Warning! T for language, violence, blood, death and more violence!
Written By: Zilo
Beta: Maruka Gomez
Special Thanks to: Charmaine for the challenge!
Other Junk: Lots of parentalness being thrown at Ed, mostly from Riza, maybe from Roy. Envy attempts to be a brother...this ought to be good. And, no surprise, Roy and Riza are married.
I got a challenge from my best friend Charmaine. She said to me "write a darkish fic about a gang with RoyRiza in it, and that weird sarcastic humor you like to use." So, ladies and gents, here it is in all its dark-y, RoyRiza-y, sarcastic glory. Enjoy!
Guess who doesn't own FMA or Bluebird's Illusion? Oh, oh, me!
1: Kid In The Gang
Tuesday, April 7th
It wouldn't have happened if Roy wasn't so careless with coffee.
Roy Mustang was an avid coffee drinker. When the sun went up, he got coffee. When the sun went down, he got coffee. If he ever felt happy, sad, angry, crazy, stupid, depressed, confined, bored, sleepy, or alert, he got coffee. Somehow, even after years of drinking coffee for every occasion, his dazzling smile still remained pearly white and caused the girls to swoon.
Most of them, anyway.
Roy had loved coffee since college. Coffee became his best friend during many a late-night cram session. If it weren't for coffee Roy might still be in college now. And of course, if it weren't for coffee, this story might not exist. But let's not get ahead of ourselves.
Two days earlier, Roy came home from his generic job-where-you-wear-a-suit-and-sit-in-a-cubicle-in-an-office-building, bone-weary. He took off his shoes, made a pot of coffee, and then poured himself a cup and went off in search of his wife. Riza, the aforementioned wife, owned the storefront next door, where she sold weapons and ammunition, as well as weapon manuals and encyclopedias.
On his way, Roy must have stepped a little too vigorously, for when he finally found his wife going over a box of ammo in the storage room, there were coffee spots all over his dress shirt.
Needless to say, Riza was not pleased. That was why five minutes later, Roy, changed into some more casual clothes, left the house with his stained shirt and took it to the dry cleaners. The man at the counter assured him it would be fine, and that he could come and get it in two days.
Which brings us back to today, April 7th. At 7:00 PM Riza closed shop early and decided to show Roy a little mercy by going to get his dry cleaning for him. He had come home an hour ago, dog-tired, and crashed on the couch without even removing his shoes. "Did you take it to the one down the street?" she asked him, putting on her jacket.
Roy mumbled something that sounded like an affirmative. His arm was thrown over his eyes as he sprawled on the sofa.
Riza smiled faintly down at her husband. He may have been a bit careless when it came to drinking coffee, but he was a very hard worker. When they had first gotten married, nine years ago, he had demanded to know what her plans were for children. Riza had responded that she wanted a small amount in the future, perhaps one or two, and that she would like to be able to stay home and raise them. To that Roy vehemently responded, "And so you shall!" He had, from that point, opened a savings account to save up money for when they did have children. He cared about making her happy, and she appreciated that.
"I'll be back shortly," she said as she opened the door.
Roy mumbled something that sounded like another affirmative, and Riza shook her head. She stepped outside of their cozy home and shut the door, making sure to lock it behind her, because she figured he wouldn't. The sun was on its way down, but the dry cleaners' wasn't too far away. It would be fine.
"Please, have a great night, Mrs. Mustang!" the man behind the counter said jovially.
"Thank you, Herb, you as well." Riza escorted her husband's freshly cleaned shirt out of the cleaners. She hit the keyless entry and unlocked the back door, planning to hang the shirt up on the hook inside, over the door. Something caught her eye and she turned to see a newspaper dispenser at the corner.
Hmmm. Might as well. Riza hung the shirt up and then shut the door. She hit the keyless entry to lock the car and then headed over to the dispenser, heels clicking on the sidewalk. She and Roy both liked the paper. Whenever they had breakfast together they would divide up the sections and then comment on what they read. It was an enjoyable time for them, and they hadn't gotten this week's paper yet.
