Chapter Nine

Roy sat out in Jenna's garden, sipping tea, one of his favorite blends since he was a little boy visiting her father's house in their hometown. Upstairs, Riza slept in Jenna's guest bedroom. She hadn't wanted to stay in the hospital any more than Winry or Maes had. Letting her go home alone was out of the question. Poor Jenna, every guest room she had was filled. Winry would likely leave, though, and go to Gracia's as soon as they could convince the mechanic she wasn't putting Gracia and Elicia at risk.

Hearing a creak on the wood behind him, Roy twisted around on his seat to see Havoc rolling toward the workshop. "Should you be doing that after getting shot?" Roy asked.

"The bullet went into the leg." Havoc shrugged abortively, his hands still on his wheels. "I'm okay."

Roy got up any how and handed Havoc his tea cup. He pushed his subordinate into the workshop.

"How are you, Boss?" Havoc set the tea cup on the work bench as Roy parked him.

"Rough," Roy admitted, knowing Havoc wouldn't judge. Hell, admitting to human feelings would probably help remind the man that Roy was just a normal guy deep down.

"I'm sorry about everything, sir." Havoc looked up at Roy. "About the baby," he added softly. Havoc's eyes glistened. "I'm sorry I didn't do more when they were taking them."

Roy squeezed Havoc's shoulder. "You did enough, Jean. No one man could have stopped them."

Havoc smiled faintly. "Thanks." He reached for the herbs he was supposed to be packaging for sale. "What now?'

"Intelligence says Kimblee hightailed it out of town," Roy said, grateful for the change of topic.

"Has a sense of self preservation," Havoc growled, disgust coating every word.

"Kimblee's not an idiot. He knew what would happen if he crossed the line." Roy's voice thickened, hate in every syllable.

"He wanted to get out alive. If he crosses any of our paths..." Havoc spoke about killing as if it were a casual thing.

Roy nodded, clapping a hand on his friend's shoulder. 'I'm going to go see if she's awake."

Havoc fished for his cigarettes. "Give her my best."

"Of course."

Roy thought the house was just too quiet for all the people it housed. The silence held an almost respectful, yet mournful, feel to it. He ascended the stairs, wishing he knew what he'd say to Riza. Maes' advice about being emotionally honest rang in his mind.

When he pushed open the door, Riza sat up a little in bed, against the pillows, a book in her lap. She smiled to see him. Roy closed the door behind him and gazed at her for a moment. Suddenly the sadness was so overwhelming, he wanted to sink straight through the floor and into a sea of sorrow. He didn't know how he even got over to her side before the tears started.

Riza wrapped him up in her arms. No words were needed as hearts spoke. Finally, Roy ran dry, feeling exhausted. He disentangled himself from Riza, wishing he knew what to say. There was so many words whirling in his mind but his tongue felt frozen.

Riza's lips ghost over his wet face. "My heart feels shattered."

"I know," Roy whispered. A tumble of thoughts wracked his mind. What if she could never have more children? What if she couldn't look at him for failing her? Did she even want to marry him now that she didn't have to? Who would hold her when she had nightmares over this and he couldn't be there? "I can't make this better." His voice cracked.

"You don't have to, Roy." Riza's hands threaded through his hair. "I just need you to be here for me."

"Maes told me." Roy's throat convulsed. Even though he could see in her eyes that she knew what he was about to say, Roy said it anyhow. "What that bastard did…" Riza shuddered and Roy pulled her even closer as her tears fell. "And I will kill him for it." When the worst of her sobs died away Roy got up to pull the curtains shut and locked the door. He kicked off his shoes then slipped into bed with her.

"Stay forever," she whispered.

Roy put his arms around her. "Forever twice over." Their breath curling around each other, the lovers took solace in one another.

X X X

"Are you sure you're okay, Winry?" Al fluffed up her pillow again, shoving it behind her.

"Is there anything else we can get you?" Ed added quickly.

Winry found all the attention somehow disturbing. Maybe it was because she wasn't used to the brothers being so solicitous; Al maybe, but Ed? If she didn't know any better, Winry would think she was dying. "I'm fine, honestly. I don't have to stay in bed, you know." In reality, it was the last thing she wanted. If she were alone, Winry knew she might think about what had happened. She wanted to be with people. "What I really want is to go downstairs."

"Are you sure you're up to it?" Ed looked like he wanted to reach out to her but was under more control than he had been in the hospital."

"I really wasn't hurt that bad, bruised mostly." Her pupils dilated. "Terrified but I wasn't really hurt. I don't want to be alone. I'd rather be downstairs." Winry swung her legs out of bed. She slid free of the covers, going for the closet. Her clothes hadn't been brought to Jenna's house but the herbalist had told her, she was welcome to anything in the wardrobe.

"Winry, I think you should stay in bed," Ed said, obviously determined to be her caretaker for once.

