Yay! Second story! I bet it's overdone and cliche, but it was fun to write. So...whatever. Enjoy and please review. :3
Note: This is set after Ed gets his state alchemist liscence, but BEFORE all the stuff with Nina happens...I'm sorry my timeline is so screwed up.
Disclaimer: I do NOT own Fullmetal Alchemist, because if I did, I would have already seen the movie. -pouts-
Riza hadn't expected anyone to be at the office. It was Sunday, and it was late – she looked out the window and concluded that it must be nine at least, judging by the position of the setting sun. But Riza needed that file to finish up her most recent assignment, and she was determined to retrieve it from her desk drawer (where she had so carelessly left it Friday evening) regardless of the time or the day.
And so she began digging through the meticulously organized drawers, the rustling of papers echoing irritatingly loud in the empty office. It was disconcerting to be alone in the growing darkness of a building that was usually so full of life, so she filled the void of missing voices and warm bodies with her own thoughts – which turned out to be a horrible mistake.
She started by cursing herself again for taking the day off – it was stupid really, she thought; she was no mother. Why should she get to lounge about on Mother's Day? If anything, she should have been visiting her own mother. She should have been serving her mother breakfast in bed, and buying her mother one of her favorite raspberry scented candles. Then she should have been listening to her mother's old radio in the den, while holding a conversation about nothing in particular and being continually reprimanded for feeding their old German Shepherd pieces of her dessert.
She shook her head and sighed wistfully, raising her vision from the shuffling of papers to cast a cautious glance around the dark office. That hadn't happened in years, and it wasn't likely to happen anytime soon. She had no kind of relationship with her mother anymore, not since she had joined the military. It wouldn't have surprised Riza one bit if she had been removed from her mother's will, entirely.
She was just about to return to the tedious task of sifting through mountains paperwork and file folders, when she caught sight of a little red lump on a sofa near the door she had entered through. It seemed to be shaking ever so slightly, and she could just barely see a glimmer of gold poking through the red fabric. At first, she was overcome by fear. There was someone laying on the couch in their office. No doubt, she thought, it was someone sinister–planning on assault on the Lieutenant-Colonel upon his arrival Monday morning. But then she looked again. That sinister someone was...well...small. It was quivering slightly, curled into a tight ball of red fabric, and upon listening closely, Hawkeye could hear what resembled soft, choked sobs emanating from the tiny form. Feeling no impending threat, but wanting to be safe anyway, Riza drew her pistol, held it defensively against her chest, and began inching toward the tiny figure, made to look even smaller by the large, overstuffed couch it was resting on.
She reached the side of the shaking figure and gently brushed a piece of fabric from what she knew to be its face from the mess of golden hair poking from the fabric right above it. Upon revealing its identity, she took a step back, surprised.
"Major...Elric?" she whispered this aloud to herself, completely unprepared for this kind of situation. If it had been an armed enemy laying on the couch, Hawkeye would have been plenty comfortable. She could have drawn her weapon, held it to the person's forehead, and waited–silent, deadly–for the figure to awaken and accept the fact that it had been caught. But she couldn't deal with children. She didn't know how on Earth to talk to the little, sleeping boy in front of her. She didn't know how to confront anyone with a past like the one she knew him to have. She could imagine herself now... "Hello, Edward. I heard you attempted the ultimate taboo of human transmutation after your mother died, and lost your arm and leg. Tell me, is automail surgery as painful as they make it out to be in all the books I've read?"
She began backing away toward her desk, quickly deciding that she didn't feel like dealing with an ingenious little boy with a dark past right now. She was rather tired, and desperately needed a hot cup of coffee. She would let him sleep and would not question his presence in the office so late in the evening. It was easier on both of them.
But suddenly he stirred, and Hawkeye groaned her displeasure aloud. He turned towards her and blinked owlishly, rubbing sleep from his eyes and looking curiously around the room for the source of the noise. He, Riza thought, had obviously not expected there would be anyone in the office at this hour either; when his wide, golden eyes came to rest upon her, he flinched and his face donned a look of one who had just been caught in the act of doing something he had not wanted to be caught doing. Suddenly, as if just awakening from his sleep-induced, groggy state, he jumped to his feet and clumsily saluted Hawkeye.
"I was just leaving, Second Lieutenant" he had a anxious aura about him, she noted. There were dark circles under his eyes, and he moved as if his right arm were extremely heavy, letting it drop awkwardly to hang at his side and swing to and fro with every move he made. He made to leave the room, dragging his left foot a bit with each step, but, dammit, he looked so pathetic, and she felt her maternal instincts slowly overtaking her no nonsense military attitude.