Riza pulled open the dispenser and pulled out a paper. The front page story was about the six-car pile-up from Friday. Riza skimmed it briefly on her way back to the car.
A strange noise made Riza's head snap up, and she looked around curiously. Nothing but the sound of Central settling down for the night. The sun was almost completely down.
"Probably someone dropped something," Riza said to herself, starting back to the car again. She unlocked the door and tossed the paper onto the passenger seat.
A loud crash made her head lift again. This time, however, Riza saw two figures that had just busted through the second-story window of an old building across the street from her. As Riza watched, shocked, one of the figures sailed far enough, over her head, to crash into the building opposite about halfway down and fall to the ground. The second figure landed upright in the middle of the street, glass raining down on them. Riza ducked to avoid the bits of glass.
Riza turned to examine the one who had fallen behind her. She was surprised to find a rather slight figure lying facedown, pushed up against the wall. Whoever they were, they had dark hair and were wearing dark clothes and fingerless gloves. She couldn't tell if it was a boy or girl, since their arms were hiding their face, but the figure's arms and exposed midriff were covered in cuts and bruises. They were still breathing, but didn't look to be in any condition to move.
Turning, Riza faced the one in the street, who was now advancing. She saw that it was a tall, rather muscular man also clad in black, with dark hair that shot up in spikes, wearing sunglasses. He didn't look very worse for the wear. If these two had been in a fight, then the one behind her had been losing drastically. But this man looked full grown, and the figure behind her couldn't be much more than a child. This was incredibly wrong and one-sided, no matter what the child might have done.
"You'd better step aside, lady," the guy said, grinning smugly. Riza noticed the gun in his right hand. "Things are about to get ugly."
I've got to protect this child. Without further ado, Riza reached into her purse, pulled out a gun, and leveled it at the man. He stopped, as if surprised.
"Step away," Riza said calmly, though her heart was beating faster.
"What's it to you?" the man sneered. "This doesn't concern you at all."
"It does now," Riza said.
The guy snorted, but he didn't advance. "Do you even know who you're protecting?" he asked.
"I don't care. You shouldn't beat up and then shoot a child," Riza said.
The guy glared at her, but she held steady. Riza naturally had a soft spot for kids and teenagers, and she didn't know what was going on, but she certainly wouldn't stand by while one was shot. "Leave," she said in a quiet but firm tone.
"I don't think you're going to shoot me," the man said, starting to advance again. He raised his own gun. "I'll tell you again. Leave and I'll think about spa--"
Before he could get another word in, Riza fired. The man's right shoulder snapped back, and he dropped his gun and swore loudly. "What the hell?" he roared, his free hand going to the wound.
"I told you two times to leave," Riza said, preparing for a second shot. "I don't like repeating myself. Leave the child alone."
A pause, as the guy seemed to size her up. "You're a fool," he said to her, even as he backed away to the left, down the street. The barrel of Riza's gun followed. "It's not over," he added, before turning and hurrying away, clutching his injured shoulder.
Riza waited until he was completely out of sight, and his footsteps had faded, to breathe a sigh of relief and drop her gun back in her purse. She turned and hurried to the figure, kneeling down beside them. "Are you conscious? Can you hear me?"
There was silence, then a barely audible groan. Riza carefully checked for any broken bones, and was relieved not to find any. "I'm going to call an ambulance for you," she said, reaching into her purse again, this time for her cell phone.
The word "ambulance" seemed to spur the figure into action. Riza had the phone in her hand and was just about to flip it open when the figure grabbed one of her hands with their own. Riza looked at the figure in surprise, to find herself staring into the beat-up face of a boy. He was shaking his head, his eyes squeezed shut as if that caused pain itself. Blood was running from cuts on his cheek, mouth, and eye. He looked awful.
"You need an ambulance," Riza said firmly. "You're badly hurt."
