HALF LIVES, Ch. 31-CONCLUSION: SPRING EQUINOX
By The Binary Alchemist, 2010
There's nothing immediate about Spring. Nobody throws a switch and the weather is temperate and sweet, the snow and bitter winds disappearing in an instant. Spring is subtle—it was there all along beneath the frost and dead leaves, but we can't always see it, being too distracted by our miserable shivering.
But in spite of our best self-willed efforts to cling to despair, Spring will sneak up from behind, tap us playfully on the shoulder and whisper in our ears that life is sweet—that it is to be cherished and savored….and that Life Will Go On, regardless of how wise or foolish our lives are.
The numbness lingered for days after Ed's return to Central. "It's not you," he whispered in dark, burrowing his face into his lover's chest after the exhausting ride in from Resembool, grateful that the darkness cloaked his shame and humiliation that his body was too numb to respond although his heart was more than willing.
Roy's hand tenderly cupped the softness between his lover's thighs. "I know." His hand moved in slow strokes meant to give comfort, not to arouse. He'd been like this after battle, when even Maes' clever mouth couldn't make his cock rise. "Don't even worry about it. Right now," the hand slid up and rested over Ed's heart, "the pain's still fresh over letting the kids go—and ending a relationship is never easy, even under the best of circumstances. Give it time, Ed."
"—but it's not fair to you, and—"
"—Edward, I love you. Now shut up, close your eyes and go to sleep." And, eventually, the soothing sounds of heartbeat and soft snoring would lull Edward's mind away from that restless fretting over his children and he would drift into an uneasy sleep.
On the fourth day after he returned from Resembool he found a round trip ticket to Dublith on his breakfast plate instead of bacon and eggs. "Go see them. Set your mind at rest," Roy told him, adding that before Edward bolted up from the table and raced for the station it might be nice if he would pass the strawberry jam down to Roy's end of the table if it wasn't too much to ask. Instead of jam he got a kiss so fierce it bruised his bottom lip and a hurried, semi-profane endearment—something along the lines of "fuckin' mind-reader—love you" before Ed galloped up the stairs to pack, nearly knocking Dr. Chen on his backside as the older man came down from his suite to join the Fuhrer and his household for breakfast.
Twenty minutes later he returned to the table sans suitcase and poured himself a cup of coffee. Alphonse gave his brother an odd look and consulted his watch. "Brother, you'll never make the 9:20 to Dublith if you don't leave now," he fretted. "There won't be another train until after three and you wouldn't get into town until almost midnight."
Ed glanced up. His eyes looked somewhat moist and he was smiling. A letter was passed down the table to his younger brother. "Sebastian wanted me to see the morning post before I left. I was gonna tell him to fuck off until I read the letter on top."
Roy carefully schooled his smug expression, becoming very intrigued with his coffee and hotcakes as Alphonse read the missive aloud—the one scribbled in an all too familiar handwriting and postmarked "Rush Valley":
I know you probably might not want to get into any discussions with me these days—but Riza said that it would be better for you to hear this from me than from her.
She said—and I guess she's right—that you're worried about the kids. That maybe you're worried that we made the wrong decision about fostering Maes and Nina with the Curtises. You need to quit worrying about that. Riza and I have been to see them before she leaves for Central and if you had seen what we saw you'd know we did the right thing.
Izumi loves our kids so much—you can see it in her eyes. Maes follows her around like a little shadow and if he gets frustrated or about to throw a tantrum he does what you told him—he tells her "I have a mad, Nana" and then they talk about it—and then she gets him into some physical exercise. He's so funny in the yard, trying to copy her when she does her kata movements. He loses his balance and falls down but then he gets back up and keeps at it. And he actually drank his milk at dinner! He will announce that he hates it and it tastes nasty but she reminds him that if he wants to be big and strong like Daddy and Uncle Al he needs to do it and to drink it down fast and get it over with. And he does it! Can you believe it?
And Nina has Sig wrapped around her little fingers. I knew Izumi wanted kids but I didn't know how much Sig wanted a little girl until I got to watch them together. She didn't have one crying fit the whole time we were there. Sig bought some kind of Ishballan sling that they carry babies in and she rides on his chest when he's not minding the store. And she's trying to talk and she giggles all the time and Maes wants her first words to be 'big brother'.
But the very best part is at bedtime Sig and Izumi get out a scrapbook of pictures and show them to the kids, making up stories to tell them about the people in their lives. There are pictures of Granny in Resembool and me with Paninya and Mr Garfiel in Rush Valley. There are pictures of Al and the Xerxes. And there are pictures of you and Roy together. They are told, "Daddy and Uncle Roy live in the big city. Daddy is a teacher and he loves to travel all over the world and learn new things. Uncle Roy is a brave soldier who helps take care of everybody in Amestris. They live in a big house called Rose Hill with a fish pond and a garden with swings in it and a pretty horse named Cirrocco. Daddy and Uncle Roy love Maes and Nina very, very much." Izumi had gotten a letter from you and added it to the story. She always ends it by saying, "Some children have one parent to love them. Some children have two. But Maes and Nina are so very, very wonderful that they have a big, big family that loves them more than anything and they all will live happily ever after—TOGETHER."
