She knew she shouldn't bother him tonight, so soon after the funeral. He probably wanted nothing more than to be alone, either to wrestle with his feelings until they settled into some manageable order, or to drink himself into a temporary, merciful oblivion. She supposed it depended on whether he was of a mind to torment himself, or allow himself some relief. She couldn't begin to guess what his choice would be.
She wondered if the struggle itself, of choosing between the two options, would be more than he could deal with. The thought worried her, very much.
So Hawkeye found herself at Roy Mustang's door, long after they both should have been asleep. She wasn't entirely surprised that he didn't answer her knock. But she tried again. Even if he came to the door and yelled at her for disturbing him, at least she'd know he was alright. It would be better than the terrible, frozen silence in which he had locked himself since he'd heard the news about Maes Hughes.
But again, there was no response to her knock.
Now Riza faced a dilemma. She stared at the doorknob, frowning. If the door was locked – as it almost surely was – what then? Call security, and risk the person seeing Roy sprawled drunk across his bed? Kick the door down? Or just leave, and hope her commanding officer would be alright?
She couldn't possibly leave. And she wasn't going to subject Roy to any stranger's view tonight. So, it was either kick down the door, or –
Or open it. Because, unexpectedly, the knob began to turn as she tried it. For some reason, the fact that Roy had forgotten to shut himself in like this made her even more uneasy.
She turned the knob and pushed the door open a crack, holding her breath. She almost expected it to slam shut again as Roy noticed it and kicked it, or something. But there was no sound or response from inside. Which was even more worrisome.
Hawkeye pushed the door halfway open, and had to suppress a sigh of relief. He wasn't falling down drunk, at least.
Roy sat motionless on the bed, one leg over the edge. He'd taken off his uniform jacket, and seemed to have unbuttoned the shirt halfway before losing interest. He appeared lost in thought, head bowed, not even noticing the slowly opening door. Hawkeye wondered if she should just back out the way she had come, and leave him to his private grief.
And then she realized what he was looking at, and understood in a blinding flash of fear that there had always been a third option open to him, a way to bring himself the relief of oblivion, permanently.
One of his hands rested on the knee of the leg that supported him over the edge of the bed. But the other was pressed flat on top of the handgun that lay on the bed beside him. He was just...sitting there. Staring at it. Thinking. Waiting to act...
Riza took a step into the room. "Roy...," she breathed, as though even the sound of her voice could tip the balance.
Slowly he lifted his head to look at her. Her breath caught at the dead despair in his dark eyes. She stepped closer.
"Roy," she said softly, her heart pounding in her throat. She lifted her hand. "I think you should give me the gun."
He didn't move. He just sat there. Looking at her. As though she were a total stranger, or worse, an inaminate object. It was as though his mind had completely shut down.
Or had room for only one thought.
His hand tightened around the gun, and he lifted it from the bed. With no change of expression at all, he turned the weapon around and put the end of the barrel into his mouth.
Hawkeye had already leapt, without thinking. She flung herself across the bed, throwing her body against him. She knocked his hand sideways before his finger could tighten on the trigger, and then wrenched the gun away altogether, hurling it across the room.
Mustang gasped, finally shocked into awareness. His face twisted in fury, and he grabbed Riza's arms, literally throwing her off the bed with a wordless cry of rage. She flew across open space, crashing shoulder and head into a desk by the window. She pushed herself up quickly, fighting a wave of dizziness, ready to spring to her feet if he attacked again.
But his anger subsided as abruptly as it had arisen. Roy stared at her in frozen horror as she blinked up at him. And blinked again, around whatever it was that was dripping into her eyes. She wiped the back of her hand across her face and blinked yet again, in surprise, as it came down smeared with blood.
Roy dropped to his knees before her, yanking out a handkerchief and dabbing it at her forehead. "I'm sorry – oh god, Riza, I'm so sorry – " His hands were shaking. "I'll call a doctor – I'm so sorry – "
"Wait," she said. "Let's see if it's more than a scratch. You don't need anyone poking around in here if it's not necessary. I just need a mirror..." She struggled to get to her feet, then staggered as the dizziness hit her again. She fell against Roy and he steadied her, holding an arm around her.
"Here." He guided her to a chest of drawers with a mirror attached to it. He stood behind her, keeping his hands on her shoulders, as she patted the blood away and then leaned in to have a look.
"There, see?" Hawkeye said. "It's really just a wide scrape, nothing serious. You know how facial cuts bleed more than others, and sometimes look worse than they really are. No harm done." She met his eyes in the mirror and her voice trailed away as they regarded each other. Finally she said, "I couldn't let you do it, sir. It would be...absolutely unbearable...to lose you now."
Roy's hands tightened convulsively on her shoulders and he bowed his head. But she had already seen the fresh grief flooding into his eyes.
