Roy Mustang sat at his desk with a pen in hand that was perfectly poised above paper. The tip barely skimmed the surface of the paper before he drew it back and, out of habit, stuck it into his mouth before sighing in frustration. It had been like this for the past month and a half! He, an ex-soldier, was tackling one of the biggest obstacles in his life: which direction to take this book of his.
It was a surprising profession to slip into. After barely escaping the death sentence for high treason years ago, he and his men receded to a small town on the outskirts of Central with enough openness to give them a feeling of freedom but enough closure to allow them the peace they so desperately sought. He didn't know when he'd been inspired him to take up the pen and paper, though he vaguely remembered Riza's calloused hand at his shoulder, encouraging him to write out his feelings. He supposed that while at the time it felt like she was more a psychiatrist than a lover, he certainly hadn't expected to find so much pleasure and relaxation in writing. Before long he'd written a great deal more than she'd ever expected, and after tenderly asking if she could read it, Riza found his talent. The way he poured his soul, his passion into words, brought them to life in a way she'd never seen before. She convinced and assisted him in publishing a few of his shorter works under a false name and through careful management kept his true identity secret from all but the necessary persons. The stories seemed to be popular enough to generate a decent sum of revenue, and Roy enjoyed the relaxed profession.
The men were curious about Roy's new habit. He was not fond of having many read his works before publication, so their curiosity only increased. They were born and bred military men, but since they no longer served they reverted to their greatest side quest: eavesdropping. As he slaved over the paper, quickly scrawling and scratching away, they stared in awe at the man who used to despise paperwork writing so much and sometimes tried to sneak a glance at his progress. Even Havoc's little girl Claire would peek innocently at "Uncle Roy's" writing before he shooed her away with a kind smile or doted on his friend's five year old daughter.
Roy sighed. While it certainly was good for relieving stress at first, the desire to tell this story and frustration from his inability to do so only stirred up those nerves. What was wrong with him? What was wrong with his story? Why did the words not come as easily as they had before? He rose to close the door and blocked the light and noise from Havoc and Rebecca's visiting of Riza downstairs.
Roy slumped back into his chair and thought about joining his friends but found himself looking at a small guest standing by his desk. Claire Havoc looked at him with eager, shining blue eyes. She tugged insistently at his sleeve.
Roy managed to tear himself away from his thoughts and pinched his niece's cheek affectionately. "Yes, Claire bear?" he teased, and she giggled.
"What'cha doing, Uncle Roy? You look mad."
To think this child could see through him so easily. Roy deduced that he must've been slipping up. Claire climbed onto his lap, staring at the paper inquisitively.
"Is this your story?" the curly haired girl asked, smiling cheerfully at him. He nodded. "Can you not write it?" He nodded again. Her gaze went back to the paper. "Do ya want to talk to me about it?"
She looked at him and he found himself unable to refuse.
"All right, Claire bear." He wound one arm around her and balanced her one knee as he reached for the stack of papers. "What do you want to know?"
"What is your story about, Uncle Roy? Is it like the stories Daddy tells me before I go to bed?" she asked, excited of the idea of a new story to listen to. He struggled to find a way to make the story more…child-appropriate.
"Well, Claire, your Uncle Roy's story is about a boy who is in the military."
"Like you and Uncle Kain and Uncle Vato and Uncle Heymans and Auntie Riza and Mommy and Daddy were, right?
"Just like that, Claire. And this boy, who's name is –"
"William," the girl interjected, shaking her head curtly as though to establish it as fact. Roy cracked a smile.
"No Claire, not William."
"Well, I like the name William, Uncle Roy," she insisted. "That's what Mommy and Daddy said they were going to name my little brother." Roy's eyebrows rose at the implications of the Havocs having a second child but said nothing. Also, he had been planning to name the main character Leon, but he supposed that while telling Claire the story that Leon could be temporarily changed to William.
"All right, we'll say his name is William. Now William is in the military and…he's not very happy."
"That's because fighting is bad, right? That's what Daddy and Mommy always tell me when me and Elysia fight sometimes."
"Yes, Claire." Roy smiled at her childlike innocence, his eyes hiding a distant flicker of bitterness. It was rather refreshing to hear such untainted thoughts after writing about the cruelties and foulness of war. He had very few memories of times when he thought so little about the complex troubles of the world.
Claire poked him in the chest, bringing Roy back to the present.
"Where was I?"
"You need to start at the 'once upon a time,' Uncle Roy! The beginning of your story!"
Once upon a time…
"It doesn't have a 'once upon a time,'" he said gently, but she gasped, scandalized. "Not everything is a fairy tale, Claire," he whispered. "This story doesn't have a happy ending."
She shook her head profusely, looking slightly confused. "What about William's time with his mommy and daddy or with the rest of his family? What about William doing fun stuff when he was little like me? Just because it doesn't have a happy ending doesn't mean there has to be a sad beginning too!" She frowned, her young mind obviously troubled by this fact.