That made me cry, and Riza, too.
That's when I stopped worrying. You should too.
Alphonse stared at the letter for a long, long time after his last words faded away. He had given his promise and made his choice. He wasn't going to wait for her to grow into the person she was meant to be….but maybe…just maybe…
"Al? Pass the coffee, willya?" Ed was now giving his lover a suspicious look. "You know anything about that letter coming this morning before you ordered the goddamned ticket?"
Roy licked a stray drop of syrup from his thumb. "Oh, come on, Ed—I have a country to run. Do you think I've got time to pull strings in your life too?"
Roy smirked into his third cup of coffee and casually flipped through his personal correspondence.
Then he spluttered so hard he nearly choked.
"What the hell?" Ed stared at him. "What's with you?"
This time Ed was reading a family letter aloud:
I know how lonely you must have been with Ed in Resembool this week and that got me to thinking what a very sad thing it must be to be all alone without anyone to care about you. That brought to mind your old friend Frank Archer. Poor bastard, all alone in his little cell with no playmates to keep him entertained. He seemed like such a lonely fellow…and so I asked the local Magistrate—one of my best private customers—what we could do to make Frankie feel a bit more welcome. He informed me that there was a 'special cell' for the—what did he call 'em? The 'Lonely Boys'. A cell full of really big, really lonesome lifers who don't have any girlfriends on the outside. I told him that Frankie was a pretty young man who didn't appear to have a girlfriend either—and he would really be doing me a favor if he'd somehow arrange for Frankie to be moved in with Big Lonely Bob, Big Lonely Phil, Big Lonely Knuckles and Big Lonely Bruce. That will leave one extra bunk-I can't imagine how they will work out their sleeping arrangements, can you?
At least Frankie won't have to worry about dates for awhile—it's springtime and love is in the air, even in a maximum security prison.
"HEY! Where the hell are you?"
"Up here, Ed."
The downstairs looked like Sloth had torn through the place….well, maybe not that bad, but it took a fair amount of climbing-over and slithering past and try-not-to-trip-and-bust-your-ass-ing to make it to the third floor residential suite. There was an elevator, needless to say and the dumbwaiter in the kitchen would save Sebastian quite a lot of dashing around getting private meals to the Presidential Suite at Rose Hill. Right now, though, it was, as Chef Ramsay had declared, "a buggerin' clusterfuck' getting the old stuff moved out, the house quintuple-checked for security hazards and wiretaps and bugs before the first and second floors were empty and ready for final inspection. Roy had requested that the place be cleaned out from the top down, so that he and Ed would have a little time to look over the suite before leaving for Aerugo. If all went well, when they returned it would be to their new address.
When Ed bounded up the stairs and into the Presidential suite the first thing that struck him was the view. The diamond-paned windows , edged with Gilded Era stained glass, overlooked the gardens—more formally referred to as The Park. Now that the snow had melted Ed could appreciate just how wonderfully it had been laid out while preserving the natural beauty of the land. Unlike the Armstrong Eyesore, as Roy loved to call it, Rose Hill's avenues of ancient trees, water gardens teaming with wildlife, rose gardens and serpentine fences seemed to embrace the visitor, not blind him with gold leaf and marble. And the inside was even better—warm light, inlaid parquet wood floors, and the bedroom and its private sitting room featured oak and marble fireplaces that gave Ed lascivious ideas about what could be done in front of them on chilly nights.
The suite was bare, but the hearth was dusted and there was wood laid out as if awaiting the arrival of His Excellency. A quick peek in the bathroom showed a modern flush toilet, big marble sinks and a tub large enough to backstroke in. The same courteous person who had set out the hearth—Sebastian, no doubt—had laid out thick towels, guest toiletries, two bath robes and cakes of Roy's preferred bathing soap. There was even a pair of straight razors, shaving brushes and new mugs of shaving soap. "Damn…nice touch," Ed whistled. "What—did he think we were going to camp out up here? Downstairs looks like the place has been bombed."
If Ed had noticed Roy's reflection in the window panes he'd have caught the mischievous smile that hinted that Roy knew exactly why Sebastian had laid out such items for their comfort—including a generous bottle of a certain sweet oil that lent itself conveniently to immoral purposes and a thick feather-stuffed duvet that could be folded into a makeshift pallet to protect Ed's back from the bare floor. "Chalk it up to the efficiency of our staff. Now," he opened the window a fraction to let in a whisper of early spring air, "was there something you needed?"
