Rating: This chapter rated PG-13 for language and mature content
Pairing: Roy/Ed, Havoc/Hawkeye, onesided Riza/Roy, unrequited Al/Winry, past Al/Julia Crichton and Winry’s remarriage
Spoilers and Warnings: Post-Manga verse, Star of Milos, the FMA Novels and Prince of the Dawn game, FMA OVA’s . Yaoi romance/angst/humor
Plot: Roy and Ed have been together for 15 years now—Roy prepares to fulfill his 520-cenz promise to make Amestris a democracy, but just before Roy’s 50th birthday and his wedding to Edward a tell-all biography about Mustang is published that sets the country on its ear---because the ‘truth’ about the Promised Day is about to come out, with Roy miscast as the evil genius behind it all…
SUMMARY: Havoc and Hawkeye begin the rocky road to reconciliation (with a little help from their friends). Anti-alchemy riots are breaking out in Amestris and an attack outside West City has become a source of worry for Roy…and a personal loss for Alphonse. Meanwhile, Ed’s revenge on Roy’s ‘biographer’ has her too paranoid to badmouth Mustang to the press, thanks to the help of some of Chris Mustang’s network of ‘ street informants’.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: Updating after a three-month medical hiatus! Feedback greatly appreciated---“Half Lives”, “Whole Lives” and other fics hosted at fanfiction.net at http://www.fanfiction.net/u/1651220/BinaryTales and also at my new host at AO3 Thanks so much for reading!!!
OUR LIVES, CHAPTER 26: “PARANOIA FOR FUN AND PROFIT”
By The Binary Alchemist 2013
Roy had been on the horn all morning. He missed the final fitting of his wedding suit. When the tailor rang up and asked to speak to the President, Roy took the call, listened to the tailor rant for exactly five seconds before hanging up without a word.
Sheska noticed that her boss never asked for a cup of coffee. As a test, she placed a couple of jelly donuts on his desk at midmorning tea time and did not hear the traditional complaint and request that they be replaced with pastries instead.
Eventually, even Ed got escorted out of the Presidential office, taking an unrequited erection with him. Miffed, Ed ducked into the kitchen and confronted Chef Ramsay. “No goddamn salads for lunch,” Ed warned. “Get some real food into him. He’s in a pissy mood and it’s probably starvation.”
Ramsay consulted the menu. “He’s supposed to be on rabbit food at lunch until the wedding. Says he wants to look good for the cameras.”
“Fuck that. The only person he has to look good for is me. I never thought he needed to lose any weight to begin with. The only fat on Roy Mustang is in his head, the conceited prick! Get him some grease and sugar—hell, get him some damned bacon! We gotta get him out of this crappy mood before I shove my foot up his ass!”
Alphonse turned his face into the morning breeze. He took a deep gulp of the sweet, cold air. There was, he detected, a hint of spring and promise in the day. That was fine with Alphonse. The winter had been hard and bitter, and he was glad to turn his mind to pleasanter things, such as Ed and Roy’s wedding, now only a few weeks away.
He’d headed out a little after 6:00 a.m., well before reporting in to Ruby at his office at the Hohenheim Institute. A cup of coffee with Elycia at Il Gattina, picking up a couple of stale bread rolls from the bakery so he could feed the wild birds from his favorite bench in Central Park, right across the green from Central HQ, now home to the Amestrian Parliament.
He waved to a newsboy—one of Chris Mustang’s boys, no doubt—overpaying the kid as Al always did. “Keep the change and get yourself some breakfast.” He could have read any of a dozen or so papers that Ed devoured along with his eggs and toast, his pale blond head barely visible above the fury of flapping pages. Al preferred his park bench, a steaming to-go cup and his own copy of the Central Times that hadn’t been stained by Ed’s spilled coffee or underlined and notated by Roy.
Surrounded by a flock of bedraggled, gunmetal-grey birds, Alphonse tore one of the rolls to bits before tossing the crumbs aloft. A pouty-looking specimen promptly pooped on the front page. “That’s the thanks I get?” Al shouted as he shooed the bird away. “At least you didn’t drop that bomb in my coffee.” Pulling a tissue from his pocket, he began to wipe the offending splatter off the newsprint when the blaring headline made him stop mid-gesture:
“ANTI-ALCHEMY PROTESTS SPARK RIOT IN WEST CITY—TWO INJURED, FIFTEEN ARRESTED”
Alphonse cursed aloud. The startled flock winged abruptly into the trees and there was a wet splat on Al’s shoulder as if to confirm his fears that the status of an alchemist was not as honored as it had once been, thanks to that damned book about Roy and Ishbal…
Jean Havoc ran a finger over the hairline crack in the windshield of Roy Mustang’s presidential staff car. He frowned. “Not a bullet.”
