I know right? It's been a year and here I am, bringing my sorry ass back to this story. I'm sure I don't have to apologize for the wait because I'm sure everyone knows how sorry I must be feeling. And I do.
Let me just be clear that this story is no longer a threeshot - which means that it is not finished yet - and instead will be a fourshot. The reason being is because after considering how long the final chapter would be I decided to split it up into two parts. I also feel really guilty about not updating in such a long time so I decided to release what I've written already as the third chapter and finish the fourth chapter after I have received some fresh inspiration and improved my writing.
To be hoenst, I'm really not impressed with this chapter. Mostly because before I wrote it I hadn't written in about a year so my abilty to write has decreased a lot. I'm trying to improve and reach my previous standard but it's proving to be really difficult. Please excuse this sub-par chapter and hope that my next one is back to my usual standard, or maybe even better.
Having said all of this, I hope you can still enjoy this chapter, even though it's shorter and 'weaker' than its predicessors. I also apologize for any errors as I no longer have a beta.
In Pursuit of Reason
Her eyes burn and she tells herself it's the sand. She frantically scrubs the back of her blood smeared hand against them.
"Put your weapon down." Her voice trembles terribly.
She has been ordered to kill him. It is what she is here for, in this god-forsaken desert.
Executive Order Number 3066.
His eyes are like churning blood, surging with an uncontrollable rage. His dark lips are curled into a snarl and scars litter his young face.
He can't be more than fifteen.
She keeps her gun steady while her other hand quivers.
"Put your weapon down." She orders again.
He glares at her and the blade glints in the scorching overhead sun.
He has begun to speak: foreign words spilling out of his mouth. It is a prayer to Ishvalla.
She begins to crack at the seams.
"Please just put down your weapon! I'll let you go – I don't want -"
With his prayer finished he lunges. Her body crushes into the broken jagged ground and the knife bites into her arm. She shrieks and her finger slips.
The explosion is so loud her ears are ringing and her eyes close on instinct. When they reopen all she can see is thick red mist and dead eyes.
Riza felt a hand on her face and thought it was blood.
Breath rushed into her lungs and her eyes tear open; shifting the image from a gaping maw in the back of a child's skull into that of a curtain of hair and dark eyes.
Riza pushes at the hand and wipes her palms across her face, expecting them to come back streaked with red.
"Hawkeye." He says it so softly that she stops. She breathes and focuses and listens. "You're safe." It is Roy.
Her air stutters out of her lungs and she quickly runs her fingers over her neck until she feels the marbled flesh.
She is safe; free from her nightmares. For now.
Riza breathes in again, trying to stabilise her heart. Her eyes sink into his.
His eyes catch the dawn light; and at this hour the boundaries are blurred.
"Ishval?" He asks softly, running a hand over her cheek; an effort to calm her, "The kid?" He asks even more quietly.
"Yes." Her voice is trapped in her throat and barely makes it past her lips.
He sighs. She watches him, above her, and how his chest expands with his new breath. After all these years the breadth of his shoulders still surprises her. She still remembers the young Roy Mustang that had walked through her father's house.
The memory was ruined by the scarred palm against her cheek and the marbled flesh of his abdomen against her knee.
He was too close, she realises all too late.
His palm glides along her throat.
"I wish I had never gone to your father."
She sucks in a breath and holds it. The dim light of the dawn reflects in his inky eyes. His fingertips scrape across her collarbone and she shivers.
"We aren't going to talk about this, sir." She speaks in a rush and makes a move to get up. He stops her with his palm over her heart.
Her throat closes up and the air rushes out of her at the soft utterance of her name. He had said it as if he had every day of his life. Her heart beats erratically and she knows he can feel the flutter against his fingers.
She stares up at him in disbelief, all dark hair, pitch eyes, broad shoulders, scars and pale skin and wonders, for the shortest second, how she must look to him.
"Not my captain, just for a second." Riza's heartbeat spikes.
