Title - Sadness Held at Bay
Author- D M Evans
Disclaimer- Arakawa owns all, I'm just playing with her toys
Characters- Chris, Grumman, a few unruly boys and a surprise
Timeline/Spoilers- set in Roy's childhood, no spoilers unless you don't know who Chris Mustang is.
Word Count- 2,756
Warning- a touch angsty, a touch silly, historical naughtiness
Summary- Chris can't believe it's been a year since her brother died.
Author's Note- Written for Bob_fish's birthday. I hope you enjoy your drabble…it took steroids along the way…
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Chris could hardly believe that it was a full year since her brother and his wife had been murdered, leaving her with a precocious boy who got into just about everything. Sipping at her tea, flavored with just the right amount of whiskey in it, she thought about those early days. She had been so close to trying to find a home for her nephew. She was an information broker, hiding her many sources for intelligence gathering with bars, dance halls, florists and a few establishments a little too naughty to mention in polite conversation. She knew nothing about kids and her life was dangerous. Chris always assumed she'd be the one murdered, not her brother.
In the end, losing her brother hurt so much that she couldn't just give away his son. She bought a hotel, a decent place. It's where Roy thought she worked and some times she did. It turned out to be a better cover and information gathering point than she had planned on. She even bought a house with the money General Armstrong had given her for the last job, a big place so she could move in a few of the more promising girls as well. Chris felt so respectable. Granted, she had never been as low as some of her cover stories, but she never planned on raising a family and being part of the community.
At least she had some help with Roy. The poor thing had such terrible nightmares. He had been the one to find his parents. He wanted them back, as any child would. The first thing she did was bring in Silverbeard. She wasn't sure what the ancient alchemist's real name was. That was all anyone called him for his signature look. He looked after Roy to be sure the boy didn't get into alchemy he shouldn't. Silverbeard had already informed her that Roy would need a better teacher down the road. Chris was already looking. And of course, her girls adored Roy and babysat him without much complaining. But the real help was the son of the detective looking into the murders, still unsolved as far as the police were concerned. The bubbly boy helped draw Roy out of his shell and turned him into a right brat, though she remembered the brattiness from when his parents were still alive.
She could hear them upstairs now, arguing loudly. Roy wanted to try and transmute something. The Hughes boy was having none of it. Well, he had stumbled in today with glasses repaired over the nose piece with tape. How could he have missed Roy's current need to fix everything. Sometimes he even got it right. Silverbeard needed to do a little more work with him. The fighting faded, relieving her of the need to abandon her tea and the newest scary book she had purchased to go settle them down. Chris couldn't help it. She just loved scary books and movies and it wasn't often she had a day off to just relax and enjoy it.
Of course, plans never usually work out the way they're expected to. Chris was reminded of that by a loud knock at the door. It took her a moment to recognize who was stood on the other side of the threshold. Most of her clients came in disguise. Next to none of them knew where she lived and only one of them loved to play dress up. She suspected Grumman just like shaving his legs and wearing silk stockings. Even so, he was a damn ugly woman.
"Can I help you?" she asked for the benefit of nosy neighbors.
"I was hoping to talk to the lady of the house about donating some of her time to do good works at the homeless shelter," Grumman said in an alarming falsetto.
She waved him in and shut the door. Chris hoped Roy and Maes would just stay upstairs. She'd have to hurry Grumman along. Roy and Maes were both perceptive and full of questions. She didn't feel like explaining transvestites just yet. He moved more competently in his heels than some of her girls, but his tastes in dresses were terrifying. Flowers that big should never be on fabric at any time for any reason. "Charity?"
"It sounded reasonable at the time. How have you been, madam?" Grumman sat down.
"I'm fine." She waved a hand to the tea service. "Would you like some?"
"Yes, please, with a little of your special additive." He pointed to the flask of whiskey. "And your son?" Grumman looked at the ceiling. It sounded like the boys had brought a mule team into the house and taught them to tap dance.
"How two boys can make so much noise is a complete mystery to me, but he's doing pretty well. He misses his parents and I'm a poor substitute."
"I doubt that very much, madam. I'm sure you are doing fine by him." Grumman waved her off.
She poured his tea. "I hope so." Handing him the cup, she eyed his makeup job. It wasn't bad. "I'm assuming this isn't a social call."
"It is and it isn't." He sipped the tea, leaving a plum lipstick stain on the rim. "I did want to see how you were doing. I know it's been a year since you lost your brother but I also came because I have a job for you."
