Warnings: Swearing, angst, and Latin
Disclaimer: Fullmetal Alchemist is not mine, but don't sue me… the Man already takes too much of my money…
Notes: I'm baaaaack! Did ya miss me? Did ya? Vacation was fabulous- thanks to everyone who wished me well!... I thought that I'd write something fluffy after finishing Guard and Witness 'cause, seriously, I beat on Roy for at least nine of the twelve chapters... But then the muse said, "Noooooo! Write ANGST! ANGST WITH DEAD POETS AND LATIN PHRASES!" So, yeah, I put away the fluff and wrote this piece instead, heh... I hope y'all enjoy it. R&R is magical.
172,946 soldiers died during the uprising in Ishbal.
Riza Hawkeye considered herself extremely lucky to be among the number that survived.
She usually didn't thank God for it; she thought that her comrades and her commanding officer deserved most of the credit, and she herself deserved the rest. But, all the same, she found herself in the headquarters chapel on the anniversary of the war's end.
It was a tiny room- only half a dozen pews and an unadorned altar- and seldom used. Most soldiers, particularly the alchemists, considered science the only thing worth having any faith in.
Riza wasn't entirely sure if she disagreed, but she had grown up with prayer, and the act was somehow comforting. It was a way to pay her respects to the fallen, regardless of whether or not a God was listening in.
She knelt before the altar and folded her hands. "Gloria in excelsis Deo," she began quietly- the door creaked open, but she didn't turn around- "Et en terra pax hominitus bonae voluntatis."
"Glory to God in the highest," murmured Roy Mustang, dropping to his knees beside her. "And on earth peace... to men of goodwill." His voice softened thoughtfully on the final words.
Riza wasn't particularly surprised that he'd understood her; the language of religion was also the language of science, and- judging by his smirk- he found that amusing. But she couldn't help saying, "I didn't expect to see you here, sir."
"I came to find you," he answered simply, letting his analytical gaze travel over their surroundings. "Thought there might be more to the place, though..."
Riza smiled slightly at that assessment- typical of someone who worked in a huge and cluttered office. "I think the rationale is that God is greater than any human creation, sir."
"Hmm." Roy continued to look around, as if he expected something would suddenly appear, and she might have laughed about it- an alchemist trying to find evidence of God- if he hadn't seemed so serious.
She knew that the day was hard on him. He'd been obliged to attend every memorial being held to commemorate the war. And he'd smiled, shook hands, and told stories- because that was what was expected of a good officer. As ambitious as he was, he couldn't afford to be seen as anything less than that, no matter what the personal cost.
"It shouldn't be true," he remarked finally. "Our power to destroy shouldn't surpass our power to create. There are scientific laws- balance, inertia, equivalent exchange- and they have to apply."
"But they don't," Riza finished knowingly, thinking about his incomplete attempt at human transmutation. He'd been reluctant to tell her of it, but she'd insisted- and she knew from the way his muscles tensed that he was thinking of it now, too.
He let out a long sigh. "I remember telling Hughes how glad I was that there wasn't a God. I said I'd be angry if there was one, because He was supposed to love the world, and instead He'd let such terrible things happen." He rested his gloved hands on the edge of the altar. "Hughes said I'd better be damned sure about it, because I'd already defied the laws of alchemy, and who knew what would happen if I defied God, too."
"Was that when he punched you, sir?" Riza asked, trying to lighten his somber mood.
Roy managed a short laugh. "No, it was after that... He'd have done it again if he had to, but I calmed down pretty fast- was so exhausted by that point, it was about all I could do."
"I remember, sir," Riza answered. She had come to his apartment that same day, and joined in the heady planning session, though it hadn't lasted long; Roy had fallen asleep in the midst of their discussions, and not woken up till the following evening.
"Taking lives, resurrecting lives," he said softly. "It shouldn't be possible to do one and not the other... Do you know the next line in that prayer?"
The abruptness of the question caught her off guard, but she nodded carefully. "Of course, sir." She refolded her hands. "Misereatur tui omnipotens Deus et dismissis peccatis tuis. May almighty God have mercy on you, and forgive your sins."
"There it is." He nodded. "But in every religion I know of, God's mercy has limits... Taking lives, resurrecting lives," he repeated. "God will not forgive those things. The Ishbalans even have a phrase- something about a wicked man never finding rest."
"You aren't wicked, sir," Riza answered firmly. "I wouldn't be here if you were." It hurt her, seeing this guilt-ridden side of him; most of the time, he kept it so well hidden that even she forgot he was more than a cavalier playboy.
And he didn't seem to be listening to her. "I found a prayer once, written in a research journal. An alchemist's prayer- it's a contradiction in terms." He smirked, bitterly. "'But for this prayer thou wilt not bind in Hell my soul, that shook with Fame and Truth, in such unquenched desires consumed his youth...' He knew that he'd not be forgiven, and still he begged."
"I don't believe it!" Riza answered fiercely, slamming her hands on the altar, and making him jump. "I don't, sir, and you shouldn't either. You're a good man, and you deserve to be forgiven- by God and the world!" She fixed him with an exasperated glare, half-shocked by her own outburst.
Roy's dark eyes were slightly wide, so she figured he hadn't expected it either. "How do you know?" He asked, in a tone that managed to be dubious and hopeful at the same time.
She shrugged, frustrated by his lack of understanding. "Because that's faith, sir."
"Faith," he echoed, averting his gaze. "In God?"
"In you, sir," she answered, hoping that such a weighty confession would, at last, get through to him. She left the demand that he live up to it unspoken.
But he shook his head sadly. "Don't, Hawkeye. Not in me."
"Sir-" she began warningly, but broke off when he smiled.
"Not in me," he said determinedly. "But in us."
She nodded and allowed him to pull her to her feet. "Yes, sir. In us."
Endnotes: What? I'm a sucker for happy endings... Let's see now. Riza's prayer is actually made from lines of two different prayers- one that I knew, and one that I found on Google. They are, as I've mentioned, in Latin, which is- classically- the language of Catholicism and European science (and I do, in fact, find that amusing... in a geektacular sort of way). The so-called "alchemist's prayer" is actually an excerpt from The Alchemist's Petition, by Vachel Lindsay (whose poetry can be... oddly FMAish... It's kind of eerie). I read it, and I thought of Roy. So there you have it! I hope you enjoyed the read!