i hate summaries and titles cause i can't think of names or descriptions (yet i still write...) and because i apparently like to write as much as i like to talk, this nice, short 2 page lemon writing exercise turned into a 20pg behemoth. i did manage to write the lemon (barely) but i'm not sure about posting it on FanFic . net. i will definitely post it on the other sites (see my profile). seeing as the lemon isn't until later, opinions on posting are welcome.
i also tried to throw in some angst but, as i've said before, i have trouble distinguishing the fine line between angst and just plain over-dramatics.
It had been an especially long day; Riza may have only worked for 8 hours but it felt like an eternity. She'd had shorter days when she stayed late into the evening at the office assisting Mustang, trying to get him to complete his paperwork. At least then she was comfortable with the person in command. With King Bradley, it was hard to know where she stood; after all, she knew he was a homunculus and that made it difficult to give him the proper respect demanded by the military. Especially since she also knew some of the things he had done. Her new duties consisted of answering the telephone and directing the call to the correct officer. Of course all the calls came at the same time – meaning it was either impossibly busy or mind-numbingly boring. As one of the best snipers in the service, she had been unofficially demoted to an average telephone operator. The choice of her new duties wasn't done to annoy her colonel, this was directed solely at her. The colonel was punished by having his staff taken away and she was punished by being assigned to worthless tasks. Not to mention Black Hayate had been banned from the office as being an unprofessional distraction. The only way it could be worse was if she was now reporting to a junior officer, so it was only a matter of time before that happened.
Closing the front door behind her, Riza unclipped Black Hayate's leash, hanging it and her coat on the coat rack by the door. Walking him calmed her frustrations a bit. Not nearly enough but a little bit. Once Black Hayate's dinner was prepared and served, she turned to her refrigerator to see what she had for herself. The fridge was, as usual, mostly empty and what was there probably wasn't safe to eat. In the cupboard she found a can of mixed vegetables and a can of tomato soup; mixed together they would be… well, edible. Maybe she had some crackers around. The other option involved tinned meat that had been following her for the past 5 years. It was one of those last resort foods that you kept until an emergency and the only time it would be used was if your only options to prevent starvation were eating the tinned meat or chewing on your own arm. For just about any circumstances Riza could imagine, she would probably opt for the arm first. The meat reminded her too much of the fare in Ishbal.
Sitting at her table her eyes may have been looking at the two cans but her thoughts returned to the whereabouts of her comrades. Maes was gone, the pain still fresh knowing the jovial family-man's death was orchestrated by the leader of the country and her new direct CO. He may not have pulled the trigger, but he was still responsible. She remembered Elecia's last birthday; Maes had enjoyed it more than his daughter had and he had covered one entire wall of his office with all the pictures he had taken.
Everyday, Riza had to fight the overwhelming desire to kill the man who played a part in destroying her friend's family - watching him enter the office carefree and smiling while she struggled to keep her hands away from her weapons. In the effort to keep her guns holstered, the lives of a great number of pencils and pens were sacrificed daily, their broken pieces quickly dropped into her trashcan.
Falman, Furey and Breda had been sent to military installations on the edges of the country, not necessarily demoted but certain to have been given the worst jobs that could be found. Furey's tearful farewell to Black Hayate tugged at her heart and she had readily agreed he could come visit the pup whenever he was in town.
As for Havoc, the effects of physical injury could only be eclipsed by the mental damage he had sustained. Having the woman he was dating only use him for information had been bad enough, but severing his spinal cord and leaving him for dead caused some justifiable self doubt and trust issues. Recently, Riza hadn't been visiting Havoc as much as when he had been first injured. Seeing her, the same person she had always been walking around and physically fit only seemed to rub salt into his open wounds. But at least he wasn't alone. When first in the hospital, he had found support from Scieszka, who did volunteer work at the hospital. Now, she was one of the few people he would see. Scieszka really hadn't known Havoc well before his injury so she had little to compare the current man to, making her more accepting and supportive in his recovery than his co-workers who were still slightly uncomfortable in his presence. The girl also had an amazing amount of optimistic enthusiasm that she shared with those around her. According to Scieszka, his therapy was progressing but it would be a long time before he could ever walk again, if at all. But she was, of course, hopeful.
