The Binary Alchemist (binaryalchemist) wrote in fm_alchemist,
The Binary Alchemist
binaryalchemist
fm_alchemist

HALF LIVES 3: OUR LIVES, CH 40: DEBTS AND INTELLIGENCE

HALF LIVES 3: OUR LIVES, CHAPTER 40: “DEBTS AND INTELLIGENCE”
By binaryalchemist
Rating: This chapter rated PG 13 for language and mature content-short chapters due to LJ.
Pairing: Roy/Ed, Havoc/Hawkeye, past Hughes/Roy, references to Ed and Winry’s divorce and Winry’s remarriage
Spoilers and Warnings: Post-Manga verse, Star of Milos, the FMA Novels and Prince of the Dawn game. 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…
Chapter Summary: On the eve of Roy’s testimony before the Amestrian Parliament—and the first  revelations of the deadly secrets of the War and the Promised Day—hope and help come from the strangest places….
A/N: Thanks for being patient due to my overlong medical hiatus—so good to be writing again!  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 for reading!!!
OUR LIVES, CHAPTER 40: DEBTS AND INTELLIGENCE (The Trial of Roy Mustang, part one)
By The Binary Alchemist. 2014

           “You’ll find Kelley Winchell in my office. Nina has gotten her something to cover up her…dignity.” With a manful effort, Roy Mustang managed to keep a belly laugh from escaping out his nose in an ungentlemanly snort.
           As far as Owen Knox was concerned, it was a waste of time—and Kelley Winchell was a waste of estrogen and perfume. “I have do this, don’t I?”
           “Check her for injuries? I’m afraid so.” Roy shrugged nonchalantly as Dr. Knox brushed cigarette ashes off his white doctor’s coat. “Not that there’s any real damage to anything other than her pride.”
           “Huh. Way she’s carrying on in there,” he jerked this thumb in the direction of Roy’s office, “you’d have thought that General Armstrong shot that two-bit hack in the ass with a mortar instead of paddling her rump with the flat end of her saber.”
           “Shot her in the ass with a mortar?” Ed rolled his eyes. “I wish.”
           “Ohhh, shut up, Ed.”  A lazy smile played around Roy’s lips and his eyes had that wicked twinkle they often did whenever he had gotten a good one over on an adversary. “If Olivier Armstrong sets out to damage you, you don’t get up and walk away. Believe me, I speak from experience.”
           At Ed’s elbow, David Collins hem-hemmed politely. “Ah. Mr. President. Point of order. Miss Winchell did not precisely walk away. I noted that the heel snapped off one of her pink leather pumps, so she sort of crawled on her hands and knees until she managed to kick off both of her shoes---“
           “And chucked ‘em right back at the General,” Maes offered. “Maud aimed right for the General’s tits. Bounced right off her knockers like they were made of cold forged steel. “He snapped off a mock salute in tribute to the impressive breastworks that, no doubt, had been passed down the Armstrong family line for generations. “What a woman!”
           There was a furious screech and the sound of crashing china on the other side of the door. Roy signaled for silence and they could hear the cool, refined tones of Nina Elric, barely keeping her fury under tight rein. “That teapot,” Nina stated, “was the sole surviving example of the 17th Century artistry from the porcelain master  Xavier d’Entrecolles. King Claudio gave it to me on my sixteenth birthday.” There was a brilliant flash of light and the air around them crackled with energy, even in the hall. “Prepare to die.”
            “Like father, like daughter,” Roy grumbled as he yanked the door open to intervene and prevent his stepdaughter from transmuting Roy’s coat rack into anything that could stab, bludgeon or be shoved into any of Kelley Winchell’s body cavities.
#####

