Pairings: Roy/Riza undertones
Disclaimer: I do not own FMA! Duh.
Genre: Fullmetal Alchemist; Drama, Angst
Spoilers: Up to Chapter 59 of the Manga.
Summary: Edward suspects that Roy is keeping a secret from him regarding his father and discovers the startling truth of his origins. "Mother?"
"EDWARD! WAIT!" Mustang stumbles out into the hall after the frantic adolescent, but to no avail. Ed runs as fast as he possibly can - Running from Mustang, running from the truth he refuses to accept, and running from a past that was all a lie. His coat trails behind him and his thick braid whips across his back in his desperation to escape.
From the doorway, Roy can only watch the distressed boy disappear down the staircase at the far end of the apartment complex. Taking a deep breath, he straightens himself and returns to the confines of his room. The papers that once resided on his desk now lay scattered and torn across the room as a result of Fullmetal's Fury. No...not Fullmetal. Edward. These titles...just get in the way of everything. Brother... Mother...
Roy slumps back down into the sofa and buries his face in his hands, the weight of his own uselessness crushing him. He takes a moment to prepare himself for what has to be done. We're all selfish...aren't we? Reluctantly, he pulls himself from his resting place and trudges to the kitchen phone.
No! No! It's not true! It's impossible! I won't believe it! The night air is brisk, tinting Ed's cheeks pink as he tears across town, panting and choking on suppressed sobs. Pinako...she said...there's just no way! She was there! She would know! She said so...so... He clenches his teeth together, trying to push these thoughts from his mind. Please...no...please don't take this from me too...Memories hunt him as he flees, images of his mother sick in bed, calling out for his father to return to her torment him. The hate he has for that bastard, for leaving her and making her cry.
The hate he has for him... no matter how hard Ed tried...no matter how hard I tried...to take care of her...I wasn't good enough. They learned Alchemy, he and Al, so they could bring a smile to her face. More so that Ed knew his place in that home. He was the eldest son. He had to care for his younger brother and he did his best. He also had a duty to his mother, to honor her and care for her as well since his father wasn't there to do so.
He failed. Over and over! He couldn't save her when she fell ill and even when he tried, she asked for him. He wanted to prove to her she didn't need him. He wanted to so badly. He wanted to do what his father could never do. He wanted to be enough for her. If he couldn't prevent her from dying, then he would bring her back from that inevitable death.
Again he failed her, but this time, he failed Al as well. Al? Oh no He could feel them, those treacherous waters welling up behind his eyelids. Al doesn't know...he's...Ed covers his ears with both hands, as if doing so will prevent the encroaching realization from entering his mind. Al!
The phone rings seven times before the woman answers with a deceivingly alert voice.
"He knows," is all Mustang says. He patiently waits and after a long pause, a gentle, remorseful voice replies.
"Does he." It isn't as though he didn't expect such a response, but he still finds himself taken aback by her acceptance of an excessively unfortunate situation. He has wondered if, perhaps, when he had questioned her before, she had lied to him about her ignorance. No, maybe it was the young boy's arrival in central three years ago that sparked her memory and, he suspects, she kept quiet about her sudden recollections.
"You knew then? That I knew."
"Sir." Her professionalism, even at a time like this, especially at a time like this, causes his chest tighten. Unspoken understanding. Silent confidence. While it is an unbreakable bond they share, he wishes that she would at least let her guard down off duty. Though her composure is something to be respected, her communication, even with a man she trusted with her life, is always detached.
"If you'll excuse me," she says with the same woeful voice as before. "I expect he will be here soon. Good night, Sir." The sound of the phone clicking on the receiver cut off whatever comment Mustang is about to make. He stands in silence, hearing only the faint sound of his own breathing in the stillness of the room.
Edward isn’t sure how many miles it really is from the Colonel’s home to the 3rd floor of the city apartment complex he now finds himself, but his body complains loudly that the trip is definitely too long to complete running. Leaning over, gasping for air, his face and chest burning, Edward struggles to control himself. It's a battle he is sure to lose. Why would I come here? What for? This is stupid!
Still panting, he looks up at the closed door before him and tries to convince himself that through this door lies his sought after assurance that none of these outrageous ideas swarming in his head have any basis in reality. After all, behind this door is the most logical and efficient person he knows. Her word, he feels, is something I can believe in.