And as for herself, Riza sighed, as if telephone duty wasn't bad enough, she was tormented by knowing that she was now being used as a hostage to ensure the colonel's submission. Once she had been his protector but now she was just another secretary for King Bradley.
There was a knock on the door that drew her from her morose thoughts. Black Hayate rushed to the door, gave two sharp barks, and sat patiently waiting for Riza to come to see who it was. She wasn't expecting anyone so it was probably a salesman trying to sell her subscriptions to magazines she would never read or some other useless item that would get put into a box with the rest of her belongings. Peeking out the fish-eye in the door she saw a strange looking older woman with grey hair wearing the ugliest dress Riza'd ever seen. Her ankles wobbled unstably on high heeled shoes and in her hand she held a large canvas bag with a hideous purse covered in fake flowers peeking out of the top. With another knock on the door, the woman called out loudly. "Riza, darling, it's your Auntie Matilda. I was in town and just had to come visit my favorite niece! Open up Riza, darling…"
Riza paused and looked out the hole in the door again. She didn't have an Aunt Matilda but there was something very familiar about the woman. She raised her head as if she could look at Riza through the small hole in the door. "Open up, sweetheart…" the voice rang out. Something was still suspicious but the only way she would figure out why this woman knew who she was would be to open the door. Riza, weapon drawn, opened the door a crack and the figure took the opportunity to push through the door.
"Ah Riza darling, you are at home! Give me a hug." Before Riza could prevent it, the woman had placed a large hand over her gun and pushed it aside before hugging her tightly. She was wearing an oddly familiar scent but Riza couldn't quite place it.
"Kindly don't shoot me, lieutenant, just let me in and I'll explain." A familiar voice whispered in her ear.
Riza's eyes widened with recognition but managed to carry on the conversation in case anyone in the hallway had overheard. "Why Aunt Matilda! You should have called before coming over." Her voice held a sharp edge but she made sure she spoke loudly enough to be overheard by anyone listening.
"I tried, but no one was home, dear." The woman said loudly while shutting the door. When she turned around, she dropped the canvas bag to the floor with a clunk. Riza stepped back and finally let out a soft laugh. With a sigh the old woman slipped out of the high heels.
"Sir, why are you here and what are you doing in that dress?" She was having a hard time trying to contain her laughter. The sight of her colonel standing before her in an absolutely hideous dress was enough to laugh at for the next week.
"I didn't phone because someone might be listening to your calls. The dress is a disguise." He smoothed the fabric around his waist and shook out the skirt.
Riza could no longer hold it in and laughed aloud. "Quite the disguise, sir. It is just a disguise, isn't it? It's not a life-style change?" The stooped figure straightened up and pulled off the wig. Now it was Roy standing in her living room wearing the ugly dress.
"No its not, so laugh while you can, lieutenant." He said. There was a small scowl on his face but he actually didn't mind hearing her laughing. It had been a long time since he had seen her laugh, or had even seen her smile and it was rather comforting.
"Where did you get that disguise? It's quite sexy, you know." Riza teased.
"An old friend loaned it to me. I thought it best in case either of us are being watched."
"I didn't know you dated women that old." Riza said with a mischievous gleam in her eye. "And your breasts are uneven." He looked down, taking a breast in each hand and adjusted them, sending Riza off on another round of soft laughter.
He didn't respond to her verbal bait about older women, he merely tossed the wig onto the coffee table. He glanced around to see that her apartment, like his, was still mostly packed in boxes. Identifying the kitchen, he picked up the canvas bag and carried it past the kitchen table over to the counter, Black Hayate following close on his heels.
