Rating: This chapter rated PG 13 for language -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: There were hard truths shared in the trial of Roy Mustang--but the Hich Cleric saved the harshest truths to share over a bottle of pomegranate wine....and Ed realizes with that those kind words may be the final blow to Roy Mustang's future. Meanwhile, at Chris Mustang's supper club, The Ice Cream Blonde, Roy's hack biographer, Alphonse, Hawkeye and half of Central duke it out on the dance floor...
A/N: Feedback greatly appreciated---“Half Lives”, “Whole Lives” and other fics hosted at fanfiction.net at http://www.fanfiction.net/u/1651220/Bin
OUR LIVES, CHAPTER 43: ROTTEN TO THE CORE
By The Binary Alchemist, 2014
(lyrics to “Rotten To The Core” by Muriel Lillie, 1922)
It wasn’t difficult to find the President. The Grand Cleric stepped out into the cool darkness of the soft spring evening and headed straight towards the modest grave of Cirrocco, the little black. A ring of oasis roses and the wild rock roses found on the desert’s edge surrounded a simple pedestal of shaped white stones, crowned with a bust of the President’s equine companion carved in black desert basalt. The stone carving had been based on a sketch Nina Elric had done and had been sculpted by hand by a professor at the Hohenheim Institute’s School of Art.
You may hide secrets from your wife—or husband, in this case. You may hide them from your brother, and from the God you claim you do not believe in…but you must tell only truth to your horse. I believe you have your own gods, my friend, but you would rather die than admit it. Your faith is in the ones you love and live to protect. If they are not faces of Ishballah, who else?
“Priya.” Mustang didn’t turn at his approach. “Did I remember to thank you for what you’ve done?”
A thin, sun-browned hand clasped the President’s shoulder. “Between brothers, thanks are not necessary. And like it or not, Roy Mustang, you are as a brother to my family.” He glanced back at the house. “Jaya, I believe, is taking tea with your children and their friends. They are fine children, Brother. Wise for their years and good hearted. And I can see that it does not matter to them or to you that you did not have a hand in their begetting.” He was quiet for a moment. “And the mother who bore them—you have no quarrel with her?”
Gloved fingers traced the angle of Cirrocco’s cheek. “We get on well, actually. She and Ed buried the hatchet years ago”
The old companions chuckled together. From a pocket in his robe, Lowe passed a small flask to Mustang. With the cap removed, the scent was instantly recognizable. “Pomegranate wine. Smuggled over the border? For shame, Lowe. You know that shouldn’t have gotten through customs.”
A capful was passed to the President and he drank swiftly. “In wine there is truth, as our poets are fond of saying,” Lowe accepted the cap back and filled it once more. “I give my share to the honoring of friends that have passed.” Nodding towards the grave, he poured his libation upon the ground. “This has been a day of many truths, my friend, and this day has not yet ended. Do you know why I have given you a new name, Roy Mustang? Why I called you Agni Shantideva?”
“Not a clue.”
The Grand Cleric drew his hood up over his head, his narrow features vanishing into the shadows. “It will be the first of many new names that you will take as your own when you must leave Amestris…and that day is approaching with the speed of your long lost black desert mare. Is that not so, my friend?”
Roy’s head bowed, his strong, scarred hands tightly gripping his knees. “Yeah.” He took the flask from the Grand Cleric, uncorked it and drained it to the last dregs. “And it really pisses me off…”
Kelley Winchell had hemorrhoids. A wretched thing to suffer, especially since they didn’t fit in with her image of herself as being a sleekly elegant woman of the world. There was something—she didn’t quite know—common---about having this type of rectal misery. It would bring her up short at times, rather like the way being called Maude by Roy Mustang would do. It yanked her ego out of the tree tops and smashed it flat down to earth
After court was adjourned, Maude Kelley Winchell was equally embarrassed to find herself suffering from a ‘crisis of conscience, and it was every bit as painful and unnerving as a flare-up of her rectal miseries. Given the choice, she would rather squirt ointment up her angry backside and squirm painfully on cushions than have to squirm under the stern gaze of The Better Angels Of Her Nature and admit there was the slightest of chances that she might have been wrong about Roy Mustang. The thought of that itched and burned at her mind, the same way that blasted hemorrhoid itched and burned on the opposite end.
The words had squeaked out of her on Radio Capital: “He’s….okay.”
She’d rather yank a patch of hot depilatory wax off her hairy upper lip than admit that Roy Mustang had some redeeming qualities.