           When Nina snapped on the kitchen light, she nearly wet herself with shock. A blonde amazon was leaning against the refrigerator door, arms crossed and, thankfully, unarmed. “What the he—I…I mean…good evening, General. What are you doing—“
           “You may be the smart one in the litter, but Elrics are disgustingly predictable.” Cool eyes darted in the direction of Nina’s midsection. “It seems genetics have favored you, otherwise these midnight raids on the ice cream in the freezer would make you as flabby and useless as that idiot I had to settle this afternoon.” A sharp jab with a uniformed elbow and the freezer door swung open. Armstrong inspected the contents with mild disgust. “Spumoni. Revolting. I see your seasons at the royal court in Aerugo ruined your taste in food as well as your fashion sense.”
           “And you can lay off my sister right now.” Maes loomed in the doorway, scowling. “Shut your damn mouth or—“
           “Or nothing. Things are tense enough around here. Maes, the General is my guest and will be shown all courtesy. Nina? If nervous eating is the worst of your faults you’ll make me a very proud man—and your dentist a very wealthy one.” Looking elegant in a smartly tailored dressing gown with fine leather slippers, Roy headed straight to the coffee urn, which, by Presidential order, was filled with hot, fresh coffee at all times. Adding a splash of cream, he stirred it with his finger. “Didn’t we feed you well enough at dinner, General?”
           She nodded briskly. “Not that I had the stomach for it after dealing with that cowardly lying bi—“
           “—who has taken due punishment—“
           “—and has to replace a broken pair of high heels, torn stockings and a girdle with all the elastic ruptured in the seat,” Nina finished. She glanced at her brother. “And no, I didn’t take pictures. So,” she turned now to the General, “what were you doing in the kitchen at this time of night?”
           “I just got off the phone. Some intelligence has been brought to my attention. Not a surprise to you,” she barely acknowledged Roy’s presence. “But I thought it might ease some of your concerns about your stepfather.”
           Nina tensed. Maes looked suspicious.
           “Roy Mustang may be the highest ranked State Alchemist who survived the Dahlia campaign in Ishbal, but he’s not the highest ranking officer still alive.”
           “WHAT??”
           “Old man Grumman. I asked him to testify. He agreed. Stuck in a wheelchair, but the old goat has come to testify. Says he outranks your pisspot greenhorn of a stepfather—“
           “HEY!”
           “—since he reached Lieutenant General back when Mustang was still a lowly major. Since Grumman was appointed Fuhrer years before, he outranks you, Mustang. I can’t say he out-classes you. He’s holed up in Room 5 over at Madame Christmas’ establishment, and from what Rebecca Catalina has told me he’s eaten his weight in steaks and Drachman caviar and he just can’t keep his bony hands off any female with a pulse.” She looked positively delighted with the stunned look on the children’s faces. “He’s recorded his sworn testimony—just in the event he dies in bed with one of the ‘working girls’ before the hearings begin—“ Maes punched the air with his fist with a whoop of joy and Nina rushed to embrace her smiling stepfather.  “He said he’d lived a long enough life, and told the investigating committee that if they needed to hang anybody, then they bloody well should go ahead and wring his scrawny old neck first as the senior surviving officer.”
           “They declined.”
           For several moments, nobody moved. Then Roy bowed to his long time adversary. “I am in your debt, Ma’am.”
           General Armstrong smiled coldly.. “For the rest of your life, Mustang. For the rest of your life.”
#####
“They aren’t going to hang you,” Ed told Roy matter-of-factly after the first day of Roy’s testimony. “You still owe me 520 cenz. You can’t die and weasel out on it.”
           “And speaking of debts, you still owe me an hour long blowjob,” Roy had volleyed back. “Trust me, I was not planning on marching up the thirteen steps to the long drop before collecting on that particular debt.” His dark eyes danced with malicious glee. “I told you we’d find a wire recorder on Maude when Hawkeye searched her, and you were fool enough to wager I was wrong.”
           “Every entrance has a sign saying no cameras or recording devices.” Ed had looked puzzled. “How the hell did she get a wire into the chamber after they confiscated her purse?”
           “Hawkeye was….” Roy made a wry face, “very thorough. And, fortunately, not squeamish.”
           “My jaw will fall off, you jerk!”
           “I’ll treat you to some lip balm.”
           Ed had grabbed Roy by the arm and yanked him to a stop. “Listen,” he hissed. “How the hell are we able to make jokes when there’s so damn much at stake?”
           Roy smiled a little, recalling his simple reply. “Because all I have to do is tell the truth, Ed. The people who are shitting themselves and running for cover are the ones who have to remember which lie was told to whom. All I have to do is tell the truth.”
####

           “Gracia….I can’t.”
           “Can’t say ‘ no’, you mean. Because I won’t let you take the stand without it.”  Her steady gaze was calm and reassuring, reflecting a confidence that many around Roy Mustang did not feel. In fact, Roy had noted, more than a few politicians had distanced themselves from the President of Amestris. Oh, it wasn’t anything screamingly obvious, Roy was quick to point out to his staff.  Fleas off a dead dog’s ass, Havoc had named them, adding that if these politicos were more worried about their reputations than taking care of the people, Roy was well shed of them.
           While Roy never took any of his friends or family for granted, Gracia’s insistence about seeing him that first morning before he appeared before the Parliament meant more to him than he would have supposed.  And when she reached into her handbag and presented Roy with a token of good luck, he was as close to being overwhelmed has he had ever been.
           A gold class ring bearing a military seal.  Roy had been presented with an identical ring, only his had been transmuted into an array that Roy could keep for backup, should his gloves be damaged in battle during the Dahlia campaign. He kept it in his breast pocket with his pocket watch in the field. It had been destroyed when Heathcliff  Arber shot him in the chest and the watch and array talisman had been shattered by the bullet’s impact.
           Hughes had given Gracia that class ring to wear on a chain until he came back from the war, to be replaced with her tiny diamond engagement ring.  It had been locked securely in her jewelry box ever since.
           Now, she had pressed it into his hand, folding his fingers tightly around the ring. “Roy,” she whispered, “I know you don’t believe in luck…but I do. Keep this. Maes would want you to have it. You…” her eyes turned away from his dark gaze, “you said you…you saw him. In the Gateway. When you got your sight back…right?”
           “Yeah.”  His heart gave a funny lurch at the memory. The son of a bitch had looked terrific, grinning like a fool and waving, and telling Roy to get off his ass and take his heart out of Hughes’ grave. ‘Take a chance, Roy. Risk it. Find somebody—anybody. Be happy. Because if you go on living like this, dead inside and beating yourself up, you’re only half alive, you idiot!” And there, in the uncanny light from that terrible doorway, Hughes had pulled him into a bear hug that felt as real and warm as any they had shared in life. There was a hard, swift, bearded kiss on his cheek---and Roy had come tumbling through eternity, opening his eyes in the middle of his array, blinking painfully as the lights in the room burned through his half open eyelids.
           “You know he’s watching. You know it.” Her nails pressed into the back of his hand as she squeezed his clenched fist around the gift. “Take it.”
            In the end, he slipped it onto his right hand, nodding. “For now. When it’s over, I’ll give it back.  Pass it down to your grandson some day.”
#####
           Roy’s testimony was not the first to be heard. The brevity of his opening statement was all the more powerful. Few words. Simple words, carefully chosen and straight from his soldier’s heart:
           “I saw what I saw. I did what I was ordered to do because, above all else, I wanted to protect my country. I did what a soldier is expected to do. And then I saw the face of one of my closest friends on the battlefield as the face of my enemy…and everything changed forever….”