His eyes are sunken and he is serious. She can see the bags under his eyes and the faintest crease in his forehead. He is tired, oh so tired, and he just can't handle this anymore. He can't handle them anymore and he's tired, tired, tired. He's reached the end of the line that she thought would be infinite.
Her heart is pounding under his fingers because she's terrified.
He's lost his control.
Almost immediately Hawkeye pushes him off and he falls to the side of her, sinking the bed so that she rolls into him; chest to chest, skin to skin. He inhales sharply. She jerks back as if she's been shocked.
She stumbles off the bed and back into the door, the handle stabbing in between her shoulder blades.
He is cool like cracked ice as he looks at her, shivering in her flimsy strapped top and scruffy shorts against the door. Riza, as she takes in the sight of her passive and beautiful commander, wonders if she has any affect on him whatsoever. Because her heart is hammering under her skin and his face is so smooth and impassive.
"But I am your captain." She knows how weak the excuse is but she can do nothing else.
Anguish washes over his face and he slumps forward; face into his open palms. "I know." His voice is so marred by defeat and shame that she wants to comfort him, but she doesn't trust herself around him now. "I know that..."
And suddenly he's up, eyes awash with anger and frustration, like a wild animal, caged and pawing desperately at the bars trying to be freed.
"But I'm tired!" He's shouting at her. He has never shouted at her, only once, when he was unravelling with worry and frustration. "And this? And this?" He doesn't have the words. He's never had them. "This is too cruel. I'm exhausted!"
Riza shivers under his intense gaze. He has finally confronted, after all these many years, what has been hiding behind the curtain of glass between them and she isn't ready. She has never been ready; especially not for this. Not when he's shouting at her and she can't escape and she's not dying. It was never supposed to be this way.
She swallows thickly. "Sir..."
"I'm exhausted from this. Don't you want this?"
The second the words had left his mouth he regretted them.
Her face is stricken and her body is still.
"Hawke-" He tries to apologise.
"How could you?" she asks numbly, staring right into the depths of his eyes. "How could you even ask-" She can't even finish her sentence due to disbelief.
He tries to calm her, breaking more of their boundaries by putting his hands on her arms. "Riza, I-"
Her name sets her off and she pushes his hands away, eyes alight with hurt. "You trusted me because you don't trust yourself!" She can't believe that after all the years they had been together they were actually speaking about the indescribable bond between them. She can't believe what they are actually saying. "How could you think – even for a second that -"
She stops short. She can't bring herself to say it. Silence engulfs them.
This was all too much to handle.
She swallows thickly, tears threaten to spill from her eyes but she holds them in. She can't cry, she doesn't cry. She won't cry because she knows how deeply it will unsettle Roy.
"I should go," Riza murmurs weakly, crossing her arms; closing herself off. "Winry might be up... and I'm sure I could help her with something."
They both know it's just turned daybreak and Winry wouldn't even be awake.
Roy's hand slides onto Riza's forearm. "Riza..."
"Sir," she responds coarsely. Roy searches the depth of her eyes and he can easily see her discomfort and anger. He sighs deeply, his lungs expanding to their full capacity, before releasing the breath slowly through his nose. His hand slips from her arm with all the sorrow of a breaking heart.
"Alright." He omits and steps away from her, allowing her the space she wants. He steps further back and sits down slowly at the edge of the bed and runs his hand through his messy hair. His hand sinks to his face and he rests it within his palm.
Riza slowly opens the door; the breeze from outside making her shiver. Her eyes still burn with unshed tears and she lifts her face to the ceiling to rid herself of them. After a moment she steps through the doorway and turns, fingers on the handle.
If her heart was whole to begin with it would have broken at the sight of him. He sits, crouched over, head sinking further into his open hands. She can't shift the unsettled feeling in her gut and she can't bring herself to shut the door on him.
Riza takes a deep breath, holding it for as long as she can before she dares to speak.
At the sound of expelled breath Roy looks up from his hands and straight into her eyes questioningly.
Riza looks away for a mere moment, seemingly indecisive of what she was about to say. Her voice is soft.
"How could you ever think that I don't want you."
Then, she leaves; door open ajar so all he can see is her retreating figure.
