THIS IS THE END. WAAAAAAAHHHH. I love Royai. Don't want to end this story. But I suppose it has to. Bittersweet chapter, perhaps, but maybe the end will make up for it. I don't own FMA or any of its characters.
to overcome reality: Thanks for reviewing! I like making things adorbs.
theonceandfuture: Yeah, Merlin brofist! Thank you for liking the poetic stuff. I sometimes add small poems at the start of chapters, but I couldn't find the time with this one, sorry but yeah, hope you like this chapter!
lotusmelody17: You rock. As ever. Hope you find this as adorable as Tyki and Evelyn. I don't think I write Royai as well as I do for Tyki and Evie, but and then again, it's a different style. PM me!
Purbita: Thank you so much for your wonderful review! It made me really, really happy, and encouraged me so much! I was kinda worried about the last chapter flowing, so seeing your review was a relief. Hope you like this chapter! You'll see Royai move through troubles, as it always does…
Voceen: Thank you! I love that you like the style I write. Enjoy!
VampirateLycan: Thanks for reviewing! Grumman is revealed to be Riza's grandfather in one of the handbooks. You'll like this one if you like Riza's relationship with her grandfather. (or perhaps sad…)
Taethowen, FlyingHighDefyingGravity, mechkitty, hypercherrybomb, AceOvSpades, BlaiseEridence, black-flame-ninja: Thank you for following!
Over Central City, in the twilight hours when the sky is a single unbroken pane of deep blue glass that seems to glow, wreathing all reality in azure, Roy Mustang sighs as he glances about him. Winter is almost gone. The world hangs in a half-breath of air, as if all is asleep, simply waiting for the stringed notes of snow to be replaced with fluted calls of birds, in the variation in melody known as Spring. Frost is almost gone, running a hand through his pure white hair and smirking as he prepares to go, leaving the warmth of Spring behind him for all those who remain.
Except those Frost must take with him.
Roy understands this as he enters the Fuhrer's mansion and strides up the stairs, his steps strangely hollow on the hard marble of the main staircase, the darkened house swallowing him. The military guards bow mutely to him as he passes, but not a word is spoken in the silent house. It is as if the shadowed hallways are already lifeless, and the sentinels but statues to guard a tomb...yet Roy paces ever steady, toward that last glimmer of lamplight underneath a door, the only sign of life in this forlorn place.
Roy pauses, gloved hand on wooden doorknob, and pushes open the door. It swings open on oiled hinges, silent, as if it fears to interrupt the calm of the chamber. Roy's boots move soundlessly over the carpet, leaving the sable shadows for the watery gold circle of a small lamp.
The lamp illuminates a four-poster bed, in which an old man, moustache barely quivering with shallow breaths, lies asleep. His frail hand lies on the coverlet, small against the expanse of white cotton. And holding that hand is a younger, graceful one, the owner of which is seated in a cushioned chair by the bed.
Roy crouches down next to Riza, a small smile appearing on his features as he sees her shoulders rise and fall in sleep, her head leaning on her grandfather's sheets. Gently, he reaches out a hand and strokes her cheek. Clear brown eyes open slowly and meet Roy's sable gaze. "Hey," Roy whispers, wrapping her in his arms.
"Hey," Riza answers, her voice muffled by his coat as she returns his embrace with her free arm.
For a long while, they remain as they are, drawing comfort from each other. "How is he?" Roy asks quietly, pulling back to examine Grumman, his hands still on Riza's shoulders.
"Grandfather is so tired," Riza sighs. "But he has accepted what is to come." She had hardly left Grumman's side since that night of the ball, when she had called him Grandfather for the first time. Grumman's health had taken a turn for the worse a month after midwinter.
"He is comforted, you know, by your presence here," Roy murmurs. Riza leans her head on his shoulder, his arm around her.
"He calls for you when he wakes," Riza says softly. "He wishes to tell you something, but he won't tell me what."
"I'll wait here until he wakes," Roy says, stooping to kiss her forehead. "Riza, go and get something to eat."
Riza shakes her head, her voice low. "I don't want to leave him."
"I'll be here. Don't worry. I'll send a servant to the kitchens if he rises." Roy's steady smile reassures her. "And if you continue to refuse, I'll just have to make it an order."
