Rating: This chapter rated PG-13
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: Roy’s game of cat-and-mouse with his unauthorized biographer comes to a startling end as a hack journalist is given a front row seat to history in the making…
AUTHOR’S NOTE: 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 your comments!!!
OUR LIVES, CHAPTER 29: “GOTCHA”
By The Binary Alchemist, 2013
“Master Selim! We will be stopping by the President’s home this morning. Master Maes will be giving us a ride to the lab in his car.” Collins thoughtfully did not add, ‘which, hopefully, will not blow up with us inside it.’ While Maes had remarkable dexterity wiring electronic circuitry or assembling delicate items like watches and cameras and radios, when it came to motorcars he was an absolute cock-up.
“Collins? Those glass pictures. That was me, wasn’t it?” The young butler chewed his lip anxiously. He didn’t want to lie to Selim, but on the other hand the contents of those glass negatives from the Father’s military research team was strictly classified. But before he could come up with the answer that might do the least amount of harm, Selim answered his own question. “That was me when I was that monster, isn’t it?”
“Yes.” There was a heavy sigh of relief. “And you are absolutely not a monster now, nor will you ever be a monster again.”
“I know.” Amazing. Not long ago Selim might have gone into hysterics and required sedation. Today he was accepting this information matter-of-factly and it would probably spare his life. “I was good. I was born good. The Father made me bad. Then Mr. Edward helped make me good again. I….” he struggled with a new word, “intend…that’s the right word?”
“I intend never ever to be a monster again.” His face lit up. “Now, can I go pet the horsies when we get to Maes’ house?”
Her evening with Strongine Armstrong seemed like a cross between hostile interrogation and some sort of religious revival, the female body builder exhorting the benefits of ‘biologic living’ while pounding and twisting Kelley’s back and lecturing her sternly about the evils of coffee, sugar and the rich desserts she loved to indulge in when nobody was watching.
She was given a hot herbal brew to drink that tasted like spoiled grapefruit steeped with cockroaches. This, it was explained, would help cleanse Kelley’s liver and boost her metabolism. Strongine left her alone, still hungry and wrapped in blankets to help her ‘sweat out the toxins’.
Once the house got quiet, she made a break for it. She knew where the kitchen was, damn it—and if there was any more of that chocolate dessert Elric had been stuffing his face with, she would have it if she had to stomp on every guard and Armstrong in her spike heels. Especially if she had to stomp on every guard and Armstrong.
The ornate elevator door to the private second floor was open. It smelled of furniture polish and there was a note that said ‘closed for cleaning’. The key was still in the lift. When she stepped inside, she heard a faint ‘click!’ as she turned the key and stepped out into the second floor hallway.
No guards, although she could hear voices retreating around a corridor. Pulling a small camera out of her skirt pocket, she crept softly down the hall, dismayed as the old floorboards creaked under her footsteps…
…and found the Abominable Armstrongs waiting for her, stepping out of what appeared to be some sort of bathing room at the end of the hall.
“ MISS WINCHELL. AS I INFORMED YOU EARLIER THIS EVENING, INSOMNIA,” she pronounced, “IS PROOF POSITIVE OF AUTO-INTOXICATION FROM STIMULANTS SUCH AS COFFEE AND ALCOHOL. ONCE THE LOWER INTESTINE IS PURGED OF THESE TOXINS, A PERSON WILL SLEEP AS PEACEFULLY AS A CHILD IN THE ROSY GLOW OF BIOLOGICAL HEALTH!”
“What the hell—get away from me!”
All right—Kelley had to admit, albeit begrudgingly, that she’d actually slept well after submitting to The Two Quart Cure--but if Strongine dared to serve her yogurt at breakfast, that Armstrong freak would have to have the bowl—and the spoon—surgically removed from her colon.
“SEE HOW SPLENDIDLY EFFECTIVE MY SISTER’S HOLISTIC THERAPIES ARE??” Alex Armstrong bellowed as she sat down—very carefully—at the breakfast table at Rose Hill. “I CONGRATULATE YOU, KELLEY WINCHELL ON YOUR LOSS OF FIVE POUNDS SINCE YOUR ARRIVAL!”
Kelley winced. “Don’t mention it. Please.”
A small, slim figure entered the dining room, weighted down by a huge stack of books. “Buongiorno, la mia famiglia!” Spying the massive bodybuilder seated at the table she put her books on the sideboard and hurried over to give him a hug. “Uncle Alex! I’m so glad to see you! Have you come for the wedding?” she asked hopefully.
