Thanks for all your support so far.
TITLE: Caricature of Human Intimacy
Author: Youko Fujima
PAIRING: Ling/Alphonse (both as a girl and as a boy)
RATING: NC-17 overall (this chapter is R)
WARNINGS: Overall, non-consensual sex, sexism, molestation (in large numbers), gender-bending, etc
AL'S GENDER IN THIS CHAPTER: FEMALE (this fic consists of half-and-half Al as a boy and as a girl)
BETA: circe67, thank you!
SUMMARY: How do you treat a piece of flesh offered up from a foreign land if you have never been trained in morality?
WARNINGS: THIS FIC IS RATED NC-17 OVERALL. THEREFORE, YOU ARE NOT OF AGE AND IT IS ILLEGAL TO LOOK AT THIS IN YOUR STATE/COUNTRY, PLEASE DO NOT CLICK ON THE LINKS.
Previous chapter is here.
For the first time in many years, Ling overslept and missed his morning audience. Usually, he was very good about waking up just in time or earlier, but during the previous night, he had been unable to let slumber take him. Sighing, he sat up, careful not to wake his bedmate, and rubbed his face free of his uneasy sleep. He glanced over at Alphonse, who woke and slept in accord to Ling’s sleeping patterns to avoid having to meet him eye-to-eye too often. Ling wondered if Alphonse had ever run on someone else’s time before arriving in Xing, since she was so quick to adapt around Ling’s schedule. He sighed again, the events of yesterday still fresh in his mind, and looked out his windows at the sun that was already hanging nearly mid-sky.
Admittedly, Ling would be lying through his teeth if he said that he was not shocked or even slightly disturbed by the prospect that Alphonse might be carrying his child. In fact, the moment Ran Fan had proposed that theory, his mind went blank. He could not stop staring at Alphonse while Ran Fan spoke of the probability of a child growing in his keep’s belly. His mind nearly fizzled when Ran Fan went on to say that Alphonse might not have reverted because she needed to carry the child and that it was their mistake to not have taken into account that his female anatomy functioned like it should, despite the lack of menstruation (at this, Ling turned pale) or the glaring reversion issue. Still, Ran Fan suggested that there was also a probability that Alphonse was not pregnant, since there were no prominent signs of a pregnancy such as morning sickness, but the idea that Ling could very well have impregnated Alphonse still haunted Ling’s mind like a passing phantom.
From next to Ling, Alphonse stirred from the chilly spring air, mumbling in her sleep. Again, she called out for her brother, asking him to not lift the blankets, since it was making her cold. Ling smiled slightly and pulled the blanket off of himself that they shared, tucking it around Alphonse to keep her warm. This time, though, his movement woke her and she gasped at the sight of him. Apparently, she was not used to seeing him when she woke up, as he was usually in the morning audience.
“Good morning,” Ling said. His hand went to brush her bangs away from her eyes, but it was met with a flinch.
“What time is it?” Alphonse asked, shifting her body closer to the wall on her side, even though it would make her colder.
“Probably around ten,” Ling answered, backing away to give her space.
“What about the morning audience?”
“Forget it, I overslept. It’s long over,” Ling muttered, turning away. He was actually somewhat glad for this sudden holiday. “Let’s go for a walk. It’s a bit chilly today, but the sun is out and I recall that the gardens are rather dashing this time of the year.”
Alphonse looked at him suspiciously, but Ling would not have any arguments. While he dressed, he summoned for her clothes and a quick brunch. Much to his dismay, she did not eat much. While Alphonse was being dressed in her cotton skirt, Ran Fan commented quietly to Ling in Xingian that the girl had probably gotten ’one circle skinnier.’
“I hardly believe an apple was enough to constitute brunch, Alphonse,” Ling commented as he led her by her hand from his quarters to the main courtyard’s garden. Her hand was light on his palm and he could barely feel the weight of it, considering how little she wanted contact. When they got to the garden, however, he released her and allowed her to walk at her own leisurely pace while he trailed behind her.
“I was not hungry,” she answered. Her steps were light on the marble path and her cloth shoes scarcely made a sound. The sun glared behind her and Ling had to shield his eyes in order to look upon her. He wondered absently if she had purposefully run so far ahead in order to keep him from seeing but a silhouette of her, but from what he could see, she looked like a ghost. As nice as white looked on her, Ling resolved to start dressing her in some other colours from then on.
