Rating: PG-13? A little cursing, mentions of sex, otherwise as pure as the driven snow.
Spoilers: None. AU, anyway.
Disclaimer: I suppose I own the OC involved, though she's so oddly developed she barely counts. Apart from that I own zilch, and make no money from this.
Summary: A happy birthday present for heidi_mayer ^^ She said I couldn't write something she wouldn't like, which I pretty much took as a dare ;) Not, despite what people have said they expected, a threesome. Because I would die of embarrassment in the writing of that.
Notes: This is actually one of my favourite pieces of my own writing. Every now and then I write something I *am* proud of. It's still far from perfect - it needed to be longer, everything needed to develop in a more sensibly paced manner - but I'm happy with it, anyway. Made a change for me. Hopefully one day I'll write something else less samey =)
A white wedding, just like she'd always wanted, and of course he looked so handsome in his dress uniform. She threw the flowers to her sister, and he dabbed some cake onto her nose when they cut it, and the photos were really quite lovely. He was such a good dancer, and always so deferential, so old-fashioned in that way, and she was aware of jealous glances the whole time. Let them look, he had her ring on his finger now.
On their honeymoon she found one of their wedding invitations in his suitcase, which was odd; it had been torn to shreds and was wrapped in a piece of paper that said Choke on it in clumsy, jagged handwriting. She held it up and said wryly, "Ex girlfriend?" and Roy smiled at her over the newspaper, shook his head, said, "Something like that . . ."
Back home again he was busy, often - of course he was, he was an important man in the military - and his friends tended to fall silent when she came into the room. They ought to be able to trust her to discuss military matters in front of her, but she understood why they didn't, and it wasn't like it really mattered. She had very little interest in military affairs.
But . . .
But by the end of the year they talked less; Roy replied to her casually enough, but no longer initiated conversation. They were having sex less, and Roy still seemed unenthusiastic about trying for a baby, and he was . . . distracted?
She sat in the drawing room turning her wedding ring on her finger and picturing all the women she knew Roy worked with in her mind, trying to choose one. Probably someone as unlike her as possible, some blonde or redhead or black-haired woman, someone taller with fuller breasts and . . . but, no, there was no evidence of his being unfaithful. She'd been on the lookout for it since the engagement - she knew his history - but he never smelt of some other woman's perfume, there was never any make-up on his white shirts, there was no evidence at all. She was being paranoid.
Then the boy turned up.
She refused to think of him as anything other than a boy. "He's twenty, now." Roy said, when pressed, but this was a topic he really did put a wall around, couldn't be pressed into giving up.
He'd been nothing more than a boy when he'd been in Roy's command, and he looked like a boy standing there on their doorstep, sullen and scowling, long blond hair tied back and large, sharp yellow eyes like a wolf. He looked like a half-feral boy, that was all, and Roy's face was absolutely blank as he invited him into his study. She did some embroidery in the drawing room, and ignored the raised voice - until Roy's voice became louder to meet him, and then she did look up. She'd never known her husband to shout, never, and at the thump she nearly dropped her sewing.
Silence for a while, and then some more excited, snarling voices, and then more quiet . . . and then the boy stalked out, slamming the front door behind himself, but Roy didn't emerge.
When she went through to check on him, he'd poured himself a glass of Scotch and gave her a dry smile from his desk chair, running a hand back through his scuffed hair. "Fullmetal always was quite draining to deal with." he murmured, and she put her arms around him and kissed the top of his head.
In his desk drawer she found the same torn-up wedding invitation, but what was she meant to do about it? She shouldn't have been looking in his drawers anyway . . .
She found a long blonde hair caught in one of his uniform cuffs. His mouth looked almost bruised, one day, and he never touched her anymore, and she knew . . . but what could she do? Ask him who it was, which bleached-blonde tart he was willing to throw her away for and bruise himself over? Did he actually realise that she was still in love with him, always had been, did he still love her at all anymore?
