Best Kept Secret
Chapter 121: Trust's Sacrificial Weight
Disclaimer: I don't own Fullmetal Alchemist and gain no profit from this fanfiction.
It felt like years since she'd entered the hallway where Roy's office was, but in reality it was just a few days ago. It was part of the act that she had going with the other secretaries and officers in that area. She'd go in and they'd shoot her dirty looks or mutter a few things. Right now though, it was later than usual and the hallway was empty. Normally at this time, she'd meet him outside, but she was in a hurry to talk to him about Edmund's visit (if he really visited). She knew Roy would tell her if he had. It'd taken her about an hour to convince herself that he wasn't in on Edmund's plan, or worse, had planned it himself.
"Are you Lieutenant Mustang?"
A short, thin secretary emerged from a nearby room. She didn't recognize her from the days she'd worked there. Riza had made sure to memorize every face of every person who encountered Roy during the workday. "Yes, I am," she said. It was getting easier to acknowledge her new name now.
The girl looked around then waved her over. "Um... if the other secretaries caught wind of me doing this, they'd be angry but..." She licked her lips and darted her gaze to the left and right again. "He left a message with me. The others secretaries tried to take it, but I have to do my job." She handed Riza an envelope sealed with rubber cement. Riza knew all the secretaries in the pool weren't so bitter, a good amount were only going along with her plan to make sure there was some backlash to satisfy the homunculi, but there was a fair amount that were truly angry about Roy's marital status. Apparently, the one working for Edmund was actually bitter as well, though she was unsure if the woman actually knew Roy beyond reputation or rumors.
She wasn't too worried about the tiny secretary's circumstance though. The ones on their side would protect her if the troublesome ones had the guts to try anything. "I appreciate that."
She opened the letter.
I'm staying at my place tonight. Go home without me.
That was it? That's all he had to say after Edmund was there? A flare of anger festered for a few seconds before she realized that if he truly wanted to stay alone, he wouldn't have left a note. Dread replaced the anger. If he wanted to stay at his rent house, then she knew there was something he was dealing with. Roy always got into his, "I want to be alone, but I don't really," phases when something bad happened. She understood that it was self-preservation and a guarding of emotions, but she wouldn't let him push her away even for a second. He never let her do the same.
We're really too much alike.
She turned to the door but the girl called out, "Ma'am!"
Riza turned. "Yes?"
"He . . . I haven't been working here long, but he's usually very happy to be leaving the office. He looked really distressed when he left this evening. It was odd since when he came in he was in a better mood. It wasn't until some guy left the office that his mood changed. He didn't even go to lunch."
"What did the man look like?"
The girl blushed. "Like he'd just walked off a men's fitness magazine cover."
That was definitely Edmund, and whatever he told Roy put him into his reclusive state. She wouldn't let her doubts filter in and make her think he was trying to avoid her. "Thank you," Riza said and left the office before anyone saw her with the woman. When she arrived at the street, her courage nearly failed her before she turned to go in the direction of Roy's house.
The last time she stood on his doorstep, she'd broken down. She'd just shot an Ishbalan that tried to attack Bradley and added another face to the many trying to drive their way to the front of her mind and barricade her everyday functions. That night had been a good thing because it had brought her and Roy closer than they'd been before, but she thought it might have increased Roy's worry over her and distracted him from what he needed to focus on most.
She turned around as Roy stepped upon the porch. "I figured you'd come," he said and raised the two bags in his grasp, the plastic stretching and straining and willing to dump the contents on the ground if they weren't settled somewhere soon.
"Are you disappointed that I did?"
He grinned and twisted so his pocket was parallel to her. "Get my keys out will you?"
She reached in, took his keys, and opened the door. She took one of the bags from him and they entered the tiny house. "It's clean?" she said, expecting to smell the murky mold that usually accompanied houses such as these. She followed him into the small kitchen.
