Title: Fruitful Endeavors
Author: Jordanna Morgan
Archive Rights: Please request the author's consent.
Characters: Russell Tringham, Rose Thomas, Fletcher Tringham.
Setting: First anime. Post-canon.
Summary: Russell Tringham has made a new home in Liore.
Disclaimer: They belong to Hiromu Arakawa. I'm just playing with them.
Notes: Written for the prompt of "Rose" at Fan Flashworks. I've wanted to write a fic pairing Russell and Rose for a long time, and the prompt seemed as good an opportunity as any. (As for Rose's existing child, he was unnamed in canon, so I've taken the liberty of naming him Ari.)
The orange grove stretched for a hundred acres beyond the outskirts of the city. Golden shafts of early-evening sunlight slanted long through the rows of trees, painting the hanging orbs of fruit with an even brighter hue. Liore's first citrus crop was almost ready to be gathered, and it promised to be a good one.
Standing in the shade of the greenhouses where seedlings were nurtured, Russell Tringham wiped his sleeve across his brow, and permitted himself a smile of pride at the bountiful landscape he had helped to carve out of empty desert.
"All our hard work is really paying off," said the voice of his younger brother. Russell turned to see Fletcher grinning up at him, with a trace of knowing mischief. "In a lot of good ways."
With a fond snort, Russell cuffed Fletcher on the shoulder. "You heading home now?"
"Actually, I think I'm going to keep working for a while. There's some more experimenting I want to do with the modified trees. We reduced the new strain's need for water as much as we can, but I think with a little more tweaking, we can get their roots to grow even deeper and find water farther down."
"Every little bit helps here, that's for sure." Russell shrugged. "Well, I'm going to call it a day. Don't work too late, okay?"
"Sure. G'night, Brother."
The siblings parted. Fletcher disappeared into the greenhouse where their newest variety of orange trees was being carefully cultivated; and Russell set off for home, cutting through the corner of the grove as he moved toward the city gates. Along the way, he paused to scrutinize the biggest, most brightly-colored fruits on the trees he passed.
Fletcher's satisfied remark was true. They were just now beginning to see the rewards of their work here. It had taken a long time, but from the looks of the crop that hung heavy on the trees, they had achieved even more than they hoped. The agricultural system they had established in Liore was beginning to look as promising as the one they left behind in Xenotime.
Through their specialized work with plants, the two young alchemists had transformed the dried-up mining town that Xenotime once was. Its new gold mine was green, the formerly polluted land giving way to verdant farms that yielded a wealth of citrus, nuts, and vegetables. Having succeeded so well there, the Tringhams were eager to take their methods to another town in need of revitalization… and they found one in Liore. Left devastated by a militant uprising, the desert city was a shell of itself, far from the prosperous beacon it once appeared to be.
Russell knew the truth behind that. Even before the conflict, the city's seeming good fortune was built upon mere illusions fostered by the false prophet Cornello: a con man who used alchemy to mislead others. Many citizens still bemoaned the loss of the good old days under Cornello's thumb, blissfully ignorant of the fact that he had only led them along like sheep before the slaughter.
An especially plump, vivid orange caught Russell's eye, hanging from a tree at the very edge of the grove, alongside the road into the city. He stopped to examine it. Its skin was firm, spotless, and the perfect shade of color, promising a fruit at the very peak of ripe sweetness. Smiling, he plucked it from the branch, and continued on into the patchwork of new buildings and battle-scarred remnants that was Liore.
Unfortunately, Cornello's demise was not enough to save Liore from the schemes of his puppetmasters. The city had become collateral damage in a plot even Russell knew only the barest fringes of—and he didn't want to know.
Occasionally, when the streets were quiet and he was very still, he could feel… it. Something monstrous had happened here, burning a residue of darkness—of impurity—onto the very stones of the city. It had faded considerably as damaged buildings were torn down and rebuilt, but to this day, Russell found himself reluctant to enter the older standing structures where that feeling lingered most strongly.
When the Tringhams first arrived in Liore, that sense had almost driven him to abandon his noble ambitions, to turn right around and get as far from the feeling as possible…
But then he had met her, and discovered a light that drowned out even those shadows.
Arriving at his front door, Russell unlocked it and stepped inside—only to be cannonballed into by a small, sturdy brown body.
"Hey, kiddo." Smiling, the blond alchemist tousled the boy's own dark hair. "Have you done a good job helping your mother out today?"
The child beamed and nodded emphatically. "Mm-hmm!"
"Alright! Good job, Ari. I'm glad I've got you here to count on when I'm working." Russell winked. "Now, here's a little something for you."
He produced the orange, and watched with glee as little Ari's eyes became almost as large as the treat itself. Until now, with the first full crop of citrus ready to be picked at last, fresh fruit had been rarer and more prized than candy for the desert city's children.
Immediately, Ari plopped down on the rug and began to peel the orange. Russell grinned and turned away—just in time to see the lithe young woman who stepped out of the kitchen, wearing a warm smile of greeting.
"I'm home," he announced to her, cheerfully and needlessly, stretching out his hand.
Rose came to him quickly, leaning into his embrace, as he bent his head to meet her in a kiss. When she raised her left hand to caress his cheek, a ring sparkled on her finger.
"Dinner is almost ready," she informed him when they parted, her violet eyes shining up at him. "It'll be on the table as soon as you've washed up… Ari, don't spoil your meal!" she exclaimed abruptly to her son across the room, only just then noticing the orange which he was making short work of.
Russell laughed. "Don't worry. He'll still eat enough for three kids. It's no wonder he's getting so big!"
"Hmm." Rose's lips twitched. "He may not have your blood, but I'll bet he's still going to grow just as tall as his stepfather."
"Of course he will. He's gonna have to… if he wants to compete with his little brother."
Grinning, Russell laid his hand over Rose's abdomen. He could barely detect the beginnings of a new curve there; but he knew. Although it would be months before he looked into the eyes of his child, already he felt a simultaneously frightening and joyful bond with him.
…Or her, he conceded to himself. A daughter would be as beautiful and gentle as her mother, and that would be alright too.
Rose let her hand rest on top of his for a long moment. Then she pulled away, smiling up at him brightly. "Come eat before it gets cold."
With a nod, Russell turned and hurried towards the washroom—looking forward to an evening spent with his growing family.
2016 Jordanna Morgan