Love is a lot like alchemy, and Roy is frightened of both. (Roy/Riza; spoilers ep. 25+)
Disclaimer: I don't own Fullmetal Alchemist.
Written for the LJ comm fma-ot4's contest, "The Contest Where the Rules Are Made Up and the Points Don't Matter":
Award: Best Hardest-to-Distill-Into-One-Catchy-Sentence-and-Still-Do-It-Justice Story
Betas: Lokogato and Hitsuuji from Livejournal. Many thanks and lots of hugs to you guys!
there's no sense in telling me
the wisdom of a fool won't set you free
~ Frente - Bizarre Love Triangle
[the wisdom of a fool]
Riza and Mustang have a routine. Riza arrives at Mustang's office each morning with a new folder of work that absolutely, positively has to be finished by tomorrow morning, yet will probably be finished sometime within the next month-- but only with plenty of what she likes to call "motivational lectures" that Mustang insists border on threatening his life.
He's usually on the phone when she gets there, and she waits to enter his office until he's hung up. When she does go in, it's easy to tell who was on the phone by the first thing he says to her:
"So, Lieutenant, what torturous work will you be putting me through today?" means he's been talking to Lieutenant Colonel Hughes, and is vaguely annoyed at being told to get a wife (again).
"Lieutenant, please leave the folder on the desk; I'll call you if I need you," means a superior has been telling him off for not having caught this or that criminal. Lately he's been getting a lot of calls asking why he hasn't found Scar.
Today, there's no sound coming from behind his door. She knocks lightly and when he says "Come in," she does.
He is sitting behind his desk, partially obscured by stacks of papers stamped "URGENT!" that he is trying to ignore. Whatever's outside his window today must be terribly interesting.
"Good morning, sir. I have some reports here that you need to look over; some of them pertain to Scar, and you will need to make copies of those and send them to the hounds who won't stop calling you."
"Thank you, Lieutenant."
Riza sets the folder on top of an already-shaky stack and turns to leave.
"Lieutenant, wait," he says, and she faces him again. He's looking at her now, but seems a bit dazed. She wonders who could have called to put him in such a mood. "You always seem so calm. And /happy/. How do you manage that?"
That's new. She isn't quite sure how he wants her to respond. For starters, she doesn't have hordes of officers watching her every move. She isn't overloaded with paperwork. No one is nagging her to get a husband. Compared to Mustang, she leads a life of ease. "I spend as much time as possible with people who make me happy. If I may be forward, sir..."
"I don't remember the last time you let my rank stop you from being forward. Please, continue."
"Sir, I think that for you to be happiest, you need to figure out exactly what you want-- what makes you feel like nothing in the world could unsettle you."
"And you're sure that you've figured that out for yourself?"
Under his scrutiny, she suddenly she feels that she's a lot more interesting to him than his window. "I am, sir."
It shouldn't be so easy for her to lean forward and press her lips against his. It shouldn't be so easy for her to let him put a hand on the back of her neck and pull her closer, so that her hands slip as she tries to catch her balance, and his stacks of papers slide to the floor. "Sorry, sir," she mumbles against his mouth, and feels him smile.
[heart vs. flame]
Love is a lot like his alchemy, Roy thinks: it's blazing-hot, fast-acting, and very likely to hurt someone.
Love and alchemy are all that frighten him. They are based on power, and power corrupts. Were he to love someone, they would have power over him, and he can't have that. Not when his job depends on having complete control of his emotions.
He has taught himself not to feel anything when a pretty girl bats her eyes at him. He always flirts back, but his heart isn't in it. He's only ever had to save or destroy women. They've never been objects of lust, just problems that he's had to decide whether to solve with safety or death.
Hawkeye confuses him. She is not an enemy to be incinerated; neither is she weak and in need of rescue. She has fought beside him multiple times, and he's seen that she is plenty capable of holding her own in a battle.
Hawkeye, he thinks, might be the obvious choice for love. She doesn't fit into his two categories for women-- she's in one all her own.
He needs to get to know her better before he decides how to categorize her. Tonight, after he's off duty, he's going to ask her out for drinks. She might laugh in his face, but it's worth a try.
He's too curious not to try.
[like we were yesterday]
They find a tiny restaurant tucked away in between a hat shop and a grocery. The food is cheap and the drinks are refilled for no cost, so Mustang gets a little more drunk than usual and tells Riza he'll give her vacation time, if she'll go home with him tonight.
"Who's going to walk Black Hayate?" Riza asks, and thinks she is very far gone indeed if that is the best excuse she can think of.
"I don't know, maybe Ross can do it, I could give her time off too," he says, and it seems to be taking some effort for him not to slur.
"You're drunk." There. That's a good excuse. He can't argue with that.
"All the more reason to walk me home. Can't have me getting lost on the way. Who'd yell at the subordinates tomorrow? You'll be on vacation."
Riza snorts. "Fine. But don't expect me to stick around to coddle you through tomorrow's hangover. I have a dog to take care of, if you'd forgotten."
Mustang clutches her arm all the way to his home. But his steps aren't shaky like she'd expect those of a drunken man's to be; perhaps he is only pretending.
It turns out that Mustang doesn't have time for a hangover. Lieutenant Colonel Hughes is shot the next day.
The day Riza finds out Maes Hughes has been murdered is the day she sees Mustang break. It's the day she realizes she can't protect him from everything, and she feels so stupid for thinking she could.
She can't do anything but watch as he screams. But when he punches a window, there is blood, and that at least is something she knows how to handle. She can bandage his hand and stitch up his shredded gloves, but she is not confident in her ability to repair his heart. She has no time to mourn, for she must focus on keeping Mustang sane.
Roy tries not to think of Maes while he's working, because when he remembers that man, his world freezes and all he can think is I should have been there to save him. Papers go unsigned, orders go ungiven, and he can do nothing but stare out the window and try to forget there's a loaded pistol in his desk drawer.
[just following orders, ma'am]
Roy doesn't believe in ghosts, until he tries to sleep at night. That's when they surround him, invading his dreams, turning what should be a respite into a nightmare. The woman cowering in a broken-down building, who shook so badly she couldn't aim her gun properly-- he snapped his fingers before she could reach the trigger. The doctors, who had helped the wrong people-- the woman's last words had been Please, I have a daughter. Roy shot her anyway.
He did it all under orders he didn't agree with. He fought for a cause he didn't believe in. He killed people who should have lived.
He has never forgotten their faces. Without Maes, he has no one to help him blank them from his mind anymore.
[these words I can't say]
Of course Roy can't forgive himself. That would mean admitting it wasn't his fault. And he's convinced that it was, even if Riza isn't.
Maybe he'll believe her someday, but until he can find out from Maes himself that Maes doesn't blame him, he'll blame himself. After all, they were best friends. Shouldn't he know best what Maes would think?
[feel like I never should]
Mustang doesn't smile for a long time. What Riza notices most is that he gives up his habit of flirting with pretty girls. His admirers drift away like smoke, the very definition of fair-weather lovers.
The first time Riza sees him smile again, he looks startled and immediately reverts to his blank expression, like it was an accident that he had become happy for a moment.
That is when she makes another promise to herself. She's going to stand by him no matter what, just like she always has, and she will do her best to bring that smile back to his face.