The Road is Longer Still
iii. the end
They pick through what's left of Central HQ together – as always – as they should be, but not quite as a Them just yet. They are both wounded, both exhausted, but they're both alive and they're together and that's what matters most.
It's kind of new to them. It shouldn't really feel like a novelty, they think – they've been together a long time, after all, but not like this. Not with this kind of proximity. She has either been on a pedestal or working under him and there has never really been any place for a Them to exist. It has always been Him and Her; Colonel Mustang and Lieutenant Hawkeye; separated by ranks, and laws, and fears, and a distance of two steps.
Today, at the end of it all, they are together still, and they are almost a Them, with arms slung about each other, mostly for support (because he can't see, and she's lost too much blood to be trusted to walk on her own – at least he thinks so) but also because it's a comfort to feel the other still living, still breathing, and still attached to their side.
It's been a long road. They are battered. They are bruised. But they're together – as they always have been – and as they always will be.
Mustang goes to see her the second Marcoh restores his eyesight.
The nurse stationed at the entrance of her tent shakes her head. "She's resting," she snaps. "You can't just go in and – "
"Just ten minutes," he interrupts, almost pleading with her. He's fidgeting nervously in his pockets: he needs to see. He needs to see for himself that she's resting the way they say she is. He needs to see her for himself with the eyesight he's just regained before he can allow himself to believe that she's really okay. "Please?" he asks.
The nurse sighs heavily and looks as if she's fighting the urge to roll her eyes. "Look, I'm not the one who comes up with the rules, okay? Why can't you just take our word for it when we say she's okay?"
He grumbles a little and turns his eyes to the ground. "Why can't you just let me see her?" he whines. Why can't she understand? He thinks. How can she not see how desperate he is? "I'll be quick – I won't disturb her – just ten minutes!"
"I think not," says the nurse, sounding weary. "I'm going to have to ask you to clear off now or I'll call security, Mister...?"
"Mustang," he seethes. "Ten minutes, okay? Please?"
The nurse pauses and considers him for a moment. "Mustang, you say?" she asks, eyes narrowed at him.
"Yes," says Mustang, exasperated and frowning a little but daring to raise his hopes. "Colonel Mustang of the Amestris Military and the woman you're refusing to let me see is my aide and close personal friend – so please – just let me see her." At this point in time, he's about ready to both order her out of the way and get on his knees and beg, because the anxiety is eating at him and he needs to see her right now or he'll lose his mind with worry and longing and – he just – he misses her – and it's only been a few hours since he saw her last. He wonders how he ever managed to be apart from her for longer before.
The nurse studies him from under a furrowed brow before, finally, she rolls her eyes and steps back. "Doctor Knox warned me about you," she tells him. She doesn't sound pleased that her patient is being disturbed, but she parts the entrance of the tent for him anyway. "Ten minutes, Colonel," she warns.
Hawkeye's lying on a cot on the far side of the tent; bandages at her throat and shoulder, battered and exhausted, but she's okay – more than okay, she's recovering, and she'll be back on her feet in no time, he knows it – but right now, he wants nothing more than take her in his arms and hold her there and never, ever, ever let her out of his sight again.
But he doesn't do that, of course. Years of waiting have tempered him and hold him back, and instead, he yanks at the chair next to her bed and seats himself at her bedside to watch over her.
His new vision seems clearer than before. It's as if he's been wearing a shade over his eyes for years and years because he looks at his Lieutenant now and realises that she's kind of beautiful. No. Not kind of. She's the most beautiful thing he's ever seen, and he feels a little ashamed for having never come to this conclusion before. And all of a sudden, he has an urge to take her hand.
If he can't hold her and never let her out of his sight again, his mind reasons, then the least he can do to tell her what he's never had the courage to say – and to satisfy his own need to at least touch her – is this. He can do that, can't he? He can take her hand and tell her without speaking that he needs her to be beside him forever.
And just as he lifts his hand and covers hers, she stirs a little and opens her eyes.
"Riza!" he blurts, her name spilling from his mouth like a secret he'd been itching to tell someone for much too long. He sounds like a child, relieved and excited all at once, and hardly the grown man and Colonel he's supposed to be. "I mean – " he corrects himself, trying to maintain some form of dignity, "Lieutenant – uh – Hawkeye... er..."