"Edward!" He let out a yelp of surprise and stopped, and she suddenly regretted having any maternal feelings in her heart at all. It was then that she realized she was still holding her gun, and hastily put it away. Edward's face loosened a little, and Riza smiled. Maybe this would be easier then she thought.
"Sit down, Edward."
"Actually, I was just heading back to Mr. Tucker's--"
"Al is going to be worried, I should--"
And like a dog obeying its master, he took a reluctant seat on the couch and looked up at her again. He didn't look pleased, but he didn't look defiant either. She decided that would have to be enough. That was when she noticed why Edward was looking so lonely tonight – a great hulking presence, almost always at his side, was absent for the first time since Riza had met him. Alphonse was nowhere to be seen.
"Edward, where is your brother?" He responded with an unintentional wince, and turned away from her stubbornly.
This time, she asked more gently, "Where is Alphonse?" She did not necessarily sound kinder, but there was a softer, more approachable quality to her voice and he took the bait.
"He's at Mr. Tucker's..." he whispered, and had the office not been so silent, she wouldn't have been able to hear him. That was not quite the answer she had been looking for.
"Why isn't he with you...and why are you asleep in the office?" Edward responded with another murmur, this one too soft for Riza to hear, and she took a step closer, resting a gentle reassuring hand on his shoulder. "I couldn't quite hear you, Edward. Could you speak up?"
"We had a fight, I thought it would be better if I wasn't around him...and I had nowhere else to go!" he sobbed loudly. Riza took a seat next to him on the couch, going slowly. He made no move to stop her.
"What was the fight about?" She whispered back to him.
"It was dumb. Forget it."
"I'd really like to know," she leaned down to meet his at eyes with hers (he's so small) but he only looked away. "Please?" She used a motherly voice inflection on the last word, and Edward's eyes suddenly snapped back to hers. For a moment, he looked alone and scared, eyes flashing with painful recognition, but then he put on his emotionless mask again, and turned his gaze to the floor.
"Al wanted to go back to Rizenbul to see...to see mom." Riza suddenly developed a large knot in her throat. "I told him that we didn't have the time. A-a-and we really don't...it takes two days by train to get to Rizenbul...that's at least four days travel. P-p-plus we'd have to stay a few days... I have to leave for my first mission in four days...it would just never work. And then he said we should always make time for her...and I said it wasn't really her...it was just her body lying in a grave somewhere. Not like she's ever going to know we visited...you know?" He looked up at her pleadingly, imploring her with those golden eyes to understand his reasoning. Jaded opinion though it was, she had to admit it was true; she nodded solemnly and urged him to go on.
"But I still feel like I'm...like I'm...betraying her..." he fell silent for a moment, and a pregnant pause engulfed the two lone occupants of the room. "Would...would she have minded if I didn't bring her flowers? I mean...I'm sorry...I shouldn't ask you this..." This was straying far from Riza's territory. She had no idea what to tell him. He sounded like a lost little boy.
She stumbled over her words for a few minutes before responding with something she had heard long ago, the day she saw her father buried. "You're right Edward. Your mother isn't in that grave." He managed a weak smile, and mumbled 'try telling Al that' under his breath before she continued. "Your mother is with you. Right here," she pointed at his head, "and right here," she placed her hand on his chest, feeling the steady rhythm of a heartbeat beneath it. There was a sharp intake of breath, and then he shied away, pushing her hand forcefully with his automail one. He seemed somehow distressed now, his usual annoyed, angry demeanor gone and replaced by a skittish, nervous one. His first line of defense (hot, up-front, anger) had failed, and now he was left in the open--nothing left to shield the scared little boy deep down inside him. She continued, encouraged by his response. She was getting a genuine response, and godammit, that was better than the cold shoulder he usually gave everyone. "Your mother would never feel betrayed if you couldn't make it to see her on Mother's Day. It's just a silly holiday after all. What really matters is that you're thinking about her, and you still care about her. Flowers will wilt, and then die. And in few days, there will be nothing left there but a sad reminder of what once was. But what can never die are your fond memories of her–your love for her. She won't ever feel betrayed so long as you still cherish those things." She heard him mutter something that sounded distinctly like, "cliche," before he froze, a sorrowfully contemplative expression gracing his features.
He hesitated, and gulped, mustering up his courage for this one statement. "Not even after...after what I did to her?" He was crying now. Large drops of water silently trickling in little rivers down his face.
