Title - Comforts of Family
Disclaimer - Arakawa owns all
Timeline/Spoilers - set soon after their return from Ishbal
Warning - slightly emo
Summary - She wants him to smile again
Author's Note- written for fma_santa & jellyjay for the prompt Roy, Riza, Maes friendship bonding type things with hints of Royai
"I never feel like I fit in here." Riza twisted on the bar stool so she could survey the Jeweled Gate's interior of lush, polished woods and sumptuous leather chairs that would have been at home in the most rarified of private clubs. "Everyone else is so glamorous."
"You really have no idea how lovely you are, do you?" Chris pushed a glass of wine toward Riza. "I know damn well you know your effect on my idiot son."
"The trouble there is keeping him from letting everyone else see how he feels when it's written on his face." Riza sipped the crystalline pale amber wine, tasting the hints of apple and melon in the brew.
"I'm sitting right here." Roy pouted as his mother got a bottle of whiskey out. She poured two glasses, helping herself to one.
"We know, son. We don't care. Don't pout." Chris pulled out her silver cigarette case. "Why don't you go call Hughes and see if he's going to come over tonight?" She waved a hand toward her office.
Roy scowled and Riza knew he was probably unhappy to be dismissed. He'd been unhappy for weeks now, so it was hard to say. He obeyed his aunt, however. Chris leaned on the bar and Riza couldn't escape the older woman's gaze.
"How's he been?"
"Miserable." Riza took a deeper drink of her wine. "Some nights he barely holds together."
"And who is helping iyou/i hold together, Riza?"
She broke eye contact. "We hold each other together, but that's what I'm hoping this trip will help with. Maes got him up here on some arson investigation, and I took some of the R and R that I had coming. Maes knows how to cheer Roy up, and he can do things I can't. I mean, we can't really be seen together outside of work without causing problems."
"Sometimes a guy just needs to go to a low down dirty bar and drink himself stupid and you're right, you can't do that." Chris took a puff of her cigarette. "And Roy's birthday is in just a few days."
"And you know how he gets then. I didn't think it would be good for him to be alone, so soon after the war and staring down that old ghost," Riza said, thinking back to when she first met Roy. They'd both been so young and he was the first kid she'd ever seen who hated celebrating his birthday. He'd been the first orphan she'd met and his parents had died a horrible, violent death. It wasn't surprising Roy didn't like to be reminded of it, and, now having created so many orphans himself, she feared his state of mind.
"I agree, arranging for him to be here with friends and family was the best idea for this birthday."
Roy stomped back up to the bar. "Gracia said he's already on his way."
As if hearing his cue, Hughes came in, waving one long arm. His suit was a blinding red and his shirt looked like he skinned a canary "Hey Roy!" he bellowed and Roy winced.
"So uncouth." He went to head Hughes off.
"They seem like such unlikely friends," Riza confided in Chris.
"I thought so, too, at first, and they didn't start out as friends. I received a stack of letters about the boy who was driving Roy nuts at the Academy." Chris chuckled, smoke bubbling past her lips. "How well do you know Hughes?"
"Not well," Riza admitted. "I had to keep my distance during the war. Roy didn't write me too many letters during his time at the academy, and none at all once he was shipped to the front. I think it was his way of protecting me and my secret." She could have sworn she felt her tattoo sting at the hint of its existence.
Chris nodded, topping off Riza's wine. "It was."
"I know Hughes is a very able soldier, and that he has an affect on Roy I've never seen anyone else have. I guess it's true, opposites attract."
"Hughes isn't as opposite as you might think. My first thought was, 'who is this clown and why in the world is my boy friends with him'? Truth is, Roy ineeds/i someone who can make him laugh – and grumbling seems to be how he laughs half the time," Chris said, making Riza chuckle, as she knew it was true. As much as Roy might complain about Hughes's phone calls, his mood was almost always elevated afterward. "It didn't take long to realize Hughes is very bright. That's probably the real basis of their friendship. I would have made good use of Hughes's ability to root out the truth."
Riza thought about that and suddenly Hughes's transfer into investigations made sense. "I can see that."
"Now, let's just be sure that my idiot son doesn't ignore you all night just because his friend got here. See that shy young man over there trying to get up the nerve to approach Agatha?" Chris pointed out a redhead Riza thought might be too young to even be in a bar. "That's General Martin's son. Go dance with him. That'll shake up Roy."
