Best Kept Secret
Chapter 139: Ranging Emotions
Disclaimer: I don't own Fullmetal Alchemist and gain no profit from this fanfiction other than much needed writing practice. I do own any original characters present in this fiction. The song comes from the manga.
She'd been silent since he'd helped her stand and guided her over to the bed. He thought he'd heard her mutter when he went to get the medical kit, but he didn't know what she said. It wasn't until Hayate jumped upon the bed and put his head on her lap that she spoke briefly to say "good boy" to him.
She fell into silence once more as he studied her legs for pieces of glass. He touched one of the cuts with the tip of his finger and moved closer to get a better look. Fortunately, it seemed there were no shards in her skin and there were only small cuts that would heal in a few days.
She kept her gaze on Hayate and rested her wrists on his back. He knew she would be petting him if towels weren't wrapped around her hands. He noticed her doing it when she'd had a stressful day or needed to think. Sometimes when he stayed there, he'd catch her up in the middle of the night, sitting on the couch, snuggling and petting him. He'd always go back to bed, never mention it to her, and the next day would sneak Hayate a nice piece of steak as a reward for being such a loyal companion. She needed the dog just as much as the dog needed her.
He sat on the bed, took her right wrist in his grasp, and unwrapped the towel. These injuries were much worse than the ones on her legs, as if she dug her hand into the glass pieces to deliberately cut them. There was a lot of blood on the peach terrycloth but not enough to be worrisome.
He was more worried about the cuts and scrapes that the night's revelations had left in her mind. Events seemed to be trying to slash, stab, and yank out any positivity she tried to get. It was like she had a huge bull's-eye on top of her head that said, "See how much you can fuck me up".
As if she'd read his mind, she spoke, her voice hoarse and coming out in a whisper. "I never believed in fate before," Riza said. "I always thought our actions would dictate our future. Like free will. More and more I'm wondering if anything we do has a point."
Roy kissed one of her knuckles and commenced bandaging her hand. "I don't think there's any way of knowing whether fate exists or we can change things. I'd like to think the latter."
"Then why bother?"
"What if there's a chance that what we do does make a difference? And besides, we can't live just sitting in a chair and staring out into space. If we do nothing, nothing much will happen."
"I don't know if I can believe we have any control anymore. My father, the homunculi, Hohenheim, the red stones, all if it is combining too easily to be anything but decided already. And not in our favor."
"I don't want to think that we have no control over our lives, but you have no control over what your father or any other asshole involved in your situation did or does. We just have to keep fighting."
He finished bandaging that hand and then moved on to her other one. "I hate the thought, but it would be comforting in some aspects to know things are decided already."
"That would mean Ishbal wouldn't have been avoidable. We could blame it on fate." She gave a short joyless laugh. "Yeah, that would be somewhat comforting." She shook her head. "Ishbal was our fault, pressured by decisions of others. Still, we could've refused."
Roy nodded. "Whether fate is real or not doesn't change the lives we've taken or bring them back. It doesn't change what's happened to us. So there's no point in contemplating it. We're working to fix our mistakes."
He lifted her hand, now bandaged, and kissed her palm. "We'll make it together. We have to try."
She leaned forward and brushed his lips with hers before resting her forehead against his shoulder. "I'll try not to throw anything else or break anymore mirrors."
Roy wanted to tell her that she could break whatever the hell she wanted if it helped, but he didn't want her to injure herself again to do it. Riza had the habit of letting things build up. They both did.
He lifted his hand to her back and rubbed it. "Lie down and try to get some rest. I'll clean up the mess in the bathroom."
"I need to shower, I'm dirty." She then muttered, "In more ways than one."
Upon hearing that, he took hold of her shoulders, being sure not to grip too hard, and pulled her away so he could look at her face. "You are not dirty. You're not tainted. You're flawed like everyone else, but your flaws have nothing to do with what some selfish egotistical alchemist burdened you with."
He tried not to let himself show too much anger even though he was furious with what her father did. In her current state, she might mistake his anger toward him with anger toward her. "You're still the same person you were before our discovery tonight. And don't forget that we're still not sure that the red stones were what he used in the tattoo."
"Don't patronize me, Roy." She looked down at her lap and her body trembled under his hands. "The coincidence is too much. If those are in me, then there's a part of me that is—"
"You're still Riza. Yes, you know more about that thing, but you haven't undergone any transformations or any unexplainable personality shifts. You're still the woman I fell in love with, albeit, older."
Her eyes narrowed and he almost laughed at the reaction. There was an incident where Edward asked her age, and it looked as if she were going to murder him right where he stood. Even in this state, the age thing still irked her. "I mean…um…more mature."