Riza turned under his hands until she faced him. As he made to pull away, she stopped him with a strong grip on his forearms. Gently she lifted a hand and laid it along his cheek. She saw him hesitate, and then he seemed to sag in resignation. He leaned down and rested his head on her shoulder, allowing her to pull him into her arms.
At first she thought he might weep, but he merely stayed as he was, leaning against her and enfolded by her, drawing whatever comfort he could take from that. She pressed her hands against his back, and rubbed them up and down soothingly. Eventually she began to stroke his hair, gently, turning her head to savour the feel of it against her cheek. It was soft and fine – one of the reasons it sometimes seemed to fly everywhere and hang in his eyes so often. She ran her fingers through it, closing her eyes. Such soft, beautiful dark hair...
And then his head was turning, and she felt his breath on her neck, and she was kissing his cheek as he turned, and then his lips, as she had secretly yearned to do for so very long. His hands unpinned and released her own hair, burying themselves in it as he pressed her even closer, answering her kisses with rising urgency. She could hear sounds in the back of his throat, almost like little whimpers, and it was sad, so sad, she could hardly bear it. He sounded so desperately alone.
At last Roy pulled back, just for a moment. Dark eyes met light eyes, as the wordless question passed between them. Riza couldn't reply, so breathless was she, but she nodded, once.
And then, for a long time, there was nothing but tumult. He had flung her uniform jacket halfway across the room before they got close to the bed, while she had yanked his shirt the rest of the way open, and pulled it half off. He freed his arms just long enough to shake it completely away, and then engulfed her again, ripping almost mindlessly at the rest of her clothes.
Riza felt herself slammed onto the bed, and then he loomed over her, and all consciousness was consumed in the maelstrom. He was above her, and upon her, and inside her, and there was nothing, nothing but him in all the world. She gasped at the force of his despair and need, at the violence of it, and then at the end, the bliss, tainted by pain. He cried out, involuntarily, and it was a cry of agony, not fulfillment.
It seemed to have lasted forever, yet passed in an instant. When it was over, and she lay catching her breath, eyes closed, she felt the movement as he rolled over and sat up, and swung his legs off the side of the bed, turning out the lamp. He remained sitting that way, head bowed. And then, at last, she heard him weeping, softly. She suspected that he was about to get up and leave her, already ashamed of himself for what he'd allowed himself to do. And she could not, could not let him do that, or feel that way.
Riza sat up in her turn, and reached for him. Wordlessly she drew him back, to lie beside her, as she took him in her arms and laid his head on her breast. He clung to her and cried in silence, as the veil of her hair covered his face. Again she stroked his hair as she held him, until at long last the weeping subsided and she knew he finally slept.
She herself took perhaps another hour to fall asleep; she had some hard thinking to do, and it had to be done before Roy woke up again. At the very least, she had to rein in her emotions, to prepare for whatever his reaction would be when he came back to himself. She could not allow herself to think that anything had changed between them. Or rather, if there was to be a change now, it would likely be for the worse. And nothing could be allowed to derail or distract him from the plans he had – especially not now, when his greatest companion and help had been taken from him. He would need his other supporters to take up the slack, and he must not have to deal with emotional entanglements that could weaken him in his purpose.
So if Riza was able to act as matter-of-factly as she normally did, and had no expectations or desires beyond what had already occurred tonight, perhaps she could prevent that. Anything was bearable, on her part, so long as he wasn't driven further into himself and his grief, so long as he didn't lose his great dream. She could accept anything, if it meant he would be alright. Tomorrow they would go back to normal.
But tonight...tonight, it seemed, was not over. She finally fell asleep, only to be awakened again later in the night as Roy stirred and lifted himself up on one elbow. As Riza opened her eyes and blinked sleepily, trying to discern his features in the shadows, his hand slid behind her head and he lifted her to meet his kiss. This time there was no violence or pain, and although at times through the night she felt his tears falling again onto her skin, she thought he finally seemed to take some joy in their lovemaking. She savoured the feel of his body against hers, storing away the memory of this night, for the inevitable future without him.
They barely spoke all night. But once, as Roy kissed her face and her hair, she heard him softly murmuring the words of a love poem – an Ishbalan poem that he had learned during the eastern rebellion.
"Fair thou art, my love," came the whispered words. "Thine eyes the eyes of the doe…thy garden enclosed with spices…I sleep, but my heart waketh to thy voice…"
Before she could even begin to deal with that, she recognized that the tears on her face were his, and not hers. She covered his mouth with her own, and pressed him closer to her. Tonight, the poem should bring him peace, and not pain.
And then at last they both sank into a deep sleep, not long before dawn.
When she woke again, lying alone under the covers with sunlight streaming into her eyes, it took a moment for recollection to come to her. Then she sat bolt upright, squinting to try to see, her eyes darting around the room. The gun! Roy was up, and she had to find the gun before he could get it -- !
