I Love RxR. That's really all you need to know.
She drove the car up to park by the front gate, pulling the parking brake and resting her hands on her lap, staring at them with her trademark slate face.
For long moments, they sat in silence, he in the back seat, she in the front. Finally, as one, they both got out of the car.
"Edward…" she said quietly.
"He will not interfere."
She nodded curtly. "Good." A breath. "I will go and find them." She turned to go.
But she was brought up short by a hand on the brown tweed of her jacket, tugging her around to face him. "Riza…" he said seriously, frowning into her eyes. She knew that he was just as aware that this was more dangerous than their previous escapades as she was. His hand drew a tingling line across her forehead as he tucked a strand of hair under her hat again. "Don't get killed," he whispered.
She swallowed, sliding the arm that he had caught down until her hand reached his, intertwining their fingers for a brief moment. "Yes sir." She lifted her eyes to his, stubborn and fiery as always. "But only if you do the same."
He nodded solemnly. "All right." An intense gaze, his hand lingering on her cheek… and then they turned away, letting their fingers slowly ease apart as they went to fulfill the last of their duties.
"Colonel! Colonel!" She fell to her knees beside him, oblivious to the child laying awkwardly on the deck and the flames which she knew were inside. He was a mess, blood smeared everywhere, uniform nearly gone from the charring… but she wasn't worried about the cuts that peppered him. Colonel Archer's bullets… had she really been too late? She had sworn to protect him, always, beyond anything… "Roy!" She looked at his face, trying to see whether he had lost too much blood, and found his left eye ravaged.
Her numb hands couldn't feel a heartbeat.
Armstrong found her. She remembered that much. She also remembered the exhaustion. Pure, unrelenting, exhaustion. Perhaps she had cried so much over his inert body that she had rendered herself unable to move.
It wouldn't have surprised her.
But that afternoon was so hazy, all she really remembered after finding the Colonel was Armstrong taking the three of them – her, Roy, and the child – into his arms as if they were all three years old, and carrying them to safety. Away from the rain, the burning house of the Furher, to warmth and care. Someone gently disengaged her fingers from his shirt, telling her it had been a good idea to keep him warm, she had probably saved his life.
It was then that it finally clicked. He was still alive.
Suddenly, the world began to move again. Her mind cleared. She woke fully to find a doctor trying to remove her pants… obviously fooled by her dress.
Chezka found the doctor outside the door, a hand over his eye and an arm across his waist, and went in to find the Lieutenant shaking her hair from her hat. The military woman accepted Chezka's gift of blouse and skirt with a nod of thanks, and changed immediately, cleaning her wounds as she went.
Too in awe of the kind of woman who did not wince as she checked for shrapnel in her leg, Chezka left to find something else to do – no longer wondering why Hughes' friend had always looked at his Lieutenant with such admiration.
She was the first thing he saw on waking up. Sitting in a chair beside his bed, dressed in clothes that were not hers (he knew – her outfits were always impeccably fitted. It had always been a point of consternation for him, though he never told her, knowing that his life would be in jeopardy if she found out.)
She must have heard the lashes of his eye sweep through the still air, because she looked up almost immediately. "Colonel!" she whispered moving to lean over him.
He released a breath that he hadn't known he was holding. She was alive, truly. He smiled, closing his eye again and letting sleep take him.
"Colonel… you shouldn't be up," her voice was firm, but he could hear the relief in her soft tones.
"There are things to do," he replied simply, and slowly draped a tie around his neck. She could see that it was still an effort to raise his arms, the burns on his side pulling at his skin, and stepped forward, taking the ends from him. He relinquished the job gladly. She was quick about it, her usual efficiency calming him to thinking that the world might get back to normal one day.
But it wasn't quite normal yet. He caught her elbow as she finished knotting the silk tie. And where as, normally, she would have viciously cinched the knot up to his neck, today she just paused. "It's really over," she said. "They're all gone – a girl named Rose witnessed everything. The Ishbarians have gone back to their places. Parliament is taking over the country." She glanced up to meet his eyes, saying, "it's all over."
And he knew he didn't mean that her life was over – though the casual observer might have. But he knew she meant the worry, the hate… the guilt. Abruptly, they had both been freed from the chains of war – but there was one chain remaining – which they had been standing on either side of for years. He smiled, placing a hand over the one of hers that had remained on the tie, spreading her fingers over his chest to feel his heart beat. "Yes," he said, "it's over."
And in the quiet hospital room, a week and a half after the true end of the war, he stepped over the last chain.
Oh yes. A fully enjoyable trip to fandom. I'll have to visit more often.