Winry had been up the whole night.
The previous night had been unforgiving both physically and mentally. She had cried into Ed's chest for what seemed like hours only to be able to stop when her throat physically hurt from overexertion. Throughout her emotional breakdown Ed had peppered the crown of her head with kisses in an effort to sooth her.
Once Winry could formulate words she had insisted that they made love. Ed, who could see the profound sadness and guilt in his wife's eyes, agreed without hesitation.
He was the most tender he had ever been Winry since their fumbling first time all those years ago; he would never admit it, but he too felt the emotional scars. He was suffering just like Winry.
Afterwards Ed had fallen asleep curled around his wife, his hand splayed across her naked enlarged belly.
Winry had passed the hours simply watching him sleep.
Now, at dawn, she lays on her back staring at the frosty light against the ceiling; alone with her horrible thoughts.
She wipes her eyes with the back of her hand and sniffs, the cool morning air flooding her lungs. Winry knows that her pregnancy has a lot to do with her inability to stop crying, but it doesn't make her feel any less shit.
Another tear rolls off her chin and Winry takes that as her cue to get up and wash her face. She carefully slips herself from Ed's warm embrace and softly makes her way to the master-bathroom.
Winry inspects herself in the mirror and sighs unhappily; her eyes are bloodshot and her cheeks puffy. She turns on the tap and cups water into her hands before splashing the frigid water onto her face. She blindly grabs for the hand towel and brings it to eyes. She dabs the towel against her skin until she feels sufficiently refreshed.
Winry places the towel in the sink and leans against the counter, staring at herself in the mirror; staring into her own eyes; seeing the last vestiges of sadness hiding within their blue depths. Absentmindedly her hand drifts to her belly and she cradles the swell.
Her daughter kicks against her hand and Winry squeaks before looking down, seeing sporadic movements in her stomach. Winry smiles warmly and pokes back gently. The baby reacts and kicks back.
Winry giggles softly and walks back into her bedroom. She looks over to Ed, sprawled haphazardly across the mattress, and sighs affectionately. It is a pity he's missing this; Winry knows how much he loves interacting with their unborn daughter. She will always remember the way his eyes light up.
Winry opens her cupboard and pulls out another one of Ed's oversized shirts and a pair of underwear. She hastily puts them on and gently tiptoes her way past her snoring husband and to the door. She makes sure to open and close the bedroom door as quietly as possible. She doesn't want to wake up her family or her guests.
She crosses the landing silently, making sure to avoid the creaky floorboards and makes her way down the stairs.
It is passed daybreak by now and Winry knows she couldn't stay in bed any longer. She has to busy herself with something; so she is going to start her preparations for a big breakfast. After last night a feast is going to be needed. Although she doubts a feast will fix anything.
At the foot of the stairs, Winry hears the unmistakable sound of crying.
Winry looks up from the floorboards to the bench in the hallway.
There is Riza, bathed in morning light, crumpled against the armrest; hands to her face. Crying.
She looks completely different to the image Winry has held of her in her heart of hearts. She is hunched up, elbows on her knees, leaning against the armrest for support and shivering with each new sob. Her fingers thread into the hair on her scalp and the heels of her palms dig into her eyes. She looks so small and broken.
Winry realises that she must have gasped or made a noise when she descended because Riza immediately drops her hands and looks straight to Winry.
In that one moment, when Riza's overflowing eyes look deep into Winry's, Winry – a woman who had waited, lovesick, on her partner for years – finally understands the depth of Riza's anguish.
"Oh! Winry..." Riza hurriedly wipes eyes; bringing up her mask once again. "Don't worry – this is nothing – I just -"
"It's about Roy, isn't it?" Winry interrupts softly. Her blue eyes express the degree of her worry with ease.
Riza sniffs weakly. "No..." She attempts looking away, wiping at her eyes again. "It's not... Roy - "
At the utterance of his name – the sound of her own voice saying it – Riza freezes. Then she dissolves into tears, whimpering uncontrollably into her hands.
