Disclaimer: All FMA names and titles belong to Hiromu Arakawa. Rainey is a figment of my own creation.
A/N: Hello there everyone. I apologize for my long disappearance. I assure you it won't happen again. I could begin to explain all that's been going on, but I'm afraid it would take much longer than this actual chapter. So instead, I'm going to shut up, and let you read. I do hope you like it. It's a little different, but believe me, it'll make things interesting from here on in.
Chapter 10: Masked
Riza slowly made her way into the main foyer of Rainey's elaborate household. She hadn't seen anything aside from her own bedroom and the darkened rooms he'd taken her to before. This time, however, she could tell it was morning, despite the fact the windows were heavily veiled. She could not see behind them, nor could she even begin to imagine where she was. Rainey had been sure to cover his tracks quite thoroughly.
"Ah," a voice came from the top of the massive staircase. "There you are, my darling. Might I say, you look absolutely stunning. That dress fits you perfectly. Do I know my Lizzie, or what?"
Rainey stood at the top stair, gazing down at her lovingly. Riza wasn't particularly comfortable with the dress he'd picked out for her, but she knew he meant well. It was the least she could do to wear it for him, after what he'd promised her.
"Have you considered my offer, Lizzie?" he asked, slowly making his way down the stairs. A gloved hand slid along the banister, keeping his balance. He seemed a bit tipsy - Riza only wondered if he'd been drinking, though it seemed a bit early for that really.
"Your offer, sir?" she asked, softly.
Rainey laughed raucously, tossing his head back wholeheartedly. "Lizzie, Lizzie…" he said, bringing himself back down as he landed on the final step. "Don't call me 'sir', like I'm some officer. Call me Rainey, you know that."
Riza didn't quite feel comfortable doing that either. She didn't feel as though they were on that level yet. She wasn't intimidated, nor did she fear him anymore, but they certainly weren't friends if that was what he was thinking. They were acquaintances, to say the very least.
"My offer, Lizzie darling," he said, stepping toward her. His gloved hand traced her cheek as he spoke, towering over her. "To help me get the information I need. In exchange for protection and safety you never even could have dreamed of at the military…"
Riza nodded shortly. She had thought about it, for quite a while honestly. Looking around the extravagant foyer, she couldn't help but long for the lifestyle he could provide for her. Surely, she had never been the kind of girl to dress up for great parties or balls, nor had she any interest at all in gaudy jewelry and flashy clothes. Silver and gold meant nothing to her unless they were in the form of some kind of medal or badge, earned by some great act of bravery.
But that didn't mean that she couldn't grow to like those kinds of things. Anyone in their right mind would kill to be in her shoes, to have all this offered to her on a gold-plated, jewel-encrusted platter.
She was certainly considering it.
"Come," he instructed, holding his arm out to her. "Let's go for a walk, shall we?"
Hesitantly, she took his arm and he led her into another hallway. Through a large silver door, they entered into what looked like an indoor garden. Several walls were covered with the brightest color of ivy one had ever seen, and flowers of every shape and size sprouted from jeweled pots and holders in every corner. She had never seen such a sight in all her life.
"Do you like them?" he asked, noticing the look of awe on her face. "I take care of them myself. I don't get out much, so I need something to do in my spare time. Kind of a hobby, really…"
Riza followed him as they began to wander throughout the plants. Every so often, he would interrupt his stories with a brief explanation of how he'd come across a particular plant, each one more interesting than the one before. As the man beside her spoke, she found herself more and more interested in him than the plants he told her about. He was an interesting man, without a doubt, and he'd been all over the world - done so many things - it was a wonder she'd never heard of him before. Or at the very least, seen him.
But with that mask on, she could never be certain who he really was. For all she knew, they could have met countless times on the street. She had to know what - who - was behind there.
"Can I ask you a question, Mr. Rainey?" she asked, finally, gathering up the courage to interrupt him.
He stopped short, turning to her slightly. He didn't at all appear to be insulted by her sudden vocation. Instead, he seemed quite eager to hear what she had to say.
"Yes, Lizzie?" he asked, his porcelain smile warming her heart almost instantly, as if it were as genuine as the one beneath it.
"Why do you wear that mask?" she asked him quickly. Stopping herself, she shook her head, finding the way in which she asked to be rather rude. "I didn't mean it like that. I mean, did something happen to you that you have to -"
Rainey laughed calmly, holding up a hand to silence her. He shook his head. "There was no accident, dove," he said. "No acid spill or horrible disfiguration. In fact, I'm just as beautiful beneath the mask as I am wearing it, if I do say so myself. But, of course, I don't mean to toot my own horn or anything. It's just something very personal to me. I don't want the world to judge me on who I am, so I wear a mask. You can't possibly judge a man who wears a mask, because you never truly know who he is…"
That didn't quite make any sense to Riza, but she nodded anyway. She didn't understand why, if he trusted her so much, he wouldn't take the mask off in her presence. It was obvious already she wasn't going to judge him based on anything - unless of course it was the fact he seemed to know everything about her, and threatened her on many occasions to get her to do his bidding. His appearance was certainly the last thing he needed to be concerned about.
"Does the mask bother you?" he asked, his voice changing suddenly, hinting that he was no longer smiling beneath the fragile face.