As much as she hated to cross the threshold of Madame Mustang’s supper club and restaurant, she couldn’t resist the chance to overhear what the gossip of the hour was over Mustang’s peculiar ‘sentence’ from the Ishballan High Cleric…
“And how would you like to eat your crow, Madame? Broiled? Fried? Perhaps with a wine glaze and served forth on a bed of wild rice and mushrooms?” It was that odious Rebecca Catalina, looking sleek and vicious in a fitted sheath gown of burgundy silk. She moved like a cat, that one—and nothing would have made Kelley happier than to see that cat trapped, shot and checked for rabies.
“I don’t have the slightest idea what you’re talking about.” Kelley frowned at the menu and stared at her fingers as if they were soiled. “This is dirty. There’s grease all over it.” The menu was shoved in the direction of Rebecca’s midsection. “Get me a new one.”
Rebecca inspected it carefully. “Considering we just unpacked them from the printer, I’d say if there’s anything greasy on the menu card, it’s oozing out of your soul.” She snapped her fingers. A waiter hurried to her side. “She’s here to snoop, but she wants dinner and drinks. Jacob, recite the menu for Miss Winchell, bring her a basket of hot rolls---and some of the special reserve creamery butter. Only the best—since she has such an informed opinion of the poor quality of our service, let’s prove her wrong.”
Anytime the house became quiet Ed became concerned. Over the years he had become accustomed to a ruckus around him, instigated, more often than not, by his offspring. But Nina and Peta had gone back to Elycia’s flat, while Maes, Collins and Sheng Yao had offered to take Priyanand Lowe and his clerics back to the hotel, with plans for Jaya to join them later for coffee and late night conversation. Al had set off with Havoc and Hawkeye for the evening, and if Sebastian was prowling around he was too quiet to be detected.
Ed found his husband sitting alone in the dark, whisky in hand. Enough light from the sliver of moon overhead filtered though the office curtains to sparkle on the cut crystal tumbler in his husband’s hands.
He stepped up and laid his hand on the back or Roy’s neck. It felt too warm to the touch, His hand slid down Roy’s shoulder and arm in a caress, until their fingers laced together.
“Hey…” Roy glanced up, his face an empty canvas that had all emotions sponged away like watercolors….but if the canvas was empty, Ed could fill it up again.
“Come with me…
“ Good evening, Miss Winchell. It’s good to see you. How is your dinner?” Alphonse Elric offered her a boyish grin as he stopped at her table. “I’m here with Jean and Riza, and it looks like you’re all alone. “Won’t you join us?”
She glanced up at him, annoyed. Chirpy bastard. I’d rather eat cat poo on whole wheat toast than have to sit at a table with Riza Hawkeye Havoc, or whatever she was calling herself this week. “Why would I want to do that?” Other than the fact that he’s good looking and rich and famous and from what I’ve heard he’s been in more holes than a gopher on a golf course…mmm…now, there’s a thought…
“Well, our table’s closer to the bandstand. I don’t know if you’ve been here for supper before, but the band is terrific and there’s always a good headliner performing. The Havocs couldn’t have welcomed her more warmly if she tumbled off her high heels and done a swan dive into a sewer. She changed her mind and pulled against Al’s handclasp. “I’ think I’d better---“
Riza’s cognac eyes locked on to Winchell’s, rather like a sniper on a moving target. “Stay.”
Havoc pulled out her chair for her. “By all means.” Al draped her fur stole over the back of her chair, settled her at the table, filled his own glass with wine and set it before her. Havoc gestured towards the stage. “Show’s about to start…”
For someone who rarely shut up, Edward had, over the years, come to appreciate the value of silence.
His mother had also taught him not to talk with his mouth full; in a few moments, once he reached his objective, Ed hoped that he might score ten out of ten for good manners and 100 per cent for good technique. But Roy remained silent and unresponsive. Goddamn it, you’re not drunk yet. C’mon, old man…come on. You reached me on one of the worst nights of my life—that night in the hospital in Central when every goddamn failure in my life came crashing down on me. You’re beating yourself up over the past, and that shit’s gotta stop—it’s gonna stop—right now…
Roy’s head fell back against the back of the leather couch in his office. Words like wait and can’t and other feeble protests died as strong hands stroked their way up his inner thighs, followed by a warm mouth that nuzzled the fine wool of his trousers until he could feel Ed’s hot breath against his skin.
