[Author's Note - This story presupposes a somewhat different outcome for Riza in the tunnels under Central before and as Roy was forced through the array to stand before the Gate. The story was started before the final outcome of the manga was revealed, but I think it can stand as an AU story.]
Roy smiled at the two of them, Havoc and Breda in the two armchairs to the left of the fireplace, and handed them each a beer stein. "I think you'll like this brew," he said. "It's from a family-owned brewery in town, and it's supposed to be one of the best in the country. But they keep it as local as they can, in case they get too big to retain the quality."
As he turned back to the coffee table in front of the couch facing the fireplace, he heard Breda smack his lips. "You're right, it's very good. I may just have to order a keg before I head back on Monday."
Roy picked up a glass of red wine from the tray and handed it to Falman, sitting in the armchair on the opposite side of the fireplace. "I just assumed you still preferred wine, Vato? Unless you'd rather try the beer too?"
"No, this is fine, thank you." Falman took the wine and sipped with a murmur of appreciation as Roy took his own glass and sat on the couch, crossing his legs and laying his left arm along the back.
Out of long habit, he glanced at the outstretched wrist to make sure his shirtsleeve was rolled down, and then he raised his glass to his lips. "I hope you don't mind that we're having dessert a bit later," he remarked. "I thought we'd let the meal settle first."
"Good idea," Jean grinned. The flickering light from the fireplace made the hair on his left side spark with gold, while the right side of his face was a shadowed orange. "I couldn't eat another thing right now," he groaned. "I didn't know you could cook like that."
Roy smiled down into his wine, swirling it slightly. He'd had help, but he wasn't about to tell them that. He'd spent all day in preparations before his three guests had arrived from Central. It was gratifying that they'd enjoyed the meal so much. "I've had time to learn a few new skills," he said, "since I moved out here." He looked aside toward the window, where the early evening light was fading at last and the red and gold leaves on the trees in the yard outside were now barely visible. "I hope Fuery hasn't gotten lost."
"He'll be here soon," Breda assured him. "Though I bet he had a hard time leaving, even if it's just for a weekend. He'd want to stay, but I know he wants to see you too, and tell you his – ouch!" He glared at Havoc, shaking the arm his friend had just whacked.
Havoc only grinned again. "Let him tell it himself, Heymans. Don't steal his thunder."
Roy's eyes narrowed as he looked from one to the other, and then he broke into a sly smile. "Don't tell me," he drawled. "The kid's got a girlfriend."
"See, Breda, you did it," Havoc scowled.
"Well, I didn't tell him who it was, did I?" Breda shrugged, unperturbed.
Roy chuckled, taking another sip of wine, his eyes laughing over the rim of the glass as Havoc grinned back at him. It had been too long. He should have invited everyone here months ago. It had only been during his second and third years as Fuhrer that his people had regained their ability to laugh like this, and then he'd retired and moved out here, to the former Hawkeye place. He'd missed this camaraderie in the ten months since he'd left Central.
Setting his glass back on the tray, he stretched his legs out in front of him, crossing his ankles. "I still say you two should have brought Maria and Susan," he said.
"Naw, Susan's too pregnant to travel," Breda said, lifting his stein again. "She's not due for another three weeks, but she wanted to stay near her mom just in case."
"And Maria thought maybe we'd like to have time just for us," Havoc added. "It's kind of been a while."
"Just what I was thinking," Roy nodded. "I still wish she had come, though. She was one of the ones I…" His voice trailed off briefly and for the merest instant his eyes unfocussed. But then he caught himself and smiled again. "Winry's likely to feel a little overwhelmed when she gets here tomorrow, with all this male company."
"She'll be controlling us all in five minutes and you know it," Havoc countered.
Roy cast a speculative, sidelong glance at Falman. "What about you, Vato? Any women I should know about?" He watched in delight as the man's lean features slowly took on a distinctly pink tinge.
"N-no," Falman stammered, staring into his glass. "Not really."
"Not really?" Roy pounced immediately. "That means there's some possibility."
"No. I mean – no, not really. I mean – " The man's head jerked toward the front hallway at the staccato knocking sound. The relief on his face was almost comical.
"Saved by the next person I'm going to grill," Roy smiled with friendly malice, getting to his feet. "But I promise we're not done."
Fuery was all smiles as he stepped through the front door, bringing in a wave of crisp, cool autumn air. He beamed as Roy put an arm around his shoulders. "So good to see you, sir!" he exclaimed. "You look great. It looks like the country air is good for you."
"How many times do I have to tell you, Kain, that you can call me Roy?"
Now it was Fuery's turn to go pink, as he allowed Roy to take his coat and hang it in the hall closet. "Sorry. It's hard to get out of the habit. And it's only been a few months since you left Central, and I haven't seen you since – "
"Relax, kid, I'm just teasing," Roy laughed, leading him into the living room and directing him to the couch. "We've got leftovers if you'd like to eat something. And beer or wine. And I understand that you have some big news."
