I bring Roy ficcage! Slight angst, readers need knowledge of episode 3 and Roy's part in the Ishbal war.
Title: Mea Culpa
Hughes’ face came to mind, with that tight-jawed, serious expression so unlike the playful grin he usually wore. Thin-lipped and solemn eyed, his gaze never leaving Roy’s. He was perfect for his position in Intelligence, because those eyes took it all in. It was that expression that made Roy feel like Hughes knew everything about him.
“You don’t have to do this, you know,” Hughes had said. But Roy did, or at least would, no matter what anyone told him. And Hughes knew that, too, and had handed the slip of paper over, even as he said it. Two names, the doctors’ only remaining kin, and an address.
Which was what brought Roy to the top of a rolling hill, his uniform coat weighing heavily on his shoulders in the summer humidity. Or maybe that was the weight of guilt.
Two houses sat before him, and he squinting in the dimming light of evening, trying to determine which one he needed to approach. To his right, he could see the ghostly square build of a house, a clothes lines bowed with laundry strung between the sidewall and a sturdy tree. There was a single light flickering in a second floor window. To his left was another, but this one was broader, more rectangular, with a second story porch. The front light was on, and he could see the colorful sign at the foot of the stairs, though he couldn’t read the words from that distance. But he already knew what it said. He fisted the slip of paper in his pocket.
The woman who answered the door was very likely half his height, wrinkled and graying, but she had sharp eyes and steady movements. She looked him over and it had almost the same feel to it that Hughes’ did. Her chin jutted a little, and with no more than that slight motion, her welcoming attitude shifted to distantly polite, perhaps in reaction to his uniform. The rooms behind the woman were dim, light only by a workbench lamp. No doubt the little girl who also lived there was already tucked safely away in bed. He wouldn’t have to see that child, wouldn’t have to tell her what he had done.
Coward, something sharp inside him prodded. Isn’t that the very reason you’re here? Guilt scrabbled briefly from his shoulders to make itself known in the core of his chest before Roy forced it back.
“Pinako Rockbell?” Roy asked, though he was already certain.
“You don’t look like you’re in any need of our services, and anyway it’s after closing,” she replied, shooting a pointed look at his limbs. Of course she couldn’t see his legs beneath the bulk of his trousers, though he suspected a woman of her profession, and as talented at this shop was reported to be, could guess just from the way he walked and held himself. And his hands were clearly visible. He felt a little exposed without the gloves, but he hadn’t been able to put them on that morning.
Those shrewd eyes pinned him again, (Just like Hughes) somehow knowing exactly what he was about before he’d had any chance to voice it. Distantly polite became pinched and Pinako Rockbell stepped away from the door and motioned him inside.
There’s that look again, Roy thought. Pinako Rockbell’s face was hard set, as if by sheer will she could push him from the room and back out into the driving rain, never to send his thoughts their way again.
“These boys haven’t done anything,” Pinako snapped. “Go back to where you came from.”
It wasn’t that simple. To think so much of the military’s interest would revolve around the inhabitants of that small square house he’d passed, just a few years earlier. These boys could not be left alone. Wouldn’t be, if word of what they’d accomplished spread too far. If Hughes’ organization knew that the boys were attempting human alchemy, then there was the possibility that other parties were aware as well. And he could not assume that he had been the only witness to the flares of alchemy, not when they’d lit the whole house with its power.
He’d introduced himself to the talking suit of armor, told him that Central would be waiting for them. He told himself that they’d all been through quite enough for one day and could only process so much, and that was why he had been brief and direct. He told himself that he wasn’t avoiding the young girl’s gaze for fear that she would realize who he was, and wondered if that was a lie.
And then he turned to leave. After a moment Pinako followed him, catching up with him at the door, and Roy briefly wondered if the woman wasn’t intent on physically kicking him out of her house as she had done verbally.
“They’re children. Doesn’t the military have enough dogs at heel without ordering innocent children to kill?” Her tone was low, no doubt to keep the children from hearing, but it could still have stripped paint off metal.
Roy paused with his hand on the doorknob. “The military always has its eye out for a new source of power, Mrs. Rockbell. Those boys have tremendous power. And they lost all claim to innocence when they chose freely to use it.”
He believed it, to some extent, though perhaps not in the sense that Pinako meant. Power was a burden, and dangerous if one didn’t know how to wield it properly. One could not be innocent of that power or its consequences without risk of becoming a weapon. Or a monster. Yes, the military would follow these boys and claim as much of that power as they could. And eventually they might even be ordered to kill. But Roy could at least make sure that if they had to follow orders, they would be orders worth following, in the long run.
Roy stepped back out into the rain and headed down the road that would eventually take him to the train station and back to Central. The moisture soaked into his coat, weighing it down on his shoulders, making it feel twice as heavy as before. Or maybe that was the weight of responsibility.