Fic: Half Lives, Chapter 13: Brother Against Brother
Rating: PG 13 this chapter for profanity and Ed trying to beat the hell out of his little brother--and adult themes
Pairing: Roy/Ed, references to past Roy/Hughes and the ending of Ed and Winry’s marriage. Guest appearances by Ling Yao, Riza Hawkeye, Pinako, Olivier Armstrong
Genre: Hurt/Comfort, Yaoi romance.
WARNING: This is yaoi. If you aren’t comfortable, don’t read. Wank will be ignored.
Spoilers: Years have passed since the Father’s Fall (chapter 108) Things in Resembool have not gone well and Ed has the scars to prove it, seeking healing and refuge in his work at Central Command…but Roy Mustang has never been one to calmly stand by and see his friends hurt…
CHAPTER SUMMARY: When Alphonse left for Xing years before, Edward gave every impression of being proud and happy for his younger brother….he’d done a first class job of convincing himself that after a lifetime lived for each other, the brothers could simply go their separate ways…and in his vulnerability he blundered into an impulsive marriage that is now collapsing around him in flames. All it took was one phone call…and years of pain and betrayal finally took their toll on the Elric Brothers…
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HALF LIVES, Chapter 13: BROTHER AGAINST BROTHER
By The Binary Alchemist, 2010
His brother was still giggling as he straightened his tie. Somewhere Claude had come up with a formal suit that fit the young alchemist with just a bit of alteration to the cuffs of his jacket. Lapis lazuli cuff links added a touch of elegance, as did the silk evening scarf draped over his shoulders, aeronaut style.
Ed looked less at ease, tugging irritably at his tight collar. His cheeks still burned with embarrassment about being caught with his pants down and in the middle of…well…equivalent exchange… with the Fuhrer of Amestris…who thought it was the funniest thing that had happened to him in bed ever. Served him right, Ed thought, that he didn’t get to come too. Asshole… “Yeah, well…y’know…I mean, I know one of these days you’re gonna meet some girl…and you’re gonna start…y’know…thinking…about stuff like…y’know…that.”
Blonde eyebrows shot up in surprise. “Ed? Do know where I’ve been all this time? In the Imperial court of Xing.”
“Ling has fifty concubines.”
“Whoop-de-fuckin’ doo. Hope his dick wears off.”
“He has to rest sometime…and the ladies get tired of just… playing with each other. Sooooo….”
Ed’s eyes cut sharply to his brother. “Uh…exactly…what are you getting at?”
Al’s grin widened. “Fifty concubines. Do the math, brother.” He glanced casually at his reflection and tousled his hair, nodding at the dashing effect. “Does a lot for a fellow’s confidence,” he added. “I’m not nearly so shy as I used to be.”
It took a deep wheeze of effort but Ed finally got enough air back into his lungs to speak after several minutes. “Fifty…concubines…”
“Yup!” Al slipped on his jacket, adjusted his cuffs and headed for the door.
“My…little…brother….and fifty concubines???”
“Well,” Al considered, “not all at once…”
Somehow, Roy Mustang never thought he’d use the words Edward Elric and subdued in the same sentence—unless it included words by force, with the assistance of half the Amestrian army.
He had been seated beside Alphonse at the head table as an honored guest. He seemed glad to see Ling, made a few half-hearted jabs about old room service bills, then the conversation sort of…faded. He addressed Olivier Armstrong as ‘Ma’am’, shook Dimitri’s hand and waved to his new Drachman friends who were now learning choice swear words in Xingese from Dr. Chen. And for the most part he answered Al’s eager attempts to engage him in conversation with grunts, nods and shrugs.
It was hardly proper for the Fuhrer of Amestris to march over, grab the not-so-little bastard by the collar and demand to know what the fuck was wrong with him. Al had been so worried, had come so far and by such great lengths to see him…and all he could do was stare numbly at his caviar-stuffed potatoes and asparagus and smoked salmon, barely poking his fork at the nine-layered torte, thick with almond cream and smothered in fresh berries.
Once the dancing started Roy stood up and drew on his dancing gloves—the ones with the arrays stitched on the inside. He made a formal bow to Tsarina Ekaterina and asked for the honor of her company. She was stout and good natured and with a snap of her fan led Roy onto the ballroom floor. Tsar Dimitri joined them, Madame Mustang on his arm. Ling Yao smiled and turned to Olivier Armstrong, who discreetly held up a small, deadly stiletto, not even favoring him with a sideways glance.
Alphonse rose. “Brigadier General? It’s been a long time since we’ve seen each other. Could I ….would you…?”