Fuery looked around the room, his mouth open. "You told him," he accused the general group.
"We did not," Breda said. "He guessed. And he doesn't know who it is."
"No I don't," Roy agreed, pushing Fuery into his seat and pouring him some wine. "But I'm all ears. You've got a girlfriend, am I right?"
Fuery took a sip of his wine and straightened his glasses, smiling almost primly. "Actually," he said, "no I don't."
"You don't?" Breda exclaimed. "What the – did something happen? Did you two – "
"Actually," Fuery's cheeks shaded to pink again, "something did happen. Just before I left. I don't have a girlfriend, sir. Roy. I have a fiancée."
"Kain, you sly dog, you," Havoc grinned, lifting his stein in his friend's direction. "You had us going for a minute. So you proposed, did you?"
"Just before I left," Fuery nodded. "And she said yes!"
"Well, obviously," Breda laughed.
"It was hard to leave," Fuery added, a little breathlessly, "but I just had to tell you, sir. Roy."
Roy set a hand on his shoulder. "What I want you to tell me, Kain, is who she is."
Roy leaned back in the couch. "Well," he said. "Isn't that perfect." When he thought about it, it actually made a lot of sense. "Congratulations," he smiled. "But now I want to know why the hell you didn't bring her with you!"
"I almost did," Fuery admitted. "But when you invited us, it sounded like you just wanted, you know, to see the core people." He shrugged awkwardly, lowering his eyes to his glass. "Well…the ones who are left, anyway."
Roy's eyes slid from the young man's face toward the fireplace as he felt the awkwardness spread quickly to the others. He could almost feel them thinking about the grave at the bottom of the yard, visible from the upstairs rooms at the back of the house. This wasn't the first time they'd all been gathered in this place.
"Sorry," Fuery said, still staring into his wine. "Maybe I shouldn't have mentioned…"
"Of course you can mention Riza," Roy answered softly. "All of us cared about her a great deal. She wouldn't want us to forget her. Especially when we're gathered together like this."
"None of us ever will forget her," Havoc said. "There was no one else on earth like her."
"There certainly wasn't," Roy agreed. "And in this of all places, it's right to think of her. I don't want you to feel you can't talk about her, just because…well, because it's me." He took another sip of his drink. "I know what you mean, though, Kain. I did want to see you all. The 'core people', as you said. Though I regard Scieszka and Maria as much a part of the family as I do Winry, Ed, and Al." He hesitated, eyes darting around the room at the still-averted faces. Leaning forward and picking up his glass again, he put on a sly smile. "But for now," he said, eyes narrowing on Falman's face, "about your little mystery, Vato…"
Falman's groan was drowned out by Breda's loud hooting and the laughter of the others. But Roy caught Havoc lifting the stein to him for a moment as everyone joined in on the grilling.
He didn't let it last long, though. If he'd felt that Falman was getting too uncomfortable, he wouldn't have started anything, but even so, he made sure to begin steering his friends into other topics pretty quickly. When he started asking about developments at Central, they jumped right in and carried the conversation away, filling him in on the latest doings of Olivia Armstrong, the new leader of the military. They probably weren't even aware of how he'd steered them in that direction.
The darkness outside the front window deepened until it was complete. At one point, when Fuery wandered into the kitchen to take advantage of the leftovers, Roy got up to pull the curtains closed. Havoc stretched out his long legs and remarked, "Didn't you say something about dessert a while ago?"
"Only if you get up and help me get it ready," Roy smiled. "Aren't you about due for a stretch?"
"What're you, my wife?" the other man grinned, but dutifully got out of his chair.
Roy wandered down the hall toward the kitchen, leaving Havoc to do a bit of bending before he followed. Roy's former subordinate had experienced considerable healing over the years, thanks to a fragment of the very last Philosopher's Stone and a lot of physio. But he still tended to get pretty stiff after he'd been sitting a while.
When he finally walked into the kitchen and saw Roy slicing the apple pie, the man whistled. "If you tell me you made that pie yourself, I think I'll fall over."
"Bet he did," Fuery laughed, pouring gravy over some mashed potatoes on his plate."
Roy glanced aside at Havoc with a mocking smile. "Better hang onto something, my friend."
"I just don't believe this. Roy Mustang being all domestic." Havoc's eyes followed Fuery as the younger man left the room with his plate, and then he looked at Roy again. "How are you doing, though?" he asked quietly, leaning a hip against one of the counters and folding his arms across his ches. "Are you really all right, living by yourself? Especially…here? There have got to be a lot of memories here."
"Yes there are. But they are good ones, Jean." Roy sliced as he spoke, lifting pieces of the pie onto plates as he did so. "You'd be surprised at how peaceful it really is here."