At the mention of Roy and Ed’s forthcoming nuptials, Armstrong began to weep dramatically. “AH YES! HOW COULD I NOT STAND AS WITNESS FOR THE PRECIOUS UNION OF TWO SOULS AS THEY JOIN HANDS BEFORE THEIR FRIENDS AND LOVED ONES AND BEGIN THEIR JOYFUL JOURNEY DOWN LIFE’S---“
“—and General Olivier? Will she be here?”
“Ah! Unfortunately, “ he continued a tad lower, she has pressing duties at Fort Briggs. I am attending with my third-eldest sister Strongine—and it seems we came just in the nick of time. Your father’s guest, Kelley Winchell, has just become the newest convert to the CULT OF BIOLOGIC WELLNESS! JUST LOOK AT HOW HER EYES SPARKLE THIS MORNING.”
Nina gave the hack writer a cool appraising stare. “So do the eyes of cobras.”
“Hey, show some respect for our guest, Nitwit!” A tall figure leaned against the doorway in a patched white lab coat and motorcycle boots, a pair of brass framed goggles on the top of his head. “We’re all friends here, right??”
Alex and Nina suddenly became very preoccupied with their coffee. Swinging a chair around backwards, the energetic young man plopped down beside Kelley, a huge, friendly grin on his expressive face. “Let’s let bygones be bygones, eh? I’m Maes Elric—y’know, as in chapter 15 of your galley proofs of Fire and Vice—‘a singularly precocious and foul-mouthed little devil who did thousands of cens worth of damage to the Presidential Palace’?” Kelley’s mouth dropped open but before she could protest, Maes cheerfully waved her off. “Oh, come on, Maud—I can call you Maud, right?---you think the Presidential press corps wouldn’t get their hands on one of the review copies you sent out to the media? And for the record,” he reached for the coffeepot, “it was TENS of thousands, if you count that antique Xingese vase the day we met—and trust me, I’ve paid it back tenfold setting up the in-house surveillance system.” Unbuttoning his lab coat, he pulled out a black and white photograph and handed it to her. It showed Kelley rummaging through the President’s bathroom closet. “Seriously, the camera is your friend, Maud. You got great cheekbones. Oh, and this one—I used the wide-angle lens.” It showed her pocketing the keys to the private elevator last night, a camera in her other hand. “This, though is my favorite. Kind of difficult getting the right exposure here, since the lighting was so low—since the office was closed—but it should reproduce pretty damn nicely in newsprint.”
It was a little out of focus but clear enough for blackmail purposes: Kelley Winchell, seated on President Mustang’s chair, apparently reaching to pull open the drawers of Roy’s desk. “Guess you were looking for his chocolate stash, huh?”
It was actually a picture of Kelley seated on the toilet, reaching out to tug at the door of the bathroom closet, but had been artfully edited in the darkroom. “Took me all night to get it right,” Maes congratulated himself. “Had to use the same technique they used in your books about the Armstrongs and Fuhrer Grumman, making it look like you had real press credentials to gain access to Fort Briggs and Central HQ. If you had any real brains, Maud, you’d have gone to work for Sebastian and Special Ops.”
The “singularly precocious and foul-mouthed little devil’ snagged a sweet roll and bit into it blissfully, as if the awkward silence that followed his bombshell had nothing to do with him. Alex Louis Armstrong turned cold, pale eyes towards the writer, while Nina adjusted her glasses, as of patiently waiting for an explanation. Maes piled crisp bacon onto his plate and emptied the coffee pot. “Hey, Sebastian? Can we get another pot of coffee, please?”
“I’ve got it”
Maes glanced at the doorway and his face lit up. “Hey! When did you get here?”
Collins bowed to the guests at the table. “We’ve just arrived. The young master is out at the paddock, giving some carrots to the horses.”
“Collins, you remember Alex Armstrong, don’t you? Collins is helping out with Mrs. Bradley these days---but I’m campaigning to bring him back to Rose Hill---“
Napkin to her face, Kelley Winchell rose to her feet. “Ex-excuse me…I’m feeling a little…unwell.”
“Unwell??” Armstrong looked concerned. “I’ll send for Strongine—“
“Th—that’s…that’s all right—“
Collins stepped close to assist. “Allow me to help….YOU???”