She sighed. "I suppose that's better. . . A little."
He grinned and rubbed her nose with his. "Yes, still my Riza."
"I still want you to burn more of it."
"I know you do."
"I won't ask you to do it again. I'm sorry for bringing that memory back, and I know I'm a useful tool for—"
"You're still going on about that?" he snapped and instantly regretted it when she cringed. Hayate's head shot up and he growled. "I'm sorry, I… What I see in you isn't some tattoo on your back. Yes, it is a tool, but that doesn't make you one."
He fell back on the bed. "Do you have any idea how much I contemplate what would happen if that damn thing had never been put on your back, and your bastard father really had taken the secrets to the grave. I wish he had."
He felt a hand on his stomach, and moments later, she was lying with him, her head on his chest. Hayate snuggled between the two of them. "You would've found a way."
"Probably a less deadly form," he said. "I know one thing. I would still love you. Who knows, we might've just settled down there." He kissed the top of her head. "I would take those marks off your back in a second if I could do it without hurting you, yet after all these years I feel as if you…"
He wasn't sure whether to continue with the statement. He didn't want to make this situation about him, but he was dragged into it by the damned tattoo as well.
He sighed. "When you imply I'm in it because you're a tool, it hurts that you think that less of me."
She sat up. "No! Never! Roy, I think less of myself. I don't feel like I'm worth anything to anyone when my confidence takes a nosedive. My entire life with father after mother died was focused on the tattoo. No, you can't go swimming. No, you can't wear that dress. I couldn't make friends out of my father's fear that they'd see the damned thing. The concern shown for me was limited to him asking how the tattoo was healing. Not how I was, but the goddamn tattoo. I've always been really good at hiding it and hoped I could take the insecurities to my grave, but these past years have shown that it won't happen."
Riza had told him some of the things that happened to her in regards to the tattoo, but had never revealed this much. He hated Berthold Hawkeye before, now his hate was growing the more she spoke of her childhood.
She looked down at Hayate who had moved his head closer to her stomach and nuzzled her. "He constantly talked about adding notes and more symbols until he got sick. Then I started feeling even more like a monster."
He sat up. "Why?"
"Because I was so happy he got sick. I was thankful for it. His sickness meant he wasn't able to focus enough to try to add anything. When he died, constant worries and reminders died along with him. I was glad to see him die."
"There are very few people who would blame you for that."
"I know. The problem is that my opinion of myself is messed up because of that man, and I don't know how to go about fixing it."
And he didn't know how to tell her to fix it. "Maybe the only thing to be done is to talk it out and try to have faith in those we care about."
"How do you hold yourself together?"
"I barely do. You know that. You've seen how many times I've wanted to end it. Just how close I've come." He took her hand and she leaned against him once again. "If I didn't have you. I don't think I would've survived. You're my main reason for living. Not redemption for Ishbal, not to get to the top. You. We hold too much in and need to get better at sharing with each other. If we do, maybe things won't result in—"
"That." She motioned towards the bathroom.
They both looked at the broken glass, the shampoo on the walls where she'd thrown the bottles, and the dress that was now beyond any help a drycleaner could provide.
"I'm glad I bought that mirror instead of it already being there." Roy raised an eyebrow and she gave a tiny smile. "I'd never get my deposit back."
At that, he chuckled. The more he thought about her dark deadpan humour, the louder and harder that chuckle became until it was a full-blown laugh.
She looked at him with a small grin, but no laugh left her. When his laughing died down, he cupped her face in both his hands and said, "I love you. No more keeping insecurities quiet and no more secrets."
"We've made agreements like that before. We're terrible at sticking to them."
"All the more reason why we go so well with each other."
Her arms came up to wrap around his neck as his hands moved to her waist. "That and no one else would put up with us." Usually that statement came out with a bit of silliness, but she was serious. And she was right. No one could ever understand or put up with them the way they did each other. If soul mates were a thing, they definitely fit.
He grinned. "That too."
Riza was surprised that there was no traces of tiredness in her when she opened her eyes. Especially after the night she'd had. She clinched her eyes shut and forced herself to push it to the back of her mind. Another breakdown like that could not happen again.
She opened her eyes once more and released a heavy sigh. The dull morning light was shining into the room with as much force as her curtains would let it, but she could tell it was mid-morning even with the lack of light. She glanced over at the clock and saw it was 9:30 am.
Today was an optional get together at the Armstrong house. They were going to attend but after last night's events determined that it would do more harm than good to show up the way they looked and felt. They didn't want to give Bradley and any other homunculi (or other enemies) ammo to bring them down.
