Categories > Anime/Manga > Full Metal Alchemist

The Winter of Our Discontent

by thedeadparrot 1 review

"But she is still not ready to make a decision, to take the first step, and sometimes, when she looks at him, all she feels is the chilly touch of winter."

Category: Full Metal Alchemist - Rating: PG - Genres: Angst, Romance - Characters: Riza Hawkeye, Roy Mustang - Published: 2005-11-28 - Updated: 2005-11-29 - 1020 words - Complete

It strikes her, while she hands over yet another stack of paperwork to Mustang on a cold, gray, autumn afternoon, that he has hardened over the years. Even for her (who is a position to see these things) those moments of openness (the kind that hooked her the first time she saw them and never let her go) have become far and few between.

She wonders whether or not she's become the same way, become hard and distant and cold, and thinks that she must have. It's contagious, this sort of thing.

One morning, she looks herself in the mirror, takes in the dark bags under eyes from staying up too late, the kinks in her hair from being pulled up for too long, the frown lines beginning to form at the edge of her mouth.

/I am sad/, she thinks. Considers saying it out loud, letting each word hang in the air, so that she could see the truth in it.

But it is not the truth, and she has always prided herself in being able to tell the truth since she realized that Mustang was too good at lying to himself.

"I am not happy," she says instead, and the truth of that is clear and bright and sharp.

She watches the others, constantly. They think she is keeping them in line, making sure they don't skimp on their duties, and yes, on some level that is true.

She's also looking for Mustang's cold, to see if they've caught it as well.

They have.

She watches as Havoc's mouth (still wrapped around a cigarette as always) stops frowning when he hears reports of murder and violence and death, face remaining blank and impassive.

She watches as Breda, who has always been tough, always been hard, always been distant, becomes more so, always putting up some sort of front, some sort of shield between himself and the world.

She watches as Fury, still so young and so green, learn to hide his fears, his hopes, his compassion, because such things are signs of weakness, and they have no place here.

They all have become ice, she thinks, and she wonders if they all would splinter and break if Mustang asked them to.

They probably would.

He is waiting for her, she knows. He is waiting for her to make the first move.

He does not push, however, does not pressure. There are the looks, the touches, the quiet words that are meant to say more than they are, but these are nothing more than a gentle reminder that he is waiting for her to make a decision. He is surprisingly patient.

But she is still not ready to make a decision, to take the first step, and sometimes, when she looks at him, all she feels is the chilly touch of winter.

She brings work home with her, though she knows she shouldn't, since this is beginning to eat away at her, slowly, piece by piece, until there is nothing left of her but his obsession and his ice.

This thought does not make her sad so much as resigned.

She pulls on a jacket as she fills out the forms, to try to keep the cool breeze (coming in through the window) from seeping into her skin.

Hughes sits down next to her during lunch one day, while visiting East, visiting Mustang. He is one of the only ones who have not been touched by Mustang's cold. He is still Hughes, loud and warm and inviting.

He asks her how she is and does not seem to notice when she lacks anything to say.

It is comforting, his presence, like coming in from the snow to a warm fire, but she knows it will not last, and she will once again have to go back out into the cold.

"Roy's a tough nut to crack," he says with a bright, easy smile, "but I have faith in you, Lieutenant. You'll get him eventually."

She nods at that and wonders if it is true.

Winter comes to East gently, the temperature always just hovering over freezing. It does not snow, and she sometimes misses endless white fields.

She goes walking one morning, the wind biting at her nose and cheeks and ears as Hayate chases her heels. It is colder than it seems, with the wind, and she shoves her hands into her pockets to keep them warm.

The rifle is cold, having been left it in weapons shed over a winter weekend. She runs her fingers over the cool metal, seeing if it will warm to her touch. It doesn't.

She feels most like herself these days on a firing range, where things are simple and easy to untangle and there is nothing besides herself, the gun, and the target to worry about. It makes her wonder if it is because of herself or her ice that she likes it that way.

As she fires, quickly, cleanly, precisely, she realizes that she has no answer to that.

It is late spring, when the flowers are in bloom and the wind whispers of the coming of summer, that he begins to thaw.

They walk to a nearby park on a sunny day, and she sees him smile, honestly and openly, for the first time in weeks.

"It's a beautiful day," he says, turning his head upward to greet the rays. She nods. This is her moment to act, she knows; there is truth in that. This is hardly her first chance or even, perhaps, the last, but it is a chance, one she chooses to take.

"It is beautiful,"she says, pulling his larger hand into her smaller one. She is ready now, and that is another one of her truths.

He turns to look at her, his face softened into a puzzled expression. She smiles at that, the twist of her mouth coming more easily to her now than it has in a long time. "Your move," she says, answering his unspoken question.

When he kisses her, she can almost feel the ice melting on her lips.

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