Of Complications and Contradictions

Summary: Roy's returned to the Hawkeyes' for the last time, and it seems that nobody, not even Roy himself, is quite sure just how to deal with this. Royai.

A/N: If you followed my 100 themes collection (Chaotic Sonata) and read chapter 60, this could almost be a companion to it. If not, I encourage you to read them. They are drabbles, after all, and probably better than this, anyway. (I'm a bit rusty.)

Riza leaned against the door frame almost casually, but Roy knew her well enough to detect a tension not unlike a lioness protecting her cubs.

"I'm back," he said, his voice sounding loud and out of place.

"So you are." Riza crossed her arms and raised an eyebrow, trying to keep her whole range of welled-up feelings from showing. "And yet, the only reason you're able to say so is because you left in the first place."

Roy advanced up the porch steps, trying to think of what he could say. Apologizing didn't seem right, but defending his actions clearly wasn't going to garner respect, either. "I'm only a student. There comes a time when the student has to leave."

"But here you are." Riza winced inwardly. That little phrase had carried a mix of betrayal and longing and relief, and she knew Roy would be able to tell.

They stood in silence for a moment before Roy finally sighed and asked, "May I come in?"

Eyeing him warily, Riza answered by way of turning and entering the house, leaving the door open behind her.

It was as though they had become strangers. Roy hadn't even been gone that long, and he knew he'd been as much a part of the Hawkeye family as it was possible for any outsider to be before he left.

"So… you've chosen the military, then," Riza observed coolly, breaking the silence.

Roy nodded.

"And you've come back for Flame Alchemy, right?" Now her tone was outright accusatory.

"If your father so chooses to disclose it. I can make it to the top without it."

Riza's expression changed, but not in the way Roy had thought it would. At least, not completely; he had expected the disgust, the betrayal on her father's behalf, but at the same time, she, too, seemed deflated while pitying him at the same time. "If that's all you're here for," she began shakily, "then you should just leave. Don't even bother talking to my father." She turned to leave.

"Riza—" Roy realized too late how what he'd said must have sounded.

She wheeled around, fixing him with a stare infinitely more piercing than her father's. "Don't. Bother."

"You don't understand—" In his haste to explain, he had again picked the wrong thing to say, and unfortunately for him, Riza's temper being incredibly and unusually quick today was not helping matters.

"Of course not. How could I possibly understand anything?" she wanted to know. "I'm just an alchemist's daughter. I've only watched alchemy ruin this family. Did you watch your mother waste away, your father desperate but unable to help her? Did you cry every night because your father grew more and more distant? Did you wake up one day, thinking that you'd stopped caring, only to be proven wrong when you got replaced by an arrogant man whose only goal was to rule the country? And it just about kill you to realize that because—" Seeming to realize that she was going to say something she shouldn't, Riza stopped.

But Roy knew, and he knew Riza knew, too. Neither of them had said anything, but it was there, all the same: an attraction neither of them quite knew how to deal with, only made worse by their situation.

"Sorry," Roy finally murmured. "I… just meant I haven't explained myself. And I'm sorry about your mother. I'm sorry for taking away your father. But there's one thing I'm not sorry for. You say it's killing you. You'll have to believe me when I say that it's killing me, too. But I'm not sorry for that. I'm just sorry that it happened here and now. Different place, different time, different situation—any of that would have been fine. But things can't change, and we shouldn't try to change them. We just have to do what we can and make the best of it."

"I-I don't know what you're talking about." Riza crossed her arms, tightly clutching each one with the opposite hand.

Roy let out a sigh, deflated and a bit spent from the tension. He didn't believe her, but there was nothing he could do at this point. "Maybe it's better that way. I just—no. Never mind. I'm not going to make this more complicated than it already is. But I'm not the monster you might think I am, Riza. I'm no saint, but I refuse to become a devil. I'm first and foremost an alchemist…" He trailed off, hoping this could even tentatively bridge the chasm between them.

"…And alchemists are only human," Riza finished, completing one of her father's many tenets. "Certainly no more... but not always no less."

It was getting worse again, Roy could tell. In her calm, Riza was gathering her thoughts, preparing to lash out again if provoked. "I know I've caused you pain, and for that, I'm sorry. But I'm not going to turn my back on my ambitions, Riza. For better or for worse, I've set my goals, and I'm sticking to them."

"Then by all means, don't let me stop you," Riza nearly growled, but Roy stood still, refusing the bait. Her expression softened a bit and she added, "We really did believe in you, Roy. And somewhere, somehow, though it goes against all reason, I know I still do."

Roy nodded. "Thank you, Riza. That means a lot to me, really." He sighed again. "I just hope your father can find it in himself to believe in me, too."

It was Riza who let out a heavy breath this time. "Then… you'd better go talk to him."

With a last nod, Roy headed towards the stairs, feeling unprepared for the battle he knew he faced, but thankful that, even if she wouldn't say it again, he had Riza on his side.

A/N: Inspired by Nickelback's "Too Bad"

I totally made up that Riza's mom "wasted away" while she and her father could only watch, and that she cried every night. I doubt she actually did. But when you get angry, you say irrational things, things to make the other person feel as horrible as you do. Also, I just really haven't written much in a few months, so they might just be a bit out of character in general. Though I can imagine Riza being protective of her father.