Rating: This chapter rated PG-13 for language and off-camera sex
Pairing: Roy/Ed, past Hughes/Roy, Al/Anything in a skirt, Chris Mustang/General Grumman
Spoilers and Warnings: Post-Manga verse, Yaoi romance/angst/humor. Stand alone part of the “Half Lives” series.
Plot: Roy Mustang: Soldier. Statesman. Alchemist. Peace making envoy and world traveler…”And nobody knows who the hell I am, really. You can read the sanitized version of my life in the history books—or we can break out a bottle of booze, fill up the glasses and I can tell you the stories that the censors left out—which are hell of a lot more interesting…”
Chapter Summary: Edison Elric--Alphonse' descendant--and his otherworldly sister Emma have arrived at Rose Hill, and Roy and Ed are secretly wagering on who will crack first--with the odds running against Alphonse. Meanwhile, as Roy recounts the story of his life, Christine Mustang learns of the death of her brother from a young army officer named Grumman...and also learns of the fate that may lie in store for the young orphan Roy if he is sent to the state-run orphanage, which is supervised by a certain gold-toothed doctor...
.A/N : If you’ve read this or any of Half Lives/Whole Lives/Our Lives/Private Lives, let me know what you thought—your feedback means so much! “Half Lives”, “Whole Lives” “Our 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!!!
PRIVATE LIVES (THE MUSTANG FILES) CHAPTER 3: THE WOMAN IN RED
By The Binary Alchemist 2015
On my travels, I discovered a remarkably useful word: schadenfreude. A rough translation would be “happiness at the misfortune of others”. I won’t go so far as saying I’m happy Edison and Emma showed up on our doorstep at Rose Hill…but I admit that after they arrived I had to cut out and lock myself in the bathroom with the water running full blast to drown out the sounds of me laughing my ass off, my face buried into a hand towel.
Did I ever tell you about the scurvy trick Izumi played on me when Ed spent that summer in Aerugo after we first moved in with one another? Izumi and Sig appeared in my bedroom at the crack of dawn, presenting me with a step son and daughter that I hadn’t yet met. Nina was two and not completely housebroken, while her three year old brother Maes strolled right up to me—fresh out of bed, naked and sporting a ‘morning salute’—pointed right at my groin and announced to the world that my ‘thing’ was sticking up…and demanding to know why.
Those two children became the most important people in my life—my son and daughter, biology be damned. That doesn’t mean that I did not, at that inopportune moment, want them gone. Not dead—what kind of a monster to you think I am? But gone as in ‘out of my goddamn bedroom and not pointing and staring at my erection’. The only comfort I’ve gotten over the years is knowing that Maes’ brood of boys gave their father as hard a time as Maes gave me.
Al, on the other hand, got to bypass some of the less than noble GODS-I-wish-to-hell-they-would-pipe-down-a
didn’t learn he’d fathered Katherine until she was nearly old enough for school, since her mother, Julia Creighton, was a noted political dissident and revolutionary and not inclined to pull up stakes and follow Al to Amestris or join his globe-trotting adventures. When she finally realized that Al wasn’t going to give up his life to join her political cause, she took matters into her own hands. A romantic tryst over Solstice in Resembool at Pinako’s house and Julia returned to Milos with exactly what she wanted: a child by Al that she would keep to herself, raised among her chosen people.
Kit didn’t come to Amestris until after we’d left for Oceana, raised by Hawkeye and Havoc after Julia died in another senseless political coup. He spent as much time with her as he could, even taking her on his travels abroad when she grew older, but he never had to deal with the blunt force trauma of the Side of Raising Children Nobody Wants To Admit Out Loud Except To Other Parents Who Understand: that as dearly as as you may love them and as quickly as you would lay down your life for them, your darling children can be absolute little shits sometimes.
So when the patrol car pulled up to the front door and a hugely grinning Edison Elric was marched up the steps in handcuffs, Ed and I exchanged nods behind Al’s back as he opened the front door.
Schadenfreude, Al. It’s your turn in the barrel. This should be entertaining, so long as we don’t have to mop up hamster shrapnel off the basement walls again.
“Edo! Poppy! It’s great to be back! I’d give you a hug, but…” Grinning sheepishly, Edison held out his arms, proudly displaying his handcuffs. He winked at the officer who accompanied him to the door. “Can we ditch the bracelets? I’m a child, for goodness sakes!”