She stretched her body, straightening it from the tips of her fingers down to her toes, before turning to face Roy. She expected him to be there since he was rarely the one to awaken first. Surprisingly, his place in the bed was empty. She flipped on her back and stretched again. Even though she wasn't sleepy, she contemplated going back to sleep, but a pleasant scent drifting to her nose and a growl from her stomach changed her mind. She sat up, swung her legs over the side of the bed, and slid her feet into her slippers before standing.
She cringed as a sharp pain shot from her ankles to her knees, but it faded almost as soon as it came. Her hand still held an unceasing throb and burned as if someone was unremittingly pouring alcohol into the wound. She'd had worse injuries before, so it wouldn't be too difficult to deal with. It was a good thing she was ambidextrous with her shooting.
She walked down the hallway and heard a low consistent mutter. When she got to the kitchen door, she saw that Roy was at the stove, his back to her, and was singing. His voice wasn't terrible, but he definitely had no future in music should his military career end.
"Snap snap snap snap my fingers. Snap snap snap snap my fingers." He snapped the fingers of his hand not holding the spatula.
"Who's the man that's gonna be president of all the land? The Flame Alchemist. My dream is to have a miniskirt harem."
Her brows furrowed due to not only the silly statement but also the terrible rhyme-ish scheme.
"Who's that hot dude, standing in front of the mirror, snapping his fingers, striking a pose?"
He struck a pose, one hand over his head and his butt sticking out slightly. She covered her mouth with her hand to keep from laughing.
"Uh-huh. That's me. The Flame Alchemist. I'm going to light your heart on fire, baby." He touched the pan and said, "Sizzle!" drawing out the z's to make it sound the way a steak sounds when it hits a hot pan.
She bit the corner of her lip, the struggle to hold back her laugh growing with each line spoken and each action her husband made.
"My heart is a raging inferno, oh yeah! Disco Inferno!" he said and pointed one finger up as if he were going to do a disco dance.
She bit her entire bottom lip and took a step out of the room. She was still in the hallway and could view the performance.
"And tonight, baby, it's burning hotter than everrrrrrr." His pitch kept getting higher and higher with the drawn out ever. "Like a flame thrower." He jerked his other hand outward in a dance move. The spatula shot from his hand and flew across the room. Riza's entire body was now shaking, but she still managed to keep any noise from coming out.
He danced across the kitchen after it. He was dressed only in a pair of dog boxers and matching slippers. He picked up the spatula. "Snap, crackle, pop baby. It's my burning love. Ohhhh—" He spun and froze when he saw her. "Ye…yeah…" he finished.
Then, all the laughter came out in the form of a huge cackle and tears from her eyes. She grabbed hold of the doorframe to keep herself upright. That had to be the funniest thing she'd ever seen him do.
Roy's entire body flushed. He cleared his throat and went back over to the stove after washing off the spatula. He focused down at his pan and flipped the pancake.
He put the last pancake on the stack he had on the plate, and turned towards the table. An offended look adorned his face. "It's not that funny. Come eat."
"It is," she said as she straightened and wiped tears from her eyes. "You were so sincere about it." She sat down at the table. "The song was awful, but the dancing really put it over the top."
He wrinkled his nose. "I spent three days writing it." He flopped some pancakes on her plate.
"Only you would make up a song like that about yourself," she said as she poured syrup on her pancakes.
"Hey, I figured if Armstrong could do a recording of his theme, so could I," Roy said. "I sing better than him and—"
"Wait, what? His theme? A…record? He has a record?"
"Yeah, it's pretty good. My song is better than all of his though."
If Roy's song is better, Armstrong's must be a disaster. "What are his songs called?" she asked and took a bite of her food.
"My Sparkles Bring All the Women to the Yard, It's Raining Sparkles, and Armstrong Rhapsody."
Riza choked on her pancake and reached for her orange juice. When she managed to catch her breath she said, "You're kidding?"
"No, I'm not."
"Why did he do the album?"
"For the same reason Armstrong does anything. Passed down the Armstrong line for generations."
"Records haven't been out for generations. "
"Point taken, but Roy, you are no singer." And she doubted Armstrong was much of one either.
He laughed. "I know, I'm just joking around."
Riza wasn't sure if she believed some of that was joking around or not.
She also didn't know that he'd known the moment she stood from her bed, thanks to Hayate.
AN: I promise you all that I will not give up on this story. After this chapter things are going to go back to being even more serious. I include a little comedic relief because that's how life is. Even during the most stressful incidents, most of us can find times when we almost feel okay. When we laugh. I wanted to convey that. I really hope you enjoyed this chapter.