"Yeah. You." Instead of one face, the sparkling diamond panes now reflected two, one peering over the other's shoulders, turning to murmur softly in the other man's ear. "I've come to a conclusion, Mustang. Wanna hear it?"
The older man's lip curled upwards. "You have me pinned to the wall and there's a rather hard object jabbing me in the seat of my trousers. If you've concluded that Amestris would be better off without me-and this is an assassination attempt-your aim is disgraceful. My heart," Roy kissed and guided his lover's hand inside his jacket, "is right here." Ed could feel that strong steady pulse accelerate as he pressed his hips closer, shivering when he felt Roy press back. "Was it my heart you were aiming for, hmmmmmm?"
"I want it all."
The voice in his ear was low and urgent. "No more fuckin' half lives. I can't do that shit and I was fuckin' stupid to think I could. And I'm not gonna divide my heart up like Hughes did to you. It's not right. It's not fair. Maybe," Ed's hands slid across Roy's chest, pulling him closer, "I'm gonna spend a lot of my time exploring—learning new stuff and bringing it back to the Institute. Maybe Al and I will go to Xing—or we could be the first men to cross the ocean and see what's out there—if there is anything out there to see. And you made a pledge to give everything you've got to take care of this fucked up country of ours. But still-" his voice dropped low—he was pleading now—"can't we make this work? In spite of all this—If…if…I give you the whole of my life…what can you give me back?"
The refection of the dark haired man in the glass was smiling at the reflected image of his golden eyed lover—lover, partner, friend—life companion…did there even need to be a name for what they were to each other now?"
What would Roy Mustang give his lover in return for a whole life?
Edward had gone over and over the pages in For You, For Him, And For Us, underlining and when he couldn't find an answer he discreetly slipped over to Spenser's Emporium, a small and very elegant shop that that was 'open 7pm to Midnight and By Special Appointment" where Auntie Chris told him kindly old Mr. Spenser would cheerfully answer any questions regarding the Art of Masculine Love over hot tea and really excellent plum cake. The older man had listened to Ed's panicked questions, patted him on the shoulder and told him "my dear—if you love each other, it will all come out all right. Don't fret yourself limp, now—just remember if it feels good to you—it will fee good to him too."
And it did, too.
A blaze on the hearth crackled merrily as Ed began undoing the buttons on the crisply starched shirt. He was surprised—and touched—to find that scrap of scrawl bearing the worlds, love you, bastard in Roy's breast pocket. "Bet that tub's big enough for both of us to stretch out in it." He bit gently on a hardened nipple. "Let's go find out, okay?"
Love you, Bastard. He'd written that on a bit of paper that Roy carried over his heart. Now Edward mouthed those words against hot, damp skin that smelled deliciously of sandalwood soap and spices and wood smoke and Roy, sucking and savoring his way from collar to the tight navel he nipped playfully at before catching the tongue of Roy's zipper between his teeth and awkwardly tugging it down. "Remember that first time?" Ed rubbed his cheek against the swollen manhood. "I made you come in your pants just from kissing my body….you're about to do the same damn thing to me." Two fingers gently tugged back the soft, moist skin so that a greedy tongue could slide under it and tease the glistening tip. "Mmmmm….but I don't wanna do that…I…mmmmmmgod…so good!….I'm gonna come inside you…." A tongue tip strummed across that maddening spot right under the head where the foreskin joined the shaft and Roy's hips bucked frantically. Ed held him down with a soft, commanding growl. Pausing, he consulted the label on the vial of oil Sebastian had left them. "Thank god this crap is non-toxic. Damn shame we're out of butter."
He tenderly laved the sensitive opening he had lovingly soaped in the tub they had shared before stretching out on the pallet before the fire. He sucked gently and when Roy groaned and spread his thighs wider he began to suck harder, stabbing with his tongue and pausing now and again to pepper the buttocks he stretched apart with kisses and soft nips, his tongue snaking down to flick and tease the balls that hung tantalizingly, pulling them into his mouth and cradling them on his tongue as his oiled finger carefully breached the tightness that was tempting Edward so badly his cock felt like it would burst before he got anywhere near it.
Roy was panting hard, fingers digging into the folded comforter, which muffled his cries and was damped by sweat and the thick salty drops that oozed from his rigid and badly neglected cock. "Goddamn…do you have any idea how good you feel around my fingers?" Ed purred. Two fingers now circled and stretched and massaged the rings of muscle that twitched above his knuckles. "It's…damn…it's like hot, wet silk…I can't believe how soft it is…and…when I think about putting my cock in there…just sinking into you…and feeling this…right here….feeling this around the head of my cock….goddamn, you're gonna kill me…nothing is supposed to feel that damn good…"
"You do." Roy lifted his head and glanced over his shoulder, fixing his lover with a smoldering glance of raw need and seduction. "You…you…said….you wanted…it all…no half lives….no—OH FUUUUCK! N-no…half…THERE! SHIT! Right there!….no…h-h-al-f…m-m…fuuuckkkk…EDWARD!" His head whipped back and a ragged wail of hunger echoed through the empty room. "TAKE IT….take it all…don't make me wait…hurry…I can't stand it any…AAAAHHHHHHHHHGGGHHHH!"