Riza just wagged her head. "I'll think about it. Is everything ready for the birthday party?"
"Leave it to me," Chris said, tapping ashes and using her cigarette to gesture at Riza. "And go dance."
Who was Riza to argue? With a wry smile, she got to her feet, walking toward General Martin's son for her dance.
"I feel horrible." Roy pulled the eiderdown comforter up to his chin, burrowing deeper into the bedding. Riza and Chris had poured him into his old bed in his aunt's house rather than send him to the visiting officer's quarters roaring drunk. Gracia had them stuff Maes into a guest room, wise woman that she was. Riza had taken another guest room, mostly for the shameful delight in watching the two men reaping what they had sown.
"That doesn't change the fact you have to go to work, sir," she said sweetly, tearing the covers down. "You might want to get into the shower. You smell like you were licking the barroom floor and a couple ashtrays to boot."
He cracked open one evil eye and flashed her a gesture he'd never dared before. She swatted his bare thigh, making him yelp.
"Do you realize you have a misprint on your boxers?" she eyed the symbol on his military-issued underpants. The creature was over the Y-front.
"Makes it look really obscene when I pee," he snickered. "Leave me sleep. Call me in sick."
"I would if you were. Hangovers do not count. Right now, your sisters are getting Maes up." Riza frowned. That didn't come out right.
"Are they doing it nicer than you are?" Roy grabbed the bedding and dragged it over his head.
"I wouldn't know." Riza yanked it back down again. "Get up, sir."
"I thought I was coming to Central to relax and have fun, not work," he whined. "Fun with you."
"You knew you were coming to help on an investigation, and you had your chance last night. By the time you remembered you wanted to have fun with me, you were too drunk to actually ido/i it." Riza glared, remembering that embarrassing attempt all too vividly.
Roy pouted. "I blame Hughes."
"I'd blame him, too, but I'm pretty sure he didn't pour alcohol down your throat with a funnel. Get up, sir." Riza wondered when the repeated use of 'sir' would piss him off enough to get moving. At work she had to address him as such, but he hated it when she did it on their alone time.
Three times really was the charm. Roy got up and stumbled for the shower. She'd check on him later to make sure he didn't fall asleep and drown in there. Riza headed back downstairs to help Chris make a breakfast of poached eggs and smoked fish and whatever else that looked or smelled disgusting in the hopes of inflicting a giant 'this is what you get, idiots' vengeance.
Hughes fumbled his way into the kitchen only a minute before Roy, but looking three times sleepier. Apparently staying up for nights on end fascinated by some crazed sublimation or whatever Roy did in his alchemy lab had some advantages. He almost looked human.
"Just coffee for me," he grunted and Maes nodded.
"I wouldn't dream of sending my boy and his best friend out for a hard day of work on mere coffee," Chris sing songed. "Sit down and enjoy breakfast."
"We're running late," Roy protested. "Coffee will be fine."
"I already called General Gran's office and let them know you'll be late." Riza smiled. "Car trouble."
"So sit!" Chris ordered.
Roy and Hughes exchanged pitiful looks but obeyed. Chris waited until Riza slid the jiggling poached eggs under their noses – waiting perhaps for the greenish tint to color their faces – before she turned on the radio to some particularly raucous symphonic number and handed out the coffee. Riza was fairly sure they might just die on the spot.
Roy gave them both the stink eye. "Payback can be ugly, you know."
"Yes, son we do. After all, what do you think this is?" Chris's voice was silkier than last night's dress.
Roy moved from whining to pouting, but in the end he and Hughes both gagged down their eggs and lurched off to work, leaving Riza and Chris free to make the birthday plans.
Another evening and another dress she normally didn't have anyplace to wear. It wasn't as slinky as some of the dresses on Roy's sisters, but there were only a handful in the back room of the bar, so Riza felt less like she was competing. She had already gone to dinner at Gracia's home, wondering just when Hughes and the sweet young woman would make it official. Roy seemed to be having a good time there, dutifully eating the delicious brisket Gracia had roasted, but he was quieter than normal. Riza knew that meant nothing good.