Winry grabbed the hem of her nightgown and inched it up, not really willing to being naked in front of them but trusting they didn't know that. The boys got the idea and fled. She found them right outside her door once she had changed and they made a dual shadow behind her as she went down stairs. Winry wasn't sure what she was expecting but the emptiness of the living room wasn't it. She knew how many people were stuffed into this house and yet they all seemed to be missing. Nonetheless, she at on the couch and Ed sat with her.

"I wonder what happens next," she said softly, wanting to lean against Ed but wasn't sure if he'd accept it in his agitated state.

"They hunt down Kimblee and make him pay," Ed replied, his fist clenching. Winry didn't doubt he wanted to do that himself.

"It's a big world, Ed. He could disappear." Winry's shoulders hunched.

"Indeed he could, Miss Rockbell," Roy said, catching the conversation as he came down the stairs, tugging on his jacket's collar.

"What will you do, sir?" Al swiveled to look at the alchemist.

"We'll search, Alphonse. He can't hide forever but being a snake, Kimblee can slither out of sight for a long time." Roy's shoulders slumped. "I wish I could tell you otherwise, Miss Rockbell."

"I prefer the truth," Winry said, trying not to give Ed a pointed look but he winced as if she had. "How is Miss Hawkeye?"

"Riza's asleep," Roy glanced at the ceiling. "Doing as well as can be expected. I'm sure she'd like you to come up and see her, Miss Rockbell. Just give her a little bit of a rest."

Winry bobbled her head. "Of course."

"It looks like you're leaving," Ed said, gesturing at Roy's uniform.

"I'm meeting Armstrong. We need to back up Maes. I may not have a uniform or a job when I come back….if I come back at all. You two boys look after Riza if they put me in the stockades," Roy said with such an eerie calm it agitated the brothers. Winry went the color of soured milk.

"I don't understand, sir," Al dithered. "Why is…"

"Hughes' death was a lie," Ed replied, understanding in his gold eyes.

"A big lie and I'm going to claim it was done on my order to protest Maes and his family. Armstrong insisted on being a part of this lie. His family name might save our asses or he might go down with me for aiding desertion," Roy replied matter of factly.

"Hughes didn't desert!" Ed growled, propelling himself off the couch, nearly bowling Winry over.

"I know but the military isn't going to be quite so understanding, Edward. Our best bet is to convince them I sent him deep undercover not only for his protection but to find out who was targeting military officers. Of course, I don't have clear authority to do such a thing, which presents problems, but I think we can clear him from the worst of the trouble," Roy said, the expression in his eye not quite as hopeful as it could be.

"Damn." Ed's nose wrinkled. "You can't screw this up."

Roy smiled faintly. "He's my best friend, Edward. You can believe that I'll be doing everything in my power to save him."

They watched Mustang leave. Winry kept in a frightened sob until the door closed behind him. She covered her mouth and Ed put his arm around her shoulders.

"He might be a bastard, Winry, but he's very good at what he does," Ed said comfortingly. "He'll save Hughes."

She nodded her head, almost frantically. "I know that. It will work out," she replied, having to believe that. Winry couldn't allow herself to think negatively. She needed to feel good about something, anything. Leaning against Ed, she felt surprised when he slipped both arms around her. It helped Winry feel like there was hope.

X X X

"Don't drink so fast," Maes cautioned, sitting next to Roy in the bar. "I know you want to get drunk."

"I need to," Roy growled but he set his whiskey down. "But I need to get back to Riza more. She needs me. I have to take care of her before I take care of myself."

Maes patted Roy's back. "You need to take care of yourself, too, Roy, but yes, a good drunk will have to wait."

Roy pounded back the remainder of his whiskey then slid off his stool. "We'd better get back. Winry and the brothers were very worried that I couldn't keep you out of a military prison, or worse, executed for desertion."

Maes' face lost color. "I should have thought of that," he berated himself. "What if Gracia thinks…."

Roy nodded and they headed for home.

X X X

Jenna made a simple dinner, laying it out buffet-style in her home. She had more guests than she knew what to do with. She poured out a bowl of soup for Riza. The other guests could fend for themselves. "Jean, I'll help you in a moment," Jenna said as she went into the dining room, knowing that the counter was too high for a man in a wheelchair. She put the bowl down in front of Riza. "Roy can fix you a plate, dear."

"Thank you," Riza said listlessly. It took several minutes before everyone got their food and settled but Jenna noticed that Riza didn't look like she wanted the company. If it continued over the next few days, the herbalist had a few ideas of things to help ease the woman's suffering.

"Told you the bastard is good for something," Ed's voice jerked Jenna's attention back to the conversation. "At least he got you cleared, Hughes."

Maes snorted then spooned up some of the rich soup. "I've said it once, Edward, I'll say it again, if the old proverb about the long lives of the rude are correct, you and Roy are immortals."

"Hey, what the hell did I do?" Roy huffed and Riza nudged him, a gentle smile on her face.