Slowly, the boy tried to sit up. Riza's hands went to his shoulders to both steady him and stop him. "Don't try moving; it's not safe." But he persisted. He seemed to want to get out of there very quickly, now that Riza had mentioned the ambulance. This didn't pass Riza's notice. Is he a criminal? she thought. If he was, he was a very young one, and he still needed help.
"Listen," Riza said, "you need to get cleaned up and bandaged. It would be a good idea to go to the hospital..."
The boy tried to get to his knees but sank back with a sharp intake of air.
Riza sighed heavily. "If you're so dead-set against being picked up by an ambulance, at least let me take you home and help you."
He was still trying to get up. Riza tightened her hold on his shoulders. "You can't just walk off with these injuries. Let me help."
"I'm...fine," he ground out. His voice sounded like he had spent the previous day screaming his lungs out, it was so dry and raspy.
"I'm not letting you go like this," Riza said firmly, exchanging her cellphone for her gun. She pointed it at his head, and he seemed to recognize that his brains were in danger. "You either let me call the ambulance, or you let me take you home."
The boy's hands clenched into fists against the ground, but trying to stand seemed to have sapped all his strength. He let his muscles relax almost too quickly, and Riza had to catch him. "You're mean," he rasped.
"So my husband tells me," Riza replied as she pulled his arm over her shoulder. Something caught her eye, and she glanced down at his left shoulder, only to do a double take. Tattooed in red on his shoulder was a six-point star, surrounded by a snake with detached wings eating its own tail. No wonder he was so adamant against the ambulance, Riza thought, recognizing the mark of a gang member. But he's so young. How terrible.
She helped him stand, leaning heavily against her, and managed to half-carry, half-drag him to the car. Unlocking the door, Riza helped him get into the passenger seat, not caring that he sat on the newspaper, then reclined it a little so he was in a more comfortable position. She dutifully buckled the seatbelt around his waist, and her hands came back bloody. Riza pulled a page of the newspaper out to wipe her hands on as she went around the car. A thought occurred to her, and she got her cellphone back out, speed-dialing the house.
It rang three times before a grumpy-sounding Roy answered. "'Llo?"
"It's me," Riza said, getting into the driver's seat and shutting the door. "I need you to meet me outside when I get back."
"I'm going to have to ask you to just do it," Riza told him, buckling her seatbelt and starting the car.
There were a couple of sleepy sighs, and then, "All right, all right. Am I meeting something besides you and the dry cleaning?"
"Yes you are," Riza confirmed. "I'm already on my way, so get off the couch."
Another sigh. "All right. Meet you outside."
Riza hung up and dropped her cell phone back into her purse.
"Where are you taking me?"
Riza looked over at the boy, who now had his head resting against the glass. His eyes were still closed. "To my house," she said. "Since you don't want to go to the hospital, I can't let you bleed to death in some alley. I'm going to patch you up."
"And then?" He sounded as though he were losing consciousness.
Honestly, Riza hadn't thought up to that point. But she supposed something would come to her. "We'll have to see," she said.
The boy was silent. Riza guessed that he must have passed out at that point.
At the Mustang residence...
Roy, now fully awake with coffee in hand, watched as his wife's car pulled up into their driveway. He was a little grumpy about his nap being interrupted, but he would get over it. Besides, he wanted to know what was so important that he had to be out here to see it.
As he watched, Riza turned the car off and opened the door. She looked unusually solemn, and Roy saw a weird streak or two of some dark stain across the front of her white blouse. She motioned for him to come over as she circled around to the passenger side, and Roy grudgingly did so. "Did you find some stray animal or something?" he guessed.
"Something like that," Riza told him, opening the passenger door carefully, as if the car would explode if she opened it too fast. She quickly reached in and caught something that appeared to have been leaning against the window. Roy couldn't tell what it was because of the tinted windows, at least until Riza swung the door wide open.
Roy's eyes widened, and he dropped his coffee. "What the...Who the hell is that?"
"He was under attack," Riza said matter-of-factly, shifting the unconscious boy that now leaned completely on her. "A grown man pushed him out of a window and was going to shoot him. I need your help to get him in the house."
