By BinaryTales (akaThe Binary Alchemist)
LOS ANGELES, 1994—NOVEMBER 20th
"Where the fuck are you? Answer the phone, Shithead!"
"AL! It's me. Any news? No, goddamn it—that's why I called you! Look, put that daughter of yours on the phone—no, I mean Trisha. Jesus! She and Hughes are so good at tracking down that smirking son of a—no, I will NOT calm down…Teddy! What took you so damn long to get to the phone? Yeah, it's Mustang. Bastard took out of here like a cat with its ass on fire and he's been gone for three whole motherfuckin' days! I swear to God if he's not dead I'll kill him myself with my bare hands!"
"SHESKA! Any word? Yeah, I've called. And paged. And done everything but hire the Psychic Friends Network! Yeah, but the cops told me I had to wait at least—waitaminute! MUSTANG? Is that you? WHERE THE FUC—"Click…brrrzzzzzz…..
"You ready to talk?"
Roy glanced up wearily from his brandy. "You ready to stop breaking furniture?"
Ed shrugged sheepishly. "Hated that chair for years. Springs poking me in the ass all the time. And that coffee table—swear the damn thing moved on its own, just to trip me up."
"Whatever." Damn. Mustang was in bad shape if he failed to latch on to an opening like that. Since his rebirth on Earth, Roy had lost none of his rapier wit and sarcasm, but Ed observied that getting his ego tasered on a daily basis only added spice to the volatile cocktail of sex and spite and offhand tenderness that kept them together all these years.
"So…how long are we talkin', Shithead?" Mustang hesitated. Edward shook his head firmly. "The truth. How much time does she have left, near as they can figure?"
"Could be six months. Could be a year. Could be tomorrow.. It's just…" he gestured helplessly, struggling to find a way to tell the love of his life that, after all these years, he was moving back to Japan.
"It's just that you're all she has," Ed finished quietly. "Right. When do we leave?"
Ed tipped another splash of Napoleon brandy into his lover's glass. "When do we leave?"
"Edward…you…you can't. I mean…your work—and Al's here, and Winry and their kids—"
"—who are all potty trained and have learned not to pick their noses in public, thanks to me—"
"—and the Elric Foundation—"
"—with my brother at the helm? They'll be glad to see the back of me. I'm the one always getting arrested for civil disobedience, although I have to say some of the most intriguing people I met in the Sixties were the ones I got tear gassed with, and while I was unofficially declared the Whitest Person Ever to march with Dr. King nobody really minded too much—"
"Enough with the name dropping, Ed—"
"—and I'll always miss running into John and Yoko in the elevator when I lived in the Dakota for awhile—"
"—and did I tell you I got on Nixon's Enemies List? He wanted to deport me, but Henry Kissinger told him"
"—EDWARD! Will you shut the hell up? This is about me, not you!"
"Actually," his lover reached over and took Roy's hand, "it's about a very special woman who means a great deal to me—and what we can do to make her last days peaceful. And-oh…hey…don't….awwww, come here, Shithead…"
Small as his lover was, Ed's shoulders could bear the weight of the world, Roy admitted, burying his face into Edward's shoulder and breaking down for the first time since he'd learned not only of his mother's deteriorating condition, but of her determination to have her ashes laid in the Miyazaki family crypt, alongside her mother, her brother, one of her sisters—and the grandfather who had disowned Hikari at the age to twenty two when she confessed to her parents that she was bearing the bastard love child of an ex-patriot RAF colonel named William "Roy" Rogers.
Colonel Rogers, nicknamed "Colonel Mustang" had been nearly fifty, with a wife and five children back in Blackpool, England. Hikari never knew about the wife—never cared about the differences in age. Her Colonel was a dashing adventurer, full of songs and tales of near-hair's-breadth escapes—treking in Nepal, hunting relics in Mayan ruins, running guns and liquor and medical supplies duing the war—and his blessed ability to make her laugh until her sides ached. He drew the shy young nurse out of her shell, taught her to dance, to play, to embrace each day with wonder—and before he slammed his P-38 Mustang into the side of a mountain he had given her his child, a handsome half-gaijin child who was denied the family name. Rebelliously, Hikari had christened her only son Taisa—Colonel, in Japanese—Roy Mustang, since she couldn't name him Rogers either.