Rarely did Ed ever get the opportunity to talk freely with anyone other than his brother, and it was even more of a shock that this stoic officer was the only person willing to discuss private matters with him. He had confessed his fears to her just a few days ago and she, in return, enlightened him with her involvement in the Ishbal Massacre. Even though he was still seen as a child by virtually everyone in the Military, she alone treated him with authority and addressed him as an equal. When Mustang teased him, she reprimanded her superior for acting so immature. When the others gained amusement at his expense, she cast cold glares at them that inspired bursts of motivation when it came to signing papers.
The only time she was ever harsh with him was when he bad-mouthed the Colonel behind the man's back. Surely, this woman, the embodiment of reason, will be able to tell him that he was stressing himself over a bunch of nonsense. However, if this truly is the case, why can't Edward bring himself to knock on the door?
His hand remains positioned just inches away from the door. Shaking off his doubts and irrational fears, he pulls his fist back and forces both of his hands down to his side. Puffing up in the most intimidating pose he can muster, summoning what little courage he can, he tries once more to knock on the door. His raises his fist, but his arm is paralyzed. Swearing under his breath, he bites his bottom lip and bitterly steps away from the door, staring long and hard at the smooth surface so impossible to touch before surrendering. He moves, shifting his weight to turn away when the door abruptly opens.
Once again rendered motionless, he looks helplessly up at the woman dressed in faded grey sweatpants and a long-sleeve nightshirt of the same color, her light blond hair let down, draping over her shoulders like a silk curtain. Her expectation of his arrival intimidates him, imposing upon him the awareness of his own foolish appearance, standing outside her door at 2:00 in the morning gawking at her. He finds himself staring at the ground now, searching for something to say to redeem himself.
"Edward..." his body acts on reflex and he cringes at the sound of her voice so full of empathy and a coherent sadness he finds unfitting for her. He prefers her firm manner, drawing strength from her usual aura. Now, her compassionate tone intensifies his weakness and he feels his abrasive facade slipping away.
Again, almost a whisper, she speaks his name and her words are accompanied by a gentle hand on his left shoulder. His body goes rigid and he cautiously lifts his head up, seeking an answer opposite of the one she has for him. She smiles kindly and his heart is ripped apart. There's no denying it. It's written all over her face: I'm sorry, Edward.
She steps closer to him and uncharacteristically wraps her arms securely around him, muffling the cries he can no longer keep to himself. He digs his fingers into the fabric of her clothing, burying his sweat-dampened face in the crook of her neck. His body shudders and she fastens her embrace, resting her lips on his golden crown. Fortunately, the late night promises the privacy of an empty hall and she holds him close, providing him with as much comfort as she can until he settles down enough to be guided into the security of her home. "C'mon," she directs him, placing a steady hand on his back and stepping aside for him to pass. He keeps his face out of view as best he can and adheres to her request.
He hears the door close behind him, but his eyes are fixed on the few boxes remaining in the near empty room. The walls are bare and the only furniture still present from his last visit was a small couch in the living quarters and table with two chairs in the kitchen. Most of the Lieutenant's belongings have already been moved to the new home the Fuhrer has arranged for her, but Hawkeye isn't as eager as he to assume her new position by his side, and continues to linger in her apartment for as long as permitted.
Whatever the details of this arrangement, Edward is currently distracted by the turmoil within his own head, and he barely acknowledges the woman's offer to take his coat for him. He's unaware of making any gesture of compliance, but she begins to remove his outwear anyway. He jerks away from her hands and works to unclasp the buckle of his jacket, removing it at well as his crimson cape. Clearly, he is insulted by her actions, treating him as if he is so emotionally damaged he can't complete the simple task of handing her a worn piece of fabric.
He thrusts both garments to her, his face an expression of disdain. Riza doesn't question his vexation, nor does she remark on how quickly his hateful gaze on her melts into a more apologetic one before he hides his face again.
"I made you something to drink." she says, her business-like tone returning as she steps ahead of him towards the kitchen. "Please, have a seat." His eyes follow her as she folds his clothes over the back of one of the wooden chairs in the kitchen. He looks back to the living room and notes that one of the larger boxes has been placed before the sofa and covered with a cheaply made tablecloth. Hmph is the only response he manages before making his way across the room and seating himself on the far end of the couch.
Riza returns to find him hunched over, elbows resting on his thighs, and fingers laced together at his chin. There is no sense of helplessness or resentment left in him as far she can tell. He is here for answers and set on getting them. He is childish at times, this was an obvious truth, but moments like these tempt her to forget his youth and prompt her to remember this boy's abilities and unlimited potential. She would have taken pride in that attitude of his if she had any right to, but she bites back on the smile that threatens to creep up on her and locks her jaw in respect of his seriousness.