"I will admit I was a bit worried lieutenant; I haven't seen you around the building this week." Riza, with a curious expression, followed him into the kitchen. "No one has shot at me or scolded me about getting my paperwork done for days and strangely enough, I believe I may have missed it."
"What are you doing, sir?" She asked, leaning against the door jamb watching him.
"I am making you dinner." He gestured to the cans on the counter. "If that was what you were planning on eating, I guess its good I came." From the canvas bag, he took out some fresh vegetables, a paper-wrapped package of meat and a bottle of wine, setting the contents by the two cans.
"And why are you making me dinner?"
"Like I said, I wanted to check up on you. And I haven't been shot at recently; maybe you could fire off a few rounds into the ceiling just to make me feel more comfortable."
On her walk past the kitchen table, Riza smiled and slipped out of her shoulder holster, setting it on the back of a kitchen chair. Roy turned his head to watch her bend over a box searching for glasses, enjoying her curves enhanced by civilian clothes. The thought of seeing her in a miniskirt only reinforced his desire to pass such a regulation. He turned around quickly so she didn't see him staring and resumed his search for a knife. She may have removed the shoulder holster, but she always had at least one more weapon hidden on her person. Just thinking where she would hide them had him drooling on the counter and he barely had time to wipe his lip before she was at the sink washing the glasses. Once they were dried with a dishtowel, she popped the cork on the wine and carefully filled them both. Setting one glass next to him, she leaned against the counter and sipped her own, studying the man in a dress.
The transfer had only gone through last week, but she already missed working with him, even though his avoidance of paperwork had driven her up the wall. He looked like he hadn't slept since then, dark smudges under his eyes and a weary attitude unconsciously displayed by stance and demeanor. That could also just be from the dress. His thick black hair was mussed from the wig, and she had to stop herself from reaching out her hand to straighten it. But it was still Roy, she smiled. Roy in a dress.
"You don't think I can look out for myself, do you?" She asked softly.
"If you were going to eat the stuff in those cans, then no I don't." Taking the wet veggies from the other side of the sink, Roy laid them on the cutting-board started chopping.
How does he cut the meat?
It was almost like he'd been there beforeYou should see the food I left in the cupboard." She said, her mind thinking of the tinned meat. Out of a box in the corner, she pulled an apron, snuck up behind him and wrapped her arms around him, settling the fabric it at his waist. Her hands brushed his bare arms and she jumped at the burning tingle running thru her body. Quickly pulling the ribbons to the back she tied them in a large bow and stepped away. She couldn't help but smile at the strange picture before her. But if that was what happened just touching him, she would need to keep more distance between them. If nothing other than to see how it felt, the urge to wrap her arms around him and rest her head on his back was a bit too strong; it was only the notion of how inappropriate such an action would be that prevented her from doing so. She didn't notice the slight hitch in his breath or how his muscles had contracted and his body tensed at her touch. "That wasn't what I meant. You don't think I'm able to look out for myself and that I need someone to protect me, don't you?"
Breathing returning to normal, Roy smirked and glanced at her over his shoulder. "Riza, I think you are the most self-sufficient and competent person I've ever met. If anyone can look out for herself, I think it's you, but no one can keep watch around them 360 degrees 24 hours a day. It's just not possible and everyone needs someone to watch their back sometimes. I just wanted to check on you." He tried to sound casual. With a little rummaging he found a frying pan that he set on the burner of the stove. Dropping the cut meat into the pan, he unobtrusively slipped Black Hayate a small slice. The pan started to sizzle as he pushed the food around with a fork. She pulled seasoning containers from another cupboard and set them next to the stove. The sliced vegetables added were sending a wonderful aroma thru the air. Riza took the bread from the bag, pulled another knife from the drawer and sliced the fresh loaf. There was bitterness in her voice when she spoke next.
"I have become a telephone operator, sir. I could only wish I had been shipped off like the others. He's using me against you and I hate it."