She hated sneaking away from the house and leaving them there. Riza had faked being sick, but Roy had wanted to go with her. Finally, when Gracia had explained to him that Riza was having 'lady troubles' – Riza thought she might just die of embarrassment – Roy let her escape the dinner party in a cab. Hughes would take Roy out drinking, but he'd have to swing by the office first for something and Gracia would slip out to Madam's private back room. Gracia had the hardest task, dashing into a dress and beating her boyfriend to the club.
Riza had arrived early enough to help the girls get the trays of appetizers set out and uncorked a few bottles of fine vintage wine to allow them to breathe. Hughes would have the camera. He promised he was good with them, and Riza had to trust him on that. Roy might not feel that much like celebrating his birthday, but Riza knew he'd warm to this party.
"The dance band is here," Imogen called. "I'll set them up front."
"Good," Chris said, taking down her finest crystal wine glasses. Only her immediate family, and Riza, Maes and Gracia would be allowed back here. "The clientele is invite only, Riza. No one with any connection to the military. No one will know who you are, what your rank is, and won't give a good damn about improprieties. I brought you something."
"Oh?" Riza hadn't expected anything from the madam.
Chris got a box from behind the side bar and slid it to her. Riza opened it to find a head piece of small purple velvet flowers and sprays of crystals. Riza lifted it out gingerly. She had only seen things like it in the movies.
"It's wonderful, but why?"
"When I go on a mission, not that I do much field work any more, I didn't always wear nor need a wig. You get the right combination of flash with your clothing and jewelry and that is all anyone will remember. They'll barely remember if you're a blond or a brunette. All they'll recall is the girl with the crystals in her hair. Here, let me help you with it."
Riza sat down and let her pin it into her short hair. "Now I know why you wanted to know the color of my dress."
Chris nodded. "Blues are to hard to match but a nice plum will compliment most blues. You look lovely."
Riza looked at her reflection in the mirror built into the side bar. Chris hadn't lied. She'd never looked more glamorous. "Thank you, so much."
"He'll love it," Chris assured her, heading for the door, hearing her name being bellowed by one of her girls.
Taking another look in the mirror, Riza had to agree. She helped put the finishing touches on the room, Gracia arriving to give her a hand. It didn't take long before Maes finally got Roy to the bar and from the sounds of it, it was comparable to making a cat take a bath.
"Look, Roy, if I didn't forget it at work, I had to have forgotten it here," Maes was saying as he neared the door to the back room.
"Why does your absentmindedness mean I have to keep getting out of the car to help you find your damn wallet?" Roy groused.
"Because otherwise you'd be a giant ass," Maes replied cheerfully as he flung the door open.
Roy got two steps into the private room before he froze then spun around. Maes caught his arm. "I can't believe I fell for this!"
"Happy birthday, buddy." Maes twirled Roy around, pushing him toward the women.
"Surprise, son!" Chris said. "Happy birthday."
"Aw, but I…" Roy started to protest, but Maes slapped his arm.
"Just look at this party. We're the only guys. How great is that?" Maes beamed. "Of course, I'm already spoken for."
"And I'm sort of related to the others except for Gracia and this beauty over here." Roy swept a hand toward Riza. He came over to her, taking her hand as his sisters started chorusing happy birthdays. "Thank you. You helped with this, didn't you?"
"I did. We all did. We wanted you to have a good night for a change." Riza handed him a glass of wine.
Roy kissed her before taking it and Riza tried to ignore the "Oooos" from his sisters. He set the wine aside and pulled her against him, kissing her harder, stealing her breath before letting her go. Roy picked up his wine, holding it out in front of him.
"Thank you, all of you for doing this for me. I know that, with the exception of maybe Gracia, you all know I've never been one to celebrate my birthday. I've always missed my parents most on this day, wishing they could see the man I've become." He let out a dry sound that might have been a laugh. "Not this year, though. No one needs to see this." Roy paused, his voice box bobbing as he swallowed hard. For a moment, Riza thought he might cry. "But it's hard to be sad when I have people like you in my life, pushing me forward. It will get better. I know that, and it won't without all of you, so thank you for being here for me." He hoisted his glass.
Cheers went up. The wine was sweet, but the look on Roy's face was sweeter to Riza. She twined her fingers with his. "There's a band in the main room and your mother says no one there will know me."
He leaned in and whispered, "I wouldn't care if they do. Come dance with me."
"I'd be happy to." She kissed him. "Happy birthday, Roy."