"I think you're proving his point," she said then cast a glance at Winry. "Our boys," she said ruefully.

"We must be insane," the girl conceded, willfully, Jenna suspected, ignoring Edward's baffled then embarrassed expression.

"That's a term for it, Miss Rockbell," Roy said, helping himself to a piece of fork-tender roast beef. "After all that has happened, I wouldn't blame you if you wanted to leave for the peace of the country as soon as you could. The brothers would probably prefer to see you back in Resembol, but if you're not ready to go, feel free to stay. We'll handle your accommodations."

Winry glanced at Ed and Al then back to Roy. "Thank you, sir. I think I'll stay a few more days. I feel okay and I'm not sure I'm ready for the aloneness back home. I mean, Granny and my friends all have their jobs to do. So do I, I guess but, I don't want to try making automail while feeling shaky. Besides, you're all so busy, there's no one who can sit with Riza. I'd like to stay with her," Winry said and Riza smiled gratefully. "Though maybe I should move out of the Hughes' guest room, especially if you're finally coming back, sir. I'll just be in the way." Winry turned big blue eyes on Maes.

"Don't be silly, Winry," Gracia put in. "We love having you there. So does Elicia. Besides, there's plenty of room. You're not in the way."

"Gracia's right, Winry. As far as the military is concerned, I've been under deep cover so we don't have to worry about reprisals, though I do have to go back on active duty and it was strongly suggested early retirement would bring on an investigation I might not like." Hughes sighed, shooting his wife an apologetic look. "And Roy will need me to help track down Kimblee."

"He was last seen catching a train before anyone knew to stop him," Roy said, anger filtering into his voice. "He could be anywhere. I can't imagine he'd have a reason to search for you, Miss Rockbell, but you can't be too careful. We still don't know who he and Cerulean were working for, so we have a lot of work ahead of us."

"Indeed, and we can talk about it at another time instead of over dinner," Jenna cautioned with a warning look. She didn't want anyone stressed while they were trying to eat. There would be time enough for that sort of thing.

Once dinner was over, the herbalist chivvied everyone into the living room and supplied a generous amount of tea, hoping to get them talking and relaxing. Maes seemed to understand her intent – Jenna knew it wouldn't be Roy who did. Even as a child playing at her father's house he had been too serious – and the investigator started telling stories, many of them embarrassing ones centering around his and Roy's time at the academy. Winry and Al soon joined in with equally embarrassing and funny ones about Edward until as a whole, they began to let go of their pain and honest smiles and heart felt laughter filled the room. Jenna wasn't a fighter. She, like Gracia, had to watch these brave people from a distance and do what she could to support them. Content that she had done her small part, the herbalist joined in the story telling.

X X X

Roy spooned around Riza, knowing he shouldn't be here in Jenna's house. If anyone knew, he could be bringing them all down with him but at this point it seemed all too insignificant when compared to leaving his lover to fend off the long nighttime hours herself. He had been separated from her, unsure if he would ever see her again. Roy wasn't going to allow for another hour of separation like that if he could help it.

Riza turned in his arms, stretching out on her back, cradling his head on her chest. He loved her chest and even as upset as he was, that thought still flickered through his brain. Riza stroked his hair. "Roy?"

He reluctantly picked up his head from its soft cushion. "Yes?"

"You know I don't blame you, right?" A deep worry resonated in her dark amber eyes.

Roy leaned in and kissed her softly. "I know you don't and I'm trying not to blame myself."

"Don't," she breathed, her breath warm against his skin. "I don't want you to."

Roy nestled his head against her neck, reaching down to take her hand. "I'm trying. I just wish I could have caught up with Kimblee for you."

"You will or I will."

Roy looked up at the dark tone of her voice and saw that maybe he ought to let her deal with him herself. It might help.

"Roy, about us…" Her throat worked as she swallowed hard.

"Riza, we don't have to talk about this now," he said hurriedly because Roy thought he knew what was coming. She was going to not marry him.

"I know but…I think I want to go back to the way things were. You still need me more as your protector than you do your wife," she said quietly, a grim determination in her eyes even as they clouded with tears.

Roy sat up, resting against the headboard. He caressed her cheek. "That isn't true. And I didn't ask you to marry me because you were pregnant, Riza."

Riza slapped his chest lightly, the look in her eye saying he could have left that unsaid. It was understood. "I think it's what I really want, Roy. We have time. One day we will be married and we will have children but now you have dangerous work to do and you need me at your side with my gun."

Roy folded her in his arms, holding Riza tight to his chest. He dropped a kiss against her crown. "I do and I love you so very much."

"That is all I really need, Roy. Everything else is just icing," Riza murmured. "One day it will all be right."

Roy rested her back on the mattress, joining her under the covers. "Here's to one day." He kept her in his arms as she drifted off to sleep. Roy had more trouble believing in 'one day' than Riza did but for her sake he would sacrifice all that he was to give her that perfect one day.