"There's an elderly woman that cleans three times a week. That's the reason I keep this place. If someone gives up the house, the woman only comes once a week and that's a sizable portion of her income. I know what a hard time she has, so it's a way I can help her because she'd refuse any other offer." Before she could react to the sweet gesture, he motioned to the bags. "You hungry?"
"No, I'm not," she said. It was time to focus on more important matters than food or cleaning ladies. "I'm more interested in a visitor you had to your office today."
"Ah, so you found out Edmund was there."
"Yes. I actually went to his office on my lunch break to confront him."
He jerked around. "Are you nuts? What if he would've hurt you? You shouldn't have done that alone."
It hurt to hear that she had to fear Edmund, but it was the truth. He wouldn't have laid a finger on her though. Not before she had her gun out and a bullet hole in his hand. "I agree. Using hindsight, I realized it was stupid, but I did find out he was visiting your office."
Roy walked out of the kitchen, snatching up his briefcase as he passed the counter. After closing the fridge he left open, she followed him. By the time she got to the couch, he was already sitting down and had the case on the coffee table, one hand resting on the already open latch.
"I can't believe I'm saying this but, don't think too poorly of Edmund." He removed the file from the case and held it up.
She sat down beside him and took it from his grasp. "He gave it to you? Willingly? "
"He deliberately brought it to me. Edmund's intentions were good." Roy reached up and brushed his fingers across where Edmund hit her. "Shitty methods behind them though."
"Did you read anything in it?" she asked.
"No. I only saw your mother's picture. I didn't want to see anything until you decided I should see it."
She looked at the files and then back at him. "I have no reason to keep it from you."
"You might after what I have to tell you."
He took her wrist, lowered the file to her lap, and opened it. He picked up the picture. When he looked at it, she noticed his gaze drift off for a few seconds. He looked up at her and exhaled. "I've seen her twice."
She swallowed the saliva building in her throat and resisted a hint of betrayal. She didn't know the whole story. "If you knew my mother why didn't you—"
"I didn't know she was your mother. There was nothing in her appearance or actions to even suggest you two were related, and she never said a thing about it."
"You spoke to her too?"
When Roy's complexion turned pallid, her blood ran cold. So he had spoken to her mother and by the looks of it, it hadn't been a good experience. "I did. Once in your hometown. It was just a quick apology for bumping into her."
"What about the second time?"
Roy pushed the ends of his palms into both eyes and pressed for a few seconds. He always did this when stressed, once saying that it relieved the tension from his eyes and, symbolically, from his mind. "Shit, this is hard."
"Roy, I'm not going to put our plans in danger just to find her. I just want to know where you saw her and why Edmund chose to give you these files instead of letting me take them."
"I'm know that!"
"Then what has you acting like this?"
"Because I saw her in..."
She'd expected him to say East or Central City. That he was so hesitant to tell her because, he knew her mother was within reach. Was he trying to protect her? Perhaps Edmund had seen her mother as well and that was why.
"Ishbal," he said.
She let her hand drop to her side. "Wha...How can..." It did make sense. Her mother was involved with experiments with the military at one time.
He kept his gaze downcast. Then she saw drops hit the file on her lap. "I'm sorry... I'm sorry..."
She grabbed the sides of his face and lifted it. Crying. He was crying. She made sure her hands didn't tighten their hold on his face as she said, "Roy? What are you sorry for?"
No. No. She didn't need this. This couldn't be happening! Her heartbeat usually sped up in moments like this but instead she felt numb. As if, her heart had frozen in place, awaiting his answer.
His eyes lost their focus and she shook him to jar him back to the present. "Roy! What are you sorry for?"
"The people I thought were the Rockbell doctors were . . ." He growled and jerked away from her. "Goddamn it! I killed your mother, Riza."
AN: I've been looking forward to posting this particular chapter ever since I wrote it a few weeks ago. Decided to post it earlier since I'm not sure if I'll have time this Sunday. Hope you enjoyed it and please leave a comment if you have the time.
Also, thank you so much for the support you've been giving me! I appreciate it.