Disclaimer: I do not own Fullmetal Alchemist, and I am making absolutely no profit whatsoever in this fanfic.
The hospital room was clean and sterile. She still felt dirty.
Her eyes had been unharmed - the shrapnel had merely grazed her forehead. Ten of her men had died.
They told her she was lucky.
Three knocks sounded at her door and she frowned. (The nurses never knocked, and Havoc bounded in recklessly on his crutches).
He walked in with his head down. "Lieutenant."
"Aren't you supposed to be in Central?" He had been summoned by the Fuhrer himself to receive a medal of valor for his actions, and she was concerned how he had been able to extricate himself from the spectacle.
"You should be focusing on your health, not my schedule," he chided.
"They are often intertwined, sir."
He frowned. "I was here earlier, but they knocked you out."
"They said I could go home yesterday, but someone wanted to keep me under observation."
"Ah." Roy continued to study his feet. "It's always better to err on the side of caution."
"So it was you."
"Dr. Jin recommended the observation. I just..." he stopped. "I came to take you home, if you'd permit me."
"I can drive myself."
"You're supposed to be in Central," she reminded him again.
Roy tugged his ear. "I am well aware of that, Lieutenant."
"Fine." She pushed her bedsheets down. "I could use a shower."
He sat at her kitchen table while she showered, sipping tea. He made her a cup as soon as she finished, and they sat across from each other in silence for several moments.
In other circumstances she might have been mortified at the state of her apartment. Boxes still sat in corners unpacked for over a year (mostly full of her father's books that she had inherited), and her kitchen pantry held little in the way of nourishment. She kept her living area clean, but it was spartan, right down to the small, clean wooden table where they sat in silence.
"Major Drebbel came to visit me," she finally said.
"...I'm surprised you aren't facing court martial."
Roy set his cup down a little harsher than intended. "He was under my direct command, and in my opinion he wasn't suited to the task. I had him removed from the State Alchemist position due to his temperament."
His eyes were cool as steel as he held her gaze. "He can't perform the essential functions of his position, Lieutenant."
"He's a good officer --"
"Yes, and he deserves more than blood on his hands. This isn't his battlefield, Lieutenant, and I don't think he should..." Roy shrugged. "It also makes Sendivo less likely to charge him with insubordination."
Riza wanted to ask him if he was okay after destroying the village he'd worked so hard to save, but it didn't seem right, somehow, to voice her concern for a man who had just set destroyed an entire city. He stood from the table and turned to face the window. His shoulders were wide for an average sized man, and he stood as straight as a pillar. Even before his military training, he had always carried himself with such formal posture.
She realized what he was waiting for her to do and she sighed. "Sit down, Roy."
"I stepped off the path, Riza." He remained facing the window. "I'm going to have to do it again, and again, in order to reach my goals...and I'm not sure I'll be the right person for the job when I finally get there."
Riza walked up to him and stepped in front of the window. "You just killed two thousand people, Roy. I'm not going to kill you so you can feel better about yourself. You made that decision, and now you have to work so that those people's lives weren't in vain."
"We're short a State Alchemist," he replied vaguely.
"My arrogance is what killed the people of Lilam, and that's not a guilt trip, Lieutenant, it's a fact. I am being watched very closely by Central, and if I favor another city, I suspect it will meet the same fate." Roy smiled humorlessly. "I'm going to need to become much more ruthless."
Riza's back straightened. "I see."
"I'll need someone else, someone like Drebbel, in the field to do it for me...preferably without knowing I approve. Someone with a little more initiative, a little more hunger..."
"...and you'll just handpick this person to roll right through testing?"
"I never said it would be easy, Lieutenant," Roy admonished lightly. "But if I'm going to need to become a pawn of Central, I'll need someone to discreetly correct any abuses of power."
"I'll start research tomorrow morning, then," she replied, "for a pawn of your own."
"Thank you, Lieutenant, but I've already cultivated a list. I was hoping we could go out and meet with potential applicants in person beginning tomorrow."
"Tomorrow?" Riza sighed. "We?"
"The offer still stands to shoot me, Lieutenant."