"Why aren't we taking him to the hospital?" Roy asked incredulously as he stepped in and lifted the boy up, bridal-style. The boy was cut and bruised up all over his face, arms, and stomach, and those were just the injuries Roy could see.
"We can't," Riza said, shutting the door and hustling her husband and his new load into the house. "He didn't want to go. We need to stop the bleeding."
"Like hell he didn't!" Roy exclaimed. "He needs to go. We can't help him like they can at a hospital."
"Roy, he can't," Riza emphasized. She tapped the boy's left shoulder. "Just look here. He's a part of a gang."
Roy stared at her. "...A gang?" he repeated. "Which one?"
"Well, then, we definitely can't have him here. We could have our house shot up, or a car driven into the living room, or--"
"Roy." There was a pleading Riza's eyes that she usually didn't showcase.
They stared into each other's eyes for a while, until Roy sighed. "I can see what this means to you, and I'd like to go on record as saying this is a very bad idea."
"So noted," Riza said, a hint of relief in her voice.
"Where am I taking the kid?"
"The upstairs bath. We'll get him cleaned up there," Riza said, already heading for the stairs.
"Sometimes I think I love you too much. You're always giving me that look, and then I cave," Roy complained.
"That's why I married you. I need someone to constantly manipulate."
Riza gave Roy a smile over her shoulder. "You know I always appreciate it," she said sincerely.
"Which is why I'm constantly manipulated," Roy said, smiling back. "Now tell me what the game plan is."
"I plan to take care of him," Riza said firmly as they reached the top of the stairs. "He's badly hurt, and he won't go to a hospital, so I'll have to play nurse."
"Oh really? Can I play doctor?" Roy asked, wiggling his brows.
"Later, Romeo. First we have to help him."
Everything hurt. His face, arms, back, legs...he felt like someone had run him over with a steamroller, then backed up and did it again. Even though he could feel the pain, it was as if he were feeling someone else's pain. His limbs weren't responding when he tried to move them. His fingers only twitched, and that too hurt.
Someone nearby was speaking. It sounded like a woman, like that woman. The one with blond hair who had pointed a gun at him. He wanted to shiver, but he couldn't. Every sound he heard was murky, like he was hearing them through water.
The woman was talking in a strange way. She would speak, then stop, then speak more, then stop, then say a couple of "Mm-hmm"s and stop, and then do it over. Maybe she was on the phone. He tried to strain and hear what she was saying, but all too soon, he couldn't hear anything anymore, and he was gone.
He returned to semi-consciousness again, and it felt like he couldn't breathe. Like someone had stuffed a lit torch down his throat. He heard a murky boom of thunder, and it scared him. He had always hated thunderstorms.
There was another presence near him, and somehow he knew it was that woman. He tried to open his eyes, but the left one stung in protest, and he stopped trying. Something cold was lying over his eyes, and all his injuries seemed to be intensified by the storm. Where am I? Where is this? Are the others here? He tried to move, sit up, say something, but nothing worked. With dismay he felt himself slipping away again.
The woman said something in a low voice. He couldn't make out much because of the blurriness of her words. In a way, it reminded him of his mother's voice. He remembered times when he had gotten sick, his mother would sit with him, stroking his hair and saying comforting things to him. He missed her. He missed her so much.
When he next returned to partial reality, he could feel two presences in the room. One was that woman. They were having a conversation, and he could actually understand it.
"I'm leaving," a man's voice said. "You going to be all right?"
"I'll be fine," the woman replied, her voice much closer than the man's. "Have a good day at work."
"Yep." There was the sound of movement, and then, "Has he woken up at all?"
"Not really. He seems to be lapsing in and out of consciousness at times. I think he might have an infection from one of the wounds."
"Hmm." The man sounded thoughtful. "Want me to get anything while I'm out?"
"More bandages, and antibiotics, please," the woman said.
"Sure. And Riza?"
"Yes?" So that was her name. Riza.