Teeth worried at his belt until he heard Ed mutter, “give me a hand, willya?” Then it was butter-soft leather under his bare buttocks and the sides of his shirt were being peeled away from his now-sweaty chest. His spirit was willing, but the flesh—ah, that was another matter altogether.
He didn’t even apologize. “Too much…all this stuff on my mind…”
Ed yanked Roy’s shoes off and shucked the deep blue uniform trousers off his lover’s long legs. Pausing only to kick off his own shoes and garments and to unbutton his waistcoat and crisp linen shirt, Ed knelt between Roy’s spread thighs and regarded the older man warmly. “ Look,” he whispered, “I don’t care if you come. Hell, I don’t care if I come. This has never been just about sex,” and he lowered himself down, climbing onto Roy’s lap and wrapping his legs—flesh and metal—around Mustang’s hips. Ed pulled Roy tighter, closer, leaving no room for anything between their bodies including doubt.
Roy squeezed his eyes shut and burrowed his face into Edward’s neck. “Listen,” Ed went on softly. “All this---you’ve had it weighing you down for a lifetime, old man. It’s not gonna just suddenly be okay overnight. Like when I got Al back. Took me a long time to stop waking up and just fuckin’ knowing he was back in that damn armor and everything I’d done to save him had failed. I know, Roy. I fuckin’ know. That’s why this,” his hand crept between their bellies and squeezed the softness against his hardness, “is okay. If you threw me to the floor and hammered me cross-eye’d, I’d be worried…because you’d be denying that you’ve taken a bad hit to the soul. “ His long fingers curled around his husband’s face, stroking. “It’s bad right now. It won’t be bad forever. You need time to wrap your head around what happened today—and what’s gonna happen tomorrow. You’re just numbed out and considering the shit that is going down, that’s normal.
“All I’m sayin’ is…I got your back…” he squeezed again and chuckled, “ and your front. And just…hang on. We’ll make it.”
“Annnnd now—for one night only—we are proud to present the song stylings of a silver screen legend. Ladies and Gentlemen---a very warm welcome, please for—Miss Gladys Turlough!”
Maude Kelley Winchell’s jaw nearly dropped into her untouched entrée. Ten feet in front of her, The Ice Cream Blonde swept onto the bandstand in a white chiffon something-or-other that hugged her narrow waist so tightly her breast threatened to spill out onto the dance floor.
Jean Havoc was a wise man. He slipped his arm around Riza’s shoulders, his free hand slipping into hers, squeezing it tightly. A warm, steady gaze met his own, silently reassuring Jean that Riza was not planning to reach for any of the firearms currently concealed on her person.
Alphonse, on the other hand, looked delighted. Slipping a single red rose from the vase in the middle of their table, he tossed it high into the air.
“I think I need to go powder my nose.”
Kelley Winchell had had enough. The same could not be said for the audience, who roared with approval and sang along, especially when Gladys stepped down from the bandstand and began circulating through the tables, singing to all the men and even to a few of the women. And now she was making a slow, slinky beeline for Alphonse.
Or so she thought.
“HEY! We have a CELEBRITY here t’night, folks!” the starlet brayed. “Looky looky—it’s the girl who writes the bookys! It’s MAUDE KELLEY WINCHELL!!! Miz Winchell, I just gotta say that ‘Buckety-Buckety The Big Brown Bear Has Tea With Wibbles The Wolf’ is just the sweetest book—isn’t it, people? I mean you can just feel the love between them, can’t you?” The audience tittered as Winchell squirmed uncomfortably in her seat, turning an impressive shade of red. “Oh, and she also-wrote-some-evil-trash-about-some-re
There were some half-hearted cheers but for the most part there was a low buzz of conversation and every eye in the room turned towards the pink-clad figure with the frozen smile and the wildly darting eyes that searched desperately for a graceful way out.
“Ya know, I used to know a little song from the old music halls about a girl name Maude. Hey, Charlie? Remember how that one goes?” she called to the bandleader who nodded and waved his hands to his musicians….
I was having lunch
With Maud the other day here,
And I told her,”Maud, I know you’re feeling low.
Your life feels just too dreary and depressing,
But why it is, you really do not know.”
Then as I spoke,
I saw the truth quite clearly;
I saw she was a vulgar, hollow, fraud.
So then, I had another sip of brandy,
And I leaned across the table, and I told her,
“I hate to say but some of us are rotten to the core.”
I said, “Maud, you’re full of maggots, and you know it.