The stigma of rearing a half-white illegitimate child would have been crushing to anyone. Hikari bore it with characteristic grace and quiet pride in her son, whom she loved dearly. Luckily, Colonel Roger's youngest brother, Simon, had taken a personal interest in the young woman and had stepped in as a loving surrogate father. He'd found work in London for Hikari at a children's hospital and had mentored his nephew right up until young Taisa had accepted a scholarship at The University of California at Berkeley. It was there he fell in with Mayland Alexander Hughes and Tricia "Teddy" Elric, who introduced him to her Uncle Edward—who proved to the love of his life, and the biggest pain in the ass he'd ever met. Short, feisty, opinionated, stubborn and abrupt—well, rude—at times, with a vocabulary that was richly profane, Edward Elric also possessed a heart of uncommon depth, profound compassion, fierce loyalty to his loved ones and such an obsessive sense of justice that all he lacked was a white horse to gallop on in his endless crusades to "put the greedy assholes, war mongers and opportunistic sons of bitches in their places".
They squabbled. They yelled. They cursed. They argued endlessly.
They also loved each other to the point of obession, and couldn't keep their hands off one another in private. Edward and Taisa would gladly die for one another—if they didn't kill each other first.
So-if Roy was moving to Japan, then Ed would pull up stakes and move with him.
If Roy was going to nurse his dying mother, Ed would clean bedpans, push wheelchairs, wash clothes, rub lotion into her hands and feet, carry her on his back, cook her meals and, when the time came, by god,. he'd get her ashes into the Miyazaki family plot if he had to sneak over the wall and do it in the middle of the goddamned night.
He would do it for spite—because he hated the way old Takahiro had treated the gentle lady who had treated him as nothing less than her own son. He would do it because it was time to get out of the US—before more people attempted to reconcile his great age and his uncanny youthful appearance. Most people thought he was just an 'old vain bugger who had a dozen face lifts'. If they knew the real reason, or his origin, for that matter, he'd be sliced and diced and shoved under a microscope—or worse—and so would Al and his children. No—it was a good time to leave the States as ever.
But mostly, he would do it for Roy—because it would be so hard to keep living with only half a heart.
"So…" he repeated for the third time, "when are we leaving?"
TOYKO, DECEMBER 1994…
"You've heard of Feng Shui? I call this Fuck Shui."
"This…ohhhhgoooodddd….hnnngggghh! Do…we have to do….t-th CHRIST! Don't stop!...wha…what about…the closets?"
Edward could barely answer for groaning.
The kitchen, including the tiny pantry. The bedrooms—all of them. The tiny foyer where shoes are left, that was where they'd left their shoes as well as their shirts, their trousers, their boxers and their spare bottle of AstroGlide. Leave it to Teddy and Hughes to make that bad joke about the two of them needing to christen the apartment with positive chi. "You boys need to fuck in every room," quoth Mayland Alexander Hughes. Teddy agreed, giggling at his suggestion. "Fill it up with love and chase away the evil spirits—only for goddess' sake, Roy, don't tell your mom. She'd be scared to touch the doorknobs."
The apartment had been quite a find, actually. It was in a modern high-rise that catered towards gaijin business travelers who stayed for long periods of time. The units were larger and roomier than most and the top floor had two penthouse suites, one of which was up for grabs. Roy argued that it would cost a fortune. Ed told him to shut the hell up. "Mustang, my brother and I haven't been hurting for money since the Space Race in the 1950's. Besides, this would be a good place to set up operations. We're going to be here for awhile, so damn it, we might as well be comfortable. She's your mom—that makes her mine by default, and she's going to have the best."