Riza raises an eyebrow in a tired parody of her usual arch grin. "I'll be the one issuing orders, Roy." She kisses him on the cheek, and stiffly rises, passing silently from the chamber. The door closes soundlessly behind her.
The flickering lamplight plays over Roy's features, somehow making his raven hair darker and his dark gaze more piercing. The long evening minutes flow by, some quickly, some slowly. But soft words, frail in their whispering as fallen leaves, drift to him. "Trust me Roy, she will be."
Startled, Roy's abrupt intake of breath is harshly loud. But as he meets Grumman's wandering gaze, his slow smile spreads. "Sir. How are you feeling?"
"Wonderful," Grumman growls wryly, though his rasping voice betrays him. "Is the military well?"
"As well as it could be. The idiocy, though, of some of my subordinates is ever amusing," Roy chuckles. He adjusts the lamp, and calls a servant from outside to send for Riza.
"That is a relief to hear." Grumman sighs. "Mustang." Roy's gaze snaps to him, for there is something in his tone that belies urgency. Grumman continues, gnarled voice still steady. "I am glad Riza could be here with me. I am prouder of her than she knows." Grumman leans back against the pillows, his breath coming shallowly. "Now, if you remember that advice I gave you…" He motions weakly to the cabinet by his bed. "There is something you must have."
Roy's hands find the top drawer. It creaks open, running on rails that have rusted over from disuse. Nestled in a rose of wrinkled velvet lies a small ebony box. White-gloved fingers find sable wood. At a nod from Grumman, Roy snaps open the catch and slowly lifts the lid.
In the box he finds a ring.
"Sir…" Roy turns to Grumman, his eyes as dark as the secret in his hands, long-hidden from sight. "Is this…"
"My wife's ring," Grumman says, fondness softening his aged features. "I gave it to her years before, too long to count. It is Riza's rightful inheritance. Of course," – and here his gaze turns sharp – "the manner in which you give it to her is your choice entirely."
Roy feels his face flush, and knows Grumman's eyes are still keen enough to notice the change in the dim light. "I'll give it some thought, sir," he mutters, almost to himself.
"You'd better," Grumman chuckles hoarsely, "because if you upset her I'll rise from my grave and murder you."
"Sir!" Roy exclaims, sorrow choking his voice. "Don't think that–"
Grumman's voice, still wickedly sharp, though tinged with age. "Don't be a fool. I've lived long enough to know I don't have much time." Another sigh. "My last order to you. Be a good leader to Amestris. And above all, a good king to your queen."
A tear slides down Roy's cheek, and he brushes it away. "Yes, sir," he replies. "I give you my word." He slides the box into a pocket.
Grumman nods, satisfied. Then hurried footsteps sound in the corridor, and Riza sweeps in, her weariness forgotten as she smiles at him and takes his hand. "Grandfather."
Grumman pulls weakly on her hand until she crouches by his side, placing her ear by his lips. Softly, so Roy does not hear, Grumman whispers, "My granddaughter. I am so proud of you. Please promise me you will be happy. It has grieved me for years to see you sorrowful."
"I promise, Grandfather," Riza answers, though tears are already threatening to choke her voice.
"Then all is well," Grumman laughs, a quiet sound in the echoing emptiness of the room. "I think I shall return to sleep now. Could the two of you remain here with me?"
"Of course," Roy replies, pulling Riza onto the cushioned seat next to him. "We'll be here." His arm is around Riza, comforting her and steadying her.
Grumman falls back asleep with a content smile on his wizened face.
As the clock chimes the hours till morning on the old clock-face in the hall, Night and Day no longer dance in the sky above. Instead, they stand sentinel to the wheeling stars and observe, hand in hand, waiting. Simply waiting. Perhaps sometime in that warm night, Day reaches down and strokes the sleeping cheek of the old man; and Night shakes his shoulder, waking him from his slumber.
Grumman smiles at the two of them, and allows Night and Day to each take one of his hands, support him, and lead him away down the avenue of stars, jewels in the tasselled hair of the night sky, where Frost hoists his traveling bag over one shoulder and leads the way.