Selim was surprised when the President himself came out to greet him. “My son tells me you are doing very well at your new position, Selim.”
The young man ducked his head modestly. “My mother’s proud of me. I’m learning a lot.”
“No doubt.” Mustang reached into his pocket and pulled out a pair of gloves embroidered with the salamander array. “Selim, I have guests for breakfast. They would very much like to meet you…”
“This is my old friend Alex. You’ve met before but you may not remember him.”
Selim put out his hand gravely. “If I was bad when we met, I’m sorry.”
Armstrong’s shaven head jerked back in surprise. He glanced at Roy who nodded. “Yes, well…the pleasure is all mine, Selim.” He turned to Strongine. “My older sister.”
“You look pale. Have you been ill?”
Selim thought about it. “Yes I have but I am getting better, Collins says.”
Roy turned and gestured towards Kelley Winchell, who was back in her chair, the hands of Sebastian Corby resting on her shoulders as a gentle reminder that it was not in her best interest to think of running anywhere. “Collins tells me you’ve met our friend Maud before. She’s come to your house to visit you, hasn’t she?”
“What are you going to do to me?”
The President adjusted the cuffs of his crisp white Pyrotex gloves. “Well, for starters, Maud…” He snapped is fingers and the candelabra on the table in front of her burst into brilliants, all candles now blazing. “I am going to remind myself that there is a difference between stupidity and criminal behavior.” He folded his hands and rested his chin upon them, looking at her thoughtfully. “I expect journalists to go to great lengths to get a story. And without a free press, we have no freedom. We would be right back in the days of the Bradley regime, where every word was carefully polished and presented to give the people the most glowing impression of our Commander in Chief.” His dark eyes burned into hers. “You have no idea how many brave men and women—and alchemists-- died to win you the freedom to tell your nasty little interpretations of the truth. “
She was angry now. “Oh, let’s not mince words, Mustang. Your son says you’ve seen the proofs of my book. You know I was going to blow the lid off that whole scandal---Lab 5, all those alchemic monsters—breaking your own laws to serve the alchemists—for…for…immortality!!”
“Really.” One corner of his mouth lifted in faint smirk. “And I’m guessing you got your hands on some notes and records that tell you I am somehow to blame for all of this?”
She sniffed. ‘A journalist never reveals his or her sources. You’ll have to drag me to court. Go ahead, Mustang-throw me in jail.”
“I could. I should, for all the suffering you caused Selim Bradley with your sneaking in and interrogating him for information about what happened the day of the solar eclipse and the attack on Central by Bradley’s coconspirators.” Roy looked disgusted. “Frankly, you don’t deserve the publicity. And Selim says he just wants you to leave him alone. You should be thankful that he came out of his ordeal with a kind and forgiving nature. ” He rose, gesturing for Colonel Hawkeye to bring him a folder marked ‘EYES ONLY’. “It was a shame that you severed your relationship with Dewey, Dickon and Howe and Sons. They hold the rights to your manuscript of Fire and Vice. I’m sure it would have made you a fortune—oh, let me be clear: it doesn’t matter to me in the least if you speculate about my morals and motives. But when it comes to matters of the security of the State of Amestris, you damn well better have your facts straight. Since you are clearly motivated by greed and not by patriotism, you’ll have a chance to find out the real truth about what happened.”
Taking a single document from the EYES ONLY file, he placed it on the desk in front of her.
“You see, thanks to the protests provoked by your collaboration with Mr. Archer and Donal Samuelson’s grand-standing, alchemists have been attacked in isolated incidents across the country. One alchemist has been killed—one with political influence in Milos and Creta. The Amestrian Parliament has at long last decided to open up the files on the Dahlia incident—and Lab 5---and the attack on Central. As senior ranking State Alchemist and Commander in Chief, I have offered my full cooperation.
“And in turn…I have been subpoenaed. I will appear before the State Court two weeks after my wedding—and one month before the election.” His smile was very ironic indeed. “Seems I am to answer for my crimes after all.”
He turned to leave, then paused, not looking back at her. “Edward told you that the equivalent exchange for hitting him was to require you to tell the truth. Sebastian will provide you with credentials. Collins will provide you with escort. You will have a front row seat in the press gallery—a front row seat to history, Maud. The truth—and nothing but the truth---is finally coming out about Ishbal---about the Promised Day. About everything you know to be factual about history.
“I just hope you have the stomach for it. Good day.”
…TO BE CONTINUED…..