The place had been furnished, so all they needed were a few homey touches, a few handicap rails for Hikari…and a little house blessing. Being a proper Buddhist, Hikari had been comforted that her son—sons, since she insisted that Edward call her Mom—would have priests come to bless the house at her arrival. Roy had erected a pretty shrine to Kannon in Hikari's bedroom, complete with a lovely statue of her Chinese form, Kwan Yin, surrounded with potted plants, a little Feng Shui fountain and vases that would hold Hikari's beloved peonies, which Ed declared she should have in abundance. Now, all that was left to do was to bless it themselves before the priests arrived in the morning…
They ended up in the bathroom, and after a playful 'soap me and grope me' under the shower spray they had relaxed in the steaming tub with Edward on his lover's lap, arms and legs wound around one another, eyes blissfully closed as they let the delicious warmth work its magic on their tired bodies.
After awhile, Ed felt his lover shudder and sigh, only this time it wasn't from bliss. "Taisa," Ed murmured softly in his lover's ear, "it's gonna be okay. You'll see. She won't want for anything, I swear."
"I know. I just can't believe you'd do this for her."
"There's nothing I wouldn't do for you. Now shut up and fuck me."
And so they brought Hikari home, and if there had been a moment's hesitation over taking on this responsibility Edward never gave the slightest hint of it. Instead, he treated Hikari like a queen, plundering the florist shops daily so that she could revel in fresh flowers and greenery. He read to her by the hour, pushed her wheelchair, waited on her patiently, and with help from the hospital located an wonderful woman to cook and keep house for them named Ai Watanabe, whom Edward recognized the moment the were introduced at the staffing office. He nearly bit his tongue off to keep from calling her by the name he had known her by on the other side of the Gateway…So, Ran Fan—at least you got your other arm back. Did you find your Crown Prince too? The former Imperial bodyguard was as fiercely loyal as she had ever been, and Ed decided that when Hikari passed on he was definitely inviting Ai-San to stay as part of their household.
As for his lover, Roy spent nearly every waking minute by his mother's side, which comforted her to no end. He and Edward traded shifts throughout the night watching over her until Teddy and Hughes flew in and Teddy began spending her nights on a cot in Hikari's room. "Oh, such a fuss!" Hikari would protest when Teddy fixed the older woman her favorite miso soup with tofu or onigiri rice balls. "There is simply no need for all this. Taisa, my son—your family has gone too far—"
"We haven't gone far enough!" Al's youngest laughed, kissing Roy's mother affectionately on the cheek before lighting a small joss stick before the goddess shrine. "Don't you know what it means to Taisa to have you here? Besides, you're about the only person that brings out Uncle Edward's gentle side. Most people say he's an insensitive jerk"
"My Edo-kun is a most loving son, and he has made my Taisa-kun very happy," Hikari stated proudly. "And anyone who speaks badly about my sons will have to answer to this old lady. If nothing else, a cane can make quite an impression when swung with conviction!"
"See why I love her?" Ed chuckled from the doorway, his arm around his lover's waist. "Between Hikari-san and her cane and your mom Winry and her wrenches, I'd say this family is well defended by its womenfolk."
It was the happiest two weeks of Hikari's life, which ended quietly on Christmas morning after the presents were all opened around the tiny tabletop tree they had set up in Hikari's room. She had been too weary to sit up so they gathered around her bed to keep her company.
Edward had wrapped her up in one of her presents, a gorgeous Korean 'mink' blanket covered with a filigree of pink peonies, and the older woman had nestled into its plush folds and sighed contentedly. After a moment, she closed her eyes wearily before surprising Edward with an unheard of request. "Edo-kun? Your niece says you have a wonderful voice. I want you to sing for me."
Ed looked flabbergasted. "Me? Hell's bells, Mom—you're kidding, right?"
Hikari coughed raggedly and shook her head. "I want you to sing for me. Sing a carol. Teddy-chan will play something and you will sing."
Ed glanced awkwardly at his niece, who darted out and returned with her Ovation six string. He took a gulp of coffee, swallowed nervously and then fixed his eyes on the floor. "I learned this from my…friend…in Germany…
Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht,
Alles schläft; einsam wacht
Nur das traute hochheilige Paar.