Roy blinks, slowly coming back to consciousness as he steadies Riza's dozing head on his shoulder. He glances at the solitary candle in the room to find it gone, burned down to wax. But it is no longer needed; the face it illuminated is still. And in the warm sunlight of the first morning of spring, there is silence in the chamber, but birdsong outside the window.
And Roy bows his head. "Thank you, sir, for all you have taught me. Farewell."
The funeral is two days later.
The grass is a vibrant emerald, and newly-fallen dew coats each blade with silver and limns the tufts with diamonds. Single flowers scatter the grass, each a different hue and shade. Sunlight flows golden over it all, dappling the white gravestones with alternating shadow and stars under the trees.
Roy stands, head bowed, on the wet grass before the assembled ranks of military. He spares a glance at Riza, her uniform impeccable, her fringe brushing serious dark brown eyes, unreadable to others, perhaps, but revealing all her sorrow to him. Roy sighs, and addresses the ranks, speaking briefly, no more than is necessary, but somehow showing the depth of his respect for his mentor in the simple words.
When he finishes, he steps back and motions with one hand. "This has been a well-guarded secret for many years, but Fuhrer Grumman wished it to be revealed…I now invite Grumman's sole surviving relative and granddaughter, Riza Hawkeye, to speak."
Stunned silence. Havoc's mouth drops open before decorum slams it shut again.
Riza's words are as short as Roy's, but strong. She concludes by saying, "My Grandfather was a good leader over us. And I believe our next will be also." She glances at Roy, favouring him with a small smile. The signs of rank on his shoulders have changed, but he never will.
Roy takes his place by her side. "One of Grumman's last orders was to make Colonel Hawkeye High General. In effect, she will assist me with running Amestris. I can think of no other person more qualified to do so." Behind the cover of the speaker's stand, his hand find's Riza's. They clasp each other's hands tightly.
Applause sends the birds dancing through the air as they whistle their music.
Later, Riza bends over her grandfather's grave, caressing the white stone. And bending, she presses her lips to the marble, whispering, "Goodbye, grandfather. Thank you for all you have taught me."
Then she leans on Roy's arm and leaves the white slab there, in the sunny graveyard. Before it a cluster of flowers bloom, bringing brightness yet, and hope unlooked-for.
Roy walks the hidden paths of the darkened park, deep in thought. The past week had been bitter with grief, yet strangely sweet in the new challenges it had brought.
It had been strange.
Strange to see the rank on his shoulders wherever he caught his reflection in the window; stranger, even, to see the reverent respect in the gazes of his subordinates, more that he had seen when a General; and strange to find High-General Riza always there, by his side throughout the long hours he labours to run an army and country.
Perhaps the last one is not so strange. She has always been there for him, after all.
Even now, his feet guide him in a direction only found by instinct, through the rivers of lamplight, and more often, in the winding shortcuts beneath the silver bark of trees swaying in the warm spring wind, shivering as if in expectation. Of what, Roy does not stop to think. He can only hope it will happen.
If he finds the courage to make it happen.
And so, in the hidden recesses of the park, by a sparkling, newly-run brook that trickles with muted melody behind the whispering trees and solitary lamp-post, he finds her where he knew she would be.
"Hey," Roy says softly, so as not to startle her.
Riza turns toward him, raising an eyebrow. "Did you think you could startle me?"
A pile of books smashes into Roy's head; or at least it feels that way to him. "I thought I was being quiet," Roy answers sheepishly, sliding beside her.
"I heard you, more than a minute ago, crashing through those branches by the creek with all the grace of a hippopotamus," she says amusedly, her old twinkle in her eyes.
"You're far too hard on me!" Roy protests.
"I was being observant."
"Havoc has had it out on me all afternoon, blabbering on about that new girlfriend of his, and now I don't get a single moment of peace!" Roy says, mock huffily.
Riza grins at him; she finds him rather adorable when he's huffy. But other thoughts prevent her smile from being truly free. When she catches Roy staring at her in concern, she ducks her head ands says quickly, "How did you know I would be here?"
Roy doesn't reply, but after a moment he takes her hand and asks gently, "Are you alright?"