Holding out the cup of tea she prepared in advance, she waits for him to accept the mug of steaming liquid before sitting down beside him. He takes the cup in his hands and holds it between knees, concentrating on its contents. She seats herself, taking a small sip from her own cup, and then sits straight and silent with her hands gripping the drink on her lap, eyes tracing the details of the room's wallpaper.
Tick, tick, tick...
"So..." he says at last. She glances at him out of the corner of her eye. He continues to stare down into the depths of his beverage as he speaks. "Tell me...tell me everything." She closes her eyes and lets out the breath she's been holding back. When she opens them again, sharply set on the same tacky wallpaper as before, she tells him the truth she longed to spare him.
"It goes back further than just 15 years. My father was an Alchemist and was regarded as an extremely talented one at that, but he never joined with the military. In fact, he hated the State since before I was even born. I know that he was conducting a great deal of research the military was interested in, but the details, well...my knowledge in such sciences is limited so I can't offer you much information regarding his studies.
However, I do know that he was reading a lot about the Philosopher's Stone and about the methods of creating one. My mother, she died giving birth to me, or so I've been told. My father explained to me that she died trying to give the world something beautiful." Riza pauses, collecting her thoughts and Ed turns to see her stifling a bitter laugh. She never makes eye contact with him, but her voice is cold and distant, sending a shiver down his spine when she continues her tale.
"You'd think it was a kind thing to say to his daughter, but that look in his eyes when he said it...I was so scared of him. It was like he was possessed, but he told me over and over that what he was doing was going to change the world. He was going to bring the people the salvation they deserved and free them from the cruelty of the State and the misuse of Alchemy. I wasn't the 'beautiful something' my mother created. I was just the next step. I don't know...what it was he was trying to accomplish, but I bore through it all believing that it was in the best interest of humanity. I was...almost 12 years old when I met that man and his wife." Ed grows tense at her reference.
"My...Dad? And my..." She nods once to confirm his suspicions.
"Van Hohenheim had a deranged determination that rivaled my father's, though there was something...different about him. I couldn't quite put my finger on what it was but it felt as though...he pitied me. Still, I was treated like a product of my father's research and in some ways I suppose I am. My father would speak of me the same way he would talk about scientific prospects. Hohenheim was an eager Alchemist as well, so he would serve as my father's primary audience on many occasions. Once, he brought his wife with him. She was...nothing like I would expect the wife of a man like that to be. She was kind and genuine. She smiled so serenely and only when she was around did I ever see her husband smile."
Edward makes an indistinguishable sound in the back of his throat. No legal document claimed Hohenheim and Trisha to be married, and so he refuses to recognize Hohenheim as his father OR his mother's husband. After all, it is Trisha's last name he goes by. Riza disregards the interruption.
"She asked my father if it would be alright to take me out for the day." Edward watches as Riza's harshness dissolves with the thought of a pleasant afternoon spent with his mother. "We went out for lunch and she asked me if I enjoyed being home-schooled. You see it wasn't until after my father's death that I joined with the military academy. I told her about my father's 'great work' and how lonely life was in that house. She was sympathetic and held my hand and told me that she believed there was great purpose in this world for me. She said that there were times when she felt lonely too, but she loved that man and had faith in his work. She asked me if I loved my father. I told her that I tried my best to. As far as she was concerned, that was all that could be expected of me. Doing my best was enough. So I did my best and when my father told me about her condition...I decided I would do my best for her as well."
"My mother's illness?" Riza turns to him with a questioning look. "That's…what you're talking about, right? My mother...she was sick. I was told that she kept it a secret from everyone and it was that disease that killed her." Riza shakes her head.
"No. I wasn't aware of any illness like that. My father told me that, more than anything else, what Trisha wanted was to have a family. However, as hard and she and Hohenheim tried, she was unable to get pregnant. He told me that I was special and I could give them both something that no one else could."
"Stop!" The sound of Edward's cup hitting the floor doesn't faze Riza. Curling over with his head between his knees, Ed presses his hands against his ears in a vain attempt to block out an impending reality. "You were...you were only 12 years old!" Riza placidly sets her cup on the box serving as a coffee table for the evening and lowers herself to her knees before Edward. The spilt tea quickly seeps through her clothing but she pays it no mind.
Placing her hands on his wrists, she tenderly pulled his hands away from his head and waits for him to look up at her. Her face maintains the stern look of a soldier given a mission she is bent on completing. Edward's face carries the look of a soldier whose composure is crumbling under the weight of said mission.
"Weren't you only 12, Edward? When you joined the military?"
