Hello, hello, one and all! It is I, The New FMA! A heartfelt thanks to one and all who have reviewed the story during my, er, hiatus, and an especial thanks to hiya24 who gently reminded me that it has been an exceedingly long amount of time since my last update. I have absolutely no excuses, except to say that I could have sworn that it was February yesterday, not May. Where does all the time go when you need it most? I just don't understand. Well, I've had this chapter written but not typed for quite a while, and now I finally present it to you! Last chapter I didn't hear from as many of my normal readers as I had anticipated, but I guess that's what I get for being sporadic.
So please, send me a review! And if you'd like, I'm still willing to do a Q&A, but first I need some questions! Just send me a message or review, and give me a question! Well, I hope you enjoy reading! You might have to read back at least one chapter to jog your memories; in fact, I'd recommend it. Chapters 22 and 23 are basically one humongo chapter broken up.
Anyway, without further ado, here is chapter 23! Please review! I didn't create FMA, so don't sue me for the way the movie ended!
Chapter 23: Searching
Roy sighed wearily as he opened a set of large, oaken doors, entering his study. It was a spacious room whose walls were made of shelves that stretched from floor to ceiling, housing thousands upon thousands of handsome, leather-bound books, all rare volumes on alchemy. He went and stood behind the polished mahogany desk, briefly glancing at the files and papers stacked upon it that Riza had brought home for him much earlier that same morning. A grandfather clock standing at one end of the room began to chime. Roy listened and counted – … nine… ten… eleven.
'Eleven already?' he thought. 'How long did I take to walk home? It was just before nine when Havoc came to get me…' his thoughts trailed as his vision wandered to the large bay window behind him. Now that he was on the second floor, he could easily see the stone wall that cut off the property from the street. Almost out of sight, Roy could just make out the yellow caution tape dancing in the breeze. He sadly turned towards the left end of the room where another oak door was nestled between two bookshelves. He opened the door and walked inside. The room was dark and cool, the window shades closed against the late morning sun.
The mansion that Roy and Riza occupied was so large that they had no need of over half of it. Seeing as they were only two individuals in a very large house, they used only a few rooms for what they needed, and left the rest spotless and empty, but ready for any guests that should need a place to sleep. There was also a spacious basement, but Roy refused to step foot in it on principle. He had almost lost his life in a wine cellar, and the less time he had to spend in an underground concrete box, the happier he'd be. The room adjoining the study was originally meant to be a guestroom, but the couple chose it as their private bedroom for its size (while it was certainly not the most spacious room in the house, to them it was comfortable), and also because of its location – the only way one could get in was through the library/study, and the room had large windows that provided a wonderful view of the garden and backyard with its groves of trees, as well as Central's main street, now resplendent in the colors of spring. The room's decorational features appealed to the general and his wife as well. The walls were of a pale blue color, giving a feeling of coolness to the room even when the curtains of the east-facing windows were open and the light of the morning sun, glowing red, shone through. Not to mention that there was a fireplace, a fact that pleased Roy to no end despite himself.
Yet today not even fire – the bane and pinnacle of his existence – could erase Roy's current thoughts and feelings. He flopped down onto the bed, lying on his stomach and burying his head into the soft down pillows as he kicked off his shoes. He silently blessed the coolness of the cotton sheets against him, and was thankful that the curtains were closed and the room was dark. Not only did this mean that he would be able to fall asleep much easier, but it also meant that he wouldn't be constantly reminded of his lost alchemist – had the curtains been drawn back, he would have had a perfect view of the wall that Trisha had disappeared through, resplendent with the vibrant tape that shouted to the world of his most recent failure.
Riza slowly opened the door, poling her head into the bedroom. Sunlight poured through from the study, casting her shadow onto the carpeted floor. She walked over to the bed and took in the sight of her husband with a smile. It had been ten minutes since she had discovered him looking out at her, and it appeared that he hadn't moved a muscle since then. He lay on his stomach, arms supporting his head, his face turned away from the closed and drawn windows, his boots lying forgotten on the ground. Riza walked over to one of the windows and slowly opened it, careful to keep the curtains shut and the room dark. A gentle breeze entered the room, bringing with it the soft warmth of spring sunlight and the scent of flower blossoms. The curtain softly rippled and Riza's skirt swayed. She quietly crawled onto the bed, lying on her side and lovingly watching her husband's sleeping face. She reached out a hand and gently stroked his hair back, uncovering his eye patch. She undid the knot in the long black string that held the patch tightly to his face; the black cloth fell, revealing the long mark running from his eyebrow down to his cheekbone; his left eye was scarred shut. She traced the long scar with her fingertip, noting how clammy the skin was. She shook her head.
"Oh, Roy," she sighed quietly, "how many times do you have to be told that your skin needs fresh air to stay healthy? Why do you always leave that patch on?"
Roy barely opened his good eye, gazing at his wife sorrowfully. "Because… I want to…" he told her softly.
"What?" she asked, unable to control herself in keeping in an incredulous laugh. "Why?"
"I don't know…" he whispered.
Riza set her face stonily. "Is it because it makes you feel powerful?"
"No!" he said vehemently, giving a small, strong shake of his head.
"No," he said more softly, his façade beginning to crack under his wife's keen gaze.
"Do you think that if you wear it all the time you'll be safe? Invincible?"
Roy's lips moved, but no words came out. Tears slid silently down his cheek.
Riza couldn't bear to see Roy like this, but continued to press on – no matter how much it hurt him, he needed this… and she'd keep searching until she found the true cause for his pain…
"Are you ashamed?" she continued. "Are you trying to hide? Or is it that you think that by wearing it all the time you'll be able to fix everything?"
