D M EvansDisclaimer - not mine, all characters belong to Hiromu Arakawa et al, Square Enix and Funimition. I don't make a profit

Rating - PG-13

Pairing - none, Roy centric, Roy/Riza implied

Time Line- Anime verse, two years after Ed takes his state exam

Summary - Sometimes happy occasions stir up bad memories

Author's Note - When General Melly of the Miniskirt Army asked for gift items for Mr. Willingham's birthday, I came up with this. Happy Birthday.

Roy looked at the house on Mayflower Street, knowing he had already missed the party. As much as he loved the family, he hadn't been emotionally up to a party of swarming two year olds, even though he had made the trip from East City for that very reason.

Ever since Ishbal, he found himself avoiding kids. Roy had trouble looking at happy, laughing faces without seeing the twisted remains of the innocents the State Alchemists had left behind; his victims, the ones he regretted the most. He had never told anyone of the horrible guilt roiling in him but he suspected Hughes and Hawkeye guessed at it.

He knew there would be people who understood his feelings, like Armstrong, but it was easier to let those emotions stay buried. Maybe Roy could learn to live with himself if he just built a wall between himself and his memories. That was his current plan, but occasionally, a haunting memory would scale the wall; those of the murdered doctors or the faces of the dead children. And wasn't it just his terrible luck that Fullmetal was friends with the girl that Roy had orphaned, so that on the times she came to town, he'd have to bite down hard on his guilt just to keep from begging for her forgiveness?

Days like today ate away at the fortress walls he built around his heart and memories. Roy knew Maes understood even though Roy hadn't exactly told him. Finding Roy devoured by remorse and surrounded by aborted attempts at human alchemy, Maes had a pretty good idea at the turmoil inside of his friend. The only other person Roy knew he wasn't truly fooling was Riza.

Riza was probably already inside the house. Maes and Gracia kindly provided a place for him to legitimately meet up with Riza outside of work since their fraternization was forbidden. Roy was happy that Riza and Gracia got along. It was good for Hawkeye to have a friend outside the military. Too bad trips to Central to see the Hughes family came so infrequently.

Roy just wished he didn't see the clouding red eyes of children he had been forced to kill every time he looked into his 'niece's' face. Roy turned over the gift box he held in his hands, trying to forget that image. Staring at the box, he wondered if Elicia would like the gift. He just wasn't good at shopping for a two year old. It had been easier finding something for Fullmetal, not that it was really a birthday present. He'd stumbled across an old alchemic text that the brothers might find useful and sent it along with a note that merely read, 'Thought you might find this interesting, Bean.' He'd drawn a salamander as a signature. Fullmetal would know it was from Roy and once Alphonse calmed his brother down from the short joke, they'd probably be happy with the gift. Edward might even realize the timing of it. As fun as it was to wind the boy up, Roy had to admit he admired Fullmetal in spite of himself.

Roy sighed and crossed the street. He couldn't put this off any longer. It didn't take long for Maes to answer his knock. His friend beamed widely.

"There you are. Thought you got lost." Maes patted Roy's shoulder as he came inside.

"I sort of did." Roy rattled the gift box. "Where's the birthday girl?"

"In the other room. All the other kiddies are gone...which I'm betting that's what you were waiting for. Not brave enough to face a pack of two year olds?" Maes laughed.

"All that shrill noise they make? Not brave enough by far." Roy smiled back as they entered the room where the ladies were relaxing and watching Elicia play.

Elicia tossed her arms around his leg, all but taking out his knee with the force of her embrace. "Unca Roy!"

Roy scooped her up and kissed her cheek. "Hi, Sweetie. How's the birthday girl?"

Elicia squealed in glee at the word 'birthday,' as Roy set her back down. He dutifully turned over the gift and while the girl shredded the wrapping paper, he went over and kissed Gracia's cheek.

"She's beautiful."

"Thank you and thank you for coming, Roy," Gracia said, glancing back at Hawkeye who sat on the couch. Hawkeye smiled at him. "Would you like something to drink? We've opened the wine."

"After a day with two year olds, I'm sure you could use it. That would be nice, thanks," Roy said then turned his attention back to Elicia and her father who helped her open the gift.

"What do you have there, baby doll?" Maes cooed, opening the box.

Elicia yanked a blue stuffed dog out of the box, dislodging the stuffed dog house, bowl, ball and bone in her haste. She squealed loudly again, crushing the stuffed toy to her chest.

"I'd say she loves it, Roy." Gracia smiled.

"Oh good." Roy felt relieved.

"Buddy, why is everything blue and white...and that gold braided collar looks awfully familiar." Hughes straightened up out of his squat.

Roy blushed faintly. "I went shopping but it was...well, the only people in those toy stores are harried mothers and confused fathers. I gave up and just alchemized her some toys out of some old uniforms."

Maes laughed. Gracia gave Roy a little hug. "That is so sweet, Roy. I think it makes the gift more special."

"Hey, you managed to get jingle balls into some of the toys," Maes said in surprise as he jingled the bone.

Roy shrugged. "Pure talent." He sat on the couch next to Riza while Maes went back to playing with his daughter. Hawkeye handed him a glass of wine. "Thank you, Hawkeye."

"Nice gift, sir. Did you manage in one try or shall I be requisitioning a host of uniforms for you when we get back to East Headquarters?" Hawkeye asked wryly.

Roy sipped his wine. "Like I said, talent."

Hawkeye rolled her eyes at him. Roy laughed softly, settling in. He felt surprisingly good. Maes kept telling him domestic bliss might help him feel better about himself. Roy still had his doubts but for this moment, worrying about how he'd react had been far worse than the reality. Maybe he was finally starting to let go just a little. He'd always be haunted but somehow, just now, Roy was sure he could survive his ghosts.