Best Kept Secret
Chapter 119: Jekylls and Hydes
Disclaimer: I don't own Fullmetal Alchemist and gain no profit from this fanfiction.
It wasn't exaggerating for him to say that when Riza was gone it felt as if a part of him was missing. This happened from the moment she stopped working in the office, but now that she was out of town, even if it was only for a day, those feelings enhanced. It didn't help that she was gone with Edmund. Though he'd given his blessing, though he trusted Riza implicitly, Edmund going with her sparked jealousy, worry, and envy that he couldn't be there instead.
For the entire day, he'd had a difficult time completing even the smallest, mindless tasks. It was proof that if she passed away before him he wouldn't be able to function in any capacity.
But you've known that long ago. He unlocked the apartment door and went inside. After shutting it back, the hairs on his arms stood on end.
He looked around and noticed Riza's bag sitting on the floor and leaning against the table. Riza always went with the same routine and structure when she got home. Her shoes were always in the same place, books were stacked on shelves by type, and her purse belonged on the small table to the right of the door. He glanced at the rug where she kept her shoes. They weren't there. Instead, they were strewed with one on the rug, the other near the kitchen door.
He kept hold of the doorknob as he closed the door, and let the latch loose bit by bit until it gave a quiet click. His hand went under his coat and he pulled out his gun from the holster under his uniform jacket. He stepped lightly upon the floor so his weight wouldn't cause the loose boards hidden by the rugs to creak and alert whatever intruder might be there with Riza.
It was possible that Riza had a guest and the guest had placed her purse there, but it was unlikely the apartment would be so dark if that were the case and Riza would never let anyone take her purse.
When he heard a noise in the kitchen, he turned the corner, gun poised to shoot. When Riza appeared before him, she stumbled to the side. He dropped the firearm and rushed to catch her. "What the hell happened to you?" he said when he had her standing upright. He noticed the icepack in her hand.
"Help me to the living room. I need to sit down. Then I'll tell you."
Roy picked her up instead and carried her into the living room.
"You're going to strain your side. I'm too heavy."
"Don't worry about me." It was typical she'd be more concerned about his healed injury than her current head injury. "Did you go see a doctor?"
"Do I look like I have?"
He sat her down on the couch. "I'll call Knox to-"
"No, I'll be fine. I've had worse." Her hand shook as she lifted the cold pack to the back of her head.
"What happened? Where the hell is that bastard?"
"That bastard was the one that hit me. On our way back, after I got the information, he drew his gun on me. He held me at gunpoint until we got here, then he knocked me out. Missus Standford found me. When I woke up, I was in her office. Shortly after I woke up, I assured her you were on your way home and came up here."
Missus Standford was the landlady that took over from the previous cantankerous old bat in charge of the building before. She even had the elevator fixed instead of pocketing all the money from the tenants. They never could prove the previous landlady squandered most of the money, but it was obvious to everyone that lived there. "He left you outside?"
"Outside her office, yes." She leaned her head back against the couch then immediately lifted it when the sore spot hit the cushions.
She slammed the cold pack against the arm of the couch. "I don't understand how I could be so stupid!"
"It's just like you to blame yourself for this." Roy sat down beside her. "Edmund is the one that hit you. He left you in danger while knowing what you were involved with."
"I. . ." She looked down at her lap and lifted the cold pack back up to her injury. "I've known him so long that I should've seen some sign he was up to something. He acted normal."
"You aren't perfect. You can't read everyone all the time Riza."
If he were a selfish man he would've been happy over Edmund's actions and the fact he wouldn't be around anymore, but he never wanted to see Riza in any sort of pain. Edmund had been a friend to her, and it was safe to say that he was just as, if not more than, confused as Riza over the betrayal.
"Maybe he was blackmailed?" Roy offered. There had to be some reason why he did it. His actions made no sense. He recognized genuine feelings, and knew Edmund was truly in love with Riza. He had to have a good reason for what he did.
She mulled the suggestion for a few seconds, then said, "Does Edmund seem the type to let himself be blackmailed."