"Mine…" He had to stop. He had to hold perfectly still or he would not survive this…he would die right here and now with the tip of his cock clenched inside his mate…how the hell did Roy do this to him, over and over, without his heart bursting in his chest from excitement? The smell…the taste of skin and sweat and the thrill of knowing that the tiniest stroke of tongue tip or finger or the gentlest press of a cockhead against something wonderful inside someone else could eclipse Edward's world into a circle big enough for only two—and that this strong, beautiful man who now sobbed and bucked against his groin, grinding and circling and urging Edward on with wild cries—that this man wanted all of Edward, good and bad, present and absent, now and forever. No conditions. No holding back. Roy wanted all that Edward was and could be, wanted to fuck him and surrender in return, and to go the distance as long as they lived…and Roy would give full measure in return.
Each slap of his balls against his lover's buttocks was a jolt to his senses. Each out stroke and that maddening tightness squeezed him from base to tip and made his senses reel. He had enough presence of mind to grope blindly around his lover's hip to capture that dripping steel, to give Roy that sweet friction so that they could soar over the edge together, but Roy slapped his hand away. "No…I want to…just from this…just…from…you,…"
And it was those words that took Edward past the point of no return…
"Claudio's an arrogant ass. I've never liked him." Roy quickly scanned Sebastian's packing list for the trip to Aerugo before initialing it.
"Tough shit, Mr. President. Put up or shut the fuck up." Ed adjusted his gloves—the right one had extra insulation against the cold. It never felt quite his, even now. "You sure you don't want to just send a decoy on the train and fly with us in the Xerxes?"
"I'm sure it would make a splendid front picture for the Central Times—you and Al and Chen-san waiving to the adoring masses while I vomit all over the heads of press. Now," he adjusted the high collar of Ed's flight jacket, "if Frank Archer were in the crowd I might risk my dignity, but—"
"—his dance card is getting filled every night by the Lonely Boys. And mine's not going to get filled for days," he bitched. "See, if you came aboard the Xerxes we could join the Ten Thousand Meter club—"
Ed grinned wickedly. "Al started it when he started taking some of those lonely court concubines up for short flights. He says you've never really done it until you're ten thousand meters in the air and the girl's got her legs-"
Roy shuddered. "Spare me the details of your brother's debaucheries. I'm beginning to wonder if you're going to be safe with him in Drachma. God knows what he and Alexi and the others are going to get you in to. Remember, Ed, you're a representative of our country—and if you get your ass into trouble in Drachma…I'll be forced to send Olivier Armstrong to get you out. She wouldn't like that…and you'd like it less."
Ed held up his hands in surrender. "Hey, no worries. I'm not going out whoring with my kid brother—although if I get lonely I might find a nice Adult Emporium and find something that could fill—"
"—my time. See if I can find something close to you in size-although I don't think they sell 'em that-"
"-you'd better stop right there, Ed, or so help me, I'll—"
They were interrupted by a soft ahem from Sebastian. "Sir" Your brother is waiting. Your Excellency? Major Havoc is waiting to drive you and Colonel Hawkeye to the station. I'll be following and will check on you once you're aboard." He bowed to Edward and smiled. "I have taken the liberty of packing a very nice luncheon and dinner basket for the crew for today's flight. Have a safe journey, Master Edward, and we will meet you in Aerugo."
"Thanks." He shook his head as the butler headed downstairs to load the provisions aboard the airship. "Uh….listen…you got your Owner's Manual?"
Roy gestured towards his briefcase. "Yes. New entries?"
Ed flushed. "Yeah. I shot 'em in the bathroom mirror, so they might be-"
"In more ways than one."
"Mmm. I'll be interested in reading your…de-briefing. And yours has some I took with a tripod in the stable. On horseback."
Ed snortled with rude amusement but his cock twitched in sincere interest. "Kinky bastard." He touched the front of his flight jacket. "I have your letter."
Roy touched the breast pocket of his greatcoat. "I have your note. I'll see you in San Celestini after we cross the border into Aerugo. We'll rendezvous at the inn."
"Be safe. I'll see you no later than Thursday night," They kissed swiftly.
"See you there-and if I'm late wait for me, will you. It will be so good to hold you in the dark again…."
THE END…of HALF LIVES
"WHOLE LIVES" Is Only Beginning…..
TO BE CONTINUED….