The Hawkeye household was quiet. Riza had gone to bed long ago, the silence pressing in on her, making her uncomfortable and fidgety. She had abandoned sitting with her father, trying to talk to him, and retreated to the ease of her room, where she could lie and close her eyes and forget about her life for just a few moments.
Berthold Hawkeye, on the other hand, sat in the main room of the house, staring at the darkness in front of him, waiting for his pupil to return. Roy Mustang sometimes went out, but most of the time his teacher had no problems with it; Berthold Hawkeye taught when the boy was there, and when he was not it rarely bothered him. But it was long past midnight, and quickly becoming morning. Roy Mustang had never been gone for a whole night, not since he had first begun his apprenticeship. Berthold Hawkeye was a little bit frustrated and angry. But mostly, he was secretly worried for the boy that had been living with them for the past few years.
And then there were the scratching sounds of someone inserting a key into a lock, then scrabbling and twisting the doorknob until the door opened. Roy Mustang fell through the threshold, tripping forward and almost landing on his face. But he caught himself, and stood up straight, sweeping his hair back. He shut the door, then he blinked and looked at the man sitting expectantly in front of him.
"Teacher," he said. "Hi."
He blinked again, shaking his head slightly. He was swaying on his feet. "Roy," said Berthold softly. "Where were you?"
"I…" he mouth hung open, searching desperately for an answer. He blinked and said, "I was at…a friend's house."
"Friend?" Pause. "Do you think I'm an idiot, boy?"
Silence. Roy let out a little sigh. "I was just having a little fun," he said, and Berthold realized that his words were slurring slightly. "I didn't get in any trouble, I won't do it again, I-"
"Are you drunk?"
Roy looked up at his teacher, blinking fast and hard. "No," he said, his lie reflecting in his eyes. Berthold stood up – it took much of his strength to do so, as his illness was siphoning his muscles away from him already – and he took a few short steps towards the boy. Roy held his gaze, something like fear in his eyes. Berthold Hawkeye leaned in and sniffed slightly; the stench of alcohol reached his nose, nauseating him slightly. He had never had a taste for the stuff, but he remembered the scent well.
"You are," said Berthold quietly.
"I'm not," insisted Roy.
"It was one drink."
Berthold wanted to raise a hand and strike the boy, but as he lifted his hand, Roy flinched away slightly. He lowered his hand. Lowly, he said, "I'm disappointed in you." Silence. "You are sixteen years old, Roy. You are not allowed to do this." Roy looked away. "Do you have anything to say for yourself?"
Roy put his hands to his face, pressing his palms into his eyes. "Please can I go to sleep now. I'm tired."
"You should be. Do you realize how long you've been out?"
"It's been like two hours, Teacher-"
"It's three in the morning, Roy."
Roy took his hands away from his eyes and squinted slightly at his teacher. "No," he said. "Not already. Is it?"
Berthold turned away from his student and sat down again. "Go to bed," he said. "Don't expect me to pity you, though. Tomorrow we get back to your studies."
Roy stumbled away, into the small room that he called his own. Berthold heard the telltale sound of the boy falling onto the bed, and then silence.
It was only a few moments later that another door opened; soft footsteps down the hall betrayed her presence. She stood at the opposite side of the room as her father. "I heard you talking to someone," she said quietly. "Is Roy back?"
She always called him by his given name in front of her father, but when she was around him, it was Mister Mustang, only Mister Mustang. Berthold had seen how much the boy hated that. But as her father, Berthold didn't mind.
"Yes," he said. He saw her eyes dart towards the boy's room. He saw how much she wanted to go in there and at least say goodnight to him. He stood up. He slowly made his way to his own bedroom. "Sleep well, Riza."
"You – you too, Father."
He disappeared. He laid himself down in the soft bed, closing his eyes, pretending he didn't hear her soft footsteps, the creak of a door opening, her low voice asking, "Mister Mustang? Are you awake?"
Berthold knew the look in his daughter's eyes. He had seen it many times; he knew it well. Her eyes were dark and amber, like his wife's. And whenever she looked at his student, her eyes filled with an expression that reminded Berthold of his past so much, it hurt his heart. Riza was so in love with Roy. He wished that she was not, because alchemists do not make for good lovers or husbands, he would know that best of all. But their love was young and naïve and maybe it would last for another year or two before they were corrupted. He had already taken too much away from his daughter. He would not take this away from her.
All the same, if Roy Mustang touched his daughter, if they did anything more than a chaste kiss on the lips, at their age, Berthold would skin him alive.