Holder Knabe im lockigen Haar,
Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh…
"Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh…"
His light, warm baritone faded off into a silence that stretched into minutes. Anxiously, he glanced up, only to see his lover laying a last kiss on Hikari's brow. Her face was radiant, unmarked by any terror of the Gateway, as if the gracious bodhisattva she had worshipped all her days had embraced her at the last and escorted her to the Pure Land as she had hoped since her diagnosis.
Japanese funerals were exhausting. When Winry lost her mother Sarah and grandmother Pinako, there had been a visitation evening, a graveside service, a quiet meal back at the house and a fridge full of casseroles so the Rockbells wouldn't have to cook for a week. This, in contrast, was theater. Sitting up with Hikari the first night was Taisa's duty as her only son—however Ed, Teddy and even Hughes kept the vigil with him. The next day was the Otsuya, the wake where friends and family gathered to honor Hikari, offer incense to her soul, give special gifts of cash to Taisa in envelopes tied with black and white threads…and get righteously drunk—a custom Mays could appreciate. Normally held the evening of the death, it was delayed one day since it was considered not appropriate to hold an Otsuya on the day of Christ's birth, out of respect for the Christian bodhisattva.
Day two was another, more formal Otsuya, complete with gold-clad priests chanting sutras and ringing bells, speeches and the reading of greetings from those who could not be there from other parts of the world, followed by a massive binge of feasting and boozing that lasted until after midnight.
The final day was the day of Oshoushiki—the funeral itself, which Hikari's coffin, swathed in gold embroidered silk and half buried under white chrysanthemums, was prayed over and praised for nearly an hour. Then the crowd was ushered out, the silk rolled back and the coffin opened one last time. To everyone's surprise, two elderly ladies came forward, bearing white peonies. They were Hikari's surviving sisters, Reiko and Midori Miyazaki, disobeying their dead father's decree that Hikari was as good as dead the day she became pregnant by a white man. Ed was ready to blast them—but Taisa gestured him to be silent. Instead, he greeted them with grave politeness, thanking them for coming to honor their youngest sister. Stepping back, he allowed Reiko and Midori to lay flowers on their sister's body, and when the time came for the ritual nailing shut of the coffin he encouraged them to participate. Afterwards, he embraced them both and thanked them, and stunned Edward by inviting them to the crematorium for the Katsouba, the sealing of Hikari's earthly remains within the urn that would be her final resting place.
Edward found Hughes on his knees in the men's room, vomiting loudly into the toilet. About two hours after they had arrived at the crematorium the little circle of family and friends were ushered into room where, they were informed, the 'cremains' would be shortly brought in for the final ceremony. Hughes, having heard the details of the rite from Mustang, had swiftly excused himself and puked up every bite of the excellent luncheon they'd been provided with on the site. "You pussy," Ed snapped, hauling Hughes to his feet. "Look, I don't wanna do this any more than you do—and fuck knows Taisa doesn't want this—but Hikari wanted us to be there and by god you are not chickening out, damn it!"
When the time came, Ed was swallowing hard against a rising tide of bile in his throat. It's just a pile of bones and ashes. This is not Mom…this is not Hikari…god, how can Roy just...how can he stand it? It was nauseatingly close to seeing the pulsing, quivering heap of organs and raw meat that he and Al had transmuted that horrible night in Resembool.
After the staff members had helpfully removed half-melted coffin nails with a hand held magnet, bits of Taisa's mother were divided into upper, middle and lower body bones. A set chopsticks was passed out to each person. Starting with Reiko and Midori, the bones were pick up and passed from person to person until they reached Taisa. Together, he and Edward placed each fragment and chunk into a lovely stoneware urn graced with Hikari's favorite flowers. A staff member drew out a pestle and ground the bones—Teddy and Hughes couldn't watch and Teddy was fighting off the urge to gag—before Taisa and Edward placed the final bones of the skull inside the urn, which was then sealed, wrapped in silk and handed over along with the official certificate of death.
As soon as could be decently managed, Teddy, Hughes and Edward all raced towards the restrooms, staggering out some time later, their faces sweaty and varying shades of green.