"Oh, Riza..." Winry slides in next to the older woman and wraps Riza in her arms, bringing her to her chest.
Riza completely caves and collapses against Winry, her small calloused hands digging into her tear-stained cheeks. Her body shakes feebly from each new sob. Winry hugs her tight and rests her chin on the crown of her golden blonde head. She calms her with nonsensical noises and words and runs her hands up and down Riza's trembling back. Riza nuzzles her face into Winry's neck and her arms timidly wrap around the younger woman's waist.
Winry can feel Riza's tears against her neck and the coldness of Riza's skin. She must have been sitting out here for a while. That fact alone causes Winry to tighten her arms around Riza and stroke the back of her head soothingly.
Winry is running on maternal instinct, she knows that much. She's in a state of shock, running on what feels right, rather than what her mind is telling her to do. In truth she doesn't know what to do. Winry had never thought, even for a second, that one day the strong Captain Hawkeye would be in her arms crying herself into submission.
Although seemingly inconsolable, Riza begins to become quieter with every caress Winry gave her back. Eventually she was silent except for a few hiccups she failed to contain. Winry continued to hold her comfortingly, regardless.
"Are you alright now, Riza?" Winry asks her softly. She can feel Riza nod her head against her neck before she pulls away uncomfortably, looking anywhere but at Winry. She knows there is no way she can put up her mask again around her; not after this.
"Yes," Riza replies shakily. She wipes at her cheeks rubs away the tear tracks; as if they were never there – Winry will be the only one to know. "I'm..." She sighs and looks into Winry's gentle eyes; vulnerable. "I'm sorry, Winry."
Winry shakes her head. "Really now, Riza, why are you apologising?" Winry softly places her hand on Riza's knee. "You don't have to hide how you feel."
What she said must have hit home because Riza's eyes widens and there is something inexpressible there that Winry wishes that she could grasp.
"I suppose not..." Riza trails off and looks outside through the window across the room. She's probably looking at the silhouette of the hills, Winry muses. They look very beautiful in the mornings.
They sit in somewhat comfortable silence for a minute or two. Then:
"Aren't you going to ask why?" Riza asks calmly, looking away from the window and into Winry's eyes; her own eyes are guarded. She has prepared herself for the worst.
Winry looks at her questioningly; tilting her head to the side; eyebrows furrowed.
"Why would I ask you that?" Winry asks, genuinely confused. She notes the surprise on Riza's face. Winry smiles at her warmly; her eyes are a window to her heart. "If you wanted me to know, you'd tell me."
Riza looks on at Winry's unguarded smile in shock. She hadn't expected the wife of Edward to be so... understanding. She is only in her early twenties and yet was so mature and kind. She is a mother and she cares for Riza as she must care for her own family. Riza could feel a second wave of tears building up, but she keeps them down.
"You really are an amazing woman, Winry," Riza remarks placing her hand affectionately on top of Winry's. She means every single word from the bottom of her heart.
Winry feels a blush flood her cheeks.
"U-U-Uh, I don't know what to - " She is cut short by her own yelp.
"Winry?" Riza asks, alarmed.
"No – No – It's fine," Winry assures the soldier. "It's just Caitlyn. She's still kicking up a storm."
Winry smiles apologetically and gestures to her stomach. "Sorry, it's what I call the baby. Just don't tell Ed." She winks at Riza. "He doesn't know yet."
"I'm sure Edward wouldn't have a problem with the name Caitlyn."
Winry laughs. "No, it's not like that. I just want to see what other stupid names he can come up with first." Winry sighs, placing a hand on her belly. "Seriously, he's come up with some really bad ones." Riza finds herself laughing; that sounds just like Ed.
Riza's laughing fades when Winry makes several groans of discomfort.
"Winry, are you okay?" Riza asks worriedly as she leans closer.
"I'm fine, honestly," Winry assures her, laying her other hand on Riza's bare knee. "Caitlyn just kicks really hard." Suddenly, Winry gropes for Riza's hand. "Here, feel."
