Theme #63: Special Seat
The door creaked open, and Riza hesitantly stepped inside the room. A single, flickering light hung from the ceiling, bathing the study in a dim yellow glow. The bookshelves were overflowing with old tomes and worn leather-bound books, and a musty smell lingered in the air.
Her father was hunched over his desk, currently engaged in writing something on a piece of parchment. His hand flew across the paper, the quill leaving trails of black ink in its wake. A moment later the movement ceased, and the quill was returned to the ink well.
"Riza," he said and raised a beckoning hand, "come here."
Riza did as she was told, trying her best to ignore the uneasy feeling that had settled in the pit of her stomach. It was unusual for her father to ask her to join him in his study, and she couldn't think of any reason why he would.
"Riza," Berthold began as he slowly rose from his chair and turned to face her, "the alchemy I've spent years perfecting is a power sought after by many. It's a formidable power and could be very dangerous if it were to ever fall into the wrong hands. Therefore, it must be kept safely hidden," he gently placed a hand on her shoulder and looked directly into her eyes. "Riza, I want you to protect the secrets of my research and be the one to decide who is worthy of inheriting it."
Riza turned away from her father's gaze. She wasn't sure how to respond to such a request. How could he ask her, someone with no interest or talent for alchemy, to shoulder such a heavy burden?
"Wouldn't Mister Mustang be better suited for looking after your research?" she asked after a few moments of silence. "That's why you took him on as a student, isn't it?"
"That was my original intention, yes, but he's not yet ready." He gingerly tilted her chin upward so that she was looking at him again. "I don't have much longer, Riza. I need to be certain that my research is in safe hands before I die."
So, after all this time, he still put his precious alchemy before her. Riza slowly took a step back, tears beginning to form in the corners of her eyes. Didn't he even care in the slightest about what would happen to her after he died?
Suddenly, in an outward display affection he hadn't committed in years, he reached out and wrapped his arms around her.
Riza was momentarily shocked, but she soon found herself returning the hug, albeit a bit awkwardly. She loved him, and all she ever wanted was for him to return that love. But was this single act enough to make up for all the years he distanced himself from her, neglecting to give her what she needed most? Riza pressed her face against his chest, allowing her tears to fall.
"I understand that this is a big task for you to undertake, but you're the only one I trust to do this," he explained to her softly. "Will you do this for me?"
The sincerity in his voice robbed her of the will to say 'no.' He truly needed her, and if she did this for him, perhaps she could regain his love and attention which she lost so long ago.
"All right," she murmured and tightened her arms around him, "I'll do it."
AN: I really struggled with this one and spent a lot of time on it, so please take a moment to let me know what you think.