Roy sighed, his shoulders slumping. "He has the best sniper in the military and he's using her as a secretary." He paused. "Of course, so did I." She put glassware, plates and silverware on the table before filling a carafe with ice and water.
"No sir, you need my protection not to mention someone has to make sure you get your paperwork done. He's not even letting me do that." He brought the sizzling pan over to the table and carefully portioned out the steaming hot contents.
"It's not that I don't think you can't look out for yourself, but you are so close to that homunculus. Not only does he know my weaknesses, the man won't hesitate to use that knowledge and he has no qualms about killing people in his way." He set the pan in the sink, grabbed his wine and sat across from Riza.
"So what are you going to do next?"
"Next? I don't really know." His eyes watched her tongue slide over her lips, licking them clean of the wine.
"Sir, you always have a plan."
"I'm afraid this latest move caught me unawares." He smiled wryly. "I don't know what this 'father' is trying to do and I have no doubt that King Bradley is going to find another portion of the country to turn into another Ishbal. After all, there can never be too many philosophers stones, can there?" The sarcasm was heavy in tone. He 'accidentally' dropped a piece of green pepper to the floor. Hayate cautiously sniffed the slice, picked it up with his mouth and quickly spat it out again. Roy chuckled at the disgusted face Black Hayate turned to him. "Not a green pepper kind of dog, huh?"
"You are spoiling him, sir." Riza said as he picked up the pepper and set it on the edge of his plate. "Dogs do not get fed from the table."
Ignoring her, he continued. "I have heard Scar is going north and that Marcoh is with him. Fullmetal is up to something because he is going north as well. Falman is up there and he knows to find Fullmetal and watch over him. I'm also trying to contact some old allies but I'm not exactly sure what my next move should be." Taking a bite from the bread she got a little butter on her finger. She proceeded to lick the butter her finger, distracting Roy from what she was saying.
"Old allies?" Riza asked and poured them both some more wine. His mind stalled momentarily, imagining what her mouth would feel like against his skin. His brain finally started working enough to reply.
"Ah… people who, while they never publicly supported me, have been willing to assist me from the sidelines."
"And?" Riza prodded. His eyes were now focused on the way her hand unconsciously stroked the stem of her wine glass. Delicate fingers sliding up and down over the glass made him, once again, think about what his body would feel like at her touch. Was she trying to distract him or was it all unintentional?
"The reaction has been favorable." He pulled his gaze off her hand, refocusing on her face. "King Bradley, while the head of the military, will also need support from the higher officers if he plans to create another uprising. We need to get to those officers first and convince them I am the one to side with."
"How will you know who to approach? Surely there are officers who are not only currently aware of his intentions, but they approve of them and support him because of those intentions." Damn it, her hand was stroking the glass again. He had the overwhelming urge to stop her hand with his.
"Without Hughes's contact network I'll have to do my own research and poke around before approaching them. I managed to get a hold of some of his list of contacts and that should help."
"Sounds dangerous. Do you think you will be able to get their support?"
"I have no choice."
"With all of your subordinates spread across the nation, you will have secure contacts to be intermediaries – although the thought of Breda as your liaison between you and a General makes an interesting picture. He's a bit rough around the edges."
"They're military men, they can do it." He slipped Black Hayate another bite of meat."
"Sir…" she warned harshly.
"Couldn't help it."
"Of course you couldn't. That piece of food just accidentally fell from your hand into his mouth." He smirked as she continued speaking. "At least I can monitor his office from inside."
Roy smirk disappeared as he studied the woman sitting across the table. Now out of uniform and in civilian clothes, her hair was down, trailing over her shoulders in a golden wave. The button-down blouse she wore was a surprising light pink, a color he rarely associated with her and hadn't seen her wear in a long time. With the top few buttons unfastened it gave her a more feminine look along with a flash of cleavage that naturally drew Roy's eyes. The usual blue uniform did little to show off her trim figure and it was the moments he saw her in civilian clothes that he remembered what a stunningly beautiful woman she really was. Not to mention what nice cleavage she possessed.