"What sort of job?" Chris couldn't help herself. She had told herself she would quit, do something less risky and raise Roy right. She tried for about two months when he first came to live with her. They both needed that time to mourn, but soon she was bored and ready to get back into the game.
"Luckily, this will be a fairly easy job. Have you ever heard of the Aurora of the Philosophers?"
"Can't say that I have. What is it?"
"Let's just say, a rather dangerous alchemical text that's been banned. I'm here on the behalf of someone who might have had his copy stolen," Grumman said, taking off his pearl clip ons and rubbing his reddened earlobes.
By someone she assumed he meant his son-in-law. "And this would involve my services how?"
"I believe it was procured by a few generals here for some of their alchemists to look at. I want to see if your sources can track it down. I can handle getting someone in retrieve it. It should be right here in Central," Grumman said. "The pay might be a little less, but we can negotiate on that. When he's a tad older, I might be able help you find an alchemist to take on your nephew."
Translation, my son-in-law is poor, but I can manipulate him to your benefit. Chris would have to check the man out. "All right, tell me more about the book and I'll look into it."
Over tea and cookies, Chris listened to the minute details about a moldy old book that could create something called a philosopher's stone, whatever that was. She wrote down nothing. In her profession, that could get one lined up for execution as a traitor if she got caught. Roy could remember all the science in those books he read – she'd have to be sure he never saw the Aurora of the Philosophers - while she could remember names, dates and details. It was a handy skill.
Just as she was escorting him back out, earrings firmly reclamped to his ears, another knock at the door sounded. Chris glanced at Grumman. "What a busy day."
"Aren't you lucky?"
Chris opened the door, shocked to see a tall, lanky man standing there. He seemed vaguely nervous, but she remembered having that affect on him in the past. In reality, Detective Hughes only lived a few blocks away, but their lives were worlds apart. Too bad really, since he was cute, but it would never work. He was the man assigned to work on her brother's murder so there were all those bad memories surrounding him. Also, he was disgustingly in love with his wife.
"Detective Hughes, this is a surprise. Has there been any news?"
His eyes flicked to Grumman staring intently as he tried to work out what was wrong with what he was seeing, besides the hideous dress. "No, I'm sorry to say. It's been a year and I …" His cheek flushed a bit. "I just wanted to see how you were doing. I know Maes is always over here playing so I know your nephew is recovering pretty well, but I thought I should stop in and check up on everyone. I know I should have probably called first."
"No, that's fine. Come on in, Detective. I was just having tea with Greta, but she's about to go on her way. Your son is upstairs."
As if on cue, Chris heard the boys running.
"I double dog dare you," Maes cried.
"I said that first."
"Your house, you go first. I'll go second."
"Okay, I'll do it."
Chris looked up in time to see Maes standing at the head of the staircase – was that a bra on his head? – while Roy straddled the banister. She didn't get out the 'don't you dare' before Roy slid down. How couldn't he have predicted that he wouldn't be able to stop himself before slamming, legs apart, into the newel post, she'd never know. At least his rump took most of the damage, but still Roy spilled off it onto the steps. Maes pelted down them, laughing. Chris took a few steps to go check on Roy, but Hughes stopped her.
"He'll be fine. Boys never learn easy." He grinned at her.
"Isn't that the truth?" 'Greta said, rolling her eyes.
"Son, why are you wearing a bra like a pair of ear muffs?"
Maes shoved his taped together glasses up his long nose, obviously shocked to see his dad there. "Roy dared me."
"And why were you two in my room?" Chris did finally pick Roy up off the steps. He seemed unsure if he was all right or if he should be crying.
"Weren't," Roy said. "We were in Chelsea's."
"She'll kill you," Chris reminded them, then turned to her guests. "She's a young lady who's boarding here."
"Maes, do behave yourself or I'll take you home with me right now," Hughes said and his son pouted.
"Since no harm's done, I'll just let myself out. I'll give you a call soon, Chris."
"Of course, Greta." Chris watched Grumman leave. The boys went back upstairs, albeit Roy minced up them. She escorted Hughes into the sitting room. She swept the flask up into her pocket, hoping he didn't see it. Chris suspected Hughes was watching her ass like so many men before him. "Can I get you something, Detective?"
"No, ma'am, I'm fine." He sat down in one of the chairs. "I shouldn't be here too long. I just wanted to see how you were doing, if you were making it okay."