“Mr. President? Professor Elric? Is this…yours?” The officer was embarrassed as hell, showing up at a former President’s home with a thirteen year old parolee in handcuffs.
Ed and I exchanged glances. In unison, we jerked our thumbs in Al’s direction.
“Pater! How about a hug for your favorite genius?”
“Edison….how did this happen?” Al looked like he’d been booted in the stomach but was doing his manful best to put a brave face on a very bad situation.
The officer cleared his throat. “I am given to understand from airport security that Master Elric managed to escape his escort at the arrival gate and wandered down to the baggage carousel. He climbed onto the luggage delivery belt system and rode it through five terminals before commandeering a ground transport—“
“---have you seen those things?” the kid raved enthusiastically. “Damn, those carts are cool as hell! No fossil fuels—alchemic reaction batteries—“
“—I invented those—“Al murmured.
“No shit? Really? Gotta show me how to make those, Pater! Lightweight carbon fiber bodies—those mothers can haul a buttload of cargo and bags as well as the in flight service carts. And they’re self-driven! How cool is that? I wanted to see if I could reprogram the auto drive and—“
I stepped in to interrupt. “I’m sure Captain Elric can be trusted to take responsibility for the kid.” The cop gave me a dubious look. “We do have a crack security team here, Sergeant. I am a former President, you know.”
“And a flame alchemist,” Ed added. I jabbed him in the ribs with my elbow, not wanting the Sergeant to get the idea that I might flambé the little troublemaker if he didn’t toe the line.
Al looked bewildered. “Security team?” he spluttered. “Flame alchemy? This…this is my grandchild we’re talking about!”
“Wrong-o, Pater! Lemme see…descending from Kit Creighton Elric, I’m your great..great..” He began silently counting off the generations on his fingers. “Holy crap,” he exclaimed. “You really ARE old!”
“And you’re not too old to spank,” Ed growled.
A cool and logical voice answered Ed from the entry hall. “Technically, striking a child for any reason other than to save its life—such as the event of choking-- can be interpreted as abuse and domestic violence. Considering your rather eloquent presentation on the rights of women and children when Poppy passed the 1922 legislation to fund safe houses for victims of domestic abuse, I can’t imagine you’d seriously contemplate spanking my elder sibling.” There was a significant pause. “However much he might deserve it.”
A doll-like creature with magenta streaked hair and tiny skull earrings approached Alphonse. She offered him a pale hand, tiny nails shellacked in lurid green. “Pater Alphonse. I’m Emma. You haven’t seen me since the custody hearings.” Dazed, Al shook the child’s hand.
Emma Elric, ignoring her brother, commanded the attention of her adult family, cool amber eyes apprising each of us the way a bacteriologist appraises parasites crawling in a sample of feces under a microscope. “You’re not going to try and make me happy, are you?”
Alphonse eventually found his voice again. “Ah…wouldn’t dream of it.”
“All right, place your bets right here. We got twenty to one odds that Al’s gonna crack before the kids do.” Ed was rubbing his hands with malicious glee. We were getting some coffee in the kitchen, leaving Al and Kyoya to get the siblings settled in. I also suspect that Al was frantically whispering to our Major Domo to speed dial every nanny agency in Central City to find someone with enough fortitude-and a carry permit—to keep those two out of trouble.
“Your firstborn said ‘shit’ on the air and announced that his sister farted to the entire radio audience of Midday Amestris, if you recall,” I pointed out. “Al’s never had to deal with anything like these two before. Besides,” I added tartly, “your side of the family has spawned its share of mad geniuses.”
“No criminal masterminds,” he shot back.
“Really? They say the apple never falls far from the tree, Edward. Shall I run down the short list of some of your greatest hits? Breaking and entering, theft, insubordination, lying to a superior officer, arson—shall I go on?”
Shrugging me off, he swung his leg over the seat of a kitchen chair, straddling it backwards and folding his hands over the back. “I shouldn’t laugh at this,” he sighed.
“No. You shouldn’t. Neither should I, I suppose. Al’s a good man, but he’s totally unprepared to be anything other than the indulgent, loving grandfather he’s been to all the other kids. Honestly, he’s probably not half as bad as you were at that age.”
