their faces as they strolled together through the city, Solstice carols in the air and holiday shoppers bustling around them.
That night he gazed across the city from the room he had grown up in. The street below was blanketed in a shimmering brilliance. The world was pristine and if he wanted to he could step outside and his footprints would be the only mark that would show. A fresh start. A clear path that had not been sullied by the filth of what he had been forced to do for his Fuhrer and country. What he could not evade in dreams or through the waking hours. Footprints in the dust and sand. Ash and blood on his boots. Ash and blood on his soul.
Now the snow was blanketing Central once more and those he had gathered to discuss Project Alexandria were watching it through the glass windows of the Palace Conservatory just as Alphonse dashed in and quietly informed Roy that Ed had read the Project Alexandria briefing and had simply….left.. That he had stormed off in a fit of temper was evidenced by the rather impressive black eye the younger Elric brother was sporting. “Sir, ahh….my brother…”
Roy lifted his hand to cut him off. “I’ll look for him myself.” The attendees were startled. The President of Amestris should have sent his aides after Edward. Roy Mustang, however, knew his friend and lover was getting ready to run again and was going to put a stop to it. Run from me if you want to, he thought as he shrugged on his heavy overcoat. Run from the future if you think you can. Trouble is, Edward, you can’t run from yourself. I know. I’ve tried.
Again the scarred hand lifted in that familiar gesture of dismissal. He didn’t even turn around. “Hawkeye, do what you have to do. But don’t follow too close. I need to talk to Edward privately. No other pressure.”
He could hear her, a few steps behind. “Is he angry that Alphonse didn’t tell him?”
She couldn’t see his smirk. “No, he’s angry that I am asking him to honor the promise of the Alchemist’s Code.”
“Be Thou For The People.”
“Target sighted. Call the boss.”
“You want me to take care of him?”
There was a chuckle on the other end of the phone. “No. I want to take him out myself. Back me up, though, in case I can’t get a good clean shot. The light is starting to fade. Keep him in your sights, boys. This is the prize of all prizes.”
Clearly Maes didn’t quite recognize his mother in anything other than coveralls and sweat and a bandana these days. Gone was the ugly hairstyle that mimicked the mother Ed missed so much. She’d thought once that if she’d adopted the dress and hair of the one woman she knew Ed had loved the most that he would like it. She’d even bought the lavender dress and dabbed on what she remembered as Trisha’s favorite scent the day they posed for that picture on the porch.
As soon as the photographer left, Ed was packing his suitcase. She tried to coax him into the bedroom for a send off that might persuade him to change his mind. Instead he got deeply engrossed in a discussion of Grand Arcanum theory with May Chang and Alphonse and then invited them to ride down to the station to see him off.
Maes had fretted when most of his toys were packed up and shipped off, so she’d bought him a little toy tool set. It was really cute—a little hammer and saw and screwdriver and wrench made of wood that could turn pegs in a matching wooden bench. Ed can’t even drive a nail straight or saw a board in two, she thought irritably. I’ll be damned if Maes doesn’t learn like a proper boy. I’ll bet he’s got the Rockbell mechanical knack. I can start him off on some small metal projects in a few years and there’s a great training class for kids in the Rush Valley school system. We can hand this down to Nina and see if she’s interested—she might be better at it than Maes.
She was now trying on the dress she’s bought for the hearing. It was strange to have a skirt on that covered her knees and a blouse and jacket that did not display her cleavage. Her hair would be neatly pinned up like Riza had worn hers before cutting it again.
Granny was waiting for them when she got home. She glanced up and down at Winry’s new outfit and nodded. “Very appropriate. Now,” she frowned. “I got a call from Mr. Garfiel. Told me to tell you that the nanny he’d found for you has taken another assignment but he’ll keep looking. Huh! Wanted to know if I would consider moving down and—“
Winry looked suddenly hopeful. Had her grandmother changed her mind? “Oh, but Granny, it would be wonderful! You’re so much better than so many of the automail technicians in Rush Valley! We could set you up and—“
--and you’d have an in-house nanny to keep Maes and Nina out of your hair that wouldn’t cost you a thing.”
Winry knew her eager eyes had betrayed her. “But Granny…you can’t run this studio all by yourself—“
Pinako didn’t even dignify that statement with an answer. There was a muffled cry from the nursery. “She’s been in that playpen all afternoon. I’ve had orders to fill and you and your son have been shopping -- and having ice cream, judging from the chocolate smears on the boy’s shirt. Poor Nina’s been fed and changed but she needs more than that, Winry.”