"Having a boy around has aged me ten years I think." She smiled. "But we've adjusted. Roy seems to like it here and he loves playing with your son. Maes has been a huge help, I think. He keeps Roy too busy to be sad."
"I'm glad one of the Hugheses is accomplishing something. I have no real leads on your brother and sister in-law's killer. I wish I could be more helpful. There were just so few clues to go on."
Chris nodded dutifully. She had found her own clues and made sure no one else could. Her brother's murderer was already dead thanks to her contacts, but she could hardly tell Hughes that. She felt a little guilty about that in some ways. He seemed so earnest and upset over his failure.
She got him talking about other things, effortlessly distracting him from his own pain even though he had come to do the same for her. Hughes was a talker and an hour frittered away before he realized the time.
"I should get going. If you ever need anything, Miss Mustang, you can always call me or my wife," he said, getting up.
"Thank you and call me Chris."
He smiled at her then glanced at the doorway. "Do you mind if I use your rest room?"
"Not at all, it's through there, last door on the left."
Hughes wasn't gone a moment when the boys reappeared, Roy chasing Maes. Maes was yelling for his 'troops' while Roy kept making a peculiar noise as he 'shot' his friend with a metal white and green 'gun.' Chris's mouth dropped, seeing the electrical cord wrapped around the handle. She raced over and grabbed Chelsea's vibrator out of Roy's hands.
"Aw, auntie, that was my space gun!" He protested.
"And you got it from Chelsea's room," she said. She would have to talk to her boarder about hiding her toys better. "You know you're not supposed to be in there. We just had this conversation an hour ago."
"But she has neat stuff. Can I have my space gun back?" Roy held out his hand.
She looked down at the vibrator. Well, it was vaguely gun shaped. "Space gun? Why a space gun?"
"Because Captain Johnny Graeme has one," Roy said and she remembered Captain Graeme and the Space Patrol was Roy's favorite radio show.
"It's really cool," Maes added.
"I'm sure. No more space gun." Chris made a note to go see if the general store had anything that could pass as a 'space gun.'
Hearing footsteps in the hall, she jammed the vibrator behind the cushions on the couch. That's all she needed the detective to see. If he thought she were a loose woman, he might have Roy taken away or at least forbid his son to come play at her house. Roy would be devastated.
"Ah, Maes, good. We should be getting home. Your mom wanted to have an early dinner today because she wants us all to go hear the music in the park tonight," Hughes said.
"Aw, but we were playing space patrol."
Hughes ruffled his son's hair. "You can keep us safe from aliens tomorrow."
"Auntie, can we go hear the music, too?" Roy asked.
"If you want to, sure, but you have to promise me and Mr. Hughes you two will sit and behave and not run around all night," Chris said.
"I'll try," her nephew replied without enthusiasm.
"Close enough. I guess we'll see you there, Mr. Hughes. Thank you for stopping by. I do appreciate it."
"Just wish I had more news. Say goodbye, Maes."
"Bye, Miss Mustang," Maes said and she walked them to the door.
Chris put the vibrator back in Chelsea's room before returning back downstairs to find Roy nose down in her scary book. She plucked that from his hand, too, and he gave her a very put-upon sigh. "That's too old for you."
"Nuh-uh, I understand the words."
She sat next to him and Roy leaned against her shoulder. "That's not what I mean. Some things are only for adults. This book will give you nightmares."
"Then why are you reading it?"
Chris shrugged. "I guess sometimes it's fun to be scared, but only when you're older."
She tipped his chin up, looking him in the eye. "Are you happy, Roy?"
"Yeah, it's fun here." His dark eyes narrowed. "I miss Mom and Dad, though."
Chris hugged him tight. "I know you do, baby. I do, too." She held him until he got squirmy. "You can play for while then we'll get ready. I'll take you to the Gilded Lily for dinner before we go to hear the music."
"Okay." Roy popped up and headed back upstairs.
She watched him go, feeling suddenly so sad. He could be such a brave little boy. Brushing away her negative thoughts, Chris considered her day. She still had a wonderful nephew who got into everything, a young detective who actually cared about the victims and now a new job to keep her busy. She could go listen to the music and be content for the moment. With that in mind, Chris took the tea set into the kitchen. A quick wash and she'd go get ready for dinner. Her brother was gone but his legacy lived on and it was her goal to make his life as happy as it could be.
Author's Note – The Aurora of the Philosophers is real and written by Paracelsus, another of Von Hohenheim's names.