And that was why he stayed awake and listened to the sounds coming from Roy Mustang's room. And that was why he was so surprised when suddenly, out of everything that could have happened, the sound of someone crying softly floated through the thin walls.
Riza's whispers were just loud enough for him to hear. "Mister Mustang," she murmured. "Mister…Mister…Roy, what is it? Roy? Why are you crying?"
A muffled sob. "I'm sorry. Sorry."
No more words. Just the sounds of sniffles, of tears falling.
It was then that a thought occurred to Berthold. The night out, the drinking, the tears. Was there something wrong? No, knowing Roy, he had probably broken up with a girlfriend, that's it. That was probably all, the vain child. Probably.
The next morning, Berthold let his student sleep in. His daughter was awake already, cooking something in the kitchen, making breakfast or something else that made her feel useful. "Riza," said Berthold tiredly. "Where is my address book?"
She looked at her father, eyes wide. "Address book?" she repeated. "Why?"
Berthold was a little taken aback. His daughter never asked why. "Well," he said. "I…"
She turned a little pink as she realized that she had challenged him. "Nevermind," she said quickly. "I'll go and find it. I didn't mean to-" she stopped short. She looked around, as if ready to say more. Then she shook her head and dashed away lightly, sifting through the mess in the house and returning to him a few moments, a small, mostly empty book in her hands. "Here," she said, dropping it onto the table in front of her father. "It was in my room."
"Your room?" he asked. "Been making calls?"
Her face turned from pink to red. "N-no," she stuttered slightly. "I haven't. I promise."
He would have smiled slightly, but he didn't have the strength to anymore. He opened the address book. A few old names, names of people who no longer cared to hear from him, written in his thin, messy scrawl. And then after a page or so, the names and telephone numbers were written in her handwriting, precise and big and round and neat. It looked so like her mother's handwriting. He brushed his fingers along the names. He missed his wife.
The number that he was looking for was written in his own handwriting. He did not know the woman well, but they had spoken a few years ago, and she still insisted on sending money to pay for her charge's apprenticeship. He picked up the telephone and dialed the number, his daughter still in the room, the gentle crackling sound of cooking filling the kitchen.
Riza pretended that she wasn't listening to her father, but when he said, "Ms. Mustang," in greeting, she froze slightly. He continued, "I am calling to inform you of my disappointment with your son."
On the other end of the line, the woman corrected, "My nephew. He's my nephew, Berthold. You know that."
Ignoring her, he continued, "As far as you are aware, Ms. Mustang, has he ever had any issues with drinking?"
A pause. "Drinking? My boy? Never. Why do you ask?"
"Early this morning, he was drunk when he returned to this house. This is disrespectful and unacceptable. I hold him to a certain level of discipline, and this infraction completely disregards my rules and I do not want him to become a negative influence on my daughter, in which case I may have to-"
"Father," said Riza loudly, staring at him. He hadn't realized she had turned around. She looked incredulous. Berthold silenced.
There was a long pause. Just as he thought he should say more, the woman on the other end said softly, "Cut the kid some slack."
"He is my pupil, I am his teacher. I expect a level of-"
"Berthold, yesterday was the anniversary."
"Anniversary?" asked Berthold, a little annoyed by now. "Anniversary of what, Ms. Mustang?"
Silence. Then, quietly, "The anniversary of the day he saw his parents die."
Berthold took the phone away from his ear and looked at it for a moment. Then he put it down and looked up. His daughter was still staring at him, looking maybe just a little bit disgusted. "What," he said to her.
She walked over to him and sat down across from him. "Father," she said, trying to look him in the eye. "You work him too hard. Give him a break."
"He barely works at all. If he worked harder, he would be out of this house and done with his training already."
There was something in her expression that he couldn't quite define. Defiantly, she said, "Maybe he doesn't want to leave." Silence. She stood up. "I hope he doesn't want to. No, I know he doesn't. He doesn't want to leave us, Father. He doesn't want to leave me."
Berthold looked at the table. Then he looked up at his daughter. He asked, "Why don't you ever call me Dad?"
She shook her head. "Don't make this about you."
"It's cruel of him," he sighed. "It's cruel of him to stay here because he takes all of your attention. And there is none left for me."
A prickly silence. She went back to the stove, turning off the heat. Lowly, she said, "I could say the same about you."
Berthold stood up and walked to his study. "Tell Roy I need to speak to him, when he wakes up."