She's looking at him oddly and he wonders whether it's because he'd used her name or because he's stuttering like a nervous teenager.
It's neither, it turns out, because her brow is furrowed and she says, "Sir... your eyes..."
He smiles at her. "Doctor Marcoh helped me restore them," he tells her, "on the condition that I revise the policies on Ishbal and help the Ishbalans rebuild." He pauses. Her hand is still in his. "You'll – you'll help me, won't you?" he asks nervously. He hates how he sounds – it's as if he actually thinks she would leave him at this point in time – that she's finally had enough and wants out. (He's not sure he can handle being alone – she's been with him for far too long and if she leaves now – even if it's because she wants to – he's going to feel so very, very lost without her).
The corners of her lips twitch. Then she sniggers a little, and lies her head back on her pillow, lifting her free hand to massage the bridge of her nose.
"Ri – Lieutenant, are you laughing at me?"
"Only a little, sir," she replies, looking back at him. She's smiling, and it's a moment before he realises that she's squeezing the hand that's still in hers reassuringly and intertwining their fingers. "There's a little way to go yet, and I just don't see how someone like you would manage it by yourself."
He looks at her stupidly before he realises that she's just given him an answer to his unspoken question. It's in her eyes, and in her smile, and she looks a little nervous too, as if she's not sure it's okay for her to be the one establishing a Them before he formally asks her and as if she's not sure there's a place for a Them to exist at all. But she knows how his mind works, and she's giving him the answer now so that when they are sureof it and he does ask her properly, he already has it.
Yes, Roy, I will be here, right beside you, forever. Please stop asking, for God's sakes if not yours.
And then he grins, and squeezes her hand back, raising his other hand to brush at her fringe.
This proximity is still new to Them. It's no longer Him and Her; Colonel Mustang and Lieutenant Hawkeye, separated by ranks and fears and distances.
It's Them: Him and Her; Roy and Riza; Colonel Mustang and his Lieutenant Hawkeye, and Lieutenant Hawkeye and her Colonel Mustang; separated now by only ranks. They are together – as always – but as a Them, and as they should be.
It will take a little getting used to, this closeness between them – but the road is longer still, and they have plenty of time.
ii. the middle
They make their way back East together – as always – as it should be – as a Them. The roads have been rebuilt and the railway from Amestris to Xing is near finished. They're busy again, and sometimes they get a little tired, but they've come to the middle of things and it's turned out okay. They're together still, anyway, and that's what matters most.
They have been a Them for a little while now. It's less new, but still new, and they are still adjusting, along with everything else. He still not used calling her his – to knowing that she's his, and she's not yet accustomed to calling him by name, but that's okay. A Them exists and they're getting there.
Today, they are on a train, and they're on their way back to Ishbal to supervise the Reconstruction. They're leaning on each other: Riza – saying her name still feels like a novelty but he likes saying it, and he feels like he should make up for the years he'd spent calling her Hawkeye instead – Riza's asleep with her head against his shoulder, and his arm is wrapped around her like it belongs around her waist. She looks exhausted.
They are both tired but they are both pleased. They have made it this far, and they're going to keep going along this road: they'll fix this country, and they'll make it to the top – and they'll do it together; as they always have and as they always will.
They stop over in Risembool because they had promised they would visit on their way back to Ishbal.
It's on the way and they have time – another novelty; they've never had so much time before – so they don't mind. Riza's sitting in the Elrics' sitting room while General Mustang – Roy, she corrects herself – is discussing supposedly political matters with Edward (Ed's yelling though and she can hear the Gener – Roy laughing at him, which can only mean they're hardly being political at all). Winry is with her, and her daughter, Nina, is cooing happily in Riza's lap.
"You make such a good aunt, Riza," says Winry, smiling at her brightly. She's ignoring the noise from the kitchen as if it happens all the time. "We're glad you and the General stopped by."
Riza offers the younger girl a smile and bounces Nina on her knees. "Believe me, we are too. It's been busy, so the opportunity to rest is more than appreciated."
"When are you going to tie the knot?"