Breda looked doubtful. “You sure?”
“Yeah. Just a crack. Don’t get paranoid, Breda.”
“It’s getting ugly, Havoc.”
Havoc dusted his hands on his pants and sighed. “Yeah it is, thanks to Samuelson and that goddamned book getting everybody riled up.” He straightened his uniform cap. “Hell of a time for a presidential wedding.”
“No kidding. You beefing up security?”
“Riz—I mean—Colonel Hawkeye beat me to it. “
“Glad to know she’s taking it seriously.”
Havoc grinned. Things weren’t back to normal but at least she was having coffee with him again and agreeing to dates for dinner and target practice. “I asked her what she was going to wear to the Chief’s wedding. She said ‘same thing as you—urban camouflage, rappelling harness, twenty meters of rope and a machine gun’.”
“What the hell are you playing at??” A copy of The Publisher’s Weekly Gazette slammed down on the café table in front of Kelly Winchell, hard enough that if there had been a cockroach underneath it, it would have been smeared right into the wood grain. “Goddamn it, woman, you had a prime opportunity to cut Mustang’s nuts off in print and you fucking blew it!”
Frank Archer’s nostrils flared as he took a deep pull on his cigar. “Good thing they’ve had those shootings in the East—and those protests outside the Hohenheim. It’s getting so a man or woman will maybe think twice before admitting they’ve committed alchemy---“
“Shootings?” Winchell, blonde head swiveled but her lacquered helmet of hair didn’t budge an inch. “Nobody told me anything about people getting shot over alchemy.”
“Not people, you dumb broad! Just a few warning shots. Few broken windows, couple of thrown bricks. Between Samuelson’s rallies and our book, the ignorant sheep that are the Amestrian voting public are sending Roy Mustang a message that he can’t run from his past. But—“ he leveled a nicotine-stained finger at the authoress, “—you better step up your game, girl, or we are gonna lose momentum over the book…and if we lose momentum with this one, you’re not gonna get them interested in that Fire and Vice—if you can get the rights to it back from Dewey, Dickon and Howe and Sons.”
He could hear her teeth grinding above her coffee cup. Thanks to that ever-so-efficient young Cameron Howe and his lawyer, it had become painfully clear that Fire and Vice wouldn’t see the light of day for at least ten years while DD&H&S still held exclusive rights to her earlier works and her signed contract. Legally, they had her by the ovaries, and the thought that they also owned the rights to that goddamned Buckety-Buckety series made her want to grab her pink leather pocketbook, fill it with bricks, and beat Cameron Howe worse than she had beaten Edward Elric….
“Are you even listening to me, Kelly?”
There was a motion behind Archer’s shoulder, on the other side of the café window. A shabby looking man was half-way scrubbing the smudgy glass with a dirty rag and a bottle of ammonia. He was smiling broadly at her. His teeth were greener than Roy Mustang’s front lawn. He waved.
She threw up in her mouth, just a little.
Damn. They were everywhere.
Damn Edward Elric, that faggot bastard with the piss-yellow eyes. No matter where the hell she went in this city some stinking ratbag of a homeless bum or wino or bag lady staring at her, smiling at her with their ruined mouths, waving with grimy hands.
If she went out to eat, they leered at her through restaurant windows. If she took refuge in the ladies’ loo she would inevitably hear the slop of a mop hitting the bathroom floor while she was in the stall. When she emerged she would never fail to see some old witch like Mad Hattie with a bucket of filthy water, cackling at Kelly as she curtseyed with a toothless grin.
If she went out to her car, some old, one-eyed rummy would be loitering on the curb beside her vehicle or offering to clean her windshield with a rag soaked in what smelled like cat pee.
And two days ago when she was sitting in the office at Publisher’s Weekly giving a book interview she had clammed up in terror yet again because the handyman who had trudged through the office to look at a broken office chair looked suspiciously like Foul Ole Rooney. She didn’t dare offer her interviewer anything juicy or borderline slanderous when there was one of Cock’s Flock within earshot. Why, who knows what those vermin-ridden creatures were capable of?