"I will. Father." She knew that she was digging barbs into his heart, but she was feeling particularly spiteful, so she didn't mind. It wasn't long after that Roy Mustang, rubbing his eyes tiredly, came into the room and sat down at the spot her father had vacated. "Good morning," she said softly, smiling at him, but he didn't see the smile.
"Morning," he mumbled.
There was a short pause. She served some food onto a plate and slid it in front of him. "I made breakfast," she said lamely.
"Thanks," he said, blinking. "Could you get me a glass of water, Riza?"
"Of course," she said, almost too eagerly, and a few moments later she was putting a glass of clear water in front of him. He picked at the food on his plate moodily, a sour look on his face. She sat down across from him, her hands clasped in front of her, trying to look him in the eye. "Are you alright, Mister Mustang?" she asked seriously.
"I think so," he replied, pushing food around on his plate. "What time did I get back last night? I can't really remember anything."
Her heart sank. "You don't remember?" she asked weakly.
He shrugged. "Everything's a little fuzzy."
"Oh," she said. There was a short silence. He pushed the plate away.
"I feel sick."
Silence. She stood up. "My dad wants to talk to you," she said, nodding towards her father's study. Dad. He was wrong, she did call him Dad. Just not around him.
"Ah," said Roy. "Shit."
"I don't think you're in trouble," she said. "He sympathizes."
"I don't think your father knows what sympathy is, Riza."
"I-" she almost said something, but then she stopped. She didn't agree with Roy. But she wasn't going to tell him that.
"Well," he said, rubbing his head. "Wish me luck. If I don't come out in an hour, you can assume he's killed me." She looked panicked. He laughed. "That was a joke, Riza."
She didn't think it was funny. She went to the sink, considering cleaning the dishes. "Just go."
Roy stood and sauntered over to his teacher's study. He didn't want to go in. He didn't want to be yelled at, or spoken to quietly, disappointedly. But he sighed inwardly and twisted the door handle anyway. Poking his head into the room, he asked, "You wanted to talk to me, sir?"
Berthold Hawkeye waved him into the room, and as Roy was closing the door behind him, he said, "How many times do I have to tell you, we're not in the military. Do not call me sir."
"Sorry," said Roy. He knew that his teacher didn't like to be called sir, and he wasn't sorry for it. But it was really the only type of defiance he could show.
There was a long silence. Roy blinked. His teacher didn't look up at him.
Finally, his teacher said, "I spoke with your guardian this morning."
Roy stiffened a little bit. He stepped over to the bookshelves against one wall of the small study. He trailed his fingers along the spines of the books. "Oh yeah?" he asked. "And what did that old hag have to say?"
It was disrespectful of him to talk like this about his foster mother, but Berthold said nothing about that. Instead he stated it bluntly and plainly. He said, "She informed me that yesterday must have been a difficult day for you."
His finger resting on the bookcase, facing away from his teacher, a painful, grim look appeared on Roy's face. He hadn't expected this. He hadn't expected his aunt to tell his teacher about this, and he certainly had never expected Mr. Hawkeye to bring it up. Roy hated it when people tried to make him talk about these things, he had always hated it, ever since he was just a little boy and his aunt was begging him to tell her what had happened, to tell her what her brother had said in his last moments alive.
Roy closed his eyes and leaned forward, supporting himself on the bookshelf. His head hurt. His stomach hurt. His heart hurt. He didn't want to think about this right now, that was the whole reason he had gone looking for someone that would sell him, a skinny, obviously underage teenager, some serious alcohol. He didn't want to think about this.
"I don't know what you're talking about," he said.
Without missing a beat, the older man replied, "I think you do."
A silence. The seconds ticked on. Berthold probably expected Roy to say something. He wasn't going to. He wasn't going to show any indication of weakness. He wasn't going to break.
Berthold Hawkeye asked quietly, "How old were you when your parents were killed?"
Another silence. This one was almost longer than the first. Then Roy breathed, "Nine. I was nine years old."
Pause. "Do you still remember it?"
"Like it was yesterday."
Berthold's voice was soft, but he continued all the same. "I understand that it's easy to run away from these things. But you're becoming an adult now, and you need to be more responsible. Whatever kind of depression you might be feeling, alcohol isn't like medicine and it isn't like magic. It's not going to take away the memories. Nothing ever does." Hesitation. "You know it's not your fault. You were a child. There's no need to run away from-"
"I'm not running away from anything," said Roy firmly, turning to face his teacher. "And I sure as hell know it's not my fault, nothing's ever your fault when you're nine years old. I know that."