Olivier rose and nodded and accepted the arm he offered.
Ling glanced at Ed and grinned. “Well, Ed? Would you care to---“
Ed tossed back a shot of vodka. “Fuck off and die, Ling.”
His old friend wasn’t fazed by the rude retort, although Ran Fan bristled visibly. “Colonel Hawkeye? Perhaps you won’t find me as disagreeable as Ed does.”
Riza rose and bowed. “Thank you, Your Highness. It would be an honor.”
Ed’s eyes followed Roy as the music swept the dancers through a traditional Amestrian waltz. He moved with easy grace, eyes on his partner, making lively conversation with the Tsarina that made her blush and giggle and smile up at him, pleased by some harmless flirtation. The long-tailed formal coat showed off his broad shoulders to perfection, his simple, elegant style a broad contrast to the Tsar’s masses of thick gold braid or Ling’s imperial scarlet embroidered with gold and silver dragons. Ed hadn’t realized he was holding his breath, and when a turn-step of second quadrille figure brought their gazes together his heart gave a funny lurch in his chest.
I don’t dance.
Alphonse appeared at his side. “Brother, don’t be shy,” he whispered. “If you don’t feel comfortable, why not ask Colonel Hawkeye? She’s a really good dancer and she’s a friend. She’d never make you feel awkward, or—“
His older brother’s eyes sparked with an anger Alphonse had never seen before. “Drop it, Al.” He rose abruptly. “I’ll see you in the morning.”
Al sat down heavily in his brother’s chair. The desserts and pastries were untouched. The vodka was empty.
It was nearly dawn when Roy slipped into his bedroom. There was a quiet snoring from a lump of blankets on Roy’s side of the bed. That made him feel better, somehow, that Ed sought his comfort in Roy’s pillow and not his own—or worse, in one of the guest rooms. Undressing quickly he climbed in on Ed’s side of the bed and pulled the cocooned sleeper close, curling his long body protectively around the man he had come to care so much for.
Ed blinked sleepily. “It’s you.”
“No, it’s Alex Armstrong.” A warm kiss—comforting and soft, with nothing implied more than affection. “You okay?”
“Go back to sleep.” In the grey light Roy let the fine golden strands slip through his fingers. I l—
No. Not yet. He couldn’t handle it. Patience…goddamn it.
His hand burrowed inside the cocoon of covers. A strong hand clasped it and Roy smiled in the darkness as he drifted off, face pressed in to a mass of blond tangles.
The morning mail run arrived at Resembool Depot at 5:30am, right on schedule.
By 5:47, people were tearing through the coffee shop, waving their money.
“It’s him! It’s really HIM!”
“My, look how handsome he’s become!
“Have you ever in your life seen--?”
“—the most amazing—“
“Ohhhh…he’s so cute! Is there anything in there about him being married yet?”
“—he’s so tall and dashing—and to think he actually flew across the desert with the Emperor of Xing!”
“—Pinako must be so proud of him—“
“Bet Winry wishes she’d picked the other brother now…oh. And Ed’s here too.”
“Where? Oh…there he is. What’s with the bandage?”
“Looks kind of peaked, doesn’t he?”
“Not like Alphonse—mmmm….those eyes are so dreamy…”
By 7:59 the last copy was snapped up, some buying several copies as souvenirs. Several merchants taped copies of the front page to their store windows, and the words “airship”, “aeronaut’ and Alphonse Elric on half the lips in town.
By 8:30 old Mr. Funderburg the letter carrier stopped his horse cart in front of Rockbell’s Automail to drop off the daily mail. Pinako met him in her slippers as usual, fetching the old fellow a fresh cruller from the kitchen and a mug of hot coffee. “Letter from Central for Miss Winry—looks like it’s from Edward. Must be missing his missus, eh? Came by military courier, so he must be at the Palace. Told the sergeant I’d take it up the hill for ‘em since I was headin’ this way. Wasn’t pleased to let me do it, but I sez—“
“What else you got?” Pinako cut him off.
“Couple o’ invoices---lessee—oh, and that metallurgy catalogue you’ve been waiting for.”
Pinako flipped through the pile. Something was missing. “Did you forget my paper, you old fool?”
Funderburg grinned. “Sold out before I could get one. Big hubbub about some airship landing at Central.”
“Airship? What are you talking about? “
“Crossed the desert from Xing—and I hear Alphonse Elric was flyin’ the dern thing! I never heard o’ suchlike. Granby said he’s getting’ another stack . Pick you up one and bring it by, mebbe, if I get the chance…”
By 8:05 the phone rang at Atelier Garfiel, just as the proprietor was wringing the last fragrant drops of Earl out of his teabag and pouring in the cream.