“From what Ran Fan told me, it seems that you have ‘not been hungry’ for nearly a week now?” Ling asked. “I know that I dine with you during lunch and dinner, but she says that you skip breakfast nearly everyday?”
Alphonse stopped on the marble path and turned to look at him, spinning on one foot. Her skirt billowed around her like a white blossom and she gave him a look that said she would rather drop the subject; it would only lead to arguing. Ling clamped his mouth shut and moved closer to her, only to have her back away by way of a strange dance. She turned again, her skirt fluttering in a less dramatic way than it did prior, and she continued to walk. The whole time, she kept one hand on her belly, perhaps constantly concerned over what might be growing inside her, unwanted and unasked for. Ling felt a pang of guilt stab at him and he reached over to take her hand off her stomach, halting her in her stride.
“You do know that it can very well be the fact that you’re living such a self-destructive lifestyle that your body is not changing back?” Ling insisted, his hand still holding her wrist. “Ran Fan said so as well. It’s probable that you’re not pregnant; you have not gotten morning sickness yet.”
Alphonse did not answer him, but merely gave him a very strange look that the Xingians described as the ‘dead fish’ look, where the eyes stared straight on ahead. For quite some time, after Alphonse had turned into a girl again from her first reversion to a boy, Alphonse had given him that look. She was not exactly looking at him, but through him. As disconcerting as it was, Ling was, at the same time, intrigued by it; it was usually a look that a man pulled off, not a woman. The pierce and the light in her eyes had dulled; she seemed but a shadow of her former self.
“My mother, from my father’s notes during her pregnancy,” Alphonse said, more to herself from how hushed her voice was, “said that she did not have that much morning sickness when she carried me.” Ling knew what she was implying, and wanted to say something, but when she shrugged, it bothered Ling incredibly at how dismissive she was about her probable pregnancy, especially considering it would be with his child. At the same time, though, he could probably say the same thing, if not worse, about himself. The idea of fathering a child at his age seemed too fast, even with traditions still ingrained in him. He would be half-glad to know that there was nothing inside her and Ling glanced at her again, noticing that, even with her shrug, she still had a look of absolute fear looming in her eyes. She refused to look at him, though, focusing instead on the peony bushes in the garden. Once more, she pressed her hands to her belly, but she seemed more like a young boy trying to see if there was a chunk of flesh taken out of himself, than an expectant mother feeling for a growing life inside her. It was bitter, the way she carried herself around him. It bothered Ling that she was, even though he knew very well that he more than took part in causing it, that he was the target of all her bitterness. Still, he reasoned, it was better than if she had been sent to his other brothers or to the medical staff. Her situation could very well be much, much worse. Everything he did, he did to protect her and that was already asking a lot of him, especially from her position.
He approached her and pulled a large peony blossom off the bush, holding it up to her, not sure of how to offer it, or why. He, as the future emperor of Xing, should not allow an alchemic accident of foreign blood to fluster him, but he attributed it to some sense of strange guilt of his young age, even though he did not like to admit it.
Alphonse continued to look through him, and he thought about first placing the flower in her hair, but it would look strangely unsightly, so he opted instead to place it in her pale hands. It looked like some grotesque scene, as though an organ (or baby) had exploded within her hands. She accepted the flower, though, and cradled it towards her, letting the blossom rest on the crook of her elbow, stark red on white.
“I’ll get the Tai Yi to take your pulse tomorrow,” Ling offered. “He is my Father’s personal doctor and not part of the medical staff. He is an honest man.”
“Get him, then,” Alphonse answered, walking towards the lily pond.
“You seem very calm about this,” Ling said, trying to sound amused rather than insulted. “What will you do if there is a child?”
“What will I do, indeed,” Alphonse whispered, a hint of her feminine nature leaking into her voice, that playful little note. The gold in her eyes flickered when she turned her eyes towards the sun to gaze at the eastern wall, the wall closest to Ling’s quarters— the walls that promised her freedom, should she be able to reach them again.
“I will bind your feet if you try to run away again,” Ling threatened. He wanted to keep her, to grab at her even then as the sun continued to play on her and his eyes, making her seem transparent.
She paused for a moment, not quite seeming to understand what foot-binding entailed, and Ling waited for the effect to sink it. When it did, she immediately shuffled back from him, pulling their distance even longer.
“You can’t,” Alphonse answered, sounding slightly horrified, finally expressing some emotion. “You won’t,” She turned around to look at him with a look of repulse in her eyes.