But it was the look in her expressive eyes, eyes with that rare mix of deep red and brown, that pinned him like an insect to velvet backed display. The urge to squirm under her questioning gaze was difficult to control. As it was, he was unable to keep eye contact with her, his eyes darting back to his plate. He supposed it was about time they made it around to what he had really come here for; a subject he hated to even consider asking her. It would be the true test of their friendship and he wasn't sure either answer she could give was what he wanted. And he knew just asking would insult her. He sighed, steeled his stomach and returned her gaze.
"No, it won't be much use for you to spy on him in the office. He's already taken precautions so you won't see anything or he wouldn't have allowed you in there in the first place. Right now you are the main person…" he swallowed hard. "holding me back. He controls my actions with your life." As he said the words, the pained expression on her face was like a knife to his chest and the food on his plate lost its appeal. The expression on her face quickly disappeared behind her usual unexpressive mask when she realized he was watching her, but she couldn't hide the gut-wrenching pain in her eyes. He had struck her in the weakest part of her armor, one of less than a handful of weaknesses that she allowed for herself. Pointing out how she was now impeding his goal and that she had become a liability was the cruelest thing he could do to her.
They sat in silence for a moment while Riza struggled with her emotions. Her worst fear had come true and now that she could no longer protect her colonel, he had no further need of her and she would be left alone, her purpose unfulfilled. After her reaction to Lust's words the night Havoc was injured, she was sure that not even Roy could misunderstand how much she cared for him.
Roy sat and watched as the woman before him broke. There were no tears, there was no screaming, there was… nothing. Her head had lowered to stare at the salt and pepper shakers, looking at them but not really seeing what was there.
He hesitated before asking the next question. As it was he didn't have the strength to ask while she could still look up at him with those beautifully expressive eyes that, if he had caused them to tear he would never be able to forgive himself.
Rising from the table, he slipped Black Hayate the last piece of meat from his plate and walked over to stand in front of the sink. It was weak of him to not look at her, but no matter how he tried, he couldn't force himself to turn around to see her reaction to his next question. Turning on the water, he started mechanically scrubbing the frying pan and he finally asked her the difficult question that really brought him here tonight. "Would you consider leaving the military?"
She was silent for a moment. "I fail to see how that would help." Riza replied softly, her gaze still unfocused on the table. She took deep quiet breaths trying to calm herself. Not only had she failed her goal, he was now asking her to leave him. He had said she was more of a hindrance than a support and asked her to go away where he would never have to see her again.
"It would put my mind at ease. I can't protect you in your current location and I don't want you to get hurt because of my lust for power, Riza."
"So your solution is for me to leave the military..."
"Please." He asked, still scrubbing at a non-existent stain on the frying pan.
The moment she had shown him the array on her back she had decided to follow him to ensure she hadn't misplaced her trust. Part of that was also to protect him from harm, whether he wanted it or not. The thought of giving her life to save his was never a question to her, it was something that she always had and would continue to do for him. She took a deep breath and hardened her resolve.
"Then I refuse, sir." She brought her plate to the sink. "There is no way I will leave the military while King Bradley is still in office. I said I would support you and that's what I'll do."
"But what if the best way to help is by leaving?"
"I'm sorry sir, but I don't see it that way. What would you have me do if I leave the military?"
"…" Not knowing her reaction, he hadn't thought that far ahead. His mind scrambled for some excuse. "Stay safe?"
"That is unacceptable." Her scorn quite evident in her voice.
"And if I make it an order, lieutenant?"
"Then I will refuse to follow it."
He sighed and looked at the woman next to him. "Riza, he has a knife at your throat because of me. That… thing won't hesitate to kill you if I try anything against him."
"I know that." Her voice was as strong and cold as steel.