Roy said nothing. He desperately tried to choke back the tears, but it was all in vain. He sobbed uncontrollably into his wife's arms, all of his pain and frustrations bursting forth at once, leaving him immensely vulnerable.
"Oh, Roy…" Riza whispered sadly as she stroked his raven hair, holding him close until he cried himself to sleep.
"Trisha! Trisha, what's wrong?" Harry asked frantically, kneeling down on the ground next to her, trying to peer into her face.
"I'm sorry," she sobbed, her words muffled by her arms. Her cheeks flushed red with embarrassment; what was wrong with her? She'd never done anything like this – crying in front of people, especially when it seemed so random. She hadn't even cried in front of anyone when her mother had died. Her father's proud streak was definitely alive and well in her… But she couldn't help it – despite how hard she tried or how strong she tried to be, she couldn't help it – couldn't hold back any longer what she felt gripping at her each day and each night – fear. That icy sense of urgency, screaming that time was unraveling around her. She began to shake uncontrollably, teeth chattering as the cold rain seeped through her clothes and clung to her stooped frame. Hermione and Ron began to shiver as well as the rain came down ever harder. Harry looked at her sadly.
'NO!' her mind screamed at her. 'You have to keep a grip on yourself! If they see the real you, they'll never be your friends! And you still need them to get home…'
Trisha shook her head harshly as her mind raged at her. She was tired of all this – tired of always standing by, watching, never doing anything for anyone but herself, and hiding – always hiding…
'They trust you, don't they?' something at the back of her mind asked. 'They trust you – and it's time that you begin to trust them, too.'
"Right…" Trisha mumbled to herself. She looked up at the dark sky, the rain stinging her face. She looked at each of her three companions in turn, huddled and cold in the soaking weather. She closed her eyes, face still turned towards the raining heavens.
"I'm sorry," she said hoarsely, the words barely audible above the storm.
Harry, Hermione and Ron started, looking down at her. Trisha began to smile.
"I haven't been entirely honest with you, and I'm sorry. You've been so kind to me, trusting me, being my friends… I owe you at least the same."
"Wh-what are you t-talking about?" Ron stuttered, his clothes clinging wetly to his body.
Trisha opened her eyes, an embarrassed smile plastered on her wet face. She looked at him. "I'm not really who you think I am."
Hermione's eyes narrowed in suspicion and against the rain. "What do you mean?" she asked.
Trisha gave a small, nervous laugh. "I mean that I'm not who I've been portraying myself to be. I'm not always quiet or humble – most of the time I'm loud and rude. I've been trying my best to be as nice as possible, because I'm so afraid that people will hate me for who I really am… I…" she stopped, tears mingling with the rain running down her face.
Ron, Harry and Hermione looked on, now oblivious to the rain, their entire beings focusing on the girl in front of them who they knew nothing about yet cared for completely.
"I…" Trisha's voice caught in her throat. She took a breath, and pressed on. "I don't want to be by myself anymore. I don't want to keep losing people." She looked up at her three companions, searching their eyes for something, anything – recognition or even denial.
Hermione was the first to respond. She gave a small smile. "Ok."
Trisha's eyes grew wide with surprise and relief. "Really?"
Hermione nodded, her smile growing wider.
Trisha flooded with happiness, and, finally, warmth, as a pale blue light shone through from her lap through the dark rain. A small engraving materialized on the far left side of her auto-mail hand – her father's basic array before he opened the Gate.
"Yeah. Don't worry about it," Ron said, apparently unaware of the fading glow of Trisha's hand. "I mean, we deal with Harry all the time, right, Hermione? I'm sure whatever you're like couldn't be nearly as bad, Trisha."
Trisha and Hermione, also oblivious to Trisha's latest development, laughed. Ron sneezed.
"Oy, Harry, you ready to go, mate? I'm freezing my arse off!" Ron asked the bespectacled boy next to him. Harry didn't respond.
"Oh, don't tell me you're mad," Hermione said huffily.
Harry still didn't respond. His face, covered by his wet hair, was unmoving, his gaze downwards.
"Harry?" Trisha asked apprehensively, gazing up into his face. His eyes were dark and morose, yet frightful, as if he were angry…
He looked up slowly, his eyes flashing suddenly before glazing over. "I'm find," he said before turning and moving on.
Hermione and Ron followed with a small shrug, content with the answer since it got them out of the rain. They were used to Harry's mood swings, often offset by seemingly unimportant events and actions, something Trisha's crying, or, perhaps, even the foul weather, to be.
But Trisha was by no means placated by Harry's response. That fleeting glimpse of emotion in Harry's eyes, that sudden change, shook Trisha to her very core. While the flashing change in Harry's eyes lasted only a moment, to Trisha it was much, much longer… long enough to betray to Trisha Harry's true state. Whatever happiness she had felt with her confession and the advent of a new circle was now gone, the icy grip of fear enclosed back around her heart. Yet Trisha knew that this time it would take a much longer search to find its cause.
Once again, a large thanks to everyone as well as a huge apology. The school year is drawing to a close and I'm just about ready to graduate! I have no plans whatsoever to work this year, and with any luck I'll have a laptop by the end of the month, which means that I can write out chapters while my family and I travel and without having to depend on my dear, clunky, horrifically slow computer. Huzzah!
So, please review! And for anyone who cares (I do, for some reason) this chapter was 4 pages long in a Word document (without comments in bold), and in Word it is now up to 64 pages and is over 31,000 words long! I daresay that it's growing to be the size of a normal Harry Potter book, which are hundreds of pages long, but certainly not on an 8.5x11" sheet of paper! Go me:)