Riza pauses and gives Winry a look. More than one person has told them that it's "about bloody time," (as Breda so aptly put it) and even more have started betting pools on how the Gen – Roy will go about a proposal (courtesy of her Grandfather who started the first with Havoc while out East overseeing a training exercise). "You've been itching to ask that question, haven't you?" she asks finally, a little amused.
Winry shrugs, grinning. "We all know you guys are an item – we just want to know when it'll be, you know, official."
Riza laughs. "When we're ready," she tells the younger girl. Nina's giggling a little, and Riza wraps her arms around the little girl and stands to hand her back to her mother. "The road's longer still, and there's a lot to do."
"Hm," Winry says, taking her daughter back in her arms. "You know, Ed and I have always admired you and General Mustang."
There's still shouting in the kitchen, and it's starting to give Riza a mild headache. She would have thought General Mu – Roy would have a little more maturity than this. "By the sounds of it, Edward's hardly admired – " she almost pauses here, caught between the habit of using his title and the novelty of using his name – "Roy at all."
Winry rolls her eyes. "Please," she sniggers. "They're men – and it's Edward – I've always looked up to you anyway, Riza. The dedication you give the General and your work – it's something I really admire."
Riza smiles at her. "Thank you, Winry," she says quieter than she means to. "That means a lot."
"I would hope so," says Winry earnestly, "we just want you two to get married already. After everything you've done, you deserve to be happy." She pauses for a moment and looks as if she wants to say something else, before her lips quirk upwards and she stands. "I want to win my bet against Al too," she adds finally, before disappearing into the kitchen and yelling at her husband to show a little more respect to his elders.
"Can I ask what all the yelling was about, sir?" asks Riza as they step back onto the train. Roy rests his hand on the small on her back as they move along the aisle and into an empty compartment at the end of the carriage. She's getting better with these kinds of displays, but it still sends small, comforting shivers up her spine when he does it and she's not expecting it.
Roy shrugs a little. "Edward thinks I haven't proposed to you yet," he says casually, taking a seat.
"Technically, sir," says Riza, smirking, "you haven't."
"But I know the answer, so is there even any point?"
Riza laughs at him and rests her head on his shoulder again. Out of habit, she does it gingerly – as if she's testing the limits of how much affection she can show even though she knows she should be used to it. "Probably not, but one does like to hear it."
Roy scoffs. "Would you like to hear it then, Riza?" he asks her, smiling into her hair.
She likes it when he says her name because it still sounds like he's savouring its taste on his tongue and she likes saying his name too – sort of. She still hasn't broken the habit of formalities, but she's well on the way to being able to say it without hesitating. "There's still a long way to go, Roy," she answers finally.
"But you'll marry me someday, won't you?" he asks her, unable to rid his face of the stupid grin that has manifested on his lips.
Riza laughs softly. "Someday," she murmurs, smiling. "When everything's as fixed as we can get it."
"And... you'll follow me until then... won't you?"
She rolls her eyes at him. "Sir," she reprimands, exasperated. Ge – Roy can be particularly stupid sometimes – one would think that the answer would still be yes after all this time – after she even agreed to marry him someday. She wants to hit him for being dense and irritating on purpose, but she doesn't because she supposes it would be unlike him to stop being both – and that would be far too strange.
Roy laughs a little and sighs.
The road is longer still, yes, and they've only just reached the middle, but they're together as a Them now – as they should be – and knowing that they'll still be together at the end of all things is enough to get them there.
i. the beginning
They make their way up the strip of carpet lining the ballroom floor together – as always – as expected – but they are no longer just a Them. He is a King now – as close as he will get to being a King anyway, but she is his Queen in every meaning of the word and they're together and that's what matters to them most.
They have long since adjusted to displays of affection and to addressing each other by their first names. They have fixed what they can and his goal has been reached – all that remains is for her to follow through with her promise and stand as a Queen at his side.
Today, they are in Central at their – at the Fuhrer and his wife's wedding reception. Their arms are linked, and their smiles are wide, and they're together – finally – as One. The rings are glistening on their fingers and neither of them is entirely sure whether they've ever been this happy.
They're here now, at what feels like the end of the road – only it hardly feels like the end at the same time because this is the beginning of a new road entirely. And they are together; that's the most important thing about it. They are together – as they always have been – and as they forever will be.