"I can't continue with any plans because of that! Any mistake I make could cost you your life."
"But you will do it anyway. I trust you with my life and I'm willing to sacrifice it to get that creature out of the military."
"But I'm not! I don't want to lose you because of my dumb aspirations." His voice was getting louder, displaying more than just his own stubborn streak.
"Sir, the longer King Bradley is in office, the more people he will kill."
"I just want you to be safe."
"I understand that, but I won't change my mind. I knew when I entered the military my life would be in danger and I accepted it." He looked at the woman wiping the dishes and she returned his stare. He turned away from the look in her eyes. They had that look he hated so much, the look of jaded eyes that had seen too much pain in their short life. The eyes that remembered everything she'd seen and everything she'd done. They were killer's eyes. And she had them because of him. When he'd first heard of a person having 'killer's eyes' in Ishbal Roy had been appalled by such callous thoughts. But what really appalled him was that it was true. Those cold, dead, killer's eyes were staring at him because she had followed him through a war.
They quickly finished the dishes in an uncomfortable silence.
She wiped the last plate and put it in the cupboard while he watched her. "I guess there's nothing else to say then. There's nothing either of us can do to change the other's mind, is there?" he asked.
"I suppose not, sir."
Riza handed him the canvas bag from the counter, politely yet firmly shepherding him toward the door.
"It's not safe," he said over his shoulder.
In the blink of an eye, Riza had moved to stand before him holding a gun millimeters from the middle of his forehead. She'd removed her shoulder holster earlier, so she must have had the weapon hidden on her person. He hadn't even seen her move yet she now held the gun pointed at him. The question of where she had been hiding the weapon flashed through his mind.
"I can take care of myself, sir." Her voice said coldly.
He wanted brush the weapon aside but really didn't feel like upsetting the woman with a weapon held to his head, regardless of whether she had the safety on or off. Surely she wouldn't point a weapon at him without the safety on. Surely he hadn't hurt her pride that much. Or had he? He swallowed hard.
"So I can see." Roy kicked one of Hayate's chew toys and it clattered across the wood floor. Riza's eyes momentarily flicked toward the sound, but that gave him enough time to knock the gun aside, spin her around and hold her with an arm around her neck. "But what happens if you don't see it coming?" Her back was pressed tightly to his body and she could feel each breath he took. His low voice was hot in her ear and sent a tingle down her spine. He dragged a finger across her neck and continued softly, "That's all it would take. Even less if he uses alchemy." Just being this close to him, his voice in her ear and his scent on his clothes was overwhelming. Riza became acutely aware of just how closely his body was pressed against hers. His grip relaxed slightly and Riza took advantage of it, grabbing his arm, twisting out of his grip and putting the weapon back against his head.
"I'll keep it in mind, sir." Her voice could have caused frostbite.
He paused before replying softly. "See that you do, lieutenant." She lowered the weapon. The bag that had been dropped during their struggle was retrieved while he straightened out his disguise. He pulled on the wig and slipped into his shoes before leaning against the wall next to the door.
"Thank you for dinner, sir."
"Would you please think about it?"
She shook her head no. "I'm sorry, but I won't. Good night sir."
"Good night Riza." He stood and studied her face for a moment before turning and closing the door behind him.
With a heavy sigh, she leaned back against the wall and slid down until she was sitting on the floor just staring at the closed door across from her. She closed her eyes and rested her elbows on her knees with her head in her hands. And she let the tears come.
She'd failed. Nothing that could be done now would help that terrible ache in the pit of her stomach disappear. Black Hayate bumped her arm with his muzzle and whimpered. She moved her legs so he could put his head on her lap where she could rub his ears and stroke his fur, the familiar motions soothing her crying heart.
To be continued…
as you've noticed, this fic isn't complete. i have an ending, i just don't like it. so i'm going to keep working on it until i like it. reviews would really help motivate me (wink wink, nudge nudge) and hopefully i can post an ending soon.