He dropped his chin on the back of his hands. “I was a mean fucker to Al sometimes. Granny Pinako said I could be a bully. I was just so damn angry about Dad. And I guess I just didn’t want to share Mom with Al either. Edison’s a bright kid. But Emma….don’t have a clue what solar system that kid’s brain is parked in.” He chewed his bottom lip thoughtfully. “They’ve been through their dad’s divorce.”
“I know.” Passing him his cup, I settled down at the table beside my husband. “Adversity does strange things to children. Losses…death—“Ed nodded, “—the fear of the unknown. Life screws them over—and they find their own ways to cope. You and Al did.”
“So did you.” He touched his cup to mine in salute. “Thanks to a certain Woman in Red….”
“I thought you should know, Chris.”
She stubbed out her cigarette and kissed him. “You’re a good man, Grumman.” Shoving the blankets out of her way, she swung her short legs over the side of the bed. “Now where the hell are my slippers?”
Grumman couldn’t be disappointed, not after the spectacular blow job she’d given him. “You’re leaving tonight?”
“Hell, I’m leaving now. I can’t let my brother’s kid end up in someplace like the Orphan’s Crèche.”
“Chris, they haven’t even made an official announcement. Oh, I’m sure they’ll play it up for all it’s worth, and he’ll get a hero’s burial and get a two-rank promotion after death. Then they’ll take the boy. I don’t think you need to rush down there.”
“I think I do, after what you told me.”
The young officer pressed an affectionate kiss on Chris Mustang’s bare shoulder. “You can’t just take the boy, Christine.”
In the end, he did more than watch. “I’ve got a three week furlough. I can help you.”
“I’m not proud or stupid. Glad to have you.” She drew in a deep mouthful of whiskey from the gilded flasK she pulled out of her handbag. “How’d you manage to pull this off?”
“In this man’s army, it helps to know where the bodies are buried.” His eyes twinkled. “It helps even more to know where the general’s mistress is spending her Tuesday nights. Let us say that my commanding officer is quite in my debt. Oh my yes….”
A trolley cart clattered up the aisle. “Last call,” the tea boy called out. “Anything for you Ma’am? Sir?” His face turned hot and he quickly looked away from the woman’s strong, bold gaze. What sort of proper lady wears red like that, smoking and drinking whiskey like she was a…? He blushed to the tips of his ears.
“Couple of those chicken sandwiches and some coffee, please. Pie if you’ve got it, or cake. Cake would be good.” Grumman nodded at his companion. “Anything else you’d like, my dear?”
“Razor,” the Woman in Red commanded.
The tea boy looked baffled. “I’m sorry, Ma’am?”
“I want a razor.”
Grumman chuckled. “Hmph! I daresay the chicken sammies won’t be that tough, my dear. A butter knife,” he nodded to the tea boy, “should do us just as well.”
Christine’s green eyes flashed with annoyance. “For your upper lip?”
Almost as if by reflex, the young officer’s hand moved protectively towards his rather impressive mustache. “Why would I want a razor for my upper lip? Something wrong with my whiskers, hey?”
“Are you with me or not?” she snapped. There was a firm resolution and smoldering anger hiding behind her lovely face. Grumman had seen eyes like that above the sights of a rifle. She looked as if she was heading for a battle she was determined not to lose.
Grumman dug into his pocket and offered the tea boy a five hundred cens piece. The boy looked nervously over his shoulder, then snatched it out of the officer’s hand. “I’ll get you a shaving mug and a brush too. I can think of a few gents that won’t miss ‘em.”
“That’s a good lad. Thanks.”
“I’ve hired a carriage, my dear, just like you asked. Are you certain you have to go out now? It’s a downpour out there. Why don’t we have a bit of a snuggle, then head down to the salon for tea and cakes. Then—“
“—there’s no time, Randall. The shops will be closing in an hour.”
Grumman shook his head. My, isn’t she just the most impatient thing? But, he had to admit to himself, she knows how to take her time between the sheets and that’s all that matters, dear girl.
She was drenched when she returned to the hotel, a porter scurrying after her with several bags and bundles. “Draw us a hot bath,” she rasped at Grumman, “and pour us each a whiskey.”
Perched on the rim of the large claw-foot bathtub, they sipped their whiskey on the rocks, feet dangling in the steamy water. “Damn, that feels good,” Chris sighed. “Thought I’d never thaw out.”