"And you can handle that? Being away from the centres of power? You spent a lot of years trying to get there."
"Yes, and then I finished what I wanted to do." Roy paused, looking through the window, into the darkness of the big yard out back.
"And I suppose…you're near her. That has to mean something," Havoc murmured, following his gaze.
"Yes. It does. More than you can imagine."
"Oh, I can imagine. We weren't sure, for a while, if you'd make it after Riza died in those tunnels. You really scared us for a while, there."
Roy leaned his hands briefly on the counter, the knife still clutched in one of them. "I know. It was touch and go for the first few days. But I knew she'd want me to keep going, and finish what we'd worked so hard to do. I did it for her. And that was very comforting. And the rest of you gave me a lot to live for, as time went on."
"But that's why I worry about you now, out here, with…well, with nothing more to do for her. Are you really all right, Roy?"
Roy cut the last piece of pie and set the plates onto another tray as Havoc dug into the cutlery drawer for some forks. "Please don't worry about me, Jean. I'm glad I moved out here. I miss the rest of you, but I'm doing fine. I'm quite happy. Really."
"All right, boss, if you say so. Just wanted to make sure."
Roy picked up the tray and followed his friend back down the hall. His eyes narrowed as he noticed the slight trace of a limp. "You're getting tired, Jean, I can tell. I think it'll be time to turn in after we've finished dessert."
"Yes, mom," Havoc smirked over his shoulder. "I don't know how I've lived this past year, without you ordering me around."
After he'd delivered the pie slices, Roy made a pot of tea to end the evening with. The talk became more relaxed and personal, as Breda spoke about his impending fatherhood, Fuery enthused about being newly affianced, and Havoc talked about his own plans to retire again from the military, and ride on Maria's coattails instead.
"I'm going to open a store in Central," he said, "and kind of follow in the family tradition. If the military needs me for anything special, I'll be there. But Maria can do the heavy work, I think."
Roy glanced at Falman with a smile. "And meanwhile, you're still not going to fill us in on your own…situation?"
Mellowed by the wine and the good fellowship, Falman smiled back. "Not just now, Roy," he said. "All in good time."
Shortly thereafter, it was time for bed. Roy showed his guests to their various rooms, including the ground floor den, in which he'd set up a special bed for Havoc. "You can have this one," he said, "and save yourself the stairs. There's a second bathroom down the hall, so you don't need to go upstairs at all this weekend, if you don't want to."
"You think of everything," Havoc said. "As always. Thanks."
It took a while for everyone to settle in, but Roy busied himself in the kitchen, putting things away, while they all got ready for bed. When at last he turned out the lights and made his way upstairs, he was reasonably certain that most of the others were well on their way to falling asleep. He moved down the hall, not to the master bedroom at the front of the house, but to one of the rooms in the back instead.
Listening to the silence gradually settling into the house around him, he closed the door and walked slowly toward the window on the other side of the room, pushing one curtain aside. He'd deliberately chosen this room to sleep in, ten months ago when he'd moved here to stay. It was only from the two rear bedrooms on the second floor that you could see the far end of the garden that sloped down toward the creek, where the three graves nestled on the grass beneath the trees.
Riza came to him softly, as she always did, making a sound to warn him that she was there, so he wouldn't be startled.
"There you are," he smiled. "I missed you. You didn't come out to see the others."
"No," she said, quietly, so the others wouldn't hear. "I thought you'd like some time just with them, and I didn't want to distract you. I listened to everything, though. Isn't it nice about Kain and Sziescka?"
"It is," Roy nodded. "I don't know why I didn't see it before, how good they'd be together."
Riza laughed. "It's probably a good thing you didn't. You might have wanted to interfere, and who knows what would have happened then."
He chuckled. "You're probably right. Isn't it funny, how all of them have been paired off now? At least, I think all of them, if Falman would give more than just hints. Maybe all they really needed was for me to get out of the way. They seem to have done much better without me."
"Never," she chided softly. "None of us ever did very well without you. You know that."
Roy closed his eyes, his throat tightening. When he opened them again, he blinked against the tears and lifted his left hand slowly, to brush the fingertips over the glass. He stared at his own reflection and whispered, "I missed you downstairs. I wish…I wish I could touch you."
"You know you just have to look for me and I'll come to you, Roy. I'll never leave you again."
"Yes," Roy said. "We'll always be together. Forever."
For a moment his eyes tried to peer past the reflection in the window, looking into the darkness, trying to find the place where he and the others had buried her, four years ago. But finally, as they always did, his eyes focussed more closely, moving to the hand that still touched the glass. Moving to the wrist, to the sleeve that concealed the evidence of his great sin: the symbol gouged into the flesh, the raised scar a livid red, formed in the shape of the seal with which he had used his blood to bind the soul of Riza Hawkeye into his own body.