Winry sighed in frustration. “Granny, I just knew we’d get things done faster if Nina stayed at the house—“
“—and your daughter wouldn’t be crying because she’s bored and lonesome if you’d taken her with you. Here. “ Pinako passed the phone to her granddaughter. “Call Garfiel. Tell him to get off his pink pantied-ass and get you a nanny lined up immediately. That is,” she added coolly, “unless you want to explain to the magistrate that you have no solid plans to care for your kids while you’re at work. If you don’t get serious about this, mark my words, those two innocents are going to find themselves in a foster home—and neither you or Ed will see them. Understand me?”
At that moment he didn’t know whether he hated Roy Mustang more for even thinking about wanting Ed involved in Project Alexandria…or because for the first time in his whole damn life he tried to walk away…and he couldn’t. He could burn down his childhood home, turn his back on Resembool, spend years sleeping in roadside ditches and haystacks and in train stations. He could go from his wife’s bed to the train station in less than an hour if he was lucky, faster if she was yelling and looking for something to brain him with.
But this time…he was caught.
Fuck the suitcase. Fuck the clothes. I’ll find what I need when I get Somewhere Else or find a friend to stay with. Hitch a ride out of town—maybe head north to…
North to nowhere. And whenever he arrived at some run down flophouse or homeless shelter, he’d curl up in the cold, mercifully drunk, and burrow his face into a pillow that didn’t smell wonderfully of sandalwood and wood smoke and soft black hair. No long legs tucked up behind his knees, no soft rumble of laughter in the dark. And if he was unlucky—and there had been times on the road when luck was not on his side—several bums might try to hold him down and bugger him, filthy hands clawing at his pretty blonde hair. He’d had alchemy and a large metal brother to protect him on the road when he was younger, but now he had only his fists. If enough men caught him in his sleep and no house warden overheard the scuffle, the risk of rape was damn high, because these men’s lives were over. Everything they had, every cherished dream, was gone. Their dreams were gone and they had nothing left to fear.
And if Roy had found out, Roy would have incinerated them. Slowly, as he had incinerated Envy. Because Roy Mustang had already proved that he would go insane lengths to protect his friends and loved ones.
And, Ed had to admit to himself, I’m the one he loves. Even if I tell the man to go to hell and fuckin’ die, he’ll never give up on me. He’ll fight for me, die for me—fuckin’ lunatic. President of the Motherfuckin’ Free World and he’d step right into the path of a bullet—hell, he’d even stand up to goddamn Riza Hawkeye to protect me.
“I’ll be here.”
“I love you.”
Had a motherfuckin’ hole drilled in my head, and what did that bastard do?? He just held onto my hand. Slept in that crappy assed folding chair, wiped my butt and fought the goddamned nurses to get them to look after me right…
…and danced with me. And held onto me like…like…
“…like I was the only thing that mattered.” He shook his head slowly. “Goddamn him.”
He was up to his ankles in snow, in his shirtsleeves and his stump was aching from the cold. The wind was picking up as the shadows lengthened towards twilight. It occurred to him that his departure would be easy to track in the fresh snow. How humiliating that the dry powder would now show him turning around and walking back—because something inside him was tugging hard, wrestling with his stubborn spirit. He was chilled to the bone and he wanted the comfort of strong arms around him as he slept, Roy’s breath warm and soft against the nape of his neck. “Bastard’s gonna laugh his balls off at me,” he swore, wishing there was something he could kick or take a swing at, just to relieve the frustration.
“No. I won’t.”
Crap. “What the hell are you doing out here, Fuhrer President? Don’t want to mess up your shoe shine in the snow. Might step in a pile of frozen dogshit.”
There was a low chuckle. “Wouldn’t be the first time Black Hayate has bombed the parade grounds. I keep asking Hawkeye to carry a waste scoop, but I think she does it just to irritate me.”
He had a vacuum flask that smelt deliciously of hot fresh coffee and two mugs. He inclined his head to a bench nearby. As they approached it, Roy snapped his fingers and the snow evaporated off the stone and it radiated just enough heat to be comfortable to sit on. Settling the coffee and cups on the bench, he swung his heavy overcoat off his shoulders and passed it to Ed, who was shivering in his shirt sleeves. “You’ll need this. All that steel still bolted to your skeleton is likely to conduct the cold faster than when you had the carbon content of your old automail to shield you like your leg has.” Wordlessly Edward shrugged it on. Roy’s body temperature always seemed to be a degree or two warmer than normal. He shuddered slightly with involuntary pleasure. Warmth, weight, and the rich, familiar scent washed over him. He’s seen Roy throw that overcoat across his shoulders for years. Once it would have swallowed him. Now the length suited even if it was too wide across the shoulders and chest. “There’s a packet of sandwiches and some money in the pockets. And dry socks,” he added, topping up Ed’s mug. “You can never have enough dry socks in the field. Learned that in Ishbal.”