And then he was in a foul mood, then he was completely silent, and there were no more blonde hairs, there were no more odd bruises on his body, he no longer showered first thing when getting in from work. She'd broken it off, clearly, whoever 'she' was. Smart girl.
Not that it meant she could reclaim her husband anymore, he was more distant than ever, perfectly polite and charming and apparently feeling no more for her than he felt for his bedside lamp. She was a necessity, an accessory. He wanted to be Fuhrer, he needed a wife, and here she was.
She talked about children and he actually flinched.
There was a month of this, of nothing, no physical unfaithfulness, no going to bed with her grinding her teeth, no constant awareness of someone else rubbed all over her territory - but no words, either, no sex, no physical contact of any kind. They might as well be living in identical but separate overlapping houses. And at the end of the month the boy was back. He stood there in the doorway, hands in pockets, face burning dark red, furious and trembling -
More raised voices from the study, the sound of something breaking, glass smashing off wood - and the bottom of her stomach panned out, but only a little. Really, it was hardly a surprise anymore . . .
She waited until there was quiet behind the door to open it, and the fact that they weren't even touching each other made no difference: she knew. Roy was sitting in his desk chair, head down, and by the looks of it the bottle of whisky he kept in there had been broken over the corner of his desk, leaking thick, bright glass and woody, earth-scented alcohol across the floorboards. The boy was sitting on the couch behind him, hands clenched tight at his knees, jaw held taut. His eyes, when they met hers, were full of fury and defeat and - surprisingly - no resentment whatsoever.
He stood up, ignored Roy completely, gave her a stiff bow and stalked out. Roy pushed off from the desk, called, "Ed, wait-" but the front door had already slammed. Roy nearly brushed past her but then paused, put his hands on her shoulders -
She pulled back and said curtly, "I don't know how you dare." And, holding herself tightly upright, walked silently upstairs to bed. She would not stamp, she would not slam doors, she would not scream. Roy could choose between them, between the two polar extremes of her calm and dignity and his half-domesticated wildness.
He already had; she heard the front door closing behind him.
After a week of arguments - she heard their every fight in the study, and knew they were arguing more outside the house, but Roy's lip was actually split one day and they must be doing something else entirely, out of her hearing. It alarmed her, the bruises and the threat behind them, the force of whatever hung between Roy and the boy - but she could see how it competed with her cool, quiet, background love, the absoluteness of those bruises, the all-or-nothing of them. They would devour each other and destroy each other. Men always do, of course, she thought, packing the wedding photos away in white tissue paper, mouth tight. Well. Roy could have a taste of his own medicine, for once, could see what it is to be destroyed.
"He's just a child." she murmured at the breakfast table, to the newspaper shield her husband was behind, somewhere. "Do you think it will last?"
"He hasn't been a child for over a decade." Roy said, and turned the page.
Finding the boy on their doorstep again was really pushing it, especially with a suitcase beside him.
"Got threw out my flat," he muttered, and she pursed her lips and thought, thrown out, you got thrown out of your flat, didn't you go to school? "His fucking fault I broke so much furniture."
They didn't resent one another, but neither did they trust one another. He had taken her husband from her, unintentionally but absolutely, and he didn't know her, was as skittish and dangerous as a young wolf faced with an unknown human face.
In a way, she was fascinated with him, and she knew it was mutual. For each of them, the other was Roy's other, of course they were fascinated. He was barely tame at all, this boy, dropped fuck like little grenades into every sentence, as casually as commas but as startling as bullets to her. And he tried, in front of her, she saw the awkward attempts at civilised conversation, saw him try to rearrange his grammar for her. They weighed each other up but not as rivals - they weren't competing or anything like it; they were both as helpless as each other, waiting for Roy to make his mind up.
When Roy came home he took a look at both of them sitting in the drawing room, staring at him silently and waiting. He fumbled his way to the armchair and sat down, a hand pressed over his eyes. "I need a drink to deal with this," he said quietly, and the boy exploded.