Wanting to prove his point, Ling grabbed her wrist and dragged her across the garden to the palace opera theatre house’s dressing rooms. He threw her onto the floor and fished out a prop from one of the many wooden cases in the small, dark room. Drawing close to her, he presented the object to her. It looked a bit like a wooden prosthetic, with the way a tiny little foot was attached to the end of it, but it was too short and in too odd of a shape to be attached to any part of the human leg. Pieces of cloth were nailed to the top of it and there seemed to be just enough space cut out of the top to fit the frontal part of a human foot.
“This,” Ling said, waving the object in front of her face, “is a fake bound foot. Since women are not allowed in the theatre, we have our male actors wear this and tie it to their feet when they act in female roles.
“Though they are trained to wear these things, I’m pretty sure you are not. They’re not very comfortable. Not something to run around in…especially if I choose to shackle your legs to them.”
Alphonse’s eyes widened at the prospect, fear swimming behind her previously deadened eyes.
“You can’t,” she breathed. “You won’t.”
“I can and I will,” Ling threatened. “Food for thought.” He threw the object next to her head so that she could get a better view and with that, he tore at her garments, glad that he had only allowed her to wear cheap cotton instead of fine silk, even though it was harder to tear. He pulled her legs to rest on his thighs and unfastened the drawstrings of her skirt to yank it off, moving his hand to the bib-like undergarment that covered her breasts. She did not put up a struggle as he yanked the last piece of garment off, leaving her only in a thin jacket to separate her skin from the cold stone floors, the object of his grotesque threat lying just next to her ear. During her stay there, she had learned that the more she fought or resisted, the more it spurred her captor on. It was better to just lie there and take it, as humiliating as it was, than to be tormented more than necessary.
Ling stopped then, and looked down at Alphonse, twitching visibly. All the fight in her had obviously gone, but he also saw just how thin she had gotten. At first, he’d thought that Ran Fan had been exaggerating, but if anything, she had been understating. He trailed his fingers along Alphonse’s side, feeling how her ribs had begun to poke ever so slightly through her skin. Alphonse trembled.
He watched her laying there, her naked legs still on his clothed thighs, shivering and confused in the chilly air of the dressing room. He placed the almost-forgotten peony over her white belly and it looked like a grotesque scene, like something had exploded inside her belly and overflowed. She shuddered at the touch, her body squirming in the cold as she anticipated what was to come. With the way she was splayed, she looked truly like a specimen waiting for the scalpel, but when her face contracted in a tight wince, she looked like an over-beaten dog waiting for the next strike. The image of those two descriptions made Ling cringe and cover his face in shame, for he was the one who had done that to her, tormenting her just as Bai had said. Ling vividly imagined himself taking a pickaxe and digging at her life, slowly and cruelly. He had been that kind of person, a person just like Bai, just like his father, and was about to repeat it all over again, all the same things he did to Alphonse on the first night he took her.
“How did you get like this?” he asked in a strained voice.
“Because I met you,” she answered quietly.
From above her, Alphonse heard an audible whimper and then, to her surprise, Ling slid over her body and embraced her. It was an awkward and somewhat painful position for the both of them: his legs were bent as though he were praying; hers were spread across each of his thighs while she lied naked on the ground. Still, the embrace was chaste, and Alphonse relaxed when Ling whispered unintelligible Xingian words into her ear, his face buried in the crook of her neck. He shifted her and wrapped his arms around her back, lifting her from the cold ground, his breath hot against her throat. His breathing was erratic from how nervous he was, as though it was the first time he held Alphonse. Her legs slipped from the awkward position on his thighs when he moved her to sit up and join him to lean against the wall of the small changing room. He held her there, his one arm circled around her shoulders and one hand placed over her belly, wondering if he could feel even the faintest sign of life there. To Alphonse, he seemed like a child, fascinated by what she was.
She did not know whether to feel objectified or flattered. Ling moved his hand from her stomach to pull off his jacket and wrap it around her. He held her again with both hands around her shoulders, just enjoying how her body felt against his. Though he was not hurting her, it still made Alphonse uncomfortable and Ling could feel her body tense, but he did not let her go. If anything, he only held her tighter, once again pressing his face to her neck and into her hair.
"We hardly talk," Ling noted.
"You did not seem to feel that there was any need to," she answered.
To be continued