"Now…this is going to be the tough part," Taisa addressed them all over beer and bentos back at the funeral parlor where Hikari's urn would rest one more evening. "Mom wants at least a part of her ashes in the tomb with Grandmother and the rest of the family. Auntie Midori—Auntie Reiko—I know that this is forbidden…but this is what my mother wants. Do you know any way this could be done?"
The two old ladies exchanged worried glances. "Taisa-kun, I don't know how it could be managed. It is stipulated in Father's will that she will never lie in our family tomb—but Mother was deeply grieved by this."
Reiko nodded. "Your grandfather was very fierce tempered. She was afraid to go against him. But as he is no longer with us…I would not think it a bad thing, only I don't know how this might be managed without permission—and our brother Tetsuya would never permit it. He holds the deed to the cemetery plot."
"It is not as if one might slip into the cemetery in the middle of the night and slip a portion of her ashes inside…" Midori began to smile a little. "But it would require a bit of planning, yes?"
Taisa looked at Ed. Ed glanced at Hughes. Hughes winked at Teddy, who clasped the hands of the two guests.
"Well…" Ed began to grin devilishly. "if I understand the customs in some parts of Japan, we have 49 days before the final memorial service, right? That's when they'd be expecting us to start raising hell and raining lawyers down on them. So instead…I suggest we do a little recon in Kokura…and see if we can't arrange a little…family reunion…."
JANUARY 12, KOKURA, JAPAN
"DUN-dun,DA DA DUN-dun—
DA DA DUN-dun, BA DA DUN-dun—ba-dah
Deeedle-oooh, DEEEDLE-oooh, Deeedle-oooh
"HUGHES! If you don't quit humming that damned "Mission Impossible" theme you're going to wind up digging your glasses out of your rectum—along with your empty HEAD!" Edward growled menacingly.
"I'm quaking in my loafers, Ed-Hey Roy! Wanna know what the difference is between like and love? People who like you will help you move-"
"And people who love you will help you move bodies. You're an anal excruciation, Mays, so if you can't say something constructive, just shut the hell up."
"Yeah, Teddy. Tell your idiot boyfriend to zip it!"
Grinning slyly, Mayland Alexander Hughes leaned back in his chair, arms behind his head and smirked knowingly at Mustang. "Hey, I was your idiot boyfriend once upon a time—before you started playin' hoochie coochie grab-ass with the Tin Man…"
"Someone's bitching, Lord, Kumbaya," Teddy began to chant solemnly. "Someone's bitching, Lord-and-I-won't-stop-singing-until-they-quit-KUMBAYAAAAAA…Ed-and-Roy-and-Hughes are bitching, Lorrrrrd—"
"ENOUGH!" Roy's nerves had been stretched taut for the past few weeks. Every time he even thought about what they were about to do—god, it scared him half to death. They could be arrested. They could get shot. They—hell, just how much did his uncle Tetsuya hate him, anyway? Grandfath—no—Takahiro Miyazaki—whom Roy irreverently referred to as Old Iron Ass had disposed of his precious youngest child as if she were a swatch of used bum-wipe, and while he didn't give a rip-roaring rat's ass what the old fart had thought about him, he'd be good and goddamned if he'd let Takahiro or Uncle Tetsuya keep Hikari from resting beside her beloved mother.
"All right. Are we all agreed on this? Hughes, you can still back out—"
"Hell, Cowboy," Hughes guffawed, "this is gonna be fun."
Ed lifted an eyebrow and nodded to his lover. "Told you he was a pervert."
The 100 yen coin rolled under the table. Hughes crawled after it, diving under the tablecloth and pausing to lick Teddy behind the knee, making her squeal and jump. She stared down in surprise as a hand poked out from between her thighs, brandishing a coin, cherry blossom side up. "Damn." She shook her head. "Look, I can do this easier than you can. I can fake it—"
"Right, toots. Which means I need to make it believable. So if I pass out, I want mouth-to-mouth resuscitation—and," he added wickedly, "you can start with my cock and work your way up. Figure if you give me a blowjob and I don't get hard, call the coroner instead of the paramedics, 'kay?"
"You DID say this shit will wash out, right?"