Radio, newsreel, paper or magazine—in an office or studio or even in the gazebo in the middle of the goddamn Central Park duck pond---she was never alone now. They never touched her. They rarely spoke other than a cheery ‘g’day, Missus!’. She’d worn her polish off her nails dialing the city guard to complain, but those bastards didn’t seem to give a damn. “Sorry, Miss,” the last one told her. “I can’t press charges when there’s been no violation.”
And now Archer was chiding her for wanting to lay low and keep her mouth shut? “I—“ she stammered, then pursed her lips. Her hand crept towards her bag as she considered smacking Archer across his scowling face.
Right on cue, something vast and smelly wrapped in moth-eaten wool appeared at her elbow. It held out a dirty, dog-eared copy of Buckety-Buckety and a pen that was so chewed on one end she feared to touch it at the risk of catching something contagious. “Oooh! Only it’s Missus Winchell!” it croaked. “Can I have yer autograph?”
She ground her teeth so hard she heard one of her crowns crack on the left side.
Goddamn that Edward Elric!
She was such a familiar sight now that nobody took notice of her anymore. She didn’t come every morning, but often enough. Roy didn’t object. Neither did Doctor Knox. “Well, she’s sleeping better, or so she says. Her blood pressure looks good. Maybe she wants to get her own built at her place.”
“No point,” Roy answered good naturedly. “She’s usually over here anyway. If it is doing her good to use the tub, fine.”
It was doing Riza Hawkeye a great deal of good to use the Xingese bath---but only if Alphonse Elric was in it.
That first time…it had been completely unexpected. She’d showered off and submerged herself waist deep when Havoc had stumbled in and somehow the bathing room door had gotten locked. She attempted to act nonchalant, and perhaps if Jean—Havoc, she reminded herself sharply, had been capable of staring at anything other than her naked breasts, they might have begun some sort of earnest communication that in time—possibly—might have led to a reconciliation.
Havoc being Havoc, things did not end well. In fact, they had ended with the lock being shot out of the bathing room door and Havoc running for his life, an armed, angry and very naked Riza Hawkeye chasing him as far as the door--
--whereupon she collided with Alphonse Elric, clad in nothing but a flimsy cotton bathing robe.
“Don’t shoot!” Al begged her earnestly. He threw both arms above his head, causing the loosely tied sash of his bathing robe to drop to the ground, revealing a sculpted, youthful body and a masculine endowment that made even Riza Hawkeye pull up her pistols. She yanked him abruptly inside, slamming the door behind them…
She’d heard the rumors. Women got into hair-ripping fights over Alphonse Elric. When the Aerugoan National Ballet was in town, she’d had to provide crowd control. He was the only man in Amestris to receive more fan mail and marriage proposals than Roy Mustang, and even though his personal phone number was unlisted he had to change it so often that there was really no reliable way to get in touch with Al unless you were either Edward Elric or Winry Renback…or Chris Mustang, who could manage to get the goods on anyone with an active pulse.
Somehow, though, Alphonse always managed to find Riza Hawkeye when she needed him—proof that Roy Mustang wasn’t the only man in her life who always seemed to know how she was doing without her ever saying a word.
Alphonse knew what Riza needed—he knew without asking and gave without hesitation. It was the real reason that women fell in love with him by the dozens—the reason he could gently deflect their obsessions and declarations of eternal love without ever hurting anyone.
And that, more than sexual gratification, was what Riza needed more than anything.
She had seen him naked. He was beautiful and she was intrigued, even if the thought of their age difference—she’d known him since he was a child, a child in armor—made her squeamish and uncomfortable. But his first words to her as they entered into the steaming water together changed everything:
“I know what it means to want someone you can’t have. It must break your heart sometimes.”
He touched her shoulder so gently, his eyes filled with empathy and an unspoken promise that whatever she told him, naked in the dim, steam filled room with its bamboo fountain and flickering iron lanterns, he would keep close to his heart and would never be shared, not even with his beloved brother.
A gunshot wound would have been less painful, but as days passed the words cracked through her veneer of self control. She told him about her father-about her pain and loss, and how Master Berthold’s serious young apprentice had been her lifeline—her hope, her help and, eventually, the center of her life.