The door opened and Jean's blonde head popped into the room. "Hello, Roy." He grinned at his daughter. "Hi there, sweetheart."
Claire forgot her previous feelings and rushed hastily to his side, nearly toppling her father over as she ran into his arms. "Daddy! I was talking to Uncle Roy about his story!"
"Really, pumpkin?" He looked almost apologetically at Roy, but Roy simply dismissed it with the wave of a hand. "Well, why don't we let Uncle Roy have some peace and quiet. Mommy says it's time to go home."
Claire pouted but agreed. "Bye Uncle Roy! I hope you can write your story!" She smiled at him and waved over her father's shoulder as Havoc carried her away and down the staircase.
He sat still for a while, her words still ringing in his ears.
'Just because it doesn't have a happy ending doesn't mean there has to be a sad beginning too.'
Was he just too pessimistic about life? After everything he'd been through, Roy figured it was rather justifiable. Surviving through two wars while many he'd known hadn't, the burden of those he killed on his shoulders…the world had never been kind to him. But this little girl, not yet even in school, skewed everything he'd lived through out of perspective with one sentence.
"Happy times, huh." Could he remember any? Surely there had been some from his childhood and growing up, but all he could remember was the war, his teacher's death, rigorous training…
Riza came into their room quietly, her hair loose and down and her clothes changed in her preparation to sleep. His lips twitched at her matching flannel pajama shirt and pants. She paid him no heed and set a small plate of apple pie on his desk.
"I figured you'd like some after all your hard work." She placed a kiss in his hair before heading to the bathroom. "Come to bed when you're ready."
Roy absentmindedly paid attention to what she said. He couldn't stop looking at the pie. Something about it, besides the rather lopsided crust, stood out in his mind…
"Pie?" Roy asked. "It's the middle of the hottest summer Amestris has ever seen and you bake a pie?" He automatically wished to take it back. He's just arrived a few days ago and an awkward tension still hung over them.
Riza scowled. "The apples were going to go bad. You should be thankful, you lunkhead."
He held up his hands in surrender. "I like pie," he said defensively. Helping himself to a slice and offering one to Riza, Roy sat down at the table.
"Well?" she nearly demanded before realizing her tone and flushing. He laughed, making her flush darker, but his eyes twinkled playfully.
"It's pretty good," he commented cheerily, "but the crust is kind of shaped funny."
She threw an apple at him, and he found out about her excellent aim as it nailed him in the forehead, but she smiled as well. "Well, Mr. Mustang, your head is kind of shaped funny."
She sat next to him, happily partaking in the treat. "You know, Mr. Mustang, I think we'll get along just fine."
When she came out of the bathroom, Riza was surprised at Roy scribbling furiously. By looking at his pace, she knew he was not coming to bed any time soon. She smiled softly and crept into their sheets and fell asleep.
She woke up bleary-eyed about five hours later from an enthusiastic shaking.
"Read this," he whispered, and he pushed a handful of papers into her hands. She glanced at the clock but nonetheless began reading.
"William," she paused at the first word of Roy's revised version of his work but continued. "William pressed a hand firmly over the wound in an attempt to stop the bleeding. He could quickly feel the effects of losing blood.
'I need to keep going,' he thought wildly. 'I need to…for her.'
He wanted to remember the feel of arms around him. That feeling of being cherished, being happy…when had he lost it? He wanted to go back to those days.
He could remember lying in the grass, his eyes closed and the green strands tickling his bare arms and legs. The sun's warmth on his skin as the wind blew was a perfect balance. He could picture the swing in the yard, the weathered ropes tied to a smooth plank of wood bristling lightly in the breeze. The soothing smell of cinnamon and apple permeated the surrounding air. As he lay there, a body slid next to his and smooth arms circled around his torso. An overwhelming feeling of serenity overcame him. This is what he wanted life to be like, to be remembered as.
Now, in the field of blood reeking with the smell of steel and smoke, he remembered those times. Even as he struggled to just keep going, there was a comfort in remembrance.
He wanted to go back to her. And he decided then that he definitely would."
Riza was silent as she flipped through the pages. The last few sentences of his novel caught her eye. "As she cried, holding him in her arms for the last time as he felt his strength finally fading, he was glad to again know the feeling of being cherished, being held. He made it back, just like he promised himself so many months ago."
There was quiet as Riza reveled in the small passage she just read aloud. When had this come to him? She looked into his tired eyes, ready to inquire, but stopped. Instead, she conveyed wordlessly, 'Where did this come from?'
"A little girl and a slice of pie." He smirked. "They taught me that just because it doesn't have a happy ending, it doesn't mean there has to be a sad beginning too." He gave her a kiss and then climbed into bed with her. "Now let's sleep." And they did.