"How fuckin' long, Mustang?"
"How the hell would I know? What did it say on the package?"
Edward paled. "I….uhhh….shit."
"Did you even look the directions?"
His lover shot him a poisonous glare and jammed his long black hair under the workman's cap. "Goddamn it, Roy—I'm a rocket scientist. I don't have to read instructions!" He tilted the brim and admired his reflection in the rear view mirror. "Look pretty damn good, though, don't I?"
"You look like the unholy love child of Tokyo Rose and Mickey Rooney, and if she could see you Mom would be churning in her urn." Said urn was balanced between his knees, lid off and bits of his sainted mother were gently poofing around the inside of the car, since Ed had the heater—and the fan—running. "You realize we're gonna have to get Mom vacuumed out of the upholstery and wiped down off the dash before we return the truck, right?" Mustang grinned and shook his head. "Good thing I'm an atheist. Otherwise inhaling bits of my mother would give me nightmares for the rest of my life. You ready?"
Edward tossed him a cocky grin before concealing his amber eyes behind a pair of Ray-Ban sunglasses. "All right, Hikari," he patted his breast pocket. "Let's go say hello to Iron Ass."
"Ohhhh! Honey! Don't move! That's a perfect shot—no, stay right there by the cherry tree. Now smile!" The tall, grinning gaijin in the baseball jacket was clicking away madly at everything in sight, including the pretty brown haired woman who looked so embarrassed and shy when her companion gestured for her to pose for him. "Oh…hey…EXCUSE ME!" he called to the caretakers, bowing extravagantly as only a foreigner in Asia would do, "Can I ask you gentlemen some questions? This place is just lovely-and my wife—say hello, sweetie!—and I wanted to ask about the temples around here. Are they open for visitors? I mean, for non-Buddhists-hey, like we don't want to offend anyone, Mr.-what is your name?"
His name was Jiro, but the crazy gaijin didn't seem to notice. He dashed ahead up the path, shooting out questions in rapid fire succession. His wife, who spoke a little Japanese, earnestly apologized for her husband's boyish enthusiasm. "Alex has never traveled to Asia before," she confided softly. "I'm sorry if he is annoying you. We didn't mean to interrupt your work here—but this is such a lovely place, Mr. Jiro-san."
Abruptly, the grinning man with the camera began to cough. His face flushed slightly. "Ahhh…honey? I feel kinda….weird…."
In a matter of minutes, an alarming assortment of wet sounds were coming from the man's chest. "Honey? Where's my inhaler?"
The woman began to rummage through the camera bag at his hip. "Oh dear! Mr., Jiro-san? Could you help me? My husband's having an asthma attack! Can we get him inside the office, please?" She shot her companion an apologetic glance. "Honey? I think you took it out to make room for the pictures of the kids."
"Arrrgghhh….ohhh! The kids! Mr. Jiro….would you...like….to….see….pictures of our…kids?"
Thumbing the buttons of his walkie-talkie, Jiro-san summoned the other caretakers to help him carry the lanky American to the office. It took some doing, because every few steps the man would insist on trying to walk by himself before collapsing dramatically to the sidewalk. Things kept spilling out of his pockets and camera bag, including a stack of photographs of two pretty blonde children that he insisted on shoving into the faces of each person present, demanding that they comment on the breathtaking beauty of his daughter…
The heavy cover stone groaned and slid back. "Get out of here, Taisa! I'll take it from here. You stand guard. I'll scoot it back just a little more. Then we can pay our respects to Hikari, just the way she wanted us to."
Mustang felt uneasy but nodded. Soon as Edward heard his footsteps disappear up the raked gravel pathway, he flicked on his MagLight and peered inside. Essentially, the grave was a stone box holding the family urns. He'd already jimmied the lock and another well aimed boot with his automail foot moved the cover far enough back to reveal the urns inside. Most were made of porcelain, and the ones ornamented with flowers were undoubtedly those of the womenfolk. Not taking chances, Edward unscrewed the tops of each of these urns before producing a small metal tube from his breast pocket. Once it held one of Mayland's find Cuban cigars, he had filled it to the brim with Hikari's ashes. Carefully he tipped a portion into each of the flowered urns. "Hope you got along with the rest of your sisters," he muttered before sealing the urns shut again.