"Yes," Riza answers without hesitation. Then she sighs, leaning against his shoulder. "Almost. Almost completely well. It's just that…Grandfather left me all he had…including his mansion. He ordered Bradley's original mansion to be destroyed and that one to be built in its place…it's his, not the Fuhrer's, you know, so now that I am rightful owner I should live there." Riza sighs, rubbing Roy's hand. "But I don't want to live in that huge place alone."
Roy steels himself and speaks in a rush, "Perhaps you won't have to."
"What?" Riza exclaims, confusion clouding her gaze. Roy slowly rises, and stands there for a moment, hands on Riza's shoulders. She notices that once again, they are not gloved with fire-sealed cloth. "Roy?" she whispers.
Roy drops down to one knee before her. "Riza," he murmurs. Her eyes widen in realisation. Roy sucks in a breath, and says quietly, barely audible above the chuckling of the brook, "You have said it before. We've been together for a long time. So, I think it would be right for us to be together for the rest of our days."
Riza's hands are at her mouth now, covering her smile as she blinks back sudden tears.
Roy reaches into his pocket and places a velvet box in Riza's lap, opening it to reveal the ring Grumman gave him. "Your grandfather was a good man," he says, a warm feeling growing in his chest and sending the words tumbling out of him. "He always gave good advice. One of the most important was that a truly excellent king must have an amazing queen. This is your grandmother's ring." He gulps, feeling the pulse roar in his ears. "So, will you?"
Riza's hands drop from her mouth, reaching forward to grasp Roy's face. A choking laugh emanates from her lips. "Roy..." she whispers…and Roy sees it. The same humour he always finds in her clear brown eyes, that challenges him to be the best he ever can be. "Roy Mustang. Ask. Properly," she half-gasps through her laughter.
Roy brings a hand up to hers, resting on his cheek. "Riza Hawkeye, will you marry me, and in doing so make me a deliriously happy man?" A crazed, cocky smile already spreads on his features.
Whatever words Roy has next are drowned out by Riza's shout of joy, and he finds her arms around his neck, hugging him so tightly he thinks he might suffocate. "Was…that a yes?" he hazards with a gurgle.
"Yes, you stupid, idiotic dolt! Yes!" Riza screams, breaking away and punching him on the shoulder. The tears are dripping off her chin now. "It's about time!"
Roy reflects he rather enjoys the pain as he slides the ring onto her finger.
Afterwards, he stares into her eyes and finds them serene. Peaceful. As if they have never seen war. Roy laughs as he grabs Riza's hands and spins her around, her laughter a glorious duet with his. The music of the world is theirs now; theirs to listen. And to compose. And even as they dance together, the trees come alive with shouts of friends.
First comes Havoc the Roy-tracker, Sheska in tow, his cigarette slipping out of his mouth as he shouts congratulations, no longer hiding; Fuery, Falman, and Breda; Maria Ross and Denny Brosh, hand in hand; Armstrong, his moustache gleaming in the half-light as he bellows praise and gives them arm-crushing hugs; and last of all, the glimmer of blonde hair slips out from between the branches, and Edward and Alphonse Elric stumble into the clearing.
"Edward-kun!" Riza exclaims delightedly.
"Shrimp!" Roy calls through the throng, "I didn't know you two were back!"
"Well, we wouldn't miss Fuhrer Jerk's engagement party, would we?" Ed hollers back at him, only to whimper slightly as Winry, who has appeared out of nowhere with Mei beside her, slams a fist on top of his head.
Roy's boisterous laugh mixes with the chimes of Riza's.
With some sort of delirious, insane mirth, the rowdy party hoist Roy and Riza onto their shoulders and carry them out of the park. Their hands still clasp each others' tightly.
For as surely as Night and Day dance on in the vault of stars far above to some unknown waltz, some small part of that starlight touches Roy and Riza's faces, before falling about them and wreathing them in silver. And so, on that warm spring evening, Roy and Riza are finally where they should be. Together. And they will never be apart again.
Thank you, all who favorited or followed. And especially all who reviewed! And of course to lotusmelody17, who is wonderful to talk to as a friend I love writing long fics, but this will be my last in a while, considering I have exams after the summer. Well, keep a lookout, and I'll post stuff every now and then. Farewell!