"No one lets themselves be blackmailed. It just happens. And besides since you..." He bit the corner of his lip, thinking of a way to state his words gently. "Since you didn't expect this, then you don't know him as well as you thought."
A nod accompanied a wavering laugh. "You're right." He saw tears form at the corner of her eyes, subtle expressions that he knew wouldn't fall yet.
He knew more words wouldn't be any sort of comfort for her, but he knew of something that would put her body at ease. "You want to take a bath? Maybe that will relax you."
"Don't you want to know what I found out?"
"You can tell me while you're soaking."
Roy had expected to sit on the chair by the tub to keep an eye on her and to listen as she told him about what happened, but as soon as she stepped into the water, she pulled him closer and asked him in a shaky voice to come in as well. That's how he found himself leaning against the white metal tub with her resting back against his chest. The washcloth hadn't been touched yet, instead she kept her focus on his hands, running her thumb back and forth on his knuckles as she told him what happened once they got to her hometown, to the doctor's office and then on the way back with Edmund.
He felt her shudder as she spoke of Edmund's betrayal. He wrapped his arm around her tighter and kissed the top of her head.
"There was even more information in the files he took. I didn't even get to read it," she said. "There could've been information on the homunculi, or my tattoo or..." She let go of his hand and reached forward to run more hot water in the tub. She kept her hand on the faucet and put one hand under the running water to test the temperature. "What did I do to make him betray me, Roy? Am I not..."
The skin on her hand was red as he grabbed her wrist and turned her around. Little else hurt Riza more than betrayal. He'd betrayed her trust and was working hard now to set it right. He knew she forgave him and trusted him, but it hadn't been easy for her. He lifted her hand, relieved the water wasn't hot enough to burn her (she had enough burn scars already) and reached behind her to turn off the water.
"It was nothing you did. I'm sure of that."
She leaned forward and put her forehead on Roy's shoulder. "It certainly seems like it. I know it's not the case, but it feels like I'm the only one to ever be betrayed."
Troubles were always like that. There was always someone in worse circumstances, but when it happened to you it seemed like everyone else was living happily and carefree in their own little ideal world while you took on all the problems.
"You can trust me."
"I know that," she muttered against his skin, her breath sending a chill down his shoulder. She rested there for a few minutes, the water once again growing cool, before she raised her head. Fire burned in her eyes, concealing but not incinerating the hurt resting just behind the anger and determination. "I'm going to get those files back."
Roy grinned and reached up to move some of her wet bangs out of her eyes. Lieutenant Hawkeye was with him right now. That determined, stoic figure that didn't let anyone stand in the way when she was dead-set on accomplishing something. To see her was a comfort to them both. "Whatever you need to do, do it." His expression turned serious. "Do you want to try to find your mother as well?"
"I did on the . . . Wait, Edmund asked me that too. When I said I was considering it, that's when he started acting strange and then took his gun out. He tried to talk me out of it."
"Do you think he thought that you'd be in danger? Maybe that's why he took the files. He knows more than he's let on."
She cursed under her breath, stood, and stepped out of the tub. He watched as she snatched the towel from the rack and began to dry herself off. All the while muttering various words, some louder than others but still indistinct. She cringed when she moved to dry her hair and hit the back of her head.
Roy got out, dried off, and secured the towel around his waist. "Riza?"
"If that's the case, I'm even more furious with him," she said after she got her bathrobe on. She tied the belt and jerked the two ends to tighten it around her waist. "I appreciate support but I don't want to be fucking babied!"
She walked to the door. "Where are you going?"
"To go see him."
Roy stepped forward and grabbed her wrist. "You can't go out right now. It can wait until morning. You aren't in the state to deal with him."
"What if he gives the papers to someone? I have to get to-"
"If his intention was to give away the information for some reason, he would've already done it. You're doing what you always tell me not to do. You're letting your temper impair your judgment." He took hold of her upper arms and pulled her closer. "You're hurt. I know you said you didn't want to be babied and I'm not doing that, but as a husband, it's my job to take care of my wife. We'll get those papers back. I promise. For now. Relax."