Riza's muscles seize the moment her palm comes into contact with the flutter of movement underneath Winry's skin. Her eyes widen and her breath catches in her throat. Winry can feel the slightest tremor in Riza's hand.
"Riza?" Winry asks gently, trying not to spook the older woman.
Her eyes are unfocused and Winry can tell in a heartbeat that Riza is lost within her own mind. Whether it's within a memory or in a consuming thought, Winry isn't sure. She only knows that Riza is stiff and her eyes are locked on her hand atop of Winry's belly. A breath shudders through her.
"Riza?" Winry rubs her thumb across Riza's knuckles, attempting to wake her.
Riza's body jolts; a tear drips from her bottom lashes. Her eyes lift to Winry's.
Winry doesn't allow a moment for Riza to explain herself; Winry had seen that look of regretful sadness in the eyes of too many people in her life: from the broken determination of Ed when he was just a child to the frightened, heartbroken gaze of her parents; the last expression they ever gave her.
"Is this your first time feeling this?" Winry asks kindly, smiling to cover up the pains of sadness in her heart. She carefully guides Riza's hand to the other side of her stomach.
"No, I -" The voice Riza found is momentarily lost when Caitlyn kicks against her hand. She looks down in wonder. "Gracia made me feel her stomach a few times..." her voice trails off as her hand moves to follow the baby's kicks.
Winry's sure that she is glowing the way her mother and even Gracia had. Winry almost felt embarrassed.
"It's pretty amazing right?" Winry giggles at a particular kick. "I mean pregnancy."
Riza nods and watches Caitlyn kick against her fingertips. "If it didn't happen to many women all over the world every day I wouldn't believe it. To think we almost know so much and we can't even fathom an everyday occurrence like this."
"Yeah," Winry laughs. "It drives Ed crazy sometimes." She watched Riza gently prod at her stomach in fascination, hoping for a reaction from the baby. Winry felt hopelessly maternal.
The words slip from her lips before she realises the harm.
"Have you ever thought of having kids?"
Silence only followed.
Winry feels her body go stiff as she watches Riza's hand slowly retract from her stomach. Hurt and sadness flick over the older woman's face before that horrible, hard facade washes over and leaves her face blank. Riza places her hands in her lap and her body posture stiffens.
Winry tries to say something, anything, but she has no words. Her stomach drops.
Riza stares at the wall opposite them and doesn't move at all.
A wave of emotion sweeps through Winry, an emotion that she cannot explain. She feels frustration and shame that she has never felt before; it's as if her disappointment from causing Riza to push her away is a physical wound.
It's in that broken and still moment that Winry realises that Riza was more than a woman who she admired, but instead that of a figure of an older sister... or even possibly a mother.
It only makes Riza's sudden rejection of her all the more gut-wrenching.
Caitlyn kicks in her belly, protesting the loss of attention, and it drives Winry to try and mend the situation as best she can.
But before she can say a single word Riza turns to her and looks straight into her eyes. The blood in Winry's veins might as well have frozen because her body just goes cold at the emotion and darkness in Riza's eyes.
"A person like me doesn't deserve to have children."
The flatness in Riza's voice and the self-loathing in her eyes force the air out of Winry's lungs and she has to sit back and regain her breath.
The rest of the moments go by in a blur as Riza hastily tries to assist Winry, obviously thinking she in some kind of pain or discomfort due to her pregnancy and completely oblivious to the fact that it was she who caused this reaction, but Winry is still busy focusing on her irregular and pained heartbeat. Her thoughts are churning like tempest seas, from horror to desperate sadness.
And Winry doesn't really know which is worse: that Riza is fussing over her and trying to help her. That Riza is the only woman Winry knows who truly deserves happiness, deserves a family.
Or that Winry knows that she saw, for the merest fleeting moment before her eyes had darkened, that Riza had thought about children. Only to be muffled and caged by her guilt a second later.
A/N: Before I forget - the encouragement to publish this goes to mebh. She has no idea I'm saying this but I got the encouragement after reading her outstanding fifth chapter of Here Dead We Lie. Do yourselves a favour people and check it out!