Grumman greets his new grandson-in-law with a proud smile as Riza excuses herself to use the bathroom.
"Fine choice, Fuhrer Mustang," he beams, raising a glass to him. "I'm glad you followed through with my request. I expect you to start calling me Grandfather from now on."
Roy beams back. "I think that was more or less Riza's choice, sir, but I'm not about to complain that she decided to stick with me." Even after all I've put her through, he wants to add, but he knows – as she's told him many times – that it was her choice to follow him and that what she's gone through with him is hardly his fault.
Grumman snorts into his wine. "As if she would do anything else," he guffaws, taking a swig. "The two of you have been through a lot together – it's only right that you're together like this in the end."
"Well, I'm glad you think so too," laughs Roy, shoving his free hand into his pocket.
"I think the entire country would think so," sniggers Grumman. "Anyone who's been following the news and seen the photos of you and Riza in the newspaper without ever having met you would have been wondering when you'd get married. I'm just glad I lived to see it."
Roy laughs again, and because he can think of nothing else, he takes the hand from his pocket and salutes the old man. "Thank you, sir," he tells him warmly, "for believing in me and for entrusting me with your granddaughter."
"I didn't entrust her to you," rebuts Grumman. "She did. Like you said, it was her choice – and I think she couldn't have made a better one." He lifts a hand to salute him in return with a smile. "I'm proud of you, Fuhrer Mustang." And he raises his glass to him, and turns away as his granddaughter reappears at her place at Roy's right hand.
They dance together as if they've done it all their lives.
Well. Technically speaking, that's exactly what they've been doing: dancing around each other in circles – almost but not quite coming together and moving apart but always just within reach. It's been the nature of their relationship since they were children, and it's only now that they realise it and are forever thankful that they have finally come together properly.
Riza looks beautiful. She always has, thinks Roy as he spins her, but tonight, garbed in her wedding gown (which she had argued wasn't necessary because she would have been perfectly fine getting married in uniform like he had), she is radiant, and he's infinitely glad that he gets to call her his.
"It's about time, don't you think?" he asks her, pulling her close.
She smiles up at him. "Maes would be proud, sir."
Roy pulls a face at her. "Riza," he whines. She's grown out of the habit of calling him 'sir' when she's not on duty, so he has a feeling she's only doing it now to annoy him. It's their wedding night – she can't really be referring to him as her superior tonight, of all nights.
Riza tosses her head back and laughs a little. "Roy," she corrects. "He should be here now, though," she says, smiling. "Maes would be proud."
"His ghost would have a camera," Roy smiles.
"Yes," says Riza, leaning her head against his chest. "He would."
They're swaying on the spot now, and he shifts his arms so that she fits into them and rests his chin atop her head. Years of waiting, of working, and of separation have taken their toll on him because he never wants to let her go again. This is how they should be – how they've wanted to be for so long – and to know that it's finally a reality sends Roy into a fits of joy and giddiness.
He thinks that after all the wrong they've done; all the sins they have committed and all the lives they have taken, they don't deserve this. They don't deserve the happiness they've so fortunately been granted, but perhaps the Truth, or the God he doesn't believe in, or the universe is kinder than he's given it – or them – credit for, and all the work, the years of waiting, the pain and the longing have been equivalent enough for this.
Just this; just the knowledge that Riza Hawkeye now bears his last name and that she's his – his forever.
"We're still together," he says finally – as if he's just realised it.
"So we are," murmurs Riza. He can hear the smile in her voice and he's glad – really glad – pathetically glad that it's true.
They've stopped swaying now. He's holding her to his chest and smiling into her hair, and they're standing still in the middle of the dance floor, clinging to each other as if they're afraid it'll all go away. But it doesn't, and Roy breathes in the scent of her hair and opens his mouth to speak. "The road is longer still..." he starts.
And she shifts a little and pulls away just enough so that she can press her forehead against his. "We'll walk it together," she tells him, confidently – firmly – in a tone of voice that's warning him not to ask her again if she'll stay on it with him. "Together. As we always have."
He laughs softly and ducks his head so that his lips meet hers. "As we should," he murmurs. "And as we always will."
I've had nothing to do all holiday but write. Lots and lots. And I've a feeling that I'm wearing myself out. Was it completely horrible?