She leaned her head against his chest, feeling the dampness of his chest against her forehead. "You're right."
"I'm angry too, but there's nothing we could do tonight, and I don't think Edmund is dumb enough to go to his place knowing you'll wake up and possibly be on the warpath. There's no guarantee you'd find him and traipsing about at night is dangerous."
"Okay, Roy. I'll deal with it tomorrow."
"We'll deal with it. Together."
It was fortunate that her lunch break was that of exactly one hour as opposed to the half hour that she had before. The fuehrer had three times the work as Roy, but had the ability to go through it in less time. To break up the building tension in her stomach, her mind popped in the amusing notion that being a homunculus resulted in increased paperwork completion speeds, but really it was just he didn't procrastinate. He got to work the moment a form hit his desk and didn't look up until it was finished. He had two breaks: his lunch and then his afternoon tea break, which she loathed to say, he earned.
She'd mentally noted his routine and the nuances, and idiosyncrasies that constituted Fuehrer Bradley; she would never assume that "Wrath" was the same. She'd coined most people that came by her life for fleeting moments as, Dr Jekylls and Mister Hydes, and Bradley was no exception. Bradley possessed a calm cool control that Jekyll had at one time through the means of the potion but eventually lost when the other side gained dominance. It occurred to her that Bradley, through his odd mannerisms, his almost kindness, might be fighting a similar struggle. His potion: the philosopher's stone.
Not that she was excusing Bradley, but there were no excuses for the other Jekylls and Hydes in her life. Especially the one whose office she was currently sitting in.
Riza, you read far too many books. She shut the small book she carried and put it in her purse, focused on the desk in front of her, and chalked up her symbolic musings as a method to deal with her nerves. It was the first time she'd been to Edmund's office building and she hadn't realized the lengths it would take for her to see him. And she would see him. If he refused to admit her into his office, then she'd catch him outside of it. And if not then, well, Edmund had many military contracts and since he betrayed her, she wouldn't hesitate to "suggest" to the fuehrer that the military's firearm contracts would be best served by a different company. He often asked her opinion on such matters when a weapons issue came to his desk. Her scruples were low enough now regarding him that she'd use blackmail to get what she wanted even if she had to stoop to his level to do it.
The door to the small office opened and the secretary she spoke with earlier came out with another man. The secretary moved around to her desk, but the man approached her.
"I'm Mister Patterson. Mister Carnell will not be in his office today due to a last minute meeting he had to schedule. May I be of any help or would you like to leave a message for him?"
Meeting. Yeah, I bet he has a meeting. "No, it's fine. I'll come back again later. Do you know when he'll be in?"
"I'm afraid he never said when he'd be back. If you'd like I can get your number and have him call you Missus..."
"Lieutenant Mustang," Riza said.
He looked surprised. "Are you here on behalf of the military?"
"My reasons for coming are related to the military, yes."
"How odd," the man said and turned to the secretary. "Wasn't Mister Carnell's afternoon meeting at Central Headquarters?"
"I was just about to ask if you are any relation to Colonel Mustang?" the secretary asked Riza. Her voice took on a defensive lilt.
"Yes, I'm his wife. Do you know the business Mister Carnell had at headquarters? I wasn't made aware he was going. If I had, I wouldn't have come here."
The secretary turned snooty. "I'm afraid I'm not at liberty to discuss that without proper—" She showed her military identification before the woman could finish her sentence.
"Give her the information," Mister Patterson said after he studied the identification badge.
She huffed and muttered a word, then said, "It was in regards to a special item he attained recently. That's all he said."
Special item indeed.
Riza dug her heels in the thick carpet under her to keep herself from running out of the office and to her husband. If Edmund went there then that meant Roy might have known what he was going to do. Roy had tried to tell Edmund to take care of her if he died. Roy was the one to suggest she take Edmund. What if they planned all of this?
What if she couldn't trust Roy either?
What if he was also one of those Jekylls and Hydes in her life?