The largest urn was of bronze. A twist of an automail wrist made short work of the seal. From the inner pocket of his overcoat Ed produced the one item he had carefully concealed from his lover: a battery powered car vacuum. Lifting out the large skull fragments and pocketing them with grim satisfaction, he shoved the attachment wand onto the end of his mini-Dust Buster and flicked the switch, cursing under his breath. "Damn thing's noisier than a Doc Johnson vibrator."
Mission accomplished, he withdrew the zip-lock bag full of cremains from the small fanny pack he had hidden under his overcoat. With great care he tipped Hikari's ashes into her father's now empty urn. Then he hit the button on his pager.
"I don't believe. My mother did. For her sake, if You exist, receive her soul." A small scroll bearing the twenty-fifth chapter of the Lotus Sutra was placed in the urn, along with a string of prayer beads, a handful of dried peony petals and a braided lock of hair, half gold, half black. These were followed by the skull fragments, another handful of dried petals and a tiny statue of Kwan Yin. "Mother—if I never see you again…thank you. Thank you for not giving me up or getting rid of me before I was born. Thank you for accepting my Edowado. Thank you for…for letting me be me, without judgment. I love you. Sayonara."
A dab of Super Glue was dribbled around the threads of the urn's lid. The urn was passed to Edward, who gazed at it thoughtfully before screwing the lid on so tightly that it would take high explosives to remove it again. "Where's Grandfather?" Taisa wanted to know as they hastily shoved the stone back in place, lit a handful of joss sticks as an offering and ran like hell for the truck.
"He's moved in with his daughters," Ed deadpanned as he stomped on the gas, roaring down the street just in time to pass the taxi that was supposed to ferry the crazy asthmatic gaijin tourist to the hospital but in actuality was headed for a five star hotel where Hughes had already reserved a room and arranged for whipped cream, chocolate sauce and champagne to be placed on a tray by the bedside and for the Do Not Disturb sign to be left hanging on the doorknob—for the next three days.
Ed dropped his lover off at their apartment. "I'll be right back. Gonna get something to remove this hair dye."
After a quick consult with a hair stylist that laughed outright—then offered him an appointment to strip the color out of Ed's locks-the Fullmetal Alchemist headed to the park, overcoat slung over his shoulder. Finding a secluded spot with a picnic table, he unloaded his pockets of a large skull plate and a Dust Buster full of ashes.
A stray dog whined for attention as soon as Ed sat down, hoping that the human might share a bite of sandwich or maybe even half an onigiri. Instead, the man whistled softly. "Hey, boy-fetch…nahhh…never mind. Sorry, fella. Even I'm not that big an asshole…" He turned the skull fragment over and over in his hands, contemplating the dog and struggling manfully with his conscience. Might have given him tremendous pleasure to watch that stray crunching contentedly on Old Iron Ass' leftovers, but it would have horrified Hikari—and wasn't this whole cluster-fuck for her benefit anyway?
A few minutes later, the mutt trotted away, whimpering in disappointment while the man scrapped out a few handfuls of dirt under a nearby cherry tree after first glancing left and right to make sure nobody could see him digging in a public park. Didn't know for certain that there'd be a rule against it—but the last thing he wanted to explain to one of those ever-polite white gloved neighborhood beat cops was what he was doing with the remains of an affluent corporate executive in his coat pocket, along with a bottle of cheap black hair dye and a trial size packet of strawberry flavored lubricant and an item best described as latex 'marital aid'.
Wiping off the dirt from his hands, he tamped down the divot in the grass and addressed the contents of the Dustbuster. "Hey, asshole. Allow me to introduce myself. I am Edowādo Erurikku, lover of your grandson Taisa Roy Mustang, son of your daughter Hikari—whom you treated like shit. I don't believe in hell—but if I did I'd make damn sure you got the room with the lumpy mattress, right next to the karaoke bar—for all eternity. And if there IS a Goddess of Mercy, like Hikari believed, she wouldn't want me to flush you down the crapper like you so richly deserve. So…instead I'll give you something you never got in your lifetime from another man." He dumped out Takahiro Miyazaki's ashes into his cupped hands and held them up to the winter sky. "Your grandson says I give a damn good blowjob. Whatd'ya think? PFFFFFFFFFFFFTTTTTTTT!"