"Don't worry." He stood at the window, fully dressed in his uniform, hands clasped behind his back as he looked out. "It's on the desk. I haven't touched it, except to put it there."
It was true; the gun was sitting where he said it was, and even from the bed she could see that the safety was on. She suppressed the temptation to sigh in relief.
"And if you're worried," Roy said, still gazing outward, "the crisis has passed, while I was...distracted. I won't be trying again."
Riza regarded him silently for a moment. She wished she could see his face. He sounded so emotionless this morning, almost formal. She tried to match his tone, saying, "In case you were wondering, I didn't come here last night planning to...distract you."
Finally his voice softened. "I know. I wasn't trying to insult you."
He turned to face her, but that was no help. With the morning light behind him, he was nothing but a faceless shadow, outlined in a shimmering glow that she wasn't sure was entirely due to the sunlight.
He said quietly, choosing his words carefully, "If it's any consolation, you are not the first person who has had to...prevent me from... Tim Marcoh was the first, near the end of the Ishbal rebellion. Maes..." His voice caught, almost imperceptibly. "...Hughes was the second, after I came back from the east. You are the third." He paused, and added wryly, "I would like to note, however, for the record, that I did not sleep with the other two."
Riza ducked her head, unable to prevent a small smile. But she knew his attempt at humour was probably not a sign that he was returning to his old self. It was more likely a sign that he was already starting to put his real feelings back under lock and key.
"That isn't exactly a consolation," she said, lifting her head again. "Because now, when you say you won't be trying again, I'm not sure I should believe you. Since this was the third time."
He appeared to be considering this. Damn the sunlight, that she couldn't see his face! Perhaps he read her expression, because he stepped closer to the bed, and at last she could see him. Thank goodness the blank despair was gone from his eyes, at least, though she wondered if the weary sadness would ever disappear.
Roy said, "I'm afraid I can't make any promises, beyond saying that I will not be making the attempt again, for the foreseeable future. And that I'll...try...after that."
"Have you made that promise before? To Hughes, say, the last time?"
He made no attempt to hide the pain in his eyes. There was a very long pause until he whispered, "Yes."
Riza drew her knees up under the covers and locked her arms around them. "I see," she said. "Alright. If that's all you can promise, for now, then that will have to do."
He turned his face away. "And you must know that this," he waved a hand, taking in the bed, "can never happen again."
"Of course?" he repeated, head turning back in surprise.
She could do this. She had dealt with the emotions and all the implications during the night, while Roy slept, and could now regard him with her usual level calm. "Of course," she said again. "Nothing about the basic situation has changed. Naturally."
"I'm glad you understand that. Thank you."
"Just make sure you keep your promise."
His eyes widened slightly as he searched her face. Then, gratifyingly, his lips curled upward as he understood her meaning. "I will," he said, allowing the slight drawl of humour into his voice. "I'd hate to have to put you to all this trouble again." He took a breath, and the smile was gone. "Now," he said. "I think I'd better leave, and let you get dressed, lieutenant. Please take as long as you need. I'll be making the arrangements for our return trip on the weekend."
"Thank you, sir. I'll clean up as much as I can." Riza glanced around the room again, looking for the clothes that had been flung all over the place last night, and then realized that he'd gathered them up and laid them carefully out on the chair by the bed. The thought of it – the thought of him handling her clothes, including the intimate under things – made her blush suddenly. She hoped he didn't notice.
"Right. I'll leave you to it, then." Roy walked around the bed to the door, and took hold of the handle. But as he began to turn it, he stopped. "Riza, I – " For a long moment he remained that way, facing the door. Then he suddenly turned back, set one knee on the bed, and leaned toward her.
He pulled her close and softly kissed her cheek, then laid his own cheek alongside it. "Thank you," he said, "for giving me the will to carry on a while longer. And I hope...somehow...that it went both ways. I hope I was able to give back to you, and not just take."
She had to speak this one last thing without letting her voice tremble. She had to.
Riza said, "The night was a gift, Roy, that I will cherish as long as I live."
He took a breath, and she thought perhaps it shook a little. "For me as well," he whispered. And then he did leave, slipping quickly out the door and closing it behind him.
She would not cry. She would not, until she had finished here and returned to her own room. But for a moment, as the memories flashed into her mind – his skin warm against hers, the movement of his muscles under her hands, his kisses in the dark, his tears on her face – the grief was almost overwhelming. She fought it down, reminding herself sternly that she'd had more of Roy Mustang than anyone else had ever had. It was enough. It would have to be enough. She fortified herself with this bit of common sense, and flung back the covers, preparing to dress and escape.
And outside in the hallway, Roy Mustang leaned his back against the door, closing his eyes, and waited for this latest burden to settle and find its place on his shoulders, beside all the others.