“What was so urgent it couldn’t wait until tomorrow?”
“Had to get us some clothes for tomorrow. Some things for the boy, too. If I nick him out of there, the brass is going to at least pretend to look for him.”
Grumman looked thoughtful. “Maybe more than pretend. He’s got money coming to him, after all. “
“Another reason they’d want to make him a ward of the state. And if the poor little bastard should happen to drop dead from an overdose of their tender mercy and care, why, that money will fall into some powerfully deep pockets. I’m going to smuggle him out and then I’ve got to keep him hidden until we can light out somewhere else until he’s been forgotten.”
“I see.” Grumman topped off her glass. “And you plan to keep the kid?”
She shrugged. “Can’t see anything else to do. Not that I’m the motherly type, but…I’ll do right by him, same as Brother would have done.”
“Can you support him, my dear? Raising a child is going to be expensive.”
“I’ll get the money.” She lifted her glass to the future and smiled bitterly. “With the sweat of my back, if I have to. On my back. Although,” she grinned around her cigarette, “my mouth has always been my fortune. Have to get me a house somewhere. Some good girls. A place with class. Yeah. I’ll make it right. Do Brother proud. Raise that boy up to be a fine gentleman.” She put down her drink, stubbed out her smoke. “But first…we gotta shave your legs…”
“Nice tits. Quit playing with them, Randall.”
Grumman shifted to and fro in front of the mirror, admiring his reflection and fondling the front of the severe maid’s uniform he’d been buttoned into. “My, they are nice, aren’t they? Not so nice as yours, my dear, but a nice, modest handful, if I do say so myself.”
“Don’t purse your lips like that. Makes your mouth look like a cow’s asshole. And don’t mince, for damnation’s sake! You’re a working woman. Your feet hurt. You’ve got a lousy life and you have to kiss asses for a living. “
“Rather like a private in the military, hey? Only with tits.”
Chris shrugged. Son of a bitch is taking to this a little too easy, she observed. As for Chris…the years had not been kind to her, not by a long shot. But she was smart, she was ruthless and she could suck the brass shine off a doorknob. Nobody’s fool and nobody’s victim.
And if she was lucky, young Roy Mustang wouldn’t be anybody’s victim either.
One last drag of her cigarette, chased down with a mouthful of whiskey. She dug into a small paper parcel from the greengrocer. She passed something small and white to Grumman. “Here. Chew it.”
He recognized the pungent odor. “An onion?”
“Laundry maids don’t smell like booze and cigarettes. Those that do get beaten. No cologne. And no pads under your arms or powder, either. Better to sweat and stink like a working woman. Besides, if we don’t smell too swift, nobody’s gonna want us to linger around.
She gave him a quick once over, mussing up his wig enough to make him look realistically rumpled. She nodded. “Good enough. You’ll do. Now,” she ordered, “let’s go get my nephew…”
“The papers are in order, Doctor.”
The gold toothed physician gave the sheaf of pages a cursory glance, scribbling his name and affixing an official looking seal. “They say alchemic ability runs in families.”
The assistant looked puzzled. “Is that so, sir?”
“Mmm. Well, it was a pity about Mustang. Rather gifted. One of the first to come forward for State Alchemy accreditation. Terrible waste. Barbaric, the way those Cretans do it. Cut off the hands so a man can’t create a transmutation circle. They give them a few moments to think about how helpless they are at that moment…and then a shot to the head. If our enemies are that effective in defeating our State Alchemists in battle, why, “he began to smile, “we will just have to breed a better soldier, isn’t that right? And where better to find those better soldiers of the future than from the seed of our own State Alchemists?”
After all, he reminded himself, we have our Wrath now. A sublime success for the Great Gentleman and his red stones. Wrath, born of man. Once man, now a god. Some day to lead an army of demigods. Oh, yes—their humanity would be gone after the transmutations, but oh! To think of it! A deathless, invincible army! And each conquered land, each death, to provide fuel for the Great General’s master plan of Life Everlasting to Himself and his Deserving Few…those of us who’ve helped him every step of the way.
Roy Mustang. Insignificant now—but who knows what a resource a bright child born of two alchemists might become on the Promised Day?
“I can hardly wait to meet him.”
…TO BE CONTINUED…