Edward Elric didn't believe in gods, although as he hiked back to his truck, whistling, he was immeasurably cheered by the mysterious, mischevious gust of wind that carried Takahiro's ashes aloft and away just as the leaden clouds parted just long enough for a stray bit of sunshine to light his way home to the man he intended to love for the rest of his life.
"Harder, damn it!"
"Ed! I don't want to hurt you—"
"I don't give a fuck—just do it! Just spray it all over me…AAAHGGGH! Jesus! Not in my eyes! This shit burns!"
"Sorry! Here—see if this is better." Something warm and creamy dribbled into his hands. "Rub that in—I'll do you from the back."
Ed lifted his hand to his nose and sniffed suspiciously. "This is yours. Kinda runny, and it smells terrible. Mine's thicker and doesn't drip all over the place."
Mustang snorted with disgust and heaved the bottle of conditioner right over the shower rail. "Fine! I don't care if your hair breaks off. Serves you right for dying it black and then stripping the color out without reading the directions. But Teddy says if you don't moisturize the hell out of it after removing the color it will split right off the next time you pull up a pony tail."
"Don't care. My conditioner smells nicer."
"Yours smells like lawn clippings."
"Better than smelling like a damned chemistry set! Now shut up and get this worked into the ends. Teddy says I need to shove all this mess into a hair net and get under the dryer she borrowed from Ai-San."
Fifteen minutes later, the Fullmetal Alchemist was perched on the closed lid of the toilet with a frilly vinyl bonnet pulled over his head. It was pink, it had tiny poodles all over it and it was attached to a long plastic hose which foofed it up with warm air which would allow the greasy conditioning pack to work its magic on the stringy mess that had once been his hair. He glanced up and scowled. "Put that goddamn camera away or I'll give you an automail ass kicking you'll never forget. Now hand me the manicure set, willya. My nails are a mess."
"Gimme the camera, or you'll never get out of this bathroom alive, you shit."
Mustang edged away from the toilet, smirking wickedly. Then he noticed the grayish crescents under his lover's fingernails and frowned. "Let me see your hand, Ed." Five metal fingers were innocently proffered. "No, damn it, the other one. How'd you get your hands so filthy-wait a minute." His eyes narrowed as his mouth became a tight line of disapproval. "You weren't this dirty when we left the cemetery. What the hell did you do when you were gone?"
Ed looked as nonchalant as possible for a grown man in his lover's oversized kimono and his housekeeper's pink bonnet hair dryer cap, pawing through his niece's manicure set for something to clean out the underside of his nails. "Hmmm…Sally Hansen Cuticle Remover. Ought to do the trick."
He poked the tiny brush under his neatly trimmed nails and began digging under them with the sharp tip of her Jonel Diamond-File. "Maybe I should get Teddy to do this. I feel like I'm in one of those old commercials, waiting for Madge to tell me I'm soaking my nails in dishwashing liquid—"
"EDWARD! I asked you a goddamned question! You were reasonably clean when you dropped me off. You were filthy when we got in the shower." An awful suspicion came to mind. Against his better judgment, he chose to confirm it. "How'd you get Grandfather out of the urn?" he demanded darkly.
What the hell. He was going to figure it out sooner or later. "Same way we got your mom out of the upholstery."
Roy's mouth hung open, and for the first time in his life his eyes grew perfectly round. "H-how…?"
Pause. "I….see. And….his…ashes?"
Ed coolly nibbled at a torn cuticle, damaged when he tore the lid off the old man's urn. "Bob Dylan."
"Bob Dylan, shithead."
"I don't get it."
Edward threw back his bonneted head and began to sing:
"The asshole, my friend
Is blowin' in the wind---
The asshole is blowin' in the wind...."