And as if it were Equivalent Exchange, Alphonse touched some part of Riza Hawkeye, sharing his own pain and his own secrets. Al’s love for Winry that could prove the undoing of both of them. The love of Julia Crichton that was so deep, yet the gulf between them was too wide to be breached. He loved Winry but knew in the end the same things that helped destroy her marriage to Ed would be the same things that would have wrecked any chance of happiness she would have had with Alphonse.
How Al had turned his heart back to Julia, bringing her to Resembool to celebrate Solstice that year in hopes she might be willing to leave Milos and begin a life with him, two alchemists sharing a lifetime of journey and adventure. And how Winry had reacted, with the same impulsiveness that set her after Edward. Pitt had been quite surprised to learn that he was about to become a father and there had been a nearly-comical rush to the Magistrate’s office with a very pregnant Winry, little Sarah very nearly arriving as guest of honor at Pitt and Winry’s wedding.
She had lost Roy—no, she had never had him to begin with, not in the way she yearned for. Alphonse had loved two women deeply, but he could not risk hurting one, while the other chose a life of service to her people over a life with him.
“I know what it means to want someone you can’t have. It must break your heart sometimes.” It could and it did, and when he held her gently they confided and shared that pain and the sharing of it was a greater gift to her than any pleasure Al could have given her with his body.
In the end, her time with Alphonse in the Xingese bath had done more for Riza’s well being than any of Dr. Knox’s pills or prescriptions. In truth, some days it was only the comfort of their friendship that gave her the strength to forgive Jean for his foolishness and to bear the pain of seeing Roy so happy about his impending marriage to another man.
Last night, Jean had stayed over. She stiffened when he touched her, but to her surprise he spent the entire night ignoring his own needs, focusing only on her pleasure. He had exhausted her in the most surprising ways and she had fallen asleep cradled tenderly in Jean’s arms.
It had been good. Correction—it had been great, better than any intimacy they had shared before. Maybe, she wondered, it was because it was intimacy. She had let him into her body years before—but had she ever let him into her soul? Had she kept that part of herself so tightly locked up, as if only Roy Mustang held the key to her being?
She had learned to let Alphonse in. Perhaps there was room for Jean Havoc, too.
Showering quickly, she draped her robe over a hook behind the dressing screen . Slipping into the warm water, she waited for Alphonse….
When a rustic bacon-and-pigeon pie was served at luncheon, Roy poked the flaky crust disinterestedly for a moment, then summoned Sebastian. “Get someone down to the coops and count those damned birds Princess Elena sent for the wedding. If there’s even so much as a feather short, replace it immediately--”
Ed shoveled in another forkful. “—and throw it on the grill. This is great!” He grinned and lifted his beer glass in salute. “Now that’s Eastern down-home cooking for you!”
Roy put down his napkin and waved his plate away. “Just coffee,” he instructed the butler.
“And a ham sandwich,” Ed corrected. “Get him a sandwich. Get him some pickles and slaw, too. Got to keep up your stamina, old man. Especially after last—“
“Shut up, Ed.”
“Hey, who pissed in your coffee this morning?” Ed snapped back, reaching across the table for the pepper pot. “You’ve had a sharp stick up your butt all day. What’s the matter? Al still getting more love letters than you, or—“
“You know, Ed, for a man who’s rumored to be so intelligent you don’t have a clue what’s going on in the world, do you?”
Ed wasn’t having it. “One, Samuelson is still down in the polls. Two, the railway strike in Xing is still under negotiation. Miles is headed over there to arbitrate as a neutral power. Three, the Central Green Sox pitched a no-hitter against the South City Sluggers—Al owes me a case of beer, by the way. And Kelly Winchell made an ass of herself again in Publisher’s Weekly with another weak-ass interview—which means you owe me a case of beer and a half hour blowjob—“
Roy gave Ed a strange look. “Fine. I’ll pay up. Right after I send my condolences.”
His lover’s face was an unreadable mask. “Those anti-alchemist riots. There was one in West City last night.”