There was silence, and then, "Nothing, I guess. I'll see you this evening."
"Yes." The faint sound of a door closing came after that, and he lost consciousness again.
Friday, April 10th
Riza had updated the sign she had put on the front door of her shop. It now said, Closed for Illness. Please place Phone Orders. She wanted to devote as much time as she could to helping the boy recover. When her business line rang on Friday, she knew who it must be and picked it up. "Riza's Armory." She immediately pulled the phone from her ear, and not a moment too soon.
"MRS. MUSTANG! IT IS I, ALEX LOUIS ARMSTRONG!"
"Hello, Alex," Riza said, putting the phone back up to her ear now that he was finished with his loud greeting.
"I noticed the sign on the front door. Is someone ill? TELL ME AND I SHALL BESTOW MEDICINE UPON YOU IMMEDIATELY!"
"Roy and I are fine," Riza said. "I'm just helping a friend of mine recover."
"Will you still be desiring next week's shipment?"
"Yes," Riza said, nodding. "If you wouldn't mind simply stowing everything in the storage room for me. I'll probably still be pretty busy."
"CERTAINLY! ALEX LOUIS ARMSTRONG WILL DO ALL HE CAN TO HELP! THE DESIRE TO AID FRIENDS IS A TRAIT THAT HAS BEEN PASSED DOWN THE ARMSTRONG LINE FOR GENERATIONS!"
Riza sighed while holding the phone at arm's length. "Thank you, Alex. I'll see you tomorrow."
"YES! A GLORIOUS DAY IT SHALL BE!"
Riza hung up. Once a week, Alex would bring a large shipment of merchandise for her store. Sometimes he was alone, and sometimes he brought Winry Rockbell. The both of them were good friends of the Mustangs. Usually when Winry arrived, it was to showcase another mechanical innovation of hers for Riza's store.
"Those two really helped my store get off the ground," Riza said aloud, looking into the guest room, where the boy was. He appeared to be unconscious again, and she came back in and sat down on the chair she had pulled up to the bedside. He now seemed to be sleeping peacefully, though his left arm would twitch every now and then. A couple of the wounds on that arm were swelling and starting to ooze pus. Riza feared she might not be properly helping him recover.
But if I take him to the hospital, he'll be arrested once he's better. She sighed. I don't know why I just can't let that happen, but I can't.
The boy twitched, and then exhaled slowly. Riza recognized the sign of his returning to consciousness. "Do you need anything?" she asked in a low voice, leaning forward slightly. Sometimes he would remain awake long enough to ask for water, and sometimes he would say "What...?" or "Where...?" but never finished.
He didn't say anything for a moment, and Riza took the opportunity to take the damp cloth off of his eyes and replace it with one from the stack on the nearby night table. The cut on his eyelid had scabbed over nicely, and it didn't seem like it would be a problem.
"W...Water?" he whispered.
"Of course." Riza already had a glass on the night table, and she had brought a bottle straight from the fridge.
Riza looked down at him in surprise. She didn't know he knew her name. "Yes?"
"Where..." There he went again. Riza waited patiently, but he didn't finish.
"You know my name," Riza said as she poured water into the glass, "but I don't know yours." She helped him sit up, putting pillows behind his back so he didn't have to exert himself. She was surprised again when he weakly cracked open his right eye, the one that wasn't cut. His eye, what she could see of it, appeared to be a very light hazel color at first, but as she looked at it more Riza realized that it was more of a golden color. It occurred to Riza that she had never seen his eyes open before.
His open eye narrowed slightly, as if he were considering. He frowned thoughtfully, then took a deep breath as if preparing to speak.
"My name...I'm..." His eye focused briefly on Riza's face before shifting away. "Pride," he said.
Riza blinked "Pride? Is that a nickname?"
"Pride," he repeated, but he seemed to be fading away. Riza helped him drink some of the water before he fell asleep again.
PrideRiza thought, frowning as she held the half-empty glass. She looked down at the still figure. What does it mean?
Now she was curious.