The voice on the other end of the phone sounded very subdued. “Mr. Garfiel? It’s Winry. I…I need to talk. Privately. Have you got the time?”
The rich, fruity laugh hurt her ear. “For you?? Precious child, you have my undivided attention!”
By 8:46 Winry hung up the phone. “Not my fault,” she repeated numbly. “Not me…I didn’t…not…couldn’t have made him…” There was some dry scientific article stapled to Ed’s letter. She hadn’t gotten to that part yet. She’s scanned his missive and when her eyes reached the words there is someone else her heart just stopped for a moment. She took a deep breath, fury rising, wishing he had been there so she could…no. No. She wasn’t going to do that anymore. She swallowed hard.
Then she read the words I won’t say I’m in love with this person. It’s too soon and he and I both agree that diving headlong into things right now when I’m vulnerable is wrong…
He. As in “him”. As in male.
Bile rising in her throat, she grabbed the phone and frantically dialed her craft master.
She hasn’t made Ed turn to men. “Doesn’t work like that, precious,” Garfiel told her kindly. “It’s not like we can convert people—although I’ve joked that if I can make twenty straight men into faggots I get a free toaster. No, darling. Some people are like me—sweetie, I’ve known I was a Queen and have been loud and proud since I was in knee socks and frilly panties. Not meaning to pry, love—but was Ed…I mean, I know you have children….it can happen…but when you were upstairs in the dark with the doors locked---“
“He was downstairs in the library with his nose in a damn book.”
“Well…” There was a moment of silence. “Ditch the bitch. Get your kiddies and come on down to Rush Valley, child. I’ll be waiting with open arms!”
She read the…what was that word? Westermarck? Those pages Ed had stapled. Yes, she’d read them after hanging up and drying her eyes. Something about children raised together not feeling sexually for one another.
Boring. Useless. Utterly Edward. Trying to find a scientific out when he really wanted some man to…to…
It was disgusting.
And no. She didn’t want his goddamned money and would be damned if she’d touch it. “Adultery,” she said with soft significance. “Homosexuality.” She couldn’t imagine any Resembool magistrate who would grant Ed shared custody after reading this letter.
She checked on the children and fired up the forge. She opened one of the boxes marked “RUSH VALLEY-PERSONAL-W. ELRIC”. Grabbing a brush and a bottle of black ink she blacked out the ELRIC and replaced it with W. ROCKBELL. A small manila folder of photographs was yanked out of the box. She did not open it. Instead, she tossed it into the forge without a second glance, then pumped the bellows with a vengeance as every existing photograph she owned of Edward Elric and their lives together shriveled and charred into ash and dust.
At 9:23 a neighbor burst through the back door. “Pinako! Winry! Have you seen the papers??””
At 9:25 Winry was staring at the image of a dashing young man clad in leather, his hair tousled by the wind, eyes sparkling and behind him, the largest lighter-than-air craft in Amestrian history.
And at his side, looking awkward, was a thin man with a bandaged head. A man who apparently wasn’t a real man after all. A man whose pictures had just been reduced to ashes that were then dumped down the outhouse shit hole.
But the other one…it was as if she’d never seen him before.
Brother had been distant and irritable during dinner last night.
Brother had disappeared before breakfast.
Brother arrived late to the formal press luncheon where Ling Yao, Dr. Chen and Alphonse were the guests of honor and there was a special presentation about the building of the Xerxes and the historic trans-desert flight. He’d barely gotten to his seat in time before Fuhrer Mustang rose to propose a toast to the scientists, alchemists and alkahestrists of the three nations.
Roy contemplated the contents of his glass before speaking quietly to the assembled crowd. “I became a State Alchemist to serve and protect my country. Under the leadership of corrupt men, I became a tinderbox of war. There is no greater regret in my life than having been used as a dog of the military—breaking the peace, not upholding it. And to this end I make the following announcement:
“From this day forward, the nation of Amestris will no longer train its alchemists as weapons of war.”
There was a collective gasp from the crowd, echoed over hundreds of thousands of radios all over the nation., a gasp that carried beyond the borders of the nation Roy lived to serve and would die for without hesitation.