"Don't test me," she snapped half-heartedly.
Roy was still watching her with that cool, blank expression, and she wondered what other bombshell he was planning to drop on her.
"Is there something else, Roy?"
"Yes, actually." He reduced the space between them with a step. "You broke my heart."
"What?" Riza rubbed her temples to ease the emotional whiplash he had just unleashed. "I don't understand."
"It wasn't when I left you at your father's to go to war, or even when I saw you on the battlefield with your dirty face and dead eyes, but when you asked me to burn and crush your back – when you asked me to break the bond that we shared, it broke me. I have tried to respect your request for so long that when we...the other night, I...when I saw your scars, it reminded me how much I've hurt you."
Riza tilted her chin upwards. "Is that why you left me in bed alone? Without a word?"
"I was terrified," he whispered.
"Really? It looked more like apathy to me-"
Roy stepped closer and slid his finger underneath her defiant chin. "I can't do this without you, Riza. I can't afford to do anything that might jeopardize our relationship, and sleeping together muddles things too much...especially when I'm dating half of Eastern."
"And a quarter of Central," she muttered.
"You broke our bond because of the monstrous things I've done, that I continue to do, and I understand."
His eyes were still unreadable, but heat radiated from his finger like metal in the sun. "I wanted nothing to do with alchemy because I felt guilty. I never blamed you."
She ground her jaw. "I never blamed you!"
"That day when you shot the Ishvalan with the knife while Maes and I were talking...I always wondered," his voice dropped almost as low as a whisper, "you must have had the scope trained on me at some point. Did you think of pulling the trigger?"
Riza tried to drop her head, but his hand wouldn't let her. "I couldn't."
He lowered his mouth to her ear. "In the first few weeks, before I became accustomed to the stench of burning flesh, I would wish that I'd never seen the secrets on your back, that you had kept them to yourself, that they could just disappear...I actually thought of burning them from from your skin...when you asked me to do so, as horrified as I was, I felt almost grateful"
She shivered from his breath against her ear and the chills his words sent down her spine. "I asked you to burn my back because I never wanted to see anyone suffer as much as you had."
His mask finally dropped then, and he dropped his hands helplessly to his sides. "That...but I betrayed your trust, I hurt you..."
"Roy. I never blamed you." Riza wrapped her arms around him, even though his arms hung limply against hers. "We have both done terrible things, and we will do more terrible things before this is all over. I don't think taking innocent lives is something we can atone for, but... we can change this country so that the next generation won't have to deal in blood.
"In the meantime," she continued, "as much as we don't deserve it...could we try to find some shreds of happiness, while we're still able...?"
Roy pressed his forehead against hers and finally returned her embrace. "We're going to Rezembool tomorrow."
Riza looked up. "Where's that?"
"Small, small town, much like where I grew up. But...it should be a nice excuse to get away from the office for a few days, in a nice, private train car..."
He kissed her, and she forgot her protestations. "What time?"
"Very early," he breathed against her lips. "Oh four hundred."
"I'm surprised you bought a ticket for that early," she chided. "This potential pawn of yours must be very promising."
"It's said that he's very talented," Roy agreed, "and he's in his early thirties, so I won't have to babysit him like I did Drebbel."
"He might be babysitting you," she teased lightly.
Roy gently extricated himself from their embrace with a scowl. "If you're going to make fun of my age, then I'm leaving."
"You should be leaving anyway," Riza countered as she carried their teacups to the kitchen sink. "You need to get to rest if you plan on making the train on time."
"Always so practical..." He smiled again, but it didn't quite reach his eyes. "I wish I could stay."
"It's not...this won't be easy, and I don't want you to think-"
She silenced him with a look.
"Of course," he murmured. "I'm honored to have you following me."
"Into hell," she sighed. "Or early morning trains. I'll pick you up at oh three hundred. Be ready."
His steps out the door were heavy, but he moved lightly enough, and she wondered how long they would play this charade.
A/N: Yay! It's finally over. I went over the chapters and polished them a little bit, but please let me know if I missed anything. Thanks for reading!