Your soul’s a bed where worms queue up to breed.
You don’t know what life’s for, Maud,
You’re rotten to the core, Maud.”
And Maud agreed….*
If she had been wearing her glasses, Kelley Winchell’s aim might have been better. As it was, the champagne bottle bounced off the bandleader, missing Gladys Turlough by several feet. Lurching to her feet, she grabbed for her handbag and began swinging wildly, screeching at the top of her lungs. She clipped Alphonse a good one on the side of the head, curses spitting out from her mouth like a volcanic eruption. At the same moment, the front door to the restaurant burst open and a wave of flashing lights filled the intimate supper club. Kelley didn’t notice any of this. She had lunged towards her nemesis, grabbed hold of Gladys’ pearl necklace and attempted to throttle the starlet with it. When Al dove into the fracas to try and break the two of them apart, he got a spiked heel in the gut for his troubles. Al dropped to his knees with a groan, clutching his abdomen.
“AL!!” Havoc darted to his friend’s side, while Riza pulled a sidearm from somewhere within her evening gown. “Everybody stand dow---OOOF!”
A dozen reporters, snapping photos madly, stampeded right over her. “It’s HIM!” the mob kept bellowing. “It’s him!”
Crawling to her knees, Riza was about to fire over her head—but when she drew her pistol, she heard a shrill ‘KEEEYAAAAHHHH!” somewhere to her left side and the next minute she was back on the floor, clutching her arm. The pistol—gods only knew how—had been kicked from her hand.
“Alphonse! You really know how to throw a party!”
A familiar voice rang out above the chaos and there was a shrill whistle that caught everybody’s attention. From the hurricane of flying female fists and hand bags, a disheveled Gladys Turlough glanced up and smiled, throwing her hands out in delight. “KINGY!!”
His Excellency, Emperor Ling Yao waved at his newest wife. “Honey…did you miss me??” he called cheerfully, seconds before a well aimed handbag soared over the crowd and caught the Lord of the Chrysanthemum Throne square in the face, bloodying his nose and knocking him unconscious…
“Shit. It’s that obvious?” Ed whistled softly with disbelief.
“Yeah. Think about it. Priya and Jaya haven’t seen me face to face in years. If they noticed, sooner or later other people will.”
Ed’s fingers lightly flicked Roy’s sweaty fringe away from his forehead. The loving application of one over-active mouth had coaxed Roy back to life in spite of his stress. More relaxed than he had been, Roy now lounged on the sofa with his head on his lover’s chest, feeling pleasantly tired and sweaty. As Ed’s fingers lightly combed through his hair, he felt the tension creeping back into his shoulders.
“We could dye it. Not all—a couple of strands here and there…”
“And how much time to you really think that’s going to buy me? Or you, for that matter?” He sighed heavily. “Face it, Ed. Time is against us. We can play this charade only so long before---“
“—before people realize that you and me and Al…and Teacher…aren’t aging normally. “Al’s theory is that Dad was sorta…I don’t know…kind of like a pattern. He didn’t age past a certain point. That…thing….didn’t age past a certain point. The only lines you have are from worry, not time. You’re a public figure, Roy. Sooner or later, another Kelley Winchell is going to come along and suddenly it’s all over the goddamn papers. Best you can hope for is that they decide you’re dying your hair and getting plastic surgery….same for the rest of us. But we can’t go on forever.”
“No. We can’t.” Roy’s hand slid into Ed’s. “And you can’t ignore the alchemic power that’s waking up in you. You have to—no, damn it, listen to me! You have to find someone to train you properly—and I don’t think anybody in Amestris is going to be able to help you. I think you’re going to—“
“---start again. With a new teacher. I know,” Ed groaned. “I don’t know who the hell can teach me, but an apprenticeship means—“
“—going away,” Roy finished.
“That is not going to happen,” Ed stated firmly. “I’m not leaving you.”
“And I’m not leaving you either. But,” Roy stared miserably into the darkness, “sooner or later…we’re going to have to get out of Amestris. All I’ve done…my whole life….I’m going to have to walk away from it before it’s too late and the press finally notices that I’m not growing old the same way as others do.”
Ed pulled him closer. “Well, it ain’t gonna be figured out tonight. We’ve got a long day tomorrow, when they start the questions about the Father thing and the stone and all that shit. Let’s not borrow trouble. Trouble’s gonna find us soon enough on its own. It always does….”
….TO BE CONTINUED….