She paused before answering, considering her options. She already appeared rude for asking such a question in such a blunt manner, she couldn't possibly risk appearing rude again, at least in the same sitting.
"No," she answered. "Not really. I was just confused by it, is all. Not many people today you see wearing masks. Especially all the time. Makes you wonder…"
"There's nothing about me you need to fear, Lizzie," he told her, holding her arm tighter as they moved on to the next set of plants. He plucked a small purple flower from the nearest tree and smelled it briefly before holding it out to her. "I have chosen you for a reason, and for that reason, no harm will come to you."
Riza took the flower he offered her and peered up at him curiously, her eyes narrowing only slightly. "But why did you chose me? I mean, of all the officers in the military, why did you want me to help you?"
"I've been watching you, Lizzie…" he told her bluntly.
Riza didn't quite know how to feel about that. She'd been suspecting it all along, but the honesty behind this statement shook her a bit. He'd been watching her, for goodness knows how long, and under what circumstances. This man before her could be anyone - anyone at all! In fact, it could even be the Colonel himself!
"You've gone through intense pain," he continued, not noticing her discomfort with his previous statement. "You've survived many things most common human beings would have succumbed to, and repeatedly you've been used. A dog, to a brutish military who doesn't care about you, or your wellbeing. Or the wellbeing of their country, for that matter. But, that is a discussion we'll have another time." he caught himself, going on a tangent he hadn't intended to start.
"I wanted to protect you, Lizzie," he explained. "I wanted to protect you, and have you protect me in return. Help me, find out the things I need to find out. Speak to the people I can't possibly speak to on my own. I needed someone on the inside, someone who'd been used, just as I had in the past. Someone who would be willing to put the military in it's place for the good of Amestris."
"Are you trying to tell me you're doing all this for the country?" Riza asked, her brow furrowing in confusion. "You feel like the military isn't doing it's job?"
"Well," he didn't sound quite convinced. "Not entirely. There are certain people within the military, I suspect. People who abuse their power, and use those below them to further their own selfish ambitions - no matter who it hurts along the way. I'm sure you've come across someone who fits that description."
Riza frowned, relaxing her eyebrows from their concerned expression. She knew exactly who Rainey was referring to, and she couldn't help but agree with him. Roy did want to climb the power ladder, and as quickly as he could possibly achieve it. He didn't care at all who he stepped on along the way, as long as he took King Bradley's place as Führer.
"I want you to trust me, Lizzie," he said, taking her arms and peering into her eyes. "I know that's a lot to ask from you, especially since we've known each other for such a short amount of time, but I need you to trust me. I can help you, and I know you can help me."
Riza didn't know what to see. Although the rest of his face was face, the eyes peering through at her were as real as they came. The emotion behind them could not be faked, and she knew she had no other choice. He was telling the truth. She couldn't say the same about the Colonel. She didn't know when he was telling the truth. She couldn't remember the last time he told the truth.
At least, the last time she really believed it.
Riza nodded shortly and she heard him sigh a little behind the soft stone of the mask. His head leaned down just a little, and she felt her breath become caught in her throat. She didn't know how this was going to work, but she didn't entirely want to stop it either.
The porcelain was warm, unlike anything she'd been expecting. It was as if his lips were real, settling against hers in a gentle kiss. Her eyes fluttered closed as he pulled her to him, his heart beating wildly beneath his dazzling coat. His eyes were not the only thing genuine in this scenario. Riza had never quite been faced with anything like this before.
Pulling away, his eyes grew soft and she could tell he was smiling again. With a small wink, he offered her his arm once again.
"Perhaps someday, I won't need the mask…" he said.
Several people entered the Führer's office every day. Unfortunately for Roy, he didn't have access to these names, nor would anyone with access to said names, grant him permission to view them. It was intended for the Führer's records only, and therefore for only his eyes to see. Requesting a personal meeting with the Führer seemed to be his only way in.
"I'm sorry, sir," the young woman at the desk said, flipping through a file in front of her. "The Führer is out of town for the next couple of weeks. He had to deal with an emergency."
"An emergency?" Roy couldn't believe what he was hearing. Of course an emergency would come up at a time like this. If he had to, he'd call the Führer himself. "Do you have the number at which he can be reached?"
"I do, sir," she answered.
Roy felt a bit of hope swell in his chest, his mind focusing on nothing but getting Riza back to their office safely. He'd already broken his promise to keep her safe - he needed to redeem himself before it was too late.
"But I'm afraid he's requested that no one call him while he's away," she said, still avoiding making direct eye contact.
"What if it's an emergency here?" he asked, frustrated beyond all belief. "What if we need him here immediately?"
The woman still refused to look at him. "I'm afraid there's nothing we can do. You can try to locate another officer to aid you in whatever emergency it is you're experiencing, Colonel Mustang, but there is nothing more I can do to help you. The Führer's orders are the Führer's orders. You know they can't be broken…"
Roy, fuming, stormed from the office without another word. If that was how they were going to play that game, he was going to have to retaliate, even if it meant cheating the system. He was going to have to play dirty.
A/N: So there it is, folks. Like I said, certainly something different, but it makes things interesting, I think. I am so thankful for all your support on this story. I'm glad it's become such a hit, and I really wish to finish it, so I will do my best to update often in the near future. Thank you all for your love and support, you've been wonderfully patient and I couldn't ask for more. Please let me know if you're still interested. Thank you.