"That was different!" He tries to break free from her hold on him, but she is a trained army personal and a lot stronger than he gives her credit for. He pulls back and she pushes forward, pinning him to the sofa. Not only her physical strength, but also her determination to get through to him is surprising. He needs to know and he knows he needs to know, but he is so damn good at denial. It's so much easier that way.
"My father, even without connections through the military knew many people in high places. He had the resources available to him. There was even a doctor, a close associate who he felt would be the best choice, but it was Trisha who had the final say. She said she knew two doctors back home, good friends of hers."
Ed's face goes white and a tiny bead of perspiration that had formed with others on his forehead trickles down the side of his face. "Hohenheim told my father that they would only go through with the procedure if he agreed to meet his wife's demands. So he sent for the Rockbells to meet them in Central-"
"No!" Ed turns, trying to twist out of Riza's hold, but she forces his body to remained pinned, as it is, only his face turned to the side. He can feel the moisture beneath his eyelashes and tries to conceal his face in the cushions behind him. Riza presses on, trying to ignore the ache in her heart at the sight of Ed so distraught by her words.
"For weeks, I endured the injections, the drugs, the tests, believing I was doing what was best! It was all in secret of course, but Trisha stayed with me. The doctors, they didn't agree with the choice in donor, but they loved Trisha and wanted to see her happy. I wanted to see her happy too. You can understand, can't you? You know what it's like, Edward, to endure so much for someone you care about. No matter how much it hurts, if you can see them happy, it'll all be worth it. Even if you have to...make sacrifices."
Tears streak his face now, but she isn't through. "After surgery, they left, the four of them. She left a note thanking me and wishing me well, but that was all. My father never told me where they went and he never mentioned the outcome of the operation. That doctor friend of his, who he had recommended before, prescribed me with some post-surgery medication. I realize now...pills to induce memory suppression. For a long time, I went on living as if nothing had ever happened. When you came here, four years ago...Edward"
She releases him and hopes he will gather the confidence to look at her again. He lowers his hands to his sides and keeps his face turned, eyes closed. For a while, the only conversation within the room was the one between his labored breathing and the clock ticking it's way towards 3:00 AM.
"I don't even look like her," he says finally. His eyes mere slits, lazily looking past his surroundings. "Al, he's got her face, eyes, ...hair. Not that...you could tell from looking at him now, but he looks just like her. He inherited her kindness too. There's no doubt about it. He's her son." There is an explanation for that as well, but not one Riza can give him. "I guess it was easy to just tell people I took after that guy. He was never around anyway..." He closes his eyes again, tightening his hold on the sofa, a soft sound resembling a whimper slipping past his lips.
"Ed..." she reaches out to him, but he's already in her arms, clinging to her for all he's worth. She closes her eyes, containing herself for his sake, lightly stroking his back with her hand to ease the strain of his sobs. His arms, strewn over her shoulders and wrapped fixedly around her, mask his face, and she feels his breath, hot and wet on her neck when he protests the assumption that he bares any resemblance to his father.
Truly, the rare golden hue of his eyes more than suggests his relationship with Hohenheim, but other than that, his genetics favor the attributes of his biological mother. He has her soft facial features, so unlike the sharp structure of his father's appearance. His eyes are hers as well, perhaps not in color, but in their unique design and intense glare. Didn't the Colonel say something about his eyes? His hair, while darker then her own, is far fairer than his father's harvest glow. Also, while others wouldn't speculate too much on the subject of his inherited temper, she is quite sure that is hers as well. While he indulges in unrefined bursts of anger incompatible with her own personality, no one can deny that she had indeed unloaded six rounds into the office wall when her dog urinated within headquarters.
"I don't look at all like him!" He feels a little strange to have gained a small sense of relief upon learning his extraordinary physical attributes aren't an indisputable link between him and his bastard father. Though, this relief also brings about more unsettling sensations. Betrayal. Doubt. Guilt. These are things he isn't ready to deal with yet. He bawls uncontrollably, consoled by her soothing gestures and the assurance that anything said and done in this room is confidential.
He trusts few, questioning the validity of this trust now more than ever, but still, she is one of the most reliable people he knows and he needs her to be someone he can trust. He is vaguely aware that she is rocking him back and forth, rubbing his back and whispering solace in his ear.
After some time, his weeping ceases and he relaxes, allowing her to cradle him on the floor, leaning into her with his head resting on her chest, the slow beating of her heart matching the rhythm of his own. The sound subdues him and the over-exertion of his body, in more ways than one, takes its toll. His eyelids grow heavy and unwilling to put for the effort needed to stay awake he drifts into slumber.
She holds him close long after he's fallen asleep, rocking back and forth, mumbling something about the rain.