She'd never seen anything like it. It was like someone had dropped a match into a box of fireworks. She'd never heard so much cursing in her life, and it was like the world was being cut open and there was something so much more real and vital and solid behind the veil. What the fucking hell did he think his problem was, the shit, how did it compete with both of them unable to think about anything but the other's touch on him, did he have any fucking clue how deeply he'd cracked everyone's life through and ruined them? Did he think this was easy for them?
After about five minutes solid screaming the boy grabbed up his suitcase and choked, "Fuck it, Roy, fuck you - I'm going back home, I'll stay with Al and Winry, I can't do this, I can't and I fucking won't-"
Roy stood up, grabbed his arm - the suitcase hit the floor and he held the boy like he was trying to break him. She stood up, carefully, and looked at their tight scream of an embrace and waited for Roy to raise his head, to look her in the eye.
"You can consider the ultimatum delivered," she said calmly. "We all already know the answer anyway."
The boy shook his head against Roy's chest, but Roy closed his eyes, and his hands tightened further on his back.
The boy slept in the spare room. She slept in their marital bed. Roy slept on the sofa.
That was the boy's arrangement. Not under her roof, she knew he was thinking, knew he loathed what was happening, how complicated a situation that should have been so simple had become. Roy had no ammunition to argue back with and was exhausted anyway, she knew just from looking at him - but it was the boy who touched Roy's forehead, looking up at him and right in the eye, brushed his hair back and said, "Idiot." like it was an I love you.
She didn't even know how to touch him anymore. No-one had taught her how to show love like this, no-one had taught her to be so casual in her love. All she could do was watch, and twist her embroidery out of shape.
It was the most awkward breakfast she'd ever known. The boy ate steadily and glared at Roy, who drank his coffee and couldn't shield himself from both wife and lover with only one newspaper. She cut the top off her egg and said, "I shall be visiting the solicitor today for the divorce papers." and the boy looked up, toast hanging out of his mouth, and even Roy lowered the paper to look at her. "You can have the house."
The boy looked at Roy, toast swinging. "I really don't think I'll need it," Roy said meekly. "One of the rooms is decorated for a nursery, after all."
She could have sniped that he could keep his lover there, then, but she'd seen the fire-flicker behind the boy's eyes and she knew that the young wolf bit when people deserved to be bitten and didn't give a crap about not biting girls. Didn't give a crap. She'd never even thought that word before. He didn't give a fuck. If she attacked him then he'd fight back and he'd destroy her.
She was more than a little frightened of him, and knew she was probably right to be.
"Then we can sell it." she said calmly. "Half each. My settlement on top of that will be ample, of course."
"Of course," Roy murmured, and the boy almost grinned, and pushed the end of his toast into his mouth.
Divorce proceedings would take some time, and then there were the newspapers. Roy was still in the running for the office of Fuhrer, and this . . .
"You tell the truth or I'm leaving." the boy said, more calmly than she'd ever seen him before. "I'm fucking sick of it, Roy, all the lying and creeping around and all that crap. If someone asks you, you tell the truth or else it isn't the truth at all."
It was humiliating, but there were worse things. It wasn't her fault her husband had strayed, after all - she couldn't possibly offer what he really wanted. It could ruin his political career, still, but she sensed it wouldn't. It was something in the quiet dignity of the boy's statement, something in the level way they met each other's eye. Part of her longed for this affair of theirs to be sordid and sick, her husband and the boy who had once been under his command when, whatever Roy said, he'd been nothing more than a child - but they were undeniable, they were unashamed, they were proud; they were in love, and they weren't going to make any more excuses. People could smear if they liked - they were fearless as long as they were together, and she didn't envy the journalist who tried to face up to them.
For three days, they held off - Roy slept on the sofa, the boy slept in the spare room, and she sat up in bed listening, listening, listening. On the fourth day - the fourth night - she heard them talking in low voices downstairs, and she hadn't heard Roy use that voice for . . . so long, now, and it reminded her . . .
