Title: Young Man's Game
Warnings: Post-episode 25 angst. Here there be spoilers.
Disclaimer: Fullmetal Alchemist is MINE! ALL MINE! Except, no, no it isn't….. sigh.
Notes: Okay, first, to everyone who reviewed my first FMA story, A Good Officer, THANK YOU SO MUCH! YOU ARE AWESOME! As for this one, I definitely didn't plan on writing it. I was actually in the middle of something completely different when the idea struck. I hope you enjoy it.
Riza Hawkeye didn't know how long she'd been standing with her colonel at the grave of Maes Hughes, but, in the end, it didn't matter because she was going to keep standing there for as long as it would take. Roy had his back to her, but his face was tilted enough that she could see the silvery tracks of tears on his cheekbones.
She couldn't leave him alone like that.
Because she knew that after the tears were cried out, he'd stagger off to some dark hole of a place, and recklessly drink himself into oblivion… and his enemies would find him, and maybe he'd be the next person she saw lowered into the ground.
She wasn't going to permit it.
"This shouldn't have happened," Roy said hoarsely, but whether he was speaking to her, or to his dead friend, she couldn't tell. "We always said that war was a young man's game. Because when you're young you're too stupid and naïve to know you should be scared of it." He laughed bitterly. "Like Fullmetal, charging off all the time… Like me, once, and you."
Riza saw his shoulders shake as he struggled to keep his emotions in check.
"Young men don't have any attachments," he continued, anger creeping into his tone. "They don't have wives waiting up for them. They don't- they don't-" he choked back a sob- "don't have daughters who need their fathers! You damn idiot, you were supposed to leave the battlefield if you started a family like that!" He scrubbed his hands over his eyes. "It's my fault you stayed… You were fighting my war…"
Worriedly, Riza took a step towards him. "Sir-"
He ignored her. "Young men haven't seen enough to have lost their faith," he said brokenly. "They still think there's a God out there who will protect them from their enemies! Who will f-forgive them f-for their crimes." Another sob racked his body. "But I'm too old now to believe that there's a God… Not after what I've seen, and… what I've done…" His voice trailed off in a cracking whisper.
"Sir," Riza said again, laying a hand on his arm, "let me take you home."
Roy drew a shuddering breath and slowly turned from the grave, allowing her guide him to the car. She kept her hand on his arm the entire time, not caring that it was a breech of protocol; beneath her fingers, she could feel him trembling with grief and exhaustion.
He was silent throughout the entire ride, gazing out the window at a sky that was obstinately blue, and it took all of Riza's considerable military discipline not to keep glancing in his direction. She parked the car, and, without asking for permission- because if she didn't ask, he couldn't argue- got out and accompanied him up the front steps.
He fumbled with his keys for a moment, unlocked the door, and held it open for her with a resigned expression.
"After you, sir," she told him.
He sighed and stepped inside. "You don't have to do this, Hawkeye."
"Yes, sir," she agreed, taking his coat and her own and hanging them on the rack, gazing at her surroundings all the while.
The place was what she'd expected from Roy- old furniture, dark colors, and organized clutter. She watched as he slumped down on a well-worn couch, leaning his head back to stare at the ceiling. Then, satisified that he was safe there for a moment, she moved to the kitchen and rummaged around till she found a clean glass. She filled it with water and brought it back to him.
Roy managed to look grateful as he accepted it. He took a small sip, then another. "It's funny," he remarked softly, "how things just keep going."
Riza took a seat at his side, pulling her legs up beneath her, and twisting so she could face him.
"There are times," he continued, "when you feel like it's all going to stop. And then it doesn't, and you feel like it ought to." He looked up at her, dark eyes desolate. "Because how dare it all keep going, even after something so terrible…"
"That's what life does, sir," Riza answered simply.
Roy ran his fingers through his hair, ruining its slicked back appearance. "When I was younger- in Ishbal- I thought… thought I might be powerful enough to stop it. Stop life, stop time. Make it all stand still and show some damn respect." He smirked, but the expression held none of its usual humor. "Now I wonder if I have any power at all."
Riza stayed silent for a long moment, wishing she were wise enough to say something- anything- to make it all better. Wishing she wasn't too old for happy endings. When she did finally speak, all she said was, "We keep going, too, sir."
"I'm not sure I can," he answered softly. "And not-" he added, apparently noticing how she stiffened in fear- "not like that. I tried that once… but I'm still here." He let out a weary sigh and rubbed his fists against his eyes. "I've been fighting so long, and I'm too damn tired all the time…. He was the one who kept pushing me… Told me to suck it up, because that was the price I had to pay, and anyway he was footing half the bill."
Riza almost smiled, picturing Hughes saying exactly that. The corners of Roy's mouth twitched briefly upward as well.
Then his expression grew bleak again, and he whispered, "Who's going to say that to me now?"
"Colonel-" Riza paused until he raised his head and met her eyes- "I am, sir."