“Yeah. I know. Fifteen jerks got thrown in the slammer for trying to beat up alchemists.” Ed’s eyes narrowed. “Donal Samuelson and his asshole buddy Archer aren’t making life any easier. It’s daily news now. I thought the national guards took care of that. Luckily only two guys were hurt and no fatalities--”
“—that were reported, Ed..” Dark eyes burned with barely suppressed anger. “How, exactly, do you report the death a Cretan alchemist who had crossed the border without a passport? A man in a mask that was gathering intelligence for his own work with the Milosian faction? A man that doesn’t legally exist…except, perhaps to his sister?
They didn’t know him, but they still gathered beside their tribal leader, flowers in hand. It didn’t matter that they didn’t know him. No Milos died alone or unmourned. They sang to comfort one another, braiding the colorful blossoms that once only bloomed in the muck and filth of the canyonlands. The Milos lived in the sunlight now in an uncomfortable truce with the Cretans. Amestris had actually ceded some Western border land to Creta for the repatriation of the Milosians until such a time came as the Cretan government would provide them with lands of their own. Meanwhile alchemists had worked tirelessly to find a solution to the question of a Milosian homeland.
Just as it seemed that the alchemists on all three sides had found a way to work together, the mob came.
Fifteen angry men from Amestris came into the encampment at the edge of West city, shouting that alchemy was an abomination, that it had bathed the nation in innocent blood and that it was time to outlaw it before more wars were started. “Remember Dahlia!” they shouted. “Remember Table City!”
The Milosians, who held so much faith in the Sacred Star—the Sanguine Star, the Star made of alchemy and blood—asked the mob to leave. “I hear they’ve got some alchemist bitch running the tribe!” one of the Amestrians yelled. “How do we know she won’t use the Star of Milos against us! It’s Ishbal and Dahlia all over again!”
A man in a mask dashed into the crowd. “Don’t you dare threaten Julia!”
When he was struck down, the Milosians fought back. In a handful of minutes the mob was driven off unharmed. Two alchemists among the tribe were wounded but were still able to help drag away the body of the man in the mask. It would never do for the Cretans or Amestrians to know his name—not if they hoped to keep the peace they had been building since the intricate moats of Table City ran red with the blood of Amestrian soldiers sacrificed by an alchemist named Atlas on behalf of the Cretan government.
The man in the mask had several names. One of them had been Herschel when he had worn a Cretan uniform and no longer had a face of his own. Once he had been healed by the Star of Milos and the love of his little sister, his own face had been returned to him, although he did not ever mention the name he was born with to anyone except Julia.
Biting back the tears, Julia Crichton placed a wreath of woven roses into the hands of the little girl at her side. “Time to say goodbye,” she whispered, giving the child a gentle smile to let her know it was all right. “This is the way of things,” Julia told her gently.
The girl stood up on tiptoes. She placed the rose wreath over the flowing hair and kissed the bruised cheek. “Uncle Ashleigh…I won’t forget you, not ever.” Taking a small torch that Julia offered, she thrust it into the pyre.
As the fire licked the sides of Ashleigh Crichton’s bier, his sister reached into her pocket and drew out a single earring that matched the one she never took off. Her brother had transmuted it from a bit of broken pot metal scrounged from the trash heap of their old home.
In the dim light, the child’s brimming eyes seemed almost golden. Julia placed the earring into the child’s ear lobe and kissed her, folding her close to her heart…
Havoc couldn’t spell it but he damn well knew what it meant. He’d worn his right hand damn near off but it had been worth it. Last night had been amazing with Riza…just damned amazing. He wasn’t going to push the issue of his own needs but when she turned him on his back and---
--and the doorbell rang.
“Ignore it, “ Jean begged. The doorbell kept on ringing, and now he could hear a man’s voice calling urgently through the front door.
Riza kissed him swiftly, grabbed her robe and hurried to the door. Jean grabbed a sheet and dashed after her.
In a wedge of light he could see a miserable Alphonse Elric standing in the doorway, his face glazed with fresh tears. When Riza pulled him into the house and hugged him tightly, something ugly squirmed in the pit of Havoc’s stomach.
Then he saw Alphonse’s face above Riza’s head. The younger man reached out and clasped Havoc’s shoulder tightly.
“Tonight,” he choked, “I need all the friends I can get….”
….TO BE CONTINUED…
(Author’s Note: So sorry for the delays—I got sidelined by a spider bite and the surgery and recovery took a bit more out of me than I could have predicted—three months of my life, to be exact. Thank you all so much for being patient! –love, Binary!)