"I would think," she spoke carefully, now she was treading on very thin ice, "that she would be proud, if not a little angry. But never betrayed." He looked at her quizzically, eyes still brimming with tears, imploring her silently to explain. "She would feel proud–honored even–that you boys would risk your own lives for hers. That's true devotion, love in its purest form. She would be angry about it at the same time, though. I'm sure that she never wanted you to get hurt for her sake. All she wanted was your happiness."
"But she was our happiness. She brought us happiness. I would never have been satisfied until...until I at least tried." She thought about her own mother for a moment, and realized the truth in his words.
"Yes. I think that I would have liked to do the same for my mother, losing her at such a young age. It seems unfair."
"It was, godammit! She SHOULDN'T have been taken from us!"
"I know." They sat in silence for a moment, letting the truth saturate their senses.
"Is your mother still alive?" He sniffed, and rubbed his nose, the streams of tears growing thinner now.
"You're lucky." So much wisdom in two simple words.
"I suppose I am, I haven't seen her in a long while, though."
"Why?" He sounded hurt, and Riza understood why. He didn't have a mother, and he would give anything to spend time with her. But Riza DID; she had a living breathing mother, hours away, and she hadn't seen her in years? Where was the justice in that?
"She didn't want me in the military...and I joined anyway." He laughed half-heartedly.
"Well that's stupid." She blinked, and looked down at him. Hell, it was stupid, wasn't it? He continued, "But I guess...you would give anything to take it back? Wouldn't you? The things you did?" That much was true. Some of the things that she had said...
"Yes," she whispered, and he nodded.
"I would give anything...to take back what I did. I...I wouldn't have let Alphonse get involved at all."
She wrapped an arm around his shoulder, looking forward with a glazed expression. "I know. And she knows too. She knows you would do anything to take back the events of that night. But the fact is, you can't. All that you can do is move forward, toward your goal. And someday, everything will be alright. You'll see." She absentmindedly kneaded through his silky blonde hair. He yawned, and stretched.
"She used to do that," he said dreamily, tears no longer flowing down his cheeks. "With my hair."
"Can I ask you one more thing?"
"The last thing that my mother asked for...it was flowers. She asked me to transmute some flowers." Riza waited silently for him to continue.
"Would my mother mind if I...you know...transmuted them for someone else? Besides her? I...I haven't ever been able to. It seemed sacred...between her and Al and I. Like the last thing we shared. I didn't want to share it with anyone else," he shuffled his feet bashfully. Riza smiled inwardly.
"Only if you think you're ready. But if you don't want to share something that special, then you don't have to. It's completely up to you." She felt his head nod an affirmative.
"I don't know if I'm ready."
"Then you're not ready. Wait a few more years."
"Anytime, Edward. Anytime."
She returned home that evening around ten o'clock. It was completely dark now, but the moon was full, and she found her way easily through the empty streets. She had completely forgotten about the paperwork she had come for. She was instead thinking of the way Edward had strolled out of the office ahead of her moments before, his left leg lifting just as high as his right one, and his right arm moving confidently with his left.
The next morning, she saw Edward sprinting off to the central library, muttering something about Tucker's chimera and forbidden alchemy. She waved, and he waved hurriedly back, gracing her with a rare, genuine smile and running into a lowly private when he failed to watch where he was going. The poor private got an earful about watching his step around superior officers (which sent the private's companion into a fit of giggles, "A TWELVE year old! How did you even get INTO the military, you wimp!" ). Ed was back to normal, it seemed.
She settled at her desk and found a note taped sloppily to the table lamp. Scrawled in the Lieutenant-Colonel's messy handwriting was "Make sure I have that paper you finished over the weekend by lunch." She sighed. It would be another very busy morning.
Reaching down to open the drawer housing the precious assignment in question, Riza gasped. Inside the drawer was an enormous bouquet of roses, every color of the rainbow present on the fragrant petals. Surely...it hadn't been?
"Second Lieutenant." In her awestruck state, she forgot to salute as Mustang came up behind her. He eyed the roses and turned a prominent shade of scarlet.
"I see you've found yourself a nice little alchemist boyfriend, hm?" she looked at him, and blinked.
"Alchemist?" though she already had a nagging suspicion in the back of her mind.
"Of course!" He said it as if it were the most obvious thing in the world, and she could just hear the tinge of jealousy nestled in with the words. "Do roses grow blue? How about green? I'm no botanist Hawkeye, but I AM an alchemist, and I know that those flowers were transmuted."
She looked at him, then back at the flowers and smiled. "Well...yes then. I suppose I do." He threw a quick order at her, then huffed off into his office, slamming the door with far more force than necessary.
The next day, she boarded a train bound for her home town, her family – her mother. If Edward could move forward, so could she.