Berthold looked at the boy with heavy eyes. "Why did you do it, then, boy? I let you do very nearly whatever you want, but I will not allow you to commit a crime, you are sixteen, you are not allowed to-"
Roy's voice was angry and frustrated. Berthold looked at him, his mouth closing. A muscle was jumping in the boy's jaw. He turned back to the bookshelf, staring at the ground.
"I just didn't want the dreams to come back," he whispered.
Berthold Hawkeye dropped his gaze. There was a long silence. Roy's mind was suddenly far away; he squeezed his eyes closed tightly, trying to block out the images and the memories pulsating beneath the surface of his mind. No, no, no. He wanted them to go away. This had been exactly what he had been trying to avoid.
Roy didn't want to say any more, but he found the words climbing up his throat and into his mouth of their own accord. His eyes still clenched shut, he said, "Every year I start thinking about it. I can manage thinking, that doesn't get to me, not unless I'm asleep. And then…I don't even know if anything in the dreams actually happened, I can't remember. But I always wake up and want to stick a gun in my mouth because I can't stand seeing them die over and over again. I can't stand it. I can't do it." Silence. A long silence. Roy had never said this to anyone, but he didn't feel embarrassed, not yet. The images were still stuck in his head, and the more he talked the more he could ignore them, so he opened his eyes, relaxed his face, and looked at his teacher. "Did you see your wife die?" he asked bluntly.
After a short pause, Berthold bowed his head. "I was with her."
"And do you ever dream about it?"
Nothing. Roy watched his teacher, because Berthold Hawkeye always waited before he answered questions. And then his teacher turned his head away, still silent. Roy shook his own head slightly, the humiliation finally flooding back to him, and with it, more anger.
"No," he said, his eyes burning. "No, I don't suppose you do. Of course. How stupid of me, I forgot that you don't have a heart."
His words stung the older man, and Roy knew he had hurt his teacher. He instantly felt guilty, but he didn't show it. The venom was collecting on his tongue now, and he couldn't hold it back.
"You're right, it is damn easy to run away from these things. You would know best. At least you have something to remind you of her, right? You have your daughter; I bet she has her mother's eyes because she sure as hell doesn't have yours. But you don't ever look her in the eye when you talk to her. If you even talk to her at all. You don't even know her. You're so intent on not thinking about your wife that you've completely disregarded your own daughter. You're so –that's so – you are a selfish man, Teacher, and you have no right to lecture me on-"
"Get out," growled the older man. "Get out of my house."
Roy was silenced instantly. The embers burning behind his eyes had turned into a fire of rage. "Fine!" he said loudly. "That sounds great. I'll just find somebody else! You, on the other hand, you'll just be stuck here with Riza, your daughter, your wife's daughter, the only-"
"GET OUT!" howled Berthold, sweeping a hand across his desk, sending papers and notebooks and a lamp crashing to the floor. "GET OUT, GET OUT, GET OUT!"
Roy burst through the door of the study, past Riza, standing worriedly in the kitchen, and he barreled out the front door, into the mid-afternoon air, shouting angrily as he went. And then he slammed the door behind him and stood there in the garden for a few moments, panting. Then the fire in his belly began to calm down a little, but he wasn't about to go back inside. Angrily, he trudged down the empty, dirty road. There was a small patch of green grass less than a mile away from the house, and there grew a tall, thick, ancient oak tree, bent at crooked angles, with wide leaves and plenty of shade.
In the late evening, when it began to get dark, Riza went straight to the oak tree. Sure enough, there he was, sitting against the old, gnarled trunk, staring emptily into the distance. She ambled up to him and then sat down beside him, hugging her knees. For a few long moments, she just looked at him, taking in the blackness of his hair, the paleness of his skin, the way his narrow eyes looked so dark in the shade. She admired the point of his nose and his thin, closed mouth, his lips pursed tightly as his mind wandered.
And then he knew he could ignore her no longer and so he turned to look at her. And he said, "Did your father send you?"
"No," she replied. "I came because I don't want you to do anything stupid again." A pause. He looked away from her again. "Or, if you did, this time I wanted to try it to."
A little smile appeared on his face. "I don't think your father would be too happy about that."
"No. You're right. He probably wouldn't."
Tentatively, she leaned sideways a little. She rested her head on his shoulder. "He wants you to come back, even if he won't admit it. He and I both do."