She still loved him. She couldn't help it. And the boy loved him too, she saw the helpless way he stared at him, how powerless he was against Roy, but that didn't mean she could bear hearing them . . .
Two sets of feet on the stairs - the boy had an odd tread, almost a limp but not - and the door to the spare bedroom opened, closed. She sat still in her bed, every muscle tight, waiting . . .
After ten minutes she decided she needed to use the bathroom. She couldn't help hearing them, if she was just going to the bathroom. It wasn't eavesdropping, she was just . . .
Nothing to hear, she thought at first, and then she heard the boy's gentle laughter, and, "Go to sleep, bastard."
Every time she wanted them to be base and squalid they were as innocent and affectionate as children. She loathed her husband. Why couldn't he be a sex-addicted pervert like she wanted him to be? And the boy . . .
It was difficult to hate the boy. Just like her, he couldn't help being in love with Roy. Roy, that bastard, she thought, as practise. She was getting better at it. One day maybe she could curse him as wildly well as the boy did.
For two more nights that was the new arrangement, and she gripped her pillow tightly and stared into the darkness and listened. She woke, in the middle of the third night, to a sound . . . like someone being very rhythmically murdered. She crammed the pillow over her ears and closed her eyes hard and tried not to imagine - who was doing what to -
At breakfast the next morning the boy kept his head down and Roy sat, shrunk, behind the newspaper. The boy looked miserable. He'd genuinely not meant to do that, not to let that happen while she was here, she knew, but she also knew how very persuasive Roy could be, how completely irresistible he was.
"I'm moving to a hotel before I go back home," she said, and they both looked up. "I've put the house on the market."
The boy played with his coffee cup, and Roy glanced at him, then at her.
"I hope you choke on it." she said casually, and took a sip of tea.
"Sorry," the boy said.
She smoothed her scarf, looked down at him - he might be twenty but he was barely tall enough to pass for a teenager - and he stood there in the hall, and she was in the doorway now, suitcases around her as she waited for the taxi.
"I didn't-" He shrugged, looked to the side. "Didn't mean to ever look at the bastard again after he went and got married, I told him that then, but . . . but I couldn't, I couldn't stay away from him, and I'm sorry. I am." He raised his head again, looked her in the eye. "I'm not sorry I love him. I'm not sorry I have him now. But I'm sorry you got caught up in everything. You didn't deserve that."
She considered him, this wolf-boy who was the proudest, strangest creature she'd ever met, who had brought her husband to heel and claimed him, and taught her to find the hawk inside herself.
"No," she said, tugging her gloves on. "I didn't. Still, good luck with him. I imagine you can take him in hand."
The boy gave the edge of a grin - all teeth - and said, "Yeah, I'll manage."
"Tell him -"
She paused. The boy waited, willing to be patient.
"Tell him to fuck off and die," she said, and she saw the untamed delight in his eyes, and she picked up her suitcase.
She went to a bar. She didn't see why she shouldn't. It wasn't really proper for a married woman - it wasn't really proper for a divorced woman either, but why not, really? She ordered a gin and tonic, lit a cigarette, and sat on a bar stool listening to the jazz, looking at the people . . .
There was a blond man further down the bar, with a hangdog expression and a cigarette dangling low in his mouth, gazing dully into his drink. She recognised him from her husband's - her ex-husband's - command; John? Jean, she remembered. He'd been sweet, overeager to please, funny without meaning to be - everything Roy had never been. She tilted her head at him, considered him through the cigarette smoke - nothing like Roy's charm and grace and movie-star good looks, but he'd made her laugh . . .
She slipped from her stool and walked around the bar, sitting next to him. He looked up and she raised an eyebrow to him, and said, "Buy me a drink and I'll listen to your woes, if you'll hear mine."
Why not, really?