“Perhaps I do not understand your country’s government,” Prince Sheng turned to Ed after they had taken their seats on the fourth morning of testimony. Kelley Winchell, relieved of the recording device she had shoved into her cleavage a few days before, kept giving the young alchemist suspicious looks, as if a foreigner did not belong in an Amestrian governmental tribunal.  Ed told her to fuck off and invited the prince to sit with his family. “They have stated that he is not to be prosecuted for his actions on the battlefield. Yet, did he not admit to his actions? I do not mean to be insulting, Edward-sama, but in my country he might have been beheaded if the regime had changed and he had been a participant in—“
           “Genocide. You can say it. It won’t piss any of us off.” There was no use tiptoeing around it—even Roy had used the word on the witness stand. “Hey, I’ve lived here my whole goddamn life and I don’t always understand this either, “ Ed replied with a shrug. “What is it you don’t get?”
           “They said they will not press charges of war crimes against the President, even though he admitted that he had killed the Ishballan civilians during the Dahlia campaign.”
           Ed shuddered inwardly, remembering Roy’s brief, graphic and extraordinarily candid testimony. Ed had learned of the atrocities the night he’d returned Hawkeye’s gun and taken tea with her in her apartment so many years ago. But Hawkeye’s cool narrative was nothing compared to hearing his husband’s meticulous, dispassionate narrative. Roy had managed to maintain his composure, but the subtle body language Ed had learned so well practically screamed with barely contained fury at the memories of what the young major had been ordered to do.
           “In the end,” Roy had concluded, “it is for the Ishballan people to ultimately determine my guilt. Had I not been called to serve my country as Fuhrer by General Grumman, I would have remained in Ishbal the rest of my days , in service to its people.  I cannot bring back the lives I destroyed—but I can—and I will continue—to do what I can to help the survivors of the war and the generations to follow.”
            Ed drummed his fingers along the top of his metal knee. “Bottom line, Sheng—Roy was a kid. A kid who went into this man’s army with these bone-headed ideas of saving the world.  That’s what he wanted to do. What he always wanted to do—protect other people. Only he got sent into a stupid war against innocent people and was told ‘you kill them—or we shoot you’. Say that to a scared young guy who’s been taught to follow orders without questions for the good of his people, what the hell do you expect him to do?  He was told to protect Amestris, and that’s what he thought he was doing…right up until he found out that those so-called insurgents in the Dahlia Sector included innocent women and kids—and one of his best friends.  One hell of a reality check.” Ed sighed, glancing around the room. “You don’t see any of the old officers in here, do you? ‘Cause most of ‘em are dead now. Anybody’s ass were to take a trip to the gallows, it would be the dicks that gave the orders.”
           Nina, who was sitting along the aisle, leaned across her brother. “Daddy—look.” She gestured as a robed delegation of Ishballan clergy were taking their seats in the front row of the hall. “Is that--?”
           “—I know that guy,” Maes cut in. “Ohh, shit!”
           “So do I,” Ed confirmed grimly. “ That’s Priyanand Lowe. He’s the Grand Cleric of the Ishballans---and I know what Bradley did to his father…..”

TO BE CONTINUED……

(AUTHOR’S NOTE: For the second time in the telling of this tale I had to take a long hiatus from writing—and from everything else in my life. Some of you know that in 2013 I underwent emergency surgery from an infected spider bite. As far as we knew, all the infection had been removed.
I was wrong.
I was told in September 2014 that the infection had, in fact, gone down to my bones and without surgery and treatment I would not survive. The last several months have been a time of serious illness, multiple surgeries and a very long stay in Intensive Care. Now that I have my life back and my physical therapy has me feeling human again, it’s good to be writing again. My recovery is going very well, and if I can say in a year’s time that I have not climbed back onto an operating table, I will fully accept myself as healed.
Thank you all for your good thoughts, support and encouragement—you have no idea how much it means…..)
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