Ed looked miserable. His new glasses were fogging up and his cheeks were flushed and his nose was running from the cold. Roy wanted to yell at him, tell him to stop being so proud and stubborn—to stop being so afraid of the past that it paralyzed him to think of the future. To stop running because at long last he finally HAD a home, a man who would live and die for him and, if he could bring himself to see the potential, a new purpose in life that would leave a greater legacy, in the end, than Roy’s own presidency.
“You want me to go.”
Dark eyes narrowed. “The hell I do. But I swore I wouldn’t stop you. I’ll be damned if you’re going out cold and hungry without a coat or a sen in your pocket. “
Ed nodded. “Thanks.”
They sipped their coffee in silence. At last the deep amber eyes cut over to the quiet figure beside him, his dress uniform his only comfort in the cold. “Why me?”
“Because you fucked up, as you so inelegantly put it. You fucked up. Al fucked up. I fucked up. Do you think for one moment I’d trust something this vital to the future of our world with someone who’s just blithely gone through life without a blemish on his or her career? Someone whose hands have never been dirty or bloody—someone who has never had Life kick him in the teeth? Someone who’s never had to crawl out of hell and find some damn reason to keep fighting even when it is easier to just lie down and die? No, Edward. No way in hell.” He turned to face his lover, one hand on Edward’s shoulder. “Who better than you, after what you’ve done? Would you have made the mistakes you made—would Hohenheim have done what he did—if there had been someone older and wiser who’d done the unthinkable to teach them right from wrong? If Izumi Curtis had told you the truth about transmuting her lost child—would you have done what you did, as much as you wanted your mother back? If she’d told you of the horrors she saw…what a rebound could do…the risks to Alphonse…would you have still tried to bring her back?”
Ed squeezed his eyes shut. He bowed his head. After a long time, his shoulders began to shake. “I would….I…I’d have done it anyway. I….I wouldn’t have listened to anyone.” And he buried his face in his hands.
Roy’s arm slid tightly across his shoulders. “But maybe—just maybe---someone would listen to you. And that’s why we need you, Edward. Nobody paid the price you and Alphonse paid. And I’ve come so dangerously close to madness and revenge that my own closest subordinate had to draw on me to get me to calm down. I have the blood of children and women—the blood of the Ishballan nation—on my hands. I have committed genocide. I have seen how easy it is for alchemy to be perverted into a tool of war. And it stops now. If….and it’s a big if….I can at least achieve a cease fire with Creta and establish relations with Aerugo…if Alexandria is successful…we will redeem Amestris—and our own souls. If we can prevent one alchemy student—one physicist, one chemist, one alkahestrists---from making a choice that turns a gift into a weapon…would it be worth it to you?”
“There are other brilliant minds out there, Edward. Each has the potential for greatness, for good or for bad. If you knew that something you might say to them could tip the balance, would you do it? Do we serve the people? Or,” his voice sounded tired and bitter, “ do we serve only ourselves or our nation and let the world go hang itself?”
Edward just looked at him.
“Be Thou For The People” He was dead serious. “Not Amestris. Not Xing or Drachma—or even this continent. For The People means everybody. This planet, Ed. Across the seas we’ve never explored. Lands we’ve never walked on. Languages we’ve never heard spoken by races we’ve never seen. What do we really know about our world? We play our sickening little games of mutually assured destruction—when we should be explorers. We know nothing—not one goddamned thing---about what lies beyond our enemy’s borders. Amestris has done nothing to further science—unless you count killing people, which we’re really damned good at. The way I see it, “ he finished with a deep breath, “ we either change…or die.”
He rose. He brushed the snow off his cap and settled it neatly on his head. He brushed the snow from his shoulders. Then he held out his hand to the man he loved.
One corner of Ed’s mouth quirked up. “You’re fuckin’ crazy.”
“So they tell me. Well?”
Edward rose. Laying his coffee cup aside, he stood within inches of his lover’s face. “I can’t kiss you in public.”
“The hell you can’t.”
In the crosshairs, two tall figures merged, a black overcoat wrapped around two lovers who kissed without shame under the shelter of snowy branches. The image blurred and then came sharply into focus.
A finger twitched.
Frank Archer lit one of his best cigars. He’d had one of his toadies bring him a thick porterhouse with fried potatoes from Chris Mustang’s joint, along with a bottle of champagne. “Celebrating, sir? What’s the occasion?”
He lovingly eyed the photographs of Roy Mustang and the former Fullmetal Alchemist kissing in the snow. “A spectacular rise in ratings, boys. To the Fuhrer!”
A dozen glasses sloshed as they were thrust in the air.
“To the Fuhrer!”
……TO BE CONTINUED……