“My country was baptized in a river of blood. Our blood. The blood of Ishbal. The blood of Drachma—of Creta, and Aerugo. One man’s Presidency cannot erase the past. I cannot wipe away that blood or cleanse the bitter enmity. Not in a year. Not in ten years. Not in a hundred. But what I will do—“ he lifted his glass to the crowd, “is pledge my life to building bridges, not burning them. There are lands beyond our borders and on the other sides of our oceans. There may even be life beyond this world we share—I don’t know. But it takes so little—so little to crush out the life of this world. I have seen that with my own eyes. I love this land of mine—as you love your own. And I would not see one man raise his hand to his brother when there is a chance—however small—that we may find common ground. Tsar Dimitri—Emperor Ling. I hold you in high regard. And I ask this of you—in spite of all our differences—for the sake of our children and the survival of the world itself---will you help me build bridges of friendship between our peoples so that humanity will have at least a fighting chance of making a better world?”
At that moment, something resistant—something very much afraid inside Edward Elric—some nagging voice that told him he was wrong to feel so much for this man-- went silent for good. He rose to his feet and began to clap, eyes meeting Roy Mustang’s in a silent exchange of trust.
And a moment later, Sheska elbowed her way to Ed’s side and destroyed the moment. “There’s an urgent call from Resembool. You can take it in the kitchen. It’s from Winry.”
Ed paled. “Shit—the kids---?”
“She says it’s about your letter—and you’re going to talk to her now or she’s coming straight to Central.”
Ed hurried out of the hall and Alphonse followed, deeply concerned. Brother’s expression had gone from hopeful—even loving—to stone and ice in a matter of seconds.
Al dashed into the kitchen and skidded to a stop when he heard the cold fury in his brother’s voice. “If that’s what you really think….then Maes isn’t safe around
Garfiel either. Don’t….don’t you dare…EVER…even suggest something so disgusting. I—listen to me, Winry….listen to me. You do NOT want to play this game. No, that’s not a threat. That’s a promise. If you want to call me a cock-sucker and a pervert to the magistrate and tell him I’m not fit to help raise my own son---well, that’s what you’re implying…yeah, well, you believe what you want to believe, because you sure as shit don’t give a damn what I think or feel…Try it. Just try it—and I swear on Mom’s grave I’ll hand over that dossier with every goddamned x-ray---You damn near killed me and beat the shit out of my brother---“
“ED!” Alphonse was sick at his stomach. He’d never heard such contempt in his brother’s voice, not since his battle with Father and Pride. “Ed, please! Winry was just—she never meant—“
“GODDAMN YOU, ALPHONSE!” Ed turned on him, eyes blazing. “Winry—three weeks. I’ll see you at the courthouse. Be there.” He yanked the phone out by the cord and flung it across the room. “You—you---“ Ed was so enraged he could hardly speak. He rushed at Alphonse, fists flying, and if Alphonse hadn’t studied the martial arts of Xing and under the severe tutelage of Izumi Curtis, he might never have gotten up if that clenched fist had caught him on target. Instead he grabbed his brother’s forearm, kicked him off balance and flipped Ed flat on his back.
Now that he was tall and lanky, not fully grown into his height, Ed was not quite so strong. He struggled wildly, cursing and flailing but Al pinned his arms behind his back. trapping the kicking legs neatly with his own, pressing Ed’s face down into the greasy linoleum of the kitchen floor. “You bastard….you bastard…” Ed screamed, bucking wildly and cursing his little brother.
“I’m not going to let you up.” Alphonse didn’t dare relax his grip; Ed was so enraged he’d probably really hurt Alphonse if he got loose—but more than that, Al was afraid Ed would hurt himself. He was raving and shouting like a madman, as if he’d finally snapped after all those years---and Al didn’t care. He loved Edward more than anything or anyone in this world.
He waited until Ed had exhausted himself. It didn’t take long. Healing aside, his confinement had sapped his strength. Ed finally went limp, unresisting. Face down on the filthy kitchen floor, tears streaming down his cheeks.
Al released Ed and lay down beside him. He pulled Ed tightly to his chest, arms locked around his shoulders and waist, rocking him. “Brother…oh god, Ed….I’m sorry…I love you…I love you so much, Brother—there’s nothing I wouldn’t do for you….I don’t know what I did to hurt you…but please…please…”
The voice was low and defeated. “We were supposed to see the world together. You didn’t want me with you anymore.”
Alphonse was sick before. Now something terrible was tearing him apart from the inside—so sharp, so cold and piercing….”Edward….Ed, please…”
“ You went away. I was so alone…”
Edward turned his face away. He didn’t want to see Al or the tears that were flowing down those sunburnt cheeks.
“…all that was left…was…her.”
….TO BE CONTINUED…….
…TO BE CONTINUED…..