Roy didn't say anything. But he didn't shift away from her either. He just looked the other way silently.
Riza said, "I love you, Roy. My father does too. Please don't leave us yet."
He turned his head towards her, buried his face in her short hair. "Stop it," he said.
She felt alarmed, scared that she had done something wrong. "Stop what?" she asked anxiously, mentally preparing herself for rejection.
He said nothing for a second, then she realized his shoulders were shaking, and he continued, "Making me cry. You must think I'm pathetic."
She didn't know what he needed, but she knew what she would want him to do, if she were in his position. So she turned her body completely towards him and wrapped her arms around him, resting her head on his chest, just below his neck. "I don't think you're pathetic," she said quietly. "I know how strong you are." A pause. She could hear his heart beating. "Strong enough to come home."
He suddenly returned the embrace, his strong arms surrounding her. He was trembling. Hot tears fell into her hair, but he wouldn't make a sound. She wouldn't expect anything else from him.
And then, after a few long minutes, he took his arms away from her and wiped his face with his sleeve. "I'm sorry, Riza," he said. "I shouldn't be letting this get to me so much."
"Don't be dumb, Mister Mustang," replied Riza, pulling away and sitting up straight. "I'm glad this happened." She ducked her head slightly and blushed. "Otherwise, I don't think you ever would have held me like that."
He looked at her. She stood up, offered him a hand. They began to walk back to the Hawkeye's humble, poor abode. Mostly they walked in silence.
When they got to the door, before they went in, Roy caught her by the hand. He tugged her so that they were facing each other, staring right into each other's eyes. Her breath caught in her throat. He gently ran his hand through her short hair, the prickly hairs on the back of her neck tickling his skin. Then he leaned forward and pressed his lips against hers. And, roughly, he said, "I love you too."
And then he opened the door; she walked into the house first, and he began to follow her, but he stopped short in the doorway. She looked at him, then she looked at her father, who was sitting in the front room, his hands on his knees, staring straight at the ground. Roy looked at him warily. Riza glanced between them. And then she said, "Dad."
The man looked around. There was a look of unexplainable bewilderment on her face.
"We're home," she said.
He looked at them, his mouth hanging open slightly.
"I'm tired," she said. "I'll go to bed."
She walked away, disappearing into the darkness of the house. Roy didn't move for a long time, expecting more yelling; at least some kind of chastisement. None came. So he stepped into the house and latched the door softly behind him.
"I think," he began to say, the words heavy in his mouth. "I think I'll go to bed too."
He turned. He took another step. And another one.
And then, "Elizabeth died in childbirth."
Roy stopped walking. He didn't turn around, but he stopped, and he listened.
"I do love my daughter. But sometimes I fear that I will always love my wife more."
Roy closed his eyes. He didn't want to hear this.
In barely more than a whisper, Berthold Hawkeye continued. "I do dream about her, Roy," he breathed, his voice raspy and coarse. "I haven't dreamt of anything but her in sixteen years."
A long, heavy silence, weighing down on the both of them. Then finally, his voice shaking, Roy said, "This pain… does it ever go away?"
Grimly, Berthold replied, "It becomes easier with time." Pause. "But no. It never goes away."
Roy put a hand to his face, covering his eyes. His teacher stood up, and began to limp towards his study. And then he changed direction. And then he was standing beside Roy. He reached out, raised his hand, and placed it on the boy's shoulder.
He said, "I wish I could be a better father for her." He peered at Roy's face, but he was still covering his eyes, ashamed. Berthold said softly, "For the both of you."
And that was when Roy broke down completely and reached out and clung to his teacher. Unused to physical contact, Berthold was a little surprised, but he found himself resting his hands on the boy's back, and the simple embrace felt natural, even though he had never held his daughter like this, not since she was a baby. The boy's sobs turned into words, and he was saying, "I'm sorry. I'm sorry for disappointing you, Teacher."
Berthold Hawkeye closed his eyes. "Roy," he murmured. "You could not disappoint me. Not ever."
He stood there for a long time, letting the boy cry into his shoulder, silently offering comfort and promising protection.
It had been a long time since Roy had felt that he had a real family. He'd almost forgotten how much he'd wanted one.
It took me like an hour to decide on an ending. Still don't like that last line.
Sorry it's not my usual quality. England is slowly killing me. Sorry about Dead. But yes, it will be finished. I just can't tell you how long it'll take. Sorry again.
I love different perspectives on Berthold Hawkeye. What do you think?